Monday, 30 May 2011

Of Paths and Frustrations

It's been a long week. I did lots of things, although more of them were things happening in my head than out of it. I drove around in the country a lot (I am lucky enough to live 20 mins drive from some of the loveliest countryside in Britain). I got rained on a lot (well, this is England). There was a bit more ritual. There were a LOT more books (I will never get through them). I did obscene amounts of meditating and thinking. I had a week-long migraine. And some nice people came to tidy up my garden (it looks lovely now, but I'm nervous of the enormous black spiders that are *everywhere*. But I'll get over it. Probably).

I've been meaning to blog my thoughts as they've been happening, but I kept running out of time and/or falling asleep all over the place - thanks, migraines! I've started following some exercises, as I realised I needed structure fast, before my head blew off. Accordingly I'm doing bits and pieces of very useful things, including lots of the exercises in this book, which is philosophical, practical and really interesting (and I can't wait to start this one by the same authors).

Towards the beginning of the week I was drowning in entirely misplaced guilt and a sense of a betrayal of lifelong values. That's passing now, but I'm sure there'll be more of that to come. The reason it's improved for now, I think, is that I keep making myself remember that my spiritual path is just that - my spiritual path. Furthermore, anyone who would keep me from it is keeping me from serving the Divine, and that's not so good. (I so want to have a Bible verse that would work as a good metaphor for that, but all the ones I'm thinking of don't quite work, so I'll just pretend I cited a really good one. Something cutting and radical and inclusive.) Anyway. For right now, the most important thing is that find my path - that I don't have another experience of making myself shut up to fit what's expected of me, which is so harmful. Especially when, whatever it's calling me to, I believe the Divine is calling.

Equally, I know that in order to explore my path, I have to do, rather than just think. This is what Fire Lyte and Velma of the 'Inciting a BrewHaHa' podcast call "Doing the stuff"! It's really simple, but really scary. I've done enough reading in the past few months to know that, if I really want to understand new ways of encountering the Divine, I have to try and damn well encounter it. This is scary, not least because my Angel (who's been away for a couple of weeks) is coming home soon, and while it's been easy enough during the past few weeks to get up at dawn to do a ritual honouring a dawn goddess (I went back to bed after), that kind of thing will get harder when there's someone else in the house. The reason I can't tell her too much at the moment is that it's hurting her when I do. I'll say more some other time about the reasons for that (or maybe I'll keep it between the two of us). Suffice it to say that with her, I need to take things a little bit slowly. Which is fine. I'll work stuff out - given time!

The latter part of the week has had more frustrations in it than exploration. There has been a lot of rain, during the one week I had set aside to hang out in the countryside. I have started realising just how difficult it is to do anything practical when all the local classes, meets and so on seem to be in inaccessible places. (The witchy shop where I asked if there was any possibility that in the future they might have workshops in a not-upstairs venue, and was basically told I was asking too much, made me sad. But I'm sure more accessible possibilities will make themselves known when I'm ready.) And I've had too insane of a migraine to do quite as much reading as I was hoping to do. Again, it's all fine - there are other times! Even if I am feeling an uncharacteristic case of back-to-school nerves at the moment. (I'm a PhD-doing TA-type-person, which is why that's funny.)

But it's all going to be fine. (Which, you may have noticed, is my mantra.)

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In slightly less complicated things, I'm working on visualisation (something I find very difficult) to help make sense of things. I saw a well and a raven (possibly a crow) in a visualisation last night. Fun! Um, I mean, cool. Um... yeah, I'm not good at taking this stuff too seriously. It *is* all fun, as well as other deep things. And that's fine with me!

And I'm going to bed now, as I'm still sooooo tired. Also I want to finish listening to the 'Inciting a Riot' podcast, which I've been waiting for all week. Nighty-night.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden...

- Joni Mitchell, 'Woodstock'

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


I did my first proper ritual today (ritual, spell, whatever - I do hate labels, especially at this mega-early stage - but it was based on a pre-existing written rite). It was amazing. I'll keep the details to myself, but the experience of doing this out of doors was a particularly wonderful one. I wouldn't say I've never felt this close to God/dess in a church - but I would say that there's something wonderfully Divine about the outdoors. My family is from the far south of Ireland, where the landscape is mountainous (as the old Ford Fiesta I couldn't get up the hill to my uncle's farmhouse can attest to) and wild. On a trip there some years ago, one early morning I crept out of a hotel room I was sharing with my mum, went down a very long lane (this was before I couldn't walk) and found myself at the edge of a tiny lake surrounded by mountains. I've never been able to find the place again in reality. In my mind, I go there almost every time I meditate. Then, I really had never been as close to God before. Maybe I haven't been since.

