False Mirror

Oh, is this thing still on?

One of the most visible attributes of monkhood is seclusion. I seem to be doing a good job of that. I still read my Dreamwidth account, but I rarely post. I still check in on Facebook, but my friend count is deliberately low, and it’s a more informal atmosphere. Tumblr was, fun, but overwhelming.

I started getting the message to back off, from everything. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been told. That advice is easier to follow in the winter. I started writing less.

This morning I went to the gym with my mother. This is a thing we’re trying to get into three times a week, though one of those times is when I teach tai chi. Tai chi is not really cardio or weight training. I’m not too large, but I definitely could be in better shape. My mom is in her seventies. I want her to go and it’s easier if we both go together.

I teach tai chi at a gym. It’s not the best arrangement. I can’t promise any sort of a beach body unless you happen to already have one. I can teach you how to knock down those who do have beach bodies, but if you were that kind of person I probably wouldn’t want you as a student anyway.

As I waited for my mom to get done with the bike, I did a few tai chi exercises. I felt horribly self-conscious while doing my tan tien exercises. I’m sure they do look weird. I stand still and my midsection moves just a little bit. My mom said something about dancing. I agreed that yes, there were some similarities to belly dancing.

Surely everyone thought I looked weird. Surely they had no idea what the heck I was doing. I was tempted not to do the exercise at all. But how do I know what they’re thinking? I don’t. Does it matter anyway? I knew what I was doing and why.

This would be the point at which a person might start explaining or getting defensive or getting into an argument with no one at all. I’ve had many imaginary discussions in my lifetime. They’re a complete waste of energy. That jerk you’re arguing with, yourself, will never let you win. You may even feel so silly arguing with yourself that you’ll look for a fight with a real person in order to prove that the argument is worth having. You have all those great comebacks saved up. It would be a shame to let them go to waste.

If you look at yourself in the mirror and imagine what someone else sees, that image is almost certainly false. Even if someone agrees with your distortion that doesn’t make the imagined vision true. They make assumptions, and you make assumptions about their assumptions. How does anyone ever get anything done?

How do you throw out the false mirror?

Seclusion does have one thing going for it. If I’m not seen as often, the mirror doesn’t have as much influence. It takes the pressure off. I know that’s only a temporary fix. I’m not here to escape. I’m here to learn. I have to do no less than change my thought habits in order to defeat these various snares. Where is the trap? What can I do differently so that I no longer fall for it?

What would it be like to go to the gym or hang out in a community without constantly checking myself in the mirror? It sounds a lot more relaxing and productive.

Splitsville

What happens when you can’t make up your mind? Part of you wants one thing, and the other part wants something else? If you’re in a human body, you’re pretty much stuck. It has to be one or the other. You can’t be in two places at once.

Gods and spirits, and people wandering around without their shells, don’t have to play by those rules. They can do both.

(TW: self harm, suicide)

Once upon a time, there was a dreamer who became enamored with the Thunder Being. They say that anyone who sees the Thunder Being will go insane. They say that the Thunder Being is so ugly that s/he was ordered to hide among the clouds. They are wrong of course. The Thunder Being is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. They also say that love is a form of madness. But this isn’t a tale of romance.

They talk as if Wakinyan chooses her “victims” at random, but I doubt that’s the case. Lightning appears random, but in truth, it strikes where it is most wanted, where it has an open path. That path may be invisible to us, but she can see it clearly. She found a dreamer whose truth was a lie which was also the truth. That was too bad for her to pass up.

She tried to talk to the dreamer before. She shook the sky on the day when they lit the fire. When steam rose in the darkness, her fire burned within the dreamer, hotter than the glowing rocks. When the dreamer called to her in a dream, she came, threatening to destroy everything false in her path. But the dreamer did not respond. Why not?

