Sunday, May 16, 2010

PTTC Part 13: Fear Of Failure

"Your children do not learn from their successes.
They learn from their failures.
They must have complete permission to try
and fail,
and discover that they are still OK."

I used to be terrified of failure as a kid, so much so that I was afraid to try anything new! I somehow got the message that I needed to be perfect, and if I wasn't perfect I was a failure. This is actually a common belief, and one that is detrimental to teach children! Failure is not to be feared, because without failure we can't learn anything about ourselves. Let your children make small mistakes now, so that they learn that mistakes have consequences and might remember that before they make a big mistake later. Let them try something difficult, and fail, and learn that it's OK to mess up and that if you practice and are determined you will eventually succeed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Is Paganism?

A few people I've talked to online are interested in what Paganism is, because they don't know much on the subject. A few questions were asked, and this is how I answered them.

1. what leads a person to paganism?

Paganism is a broad term, the definition is "someone who does not worship the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim god(s)." Within Paganism, there are many different traditions, but generally Paganism has been associated with Pantheism, which means worship or belief in more than one god. A better term would be Earth-centered religions, which contrasts with Judeo-Christianity's human-centered religion. Pagans generally believe that all life, and the Earth itself, is to be revered, celebrated, and cherished. Pagans believe that human beings are not any "better" than animals or plants, we are all just different expressions of life, and therefore all beings on this earth should be treated with respect. Judeo-Christian religions believe that humans are "special" and set apart from the rest of this world. So therein lies the difference.

Personally, for me, after I left Christianity, I just read up on many different religions and did not find one particular one that meshed with my beliefs, although Native American religion was pretty close. I joined a community interested in things like Shamanism, ritual, yoga, and meditation and basically went from there, taking bits and pieces of each tradition until my beliefs were better defined, then I started leaning more toward one or two.

Judeo-Christian religions emphasize dogma, but Paganism doesn't, therefore someone who is interested in spiritual concepts but believes in mystical experiences and an all-encompassing worldview, rather than dogma and black and white views of good and evil/truth and untruth, will be more drawn to Paganism than other religions.

What tradition you follow will depend on your interests. For example, some people, like me, work within dreams and trances, so Shamanism appeals to me. Others like formalized ritual and group practice, so Wicca is more their style. Some people are drawn to a certain culture and their values, for example the Greek philosophy, culture, and concepts, and they are more likely to work with Greek deities. Some people are drawn to the warrior mindset and like working with Norse deities. A lot of people love worshiping in nature, and they might be drawn toward Druidism. People drawn toward African religions love using song and dance in worship. People drawn toward Shinto love contemplating life through stillness and reverence.

2. Does it involve god worship in the sense of the major monotheistic religions, or is the concept of worship different?

It depends on who you talk to. Most Pagans don't "worship" deities in the sense that they debase themselves in front of deities or think of deities as entities "outside" themselves. Most pagans that I know describe deities as aspects of themselves, or spirits, like different facets of the same jewel or different branches of the same tree. Generally Pagans don't tend to plead or beg with deities, rather they rely on their own transformation to bring about positive change. "Worship" is generally interchanged with "celebration" to describe what Pagans do. Most Pagans celebrate life, not "worship" per se, although some do, it just depends. People who have contact with spirits or deities generally do so in order to seek advice or personal transformation. Their relationship is not like master/slave, it's more like teacher/student, or very respected family. The idea is to learn from deities or spirits, not to let them control all aspects of your life. For many Pagans, the deities are simply different aspects of life, and by becoming more aware of them, we are both celebrating, learning, and transforming.

3. Is the faith comparable to how people speak of faith in God or is faith in pagan gods less literal?

"Faith" is a word that most Pagans won't use, simply because "faith" as defined by Christianity is belief in things not experienced, and most Pagans believe in things they do experience and are skeptical of things they are told by authority. Through ritual, trance, meditation, dream, etc... people "meet" deities or spirits and learn from them directly, instead of being told what they should believe, so there is very little "faith" involved. To contrast it with Judeo-Christian religions, Pagans don't believe things because that's what they are taught by authority is true. They believe things because it is in line with their personal experience.

Some see deities as separate entities, some see spirits as different forms of consciousness, some as concentration of energy, some as their "higher selves", some as symbols, some as expressions of one larger spirit which is called God, etc... There are many, many different views on the subject. Some would say that all the views are true, they are just different ways of looking at the world. So it varies tremendously. Each tradition will have its own view, but many are flexible to include other views. Paganism is generally very flexible and open to personal interpretation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Death, And Life

Today a friend of the family found his 20 (or so) year old son dead in their house. My sister knew the deceased and it's been a real shock to everyone. I can't imagine how the family is feeling, so if you pray or do healing rituals, I'd appreciate your thoughts going out to this family. The son's name was Justin.

