Stumbling Blocks to Following Your Spiritual Path

10 09 2008

Introduction
In my last article I spoke on how to choose and began the discussion on following one’s chosen path. As we defined this earlier a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person. The most important part of such a path, is that the individual grows, learns, and expands and comes to a reconciliation with their understanding of the metaphysical realms and their understanding of Deity(s).

Stumbling Blocks to Spiritual Growth

As one researches, and gets in tune with their path they may find some stumbling blocks to their growth. Dictionary.com defines a stumbling block as: “an obstacle or hindrance to progress, belief, or understanding”. In other words, something that stops the movement on a particular path. These blocks are usually temporary unless an individual chooses to make them permanent.

These stumbling blocks may be in the form of lack of understanding, fear, abandonment, (by friends and family), rejection, (personal, or societal), pressure to be normal, or even unfortunately, pressure from people in the Business of Paganism, to keep people to themselves. Take this example:

Research

An individual feels a connection with Kali. A cursory search of the literature shows Kali as a terrible aspect of a goddess. In fact some say that she is actually a demon that eats people alive. Interestingly enough, in the definitive work, The Magic of Kali , translated by Michael Magee, it states that this interpretation of Kali comes from the suppression of a group called the Thuggies, who were such a problem for the British during the empire days. In fact, Kali or Mahaprakrti, is “ the destroyer of anxiety, giving boons, seated on a corpse, and gives all desires.”

Similarly, the Morrigan, of Irish repute, is sometimes considered a “Battle field Goddess” when instead she is actually a Goddess of prosperity and peace after war, and according to some other traditions, while she may indeed release the two ravens that are depicted with her to her followers, she morns and guides the dead of BOTH sides to the Summerlands.

As you can see, this could become a stumbling block to an individual who has neither the time or the inclination to do proper research.

Fear, Abandonment, and rejection

Fear, abandonment, rejection and pressure to be normal are related to our culture and society. In the first article in this series (Choosing and Following Your Own Path ) I stated that we are social creatures that desire acceptance. As the nature of a personal spiritual path is not necessarily the same as those around us, these pressures can be intense. It is only by being truly grounded and committed to our own path that one can stand up to these pressures. In my time as a Spiritual Coach one thing is constant. In the beginning parents, friends, relatives, and spouses can be frightened by, (what they perceive), as a rejection of their values and ideals. Sometimes these loved ones exhibit psychological projection.
According to The Language of Psychology, (a psychology dictionary): Psychological projection (or projection bias) can be defined as unconsciously assuming that others have the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions on any given subject as oneself. According to the theories of Sigmund Freud, it is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one “projects” one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings—basically parts of oneself—onto someone else (usually another person, but psychological projection onto animals and inanimate objects also occurs).
In this particular example, a loved one projects their own fears, abandonment issues, and rejection onto the individual who has chosen another belief or spiritual path than what they perceive is acceptable. In most of my clients, over time, these same loved ones come to realize that the person in question becomes more peaceful, happy, and balanced as they settle into their own spiritual path.

The Business of Spiritual Growth

As for those who are “in the business”, this is unfortunately what happens to spirituality, when it is replaced with business. In my personal opinion, jealousy, prosperity, (monetary), and mean spiritedness has no place in ANY business. As a facilitator of spiritual paths, I have no investment, or agenda, that I am following, and neither does ANY spiritual coach, facilitator, reader, shaman, or other worker in the field, who is truly following a Spiritual Path.

According to the Ethics Research Center, in 2005, 75% of those polled said they saw NO unethical behaviors in their workplaces. It is incumbent upon us as individuals to understand that ethical behavior is generally demonstrated in the workplace. Unethical behavior, when demonstrated is more easily spoken. Individuals who have been mis-treated by business people are more likely to share their stories than those who are treated well. Any competent business person will tell you that their employees are trained to be pleasant to customers. This is true in the business of Spiritual Growth as well.

First, investigate a potential spiritual guide with individuals who have actually worked with the individual, who can honestly evaluate if this person is worth perusing as a potential coach. Remember that not everyone is happy with the messages they receive from a spiritual worker. Your best choice is to speak to as many people as possible who have worked with that individual. One source of this type of information is testimonials from these actual clients.

Secondly, be cautious of individuals who are susceptible to gossip, or rumors, as these individuals tend to exacerbate and exaggerate issues that may or may not be present. After all, most individuals who facilitate spiritual paths that are not in the mainstream religions/spirituality, don’t fit the traditional mold of a leader.

Thirdly, listen to your own guides and intuition. These are your BEST guides for YOUR path.

