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Saturday, April 30, 2011

...and now for something completely different.

The A to Z challenge is complete, and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has followed along and listened to me ramble. It's been a lot of fun, and I', grateful for all the readers, and all the other bloggers who played too. Reading your blogs has been entertaining and informative.

...but now what?

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a creature of habit and a sucker for structure. When I have a path laid out before me to follow, I'm pretty good at following it. When I'm left in a big sandbox with a couple of toys and no projects... I tend to get very little done.

So I need your help. I need a new project.

You've all had a chance to see my style, and see how I approach things. What I need is a new thread to follow, a new castle to build, and I'd love to hear what you guys and gals have to say.

Any subjects you want to see me vent my spleen on? Any ideas for new topics, from the utterly goofy to the deadly serious? Any ideas that an A to Z blog (mine or another's) put in your head that you'd like to see my take on? Some other totally unrelated idea that you think I could make an entertaining mess out of?

I want to keep blogging (and I'd love it if you all kept reading), but I feel like I need some inspiration. Anyone who gives me an idea will get credited in whatever I write (if they wish- they can be anonymous, too, if they prefer that).

I look forward to seeing what you lot think. Enjoy the nascent spring and summer!

Much love to you all.

Z is for Zamboni

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I'm a pretty big hockey fan.

Hockey, in my mind, has a lot to recommend it. It's fast paced, it's violent and intense, the action can shift gears, change directions, and momentum can swing wildly at the drop of a hat (or of a puck, or of the gloves, if you prefer). While there are strategies and playing styles that the varying teams use, by it's very nature, it's anything but formulaic (I loathe baseball for this reason- it's orderly and heirarchical, and it's rarely possible for one team to seize control of the game definatively from the other).

Another fun and appealing thing about hockey is the Zamboni.

For those who don't know, the Zamboni is a machine that's use to resurface the ice between periods of play. Imagine, 12 pairs of razor sharp skates, thundering back and forth across the ice at high speeds, sheering to a stop, grinding around corners, for 20 minutes at a time. It leaves the ice badly chewed up, with ruts and divots everywhere.

Then the Zamboni comes out, and in about 10 minutes, you have a smooth, clean sheet of ice (mostly) again... and the razor-footed warriors come out for 20 more minutes of thunder.

There's a metaphor, here, a level of symbolism that I doubt gets a lot of attention.

Think about the last time you had a ROTTEN day. EVERYTHING went to hell, NOTHING went right- one mistake after another, one roadblock after another, one annoying jackass after another- we've all had that day (some more often than others, admittedly, but the point remains...).

What did you do? Go to bed angry (possibly angry and hungry, or angry and wet, or angry and cold, or... you get the idea)? Or did you find a way to calm (...and feed or dry or warm or...) yourself?

In short, did you find and employ your Zamboni?

Like a hockey game, life can be unpredictable, intense, and violent, and can leave your "rink" in pretty bad shape. It is, in fact, a foregone conclusion that there will always be things that do not go as planned, as intended, as desired. If I may be permitted a minor crudity, "Shit Happens."

Our "success" as people is not defined by the shallowness or depth of the brown stuff that populates our days; it's defined by our ability to adapt, adjust, and rise above situations that slide sideways or outright crash on us... and one of the best and easiest ways to do so is to relax, be still, be quiet. Let things be what they are, and understand that "failing," stumbling, falling once in a while doesn't make you a bad or inept person; it makes you human, and these "shortfalls" are nothing less than chances to grow.

In those moments when Hoyle has left the building and things deviate from his rules, you need a Zamboni. You need some mechanism, some device, some method by which you settle and smooth the torn-up ice, the choppy waters, the uneven ground of whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

Is it a glass of wine and a trashy romance novel? Is it a dish of M&M's and a stupid comedy? A bubble bath? The embrace of someone you care deeply for? A purring cat? A violent video game? Your choices are endless, really: anything that lets you "step away" and breathe, for a bit, anything that lets you relax, let go, and stop taking the world personally can be your Zamboni.

The National Hockey League playoffs are into their second round, and I would be remiss as a hockey fan if I didn't take this moment to say GO PREDS! GO BOLTS!

If you're having a tough day... or week... or month... or year... or if life just keeps kicking you everytime you think you're back on your feet... don't run from your challenges; that accomplishes nothing... but there's no harm in taking a Zamboni ride and getting your breath back.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for You

Today, you get to be witness to a minor miracle: I'm going to limit myself to just a few words.

When we make the transition from the open-eyed, open-minded wonder of childhood to the resigned acceptance of adulthood, what we really do is go from Inside to Outside. Other people have the answer. Other people have the solutions. Other people make the plans... and we just... follow.

Today, it's time to turn back Inside. Today is about You.

So put some whipped cream on your hot chocolate. Watch cartoons in your pj's. Pretend you're an astronaut, or a rock star. Be grateful for the Miracle that is You.

I sure am.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for X Chromosome

Author's Note: the subject that follows is one that has sparked intense, and sometimes hostile disagreements between myself and others- even others whom I otherwise got along well with, liked, and respected. It is a subject upon which my thoughts and opinions are in the overwhelming minority. All of that said, it is not now and has never been my desire or intent to offend or provoke; these are nothing more (or less) than my thoughts on a rather touchy subject.

The primary and most fundamental external difference between human beings is gender. I don't think anyone will dispute that fact. Obviously, some ethnic groups have characteristics which set them apart, such as skin color, eye shape, and hair texture, but there is no difference more profound or more evident than gender.

Anyone who knows me even a little will know that I consider the previous paragraph to be complete and utter crap.

What is the difference between a human male and a human female? At a genetic level, it's nothing more complicated than the pairing of a pair of chromosomes, labled by early geneticists as X and Y. Human females have double X chromosomes; human males have XY chromosomes. For those who are interested, more information can be found here.

I'm not going to make any friends saying so, but the differences begin and end there.

I can hear the arguments to the contrary piling up, and since, A, I lack the science to actually argue the point scientifically, and B, the points I want to make here are spiritual and cultural, I won't bother lining them up; rather, I'll just proceed along and make my points.

Much ado has been made in the national and, indeed, global press in recent years about gay marriage. (I'll make it relevant, I promise.) Those against it make arguments ranging from quoting Bible passages to flatly (and erroneously) declaring homosexuality "unnatural." Those for it cite things like overpopulation, and want it explained to them why it is that any given pair of people who love one another are different in any significant way from any other.

In the very same vein, I submit that the same questions can be asked of those who believe that men and women are so wildly different. I recognize the fact that there are certain structural differences between the two, but they are, in my view, cosmetic, and little else. The idea that there are significant functional differences between men and women are the result of centuries of social conditioning. People in power wanted things a certain way, so they schemed to make it so, and they had the power and resources to reinforce their ideas, generation after generation. There are thousands of examples of this kind of conditioning, all over our world, right now, today- every single person reading this right now has been conditioned in some way to believe something that may not even be true. The individuals who are aware of this enough to even question their conditioning are rare indeed.

Why, then, are people so ready to accept that men and women are so wildly different?

Is there anyone among you who would deliberately treat an African-American person differently than a Caucasian person because of their race? Anyone among you who would think less of someone for being Asian? Or Hispanic? I hope not. Why then is it that so many otherwise open minded people (of which I know a heartbreaking number) who will cheerfully make a mockery of one group or another based on their gender? People who wouldn't dream of saying the word "Nigger" have no problem at all saying that "men are pigs." People who would be horrified by terms like "Chink" or "Kike" wouldn't flinch away at all from saying that "women are bitches."

WHY?!


It's conditioning. We were trained, as a species, a very long time ago, to perceive a difference. So we do.

We've overcome the idea that certain ethnic groups are equal, rather than lesser, because we made an effort to do so. We saw an error, say even a lie, in our thinking, and we corrected it. (Note Well: I am not so naive as to believe that racism is no longer an issue; allow me my hyberbole, here, to make a point.) Why, then, do we live in a world where there are still places where women are treated like cattle (or worse) and have less rights than a house cat?

Why do we live in a world where the package that someone is born in has even a small effect on the consideration they receive from other people, good or bad?

It is my earnest, heartfelt belief that People are People, and the only differences that exist are the ones we create. I'm not laying out some tired, trite "eveyone is an individual" schlock. I'm saying that to take any one characteristic of another person (or group of people), and using it to define them... well, there's no polite way to say it: it's fucking stupid. It's no way to think, no way to live, and no way to get along. If the way someone lives or acts gets up your nose... try to remember it's them that's bothering you, not everyone who is the same color, the same shape, or the same Whatever. It's one person.

Remember, too: All is One. So that Lady that's bitching at you? That Man who's being a "pig"? They're part of the same Whole that you are.

Allow them their hyperbole, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Wildlands

In his book Escaping Destiny (the first book in the Tapestry trilogy), author Jeffrey Pierce describes a hard to find slice of reality where humans and the Fae live together in harmony, called the Wildlands. Protean and more than a little chaotic to the untrained outside eye, the Wildlands are a place where Nature is the final arbiter of reality... but only because the beings that live there, human, Fae, and mixed alike, all recognize the value of Balance.

Since reading Escaping Destiny, I've become deeply enamored with the idea of the Wildlands, both in a metaphorical sense and a literal one.

Do I believe that there is an actual place, just across some arcane boundary, where humans and Faeries cavort together in an endless forest bounded by an equally endless sea? Maybe not in so many words... but I do believe that there are places, many of them, in this world that human beings are just too narrow minded to ever find or visit. These are the places that I think of as the Wildlands.

There's a twist, though, from where I stand.

The Wildlands can be made, too. They can be created, right where you are.