One evening, the clouds gathered around. The Thunder Being’s messengers dove in the air, in and out, catching their meals and returning to their nests. The dreamer thought about stories that had the Thunder Being in them, stories written by one who shouldn’t write such things. Would he be punished? Should he? Was it wrong for an outsider to be so obsessed? The dreamer saw the gathering darkness and the flashes of light. If the Thunder Being wanted to kill him, that would have been a good time.

The dreamer smiled. That confused him. He didn’t want to die! But the thought of having the Thunder Being notice him at all, even if it was just to kill him, brought a smile to his face.

I said it was a lie, though, didn’t I? Wakinyan is a healer. Wakinyan destroys things. Both of those are true. The dreamer wanted to die. She hurt him badly and he begged for more. He fought without fear. He was afraid of everything. He acted like he didn’t care as his heart overflowed. She taught him how to be alive. And then she killed him.

The dreamer and the Thunder Being stood together. They had been through a lot together. The dreamer was absolute in his devotion. Then the Thunder Being ordered him to fight. The dreamer was horrified. The thought of raising a had to his mentor was unthinkable! But the Thunder Being insisted.

The dreamer drew a knife against his skin and dropped blood upon the earth as he was taught. You don’t fight unless you’re willing to bleed. He fought with all the love, fury, and sadness in his heart, and when he looked up, the Thunder Being was gone. He fought himself instead. With the battle already begun, he did not back down. If it was a thing he must do, then he would do it. Finally, he killed his other self. He killed the one who wanted to die.

Staring in shock at what he had done, he sat down on a rock. Wakinyan sat next to him and offered the worst, cheapest, dirtiest cigarette he could find. They smoked together as they watched the body sink into the earth. The dreamer didn’t realize it at the time, but their work together had come to an end.

Do I stay or do I go? The answer is “both.”

KRT: Ring-ring-ring Godphone!

God radios: How to live with one, how to live without one. What happens if the reception is bad, or the gods quit responding?

I wrote about this one recently in The Voices In My Head which talks about how to balance deific communications versus natural skepticism, and how to try to tease out important communications from idle chatter. In other words, having a godphone doesn’t instantly make you a pope. There’s more gray area involved here than you’d find on an overweight circus elephant.

I’ve talked to gods for about as long as I can remember. I’m not sure what it’s like not to at this point. There is no such thing as honing it until it’s perfect and static free. It just is what it is, static and all. I often go to secondary divination methods to make sure I’ve got the message straight and ask for clarification. Most of the time I just do a quick online tarot read from here or here. Sometimes an answer can come from a random music shuffle. I’m often amused by what the “shuffle demons” come up with. I’ve gotten messages from feathers found in a parking lot and from unusual animals showing up. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a gut feeling where you are drawn toward, or pushed away, from something.

The main requirement for getting these things to work is allowing them to work. Give yourself permission to be wrong. Lighten up. Play with it. I think that the fear of being wrong is the number one reason why people claim that they can’t talk to, or listen to, gods. There’s a fear of making things up, or playing with imaginary friends or sock puppets. You know what? It’s exactly like playing with imaginary friends. The big, deep, dark secret is that this is simply how it works. If you’re expecting something more profound, you probably won’t hear anything at all because you’re too worried about messing it up.

Be open to receive first. You can interpret and pick it apart later. Don’t make it into a huge important thing. Don’t crush it under the weight of expectations. Most people find it easier to talk with the gods about subjects that don’t really make any difference. What kind of offering does the god prefer? Chocolate or cinnamon? That kind of answer has no real importance, so there’s no need to stress over it. Once you get used to talking about nothing, you may find that the god will start to slip bigger things into the conversation when you’re not paying attention. When this happens, remember to take all information under advisement. Think about it. Research it. Weigh it against ma’at. Don’t go looking for that stone chisel just yet.

What if that still doesn’t work and you’re just not cut out for the godphone idea? Then don’t worry about it. On the most basic level, you probably have some idea about the difference between right and wrong, however subjective that idea may be. Follow your ethics and morals. If you need to make a decision, then do your homework, but don’t forget to take personal feelings into account. Those do matter. There are also various methods of divination, as I mentioned earlier. Pay attention to dreams and random occurrences. Talk to your friends and family. All of these methods require interpretation and thought.

