YMMV

(This is my last PBP2013 blog post. I think I’m all caught up now. I’m surprised I kept up with it. I started last year on a whim and somehow kept them going.)

Your Mileage May Vary

In fact, it probably will. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? I don’t do the same things that others do, and they don’t do the same things that I do. I still enjoy hearing about them. I like hearing what people dig up in historical reference to ancient cultures. I enjoy hearing about the rituals and seeing the artwork. I enjoy the quiet reflective moments where it feels that I can be there right with you. I enjoy hearing the questions and uncertainties, and I feel honored that you feel comfortable enough to share those things.

Where did we get this stupid notion that we should be the same? I thought the whole point of having many gods was that one size does not fit all. Even those many gods have many aspects and many time frames and manifestations. Even if we use the same names, that doesn’t mean they have to act the same in every situation. Gods are complex beings, not paper cut outs. I sometimes believe that if I make a statement about something my gods would NEVER do, that they would take great pleasure in proving me wrong. Never say never.

I often look at spirituality as being like medicine. The right medicine can heal, but the wrong medicine can act like a poison. That’s why you should only take your own prescription and not someone else’s. And what good does it do to try to discourage another from taking the medicine that they require? Are you their doctor? The correct answer is no, you’re not. Some people need more security and stability to help them feel safe in an unsafe world. Some people need to learn how to break out of their shells and take risks. Some need to learn compassion for others, and some need to learn how to start caring for themselves before they are depleted. Everyone has preexisting conditions.

This isn’t a contest. There is no prize to be won for being the most devoted, the most magical, or the most pure. The only prize is the one you get for being the most You. I believe that everyone contains a divine spark. We’re here to nurture that spark and make it shine. It doesn’t matter how you do that. There are many gods and many spirits, and there are many forms of divinity. If you’re not sure, then go ahead and try different things until you discover what works. Don’t feel bad if something doesn’t work out the way you planned. Exploration is part of the process. We are all works in progress.

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Zombie (No More)

I’m speaking in the metaphorical sense here, not the practice of enslavement through poison and trickery, or of the pop culture brain eating phenomenon.

Back when I was in high school, a combination of undiagnosed SAD and high stress, that contributed to actual depression, turned me into what I’ve called a walking zombie, still in motion, but more or less dead inside. It happened every year. I knew it was coming, and I feared its creeping slow onset. Once it took over, I couldn’t feel much of anything.

I remember being called up to the teacher’s desk for yet another exasperated lecture. My instinctive warrior’s temperament told me to show no weakness. I stood, stone faced, until they got done telling me whatever they thought might work on me. My lack of reaction worked nicely against kids who only wanted a cheap form of entertainment. But the teachers took it to mean that I didn’t care at all, and that only infuriated them more. The problem with the stone face is that if you practice it too long, it starts to sink under the skin. You pretend not to feel, and eventually you find that you’re not pretending anymore.

A good portion of my spiritual life has been a reaction against those times. My interpretation of how one should interact with the divine tends to be a bit more lively, or colorful, than what you normally hear about. I joke around a lot. I use foul language. I threaten and tease. I yell and scream. I break down in tears of joy and sorrow and anger. I confess my love quite often. I’ve broken a few unnecessary taboos while I’ve been at it too.

It has been working. The shadow work, and the light work, has been paying off. I’ve been working intensely with Ra. I took risks. I trusted him. It all seemed so strange, but it worked. I feel stronger than I did at this time last year. He gave me a name a year ago, when I finally decided to open up to him, and he’s been teaching me how to embody that. The name has always been there, but it takes encouragement to bring it to the front. He reminds me of what is important and what is not. He has taught me the same lesson over and over all year long: love, relation, connection.

When I want to be proud and aloof, he brings me back to my knees. When I feel cold, he brings me warmth. When I am alone, he tells me to spend time with the family. When I yell, he tries to find out what is wrong instead of yelling back or telling me that I’m wrong. When I feel unworthy, he insists that he will be the one to make that judgement. I call him “Sir.” I hardly ever call anyone that.

I stopped running, and finally admitted that I need him in my life. I’m stronger with him than I was without him. I’m more alive now, even in the dark side of the year.

Zep Tepi

“Once upon a time…”

When the world was brand new, gods and humans lived together. A lot of fun stuff happened way back then.

This time between the old year and the new is like that time. The new year is about to start, but it hasn’t yet. What will we become in this new time?

Zep tepi isn’t just “the good old days.” It’s not just “long long ago.” It still exists in the here and now, like the dream time. What do you dream about when the nights are longest?

