Waking Lovely

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Pop: The Water Breaks, The Birth Begins, and Nothing Stays the Same

Sexuality, fertility, pregnancy, birth, breast-feeding, rearing young— these are all such apt experiences and analogies for spiritual awakening and growth.  When life takes hold, when awakening happens, it takes hold, roots deep and nothing is ever the same again.

I left my conservative Christian faith of 30 years in two very different ways.  The first way happened to me, whether I wanted it to happen or not.  The second way was a slow but conscious choice on my part.

It was much like pregnancy, which happens sometimes whether a woman is aware of it or not, and then there is the choice to carry the child, which is a slow and conscious decision involving time and growth and change.  Or perhaps it is more like birth.  The moment my water broke, everything changed.  That was instantaneous, a one-time event, a “now everything is different.”  The actual labor was much more of an experience, a gradually unfolding reality happening over time.

Without waxing on, I experienced a very painful culmination of events in which I felt like the very last bits of me were pulled apart and flew away on the wind.  As I lay in bed that night, eyes closed, a mass of dense pain weighing down my heart, I felt and heard a pop, like a cork being released on a bottle of wine.  I looked and saw myself floating, as in the way one would float in space, looking down at the outside of a bubble called Christianity.

My glance shifting right and left, I saw other bubbles, little spheres in which dwelt busy worlds.  One was called Mormonism.  One was Hinduism.  One was Buddhism.  And one was the sphere I had spent all of my known life in…up to the moment of the popping sound.

How many years I had spent within that bubble, searching, investigating, reading, researching, learning, swimming, and growing, and slowly feeling like what had once been a wide and spacious land had begun shrinking, shrinking, shrinking.  The vast seas of answers began to feel like puddles of “same-ol, same-ol.”  The wide sky of possibility gradually became more like a glass ceiling above which was anathema—cursed, warned against, not allowed. An eternity spent in Hell was always in the balance, and Hell was always enough of a threat to keep me in check.

It never occurred to me to leave my world.  It never occurred to me that there was any other world.

I had researched other religions, looked at them from outside of their bubbles, wondered that the people within couldn’t see that they were just living inside of a bubble, that their worldview wasn’t the end all, be all, that their way of doing and thinking wasn’t the only way.  Of course, my worldview trained me to not look at the other religions with any sort of respect, so it was hard for me to notice similarities or mutual truths or aspects in which these beliefs bettered and beautified the human spirit.  Rather, I felt sorry for the people in those bubbles since they were trapped within them, held hostage by the enemy who was keeping them from the Truth…which would be my faith, of course.

Since I lived in a bubble myself, I was blind to the fact that I, too, lived in a bubble.  That I, too, didn’t own the end all, be all.

Until the day I popped out.

I didn’t mean to pop out.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  I had no intention of ever popping out of what I didn’t know was anything to pop out of.  I thought I lived in the universe.  I thought the world I lived in was everything.  Until the depth of the heart-crushing pain reached down, seeped down, sank all the way into the rigid concrete foundation of “who I was” and that slab that had been laid there from my earliest cognitive awareness just couldn’t take the weight.

It cracked.  When it cracked, I was set free.  Except for that it felt a lot like being lost, too.  I had a whole life of being conditioned that all outside of my world were “lost.”  So it wasn’t a freedom I wanted.  Not yet.  In fact, I was mostly terrified.  Even though, as I noticed with surprise…it felt very peaceful out there.  I felt whole.  I felt like everything would be okay…

The next day I felt myself slowly dropping back down into the bubble that had been my world.  Only nothing was the same anymore.  No matter how delightful the scene, the moment, the experience, there was this awareness that it was all happening inside of a little bubble.  A little bubble of my own choosing.

The water popped.  The spiritual experience happened—unasked, unannounced, unplanned.  The birth had officially begun.  What had been gestating, forming, taking shape, was now going to be born.  The second part was now beginning, the part where my intelligence, my heart, my emotions, my behaviors began to slowly, carefully, often fearfully follow the lead of the spiritual experience.  And as much as birth is beautiful, it is also a bloody painful thing.

