Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul is a phrase used to describe a period of time where it feels like you have lost your connection to light.  While often used to refer to a spiritual crisis where one feels like they have lost their connection to the divine, it can also be a more general period in one's life where things feel hopeless or unbearable.

Dark Nights may happen multiple times in your life, or you may never experience them.  They may last for short periods or they may stretch on. 

But Dark Nights also often function as a Guardian at the Gates.  They are a final purge of the negative thoughts and emotions we have born before we pass through to a new awareness or inspiration.  You can think of them as a last ditch effort of the 'old you' to keep you from growing.

Even knowing what you are going through, it can be very hard to navigate a Dark Night.  You may find you have no motivation, or it feels like everything you try ends poorly, or that you are all alone.  Each Dark Night is different, and each person faces their Dark Night slightly different.

Always remember that though the Dark Night process might lead you back to the light, if you every feel completely overwhelmed, definitely seek outside help!  Talk to a friend, a loved one or your doctor, especially if you feel any inclination to harm yourself through action or inaction (if you stop feeling motivated to do basic self-care).  Just because a Dark Night is a deeply personal thing, it doesn't mean you can't have allies along the way!

Sometimes, you may feel the need to turn inward.  To really allow yourself to be with the feelings you are going through.  You may feel called to sit in meditation, to spend time alone and dreaming, to journal or create art to express the dark feelings you are having or the need to scream and vent your frustrations.  As you do these things, pay attention to how your feelings change.  Do you feel like you are going deeper into them or are you releasing them?  Take some time and write about how you felt before, how you felt during and how you felt after.

In the depths of a Dark Night, many times the things that used to bring joy and happiness into your life don't seem to shine as brightly.  Even when you are exploring your own darkness, make sure to keep a little light shining.  Take a moment or two, every day, to focus on something beautiful, something that is uplifting or joyful (even if you aren't quite feeling it).  You may look at pictures, listen to a song or smell some flowers.  Think of it as a little reminder of the joys in life.

I often have times where I feel hollow inside, like I am nothing but a shell.  For me, at these times, I really need to nourish and replenish myself.  It is the time that I focus on self-care in a very tender way.  It is almost as though I feel there is something broken inside me and I need to fix it.  I may take long baths, spend more time with personal grooming (like brushing my hair or putting on body lotion) or give myself a foot massage.  I almost always move slower, so I will make sure to take extra time for everything I need to do.

I find nature very soothing when I am distressed.  To me, nature is neutral.  Nature doesn't want something from me, it doesn't judge me, it just IS and this lets me just BE as well.  I don't always have transportation, so sometimes spending time with nature means sitting on my back porch and watching the field behind our apartment.  Sometimes it means laying on the floor and petting my cats.  Sometimes it's going out at night, staring up at the stars and the sky and just breathing.

Breathing is definitely another thing I do.  Getting in touch with my breath is very primal for me.  It is something we can consciously control that is vital to life.  When I focus on and control my breathing, taking slow, deep, deliberate breaths, it is like the first step in taking back control of my life.  In one tiny way I am directing how my life is going.  When I am in a really dark place, this is extra soothing for me.

Crying can also be very cathartic.  I cry often, but not always when I want to.  Sometimes, when I am feeling especially emotionally wrung out, I sort of know I need to cry, but I can't.  I will either turn to music that is especially moving to me, or to videos.  I have a couple videos that are pretty much guaranteed to move me to tears.  No matter how empty I feel inside, some things seem to always touch me.  Shared loss, or sacrifice (especially stories that are heart-wrenching but have a happy ending) really gets to me.

I think one of the worst things about a Dark Night is it makes you feel alone.  You feel like no one could understand that emptiness inside.  Or that no one cares about you.  Or that you just aren't good enough.  Or that the things you do have no meaning.  It is like sitting in the dark, and you can't see that there are other people sitting in the dark with you.  You can't see that other people are battling their own darkness and their own loneliness and their own feelings of inadequacy.

But if you reach out, you can feel them.  If you close your eyes, you can hear them breathing in the darkness with you.  You can feel the heat of their bodies, and smell their skin.  We are never truly alone!

So anytime you are facing your own Dark Night, explore the darkness, search for your light, and battle your Guardian at the Gate...and never forget that you are not alone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What makes a ritual GREAT!

