Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mental care is self care!

So, it's become sort of a tradition of mine, to broaden the definition of love as we approach Valentine's day.  I have talked about self care before, but I specifically want to talk about mental health in regards to self care and Paganism.

Firstly though, I want to acknowledge that everyone goes through mental issues, whether they are small and temporary or huge and permanent.  Whether they are diagnosed, self-diagnosed or unknown.  Mental health, in many ways, is like physical health, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and maintaining your mental health is a journey.  Your journey might include trained professionals, regular practice, friends, family, support groups or you may be traveling alone, but we all travel this road.

I have seen people say that you shouldn't practice if you aren't healthy, especially mentally, and this is one of the most harmful things that I think someone could say.  I want to talk about this from two different sides, the spiritual and the magical.

On the spiritual side, I think that our faith and religious practices often are a great boon to our mental health.  When we are struggling, we often turn to things outside ourselves for strength.  Knowing that the universe (the Gods, Spirit, Divinity...however you recognize it) is rooting for you can see you through very dark times. 

I also think that we often find a special community through our faith.  We find others who share the same beliefs (either in part or in whole), and they understand us in ways that other people can't.  We speak a common language, and when you need words of encouragement, they know what to say to help you. 

Now, many Pagans faith practice includes things that might be hard to do if you are in a dark or hard place.  And because we often practice alone (in the sense that we aren't going to a church and attending a service hosted by someone else, but are often in charge of our own rituals and practices), this can become a struggle where we feel like we are not being 'good' Pagans or that maybe we are letting our Gods down.

I personally feel that the Gods know when we are unable to do things versus when we are just being lazy and not wanting to put for the effort.  I also think that making allowances and doing what we are able to do takes a special kind of strength, and this is something that is recognized.  We may have to adjust our expectations, and find new ways of doing things, but we are not bad Pagans because we can't practice the way everyone else does (honestly there is no standard to be held up against, everyone's practice is what works for them, so you do you!)

On a magical side, there is some reasoning behind the concept that you shouldn't practice when you aren't well...however the flip side to that is sometimes the best time to practice is when you are in the thick of something.  Also, if you are struggling with a chronic condition, you may judge your days in different shades, and 'functioning' may be one of your better days. 

I personally find that, for me, when I am feeling particularly bad, giving myself something to do helps.  I will almost always choose 'easy' things, stuff that is more light and simple, but also fun.  Chanting is a big one for me, chanting is something I turn to when I am feeling poorly, and it helps a lot that I can pick chants that counteract what I am feeling!  But also something simple like checking in with my altar, maybe moving some stuff around, picking a new backdrop for my computer..things that don't take a lot of effort, but have meaning.  Sometimes it's as simple as taking a moment to sit and stare at the sky.

I also talk mostly about solitary practice, but if you work with a group or are attending a group function, and you have an issue that you are worried about or are struggling with, please mention it!  Depending on how well you know the group, you might want to bring one of the organizers aside, or you might speak in more vague terms.  It might even be as simple as asking if there is a quiet place where you can get a minute alone if necessary.  Or asking if certain topics are going to be explored that you aren't comfortable with (many people struggle deeply with certain things, and some rituals might be problematic...knowing ahead of time so you can decide if you need to opt out can be very helpful).

Sometimes, we still treat mental health issues as if they aren't as valid as physical ones (and we still sometimes don't treat physical issues with as much care as they deserve), but I think this is a conversation that needs to happen.  It is important for our Pagan spaces to be safe spaces, and this means for mental health as well as physical health.  I think that, as Pagans, we have so many lovely tools for working with our mental health, both on our own and in groups, and it is important to respect the process that people are going through, your Self especially!

No one knows your mind and mental state as well as you do.  Never let anyone shame you for feeling the way you do, or for doing things in a way that works for you.  And as we celebrate love this Valentine's Day, remember to shine some of that love back at yourself, wherever you may be and however you may be feeling on any given are worthy and you are loved!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Is it bad luck...or?

We all go through times where it seems like nothing is working for us.  We drop things, we get hurt, we loose stuff, it rains, there are a million things a day that could go 'wrong', and when too many start to add up, we may wonder, are we just going through some bad luck, or is something else going on here?

It is inevitable that someone will bring up being cursed.  Especially once you accept the existence of magic and spiritual energy, the idea that someone else has created these circumstances in your life isn't that far fetched.  And it is absolutely possible that someone could have cursed you.  But what you really have to ask yourself is how probable is it?

First though, I want to talk about something else that could be seen as a cause for bad luck.  Now, you may or may not know my thoughts on Karma, but many people believe that 'what you do comes back to you' in one form or another.  Sometimes this sentiment is extended through multiple lifetimes, so things that happen to you in this life might be ripples from another life.

Though I am not a fan or follower of this idea, I'm going to play Devil's advocate for a minute here.  Let's say that the things that are happening to you are some kind of energetic reaction, and that sometime (in this life or another) you did something and now that action is swinging back towards you.

Think about this energy as a pendulum.  You pushed it, it swung out, and now it's coming back towards you.  There are several things you can do about it:  you can step aside and avoid it, you can redirect the energy, you can brace and grab the pendulum....or you can be caught totally unaware and get smacked in the back of the head with it.