When you start with yourself, and begin, in your heart, to seek after balance... when you finally, truly, open your eyes, and begin to look for ways to be a part, rather than apart... when you seek (and find) your Tribe... the first fragile seeds of the Wildlands are sown.

I live in a world, even now, where minor flashes of the miraculous occur every day, often several times a day. I say "minor," not because they're unimportant, but because they happen on a small, local, personal level. They're not Empire-leveling, Earth-saving events... or are they?

If everyone, everyday, embraced the miraculous... if everyone thought Tribe-first and Earth-first... how greatly might these little miracles add up? What awesome healing power might be wrought... if everyone embraced the Wildlands?

My brain isn't ready for Awesome of that scope... which is a (small) part of why I am excited about the little Amazingnesses that happen in my world all the time.

Magick is like a pair of shoes: the more often you wear them, the more easily they can be put on, and the more comfortable they become. (Unlike shoes, magick never wears out, but allow me my metaphor, won'tcha?) The more often you pause, become quiet and still, dig in, and give of yourself... the more readily the fountain of energy that burns in your heart refills itself, and the more you have to give. When you factor Tribe into this equation, and you have a number of like-minded people all focused on balance and mutual wellness... well, there, my friends, open the gates to the Wildlands.

The best, and (in my mind) most amazing part of all this is that it doesn't require an enormous investment of personal energy or time to get your feet onto this road. Not everyone is ready or instantly capable of the massive kind of metamorphosis that this process eventually turns into. Deep breaths and baby steps work just as well... and since all times are now anyway... it doesn't matter in the slightest how long it takes you to get there.

This world is in deep trouble; I don't think there's a sensible soul out there who would disagree with that. We need all the Wildlanders we can get.

We'll keep the hearth warm for you.

Wildlands, HO!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vicissitude

Anyone you ask can readily describe for you a time when something happened that they were less than thrilled about. It's a part of life. It happens. Right?

Funny thing... people have to work a lot harder, mostly, to recall something that really went their way, and left them totally pleased with the evolution of a situation.

Why is that, d'ya suppose?

Filters and walls have a great deal to do with it- we expect things to be a certain way, and our memory slowly gels to conform with that expectation after the fact. That's another funny thing about people: ask any handful of people who experienced the same situation to describe it... and you'll get as many versions as you have people.

Everyone has their own point of view, their own "take." Reality is flexible, that way. My Very Wise Friend calls it Fluid Reality, a state when your level of balance, quiet, and stillness allow you to sort of recall an event differently than it occurred... before it occurs in the first place.

(Incidently, this concept is one of the very few reasons I can come up with that allow divination and scrying to make even the slightest bit of sense. Just sayin'.)

Our language has numerous tools in place for describing the erratic nature of reality. "You win some, you lose some." "Shit happens." We talk about "ups and downs."

It's vicissitude.

There are lots of ways to talk about it- ripples on water, the attraction of opposites, the laws of action and reaction... the influence of free will.

Yep, that's the one- free will.

The world, in and of itself, seeks balance. It tries to balance animal populations (including ours), weather patterns, land and sea levels, everything.

We, though, cannot seem to leave well enough alone. We have to cut, and dig, and build, and burn. We make a mess. We imbalance things...

...so the world struggles continuously to rebalance them.

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wild, unexpected events of weather- they're all part of the natural efforts of the global organism to keep itself in fighting shape. The more we "mess it up," the harder the backlash becomes.

If that idea doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies, you haven't been paying attention. It's gotten so bad that our "educated people" have been messing with the most basic elements of life itself- genetics- and doing some very, very ill-advised things. An example (which hits damn close to home, to me): I read an article a number of years ago about a group of genetics researchers who succeeded in splicing genetic material from a spider into a goat.

Sorry, WTF?

Said goat produced raw silk through it's teats instead of milk. I couldn't make this stuff up.

The article said they were looking into ways to process the raw silk, and looking at applications for the processed silk as well.

Those two ideas said a lot more that wasn't actually in the article. For instance... if they're spending time and money to find a way to make the raw silk useable... chances are, they plan to make more such... spider goats. *twitch* Second, they don't even have a way to process the raw silk... but they're already thinking of ways to use it? Wow.

DID YOU PEOPLE NOT READ JURASSIC PARK?!

I watched the paper for months after that, hoping to see an article that said that they'd discovered the hard way that the spider goat was venomous, too... No such luck.

Vicissitude.

How might the world try to rebalance itself from the effects of us making new animals? Never mind pollution and overpopulation... we're talking about some pretty serious, fundamental changes to a system that doesn't really need them.

Ups and Downs indeed. I hope you have a helmet and a seatbelt, because from the look of things, we're going for a ride... and it's not going to be smooth.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Ultimatum

There are several concepts I've beaten about to death in this series of blogs... and I'm not going to alter that pattern today.

Sorry.

(Ok, I'm not sorry, not in the slightest. You'll get over it.)

Today's rehash centers on the dualistic nature of this world, as it relates to my last, entry, T is for Tribe.

Ultimatums...and Tribe? What the...?

Our language is riddled with idioms, metaphors, and so on, phrases that we bandy about in an effort to say what we want, what we'd rather avoid, what we won't do, what we INSIST on doing... you get the idea.

The phrase I want to examine today is "put your foot down."

Let's take a good look at how ridiculous that expression really is.

We say "I'm putting my foot down" as a way to say "This is how I want things to be, and I will accept no other alternative." We'll get to how silly THAT usually is in a second, but I want to indulge my penchant for literalism first. There I am, arguing... like a stork, on one leg? I mean, if I'm going to make my point by "putting my foot down"... then my foot had to be... up... in the first place, right?

No one is going to take me seriously if I'm standing on one leg while I argue. Just another scintillating example of how plain stupid our language can be, at times.

Humor aside, though, let's look at the intent behind this idea: I want what I want, without regard for what YOU want. That's what this expression says. A lot of the time, I would say even most of the time, this is a pretty crappy place to live. Mine. Gimme. That's what it boils down to.

Greed.

Greed divides.

What if you said, "Ok, I hear what you're saying, and while it doesn't mesh well with how I see things, I'm sure if we work through it reasonably, we can find a place where we can both be ok with the outcome."?

Reality gets very complicated when you have multiple differently-minded people trying to use the same resources. The fact is, there are only a few approaches that can be taken. There are many variations on each, certainly, but they all simmer back down the same handful of basic paths. You can take the Greedy Path (you know, and put your foot down...), you can take the passive (passive aggressive?) path, and say, "Ok, fine, you win, I quit," or you can take the Tribe Path (not Mine and Yours, but Ours).

Aren't there times, though, when you kinda HAVE TO "put your foot down"? When you don't have a choice, really, but to draw a line in the sand and say "No further"? I believe there are, yes... but those circumstances are, in my mind, all directly and intimately connected to the idea of Tribe First.

The funny thing about Tribe First is that it's... not. It's not Tribe first.

(You confused, yet?)

See, when you live in the Tribe mentality, the fundamental premise is that you see to your own needs first, and you share any surplus you have. Generousity is good, even necessary, but when you're giving away the things you need to survive, it creates a terrible imbalance, which forces other parts of the Tribe to either watch you suffer, struggle, maybe even die, or give more than THEY can afford to spare... see where that goes?

If everyone looks to their own needs (and I do mean NEEDS) first, and then shares whatever extra they have... well, Sharing Multiplies.

So you have to set a boundry for yourself, you have to be aware, first and foremost, of whether you are meeting your own needs. Once those needs are met, you can begin to share what you have left with others.

This is where Ultimatums come in. If someone is trying to take more than they need... if someone is trying to harm the Tribe... if someone is refusing to share what they have... those are places where a certain inflexibility is almost necessary.

I'd like very much to believe that among Pathworkers, such circumstances are rare.

The rest of the time... well, like I said, Greed Divides, and issuing Ultimatums is just another way of being greedy, demanding that things be done YOUR way, without regard for the needs of others.

Remember that, the next time you feel like playing Stork.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tribe

I was a weird kid. Seriously. Even as kids go, I was a real oddball.

When I was ten years old, I told my grandmother that I didn't believe in "God" (which went over REAL well, let me tell you), and I'd already seriously considered suicide. It's not that my life was all that terrible (it wasn't, not yet); I just didn't see the point of the whole process, and didn't feel like I belonged where I was.

I was right on that last point- I simply didn't belong there.

As I grew and aged and became a teenager, life deteriorated significantly. My sense of not belonging, and my opinion of the pointlessness of the whole thing grew and grew. I tried religion, serving briefly as an acolyte at the Episcopal church where we lived, and that didn't do anything for me. It made even less sense to me than anything else I'd seen or learned. More and more, my peers, my teachers, my parents- they all seemed clueless, cruel, and ignorant, and nothing I did or said or asked made any difference, unless it was to make matters worse. I ended up living with my father, my younger brother, my step-mother, and her son, and it went downhill even further. My step-mother was a Jehovah's Witness; my father converted, and my brother and I "converted" with him, even though no one asked us what we thought, nor cared. My brother ended up in the care of the state after flagging down some police officers and telling them he was being "abused." In retrospect, he kinda was, and so was I, though I didn't see it that way at the time.

My father and step-mother split up, and I went to live with my father. I became even more isolated; high school was a living hell: I had nothing at all in common with my classmates, my teachers didn't seem to have anything to teach me, really (with a couple of memorable and noteworthy exceptions), and I wondered more than ever why I bothered to hang around.

When my father's marijuana habit cost him his job, and we got evicted from our apartment, I went back to live with my mother, step-father, and half-sister. I battled through my last half-year of high school, found my first girlfriend, and started community college. Things became more and more tense. I got along with my parents exactly not at all, and I finally had a fight with my mother that pushed me over the edge. I emptied the trust fund account that I had (from a car accident when I was six), packed my few meager possessions, and my girlfriend and I got in my car and just left.