The stories are not all in the past. There are new ones waiting to be born. We whisper to each other in the dark. Some of those whispers find a voice. Some voices carry in song and verse. Some verses find their way to paper. Some papers persist through decades and centuries. You never know which ones, so they always seem to come from the far off past.

Will your whispers find a voice this year? What stories will you tell?

Y No Post? A.K.A. Alernate Shielding Method

My mom had a partial knee replacement on Monday the 2nd. I’ve been caring for her, in the hospital and later at her home, for the past two weeks. Originally, the deal was that I would stay at her place “for a few days.” She’s doing fine, but her estimate was on the optimistic side.

She has no internet at her house and I’m often reminded of why I don’t have cable TV. I’m sick of Michael Bolton (No offense, but having him randomly appear in the back of my car would be creepy.) and hijacked background Christmas music that changes the notes just enough to not get sued. (Yeah, I like that song from Nightmare Before Christmas too, but I don’t like how you mangled it.) I don’t want to buy a car or jewelry, or sue anyone for injury. I can’t imagine paying so much a month to have endless reality shows, reruns and commercials piped into my house. My brain is going to start melting out of my ears before this is over. /endrant

The hospital thing reminds me that there is something halfway pagany that I could talk about.

I’m empathic. I have been since high school. I have a few friends who are too. Sitting for hours in a waiting room full of nervous and ill people, or in hospital room with a family member who is nauseous and in pain would be a nightmare for any of them. I’ve had bad experiences with that kind of thing before, which is why I could never go into nursing as my mother did.

This time, I got through it with very few problems because I changed the way I thought about shielding. Most of the time, people talk about shielding as a way to keep bad stuff out. I flipped the concept to keep myself “in.” Whenever I started feeling a little off, I visualized something like a strip of athletic tape being placed on my skin in accordance to which ever energy channel was causing the problem. The “athletic tape” restricts my movement, not so much that I can’t move, but enough to remind me to keep myself to myself. That worked pretty well.

When my mom was delayed while being transferred from recovery to her private room, I was tempted to reach out and try to get some info on her status. That was when Djehuty threatened to get the duct tape, and the honey, and the ants. I called him a perv, because I learned my manners from a Thunder Being. The point was still taken. Why make myself feel ill when there really wasn’t anything that I could do about it?

My energy body is much larger and more diffuse than my physical body. I’m in the habit of expanding outwards to get in touch with my surroundings. I don’t even notice that I’m doing it most of the time. Then, a few years ago, I strained too hard and was ordered to take a rest for a few days, no reaching out allowed at all. It drove me nuts.

So, if you’re an empath who has difficulty with shielding. The problem might just be that you can’t keep yourself to yourself. The tape worked as a good temporary fix for limited time use. I wouldn’t want to be on lock down all the time. With conventional shielding methods, I often felt like I couldn’t “breathe.” This is a more gentle method that, while it was a little restrictive, didn’t feel suffocating.

Qi, Ka and Heka

I missed a Q post awhile back. With this catch up post, I will be all up to date on the Pagan Blog Project. Yay! I’m doing better than I expected at this. Honestly, I usually spell it Chi rather than Qi, but I need that Q.

I was teaching my tai chi* class this morning, and I was telling them that people who are experienced with chi tend to say that they don’t really know what chi is. It’s the people who don’t know very much who will try to give you some kind of answer. (In common terms, chi translates to energy, life energy, “The Force,” prana, ki.) I’m about to prove that I don’t know very much about chi. I’ll probably prove that I don’t know much about the other two topics here either. But I’m having fun knocking these ideas around, and that’s all that matters, right? (There’s your disclaimer, get out the salt lick.)

I’ve seen the word “chi” applied in several different ways. One way seems something like the transmission of kinetic energy through the body. If I press on you, my kinetic force might be subtly redirected through your body and into the floor under your feet, or, if your muscles are tight, that force might stall out in your hip or your shoulder. That sounds somewhat abstract, but if I hit you hard enough, your injuries will predictably appear where the chi is blocked. Chi blockages are bad. The energy must flow, or else.

But that’s just chi 101, and I don’t think that “kinetic energy” is what is really meant by chi anyway. That’s just a handy example of one possible application. There’s a whole lot more to it than that. A chi blockage does not allow the kinetic force to flow smoothly, but how did it get blocked in the first place, and how do you unblock it?

Various meditations and chi gong exercises exist for the purpose of clearing up chi blockages. In fact, that’s one of the main ideas behind acupuncture. Illness, stress and emotional trauma are some of the things that are said to cause a chi block. We’ve moved from the realm of physics (kinetic energy) and into the realm of psychology and the mind (emotional trauma affecting the chi). From a physical perspective, your mental state can be expressed in a subtle tension in the muscles. Other causes, like nerve damage, can have an effect too. Acupuncture points do tend to coincide with pressure points in the body that correlate with nerves or with common locations for knotted muscle fibers. Massage and acupuncture can help, but if you haven’t got your mental state in order, those knots will come right back.