Each individual that truly facilitates or teaches within this discipline knows that bringing together individuals of diverse backgrounds, and paths to bring about the individual’s highest spiritual enlightenment, doesn’t waste time bashing other workers. Many of my associates, follow Wiccan, Christian, Hindu, and First Peoples, (Native American), paths and we all work together, as there is room for all. After all, since a person’s path is INDIVIDUAL, a particular facilitator can not help everyone.

Financial Remuneration

Everyone has financial needs in this society. In tribal societies, the shaman, or spiritual worker is cared for by the community he or she serves. However, the individual in question is not doing this work as a JOB. Most of us, have been called to do this work, and are happy and honored to be able to facilitate other people’s paths. This isn’t to say, that a spiritual coach, teacher, or facilitator, should never accept support from their clients. It is all about intent. If the renumeration is paramount, then the work is secondary. I for one, and all those I work with, while we accept the funds that are offered,we don’t turn our backs on individuals who are guided to us, who do not have the financial wherewithal to “support” our work.

As one progresses in their particular path, they find various combinations of these and other stumbling blocks. Remember, it is YOUR choice what you follow.

Enjoy your Journey

Bright Blessing,

Alfred Willowhawk





On Choosing and following your own path

10 07 2008

Introduction

” What path is right for me?”, is a question that each seeker asks at least once in their lives. As children, most individuals follow the pathways of their parents. Even if a parent has no particular spiritual path, the child is influenced by their parent. This is almost genetic as, regardless of a path, the mother, to the child, is the goddess. As one grows older and begins to think for themselves, they begin to feel a desire to either embrace or reject their parental suggestions. This includes the chosen spiritual path of the individual.

In my own life, I have spent time in many “spiritual” and “religious” pathways. Some of these were even of my own choosing at the time, so I thought. However, as we are social creatures, even the most reclusive of us, we still seem to blunder about until we finally settle on what works well for us.

Over the years as I facilitate myself and others on reaching some kind of accommodation with their desires for spiritual connection, certain indications seem to be prevalent with the majority of individuals.

What is a Spiritual Path?

Dictionary.com defines the word spiritual, (among other things) as:

of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature: a spiritual approach to life.

We will not concern ourselves in this article with the definition of the soul, despite differing presuppositional ethics, but accept this as a good working definition to add to our word “path”.

Again, Dictionary.com defines a path as:

a route, course, or track along which something moves, or a course of action, conduct, or procedure.

So, combining both of these we have a spiritual path is one where an individual is taking a route whether physically or metaphysically that pertains to the non-physical being of a person.

This definition allows for many diverse methodologies including those that are primarily of the phsyical realms, and those that are primarily of the non-physical realms.

Pressures that act as filters

As we stated in the introduction, many factors influence our examination and determination of our path. Some of these factors include, environment, social network, (including parents, friends, and co-workers), ethnicity or blood line, and connectedness, or lack of it, to the world around us.

Each of these act as filters through which we see the world around us. Ask any couple in a relationship how many times they “read between the lines” of a statement just to see how effective filters are in our daily lives.

One example of filters in relationships is as follows:

One partner is cooking dinner and asks the other partner: “Would you please take out the overflowing trash please?” The partner who was asks responds: “What, why do you do that, I work all day and of course I will take it out. I simply forgot. What do you think I sit and read all day? I work too! If it is too much trouble for you to cook dinner tonight then we could have gone out!”

The first partner is taken aback by the vehemence of the response as all they really asked was for their partner to take out the trash! Not everything else! The second partner read between the lines, of the other through there own filters.

While this is an extreme example, you can see what filters do in this mundane world, imagine what it does for our persuit of a spiritual path. Each individuals path is unique. One may utilize the same aspects of the divine, yet call them by another name. Take the deific aspect of healing. In some pathways, the deity of healing is Bridghid, (and lets not forget that spellings and language for even the same deity show regional differences), others it is Kwan Yin, and others Quanyin. Whole nations have gone to war over the NAME of a particular deity rather than listening to the aspect and intent of the name.

In our early 21st century world we have many examples of what I call “filter-itis”. Christians fight Muslims, Jews fight Christians, Wiccan’s fight Heathens, on and on and on.

Therefore, the first step in choosing a path is to put away the expectations of the society you are in and focus on the intent of the pathway without these filters.

Society and Acceptance

There is a quote from John Donne (1572-1631), which is in his “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions”, Meditation XVII: that goes like this:

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

While Mr Donne was a christian, the sentiment expressed above is still true, (See, I practice what I preach). We are social creatures that desire the acceptance of those around us. The problem occurs when we desire our existing friends, colleagues,family, etc, to accept our new choice, just because we do!

Our brother or sister, who follows another path, can not always see that our path is equally valid. Sometimes this is because they are not following their true path either, however, it can also be that they truly feel that there path is RIGHT and yours is WRONG. While, based on the concept that all paths are one path, ( my own pre-suppositional ethic), this is not necessarily the filters that others see through.