...at which point, I found out what hell was really like.

I'm not going to get into details of that trip here; it's pretty horrible, and has no real bearing on the point of this writing. Enough to say, then, that I considered suicide much more seriously during the three months that we were "gone," and that we ended up moving back to California, very much in pieces.

After that move back, I met the man that more or less set me on my Path, and began the rough-and-tumble course that brought me to where I am now.

During all of this, one of the profound and overwhelming themes I battled with was the inherent and obvious uselessness of other human beings. With very few, very rare exceptions, people were cruel, deceitful, dishonest, and shallow. They were only interested in what profited them, they cared nothing for others, and were, as a rule, not to be trusted. Every single time, without exception, that I let someone get close, that I showed trust, I ended up with a knife in my back.

I tried, for a very long time, to emulate one of my sci-fi heros, Mr. Spock from Star Trek: I wanted to purge myself of emotion and feeling, to live life as a logician, an empiricist. Prove it, show me, was my attitude. If you can't, then I won't accept what you say. Even my nascent Pathwork was based on the idea that if I couldn't SEE it work, then it wasn't real, wasn't true.

A very lonely way to live, let me tell you.

In my mid 20's, I was introduced to Buddhism, and a concept that they call Sangha: the Buddhist community. It was the first whispering in my mind and in my heart that I might indeed at long last be able to find my People, that I might be able to trust again, to love again, to care again, without being made to bleed.

A noble illusion, while it lasted: the Buddhists I was working with turned out to be as twisted and corrupt as anyone else I ever met, and apart from giving me another piece of the puzzle, apart from being another rest-stop on my Path to Here and Now, they were no different than anyone else I ever met.

Stumbling through the next decade or so, it was more of the same. I resolved to survive, or die, on my own, and not count on others; I would do well for a while, until lonliness became too great, and I'd let someone get close, only to learn the painful lesson yet again, and go back to solitude for a while.

My first expedition to Salem, which I alluded to in O is for Oregon, marked the beginning of a radical shift in the way I saw the world. I had many of the puzzle pieces already, without a whelk's idea in a supernova (100 points to anyone who knows where I got that expression) of what to do with them; suddenly, a whole bagful of new pieces fell into my lap, and a whole boxful of new tools, new approaches were simply... handed to me.

The people responsible for this sudden metamorphisis know who they are. They also know that I love them, and that I am blood-grateful for all they've done for me. If they DON'T know these things, they ain't been listenin'.

What's the point of all this?

It's in the title: Tribe.

Your People? They're out there. The ones who will give you their blood to drink, if you're thirsty and there's nothing else. The ones who will have shovels and trashbags ready when the bodies start piling up. The ones who will lay down in traffic for you, if that's what it takes. The ones who will help you turn a few loaves and fishes into a feast for hundreds.

Tribe.

...so please, take if from someone who has looked Death in the eye more than once, someone who has contemplated the Void and been as close as a person can get to just... jumping... no matter how painful, how lonely, how terrifying your position is... your People, your Tribe, they're out there... and you will find them, if you don't quit.

I don't pretend to be more than I am... but I also no longer pretend to be less than I am. With that in mind... if there's someone out there, hurting, lost, ready to chuck the whole thing... don't quit. If you need someone to talk to, even if it's only to hear it again that there's something worth hanging around for, feel free to e-mail me. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but between me and my Tribe, we do have a damn big chunk of them, and if I can't help, it's a good bet that I know someone who can.

Remember: Tribe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Suffering and Sacrifice

I complain a lot about our language. It's inadequate. We have dozens, scores, even hundreds of words for trivial irrelevancies, and none at all for some of the most important concepts out there. We invent new words, and butcher old ones, to describe ridiculous passing phenomena. Worst of all, we take words and mutilate their meanings into something totally unrelated to the original intent.

Two of the worst cases in point in this regard, from where I stand, are Suffering and Sacrifice.

In it's original iteration, "to suffer" meant "to allow, to permit." What does it mean now? And how does the new meaning intersect with the old?

The irony, to me, is that most of the time, when we "suffer" in the modern sense, we're "suffering" it to happen in the archaic sense. When we suffer, we LET it happen. Many times, dare I even say MOST times, we not only know WHY we are unhappy, but also exactly how to rectify that reality, how to change things so that our pain can end or abate, and our unhappiness can be reversed. Typically, we do no such thing. We refuse to make changes, and allow ourselves to remain miserable. Why?

It's because we fear things we do not know, things we do not fully understand, and we fear change. Stripping another layer off, though, there's another reason buried just below the surface: change requires work, and we've been bred as a culture and as a species to be LAZY. We have so many tools and machines and gadgets to do EVERYTHING for us, from walking to communication to writing to cooking... the whole world has been made so effortless that we grow up not knowing what it's like to have to buckle down and WORK to make something happen. It's easier to just sit there, and.... suffer. The Emerald Tablet tells us, "As Above, So Below," and our conditioned in physical laziness has made us spiritually lazy as well, and as someone who wandered, feeling lost, for decades before he found his Tribe, I can tell you that there is no suffering so great as feeling empty inside.

Sacrifice... there's another term that makes my blood boil. Even as far back as Biblical times, a "sacrifice" was something that cost you, something that was painful or uncomfortable, something you did to curry favor with one diety or another. Sacrifice represented loss.

In it's original sense, though, "to sacrifice" meant "to choose." You can have "this," or "that," but not both... and isn't most of life that way, a lot of the time? To have one, you must sacrifice the other. It's not bad, or painful. It's just one of the side effects of living in a dualistic world. Certainly, it can sometimes be hard to choose between two things, and I don't deny that there are circumstances under which such a choice could be painful... but it's the circumstances that make it so; sacrifice is not, in and of itself, uncomfortable. It's our attachment to things which makes it so... which is ironic, really, since All is One; there's nothing outside yourself to choose. There are no choices to be made, not really- all choices are one choice. It is the illusion of separation that makes it seem like we must give up This to have That. There is no This or That. There only Is.

How many other words can you think of that might have meant something different once that it does now, or that might have had their meaning twisted by circumstance and the flow of culture into something totally... other?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Rats

When I was 18, I took a job at a bookstore. My boss was a witch.

I told this story in more detail in I is for Intuition The relevant point is how I approached my Path moving forward from there.

I read a couple of books about witchcraft and magick in general. I bought some Tarot cards, muddled with them for a while, and spiraled out from there, trying different things, talking to different people, reading different books.

Funny thing is this: I never read a single book, magazine, or article about Native American mysticism, shamanism, totemism, none of it. I didn't talk to a single medicine man or woman, nothing of the sort... and yet, somehow, I started talking to animals.

Not Dr. Doolittle style, mind you- they don't chirp up and say, "Excuse me, chap, could you pass the vinegar? These chips are a touch dry. There's a good lad." Nothing like that at all. More that I could... hear how they felt, what they needed. The thing that made it really interesting was the fact that they could tell that I could hear them, and they really seemed, generally, to appreciate it.

All of that to say this: a few summers ago, Susan and I were mucking about on a weekend, doing not a lot of anything. I told her, apropos of nothing particular, that I wanted to go to a pet store we used to frequent. No special reason, mind you, I just heard a wee, distant voice in my world, and wondered who's voice it was.

So off we went. Being that sort, I shuffled directly back to where the snakes, lizards, and spiders were kept- those are the kinds of critters that talk to me the most. I spent 30, 45 minutes back there, driving the staff crazy by asking to handle this snake, then that tarantula, and pestering them with questions about how old they were or where they'd come from.

Susan, meanwhile, stayed mostly out front, playing with the bunnies and the ferrets and so on.

I (erroneously) concluded that whatever I was hearing wasn't coming from there, and we went back home.

Susan mentioned, semi-offhand, that she thought the rats they'd had out there were really cute. I was a little surprised by that- I'd never have pegged her for the "rat" type- and I told her that I thought so too, and I used to have rats when I lived in California, MANY moons ago. She asked why I hadn't said anything. I asked why SHE hadn't said anything.

We batted it back and forth for about 10 minutes, then got back in the car and went back to the pet store.

Fast forward about a year: we had two boys (Alder and Ash [Alder was the very first]), two girls (Caper and Clove) that we adopted from a lady who had too many "pets" (gods and fish, how I loathe that word), and a third boy (Linden) who lived in his own little house because of his grumpy disposition, who we adopted from an old friend of Susan's (the old friend was moving and her animals couldn't move with her).

People have some strange, and incorrect, ideas about rats. They're "dirty," they're "mean," they "stink," they "bite"... the list goes on and on.

The last time I checked, all of the above can apply to people... dogs... cats... you catch my drift, I'm sure. The truth couldn't be more different. Rats are basically like tiny little dogs that don't bark and don't have to be "walked." Our ratkids have been some of the sweetest, friendliest, and most fun friends I've had in my whole life.

Alder, in particular, was an incredibly smart and affectionate little guy. If you held your fingers to his face, or held him up to your face, he'd give little rat kisses. They liked to play games, like bobbing for peas (we'd put frozen peas in a bowl of water on the table- it has to be seen to be appreciated). Susan bought a toddler's play set at a garage sale, which we fixed up with tubes and climbing apparatus and called Ratty Playland.

