When it comes to routine, I kind of suck. Well, unless that routine includes sitting like I have no skeleton on the couch while the television plays mindlessly through things I’ve already seen. I’m rather good at that. It’s my default state.
Every night I come home with good intentions that slowly disintegrate under the pull of lethargy. I’m also really good at rationalizing it. It was a long day. I’m really tired. I feel like I might be getting sick. You know how that is.
But, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting back into the practice of a daily spiritual practice, the way I used to do when I first started studying shamanism and such. A part of that has included re-dedicating myself to the journey I started not quiet a year ago to make myself healthy.
So, I guess what I’m looking to do is to start a whole being practice. Daily work on my body, my mind, my spirit. Because I want to continue to grow. I want to become a better person.
The beginning of this endeavor was rearranging the living room, an effort that afforded me the space to put in an ancestor altar and space in which I can actually do yoga. While I wait for the things I need to put together the altar, I want to start slowly incorporating a few different things toward the other aspects.
Last night, I purposefully sat down to meditate for the first time in a while. It used to be the way I ended every day. It only lasted about ten minutes because I had to get up and break up a cat fight, and most of that time was spent trying to stop the wild, mad spinning of my brain, but it’s a start. Tonight, I will try again…but before I do, I want to get some form of exercise in, either yoga or some time on the elliptical.
With some determination, I hope to do both of these every day in March. By the end of March I should have some things on hand for other parts of that practice and I can add to the routine in April. Little steps form the basis of any journey. One small spark can bring down a city.
Every year for the last sixteen years, in the middle of February, I take a four day weekend, drive down to San Jose, CA and attend an event called Pantheacon. Every year it’s different and sometimes it’s a weekend of frivolity, sometimes it’s a weekend of deep introspection. Sometimes I’m participating in creating ritual theater or presenting a class/discussion and sometimes I’m there strictly to sit in on these things.
This weekend was one of the latter. I was there to take classes and join discussions, to hear others tell their stories and learn new things. If I had to take away a theme that the weekend presented to me it was this, stop being so hung up on “recreating” an exact replica of what the ancestors did, and embrace the fact that just like those who came before us, we’re creating something new.
As Pagans, we sometimes get our backs up about the antiquity of our practices. We try to cling to that as if it is all that provides us legitimacy. But what we are creating is a living faith that will sustain us in the dark times and offer us something to celebrate.
AND THAT’S OKAY!
Faith should be a living thing. It should be something that changes as we change, that grows as we learn and experience new things. It should be experiential.
I’ve considered myself Pagan for well over 20 years. I am NOT the Pagan I was then, or at many steps along the way. My belief has changed, my interactions with the Divine have changed. Even my understanding of what the Divine is has changed multiple times.
Admittedly, over the last few years, I’ve let my daily practice slide. I’ve not really celebrated my faith. I haven’t practiced it. Coming out of this year’s Pantheacon, I feel a gentle tug toward starting new, toward crafting a practice that will suit who I am today, and help me to live the faith that sustains my soul.
As a result, you might see a little more frequent posting here as I fumble my way through it. I hope you’re willing to come along for the ride.
I posted this to my Facebook this morning, and then realized it properly belongs here.
Today, in Washington, D.C. our country will install a man as president that is in no way prepared or qualified for the role. A man who has promised to drag us back to the days when anyone who wasn’t white, straight and male could be ignored, overlooked, discriminated against, harassed, beaten and put to death with no reparations against those who committed the offense unless they too were not white, straight and male.
We have come a long way as a nation since those days, well at least sometimes we have. Clearly we still have issues. However, this man, and the political party he represents, seek to eliminate the poor through pulling what little they have away from them, kill the sick by removing their support systems through lack of funding, kill the people of color by looking the other way when cops disproportionately target them, kill the LGBT community by legalizing discrimination and hate and returning them to the closet out of fear for their lives.
I know we’ve all had moments of despair in recent weeks, that we’ve looked on this day with absolute dread, myself included. I would love to be at one of the many protest marches, but my agoraphobia told me early on that wouldn’t be a good plan, and the weather has completed the kibosh by flaring up my joint issues to the point that walking and using my arms for much really isn’t going to happen today. If you are out there marching: be safe, stay hydrated, wear sunblock (yes, even in winter), stick with your people. I’m there with you in spirit.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I will do myself to be a part of the resistance moving forward. I have resolved that I will not be ignored, I will not be overlooked, I will not allow discrimination and harassment to become American values. I will speak out, stand up, intervene. I will call out bigotry. But that isn’t enough. It must be accompanied by something else.
I will become militantly kind. Beyond just telling a bully to back off, I will minister to the needs of the bullied and when safe to do so, I will see if I can minister to the needs of the bully as well. I will continue to interact and help the homeless when I can. I will use my vote to counter hatred and bigotry when I can. I will speak with love in my voice and my words.
Do not misconstrue kindness for weakness, my friends. Kindness is the seed of hope. Rebellions are built on hope.
Go ahead and be angry, feel the burn of it and let it scour the emotional landscape clean. But when the flames have dimmed, it is time to plant. Militant Kindness. Let’s start a rebellion.
It’s been a while since I was as eager to shed a year as I am this year. I think we can all agree that 2016 was a strange, angry, sorrow-filled, confusing and eye-opening year. There was a lot of loss, maybe it only seemed it was bigger and darker than other years. Personal losses of friends was significant for me this year. And the loss of so many of our heros and idols seemed to be bigger than recent memory.
