neversremedy8: (Water is Sacred)
Whatever I choose to call my spiritual path today or the next day, it does not allow for proselytization. I am not religious, because I find dogma to be counter-intuitive to spiritual experiences. As the daughter of an atheist and a Wiccan priestess, a person who attended Episcoplian schools through the age of 13, and who called herself Christian up until age 12, I may explore ideas and concepts from other religions, but am not religious. I don't even consider myself Wiccan because of inconsistencies, dogma, and a discordant sense I get whenever trying to fit myself into its precepts.

Though I most often give myself a blanket term: pagan, meaning one who doesn't worship your god(s) (see: Princeton definition), I believe whole-heartedly in the right of every being to find their spiritual truth and walk it, so long as it does not harm others. Often ended up ranting and railing against certain religions -- most prominently Christianity -- and their most fundamental fanatics, precisely because these individuals do harm and proselytize, often in a very hypocritical manner ("do what I say, not as I do").

Yet, I am equally troubled by those who mock people of any faith for having faith. I am troubled by devout atheists who proselytize as vehemently as the most frothing-at-the-mouth doom-sayer. Even if I disagree with or do not feel connected to another person's religion, it is a right to follow it in a personal and private way. Who am I to say your truth isn't true for you? Who are you to tell me what I ought to believe?

In almost every walk of spirit can be found elements of truth -- universal and personal truth -- so I do not disregard the teachings of a given path simply because the whole does not make sense to me or its inconsistencies grate on me. So, when I saw an image today on Facebook of a woman kneeling in a public spot next to a prayer booth, along with the caption: "We cannot complete your prayer at this time, because your god does not exist. Please check your god and try again," I wasn't pleased.

Not because I necessarily agree with the implied religion (not every faith requires a person to kneel and place their hands together for prayer), but because the caption and the subsequent comments that followed made numerous jibes at the religion in general, without addressing the real issues brought up by the image.

One of the best things I've seen public and private buildings provide for the people who visit them are private prayer rooms. A single private prayer room on a university campus can keep a Muslim woman from having to lay her prayer rug down in a busy bathroom to attempt to connect to Mecca (an uncomfortable experience I shared with just such a woman at my own university when I was in a stall trying to halt my natural processes to be respectful of her moment of prayer), it can give Christians a chance to celebrate their Lord in a place free of ridicule, a Buddhist a quiet place to find inner peace, and so much more.

Of all the practices of any religion, no matter the religion's historical crimes against other humans, prayer is the most acceptable and least threatening of any of them. Prayer is a form of meditation, and meditation has been show in neurological tests to shift mental processes to a different state, allowing the body to reach a state of calm relaxation, which is beneficial to health. Why, of all the practices of religions around the world, would someone ridicule prayer? Maybe it has something to do with an individual's discomfort with the religion as a whole, or their view that another's religion is downright insane, but either way, placing oneself as superior to another based on one's belief is wrong (i.e. being a shitty human being) whether you're religious or not.

Even if I don't agree with a religion, I will stand up for a person's right to practice it, and will speak out against those who would publicly mock and ridicule someone for, of all things, prayer. Come on! I meditate. I also sometimes listen to repetitive drumming, while laying down with an eye mask, and think I'm communicating with talking animals who tell me what choices will serve me best in my life.

The real issues with this image for me, are not that the woman is praying, or that she prays to an invisible man in the sky who judges her for everything she does, and will punish her if she doesn't follow his laws. Nope! My issues stem from the booth's placement. It makes this particular form of prayer (kneeling), a public event, and a preferred/privileged form of prayer. (If you're Christian, check your Bible, because you're supposed to pray in private. See: Matthew 6:6) Someone who uses this space becomes vulnerable to ridicule, and pray in a position that leaves them prone to physical assault. Also, I would question the motives of someone who chooses to use an openly public prayer space. Are they truly in need of counsel? Can achieve it in such a space? And are attempting real prayer or just showing off?

If instead of mocking people who desire a prayer space, we discussed what kind of prayer spaces are needed and what makes a good one, perhaps we'll achieve a better sense of social equality of faith, and open up real dialogue to creating better communities that embrace diversity.