Alder, Ash, Caper, Clove, and Linden are no longer with us. One of the painful downsides to being a ratfriend is the fact that they don't live very long- a couple years, 3 or 4 at the outside, and that's it. There are several health problems that they tend to suffer from, and the average "pet owner" (*teethgrind*) doesn't know enough to do research into what they should be fed or what their other needs are (for instance, most commercial "rat" or "rodent" chow has ingredients in it that can and will cut a rat's lifespan by as much as half), so a lot of houserats are probably not treated nearly as well as their people would like to think. We took damn good care of our kids, and as painful as it was to watch them pass, we're confident that they were grateful for having a safe, comfortable place to live, with the right food and plenty of love.

Mandrake and Sorrel are our boys, now; Hazel, Hyacinth, and Zynnia are the girls. Sorrel and Hazel are hairless rats- they look something like this. I found them to be sorta horrible looking when I was first made aware of their existence... but they grow on you. What's really amazing to me is how each and every one has a distinct and different personality (kinda like people, eh? Imagine that...)

I still get a bit teary, sometimes, when I think about our ratkids that have moved along; maybe it sounds silly to some of you, but I miss the little hairballs. They're not gone, though, not completely; as long as they're remembered, they'll always be around.

If any of you out there have ratkids, or are thinking about getting some, feel free to drop me a line with any questions you might have. We (ok, mostly Susan) did a lot of research when we got Alder, back when, and we've worked pretty hard to make sure ours are the most spoiled rats around. We'd love to help, and it's always fun to meet new ratpeople.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quiet

One of the great contradictions of our world is speech. I'm not talking about words, or language. I'm talking... about talking.

Consider the parents of a toddler. Think of how overjoyed they are when little Johnny or Suzie says "Mama" or "Dada" for the first time.Their little one is beginning to grow up; learning to walk, and to talk: the first steps, if you'll pardon the pun.

...but then what happens? "Mama" or "Dada" turns into "Why, Mommy? Why, Mommy? Why, Mommy?" or, worse, "NO!" or "MINE!"

Suddenly, Proud Mother and Proud Father want nothing more than for the little brat to shut the hell up.

Cat Stevens put it very well: "...from the moment I could talk, I've been ordered to listen..."

So how do we balance this? How do we teach a child that it's important to know WHEN to speak, WHAT to say, without teaching them that their thoughts and feelings are less important than those of others, particularly the adults in the world?

This isn't about parenting, I promise; teaching kids to talk is just a great place to jump off. I'll get there, I promise. Stick around.

Ok, so you've got this snot-nosed rug-rat who won't shut up, won't listen, whines, cries, makes demands, and you're ready to snap. What do you do? The answer might surprise you.

Listen.


We teach our kids (and, sometimes, ourselves) to speak, to read, to write; we establish the cognitive process, we learn deduction, induction, the list goes on and on... but we're never taught how to listen. How to Be Quiet and Hear.

Everytime I see some bratmonster in a Target or a Wal-Mart, howling like the damned because they can't have the cookies they want... I look immediately to the parents. It's troubling, how often said parent is on their cell phone, oblivious, or perusing some merchandise that interests them, while completely ignoring their child.

Where do children learn that the way to be heard is to be LOUD? From their parents, of course, and their teachers, and every other adult in their world who acts as though a child is somehow less of a person.

Why do we treat kids like that? Why, because we were treated like that, too, as kids, so that must be the way things are supposed to be, right?

Wrong.

So let's pull the focus back a bit, and give the parents and teachers a break, for a bit.

Listening is a skill, and there's a lot more to it than one might immediately realize. Quiet is the obvious first step... but what does it mean to be Quiet? It's a great deal more than just not talking. Stop talking, and, if everyone nearby cooperates, what you have is silence, which isn't the same at all.

In order to achieve Quiet, there are some other things that have to be done, and not a one of them is easy or comfortable, at least not if you're unused to them.

Once your mouth is closed, and your ears are open, you must then turn your attention to your Mind. I don't know about you, but even when my voice is silent, my mind goes a thousand miles an hour, putting together and taking apart lines of thought, interpreting and classifying information as I receive it, and forming opinions on things, making judgements. What I'm not doing, not to any significant extent, is listening.

"Turning off your brain" is one of the hardest things you can ask a human being to do. We have become so pointlessly and helplessly dependent on "thinking about" things that we've all but lost the ability to just let things Be. My Very Wise Friend talks about A+B=C; while A and B may very well combine to make C, why does that part matter? Of course, there are circumstances when it is important... but far more often, it's really not relevant. C can just be C, without having to analyze and disassemble the process of how it got there. The apple will be no sweeter, no crunchier, just because you understand all the complexities of the seed to tree to fruit mechanic. An intimate knowledge of photosynthesis will in no way improve your experience of the apple. If you focus, on the other hand, on the experience... why, you might learn something. WHAT you might learn, or HOW, is not for me to say; the simple fact is that by simply listening to what's happening around you, you learn things... and in order to listen, you have to be Quiet.

How, then? How do we stop "thinking," stop "analyzing," and just let things Be what they Are? There are no easy answers. Meditation works for some; ritual works for others. Every deeply spiritual path has some mechanic for it; at their roots, I think, they're very likely all very similar. The most important thing, though, from where I stand, is being aware of the need to slow down, relax, and be Quiet. The never ending need to know is really just another form of Greed, just another way that we grasp and reach and try to "possess" the world (and it is, in fact, one of the ways in which I personally am most guilty of greed, something that pains me immensely), but if we see it for what it is (Just letting C be C, remember), the process of relaxing, letting go of our attachment to things being a certain way, because less painful and more natural. In short, Quiet comes more easily.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Psychic

Some time ago, in another world, another life, I spent three years working as a professional psychic for a 900 phone line.

Telling people that always gets an entertaining response.

The questions I got asked on the phone teetered back and forth between sorrowful and ridiculous. I got asked for lottery numbers pretty often. Yeah. Right. "If I could do that, would I be sittin' here, talkin' to you? NO! I'd be in a tricked out motor-home, going from state to state, winning those suckers one after another."

For some reason, they never seemed to quite understand that.

Another one I got all the time was "Am I pregnant?"

Really? You're going to spend $2.95 a minute... talking to a psychic... instead of spending $10 on a pregnancy test? Really? I always answered that question the same way: "Have you been having intercourse?"

Always seemed like the best place to start, to me.

The whole "psychic" thing, to me, is one of the most misunderstood concepts in all of reality. First of all, when you call a 900 line and talk to a "psychic," chances are, you're not after a psychic. You're after a diviner. A fortune teller. Divination and being psychic share only very subtle traits, and it is very easy to do either without the other.

I've addressed divination in another series of writings (which I'll gladly share with anyone interested; just send me an email). I want to talk about being psychic.

It's not at all what people think.

I've talked repeatedly about the Emerald Tablet: as above, so below. As your spirit goes, so goes your body, and vice versa. It's the mechanism that makes what we call Magick possible. If you are trying to accomplish certain things of a spiritual nature, mirroring those intentions with physical rituals establishes a pattern that the spirit can (and will) follow; likewise, if you're trying to make physical changes, meditation and visualization can set a spiritual example for your body to follow.

How does being psychic fit in? It's quite simple, really: "psychic abilities" are nothing more than your spiritual muscles. When you visualize something in an effort to manifest it, when you meditate to calm your body and relax, what you're doing is, at it's root, a spiritual workout. You're making your "soul muscles" stronger, which paves the way for physical strength.

People who draw a hard line between their mundane lives and their spiritual lives find that this process doesn't work very well... and why should it? You can't pull the engine out of your car and expect either part to go anywhere without the other, now, can you? It's the same thing: your body is the chassis, and your soul, your spirit is the engine. Separating your spiritual work from your physical work is just as silly.

Psychic abilities, then, are like a higher reflection of things like your opposable thumb, your blink reflex, and your endocrine system. Some of them are voluntary, things you can stop, focus on, and "make happen." Some are involuntary, and happen on their own, whether provoked by stress, or some other outside interaction.

The best way, in my experience and opinion, to work those spiritual muscles... is to recognize them. Notice when a "hunch" helps you avoid a problem or leads you to some temporal victory. When you get a "bad feeling" about something, avoid it, and find out you were right... that's not random. It's not chance. It's your higher awareness, saying "Hey! Wake up!"

When you listen... when you honor and respect BOTH halves of yourself... that Inner Bell, those psychic reflexes, they get stronger. Eventually, you reach a point where you can "make" it happen, simply by focusing your senses and opening your mind.

In the end, then, everyone is "psychic." Not everyone, however, practices, and those that don't may not even be aware of what they're capable of; many people go their whole lives blatantly denying the existence of such things, or calling them "evil." I feel badly for such people- they go through their whole existence, half dead.

For those who are curious... I quit doing readings for a living for two reasons. First, the bulk of the people I worked with were complete frauds, and it made me sick to have to listen to them. Second, given that I genuinely tried to help the people I talked to... it got pretty stressful, opening myself up over and over, every day, to the horror and pain of strangers. I wasn't advanced enough, then, to be any good at grounding or renergizing myself, and life got very difficult for a while because of it.

I've found doing readings for others without requiring payment is a lot more rewarding, anyway.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Oregon

In a little less than ninteen weeks, assuming all things go according to (or something that resembles according to) plan, I will be moving to Salem, Oregon. Many/most of you already know this.

Some of you, though, may not be clear on Why, so I suppose it's time for a Story.

Just over four years ago, I was living in Wisconsin. Without getting into too much detail, the relationship I was in at the time came apart, and I found myself at loose ends.

By way of an online game I was playing at the time, I had a friend who happened to live in Salem. I talked with him a bit about where I was at, and he suggested I come to the coast. He offered to let me stay with him for a while, to get my feet under me, and he thought that a change of scenery might do me some good.

The best laid plans, and all that.