Ritual comes in all shapes and sizes.  We can do ritual by ourselves, with our family, with our social group, with the larger community or (with the many digital options) with people across the globe!  And yet I think there are some qualities that make rituals great that are often overlooked.

It is lovely to attend a ritual where everything goes smoothly, where everyone who has a part plays it perfectly, and where the group meshes together towards the common focus seamlessly.  And yet, I absolutely don't feel that is necessary to have a great ritual.  I've been to quite a few rituals where a lot has gone 'wrong', but I walked away deeply moved and had a great time.

So what is the purpose of ritual?  I think that rituals can have many different goals, but ultimately they all help renew us.  They touch a part of us deep inside, that connects to the sacredness of life, and help us to keep that spark nourished and healthy!  Even when the ritual is exploring our darker aspects or perhaps it is a light and humorous ritual that encourages silly play, both can replenish our inner resources that get drained through the stresses and activities of life.

I think one of the very basic 'rules' of ritual is that it is a safe place.  Everyone at the ritual should feel that they are safe, not only on a purely physical level, but also on an emotional one.  This isn't to say that deep and serious topics can not be touched, but simply that the other people at the ritual are there to support you and not to tear you down.  It can not be a great ritual if people are mocking or judging others, especially when sharing personal details.

Ritual is often a place where we push our own boundaries, and sometimes we need other people to help us, but ultimately, we should feel like we can say no to the things we are truly not ready for.  We should never feel pressured at ritual to do something we are not comfortable with, no matter how simple that act may be.  I actually haven't been a pure participant at a lot of rituals.  I've often been asked to take a role in the ritual, and sometimes I was uncomfortable stepping into that role, but I have never felt like the person asking me would judge me for saying no.  In fact, it was that level of support that allowed me to say yes, to do things that made me uncomfortable, and to slowly raise my comfort level in ritual.

And as much as we do want things to run smoothly, a great ritual can adapt.  Life happens!  Sometimes the person you thought would do a thing at ritual can't make it, or has to drop out at the very last moment.  I truly believe that when we gather for ritual, our hearts are what shape the experience and when everyone is open to the ritual experience, it becomes beautiful no matter how horrible the bugs are, if it starts raining, if it is bitterly cold or blisteringly hot, if someone completely messes up their role, or if the candles won't stay lit.  We have the choice to focus on what is going wrong and spiral out of our sacred space into focus on all the things that have happened, or we can shift that energy into moving forward!

One of my very early ritual flub experiences was when I was just learning and me and a friend were trying to do a ritual, but something struck us as funny and we ended up just lost in laughter for several minutes.  Once we could compose ourselves, we got back into it, and finished our ritual.  Afterwards, we were talking about it and came to the conclusion that it was one of those things that was just part of the human experience.  Neither of us felt that the gods or the spirits we had called to our circle felt slighted in any way.  We weren't making light of the ritual, and once we had settled down, we were able to refocus and complete what we had started.

And I think that is a very important thing:  to finish, even if you have to drastically alter what you had set out to do.  A great ritual has a start and an end.  If you start ritual, you need to also close it.  If something happens in the middle that calls you away, whether it is something from within the ritual, like a participant doing something unexpected, or from without, like a natural disaster, the ritual should be attended to as soon as possible.  You may be able to pick it back up and continue on.  Or you may have to do a quick ending to allow everyone closure.  Even with something as simple as saying, "We thank all who have come this day to our ritual, but due to unforeseen circumstances we need to close this circle and end this ritual.  Be blessed as you go forth!"

Ritual is an amazing thing and it is the simple stuff that makes rituals great.  It is the heart and soul of the participants, the willingness to drop into the moment and to work towards whatever the focus of the ritual is.  Ritual does not need fancy tools or perfect conditions to be great.  So never fret if your ritual takes an unexpected turn or two.  That doesn't mean that it isn't still a fantastic ritual!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fixing your Facebook Feed!

Yes, I'm back to talking about Facebook.  It's sort of all pervasive, and I have quite a few friends that I care about who I am not able to see regularly, and it is how I keep in touch with them.

There is so much talk about how toxic Facebook can be, especially after a big tragedy (or string of tragedies).  Whatever is the hot topic of the moment will be plastered all over.  It is an easy way for people to express their horror, frustration and fear. 

And yet, when I go to Facebook, it isn't to be inundated with that kind of negative energy.  I've seen a lot of studies about how Facebook can be emotionally undermining. 