Of course, there will always be extremists no matter the belief system who will deride others outside (and even inside) their faith, but for most people, this can be an achievable goal, and one which meshes well with other community building efforts.
neversremedy8: (Tummnus and Lucy)
I forgot to post this, but Joel sent me this video of he and Clint playing at Isadora's. For those not familiar with Soulfood Books, Clint McCune is the co-proprietor of the wonderful space, and Joel Gamble frequently plays there with his knee-drop-worthy electric violin (which I intend to marry, and Joel is aware that we'll be sharing the violin in the future). ^_^

While this took place at Isadora's and not Soulfood, it gives you a good idea of what kind of energy these two men bring to a space; Clint can lift the energy of any place he plays just by joining in, and Joel will make your feet tap and your heart weep with the broad strokes of his bow. If you're in the Greater Seattle area, Soulfood is a place you MUST check out. It's more than a bookstore, more than a place for free, all-ages music, it's a community center and one that must be preserved and supported.

neversremedy8: (In the Looking Glass)
It took me two and a half hours to open and close code the interview transcriptions from my conversations with my great aunt Alice. While I did it, I used my TA's suggestion of semantic fields to help me organize certain categories on which I wish to focus for my 5-8 page thesis/ethnography. My thesis paragraph and concept paragraph are both due on Friday. This procedure was totally worth it. No matter what thesis I choose (and I have not yet found the right words to frame my thesis), I have all of the data I need to back up the claims I might make. This is huge to me. I feel very reflective of my own values and views of myself in this light--like I'm more aware of why I have this view of myself that I'm not good at constructing sound arguments, and it stems from Rockie's constant demands to know where I came up with certain ideas, this need for me to always cite my sources, even in casual conversations. Now I have all of my sources cited for this paper, and all I need to do is construct an argument and fill in the pieces with the data I collected. I've never really felt I could do such a thing competently. Even my paper on Sunday, while I had reems of notes on my readings, didn't feel very sound, in part because I didn't give myself enough time to reflect.

Ana's teacher and I had our conference yesterday afternoon and discussed Ana's lack of reflection in her reading. I realized I did something similar, for although I can glean quite a bit of information from a reading, I don't usually dig very deeply into it. I've gotten by most of my life on being able to write bullshit and getting an A on it, because even my casual perusal was usually analytical enough for the average human. Now I have a chance to prove to myself that with a combination of passion, reflection, and serious delving into the data provided, I can create a valid, deep, structure argument. A sound one. Just this morning, I ran into Marco, one of the dads at Giddens and he mentioned needing to write today. I inquired into his project, and he said his "fall project" was looking at the food consumed during year 1 BC. I had a mock conversation with him in my head about how I'd never be able to handle writing non-fiction because I'm not good at backing up my arguments and I didn't want to publish three hundred pages of bullshit. At least with fiction, I can create a universe in which my arguments are always sound and everything works to my rules--and let's not forget the use of poetic language that is often found lacking in historical non-fiction. Anyway ...

I've been rather stressed... )

And the funniest part is, I now have the budding skills of an ethnographer and could print out all that I just wrote about my experiences today, open code each line, create semantic fields, and go back to close code everything in search of points to back up any themes I might wish to focus on. I could gain greater insight into my own views of self, health/sickness, values, and cultural beliefs. Ha! No matter the grades I get, this is the type of learning I was looking for when I returned to college. Gaining more of the skills I feel I need to be a whole, well-rounded human being. I could even manage to analyze my language for patterns in use and how they might connect to cultural contexts.

Oh, and did I mention that my attempts at begging worked? The prof for the BIO-ANTH 477 class, which requires a pre-req in BIO A 201, which I don't yet have, gave me the add codes anyway. I'll get to take a class on viewing human gender evolution in a variety of cultures. Yippee!

Also, yesterday, I sat down and brainstormed the ideas of what my values are for education on becoming a whole human being. I told Ana what I was about, and backed it up by saying, "and you know that these are my values, mommy doesn't actually possess all of these ... yet."