I decided that his idea was a good one, and made what preparations I could for the long solo drive from Wisconsin to Oregon. I got as far as Salt Lake City, when things started to slide. My van began to have mechanical problems; fixing them ended up taking several hours and a large, unbudgeted chunk of my money.

Undaunted, I carried on, and got as far as a little town called Grant's Pass, a short ways north of the California border, in Oregon. Mechanical trouble reared it's head again, and this time, it had teeth.

Big, sharp teeth.

The transmission in my van decided it'd had enough of this long, onerous drive, and it died. No warning, just... clank, and done.

So there I sat, in my dead van, on the side of the highway, about ten miles north of Grant's Pass. A state trooper stopped (I'd like to think someone called them on my behalf, and that she didn't just "happen by," but I'll never know), and called me a tow-truck.

At this point, I was screwed. I didn't have enough money to pay for the tow, and I was still four hours short of my destination. The tow-truck driver, though, was willing to deal, and towed I was, back to Grant's Pass, leaving me with a small coffee can of mixed silver coins and my packed possessions and nothing more.

I called my friend in Salem, and he said he'd come and get me. I spent the next 4+ hours sitting in a Denny's near the place where my van was dropped off, waiting for my friend.

When he finally arrived, I was exhausted, frightened, hungry- in a word, about as low as I'd ever been. If I'd known then what was coming, I might have given up.

My friend bought me dinner, and got us rooms at a nearby motel. He had health issues which made driving at night out of the question, so turning around and going back to Salem right away was out of the question.

A hot shower and something that passed for a night's sleep left me in somewhat better spirits, but still not great. We got up, had breakfast (at the same Denny's), loaded what we could of my things into his car, and set out for Salem...

...which is where I found out that the bottom ain't never really the bottom.

My friend lived with a room mate in a trailer. The trailer was right on the teetering edge of being a "hoarder house." The bathtub was broken and unusable. They had a cat, but they did NOT have a catbox. The place was filthy, the company was terrible, and it just kept sliding south from there.

I lived there for two months, during which time I completely and in all ways failed to thrive. I couldn't find a job to save my life, a situation made worse by my lack of transportation and the fact that in the two months I lived there, I wasn't able to shower or bathe. Even so, I battled on, trying to make friends, even trying to date, but it was a constant river of one step forward, two steps back.

As things deteriorated, another friend of mine gave me an out. Again, this was a friend from an online game, who told me that she, her son, and her roommate were going to buy a house together, and that said house had a finished basement, which I was welcome to come occupy. The idea had merit, I thought, and I started shifting my aim.

I wasn't done getting kicked yet, though. First, it turned out that I wasn't going to be able to transport even a quarter of my belongings with me on the bus I was taking to Kansas City, my new destination. I had to have my Salem friend come back to the bus station where he'd dropped me off, and pick up most of my things. The bus ride to Kansas City was long, and fraught with nonsense and unexpected diversions; suffice to say, I wasn't having a good time... even so, though, I felt like things were looking up.

I can already hear some of you, by the way: "Salem chewed you up and spit you out. WHY are you going back?!" Patience, kids, I'll get there.

The house that my friend and her room mate were buying didn't happen (he ended up in jail, if you have to know). We moved, moved again, and ended up living with her boyfriend. I got a job in Kansas City right out of the gate, thanks to her, and things were finally starting to look up.

Then, one evening, we came home from a night out with friends, and I found that I had a message waiting on myspace. (Heh, I know, right? Myspace. Heh.) It was from a lady who was moving to Kansas City from Michigan, and was trying to find some "cool people to hang out with." (I think that's how she put it.) Her profile indicated that she was an artist, a lesbian, and had a fetish for bald, gay men.

Now, I wasn't bald, and I'm not gay, but I was thinking that maybe a lesbian was a good place to start: a person I could establish a friendship with, without any of the stress and pressure that tends to exist when Single Guy hangs out with Single Girl. We agreed to meet at the park.

In what I told myself was a gesture of good faith, I shaved my head before going to meet her. I'd shaved my head before, so this wasn't really anything new or different to me; besides, my hair was growing thin, and I had a hefty bald spot anyway, so I was just accepting the inevitable. Right? Right.

So I went to the park, QuikTrip pop in hand, and there she was. I've always been a "hugger," and this occasion was no different. We took our beverages, found a shaded bench, and sat to get to know one another.

Funny thing... it turns out that "lesbian" was, uhm, false advertising of a sort. She was (is) no more a lesbian than I am gay. We spent the whole afternoon together... and the whole night (it wasn't like THAT- not entirely), and ended up spending only a few nights apart over the next handful of weeks. It wasn't long at all before our defacto status as a couple was formalized, and I moved in with her.

There you go again- I can hear you mumbling, "What's any of that got to do with Salem?"

Susan (yes, that's her name. You're very clever; now be quiet and let me tell the story) showed me a piece of fiction she'd written. It was a detailed and precise description of our first day together. So what? Right. So what. She wrote it five months before she even knew me, or even decided to move to Kansas City. She thought the piece was written about another friend of hers- a bald guy who lives in Salem.

(There, I made the connection; are you happy, now?)

It was a year and a half, two years, before her friend in Salem and I actually made contact with one another. When we did, we learned that we had a great deal in common, thought the same way about many, many things, and had a great deal to teach one another.

He was my brother from another mother; we were Tribe.

It didn't take long for us as a group (Susan, myself, Jeffrey, his wife, et al) to realize that living so far apart simply wasn't going to do... so plans began to be laid, and the Day is coming, rapidly.

I wonder, sometimes, whether, as I walked the streets of Salem, looking for work, I might have seen Jeffrey, either on foot or in his car, as he ambled about some business of his. Why not? It's not like my life will ever be weird enough.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Now

In Buddhism, it is said that Hope and Fear are flipsides of the same coin. They both engender the future, and in doing so, they rob you of the present moment, which is, really, all we have.

I've repeatedly referred in this blog to the idea that All is One. That's an idea that could use a bit more detailed exploration, because it's much deeper than it seems on the surface.

It occurs to me that the automatic response of most people would be to take "All is One" to mean "All things are One." As far as it goes, this is the correct view; however, as my Very Wise Friend has said more than once, every lesson has a secret, and this one is no exception.

Think, for a moment, about the implications of the idea that All is One. Your friends, your loved ones, your pets (gah, how I hate that word), they're all You. The "things" that you "possess," the things you want, the things you fear? Those are You, too.... and You are "them," a way of phrasing it that increasingly loses meaning as you begin to realize that there is no "You," and no "them." There only Is.

Keep digging, though, and you will find even more profound ideas. If All things are One, then, too, All places are One, as well. There is no "Here" and "There". There only Is. Your friends and family that are "far away"? Not so much. Your "enemies" on the other side of the globe? They live right there, in "your" heart. All those places you want so badly to see, to visit? They're right outside your door. Literally.

I'm sure most, if not all of you, see where this is going. Having established that All things are One, and that All places are One, it then follows that All times are One as well. No past. No future. Just Now.

At first glance, this idea might seem to imply a very heavy handed, fatalistic view, that Everything is predestined. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the notion of Karma is broadly removed from the idea of predestination. (Keep these ideas in your mind- I will talk in much greater depth about this subject in an upcoming entry.) The fact is, if All times are One, you have potent and precise control over every single detail of your reality. If the Past, the Present, and the Future are just different views of the Moment, the Now, then you can change... all of them. Easily, even.

Here's the trick of it: ask any dozen people to recall a specfic moment in the "past," one that they all experienced. How many different versions of the story do you think you'll hear? My money is on "a dozen." Why? Because everyone has their own filters and perceptions, and experiences any given scenario their own unique way. Given that... what is experience, really? It's memory. It's recall. If I may speak metaphorically, your experiences are little more than text files on the hard drive that is your mind.

What's to stop you from editing them? Absolutely nothing... except for the conditioned-in idea that you can't, that it's "impossible." The important thing to take from this, though, is that if you retro-manifest your "past" to modify your "present," or your "future," you have to remember that you're only making those changes in your own perception. Others who haven't edited themselves in this manner will still recall those moments as they experienced them. This idea leads into another can of worms, which I will, for the moment, refer to preemptively as group awareness. There's a better word for it, and a whole lot to be said about it, but that, too, will have to wait for another entry.

The practical upshot to all of this? Focusing on the past, or the future, can be problematic, but only if you view them as separate and distinct from Now. Now is "all" we have... but Now is everything, too. The pundits lied, kids: you can (and do!) have it all, and you have it... Now.

So they next time something doesn't go quite as planned... remember that you can fix the outcome "later." We'll talk about how that works in future entries (which I am, of course, writing "now"...).

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Magick

There are few words in our language that can set pagans to squabbling was swiftly and efficiently as "magick." Even it's spelling is a contested point.

So what is magick? What constitutes magickal work? How does the magickal differ from the mundane?

The answers to these questions are so simple, so elementary, as to be laughable.

Everything is magickal. Nothing is mundane.

I can hear the arguments piling up, I can see the heads being scratched, and the eyebrows being raised, so let me clarify.

The world around you- everything that you experience in any way, via any of your senses- depends entirely, without exception, on your point of view.

Imagine that you are standing in a roaring fire. Your frame of reference from that position is most likely going to be extremely narrow, very tightly focused: being on fire tends to draw ones point of view to a very fine point. What you had for breakfast, how the president is doing, and what your weekend plans are... those things suddenly become orders of magnitude less important when you find yourself aflame.

Likewise, everything else that happens to and around you has a tendancy to divert your attention in a particular direction. In my world, we refer to a specific flavor of this phenomenon as Shiney Object Syndrome: simply put, the tendancy of humans to be easily distracted by things that they like (or dislike). It changes your point of view.