From this, we can guess that chi has something to do with the interface between the mind and the body. It is often said that the shen (mind, intent, spirit) leads the chi and the chi moves the body. Most of us skip that middle part. Most of us are pretty clumsy too.

I’ve also heard it said that the Egyptian ka is a life force that acts as an interface between the body and the spirit. I am playing a little fast and loose with the definitions, but you can see the similarities here. The ka is also sometimes referred to as the “double” while chi is intimately involved with the condition of your energy body. Chi and ka might not be exactly the same thing, but they do seem closely related. The ka is that which makes the difference between alive and dead. The Chinese also talk about a store of chi that you are born with, and once it is gone, you die. You can see why the cultivation of chi would be a big deal!

In tai chi and chi gong, there is a lot of effort involved in directing the chi in one way or another. You might send it to one part of the body or another. You might send it outside the body. You might visualize arcs, circles, or vectors. The chi moves along these paths and the body follows the chi. Does the chi knock the opponent over, or is the body doing that? I’ve heard it described as though the chi is necessary to get the body to move in those precisely accurate and subtle ways. You could not consciously tell individual muscles to get that work done, but the chi seems quite able to get the finer points across.

The proper usage of chi is almost like learning a whole new language. Chi might well be the medium for the transmission of that secret language. I have heard it said that chi can transmit information. Not only from your mind to your body, but from your mind to another’s body, or mind, as well. Your chi interacts with their chi to get the results you want. This is very valuable in martial arts. It is also used in healing arts.

So now we have a secret language transmitted by life force. Any Kemetics reading might know what that sounds like. Here comes the heka! Heka is usually translated as “magic,” but it is the activation of the ka. In common terms, Kemetics often take this to mean authoritative speech, magic words. What if we were talking about the language of the interface? With this “language” I can throw a person larger than myself off of their feet using only a tiny amount of physical force. (I’ve done it, but I need more practice to do it consistently.) How’s that for magic? I’ve also heard it said that heka originates in the belly, or gut, which is also the location of the Chinese lower tan tien, as in “sink the chi to the tan tien.”

I just thought of the idea of utilizing chi as if it’s a language this morning. There are no actual words as we know them here, but specific symbols, or metaphors are used to communicate a desired outcome. It takes a lot of training for both sides, the mind and the body, to effectively integrate this language. The mind has to learn which “words” to use. The body must be relaxed, fluid, and sensitive enough to execute the commands. It’s really freaking difficult, but it’s awesome. Real Jedi do exist.

* The “chi” in tai chi isn’t the same word. It’s more like “ji” as in taiji (supreme ultimate!). However, the “gong” in chi gong (cultivation of energy) is the same as the “kung” in kung fu (cultivation over time, usually referring to skill). Wobbly translation combining with phonetic drift FTW!

eXercise

“Heru, will you press against me in a manner that you think will benefit my training?” I ask as I settle in to the posture.

I wait.

“Your shoulders are not even at all,” he responds.

I roll my right shoulder and hear a pop.

“Align these two points.”

I make another small adjustment.

“And this one…and this one….here.”

I bring my awareness to the dots he mentally marks for me.

“Your hip has a tight spot in it. Fix that.”

I make more minute adjustments as I test the small muscle fibers and try to redirect the energy flows. I’m not too sure of the results, but he seems satisfied.

“I’m going to start pressing now.”

I feel my temperature rise slightly. Slowly, he increases the pressure.

“Harder,” I tell him.

“I don’t think you realize how hard I am pushing, which is good, but if I press any harder, you won’t make it to the timer.”

I become aware of the micro instabilities in the muscle and realize that he has a point. I might remain standing during that time, but if I lose my form, then what good is it?

Time passes.

He warns me not to collapse when it’s time to let go. I nod inwardly, remembering that if you lean against the incoming force, you become dependent upon it. Then he warns me, in advance, not to startle when the timer goes off. He suggests that I will really want to change that sound later.

“It’s almost time. I’m going to let go now.”

I feel the pressure recede. It no longer masks the fatigue that has started to set in.

“Slow deep breaths,” he reminds me.

I startle slightly when the alarm does go off, but since he warned me, I make an effort to remain still. He tells me to ignore the noise and wake slowly.

My eyes open. After a few seconds, I bend forward to rub my legs, then pull myself back to a standing position. I press the button to stop the annoying sound. Then he tells me to walk it off.