But it kind of reminds me of Pandora's box...the box has been opened, and we have been flooded with all this bad stuff.  There really isn't a good way to put it all back in the what do we do about it?

First, I definitely understand the need to have our opinions heard.  Stuff happens, and we have strong feelings about it.  We want to express those feelings so they don't remain bottled up inside.  That is all fine and good, but think about how often we are sharing the same frustrations and anger.

The problem isn't that we are talking about this stuff.  In my eyes, the problem is that we never go from talking to doing.  And even our talk doesn't transmute into discussion.  It is like the internet has us all stuck in troll-mode:  never-ending rant's!

It's like we get stuck in a complaining loop.  Someone will post a link and their thoughts on it, and people will comment, and everyone just goes around agreeing that it is horrible and that something should be done.  This kind of negative energy feeds itself:  the more you focus on it, the more it clings to you.

The good news is that there are lots of ways to transform this energy into something that makes things better.

One of the simplest ways I think is to find non-verbal ways to express our feelings and reactions to a thing.  Images and music are both readily available (and sharable!).  I know that both sometimes have words, but I feel that the words are almost secondary in these cases.  Try finding an image or a song that embodies how the event makes you feel, and share that!

But I am Pagan, so I have another whole world of things I can do!  First and foremost, when I encounter something that really upsets me deeply, I consider my need to do inner work on the subject.  I think that when we rant or complain about something, we are often just venting what is on the surface without really delving into the deeper roots of what is wrong.  By going inward, by really searching out the tendrils that are supporting our reaction, we can start to unravel our own true responses...and that is the first step to healing!

From there, we can start to work towards creating change.  I definitely feel that change starts with me, so whatever I uncovered in my inner work, I can now work to heal it.  It may mean that I do work with associated emotions or memories.  Or it may mean that I work with my own failings to fight off the fear that I may be a victim (or that I may share some blame...)

Once we have done the personal work, we can start to reach out.  So many times we stop before this point, but we have an amazing global connection through Facebook, and that means that we can organize people towards making actual change!  I think the first step is to turn the conversation from what is wrong to how things can improve.  The more people we can get involved in this conversation, the more that ideas will start to shift.  Until ideas shift, people will continue to act from the flawed concepts that society has taught us.

Connection is a HUGE key.  We toss around so many catch phrases about this issue or that cause, but what really moves people, what really makes them stop, listen and start to change, is when we make the people real.  Words and ideas come later....feelings come first!  If you have a story, a personal story, that is brave and share!  That is one thing that I absolutely love reading in my feed:  stories about people helping other people.  Or people connecting to people and finding out they weren't what they thought they were (stereotypes).

It is so very easy to judge by a first impression.  But that is only a split second of time..and from your perspective!  Often, when we look deeper and longer, we find that the other side is full of people too.  People who feel very deeply about things.  Sometimes, when we look we find that we misunderstood their motivations entirely.  And sometimes that makes us wonder if perhaps they are misunderstanding us as well.

Of course, there will always be situations where even after you look and see what is behind the hype, you can not stand by and support a situation.  And we must stand up for what we believe in!  Again, we start at home, start within, and do what we can.

But let's start talking about what we are doing!  Share the magic you are making to create a new and better world!  Band together and weave your workings into bigger things!  Imagine a world where social media becomes a tool to bring people into harmony...all resonating on the same frequency and all shining that light out into the world where it can lighten someone else's life!

The hatemongers are already spreading their filth everywhere.  They are posting and yelling and talking and ranting and that is what we see in our feed when we check in.  That is what the people who are struggling with these issues in their personal lives see:  all that hate and anger.  When we share our frustrations, we are feeding that feeling of helplessness!

Instead, let's share the love!  Let's create a new way of doing things...where when bad stuff happens we start looking for ways to make it better.  To show the victims that they are not alone, and their issues are being heard, and there are people who are willing to do something about it.  Just imagine, if your words, if your telling your story, about how you met a person, or lit a candle, or did a spell or said a prayer, what if those words were enough to keep just one person looking forward.  Now imagine if everyone you know on Facebook did the same....what would the internet be like then?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Power of Writing!

I write...a a variety of forms and for a variety of purposes.  And there is power in writing.  Through writing I can express a thought in my head, and share it with people across the globe, and for future generations.  As long as my words remain, my voice can be heard. 