A godphone is no different. It also requires interpretation and thought. Mostly I use mine because I like the companionship. I don’t really expect to learn the great unknowable secrets of the universe. What good would those do me anyway? It doesn’t make me better or more holy than anyone else. It just means I’m more of a pain in the gods’s butts with my constant questions and complaints. It makes it easier for them to tell me what to do and annoy me too. Our conversations aren’t particularly holy to tell the truth.

KRT: (How not to do) Offerings

Offerings 101: What do I offer the gods? How do I determine what to offer? Can I offer without a patron?
Do I need to revert my offerings? How do I do that? What if I can’t?

Right now, I’m full of “don’t really care” on this topic. Maybe I can come up with a good post by exploring why I’m not really into the subject matter right now. It is a central point in Kemeticism. So, why the blahs?

Maybe because the offering mindset has a dark side that I rarely see addressed. That does not mean you should stop giving offerings. That’s not it at all! But maybe just be aware of how the offering mindset can warp over time into something it wasn’t really meant to become. I’m going to go on a tangent here and discuss the pitfalls inherent in the offering mindset so that maybe people can recognize when they stray into that territory.

Pitfall 1: “The Vending Machine”

This is probably the first thing people think about when it comes to offering pitfalls. The gods are not vending machines. They’re not obligated to answer your request even if you blow way too much money on vintage Scotch on Their behalf. Even if you create a trial for yourself, and dedicate 100 hours of community service, they’re not required to do what you’ve asked.

It’s possible that the thing you’ve asked for was a really bad idea and they’re doing you a favor by not giving it to you. Maybe what you’ve asked just isn’t possible without breaking some major rules of ma’at. Maybe they just don’t like being bought. (Who does?)

Pitfall 2: “What have you given me lately?”

Yes, the deities like offerings. I’m not arguing against that, but I’ve run across this underlying current of thought that a follower is only as good as what they offer and how they offer it. It’s as if the gods don’t care about people at all except as a source of offerings. Some gods may be like that. They do have widely varying personalities. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to have a relationship with a god (or anyone else) who acted that way. If a human only likes you for your stuff, we call them a “fair weather friend.” If I called my gods that, they would feel insulted and possibly hurt by the accusation.

In my own experiences, my gods do genuinely care about me, offerings or no offerings. The stuff is nice, but it’s not everything, or even the most important thing. The gods love you. If you don’t honestly believe that, then what are you doing here? Go take up a more fulfilling hobby like Pokemon card trading.

Pitfall 3: “Shrine Envy”

This is not a contest. If you can afford nice things without causing undue harm to your bank account, then by all means, have fun with it! If Jane Hotep blogs about an elaborate shrine, ritual, or offering, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s more devoted or that the gods love her more than you.

You don’t need to get shrine envy. In fact, shrine envy is a distraction that may cause you to lose confidence in your own practice. If you lose confidence, your practice will suffer for it, causing you shrine guilt to go along with your shrine envy. Try not to do that. Remember pitfall 2 while you’re at it, the gods love you anyway, and be patient with yourself. Do what you can, when you can, as measured by your own lifestyle, ability and limitations, not in comparison to someone else.

Pitfall 4: “Shrine Guilt”

So, maybe things haven’t been going according to plan. Maybe you got busy. Maybe your depression has flared up leading to some fallow times. Maybe you had a sudden loss of income or time or space. For whatever reason, you haven’t been able to meet your offering goals. This is when shrine guilt sets in.

Stop that. The gods don’t want you to be miserable. (If they do, you need different gods.) You’re not doing anyone any favors by beating yourself up. The way to tackle this is not to make a new resolution to shrine twice as hard starting tomorrow. The best way is to go back to doing small things today to ease your way back into it. (Remember pitfall 2 again! The gods love you, dangit!)