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The Waking Dream (Meditation, Journeying, and/or Visualizations that Come Alive)

One of my most preferred forms of spiritual work is through the Waking Dream.

I lean towards the belief that almost everyone has the ability to do this, only it usually must be taught, and most of us don’t have the time or inclination to learn. And some people tend more towards certain types of gifts than others, so as long as some people practice this ability (and others are practicing and growing in their own unique specialties), the community is well covered.

My ability to do journey work was first cultivated in an entirely accidental manner.  When I was a young woman attending Bible College in a denomination that had a charismatic/pentacostal bent, one of the things students were required to do was attend every single church service.  This list of services included a long (and boring!) weekly prayer meeting.

Somehow these people could sit for 2-3 hours each week, mostly in silence, and pray.  Don’t get me wrong.  This was a charismatic style church and it was open to the idea that supernatural spiritual gifts were for today.  So the Spirit would sometimes fall and then, on those rare days, it would get pretty exciting.  The air would literally get electric, rippling about the room, gifts of prophecy moving intensely, healings spontaneously occurring…

You would walk out from those meetings with your eyes wide, your heart pounding, your face grinning…

But that only happened once every 3-4 months or so.  Usually, the meetings meant just sitting in a hot sweaty room with a bunch of people who occasionally would send out a prayer for their cousin’s brother’s uncle who stubbed his toe last Thursday and then would go back to sitting, in the silence, waiting to see if this was the day the Spirit would decide to fall again.

It about killed me.

Because I’m not very good at sitting and doing nothing.

I felt annoyed that I was required to go sit in this room for 2-3 hours each week, even though I didn’t want to.  For some months, I just sat there and worked on my attitude.  Because I was grumpy.

I slowly learned to accept my lot in life and at that point, was able to start thinking proactively about the situation.  Mostly, I started trying to pray.  For the whole 2-3 hours, even if nothing exciting happened around me.  Surely it would be a good exercise for my spiritual muscles, right, using this opportunity to work to connect with God?

And that was when some interesting things began to quietly happen.

One day I decided I would pray for one of my closest friends.  He was sitting right across from me, so I held him in my mind and began to pray.  Only it was almost as if I began to dream, instead.  My eyes shut, I suddenly saw a power cord.  Instead of being plugged into the socket, it was lying on the ground.  It felt like this was a message for my friend, interpreting it that he was not currently connected with the source of power but could easily get back the connection.  It felt so clear!

I shared the vision and the message with him as soon as the prayer meeting ended that night…not with such great results.  He was a little offended, actually, which dampened my enthusiasm.  Did I see correctly?  Did I make it up?  It felt so real…

From there on out, I began to spend each prayer meeting trying to “see” behind the walls of my closed eyes.  I slowly but steadily discovered that there was this centered inner place that I could go to, and from there the waking dream always happened.

At the time, given my full immersion in my religious framework, I only sought to use the ability to receive prophetic words for others.  I was never quite sure if what I was doing was even okay.  No one else seemed to see visions—those who received prophetic words just got words from the Spirit and spoke them.  I felt confused.

Though we attended the same Bible College, my soon-to-be husband felt very threatened by the charismatic world, something I didn’t know until after we said our vows.  I found out a lot of things about him after we said those unbreakable now-you-have-her-completely-in-your-power-until-she-draws-her-last-breath vows, actually.  His problem with the charismatic world was that, “Anyone can say they have a word from God to share.  Only the leaders should be able to do that.  What happens in the church has to be controlled.”

So after we married, he ordered that we would no longer be attending or participating in charismatic churches or activities.  No more prophetic words (or, in my case, waking dreams) for us.  He specifically said that he felt my gifts had been used by “the enemy” (Satan) instead of by God and that I needed to stop using them.

There was a long season of winter.