Following the trail of logic (ironic, isn't it, that I'm using logic to prove the existence of magick?), since everything around you is defined by your point of view, and your reaction of those things changes your point of view... you are, by dint of your reactions to the world... changing it.

You're manifesting it. You are, literally, MAKING reality happen. Every moment of every day.

We all know highly focused, highly driven people. They work very hard, they're very hard to distract... some of them even get referred to as "obsessive" or "compulsive" or both; some of them may be exactly that. What they really are, though, is in tune with their world. They have, in their minds, in their hearts, an image, a vision of how they want their world to be... and they make it so.

Some people have the misapprehension that magick is in some way easy- a flick of the wand, a wave of the hand, a burning candle, and BAM, you can get... whatever you want.

If Only.

Magick, like meditation, is hard, hard work... but there are different levels of magick. Different approaches to take.

For instance... if you're hungry... you could take the bread, and the cheese, and the lunch meat from the 'fridge, and make a sandwich, and eat it. Takes a couple minutes, not too onerous, and you're fed. This approach also has a ridiculously high success rate.

You could also put on a black robe, cleanse a room, draw up a circle, light candles and incense, and conduct an elaborate ritual to banish your hunger. I am not going to say that this approach wouldn't work... but it would take lots longer, is much less convenient, and, honestly... it's success rate isn't likely to be as high as just makin' a sandwich.

The thing is, though... by responding to hunger by making a sandwich, you change your reality. You went from hungry with no sandwich to hungry with a sandwich to fed with no sandwich. Hungry... to fed... by doing "mundane things."

One of the phrases I learned early on in my Pathwork was this: Magick takes the path of least resistance. Therefore, to live your life in the most magickal way possible, you should do likewise.

Note well, the difference between taking the path of least resistance and taking the easy way out. NOT the same, not in any way. Taking the path of least resistance can be expressed using another word: Flow. If we stop, and look at a situation with honest, open eyes, we will usually see the best way forward. Not always the easiest way. Not always the right way. Just the best way... and, eyes open and informed, we can make the choices that carry us forward, on course. At some point, Magick and Mundane, Ordinary and Extraordinary, Right and Wrong, Good and Bad... these Dichotomies cease to be important. They don't stop being meaningful, necessarily; they just stop being relevant.

In The Book of Runes, Ralph Blum said that we should strive to "live the ordinary life in an non-ordinary way." When you reach the Balance point between "this" and "that," EVERYTHING becomes BOTH. The mundane is magickal; the magickal is mundane.

Remember, All is One. When you treat all things as equally valid, equally important, "as above, so below" becomes more than just a shiney ideal; it becomes an easy-breathing, simple norm in your life... and when you can live your life like that... it's amazing how readily it conducts and conveys itself to your whole world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love

Note: for the purposes of what follows, I am drawing a careful distinction between love and Love. I will be treating them as separate words with separate meanings.

What does it mean to Love? I've seen a lot of people profess to feel it, and they've treated it in many different ways. How does Love differ from love? I'm certain that if you asked a dozen people, you'd get a dozen answers; some would have points of similarity, and some would be fringe responses that might seem alien to most folks.

Let's start, then, by defining the terms. It's worth mentioning, here, as an aside, that I have a very serious problem with the inadequacy of our language. We label things, thus limiting them, and so many words mean so many different things under so many different circumstances that, from a certain viewpoint, this entire writing is a contrivance, an exercise in futility... that said, it DOES give us a place to jump off from, so take it as read, please, that this are not meant to be "hard and fast" ideas, but rather, a framework on which to build.

When I talk about love, really, what I mean, is "like," or "enjoy." Using it in the lesser sense is much like the way people toss around the word "hate." "I hate this or that food, or sports team, or brand of what-have-you." I would venture to guess that in the vast majority of such usages, "dislike" is what they really mean. It's little more than a statement of preference. So to "love," essentially, is to "prefer."

Flipping the coin, when I say I "Love" someone... well, this is how I've explained that feeling for a long time, and I think it's the most clear: if I Love someone, it means I would kill, or die, for them, if the circumstances called for it. It means that they are an element without which my life would not proceed properly.

I think we've all got "people" (by which I mean humans, nonhumans, spirits, and the like) in our lives who's departure would wound us badly. We've all lost people in one way or another, and those losses have marked us, scarred us. Those marks, those scars, they never go away. Eventually, the pain fades, but it's always there, and if the scab that grows over it gets torn loose somehow, that pain resurfaces, and has to heal again.

This all makes Love sound like a pretty crappy proposition, I suppose, given the temporary and transitional nature of the world we live in... but let's dial the view back a bit, away from the individual level, and look at things from a Spirit point of view, from a macrocosmic point of view.

All is One. I've said that before. As above, so below. I've said that, too. How do these things apply?

First of all, since All is One, that person, that tree, that cat, that ancestral relic that you Love so dearly... it's outside of you ONLY in it's capacity as a temporary, physical manifestation. It's Essence, it's Absolute Reality, exists NO WHERE except inside you, as a part of you. As such, it can never be lost, destroyed, or taken away, until and unless you renounce it, forget it, or forsake it. If the memory of the manifestation lives in your mind, in your heart... then it's not gone. It's not lost. It's a part of you, and will always be.

The Emerald Tablet, on the other hand, teaches us that as our Spirit moves, so moves our body, and where our body goes, our Spirit will follow. Love is a perfect demonstration of that process. Like all other resources and forms of energy, when you share Love, it multiplies. Hoarding Love is such a ludicrous and silly idea that it warrants only the faintest of acknowledgements, enough to say that the person who hoards Love will be lonely and empty in short order.  'nuff said.

In the end (which is really a very silly phrase, since there isn't really any such thing), Love is the glue that holds any living system together. It's the fuel that powers any group of like-minded Pathworkers. It's the luminescence that allows us to see the way forward in any given situation. Best of all, it is, really, an effortless thing. If you find that Loving someone, or something, is proving to be hard work... look again. Is it Love that is costing you the effort, or is it some hidden expectation on your part that is making you feel like you're not getting out what you put in. I've heard is said that "the reward of patience is patience;" likewise, I believe, that truly Loving is it's own reward. "Unconditional Love" is, to me, a redundancy, because if your "Love" has conditions, then it's not Love at all, it's a contract, a business arrangement, and has little long-term value.

My Very Wise Friend told me once that I had his permission to "fuck up completely," and that doing so would in no way change the Loving nature of our relationship- that it's ME, as I am, which he Loves, not some idealized image of me built in his mind.

All is One; As above, so below. Give yourself permission to "fuck up completely." Give yourself permission to make mistakes, fall short, stumble, miss the boat, and drop the ball. In doing so, you also do so for all beings, for all things that you Love. If this permission is sincere... if you really will not change your view of someone over a mistake... that's when you're really talking about Love. (Note Well: making a mistake is in no way associated with genuine malice, abuse, or selfish, greedy, grasping behavior. The former is par for the course in this world we live in; the latter are the actions of the unenlightened, sleeping person, and at some point, you have to cut such people loose if they're toxifying your reality.)

In closing, I'd like to present a quote from an unlikely source (for me) that most of you are probably familiar with. It's from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

I'm not usually the sort to quote the Bible... but there are few places where I've seen it expressed so well.

So!

Much Love to you all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kakistocracy

I can already hear some of you: "He's at it again, coming up with obscure words so we have to go look things up." Some of you might even be thinking, "What the hell does that mean? Did he make it up? Is it even a word?"

Here's the way it really went down:

I was struggling badly with what word to use today. Nothing that I thought of really moved me to write. I had a couple ideas, but none of them seemed quite "right." So I decided to punt. I googled "words that start with K," and that search led me to a crossword puzzle words page, with a long list of K words.

Some were amusing. Some were silly. Some were complicated. None were right...

...until I saw the words "Kakistocracy" in the list. I'd never seen it before, so I looked it up.

Kakistocracy: government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the least qualified citizens hold office.

They have a special name for our government!

Ok, well, all modern governments, really.

I've said for a very long time that the office of President of the United States is foredoomed: no one who is qualified to do the job would ever take it; no one who would ever take it could ever be qualified.

...so no matter who gets the job, they're a bad fit. They're one of the worst choices, since by definition there are no good ones, no best ones.

Dialing it back, you could really apply that standard to any "public office" which calls for one person, or a few persons, to make sweeping, across-the-board decisions for the people they supposedly represent. In yesterday's blog, I laid out an orderly, organized template by which two bodies of people, be they individuals or countries, could find a common ground and reach the best solution possible.

Sadly, no governing body I know off actually uses any such system. I'm sure I'll catch a lot of hell for saying this, but our voting system is crippled at best, and corrupt at worst, and simply does not work. I'm not going to get into any kind of political rhubarb here- I'm not a political animal, not at all- but the simple fact is that this "system" we live in isn't doing any of us any good, except for those who don't NEED the system's help. This topic has been beaten to death in many other formats and many other mediums, so I won't belabor the point, but there it is.

We live in a Kakistocracy. The worst of us are making the decisions for and ruling over all of us.

Something has to change.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Judgement

WARNING: this morning's blog session finds me in a sorely aggravated mood; that, combined with the topic at hand (which I'd already chosen prior to becoming aggravated), means that it's pretty likely that some anger will seep through in this piece.

Here there be monsters; ye be warned.

We live in a world divided, divided in many ways. In D is for Dichotomy, I talked about some of those divisions, some of those oppositions, but today, I want to talk about an age-old idea that may not be exactly right.

One of the ways in which people or groups can be divided hinges on Judgement. Many people believe that judgement is "bad," or "negative." It's bad to judge, and worse to inflict your judgements on others. There are just as many, though, if not more, who make judgemental behavior an integral part of their day-to-day, some professionally (like, you know, judges?), and some... not so much.