But writing is also a huge part of my practice.  I write to help myself learn, I write to help clarify ideas in my head, I write as a form of devotion and I write to share ideas.  Each type of writing serves a different purpose and role in my practice.

I've written before about magical bookkeeping, and my stance on that is still mostly the same.  I am not really a fan of writing down the details of everything that I do.  However, there is a benefit to writing about what you have done.  Not necessarily in a step-by-step instruction manner (although, for some workings this is very helpful, and it can be handy when you are first starting out, or if you intend your BOS to be handed down to another), but in a more introspective manner. 

Often, when we do a ritual or spell, we have a reaction to the working itself.  Especially if the work involved some sort of meditation or visualization.  It can be very helpful to jot down some notes about how we felt after the ritual, as well as any major things that came up in the visualization.  When we come back and look at what we have written, we often find further insight into whatever the problem was at hand (the purpose of our working).

Another major way that I write is to copy down information for myself.  When I read a book (especially one I have on loan and do not own myself) or some information on line, if it is interesting to me, I like to take notes, so that I can have the important stuff on hand.  Also, by putting the information into my own words, I can make sure I understand the is much harder to take notes when you don't quite get a topic.  I try to avoid copying text directly, except for specific and relevant quotes, as I don't feel that helps me as much.

I find that writing things for other people to read is sort of an expansion of my note taking.  When I am gathering information for a blog post, article or other piece that is intended to be shared with the world, I not only want to make sure that my ideas are clear in my head, but also that they are clear in a way that is approachable to the reader.  For me, this often means that I really have to be clear with my words...what might work for me as a note, wouldn't work in a public piece because I might use little phrases or comparisons that don't make sense to other people.  I find that when I write for other people, I often clarify ideas for myself as I really am working to make sure that I am expressing myself well.

On almost the other end of the spectrum is real introspective reflections.....or more traditional journaling.  Many times when I go deep and journal about something, I'm not thinking about whether or not my words are 'right' or if my meaning is truly clear.  Sometimes, I'm not actually sure where I am going with something as I write it.  It isn't until later, when I go back and read what I have written, and think about it, that the meaning becomes clear.  But this kind of writing really taps into parts of my brain that don't often get to speak.  Sometimes it is a matter of taking a symbol, a dream, a picture or some wisp of thought and trying to express it in words.  There is a crossing of a barrier here, and tapping into that deeper part of myself helps me to uncover things that I don't get to by just reading and thinking.

Then there is more artistic styles of writing.  I find that writing fiction allows me to explore different perspectives, to play with ideas or things that might not be physically possible for me to experiment in my daily life.  It also allows me to take multiple perspectives on the same topic in a way that shows how the same idea can be approached by different people.  I find it really a great brain exercise to write from the point of view of someone who isn't me.  It is a great tool for trying to bridge a gap or understand someone who is very different from you:  sit down and write out the situation from their point of view, as if they were trying to explain it to you.

Stories are also a great way to work through memories or trauma that is bothering us.  Sometimes, just getting the words on paper can help.  And, we can make the character someone that is not us, which helps us take a step back and react as an observer instead of the victim.  We could write ourselves in as the hero, or the helper, or any other role that we think might help us.  Or, we could simply allow ourselves to put all those feelings and thoughts we have about a situation down and get them out of ourselves.

And finally there is poetry.  I think that poetry of all kinds lets us break the rules of speaking.  We don't have to use full sentences or talk in complete ideas.  Poetry lets us speak in riddles or comparisons, to spend an entire piece focusing on emotions or sensations.  I find poetry a really good way of expressing deep emotions.  I also really adore poetry as an offering or worshipful act. 

The one thing I will say, is that everyone is a writer.  Whether you choose to write for yourself or for others, whether you write fiction, fact or whimsy, you can write!  There is no wrong way to write (at least not in my book), and if you don't feel confidant at first, then just write for yourself.  Let yourself play with words, secure in the knowledge that you never have to show them to anyone else if you don't want to.  Let words help you work through your problems, explore deeper parts of yourself or express things that you have inside of you!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Study, Practice and avoiding burnout!

Life is a procession of ebbs and flows.  Sometimes we are full of energy, and just bursting at the seams to delve into whatever we are focused on at the time.  Sometimes we don't feel like doing much of anything.  And yet, life continues to move on, whether you are ready for it or not.  We all want to have a steady practice, and we all have things we wish to learn.  So how do you keep up with your regular practice without loosing it all in the slumps?  And how do you keep the momentum going in your studies without reaching the point of burnout?