That’s standing meditation with Heru riding shot gun. Earlier I had some dance (and trance) time to warm up, then a short workout thanks to an app on my phone. Out of those three, the standing is the hardest, but if I want to reap the benefits of real tai chi, then it’s the most important. It’s amazing how standing still and relaxing can be so much work. I’ve had lunch, showered, written a short post, and my legs are still tingly. It’s good.

Xploring Monasticism

Yes, I did cheat on the name. Why do you ask?

One thing I discovered last week while questioning the lack of peace in the community is that suddenly I had a lot less of it myself. I wanted to run right out and rescue everyone from themselves. The problem is, that I would have a hard time giving others something that I don’t possess myself. I could run right out, enter the lion’s den and…then what? Roar just as loudly as they do? Been there, done that. It wasn’t very pretty. More importantly, it wasn’t effective.

I feel like I have a responsibility to my two kingly fathers to guide the community in a positive direction. I just have a hard time figuring out how to do that. If I try to turn myself into some kind of leader, then I run the risk of falling into the ego trap myself. And, honestly, I’m an introvert. Jumping into the middle of social activities stresses me out. I’m not pretty when I’m stressed. So, what else is there?

I’ve always kind of liked the idea of being a monk. How can you contribute to a community while at the same time withdrawing from it? What do monks contribute? Everyone knows about Gregor Mendel and his peas. There are beautiful illuminated texts. There are chi gung breathing exercises that improve health. There’s kung fu! Monks are like a spiritual R&D department.

The word “monk” is actually pretty general. The rules are not always the same from one group to the next, but there are always rules of one sort or another. I would have to do a middle way kind of arrangement by default. I’m already married with child, but as a homeschool parent, I’m not required to hold down a full time job outside of the home. I don’t have much of a social life outside the internet. I’m practically halfway there already.

There are rules, and those rules seem intended to drive home some kind of spiritual point. A vow of poverty restricts the person from being ruled by money, and can emphasize the power of generosity. A vow of chastity can free a person who is ruled by sexual impulses, and in the case of tightly packing together a large number of healthy males in their prime, it can have a practical reason too! (Imagining a woman to be full of rot and disease was not meant to be a insult to women, rather a way to get young virile monks to stop thinking about them!) There’s also the vow of obedience, the rule that says that you will follow the rules. There are vows of nonviolence and vegetarianism which emphasize the value of life.

I see these vows as being a very precise prescription for initiating change in a person’s life in a specific way. Different orders take different vows, for different reasons. Before taking any such vows I need to think carefully about what the long term effects may be. I can’t just go down a list of commonly used vows and pick a few of them at random. One person’s medicine is another person’s poison.

I’ve been experimenting with rules on my own while playing video games. In one game, I made a rule that the character could not kill. That meant I could not do most of the quests I was given. (I made an exception for gateway quests.) I got my experience from crafting and gathering. Luckily that game, Aion, allowed me to do that. I got that character up to level 40. In SWTOR, I’m now playing by permadeath rules. No-kill made me value life around me. Permadeath, makes me value my own life. Once the character dies, I have to start over. It teaches me to be cautious and think before I start a fight. The previous character died at 7. The one I have now is 19.

So, what kind of monastic rules would be appropriate for the life I’m living now? Heru has already put in a vote for “no self harm.”  No hair shirts here! That also knocks out extended fasting or flagellation. It does include being careful of my internal thoughts and how I speak to myself. He pointed out that if I’m not nice to myself, then how can I be nice to anyone else?

It’s a start, but I feel I need more than that before I can think of myself as a monk. I need to continue with the research. What kind of practices will raise my spiritual awareness and benefit my ka?

A vow of purity might be well suited to a Kemetic. I should not beat myself up, or anyone else, if a decent shower isn’t available. Some things are unavoidable and should be taken with good grace. It is simply a means of showing respect for the body I’m in and for those around me. It’s easy to slack off on my appearance if I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. It’s not about vanity, just a basic level of respect and preparedness. I will have to spend some time exploring what “purity” means to me before beginning that one.

A vow of good speech would also be very appropriate for a Kemetic. I could use (Saint) Fred Rogers as inspiration here. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. That would be a hard vow to keep. I’m extremely good at snarking once I get started, and my language while driving is not fit for polite company at all. If we cut out those negatives, then what? We have to get creative with our positives. Mr. Rogers was able to stare down congress with his good words. He had some powerful heka!

The next pitfall lies in making it too complicated. It’s supposed to simplify life. It’s not meant to set me up for failure. It’s not meant to be so large that it crowds out the important things. Keep it simple, but make it strong.

What is my goal exactly? What is the root of the problem that I am seeking? If I don’t know that, then how can I choose? “Heart of peace” they told me many years ago. I thought they surely must have had me confused with someone else.