When I began the process of waking up, my ability to see the visions was one of many things roused from its slumber.  During the worst of it, the days when my ex-husband was growing more and more psychotic and I was grappling with the personal cost of living with an abusive man for over a decade, wrestling with the very foundations of my previously unquestioned Christian faith, discovering that he had destroyed us financially, informed by my spiritual leaders that divorce was not an option and that my abusive and insane husband was my cross to bear, I would go into my bedroom daily and sit, in the dark, and find that centered quiet place.  From there, the waking dreams would come and I would receive messages of comfort, encouragement, and insight.  The images gave me just what I needed to know next.

It was later that I would learn there are names for what I was doing.  Shamanic journey work.  Waking dreams.  Visualization meditation.  Probably many more.  Is it walking in the spirit world?  Is it tapping into my inner consciousness?  I don’t really know.  I just do it.


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Goddess, Eucharist, and Dreams of a Woman-Honoring World

I was raised with a God who was a He.  Always a He.  Those who spoke for Him, they were also males.  No woman could stand in the pulpit.  It would be horrifying if one did.

As I began my slow and gradual exit from Christianity, I began attending a mainline liberal church.  Far removed from my conservative Evangelical heritage and their communion of grape juice and goldfish crackers on a once a month basis (after being warned not to take it if in sin, or you might die), I watched my new group of people revolve their service not around a male pastor’s sermon, but instead around the Eucharist, around a communion where everybody partook of the Body and Blood of the Divine.

I finally gathered up the courage, after a few weeks, and went to the front and bent my knees to receive the Eucharist with the group.  A woman was in charge of the service.  As she handed me the cup of wine and spoke words over my head, I felt a deep well of tears begging to come up from inside.  That a woman could hand me Divinity?

I never knew how much it hurt, the absence of my gender in leadership roles, until that moment when the kindly older woman looked at me, her eyes surrounded by wrinkles from the years, and with authority in her voice, invited me to partake of God.  I was thirty years old and this was the first time such a thing had ever happened to me.

It was a life-altering moment.

I struggle with the God who is a He.  Not with God.  The He-ness assumed of God.  I hear it all the time.  God…He…God…He…  No one blinks an eye in assuming God is male.  If and when I substitute the He for a She, it’s as if the whole world jumps in shock.

That reaction, the horror and the affront (that one might suggest God was a She?), makes my chest tighten, my stomach clench.  I feel angry.  Something has been stolen from us and we are so blind, we side with and defend the thief!

Not because I have a problem with men.  I love my sons.   I have loved men, enjoying the rich sense of masculinity (whatever that mysterious thing is) that they bring to a relationship.  The world would be a dimmer place without the male gender.  Just as it would be without females.  And that’s the point.  The “One True God who is Not a Woman” is a dimmer kind of God.

Slowly, I work my way through “The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth.”  So much of it is now underlined, the sidebars scribbled with my notes, musings and questions.  Sometimes I read for a little bit and then put the book down, lean my head back and close my eyes.  A world where Goddess was not only assumed as normative, but as healthy, good, lovely.  A world where a woman’s monthly blood was seen as sacred, special, magical.  A world where testosterone did not overtake and usurp, but was part-of, in partnership with, a companion to.

It hurts.

It’s the kind of world I wish I knew, a world I wish I could raise my daughters in.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that kind of world as my birth-water.  I can take steps to help the world I live in, right now, move in that direction, even if ever so slight.

And as I pursue my eclectic spiritual path, it is one of the things I know—the kind of knowing that comes from somewhere deep in the bones.  My spirituality will honor women.  My spirituality will not spend itself on a male-centric path where the very first myth/story is of women ruining the world, on a kind of community that only has room for women insofar as they help the men, on the sort of God who is only to be referred to as a He.

There is a fullness, a wholeness, a richness to be had and it cannot come through a world where one gender stands on top of the other, nor a spirituality that leaves out one entire half of humanity.


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the lizard that was a phoenix

Before, I was the temperature

of my environment—

cold limbs moving toward heat.

Any heat.

I sat.  I basked

while the world around me whirred and spun

and I dried up

slowly wrinkling, raisin skinned,

as my juices evaporated

until the day came that

I burst into flames

And became my own sun.

 


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At the Little Metaphysical Shop…

Thank you, Witch Vox, for posting this on Pagan Parenting.  