I have the two-edged sword of time.  For the most part, I have almost free reign over what I do with my days.  This allows me to pursue the things I want to pursue at my own leisure.  The downside of this is that I can really overwhelm myself, especially when I try to tackle too much all at once.

There is always stuff going on!  If you are like me, and have interests in a wide range of things, this can get quite frustrating.  I get invites to all kinds of virtual events that I can participate in from the comfort of my own home.  I have signed up for a handful of them.  Many of them are SO chock full of interviews or sessions, that even with a full, free day it can feel overwhelming to do them all.  And many last for a couple of weeks, so it isn't just one full day, but many in a row.  Often sessions are only up for a day or two, so I feel compelled to watch them all, every day.....or I might miss out.

The most basic thing I have learned about this is to really prioritize my time.  I don't ask myself if I want to do something, but rather if that thing is the thing I want to do most of all today.  Sometimes I have to really sit down with myself and acknowledge that more things sound interesting than I have time for...and that if I don't do them now I might never have the chance to do the again...but that ultimately I will be happier if I don't do them all!  It is something that often takes work, and can be tempting to do 'just one more' thing that we actually have time or energy for.  The more we think about it, the more we are tempted.  But if we take a deep breath and really tune in to how we feel, we may find that the thought of spending that time is actually exhausting, and we need to let it go!

Another thing that I find sneaks up on me quite easily is a schedule full of little things.  I have quite a few projects going on, most of which don't take much time individually.  However, when you start adding them up, if feels like they all got magnified!  It is very important, when thinking about everything we have on our plate, to actually look at it all, from time to time.  This is one place where I find a calendar absolutely vital.  If I start filling out my calendar for the week, and actually pencil in all of the things that I do, even if they only take 5 minutes, sometimes I realize that I am overbooking myself.  And when you do something like this, always plan on things taking longer than you think they will!

Sometimes, you can adjust things to make them fit together better.  I have a few things that I do on particular days of the week.  I have other things that I am doing this year on the moon phases.  When I plan on my moon work, I will look at my calendar and try to fit the moon stuff in on days that I don't have a bunch of other things.  I also try to balance out really mentally intensive stuff with things.  I have been working a lot with the Futhark runes lately, and just picked up an immersion class in Womanrunes.  Being that both are symbol systems, and both studies were going to involve a lot of introspection, journaling and deep exploration, I decided it was best to not try to do both at the same time. 

Always keep your commitments in mind, when people ask you to do things!  I sort of keep a tally in the back of my head, about all the stuff going on.  That way, when someone asks if I can help with something, I know how busy I am (or am going to be in the near future) and have a rough idea if a new project will be too much.   Most of the time, when someone asks you to help with something, you need to consider not only the thing itself, but how much other work will be involved with that project.  Writing an article may not take much actual time for the writing, but you also have to consider how much time it will take for you to come up with your topic, do any research, write, edit and submit the article.

We are not built to be rushing about every waking hour.  Too often, modern society promotes the idea of moving non-stop from morning until night.  We are always trying to multi-task, to do things quicker and to cram more into our days.  I catch myself, sometimes, trying to rush through things that really shouldn't be rushed (like meditation or breath work).  Or trying to do multiple things at once (which normally means I don't do either well).  It is so much less stressful to take a few things off our plate, to slow down and do things well, one at a time.

Even when we have unlimited time, trying to work a big project all at once, can bring us into burnout.  I love learning new things!  When I am introduced to a new idea, my gut reaction is to delve in with both feet.  I will look up a dozen articles, and try to read them all.  I will want to practice it for hours a day.  And if I let myself go that route, I almost always hit a brick wall not to far in.  If, on the other hand, I place limits on myself, doing only so much every day, then I can avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed and stick with it.  Not only does parceling it out in smaller bites make it less likely that you will burnout, it makes it easier to keep up the practice!  If I feel like I need to be doing 40 minutes of meditation a day, and I'm not really feeling it one day, I am more likely to skip it than if I set my sights on 10 minutes a day.  Practices are much easier to deepen once they are set in our routine.