Therefore, seeking acceptance by others, while part of our social conditioning, does not “play well” with some of those around us that follow a different path.

I have many Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, ( not what they call themselves-a topic for another article) , Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, eclectic, heathen friends, and family, the only thing that is important to me is that they respect my path as I respect theirs.

What to look for in a path

Since, each of us must live within our own filters, examine the path that calls you in as objective way as possible. If you are called to Quanyin, (the bodhavista form of the deity of Compassion and Love – androgenous) then accept that particular deity as one that speaks to you.

If you feel that the trees speak with you, and you can hear/feel this then follow this where it leads you and don’t automatically say, I am not ____ (insert apppropriate group here) and can not really be associated with trees.

If you feel that a particular set of rules (i.e. The Wiccan Rede) speaks to you and reverberates within, then follow it and find others that can support you.

What is important is that it fills some needs within yourself.

The next step is to investigate the teachings of the path and take on that which speaks to you.

Be true to yourself and don’t belittle, or agonize over the choices you have made.

Be confident in yourself. You are the one who must follow the path, so you are the only one that needs to “understand” the path.

Lastly, do not label yourself if it would put you in a box that you do not wish to be part. Boxes are created by large groups and if you are a “round peg” why fit into a “square hole”?

Enjoy the Journey! After all – ALL life is a Journey.. We don’t REALLY know what is TRUTH – (OOPS, another topic for another day)

Bright Blessings,

Alfred





Community, Fellowship or Tyranny

26 02 2008

Fighting on a global scale that is an imposition of one groups ideals. National groups that fight for their RIGHTS  over another. Non smokers outlawing hooka’s and taxing cigarrettes to “discourage” people from harming themselves and “saving” money for insurance companies.  The indication is that groups of individuals seem to band together to create an adversarial relationship with others – Is that all there is to a community? Webster’s dictionary defines community as   a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.  There is no part of this definition that states that one must or is entitled to impose their interests on another group or individuals. A cursory examination of the world news shows Serbs preventing citizens of Kosovo from declaring their own identity, the “War on Terrorism”  that the United States is fighting in Iraq, Kurdish separatists and Turkish troops vying for their rights, and on and on.  Domestically in the USA one group decides what is best for everyone  and seeks to impose that on everyone else. 

Lately I have seen small groups of people begin to band together in a grassroots way around a common purpose to SHARE ideas and talents with each other for mutual support and encouragement. A small group of people form a truly open Art Guild in one city that has been dominated by a RECOGNIZED art guild for many years that has become an exclusive club for the few, in this same community a group of wordsmiths are gathering momentum to share  with everyone and gather in a local  park.  A Fellowship is defined by Websters as a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience.  There is that word again COMMUNITY. So,  lets put both of these definitions together and we come up with a new definition for Fellowship. A group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society who come together to share  that common interest, activity, feeling, or experience. This begins to sound a little like the definition of a society, which according to Webster again is defined as as an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another. 

Here then is my proposition, there is no difference between community, fellowship and society as long as the society does not impose its will upon another – Tyranny.  A society or fellowship that honors this definition would be one that honors, respects and lives diversity. It would not matter what color, gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical ability one demonstrates as a restirction of their opportunity within the group. The Great Spirit, God, Goddess, Chaos, Nature, would be equally honored and respected by all members of the fellowship as this is what breathes life into any group. No one view, religion, spirituality or  language is inherrently better or more right than any other. In fact it is in our diversity as individuals that we grow stronger, more tolerant and more healthy.

As I am observing these things and participating in them here in the Mid West of the United States I am sure, intuitively, that there are other areas of the world that are experiencing a similar phenomenom. We will not be squashed, silenced or forced to surrender to the forces Tyranny.

Personkind (so as to not be gender specific), will survive, adapt, and continue to integrate in peaceful and joyful communion with each other one fellowship at a time. It is slow and unstoppable. One group can never impose their will for long on another. Only in fellowship and respect can we all abide well on the Mother’s Earth. Yes, I am a Pagan, so what, we all wish to live. I do not presume to know anything for another person, I am an observer, and a participant in the world. I choose FELLOWSHIP – what do you choose?





History of Talesin

4 12 2007

Birth

Talesin began life as boy named Gwion Bach, a servant to the crone Ceridwen. Ceridwen had a beautiful daughter and an ugly son named Mofran whose appearance no magic could cure, so she sought to give him the gift of wisdom as compensation. Using the cauldron of knowledge, Ceridwen cooked a potion granting wisdom which had to be cooked for a year and a day. A blind man named Mordra tended the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion Bach stirred the concoction.One day as Gwion Bach was stiring the cauldron it became so hot that three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s hand as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his hand in his mouth, and instantly gained great wisdom and knowledge. The first thought that occurred to him was that Ceridwen would be very angry at him for doing this. Scared, he ran away, but all too soon he heard her fury and the sound of her pursuit.