So who's got it right?

My answer may surprise you: Almost no one.

When you simmer it down, what does it mean to "judge"? Really, it means to analyze and decide. That's all. What do you want for dinner? What color pants do you want to wear? Are you warm enough? Is the radio loud enough?

If you can answer any of those questions, you have Judged. Are any of those questions bad? Are your answers bad? Is the fact that you HAVE answers bad? Of course not, not in any way.

So why does Judgement have a bad rap?

What we really find repellent (or empowering, as the case may be) is the act of pushing Judgements on others. When one person, or one group, analyzes, decides, and then enforces that decision on others in some way... that's not Judgement. That's an entirely different pair of sandals altogether.

I've given this a lot of thought, lately, and here's what I've come up with:

Judgement, in and of itself, is... nothing. It's neutral. It's a process, a mechanic for sorting input and making decisions. That's all. It's a difference engine in your brain. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes, Judgement requires that two parties, be they individuals, groups, governments, what have you, have to find a common ground: each side decodes the data in "their" own way, and reaches what seems like a sound conclusion to them. The two parties then compare conclusions, and attempt to find the place where those conclusions share elements, and use those elements to arrive at a compromise that works for everyone, or at least the greatest number of people possible.

This is the healthy, sane application of Judgement. Hell, we even have idioms for it in english: "use your best judgement," "against my better judgement," "using poor judgement." You get the picture. You can even admit you made a mistake: "I misjudged."

The problem arises when one party decides they know better than another what is good for that other. When the "aggressor," for lack of a better word, decides that they can "Judge," and then "implement" without input from those affected.

There's a word in english for that, too... Injustice.

So, peeling away all the justifications and rationalizations, we come to the inevitable conclusion that Judgement becomes "bad" when it becomes Unjust.

There's a phrase that entered my vocabulary over the last year or so: Judge and Smite.

Pretty hostile, eh? Pretty aggressive. Maybe in danger of being Unjust, no?

No.

Here's the thing. No matter how much we'd like to pretty it up otherwise, we all live in our own little bubbles. Our own little worlds. Our own little realities. "Things" happen when those bubbles merge with one another. Love. Sparks. Anger. Conflict. Creation.

...Judgement.

So, really, all I can do, all any of us can do, is work with what we have, with, as my Very Wise Friend says, what's right in front of us.

Shifting gears for a moment... the Buddhists talk about an idea called Ruthless Compassion, the idea that sometimes, the best way to help someone is to let them muddle through their problems without help. Bailing someone out every time they make a mistake doesn't teach them anything.

Judge and Smite takes that a step further. I'm not God. I'm not the Law. If someone crosses my Path, however, and provokes a Smite reaction... maybe that's their lesson, that day. Maybe they have something to learn from the encounter that cannot be taught gently, or compassionately.

"Rationalization!" I can hear some of you thinking... How Judgemental of you!

See how it works? You have to make your bed, and you have to lay in it, both in terms of your own choices, and in terms of how you react to the choices of others.

We Judge, constantly, more often than we realize... and, just as in all other corridors of life, sometimes those Judgements lead us astray. Sometimes they carry us off course... and, in recovering therefrom, we learn things about ourselves.

So when I talk about Judge and Smite, I'm not roaming the streets, looking for people to punish. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I'm a compassionate, generous person.... but I have teeth, too, and I won't shy away from using them if the circumstances call for it. If I behave unfairly, I'll pay for it; there's no getting out of it... and that's an arrangement I'm comfortable with.

Judge away, then, friends... so long as you're Just in your Judgement.

Author's Note: Hmm. That didn't come out as angry as I thought it might.

...I must have misjudged.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Intuition

Many moons ago, I took a job at a bookstore. It seemed like I hadn't been there half an hour on my first day, when I was already being sucked into the rumor mill. The first thing that my coworkers told me was that my boss was GAY. That wasn't much of a revelation- I'd have been more surprised if he HADN'T been gay. (You had to be there- this wasn't a judgemental thing at all, trust me.) The second thing they told me was that he was a WITCH.

Now, up to this point in my life, I'd been bumbling along without a clue of any sort, mundane or otherwise, so I was more than a little puzzled by this assertion. "I see no hat, no broom, no prominent nasal wart, and, most disappointing of all, no flying monkeys," I thought to myself. So what kind of "witch" was he? Was he one at all? What, in a word, was really goin' on?

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that if there's one thing I'm really bad at, it's keeping my thoughts to myself. I've gotten better at it over the years (which should scare the snot out of you, really), but back then, if it formed in my head, it came out of my mouth. So I tracked down the ol' boss, and I said, "So I hear your a witch. What does that mean? Is it true?"

He was a very low self-esteem, self effacing kind of guy, but he gave me a reader's digest explanation of what being a witch meant to him, and he recommended a couple of books for me to look at if I wanted to know more. I DID want to know more, and as soon as I had dollars in my pocket, I bought both books.

One was, in my opinion, crap- a great example of how NOT to approach the craft, or paganism in general. I know a lot of people who set a lot of store by this book, though, so in an uncharacteristic effort to NOT offend folks, I won't name it, nor the author. The second book had it's flaws and faults, too, but it had some core bits that stuck with me, and which I still use. It was Practical Magic, by Marion Weinstein.

The one thing she wrote about that served me the best, and which I still think about semi-constantly, was the notion of one's Inner Bell. She talked about how, sometimes, if we're paying attention, we get context clues and cues from... nowhere? Not nowhere, not really- they come from within, from the part of us that sees without judging, without analyzing, without trying to KNOW... in short, from our intuition.

Over the years since then, I've learned a lot about my own intuition, and that's a distinction I want to make excruciatingly clear: everything that follows is about MY experiences, MY understanding of how *I* work. PLEASE, for the love of love, don't take come away from this thinking that my intent is to tell YOU how to work with your own mind, your own heart; it's not. I'm telling you how I did it. My approach may work for you; it might confuse the hell out of you, or frighten you, or do absolutely nothing... but the core elements here are, in my opinion, universal, and if you take them, without ego or preconception, I truly believe you'll find some new puzzle pieces to work with.

I've talked before about the Emerald Tablet- as above, so below. Intuition is something like an "above" version of the "below" organ we call the brain. As such, it mirrors the condition of and follows the rules of the rest of the "body," if you will. From that perspective, it's useful and helpful to think of intuition as a muscle. It works best when it's well exercised and well taken care of. Furthermore, when your intuition is in good shape, it also boosts and enhances your brain's processes. I'm not saying it'll make you smarter (though I'm not saying it won't, either...), but what it does, in a way, is blur the boundry between "rational thought" and "psychic phenomenon." At some point, it ceases to matter, really, whether a bit of information is something you "know" because you "learned it," or something you're "aware of" because you "realized it." If the information is there, and you're using it in a healthy manner, the source becomes less and less relevant, and a sort of internal version of the idea of All being One begins to manifest. All the parts of the system that is You begin to become more and more streamlined, more and more healthy, and it becomes less and less necessary to single out parts of yourself as "needing work" or being "things to be proud of." In short... it disengages your ego.

How, then, does one exercise one's intuition? Brace yourself- this is the "bad" news... because consciously exercising intuition requires us to do two things that human beings are catastrophically BAD at: Being Still, and Listening.

Our lives are filled with chaos, clutter, and an overwhelming avalanche of sensory input, the bulk of which is either irrelevant or erroneous. Filtering through all that data is a task of Herculean proportions, and what ends up happening in many cases is that things get prioritized away- things that "seem unimportant" get ignored and forgotten; things that seem valuable get concentrated on and remembered.

The fact is, though, that between the Emerald Tablet and All is One, there is importance and value in everything we experience, and shuffling things under the rug, so to speak, leaves us with gaps and blind spots because critical pieces get overlooked while we concentrate on trivia.

We need to slow down, to be still. When we do this, the rushing, crushing roar of the world around us... slows down and becomes still with us. It's hard to believe, I know, and it's even harder to do, but it is WELL worth the effort and the work. There are many ways to be still, and it's beyond the scope of this blog to go into the details of them, but for the sake of giving you a place to start, I'll mention a couple of the ways I have personal experience with.

Hands down, the hardest and most rewarding method of slowing down that I've ever encountered was Buddhist sitting meditation. I would never have believed that simply sitting down on a cushion and breathing would be such outrageously hard work, but it is. The fact is, though, that it's such damnably hard work BECAUSE we're so used to moving at maximum speed, going exactly nowhere. The effort required to let the world spin while you do not is huge. Habituation is a kind of addiction that we have trouble breaking... but when you DO break through, the "silence" ceases to be silent, and the quiet that follows is filled with the subtle, whispering voice of understanding, the soft, clear chiming of that Inner Bell.

Another method of slowing down that works ridiculously well is one that you all have heard of, most of you do, and most of you are already good at, without even knowing it. In fact, it's been the subject of a series of Facebook posts in my world recently (in an amusing display of synchronicity and interconnectedness): a shower. How many people do you know who claim that they do their best thinking in the shower? How often have you heard someone say, "I was in the shower and I had this great idea..."? Why is thinking so easy in the shower? Why do we have "deep thoughts" and "great ideas" while... bathing?

It's because we've SLOWED DOWN. We've relaxed, are at ease, and are comfortable. Furthermore, in the process of cleaning our bodies, by way of the Emerald Tablet, we are also purging distractions, confusion, doubt, worry, and the like from our minds. It's symbolic, and it's powerful. Think how much more powerful it would be... if you were deliberate about it? If you consciously paid attention to watching your woes and fear swirl down the drain with the soap and shampoo, with the the dirt and toe-jam. I'll leave it to you to consider the potential.