Every time a person or animal that I know dies, I need to take a quiet moment and contemplate existence, the enormous paradox of life and death, celebration and mourning. I end up with a feeling of peace and sadness. I can't imagine losing my son or any of my loved ones. If that were to happen, I would do more than contemplate existence, I would probably seriously question everything that I know. I would wonder, is happiness even achievable? Is there any meaning to life, or are we just thrown around by the tides of life and swept under the sea at whim?

With distance, comes a more peaceful revelation about death. I'd met this man before, but I would never converse with him beyond a simple passing "hi," so my emotions are more of sympathy than sadness. I can look beyond the screen of raging emotions and see that there was both celebration and mourning in his life and death, and I remain sobered but at peace. Life and death are simply two sides of the same coin, separate but equally meaningful. I just hope I can remember this fact when it is time for my own family or friends to hold the hand of death. I doubt that I will feel peaceful, but I hope I can at least remember to celebrate their lives as well as mourn their deaths.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Healing of Our Water

At the risk of sounding like a complete hippy, our ocean is being polluted with this oil leak, in case you haven't heard (who hasn't??), and it's a damn shame that pollution this big will affect the environment on a large scale yet nothing will be done to correct the problems that generate it.

The human body is made up mostly of water. Without water, nothing would grow, we would all die, existence as we know it would cease to be. Drinking water is vital for your health, it provides cool refreshment and warm healing, ice, snow, steam, light rain and pouring waterfalls.

Water gives us our health and our very lives... and it also carries pollutants and chemicals. Those who have access to contaminated water lose their health and are prone to all sorts of ailments.

Please pray for the healing of earth's waters, please pray that earth's water will retain its purity, for it is the thing that sustains all life. And please respect the water that you drink and the water that's near you. Pay attention to what's in your water and pay attention to the actions that are helping or hurting our water.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

PTTC Part 12: A Quiet Place

"Constant stimulation
of your child's senses
creates insensitivity.
They see so much they become blind.
They hear so much they become deaf.
They taste so much they become nauseated.
They desire so much they become forever unsatisfied.

They do not come to know what truly satisfies."

This is an easy one for me, and a very very hard one for me, at the same time. It's easy because our house is a pretty relaxed and quiet house. Usually when there is chaos (and there is plenty of that!) it takes place during chores when I am outside. My home is a restful sort of place, and so NOT overstimulating. I often have to take my son outside to escape the boredom and so I can get stuff DONE.

However, the last two lines are what kills me. How can I model those last values for my son, when this is something I struggle with constantly? I'm a strong-willed creature, and full of unsatisfied desire. I constantly desire more... when I'm at home with my husband and son, I desire more social interaction. When I'm out and about I desire more time with my family. I desire home-grown foods and a wholesome lifestyle with plenty of personal space yet also desire to be near other people. I definitely have a "grass is greener" syndrome. Nowadays I find myself more satisfied with my life than ever before, but it's still very much a work in progress.

In fact, I think I'll write a little note to myself, saying "What you have is enough," and stick it up on the windowsill or something so that when I have a quiet moment I can read it and let it sink in.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why Not Africa?

When a white person is interested in Japanese culture, nobody bats an eye. Traditional Chinese medicine is a popular interest among Westerners, Asian philosophies and martial arts are also admired, and of course there is anime.

When a white person is interested in Native American culture, it doesn't really surprise anyone. South or Central American culture is also often interesting to the layperson, Mexican culture is fairly integrated into American culture, pretty much any European country has its fans in America, and many people, although they wouldn't go out of their way to research it, would listen avidly to someone speaking of Pacific Island culture or many other less "mainstream" cultures.

So, that leaves the Middle East and Africa. Unless you are African-American or from the Middle East, it's not "in vogue" to be interested in those cultures. Middle Easterners have a bad rep in this day and age, and Africa is just kind of ignored by the masses, unless we are looking up news segments about grisly warfare and changing political structures. So when I tell people that I'm studying traditional African religion, I often get a puzzled look, and the sentence, "Why would you be interested in Africa? You're not black." hangs unsaid but very much present in the ether between us.

"Why not?" I want to reply. Why are African cultures so unappealing and ignored by white Americans? My guess is that there is still an implied separation between white and black people in this country. People still think of race in terms of "us" and "them." A lot of white people would be totally supportive of African-Americans researching African culture and expressing interest, but have no interest themselves. I'm not sure why this barrier exists less prominently between whites and Asian-Americans. Perhaps because Japan is on the technological up-and-up, and Africa is thought of as just another poverty-and-war-ridden "third world country" even though it's really a whole friggin' continent! Also a lot of white Americans feel a connection between themselves and Native Americans... understandable, since we are living on their land... however Africa is too far away to care about.

People interested in Africa are not going to find a lot about it in the mainstream. In college, my World History class barely mentioned it, my ethics class had nothing on it (even though we studied a few other cultural world views), there weren't even any electives dealing with the subject, even though there were other world culture classes, and many students attending were Sudanese. Even most African-Americans don't know much about Africa.

