Gallipot

The vessel where I store myself is permeable;
I want to be able to get out, should the need arise.  Mostly, though,
I am content within earthenware walls,
With lid closed tightly above me, so I don’t leak out onto the floor.

I’ll percolate in here, or maybe ripen.
The air is moist; I breathe, and my skin is still and cool.
But under there all manner of things writhe and twist, weave and twine,
And ply their limbs along my bones.

This is not a process fit for public consumption.

When all mystics speak mystic (and they do),
It doesn’t matter if they hear you scream.  They’ve been down
This road before.  Even so, shifting on an elemental level
Is not the prettiest thing they’ve seen.

And for those who have not, or can not, or will not (it doesn’t matter which),
Logic overtakes the lack of reason needed
To fold oneself in tiny squares, to remove the parts that need
Analysis, and study them.

It is an exceedingly tight fit in this jar.

Lack of reason it is, but just the same there are reasons for this;
To become, I must inhabit the parts I most dislike.
I must know them inside-out, and so I turn myself that way.
I curl into a ball and wall myself up to be cut loose.

Within the mystibabble is something worth remembering:
That this is chosen, that we break ourselves to fix ourselves,
That our heads split open to be put back, over and over again,
That transformation is a violent, gory process.

And in the end, we’re something more.

Advertisements

My Doorways, My Self

I didn’t expect to be addressed by the Lord of Obstacles, and yet I can’t say I was wholly surprised by it, either.

Here’s how it went: my son became interested in Ganesha when we went to an exhibit of sacred art at the Smithsonian, and so we purchased a figurine for him, along with a book containing some of his myths.  When his interest waned, he gave both the figurine and the book to me, and I made a place for Ganesha to reside near representations of my other gods…and aside from an occasional offering or prayer, that was it.

And then, I had the dream, and I changed.  And, Ganesha was in my life in a more active way.  And, while it made sense, I was still surprised because I am Kemetic, and I’d expected that Wepwawet would help me through any doorways I encountered, or past any liminal obstacles I faced.  Silly human.

The gods move as they will, after all.

One of the things I’ve come to realize about the doorways I encounter is that I’ve built most of them myself.  I’m not sure if I put them up to wall myself away from things I’d rather not know, or to stop myself from getting stuck, or why exactly they are there in the first place, but I know I placed them in my way and somehow made them incredibly difficult to open.  I know that when Ganesha opens a door so I can pass through, he’s really helping me unlock a piece of myself, and then I start to wonder about the connections between liminal work, and doorways, and monster work.

There are all these pieces of myself in various places, and I’m continually having to get to them, collect them, categorize them, and then deal with them, just as I do with my monsters.  Hell, some of my doorways have monsters behind them!  And yet, I don’t invoke Ganesha to help me deal with my monsters – his job is to help me through the doorway, or past the obstacle, and then whatever I find is mine to handle.  Judging from what I’ve read/heard, this isn’t uncommon, but I’d really love to hear from others about similar or dissimilar experiences.

My doorways, like my monsters, are yet another part of the puzzle that makes up my self.  I guess it’s too bad that this realization doesn’t really make things easier, isn’t it?

Yarling

When need outstrips all other things,
And place and time become irrelevant,
It is the yarling that can bring us past those things that
anchor us in place, and set us
Free.

It isn’t an unknown thing; the weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth.
It can come from a primal depth, from the bottom of the belly of the beast within us,
Or, it can spring upon us, all unknowing, until our jaws ache with the effort of keeping it locked in.
It is transcendent, the outpouring of sound and fury signifying
Everything.

Let it out.

Let it out.

Let it out, among the trees, amidst the clouds and stars and running water.
Let it out, among the concrete and the glass and steel.
Let it out, for within you dwells a spark to set the world ablaze, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Let it out, in the Name of Yourself.

It is the yarling;
Hearken to it.

Xenomorph

Shift.
my body’s bending in the latest fashion
to this task i cannot name.
when done, i will no longer be myself,
or at least not one i recognize.
time gets funny in a cell, and with the Shift
i’m breaking out.

Wend.
among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
he may have said it best, but least is motion yielding.
sometimes nonsense is the better kind of sense,
especially when traveling the spaces in-between.
i am surprised at what i’ve done, and when i Wend
new doorways open.

Blur.
don’t blink or you’ll have missed me;
amid the strands i’m flying low and far, tools in mind.
the sense is capturing the rhythm without undoing, but
knowing’s a forever changing thing.
when breaking builds unending walls, to turn to Blur
takes mortar from the stones.

Inknowing in these spaces is the key,
And wilding deep-set changes set you free.

Woofits

I’ve made occasional reference to the fact that I have MDD*, and spoken about how it impacts my ability to care for myself.  I’ve also told you about self-care being an essential part of Dark Flame work…and so I thought I’d do something different this time around.  Instead of dealing with abstracts, I’m going to take you through a recent day of mine and give you an idea of how my woofits manifest.