As Ceridwen chased Gwion, he turned himself into a rabbit. In return, she became a dog. He then became a salmon and jumped into a river, and in response, she then turned into an otter. He turned into a wren, and in response she became a hawk. Finally, he turned into a single grain of corn and hid in a silo. She became a hen and ate him, and became pregnant. She resolved to kill the child, knowing it was Gwion, but after he was born, he was so beautiful that she couldn’t go through with the deed. Instead, she threw him in the the sea inside a leather bag.

Discovery by Elphin

The baby was found by Elphin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, ‘Lord of Ceredigion’. Elphin was the only son of the king but he was not beautiful of face, nor a good warrior, or a good hunter. Each year at Samhain the King would go to the river Eyre and lift up a tfish trap. If there was a salmon in the trap then the year would be good. If there were many salmon then the year would be great for the whole land of Erye. When Elphin lifted the trap there were NO salmon and he was distraught. Thinking himself a total failure he turned to go and saw the leather bag with the child. He was very surprised at the whiteness of the boy’s brow, he exclaimed “Tal iesin”, meaning “radiant brow.” Taliesin replied, “Yes, that will do well enough.” While Elphin carried the baby back to his father in a basket, thinking of what his father would say when he learned that Elphin had caught a baby, but no salmon, the baby began to recite beautiful poetry, saying:

Fair Elphin, cease your lament!

Swearing profits no-one.

It is not evil to hope

Nor does any man see what supports him,

Not an empty treasure is the prayer of Cynllo,

Nor does the Goddess break her promise.

No catch in Gwyddno’s weir

Was ever as good as tonight’s.

“Fair Elphin, dry your cheeks!

Such sorrow does not become you,

Although you consider yourself cheated

Excessive sorrow gains nothing,

Nor will doubting the miracle.

Although I am small, I am skilful.

From the sea and the mountain,

From the river’s depth

She gives Her gifts to the blessed.

“Elphin of the generous spirit,

Cowardly is your purpose,

You must not grieve so heavily.

Better are good than evil omens.

though I am weak and small,

Spumed with Dylan’s wave,

I shall be better for you

Than three hundred shares of salmon.

“Elphin of noble generosity,

Do not sorrow at your catch.

Though I am weak on the floor of my basket,

There are wonders on my tongue.

“While I am watching over you,

no great need will overcome you.

Be mindful of Her gifts and none will overcome you.”

Amazed, Elphin asked how a baby could talk. Again Taliesin replied with poetry, recounting the transformation chase between himself and Ceridwen. Finishing, he said:

“Floating like a boat in its waters,

I was thrown into a dark bag,

and on an endless sea, I was set adrift.

Just as I was suffocating, I had a happy omen,

and brought to land to you.”

At the court of Maelgwn

A few years later, when Taliesin turned thirteen, Elphin was at the court of King Maelgwn, who demanded that Elphin praise him and his court. Elphin refused, claiming Taliesin was a better bard and that his wife a prettier woman than anyone the king had in his court. Although he was not present, Taliesin knew what was happening, because he was a bard of strong repute, and told Elphin’s wife. Maelgwn’s son Rhun went to Elphin’s house to seduce his wife and prove Elphin’s claims weren’t true. Rhun got her drunk, and when she passed out, Rhun tried to take off her wedding ring to prove her unfaithfulness. When the ring wouldn’t come off, he cut off her finger instead. When King Maelgwn attempted to show the finger to Elphin, he pointed out that his wife cut her fingernails more often than the owner of the finger. Moreover, the fingernails had bread dough under them, but his wife always had servants knead the dough. Moreover, his wife’s ring was loose on her finger, but this one was tight.

Maelgwn then demanded Taliesin come to his court to prove wrong the claim that Taliesin was a better bard than the ones in his court. Taliesin responded with a challenge in which both he and the king’s bards were to compose an epic in only twenty minutes. The royal bards failed at the task, but when it came time for Taliesin to recite his, he caused a massive wind to rattle the castle. Frightened, Maelgwn sent for Elphin. Taliein’s next song caused Elphin’s chains to detach. Maelgwn challenged the pair to a chariot race. Taliesin arrived the next day with an old, weak horse. As each of the king’s horses passed him at the very start of the race, Taliesin touched its rump with a twig of holly. When they had all passed, he dropped his hat to the ground, and the king’s chariots turned back right before crossing the finish line, stopping at the holly twigs Taliesin had laid there, and began to dance. Taliesin’s chariot strolled to the finish line and won the race.