It is also very easy to get stuck in just one way of doing things.  But that can actually hinder us.  If we are trying to learn a new concept, most of us start with finding out information in some way, whether we read articles, find a video to watch or ask people.  Most of us know how we learn best, and we tend to stick to that way of learning.  Once we have our method down, we do the same thing, every time we want to learn something new.  Our brains are amazing things however!  The more we stretch them, the more work they do for us.  Find new ways to challenge yourself and enhance your learning.  Definitely start with your basic method, but then seek out new ways to explore the topic.  Think about how you might teach it to another person, and try it out.  Make up a game that is played using the skill or knowledge you are learning, and teach it to your friends.  Find an app that helps you practice.  By changing up how you are approaching your topic, you engage different areas of the brain, and you are not as likely to get bored or burnt out on it.

We all want to get the most out of life.  But if we are always overloading ourselves and feeling like we can't even catch our breath, we aren't enjoying what we are doing!  Slow down, and let yourself really get into what you want to do...and then make sure you have time to rest, rejuvenate and refresh yourself!  I think you will find that you get so much more out of the things you do, and because you are enjoying yourself and focusing on what is actually going on instead of what you still have to do, you will not miss the things you don't get to do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bring back conversation!

I've written quite a bit about how technology is good and how it can be incorporated into your practice.  But I think that technology has the potential to tempt us into behaving badly.  There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that people are more likely to speak rashly or act in a way that they would never act when face to face with someone.

Beyond that, however, much of the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier and do things quicker.  I feel this is having a negative effect on the way we interact with people, especially in regards to social media.

First however, let us consider cell phones.  When I was little, cell phones weren't a thing.  It wasn't until I was in high school that pagers and cell phones started being a viable option.  So communicating with people in my childhood was still often done in letters (again, email didn't happen until about middle school) or phone calls.  But long distance phone calls were still a thing, and of course the time difference had to be taken into account.

The thing about letters was that they took time, on all fronts.  You first had to write the letter, which if you were like me and have abysmal handwriting most of the time means that you had to slow down and really put in the effort to write in a manner that would be legible (boy do I love that I can type stuff out now.....much quicker than I can write longhand!)

Then, you had to mail it, and it would take time to be delivered.  The person receiving the letter would read it, and if they wanted to respond, they would have to write their own letter and have it delivered....this whole process could take weeks!

Today, we can fire off an email, send it, and get a response in the same day!  And that is one of the slower methods of electronic communication.  We can post on a forum and seconds after we hit post someone on the other side of the world can read what we have written and respond.  We can use social media and send a message out to the world, or join a chat room and have a group video conference with dozens of people from anywhere!

In fact, many people consider a phone call to be sort of outdated in favor of texting.  Texting has some distinct advantages.  You can text without worrying how loud it is where you are.  You can text and if the other person is busy right then, they can still get your message and respond to you at their leisure.  For many people, reading/writing is less likely to be misunderstood, especially if there is a bit of a language or accent barrier.

But texting has also encouraged quite a lot of behaviors that might not be conducive to true communication.  We have all sorts of contractions that are popping up, and people make up new ones all the time.  While some have achieved mainstream status (like lol, rolf or brb), no one can actually know them all.  Many devices also feature auto-correct, which creates lots of frustration by changing what you are writing to what it thinks you want to say.  I fight with my phone all the time because it doesn't want to accept what I am typing.  And many people don't read over what they have typed (or they just miss small errors), so that can create even more confusion for a reader.

The worst offender, in my opinion however, is social media.  We have sites like Facebook or twitter, which really encourage (or out right force) people to communicate in tiny snippets at a time.  Or to bypass words entirely.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of images (and stickers *grin), but I also often miss words!

Sometimes it is really frustrating, to make a post or try to share an idea, and all you get is a handful of likes.  Sure, it is great to know that people like what you are posting, but I crave conversation!  If I post something that makes you think or react, share what went through your mind! 

I feel there is a time and place for simply hitting the like button.  I understand that often people check their phone when they aren't really in a place to respond well.  Or perhaps you see a lovely image or meme and it makes you smile but you don't truly have anything to add.  I have hit like sometimes when I am really at a loss for what to say (though I am much more likely to find a sticker to use as a response when I have nothing to add). 