Last Wednesday, I woke up not wanting to go to therapy.  There’s nothing really unusual about that, except for the fact that I’m not used to feeling it – my previous therapist, whom I stopped seeing in September, lasted almost five years, and for some reason I enjoyed going to see her even though I didn’t really like the work we were doing.  Anyway, I’ve got a new therapist and we’re working on what I like to call my last monster – my relationship with food – and I absolutely hate it.  With a capital H, HATE it.

So, I woke up hating things, went downstairs and fed cats, and ate breakfast.  Since my last monster has to do with food, and emotional eating for self-medication purposes, I obsess over what I eat and meals are a struggle.  I fought with myself briefly, then ate a lovely bowl of granola with unsweetened almond milk (tastes good and is filling, thereby leading me away from hunger.)  Of course, self-medication has little to do with hunger.

I worked all morning, going back and forth about whether I was going to go to therapy or call out with an excuse, but I ended up going.  On the way, I ran through a drive-through and got fast food french fries, which is my classic I need comfort; must eat the things food.  I was in a state that (I believed) could only be assuaged by salt and grease…and it was mighty tasty, despite the pangs of guilt and the shoulding all over myself that occurred later.  In the grand scheme of things, driving through occasionally isn’t going to kill me, but it plays right into my endless cycle of “I don’t like myself-I’m too fat-I’ll eat to feel better-YUM-oh gods, I ate food shame shame SHAME-rinse-repeat” thing I’ve got going on.

I went into therapy and lambasted new therapist for giving me eating tips when I know what I should be doing, but I allow the emotional need for comfort to overcome, and what I need is something I can do when the urge becomes overwhelming and and AND…and she listened.  New therapist listened, and asked questions, and then pointed out that my need to eat for comfort is (most likely) related to series of emotional things I’m carrying around in addition to a lifelong habit of “sneak” eating that I’m no longer active enough to do without physical consequences.

She then reminded me that eating for comfort is probably preferable to drinking for comfort, and I felt a little better, but my head was filled with self-loathing and guilt and I argued with myself all the way back home.  I didn’t go through another drive-through, nor did I buy and eat ALL THE POTATO CHIPS but instead sat with the fact that I am not taking care of myself in the way I think I should.

(There it goes again – shoulding all over myself.)

The rest of the week went without outward manifestation of my feelings about myself.  Internally, though, I was as much a wreck as I usually am.  This is actually where Baby Steps helps – even when I’m in super meltdown mode I can (usually) find something small to do for myself.  I did manage to bathe/shower when I needed to, and I did manage to get dressed, and I did brush my teeth every dayand all of these things, small though they are, count as self-care and nurture of my Dark Flame, so the week wasn’t totally lost.  Still, going back to Baby Steps time after time feels like a letdown; funnily enough, though, I encourage others to count their Baby Steps as real things (they are, after all!) but I don’t always remember to pat myself on the back for putting shoes on.

I consider myself a pretty good FlameKeeper as things go (although my guru might disagree!) but after three (four?) years as a practitioner I still have trouble remembering that the small things I do count as action, and that self-care is religious work, and that work on myself improves things around me…but it makes sense.  If we are all Divine, work on one of us is work on the Divine and, therefore, work on us all.  The things I do for myself help to strengthen community, and strengthening community improves the Universe, and so it goes.  Perhaps I need a Post-It to remind me.

We are all Divine, and as we grow and change the Universe grows and changes.  As we work on ourselves, we work on everything around us; as we know ourselves, we gain knowledge about our connections to others.  All parts of us, and of others, are parts of the Divine – our joys and sorrows, our selflessness and selfishness, our ins and outs.  This means our woofits are Divine as well and, as such, it behooves us to work with them.

Vainglory

I don’t know everything and I’m no longer shy about admitting it.

In my mind, admitting ignorance on a topic is a virtue because it allows clarity in discussion, and also means there’s an opportunity to learn something new.  From experience, though, I can tell you that not everyone agrees with me.  In fact, the self-professed expert without sourcing to back it up is actually quite common, even in pagan circles.

As my intro line indicates, I wasn’t always willing to admit my ignorance.  I’ve played the “I’ve heard of that” game once or twice, hoping that someone else would explain something without my having to come clean.  I’ve finagled my way through discussions of esoteric topics without (I hope!) revealing my shortcomings, and even held my own in discussions on topics where I had absolutely no clue what I was really discussing.  I could make a ton of excuses for this behavior, none of which would come close to the admission that I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something…or I could just say it:

I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something.

I don’t know if this same fear plagues others, but I tend to think it might – fear is a human condition, after all, and it is likely that one human’s fear might be the same as another human’s fear.  I know it was difficult for me to admit that I was afraid, and that I somehow thought revealing my own ignorance meant that no one would trust me on any topic at all…

(…and see how the intricacies of my brain work?  It’s exhausting sometimes.)

Part of my own problem with ignorance is knowing a ton of random things; I do really well at Trivial Pursuit, for example, because my brain is crammed with information I don’t use on a daily basis.  This also means that, in routine conversation, I’m likely to know something about any number of topics and while my knowledge isn’t exhaustive it often contains fairly obscure facts.  For example, did you know that trees should be planted so the root flare shows above the ground and shouldn’t be mulched with wood chips?  Did you know that monotremes are mammals that lay eggs, thereby making “all mammals give birth live” incorrect?  Or, how about the fact that coffee is tied to the Age of Enlightenment?

