25 October 2013

Seasonally in the moment.

I have been enjoying the last few weeks of feeling all the lovely things that I associate with fall. We have had nothing but gorgeous weather and the leaves have been accommodatingly beautiful. Fall in the northeast is probably one of the reasons I can't imagine living anywhere else in the world for any serious length of time. That and winter which happens to be my favorite season - I know, I'm weird.

Keeping life moving ahead though and still remaining in the moment is not easy to do or practice. Socially, we plan ahead - weeks and months ahead of time - to make sure we have room in the schedule. Planning ahead is one thing; going to the stores is nothing but irritating come Labor day when some (many) of the places around us start pulling their Halloween decor off to the side to make space for the winter holiday splashes is quite another.

It used to make me crazy. I was one of the people who muttered and swore when I saw it and might have vented about it public. Now... well I still scowl in September when the Christmas lights go up, but I generally care less about it. It's not the store's job to make sure I remain in the moment.

Years ago as a theatre major I had a professor who drilled into us the importance of fully experiencing each moment on the stage and off. All the things we take in as beings inform us as actors so living in fast forward doesn't make us capable on stage. While I no longer pursue stage dreams those lessons still have a lot of meaning for me daily as a thinking, magical creature.

One of the exercises was being in the moment washing dishes -- one of the hardest exercises and one I repeatedly come back to when I find myself drifting too far outside the day to day. Washing dishes is a simple exercise, one that makes it very easy for the mind to wander to the events of the day, or things still needing to be done, or the worries of what could have been. This is different from the mindful meditation of something like spinning - the rhythm helps with the trance state there and trancing is a different achievement from mindfulness.

While washing dishes, do everything mindfully. Fill the basins and let it be a sensory experience. Yes - it goes slowly when you're listening to the pitch of the water change as the basin fills, or feeling the change in temperature, or observing steam. Each plate, each fork tine, be aware of it while it is washed and rinsed and dried. I take in the smell of the soap and the gloves that I use, I feel my hands soften in the heat, and I am aware of my sliding and shifting into focus. My breath helps me fall into each layer of observation without my being overly analytical - the sensation happens and another takes its place. I am not there to document, just to exist as a vehicle of washing, drying, and being.

This isn't going to make me a zen master by any stretch, but by observing and being *there* without wandering to the to-do list of doom or having those thoughtless conversations in my head about who-knows-what, I find myself reinvesting in my edges. I don't do this every day (I should, I'm sure) but when I do, it is normally a 40 minute investment from start to finish. By the end, not only are the dishes cleaned but I am a bit more centered and observant.

Exercises like this help keep me invested in the season - each season - as the wheel spins on. Exercising this mindfulness helps keep me grounded when the to do list becomes a mile long and my patience runs a mile short. While I know that I have a holiday to-do list coming up on November 1st that I could get started on now, I prefer to wait and pace myself to enjoy the fullness of October right through Samhein night and a few days following. Lists are good because things can be written down and put away rather than tumbling through my mind constantly as a distraction.

Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you find moments to relish fully!

11 October 2013

The Heretics Heart

I come at my spirituality from the not entirely unique position of being someone raised marginally Catholic until my teens and then thrown into the church (always a bad plan - take one headstrong teen, add patriarchy and a huge helping of snark, and see what happens), considered becoming a nun in the 11th grade (oh so briefly but enough to startle myself), and then a few years after graduating found myself wandering the woods with some strangers and realized I was "home".

For all my wanderings and writings, I have never lost sight of the church. I was baptised and went through the adult religious orientation to be confirmed and receive the sacraments of communion and so I am - in so far as the church is concerned - an apostate and a heretic.

Even though the decision to become catholic was made as a teenager (and one can safely say that teenagers really have no idea what they're doing), I think it does a huge disservice to the idea of oath making so prevalent within heathen circles to say a vow made as a teenager has no weight. It does a disservice to my heathen spirituality to not own up to that oath, that promise, whatever has happened in the meantime.

At the same time heathens have rightly - if not indelicately - pointed out that coming from the monotheistic background is something that should be expunged from our beliefs and practices now. We carry a lot of baggage regardless of what side of the monotheistic branch we come. While I disagree that some of those applications are purely from my Catholic background (see the part where I mentioned having a personal relationship with deity), I can see the problem with its overall acceptance in heathen circles. Specifically looking at that example, a personal relationship with deity has been regularly abused to mean that someone knows more and has more authority than others because God/Gods told them so.

... because we haven't seen THAT abused historically, have we?

So what to do then? How does someone who believes very much in the legitimacy of all the Gods, and to a degree all the faiths, practice when her spiritual home is literally two factions who on the surface think the other faction is evil?

I have found that differentiating between ignorance and hate. Research helps. And in the end, there is a level of accepting that I am never going to fully be in one world or the other. It isn't an easy path and there is a lot of room for doubt, but there is also a better understanding of what makes me tick.

Anyway, this is something I would like to revisit and dig into more. In the meantime I am off to western Massachusetts for a long weekend spiritual retreat. I hope you are all enjoying this gorgeous fall!