* * *

If I pursue this Pagan thing, or indeed just learn from it, it's going to be the funniest thing ever trying to get to outdoor places more in order to pray and similar. I parked within metres of the field I eventually settled on this afternoon. I still got asked by a nice passing driver whether I wanted a lift anywhere. Ah, disability. Always an amusing challenge, especially in new contexts. (I spend a lot of time in nature. I just usually do this from the car.)

*  *  *

My Angel (aka wife) is now being updated - to some degree - on my Path-choosing and -exploring exploits. She's being nice and accepting, but seems a bit worried. She doesn't want me to rush anything. I don't want me to rush anything, either, but I think she'd rather I didn't try too much while thinking. I tried to explain that spirituality doesn't work that way. Hmm.

Monday, 23 May 2011

This Could Take a While...

Oh, right - I created a new blog. That's interesting. I should probably post in it. Um. I don't entirely know where to start, but here's my attempt anyway!

I've already been on a long spiritual journey, which I'll write about at some point. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church, until my parents left it (and my father became a Taoist). I then came and went from a couple of churches, up until university - when I got involved in the fairly-extreme Christian Union. It wasn't all bad, and I learnt a lot there - but among what I learnt was to condemn myself for who I am (gay, disabled and all that), to believe I was a very bad and sinful person who needed to feel terrible about everything I did, and that religion and spirituality of necessity had to be VERY HARD WORK. While I've moved on from some of these beliefs, some of them re-emerge when I don't really want them to.

After 'coming out' and realising that this branch of the church wasn't going to put up with me if I was shagging a woman, I started to move 'up the candle' (a slightly self-mocking term for moving into more ritualistic Christian traditions). I was confirmed in the Anglican church, and now attend churches that define as Anglo-Catholic - a very formal, ritualistic and often rather liberal branch of Anglicanism. I've found some wonderful things through these churches, from the veneration of Mary and the praying of the rosary to the pure joy of (relatively) ancient ritual. They've always welcomed me as an attached gay type (disability is more complex - we'll probably get to that). I feel that I have a deeper appreciation of my Christian faith thanks to this tradition. Which I am definitely not leaving.

However. I'm not spiritually fulfilled at the moment. I haven't been for quite a while, but these things tend to hit me all at once (I've got a condition that puts me on the autistic spectrum, so I'm really bad at noticing when I'm feeling or experiencing something). For a while I've been exploring more esoteric beliefs - on and off, of course, because my socialized internal voice that goes "Argh! It's a non-Christian spiritual belief!" tends to vary in volume. Influenced by my wonderful father and some other very good people, I've long been interested in crystals, meditation, non-traditionally-Christian forms of prayer, and some forms of alternative medicine (I generally think alt medicine should be peer-reviewed and subjected to double-blind testing, but I also believe that some types could operate outside of that framework - yes, I'm a confused little theologian) - among other things. The feminine Divine has particularly called me for a long time. I've read a lot of thealogy over the last few years, and explored Christian traditions around Mary, female saints, female Christian mystics, and the mysterious Sophia - who may or may not be a Judeo-Christian personification of the feminine Divine. I'm also interested in the gnostic gospels - although research shows that the 'they came first' theory is probably wrong, they do seem to reflect a way of 'doing' Christianity that is far more esoteric and mystical than most forms of the religion.

Where am I going next? I don't know. I'm fascinated by Christo-Paganism, which I've been reading a lot about. It calls me far more than Buddhism, so-called New Age practices, or Christian mysticism. This may be the next stage of my journey, or it may not be. I remain totally committed to God and to Christ, but I've long seen Christianity as relating to metaphors for the great Divine. How far I want to take the exploration of other metaphors, and whether or not these can truly be co-existent with my chosen spiritual metaphor, is more of a complex issue for me.

Things I want to write about here (and this list is mainly for me):

- Why I'm a Christian, what my Christian beliefs actually involve, and where they came from
- What I believe about belief (as a newly-developing sociologist of religion, and as a thinking amateur)
- What attracts me about other religions, particularly Paganism
- What I like and what I find difficult about the New Age movement and much of UK society's move towards an undefined spirituality
- What I like and dislike about secularism and atheism
- What practical and spiritual steps I want to take next