However, look deep inside yourself, and you'll find an inherent connection with Africa. After all, it is all of our "motherland" because it's where human beings originated from. Our souls are still connected to that big wide continent, even though our minds are busy being interested in other things. Go on Youtube and listen to some African drums and let your heartbeat mesh with the beat of the drums. Find a map of the continent and remember some of the country's names. Find one that catches your eye and look up a brief history. Find out what tribes lived in that country, go to google images, and type in "traditional _(tribe's name)__ dress (or art)" and admire the craftsmanship of a people largely forgotten by today's society.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fleshless Fire

fleshless fire
tornado of flame
yellow and orange and red

dance in me
dance through me
a ribbon of lifeforce
drawing me

so hot to the touch
so warm to my skin
so full, so free
in love and passion be manifest

this is myself
in sync with the world
the bonfire within
now given a voice
burning through my skin
you are set free

Wake Up Laughing

This morning the baby woke up at 5, so when he decided to take a nap at 7:30 I was more than willing to sleep as well! During my nap, I had a strange and funny dream.

Basically, I was a lesbian girl on the show Survivor, but they only allowed gay men to be on the show, not gay women. Well it wouldn't have been an issue except I was flirting with another girl on the island, so this straight white man was up in my face and got me kicked off the show because I rebuffed his flirtations. ;) Well I wanted to make it into a big controversy to get things changed and draw public attention to the fact that the show is discriminating, so I kept appealing to a higher court. Finally, I was being interviewed by this asshole reporter and he kept bringing other people off the island to interview, to try and gather evidence that I was, in fact, gay. (I wasn't admitting it but I wasn't masking anything I was doing, either.) I was having fun with this interview because it was obvious that the reporter was extremely homophobic and probably gay himself.

First he interviewed the angry white guy who got me kicked off, then he interviewed a good-looking gay black guy and kept asking him questions like, "what is wrong with your penis?" and "how ugly are your balls?" When the guy asked WTF? the reporter said that obviously you just took to men because women would be disgusted with your junk. (The reporter was basically Sue Sylvester (from the T.V. show Glee) only male.) I was pleased because the reporter's acting like an asshole would stir up even more controversy for my case.

Everyone there was so fed up with the reporter that we decided just to ignore him from that point on, so I started striking up a conversation with a black woman that was near me. We started talking about kids and then she said I reminded her about a song, and started singing it. I listened politely because the song started out kind of sappy and I'm not into sappy songs very much, but then she got to the chorus and shocked me. The song was overall very positive with the message that we need to push our kids into being their best, but the chorus used the imagery of pushing kids out of airplanes so they can fly. She sang "push behind them, baby, push them so they fall. Push behind them, baby, give them it all." It was so silly and ridiculous that I laughed out loud and woke myself up. :)

I love it when I have dreams that make me laugh, because then the whole day from that point on seems humorous and silly. I needed a silly day! Yeehaw!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Death, Or A Standstill in Time

Last night I had a dream that left a big impression. Lately, I've been having those sorts of dreams near a full moon.

In this dream, I was flying in an airplane with a bunch of people, and all of a sudden the plane took a nosedive straight for the ocean. Everyone was panicking as the plane spiraled out of control, but somehow I remained calm. It was scary, sure, but I didn't feel the same panic as those that surrounded me.

Then all of a sudden time stood still, just as the nose of the plane was about to hit the water of the ocean. It hadn't quite touched yet. All of the people and myself got out of the plane and started walking on the surface of the water! We wandered around, exploring this new phenomenon, when I spotted my dad among the crowd. I went over to him, and he went behind a wave as tall as myself, so that the wave separated us. My dad then pushed the wave over so that it was on top of me! I was inside the wave for a moment, but the water didn't even seem to touch me. I had time to think while I was inside the wave, and I thought, wow, I'm not even wet, and I'm inside an ocean wave yet outside of time! Then I went through the wave to the other side and saw my dad.

Then I got to thinking and I didn't understand how we could have stepped into a realm outside of time and be able to affect the environment (my dad was able to push the wave as if it were jello) yet not be affected by the environment (I didn't even get wet as I stepped inside the wave.) I wondered if we were all dead and the plane really did crash into the ocean, and I wondered how we would know for sure. Then I woke up.

Perhaps I did die, in the dream. And if so, I experienced a reality that was separate from everyday reality, yet still connected to this world. My whole dream took place in the span of maybe 2 or 3 seconds, yet so much happened. I wonder if, after death, we will experience time at all, or if everything we do will seem like it happens in a single second of time, or if we will just be outside of time altogether. This is not the first dream I've had in which I died, by the way, but I'm not even sure if I did die in the dream or if I somehow became part of another reality through some other means.