But I feel that we are loosing our voices.  We are forgetting what conversation is.  We are no longer thinking and truly reacting to things.  We are just watching the world around us pass us by as we click like and follow and add emoticons.  We are surrounded by all this input, and yet often feel so lonely because there isn't actual interaction going on....if your response could have been automatically generated by a yes/no program, maybe it is time to think about whether you are actually showing up for the other person or not.

Perhaps it is time to really examining how we are spending our time.  If I spend an hour scrolling through Facebook, and only use the like button, have I truly reached out to anyone?  If I read an article or watch a video that brings me to tears and all I do is post a sticker, have I actually expressed what went on in my heart?  If I don't stop and think about what I am experiencing, is it really worth my time to read/watch it?

This is one of those slippery slope issues that I think can slide by your awareness without you even thinking it is a problem.  We have become trained to act in this way, to value information dump and knee-jerk reactions instead of actually connecting with people.  But that doesn't mean you can't realize what is going on and made a decision to change!

It is time to bring back discussion!  Take a moment to type a response to things that really touch you!  If you see someone trying to start a discussion, chime in!  If someone asks a question, answer it!  If someone shares a bit of their soul, honor it with a response.  If someone is having a bad day, words will be more soothing than seeing that 5 people 'liked' their trouble (I always thought that was an odd response.....)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We are not our labels!

Wow, It's shaping up to be a political month!  I'm not normally one to speak on current events or the like, but I do often find myself sparked by an event to talk about something it brings up in my life.  The recent events at Pulse, and the storm of emotions it has unleashed definitely has lit some sparks in me.

In some ways I'm 'mainstream'.  I don't think my neighbors think I am anything out of the ordinary, nor would you necessarily notice anything different about me if you passed me on the street.  I am whitish (half-Chinese, but I don't think I necessarily read as Oriental), married and don't have an overwhelming amount of tattoos (yet).  I don't run around shouting Pagan blessings at people or ranting at folks for wearing crosses or the like.

And yet, I do wear my pentacle ring every day.  I am pretty open about things that I believe in.  And as a Pagan, it is not outside of the realm of believable that someone might find out about my personal life and decide to come after me in some way.

I think that a lot of people don't spend enough time really thinking about what their beliefs and morals mean.  They listen to whoever is standing on a soap box and sounds most like what they identify with.  And when that person starts sharing disturbing thoughts, they don't stop and really think about what those thoughts mean in the real world, they just jump on board.

I know a lot of lovely people of many faiths.  And some have thrown their support behind people who suggest horrible acts against minorities (whether those are religious, racial or sexual minorities...or any other category of people who "aren't like us").  They often make excuses for their spokespeople, saying that "they don't really mean that" or "that isn't meant to be taken literally".

Sadly, we live in a world where many people do take statements at face value.  If their religious book or idol says that X group should die....well there is always someone out there who will act on that thought.  And it is a very slippery slope from treating people like they aren't equal in small ways (like dictating who can get married) to treating them like they aren't equal in big ways (like who has the right to live).  It seems like a HUGE difference, but in actuality the distance between the two is much smaller than it appears.

Not only that, but this kind of fight escalates very quickly.  Of course, when someone is attacking me I will want to fight back.  And that is a fact that many people completely overlook when thinking about these issues.  Throwing the first blow almost guarantees that there will be a response in kind.  No one should be expected to take this kind of abuse and just roll over and submit.

I think it is very important to be honest about motives as well.  Not every person acts on behalf of some greater group or organization.  And even if they are a fully devoted member of a group, their actions do not necessarily represent the desires of the group as a whole.  People are people, and individuals are never JUST one thing.  I am a Pagan, a woman, an Asian-American, a mother, a daughter, a wife, and a million more things.  I have never acted from purely one is flat out impossible.  Even when my main motivation is one thing, I will be influenced by the other facets of my life.  As a person, I can not be an ideal....I can only be a person.

And I think there is great value in looking at other people that way.  We are all people!  At the end of the day, we are not our race, our gender, our political affiliation, our economic status or any other number of classifications we can be sorted into.  We are a uniquely blended individual, that has bits and pieces from all over.  The more we can start looking at the individual, and seeing the person, instead of seeing the label we have applied to the person, the less likely we are to judge them for things that don't actually apply to them.

Open your eyes, and open your hearts.  Don't let your ideas about what a person might be blind you to the truth of what they are.  We are all so many things, that one label can never fully capture us!  Let yourself really listen and see what other people are saying, instead of thinking that you know how they are may find that they surprise you!