See?  Random knowledge.  I collect it like some people collect stamps, and I’ll trot it out from time to time as occasion allows…which also doesn’t help with the whole “I don’t know X” admission.  But, I’ve learned over the past ten years or so that it is better to admit when I don’t know something because (1) the person I’m speaking with can then tailor the conversation, and (2) I can learn new things to be dropped into other conversations.  It’s a win-win!

One thing I’ve noticed is that people who don’t want to admit ignorance will go to lengths to hide it.  They’ll chime in on topics they don’t understand, hoping to avoid being questioned directly by participating peripherally.  They’ll have an example for every situation that comes up, and the examples will have an element (direct or implied) of one-upmanship*.  They’ll talk a lot about what they know and how they apply it…in abstract.  They won’t give sources, and they’ll vociferously argue with anyone who asks for one.  And then…some of them will ask a question on a topic they don’t understand but frame it in such a way to imply that they’re just checking to see if others know the answer.

Quite frankly, behaving in this fashion is exhausting.  I know – I used to do it and sometimes even now I can feel myself pulled in the direction of “pretend to know, and you’ll eventually figure it out”.  I can usually snap myself out of the mindset with concentration, but it isn’t easy.  I didn’t really get good at it until I started having to teach other adults and realized that no one was going to smack me if I told them I didn’t know something, and that I’d have to get back to them.  Figuring out that the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t know something was a revelation.

On my religious path, self-knowledge is key, and part of knowing myself is recognizing that it is okay not to know.  There is a ton of knowledge out there, and no matter how I try I will never know everything.  It’s one of the things that makes me human and, as I’ve said on many other occasions, being human is not the end of the world.  The fact that I know some things that others might not and they know things I might not makes life all the more interesting, and the sharing of knowledge between humans builds community.  That give-and-take upholds ma’at, and strengthens the bonds we have with one another.

Isn’t that something worth doing?

*Note: some people do have a lot of experiences to share, and the fact that they share them does not mean that they’re trying to one-up someone else.

Utible

(Today’s title is brought to you from the Compendium of Lost Words at The Phrontistery.  I keep mentioning this site…because it is fascinating!  And, very utible.)

On my religious path, I am required to act.

This isn’t a new thing; if you’re a regular reader, you know I mention action from time-to-time and you’re probably sick of reading about it.  If you’re not a regular reader, before you lies the potential to become as sick of reading about it as anyone else and all you have to do is click the Follow button.

(Couldn’t resist some minor shilling there.  Sorry.)

I am a FlameKeeper, and I am a Kemetic, and both paths require that their adherents act rather than do nothing.  Combining them means I pretty much have no choice about it – I will not sit still and watch things happen around me.  It’s not in my nature, anyway, so it is just as well that I am on a religious path that suits my sensibilities on the topic.

In addition, all of my actions need to be directed toward a specific goal: upholding ma’at.  Now, contrary to popular belief, ma’at is not about what is good or what is moral, per seMa’at is about Divine Order, about connections between beings, about continuing creation and growth, and about justice.  There isn’t really one word in modern English to pinpoint the definition of ma’at – it is many things in one thing, and it is the keystone in the arch of Kemetic religion.

FlameKeeping has a concept similar to ma’at; as we recognize that everyone and everything are Divine, we recognize the connections between all things, and that the action of one part will impact the whole even if that impact is not immediately knowable.  It therefore makes sense to keep those connections in mind when we do things and to act in ways that promote growth and improvement rather than stagnation or devolution.

I know, I know.  You’ve read all of this before.  It’s hardly a unique viewpoint, but I believe that the results, and consequences, of what we do are far reaching – as Tolkien wrote, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”  In fact, I’d go so far as to modify the quote – the smallest person changes the course of the future every day.  But, when we think about action to uphold ma’at, and action to encourage the strengthening of the connections between us, we also need to remember that these things are done through utible action.

How is utible action differentiated?  It’s simple, actually – utible actions are useful actions.  Here’s an example: I went down to my parents’ house to help watch my niece and nephews a few weeks ago.  While there, I played Mario Kart with my niece.  Now, I own Mario Kart (for multiple systems) and I can play it any time I want, but playing it with my niece at that particular moment not only gave my father a well-deserved break, but it strengthened the bond between my niece and me.  So, playing Mario Kart on my own is fun, but playing it with my niece was utible and in ma’at.

Here’s another example – I teach swimming lessons at our local YMCA in the evenings and on Saturday mornings.  I also swim laps for my own enjoyment and for exercise.  Now, it is easy to see how teaching swimming lessons is utible, and upholds ma’at, but what about swimming laps?  Well, swimming laps is not only self-care, but it strengthens my bonds with others in the lap swimming community because we’re doing the same thing.  In addition,  it improves my health which also strengthens my bonds with my family and friends (community) because I am more able to spend time with them if my health isn’t wonky.  In this example, both actions are utible, and both uphold ma’at.

The secret to utible action is that there isn’t a secret, really.  We’re each able to tell if what we do is useful, and it is in those useful things that we change the course of the Universe.