I began with the quote:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein
Emphasis mine for all things I have thus accomplished. I would add a few things to that (e.g. birth a baby), but the concept is what interested me most. That to be whole, one must have exposure to and experience in the basics of a broad range of topics. I told Ana I would type up my ideas later and formulate them into something more eloquent. I asked her if she'd like to read it when I was finished, and she nodded her head adamantly. (I know I did take a look at educational goals I would have for a school if I designed one, but they looked more at classes, and I realized that what I really should like at for my expectations of self, daughter, and future projects, is not a range of classes, but a range of values that could be achieved by a combination of classes, experiences, and other elements.)

At some point I also need to take another look at the recent death and death-related experiences I've had in the last year. I think Ana needs more coping skills offered to her as well, since her main one currently seems to be to ignore the world and plunge into computers and video games. But that's an entirely different post.

I'm out of time now. I need to go get Ana. With my short amount of time left, I could read more of the Hmong book, write up notes for the bio-med timeline I have due on Friday, or write notes for preparing my thesis. I think I've already ruled out reading, because I can do that any time. Note writing seems like a good idea, since I'm so clear and organized in my thoughts right now.

Whatever you take from this, please remember to always take breaks when you feel yourself overwhelmed. Real breaks aren't escapist, they are the exact opposite. Real breaks bring you back into your body and recenter your being on all levels. Find your path to achieving this when you need to. Love to all. Be well.
neversremedy8: (Default)
“I’ve been on the path to Shamanism all along, but never realized it until now.”
I wrote that after reading the book “Witchcraft and the Shamanic Journey” by Kenneth Johnson.

Dec. 27th, 2001; Up the World Tree:

Went up tree to ask three questions which I placed in my shirt as three cards representing each question. One was the Soulmate card, the second was the Writing card, and the third was the Message card.

I started at the base of my tree, climbing the ladder nailed into the trunk (like a ladder to a child’s treehouse), then I climbed the branches to the first layer of clouds. From there was a rope ladder which mid-way solidified into wood so I could climb a bit easier. The next layer of clouds provided me with a single rope to climb and at the top, I had to reach through the next cloud layer, hold on to the rope knot and hoist myself up.

An Eagle swooped down and grasped me in its claws, flying high over the clouds. It dropped me over an ocean like cloud filled with jumping orkas who bounced me into the air as if I were a ball. They bounced me so high I landed on the back of a giant raven with a white underside and a top side that changed from black to blue to purple to green and continued to change, “a raven of a different color.” It set me down on a cloud, which I realized was a layer above that of the whales.

I sat and calmed myself after the journey. First, I pulled out the Soulmate card to remind myself to ask, “when will I meet my soulmate?” A scorpion scurried by and snatched the card from my hand with a pincer and started to continue on. I asked my question again and it stopped, turned, and in the cloud I wrote 200, and started to write “1” and it scratched out the “1” with its stinger and wrote “4”. It scuttled away clutching the card.

I pulled out the Writing card and asked, “Will I be a best-selling author? Should I continue my writing?” A badger quickly came over, snatched the card from me and began ripping it into tiny pieces with its little hands. I began to become downhearted, but continued to watch as the badger sprinkled the pieces on the “ground” and then swept them up into a ball of cloud, stuffed it into its mouth like a giant ball of cotton candy, and ate it. It scurried behind me and climbed onto my shoulder, a typewriter appeared before me and I found myself surrounded by stacks of books. I typed furiously and aggressively and looked over my shoulder at the badger, still unsure of whether I should continue. It turned my attention to the typewriter, instead of paper rolling out as I typed, a very large leather-bound book came out and the Badger climbed on my head and then onto the now floating book which opened at Badger’s approach. It climbed up the page on the right hand side and found what it sought, it had me stand and look in the book with it. My name was printed there in small, bold letters. From there proceeded a listing of words, only a few I was able to read (the majority of it was gray and hazy unlike the very clear black lettering the Badger allowed me to read). Somehow the Badger highlighted the bolding of the words after my name that read “best-selling author” and were close to other words like “mother” and “model”. The rest I couldn’t read. The Badger pushed me away from the book, bent down, dipped a feather pen in ink and began to add more to the ledger under my name. Then it very quickly left, removing the presence of the books and the typewriter.