I’m sure there are others, or variations on the ones above that I haven’t thought of. This list will get you started in recognizing the difference between a healthy practice, and one that is fraught with poor relationship values.

I will go back and answer one question from above though. What do I offer the gods? Offer your heart. Offer your friendship. Offer your time and thoughts. Offer your compassion. Offer yourself, as you hope to be, and as you really are. Offer your honesty. Offer your hopes and fears. Offer your efforts to make the world a better place. And yes, offer your chocolate. They like that.

The Voices in My Head

Or, How To Godphone

I am a skeptic. I’m also a wooist with a godphone. I don’t particularly like calling it a godphone, but the word gets us in the same ballpark quickly. This makes for some strange goings on in my head. How do I make peace between these two seemingly opposing viewpoints? If I were to answer that question as a simple how-to you might believe that I have solved the problem once and for all. It’s more like standing on a see-saw. Sometimes it tips one way and sometimes it tips the other. Sometimes I stand precariously in the middle with my arms waving around in the air. This is balance?

A reasonable person might say that I’d be better off abandoning one side or the other. I often think that reasonable people are wrong. Both sides serve a purpose. Both sides fulfill a need. I need to be grounded. I need to hold up a mirror, yardstick, or measuring tool of choice, to make sure I don’t get too lost in my wanderings. I also need magic. I don’t know why that is true, but it is. It has been true since I was little, and it is still true. Without the having the magical press in at the edges of my daily life, everything feels flat, I feel flat. Either way, I feel lost.

Do I believe in the gods? Yes. Also no. And yes. I talk to Them nearly every day, but I’m not always sure that I’m hearing correctly. I know that they don’t naturally speak English and everything is passing through my own filters. Most of the time I’m assigning words to vague impressions, feelings, images, and energy flows. How much of that is me and how much is them? Occasionally I get the “wrong note” vibe if I mess up terribly, but most of the time the subject matter is not important enough for them to bother correcting my faulty translations.

If anyone claims to have a 100% static-free godphone, my inner skeptic will raise an eyebrow and go “Uh-huh, riiight.” Maybe someone out there does have such a thing. They would truly be a rare unicorn if they did. I still probably wouldn’t believe them.

Am I making it up? Possibly. Maybe. I’m not sure. (Why should I believe you’re any different?)

For this reason, any godly messages that come through are judged based on their own merits, rather than by their source. Heck, gods can say stupid things too. Kemetics don’t believe in omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, beings. The gods might have a perspective that we lack, but even then, they’re not perfect. If it sounds like good advice, take it. If it sounds totally stupid, don’t be afraid to say so, to yourself anyway. Don’t be a dick to others. If the gods really do mean it, they will probably repeat the message, or hit you over the head for ignoring them. This is normal. I believe that the very best spirit-workers are those who are the biggest pains in the gods’ asses. At least I hope so. I know that I’m a big PITA.

For your own use, it may be helpful to try to discern which messages are important, and which are just fooling around. I give idle chatter with deities a low confidence rating. I like idle chatter because it forms more of a social bond and makes me feel more comfortable in their presence. However, it’s not really a good medium for life changing epiphanies to come through. Most of the random chatter does come from my own filters and is not important enough for them to correct any mistakes I might have made in understanding.

Other communications feel different. They hit harder and are more clear. They have an intensity to them that normal chatter doesn’t have. Occasionally, they bypass the filters and use actual English words. For me, these words come through very clearly and reverberate a little. They do this very rarely, and when they do it, there are few words. Too many words and you won’t remember later.

Most of the time, actual communications are somewhere in between those extremes. There are feelings behind the words, but the words are still run through my filters. We may go back and forth on various concepts to make sure I’m getting the right idea. Even then, I might just be getting a simplified version that is close enough for their purposes. They seem to like using analogies to explain more complicated ideas. I have to understand that it is an analogy, or a symbol, and try to get at the meaning behind it. I also understand that the more I know, the better chance they have to utilize symbols that I can comprehend. Having a godphone doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know your stuff. The more educated you are, not just in the relevant history but in many different subjects, the better your chances of getting a good interpretation.