I turned 48 years old this year, an age I couldn’t conceive of when I was in my teens. I lost a job and found a new one. I re-published a book that took me years to create. I wrote a book which will be published in the new year.I traveled to new places and met some AMAZING people. I lost 60 pounds, and gained some of it back.
Being Pagan, I do my “New Year” at Samhain in October, but New Year’s Eve always strikes me as a day to wipe away the lasting darkness, open a new book, a new chapter and write in hope.
We have challenges ahead of us in the coming year. The political climate is rife with fury and fear that threatens to undo years, decades even, of progress. We can not allow that to happen. Too many lives depend upon it. I don’t generally do New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have one. In 2017, I will respond with love, with kindness to whatever comes my way. It is a rebellion in the country we live in today. It is a rebellion against those who would remove protections for the vulnerable, steal money from the poor, turn their backs on the downtrodden and broken.
It is time to start anew in making our country strong and proud again. It is time to start anew in love.
Yesterday, when the news broke that Carrie Fisher had died after suffering a massive heart attack, I won’t lie, I cried for hours. My entire newsfeed on Facebook was filled with people posting pictures of her, talking about what she meant to them and with every post, my heart broke just a little more.
I was nine years old when I was introduced to Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia in Star Wars. It’s an age where you are really just starting to come into your own personality, still leaning heavily on what your parents have modeled for you, but starting to strike out on your own. I was beginning to find my own music, my own books, my own movies.
I discovered many things through the window of Star Wars. I fell in love with Scifi, both books and movies. I discovered a truth that I will mostly buck the trend and fall for the “other” guy (while all my friends were all about Luke Skywalker, I was firmly in love with Han Solo). And I discovered that girls, and even princesses, did not need to be the damsel in distress in order to be of importance to a story.
I mean, she was the “damsel in distress” and Luke goes in to save her, but there’s no one who can argue that she didn’t participate in her own rescue. She was witty and sarcastic, she could hold her own with the big boys.
For a young woman with a burning desire to write my own stories, it formed a foundation for me that I still lean on today. I yearn to develop female characters that are the embodiment of those things.
But Carrie wasn’t just our princess. She was a full, complete woman outside of that role. As a woman, Carrie was also smart, witty and possessed of a caustic wit that was dry and self-deprecating and wonderful. She was open about who she was. She exposed things about herself that our society has taught us to keep in the dark and dared anyone to fault her for it. She was the voice of pride in who she was, in all her faults and she made it okay for the rest of us to embrace our faults, our quirks and to live genuinely within our skin.
With the coming of The Force Awakens, she gave us even more. The feisty princess had faded, and in her place was a commanding General. A woman who was not still important despite her age, but a woman who had grown more important in a role she chose for herself. It was a goal that she held to through loss and pain, and she fully embodied that.
Carrie Fisher was more than any movie princess could ever be. Carrie Fisher was a General that many of us would follow, not because we were commanded, but because we were lead.
Fare thee well, General. Lead on.
I apologize now if what follows tends to wander a bit. No matter how much time I’ve spent this week trying to put words to what I am feeling, the complexity of the entire thing has me reeling still.
Yes, I’m talking about the election…or more precisely, I’m talking about the reaction to the election…Mine, yours…all the varied reactions I’ve seen.
Let me start with me, because I know me intimately and I have done enough soul searching to express myself. There was shock, of course, followed quickly by anger and then came the fear. Grief took a little longer to arrive, but arrive it did. Something else has been a part of this emotional milkshake as well, but it took me until last night to identify it. Guilt.
I feel guilty. Not because I voted for a vile man, but because so many like me did. See, I live in a pretty big pocket of privilege. I am white, middle class and while I am part of the LGBTQ community, I inhabit that invisible pocket under the B. On top of that, I live in the very liberal San Francisco Bay Area. The chances that I will be a target of any of the fallout, is small.
Yet, I have friends who have already been threatened. I have friends who have had their property vandalized, their citizenship all but invalidated by those who would whitewash our nation, their lives threatened.
The people in my life are a rainbow of nationalities, religions, skin colors, genders, orientation…pretty much any label we use to divide ourselves are discarded and instead, they are kin…they are my chosen family, brothers and sisters of my heart. People who fill my life with love, and they are today in danger.
I don’t even mean in danger by the policies that our newly elected vileness pose. I am talking merely of the danger of a populace of angry people who have had the veneer of societal responsibility ripped away, giving them permission to express their true feelings about the people they somehow believe are oppressing them.
We, as a society, have to step up. We have to remind these angry people that their misogyny, their bigotry is unacceptable..that we will not stand idly by while they abuse those they dislike for whatever reason. We must begin immediately. We must start now.
Yes, I know. You’re hurting too. You’re grieving too. You can’t find the reason in this madness. I know. I’m still there too. I don’t begin to know how we came to this place. I just know that we’re here now and we must act.
We must act now and we must make our voices heard. Not just those who have been targeted. I’m talking to the white men and women who are feeling this guilt, the ones who did not vote for vileness, the ones who maybe did, but have begun to see the error of their ways. Stand up. Act. Do something more than wringing your hands while you sit comfortably within your privilege.
Start now…and don’t stop. We need to protect our people. We need to make our society a safe place to live in, not for some of our citizens, but for all of them. We need to make enough noise that the Republican congress and the vileness we elected do not dare to enact the things he spoke of, for fear that we the people will respond.
Grieve. Work through your fear, your anger, your guilt. Find your strength.
But then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and strap on those stompy boots. We’ve got work to do.