So. You've slowed down. You've become still.

Now you have to listen. For some, this is a harder task than for others, and there are a couple of potential reasons for that. (Actually, there are more than a couple, but I'm only going to address what I consider to be the two big ones.) Some people cannot listen well because their ego is firmly and solidly in control of what they do. My Very Wise Friend says that ego "knows better." It's not BIG, or small. It just... knows better. So even if you do HEAR something from that little voice in your head, your ego knows better. Even if the big shouting voice of your parent, your lover, or your boss gets through, your ego knows better. So even if You hear... you won't heed.

The second pitfall to listening is a specific offshoot of the ego issue, and one that I've struggled with at great length for most of my life. Many of you will recognize this in yourselves, and will nod your heads as you read this: it's self trust. You slow down, become still, you listen, you hear... and you don't trust.

I am here to tell you that nearly every truly terrible thing that has ever happened to me has been the direct result of me hearing the Bell and refusing to heed it. Them what survives and thrives in this world of ours is them what listens to the Voices. It's as simple as that. Trusting those Voices is a hard row to hoe, however, especially if your filters, walls, or upbringing have left you short on self trust... because that Bell, those Voices, are nothing more and nothing less than the Above version of You. The Spirit. The Divine in you, doing it's noble best to guide you straight and true along your Path, in spite of your stubborn desire to do it your way, in spite of your ego knowing better.

That all sounds a little heavy-handed, I know, but the reality is much less so. It's hard work, slowing down and listening... but it does get easier. As the Voice, the Bell grows more clear, more distinct, as your experiences with it become stabilized with positive reinforcement... listening, hearing, become less work, and more second nature. It requires less and less deliberate effort and becomes more instinctive, more... well, more intuitive.

Once you reach THAT point, it becomes a simple matter of application to be able to stop, breathe, be still, and listen in order to actually tap consciously into that Above part of yourself, and direct your vision, apply manifestation to your Below world, and actually DO something with this newfound well of clarity, this reserve of energy that seems bottomless. It is bottomless, too, as long as you work with it honestly.

I'll close with a bit of song lyrics that touch on the ideas I've set forth here. Happy Listening.

"...if we listen to the voices that were silent for so long... if we thought they went away, well, we couldn't be more wrong; if I tell you there is something that we've lost but can retrieve, if I tell you there is hope, if we try to believe... you remember, there's a dream that we've long since put aside, with the toys that we discarded and the tears we never cried? We can have it once again, if we try, baby, try..."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Horror

The German philosopher Schopenhauer said that "life is evil because it's basic stimulus is pain." He believed that everything we do is motivated by discomfort, or the fear of discomfort... and it is in that last bit that I find the flaw in his thinking.

You see, from where I sit, it's not discomfort that motivates us, not at the root of things. It's fear. Many people (professional athletes spring to mind) have jobs and daily lives that routinely hammer them against an anvil of pain, discomfort, and injury, and yet they through themselves into the breach again and again, day in and day out. They seem to enjoy their lives pretty well, some of them, so I don't think that discomfort as a motivator is all that near to the mark. As the French saying goes, "Pain is the craft, entering the apprentice."

Fear, on the other hand... that's a whole different animal (so to speak). Fear comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and concentrations, from simple, mild unease to gut-churning, eye-widening, adrenaline-pumping terror. At it's most basic, fear is a survival tool: a big cat roars nearby, your brain dumps adrenaline and endorphins into your blood stream, your fight-or-flight mechanism kicks in, and you run like hell.

What about other kinds of fear, though? For instance, the nervous butterfly stomach you get when you contemplate talking to that pretty girl or that cute guy? The jumpiness and shaky hands when you go to ask your boss for a raise? The cold sweat when you see the blue and red lights of the police in your rear-view mirror? What is the survival value in that?

I don't see any.

What I see is that there's a layer under that kind of fear, a layer that creeps closer to the flip-side of the coin, to the real core of what ails us as individuals and as a species. Why in the world should you be nervous about talking to another person? There are two parts to the answer. The first, most obvious part is that you're afraid of rejection, of disappointment... which, in turn, has yet another layer under it, to wit, that you feel inadequate, unworthy. The second part, and the part which, to me, represents the heart of why we hurt, why we fear, is the illusion of seperation. I've talked in previous entries about two of the fundamental laws of living a magickal life: Gratitude and the Emerald Tablet (as above, so below). I'd like to touch here on a third: All is One. Everything is connected, everything is related, and everything shares the whole world with... everything. Why, then, do we treat other people, other beings, hell, the PLANET as though it was something outside ourselves, something we are seperate from and not a part of? The idea that we are, to quote They Might Be Giants, an Unrelated Thing is ludicrous, preposterous. People go so far as to even apply this idea to god, attempting to live their lives as though god is some terrifying force that exists outside us and of whom we must perforce be afraid.

In light of all this, I'd like to make a distinction, a more clearly defined set of terms. Fear, then, is the natural response to an actual threat (the whole idea of which is also an illusion, but eh, I'll address that on another occassion), whereas Horror is a response triggered by a reaction to perceived construct, to an artificial set of circumstances provoked by what is, essentially, the worst and biggest lie we tell ourselves. It's worse than "I'm not good enough." It's more damaging than "I'm not pretty enough." It's more demeaning than "I'm not smart enough." It creeps up on the edge of self-anihilation: "I don't belong. I'm not part of the world."

...and that, my friends, is pretty damn horrible.

If you're reading this, take my word for it: you belong. You're a part.

...and you're more than good enough, more than pretty/handsome enough, more than smart enough. You are, in fact, indispensible, and we ALL need you.

In closing, let me say this: I KNOW, for a FACT, that every single one of you knows someone who "isn't good/smart/pretty/talented/[fill in the blank]" enough. So stop what you're doing, now, and show them this. If you can't show them this, tell them.

Who knows what you might start?

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gratitude

In the last couple of years, my Pathwork has accelerated exponentially. A very, very old connection was reestablished, and the Teacher that I've sought for most of my life manifested in a very unexpected way. I've learned a lot of things that were almost embarrassing, because, in hindsight, they were obvious, right in front of me, but I'd previously lacked the perspective to see them. I wasn't asking the right questions.

One of the most important, most powerful things I've learned is a pair of incredibly puissant magick words- a phrase, an expression, that adds depth, volume, dimension, and outright OOMPH to everything and anything you try to do, from as mundane as cooking a meal to as mystical as next-level manifestion.

What is this outrageously powerful spell, this Master-rank incantation?

"Thank You."

Yep. Gratitude.

No matter what we're talking about, when you genuinely appreciate what you have, what you receive, it opens the door, in both directions, for an exchange of energy, ideas, materials, and resources of all kinds. The critical part of this is the "in both directions" part.

In my entry on Dichotomy, I said:

"...dichotomy, really, is nothing more than a mechanism by which we have the opportunity to see other points of view, other ways of being, other ways of doing things. In short, other ways to grow."


The two-way nature of genuine gratitude is a form of dichotomy that reflects it's purest and most honest application. It is NOT a "quid pro quo" kind of give and take, not at all. It's the idea that ownership, possession, and "Mine/Yours" are a construct of the fearful mind, a way of imposing a boundry between ourselves and what we fear.


As I said in Dichotomy, sharing multiplies, hoarding divides. When we are afraid, we try to isolate ourselves, to insulate ourselves. When we are brave, we realize that, just as we need others to thrive, others need us too! That, all by itself, is a source of great fear for many people. They don't want to be depended on, to be counted on. They want to take "theirs," and be left alone. The responsibility of being Important, Valuable, Needed, is much more than many people can handle. The truth, though, is that when you share without reservation, when you share unconditionally, there is no need to worry about what you might or might not get back, or when, because it's a foregone conclusion. Even if you're sharing with someone who is living in fear, someone who hoards because they are afraid, there is still no cause for concern, because the Universe operates in a very different way than "this for that." Genuine gratitude means recognizing when you have more than you need, and sharing that "extra" with those who don't have enough. Even on a small scale, this attitude has an amazing effect, even on the mundane people in your world who still operate from fear.


The creed of greed is one that we have drilled into us almost from birth, and the "gimme" mentality is an addiction that's hard to break. It can be very hard to truly know if we're taking care of ourselves, or if we're feeding our greed and refusing to share. Is taking a day to play video games and eat junk food really a "mental health day," or are we being lazy and refusing to spend that time helping someone who needs it because we "don't wanna"? I don't know about you, but I question myself all the time, I second guess myself all the time. Here's the twist, though- if you weren't genuine, if you weren't really doing the best you could... would it even occur to you to question yourself? Sure, we all make mistakes; we all have those moments where greed out-muscles gratitude... but the fact that we recognize that when it happens, and strive to "do better," means that we're growing, that we're waking up.


In my mind, the first and most important step to sharing what you have, and making yourself available for honest exchange, be it with others, with yourself, or the world around you, is being grateful- grateful for what you have, for what you DON'T have (think of all the things you don't have that you DON'T want), and for yourself- being here, doing this, is an opportunity that many of us take for granted; be grateful for this chance to be more than you were when you got here (or, more accurately, this chance to wake up more fully to what you already are), and then take the next step: share that power, that majesty, with the people around you, and help them wake up as well.


At first glance, this may seem to have spun away from the idea of gratitude and landed more squarely on the idea of Sharing and Waking up... but they're all links in the same chain, parts of the same machine, and Gratitude is the fuel that the engine of your Spirit runs on.


...so if you're feeling down, sluggish, or low... look at yourself in the mirror... and say "Thank you." You might be surprised by what happens.