Now, I tend to think that avoidance is just a temporary measure.  Let's say you dodge out of the way of the pendulum, so it swings past you.  But then, what does a pendulum do?  It reaches the end of it's arc and swings back.  So you will have to keep dodging, keep figuring out some way to avoid that energy until enough time has passed and it is depleted.

A similar thing happens if you redirect it.  You push it in another direction, but it will come right back.  And, because you have simply reacted to an incoming threat, you may not even be paying attention to where you are shoving it, so you might create a new ripple effect by trying to deflect it.

Obviously we don't want to get caught unawares (though that is often how this whole thing starts), so we are left with bracing and grabbing it.  It's kind of like catching a ball, if you are prepared, there is some impact, but you can absorb most of it, and then you have the ball (or pendulum). 

Now, remember, we were talking about Karma, so the base of the idea is that this energy was something you sent out.  Being able to brace and catch it implies owning up to what you did (and possibly taking action to help correct the initial imbalance).

Of course Karma isn't the only reason why you might be having bad luck.  Sometimes we are the direct cause of our 'bad luck', but we can't see it.  It can sometimes be hard to see our own faults, or to see clearly when we are in a bad place.  If we are exhausted, we may be more clumsy than usual, and being that tired also often means we don't think right, so it just seems like we are having a string of bad luck, but really we are so tired we aren't functioning properly.

A very common type of bad luck is relationship bad luck.  I think we have all had a friend who complains constantly that they have the 'worst luck when dating', and they are absolutely convinced that no matter who they go out with it will end badly.  But what they can't see is that they are picking the exact same type of person, and that is what is leading to the bad relationships.  This type of bad luck is often very hard to see from the inside, because your feelings cloud your judgement.  It can be hard to trust your friends over your heart, but when they keep pointing out the same thing, it may be time to listen.

Sometimes our bad luck is a lack of proper planning.  This often happens in regards to money issues.  When someone doesn't plan for the unexpected, but instead spends all their money all the time, then gets hit with something unusual, and they say it's 'just their luck' that it happened a week before payday.  But they don't change anything after that experience, and it happens again and again, and it isn't just luck anymore, it's a failure to adjust and plan.

Now, like I said at the start, it is possible that you are actually cursed.  People come in all kinds, and there are nice people and nasty people.  This is true in the magical community as well.  Just like there are Trolls on the internet who don't care who they hurt, as long as they are hurting someone, there are people who will curse anyone, for any slight.  There are also people who let their emotions run away with them, and will curse you in the height of passion, because they got upset and acted before they stopped to think.

There are lots of ways to protect yourself!  Of course regular cleansing and shielding help a lot, but there are also protections you can cast on your property to help ward off any bad energy sent your way.  A very common method is to place (often bury) something at the four corners of your property, as a form of protection.  This might be protective talismans, witch bottles, crystals or whatever you prefer to use for protection. 

My personal favorite specifically for curses or other malignant, directed energy is mirror protections.  You might bless and charge a mirror to protect you from curses.  I use a small, pocket mirror, and I have placed a protection sigil in it, so the sigil is reflected in the mirror when it's closed (this way it protects from all sides).  You can also visualize the mirror, as a form of shielding.  What I like about the mirror protections is they send energy back at the caster, so it's a bit more aggressive than just shielding or protecting yourself, but I think that if someone is sending things my way, then sending them back is fair game.

One interesting sub-set of actual cursing is accidental cursing.  Energy follows thought and emotions, and if someone is feeling something intensely enough and wishing for harm to come to you, they may be sending that energy your way.  It won't be as focused as if they were doing it on person, but it can still be powerful.  I actually think this kind of cursing happens more than intentional cursing.  You can guard against this type of cursing exactly as you would intentional cursing, and if you like, you can even word your protections to help people see when they are unintentionally sending bad energy out.

It is actually possible to 'curse' yourself as well, and this is a big part of what negative self-talk does.  If you are continually thinking that you are unlucky, you will be seeing and remembering the bad things that happen to you more than any good.  I have talked to people who absolutely believe themselves to have the worst luck ever, and objectively they actually come out on top more often than not.  But because they only focus on the bad times, that is all they remember, and they start to create more bad luck.  Some of this is pure self-sabotage, if you feel like you are doomed to do poorly at something you won't typically try as hard as if you are determined to succeed.  The best way to counteract this type of curse is through paying strict attention to your self-talk, and changing how you view your life.

There is one final thing that I want to talk about, when it comes to strings of bad luck.  Sometimes, they just happen.  It's like the example of flipping a penny.  The odds of flipping a penny heads 100 times in a row are astronomical, but possible.  The thing to remember here, is that if you have flipped the penny 99 times to heads, the next time you flip that penny, the odds of getting heads (on that single flip) are still exactly 50/50.  Sometimes there is absolutely no reason for bad luck except...bad luck!

What it is important to do, if you are experiencing a string of bad luck, is to do your due diligence.  Check to see if there are logical causes for what is happening.  Check to see if there are people who might actually be seeking to cause you harm.  Consider the fact that it might just be bad luck.  Boost your protections if it makes you feel better, but don't live in constant fear that people are cursing you, because while possible, the other options are typically much more likely.