Friday, April 11, 2014

Less structure, more thriving

As I sit here writing, I can glance out my window into my garden.It's a little unkempt, but it is thriving.  This spring, I am too busy to try to make it look perfect, and so I'm letting things grow a bit more willy nilly than I typically would. Some of the weeds are being left alone. The herbs in the big pots are co-mingling, and the blackberry branches are taking over.  It's a little wild, but everything seems so happy and is thriving.

And there is the lesson- perfect appearances do not equal thriving.  That's a hard lesson for a person like me to learn.  I grew up with the family business in our living room, and everything needed to look just right.  It's a tendency that I alternately embrace (to my great frustration) or reject (to excess). Sometimes my life is picture perfect on the surface, but dangerously chaotic and unbalanced beneath; other times, it is a disaster on the surface, but quite contentedly healthy under the veneer of mess.  I know I need to find a balance, and I try, but it's not always easy.

My garden is a good example of finding a balance between picture perfection and rejecting preconceived boundaries and ideals.  Since I have allowed a certain level of organic growth and laissez faire attitude, while still caring for my plants, I have a garden that is green, lush, and full of life, but I'm not fretting about a weed here or mystery plants that are sprouting between the flowers.  i water and relocate pests daily.  I trim and thin and weed when things start to show signs of distress, but I am also learning that many of my plants can and will peacefully coexist without my interference (and some of the "weeds' aren't so bad if they aren't allowed to take over).  I've also found that the overall picture my little garden makes is brighter and fuller than it was when I was obsessively tending it.

It's time for many of us to reject the idea of perfection and embrace the idea of thriving, instead.  My letting little imperfections and troubles exist, in some healthy fashion, we can spend our energy on growing and  blooming rather than struggling.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Creeps- a reminder about staying safe on your spiritual journey

For those of my readers who are Pagan, you may have heard that a rather well known author in the Pagan world was arrested on charges of child pornography.  Reactions to this news have been all over the place from "Oh my gods, I had no idea" to "I knew it" and everything in between.  Mine was a resigned sorrow. Predators can be found any type of group. I had read this author and rejected his writings because one segment gave me the creeps. His works are not the only ones I have rejected on the grounds that they made me feel uncomfortable, unclean or unsafe, so this is not new territory for me. I have learned that trusting my judgement when it comes to other people's works is best practice for me. You may feel differently, adn you are the best person to make that judgement.

I hadn't intended to write about this (especially given how busy and contentious my life has been lately), but I feel compelled to remind all of us, myself included, that we all need to put effort into staying safe while exploring our spirituality.  We cannot rely solely on event organizers or publishers to vet our "leaders" or teachers, we have to take an active role in staying safe.  I know I've touched on this subject before, so I will leave my short list here:

  • If you see or hear something that makes you suspect that someone is being abused in any fashion, please speak up. Silence helps predators and allows them to continue hurting other people. Contact law enforcement, people you trust or organizations like RAINN for advice. 
  • Trust your gut. If you find yourself unaccountably afraid of a person or situation, leave.
  • Don't be afraid to disagree with elders, leaders, community organizers, teachers and others in power. If they are honorable, they will acknowledge your feelings and work to either bring understanding or let you go with a blessing.
  • Buddy up when attending public events. It's much harder to convince two people to not say something about creepiness than it is to alienate and isolate a single victim.
  • Take everything you read on spirituality with  grain of salt.  If something rings false, advocates illegal acts, or seems too far fetched, get rid of it.
  • Bravely follow your heart, it rarely will lead you truly astray.
  • When attending events, ask the organizers about security and safety policies. If nobody has thought of this at an event, it might be a good one to skip.
  • If someone comes to you for help after witnessing abuse or being abused, please, please be supportive and open minded. Encourage them to contact the authorities and discourage secrecy.
There is no single, sure fire method for preventing abuse, but we can, together make a safer spiritual learning environment by paying attention, holding our leaders to high standards of behavior and rejecting secrecy, fear mongering, and power trips.  IF you have questions about getting involved in a group, or remaining involved in one, you might check out Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Frame to help you evaluate the health of that group.  Trust yourself, use both your head and your heart to evaluate relationships and groups, and never keep a secret that covers someone's bad behavior.  When in doubt, ask for help.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The thrill and fear of discovery

In my public life, the one away from here, I am discovering parts of myself that I didn't know. It's both exhilarating and frightening. I am fighting to bring about a community wide change and that places me as an adversary to the way things are now.  This has required careful thought before I speak or act, biting my tongue, a lot, and constantly examining my motivations to be certain that my heart is in the right place. It is also putting me out in the open when I prefer to work behind the scenes. I am outside my comfort zone, and it's not a disaster.

I'm excited that I am surviving, that I'm pushing things forward, that this is my opportunity to change something important.  On good days, its an amazing feeling, but on other days, it's terrible. I am seeing inequities, I'm seeing behaviors that I can't stand, and I am often frustrated by people who are making assumptions or who won't listen. They sap my energy, raise my ire, and make me feel like nothing will ever change.

I am taking heart in the my discoveries. This new part of my life will likely be opening doors I didn't expect, and it's helping meet some people who are amazing allies in the struggle to create a sense of community.  I'm gaining some confidence, and learning to see a whole new part of my world that was always here, but hidden.  I hope that if you are offered the opportunity to try to create change that you take it and learn the power of being brave enough to try.