In other words, when it comes to godphones, your own or anyone else’s, you can’t take everything literally. Questioning does not mean you lack faith in the gods themselves. It means you recognize that communications with deities isn’t perfect. Humans aren’t perfect, and neither are gods. Translation errors can, and do, creep in. Common sense is still required.

Separation of Heaven and Earth

That sounds like a chi gong. It probably is one. I have chi gong on the brain because I just came back from a review of the workshop I went to last month, but I left early. I did the chi gong, but I left before the push-hands. My childhood asthma decided to visit me this morning. Trying to focus chi enough to move another person is difficult when chi is disrupted from lack of breath, and when focus is shot by albuterol induced jitters. I wasn’t sure if I would even go to the review, but I went, and it was worth it even if I didn’t stay. I have a stack of DvDs now to review on my own time.

So, what do I mean by separation of heaven and earth? Well, my spirit side has interests and priorities, but so does my human side. Those are often compatible, but not always the same. I had been treating them as one thing. This became a problem when it seemed like I’d want something one day and then lose interest the next as one side or the other gained prominence.

This morning, spirit-me was ambivalent about going to the review. Who cares in the long run anyway? The body just wanted to rest. But then there was that other part that has put in a lot of work and who thinks that proper chi gong practice can help pull the rest of me together, not to mention seeing some old acquaintances again. So I went. I’m glad I took a moment to ask all sides. Maybe I’m getting some first hand experience with the Kemetic idea of the various parts of the self. I’m not completely confident in assigning the terminology to it. I might be wrong about how I’m interpreting them. Was this a case of ba(soul), versus ha(physical body), versus ib(heart/mind)? When we got to the push-hands, ka(energy/unseen body) was all “You want me to do what? You’re funny. Go home now.” I think that the concepts of chi and ka are closely related. Regular practice of the chi gong would probably improve the condition of my ka.

Remembering to ask the various parts before making a decision seems like a good idea. Mob rule doesn’t work out all that well in practice. If I had just gone with the majority, I would have stayed home, and my ib would have been unhappy about it. Hearing each voice, determining priorities, and negotiating if necessary is a better way.

Divine Interventions

I have a new puppy sleeping with his head resting on my foot. I suspect that he was brought by the gods as part of their ongoing campaign to get me to calm the heck down. I was going to get an older dog, like a year or two. I didn’t think I wanted an untrained chew monster in the house. My daughter insisted on the puppy, and then quickly found out that a puppy needs a LOT of attention. (Oh, so when I said that puppies need a lot of attention, I really meant that puppies need a lot of attention? Who knew?)

So, he’s mine now. He sleeps in my bed. I take him out at five in the morning to make sure I don’t wake up to a puddle of piddle. I’m more concerned about getting him to stop licking and pawing my face, to stop wandering around the bed, and chewing on the blankets, and going to sleep, than in brooding over the usual things I brood about before sleep. I know a lot of people say you shouldn’t let them sleep in the bed, but, I kinda like it. My old dog used to sleep with me. My other dog is too big for that, and I’m mildly allergic to the cats. I think I’ve been interventioned.

Your argument is invalid, brain. I have a puppy.

The tarot cards continue to tell me that everything is wonderful, but my attitude stinks. They’ve been saying that for a long time. I’m not sure how to unstink it.

Aset has been trying to tackle that project because she knows all the dumb tricks my brain tries to play. Ra is great and all, but he doesn’t understand humans all that well. She told me about purity of the heart awhile back, to experience everything fully in the moment, and then to let the moment pass. That helps on the emotional side. More recently she talked about the mental side. She said I should let my thoughts rest gently like a boat upon the waves. I don’t have to know everything that’s going on under the water. I just need to relax and get a feel for the currents such as they are. I have to trust that the water will be water, and I don’t need to tell it what to do.

Those both sound very simple, but they’re pretty challenging in practice. I’m working on it.