Alone only briefly, I sat again and began to draw the Message card out. Before I had removed it from my shirt, a small and slender Phoenix lightly landed on my shoulder and took the card in its beak. I asked, “What message should I bring back to spread to the world?” The phoenix sweetly intoned in my mind, “All will be well.” I protested, I already knew that, surely there was something more important I should say. The message was only repeated, “all will be well.” I looked at the phoenix, Phoenix looked back at me and flew off.

I looked around for the raven who almost immediately landed to allow me to return to its back. It flew me down to the whales who tossed me back in the air by their noses back toward the edge of their ocean-cloud. The Eagle (or Hawk?) seized me and brought me down to the cloud below where I had to feel around the cloud to find the top of the rope. I shimmied down the rope, climbed down the ladder, swung down from the branches, found the steps along the trunk and returned to my starting point. I breathed back to reality.

Dec. 29th, 2001; To the Underworld/Otherworld:

I couldn’t see or hear clearly, there were many outside distractions which kept me from my highest concentration. I chose to go down through my own personal “hole” to ease the transition down into the Underworld (the tunnel to which relocated itself inside the back of my hole).

I didn’t hear anything in the tunnel (I was told I would hear water), nor did I hear the deep blue glowing river which flowed to the left. I saw a sliver of a glimpse of a pale coloured bridge of stone, but when I began to set my foot upon it, I saw a bridge of syringe points – a fear I expected to encounter.

I knew I would not truly be harmed and placed my feet upon them, though it was as if I walked on a rubber cushion between my feet and the points. I was slightly nervous and became anxious and impatient as the bridge, once a short distance from one bank to the next, expanded with each step. I wasn’t overcoming my fear or not seeing the real fear.

I thought first I wasn’t really feeling the walking and really placed my foot decidedly on the needles, only to find a solid smooth stone with each step. I came to the other side, my heels against the edge of the floor, over looking the river, I faced forward and tried to see into the shadows. I walked into the darkness, trying to see the spirits there, but only seeing a mishmash of asymmetrical shapes. I started telling myself it was all in my head, it wasn’t really the Underworld, this was all just fantasy and a creation from a poor imagination. I turned to look back and found that I’d never taken any steps forward, I was still on the bank.

I walked forward a few paces, stopped and looked behind me. I hadn’t moved at all. Then it occurred to me that I was still on the bridge. My fear was truly that it all wasn’t real and as I struggled with this I continued to walk on the bridge of needles. Stone or needle, I wasn’t getting anywhere and the bridge began to curve and loop and slope like a rollercoaster track.

Finally, I accepted that this might be real, I said to myself that I am special and I am meant to do this—to walk along a Shamanic path. I coughed amid these thoughts, and when the coughing stopped, I stood on the other side of the bridge.

Something on my right foot tickled me warmly along the arch. I felt some energies near and others far. I focused on the darkness and the image of a face flashed in my view. I couldn’t retain the image, but I knew it was a woman – young, about 20’s-30’s. She had similar features I attribute to my mother when she was a child. Something familiar about the girl/woman, but not a definite association I could make to anyone I knew who had passed on.

ME: You may speak
ME: How may I help?
WOMAN: Go. Go to ...
ME: Go to? I am having trouble hearing. You may speak.
WOMAN: Go to Mary. She will guide you on this quest. (Or something like go to Mary to get help on your quest – the intent was toward the Shamanic journeys and practice)
ME: Is there anything I can do to help *you*?
WOMAN: Going to Mary will help me.
ME: What’s your name?
WOMAN: (I couldn’t here her clearly – it was Vallery or Virginia or some other common female name starting with “V”)

I left the dark hall, crossed the river on a breath, passed through the tunnel and re-entered my hole. I only stayed a brief moment to nuzzle the kidlets, and to visit a friend’s hole to see the shape it (and he) was in. I headed back up the tunnel and out to my tree. Slowly, I breathed back in to the real world.

Though I started my journey excited and energized, when I emerged thirty minutes later and walked out to tell David I was done (I asked him to check on me if I wasn’t back by a certain time), I felt weak. My body was tired and I had trouble reorienting myself to the environment around me... I was very dizzy.

I sent an e-mail to the only “Mary” I know, my mother’s friend who is a Shaman. We shall see what she has to say on the matter.

I attempted twice to go to what is called the “Land of Youth,” but every time I tried I fell asleep just after getting there.


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