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Today, I went into the local metaphysical shop.  The owner and I chatted while my daughter shopped for her birthday present.  She has a thing for fairies and there are some great little fairy items in the store.  I picked up a pottery mug for my male partner’s Father’s Day present—the great dragon print on the side practically roared out his name.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have set foot in that establishment.  I remember when she came to town.  The pastors group in our area had a meeting to see if they could try and find a way to not allow her to set up shop.  A church on every corner, each pounding out their version of absolute truth from the pulpit, but a cute little shop that sells things that are spiritual from a pagan perspective?  Ack!

They couldn’t figure out a way to keep her out.  I remember their disgust.  I remember, even though I was thick in the camp at the time, wondering how they ever though they could.  Freedom of speech means everyone is free to have their own opinion, right, without respect to religion?  Didn’t they realize that if they could shut the metaphysical shop down, their favorite Christian bookstore wouldn’t be allowed either?

I pop in monthly and have made friends with the owner.  She is an amazing woman and has often had what I would have called, “words from God” for me.  In touch with the Spirit, very much so.  My son once, “I know that some people say she is bad and stuff, but she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  I don’t get why God wouldn’t like her.  It doesn’t make sense.”

Yeah.  Same here.

My son attends a fundamentalist church when he has his time with my ex, a theologically trained man who is still highly invested in the evangelical world.  My kids say, “Dad won’t come in that store.  He says it’s bad.”  I answer, “Yep.  Everyone has different opinions, don’t they?”   Then we hop out of the car and go into the store, happily perusing my friend’s ample selection of small crystals and stones, holding them in our hands until we find the ones that tingle and burn and say they are ours.

“What does obsidian do again, Mom?  Because that’s the one that is tickling me today. It’s snowflake obsidian.  Will you look it up?”  Out of every stone available, he has an ugly unpolished thing that he just can’t stop touching.  I quietly note that it’s cheap.  That’s always nice.

We open the books and read about obsidian.  It’s happened too many times for me to be surprised anymore.  Sure enough, snowflake obsidian fits this kid like a spidey-suit.  I read, “Calms and soothes…helps you to recognize and release ‘wrong thinking’ and stressful mental patterns, promotes inner centering…”  He has been having troubling dreams lately and is angry about his father’s mental illness.  He smiles softly and holds his stone tight.

Figuring out how to invite my children to come along on my spiritual journey is tricky when they learn such mixed messages.  At youth group they learn that only their dad’s church has the truth, that things outside of evangelicalism are dangerous, bad, evil, and will send you to Hell.

I try to pass on the idea that all beliefs can be respected, whether Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Hindu, Pagan, or otherwise.  This can be hard, sometimes, when I have personal bones to pick with the evangelical camp’s set of beliefs, particularly the ones that I deem destructive.  I work hard to be respectful.  We talk about these things as they come up.  They are just kids, trying things on, figuring things out.

One day my daughter announces she wants to be a missionary.  Not many days later, she announces that she doesn’t believe in Christianity.  I never know what they will try on next.  I try to respond peacefully and nonchalantly to all such announcements.  Sometimes I fail, but I work hard at this.  How can I talk about the importance of respecting all beliefs if I can’t respect their own?  We want our home to be a safe place for spiritual exploration.  The only way that can happen is if it is actually safe.

Today we leave with a fairy figuring and a set of fairy oracle cards.  My daughter has been looking at the fairy figurine for some time now.   We use a few different card sets sometimes at evening story time, each person picking a card for the next day and looking up the meaning in the books, and she loves that, so this will be her first very own personal set to enjoy.

Tarot and oracle cards, like the metaphysical shop, are things I was trained to see as hideous evil.  For thirty years, I believed that thoroughly.  It is good to step outside of the little box.  Big world out there.

“I don’t believe in God right now, Mom.’  My son speaks quietly as we walk into the house.  I put my hand on his shoulder.

“That’s okay, baby.  Some people do.  Some people don’t.  You’ll figure out for yourself what you feel is right.”  I speak casually, peacefully.

“I might decide to believe in Him.  Or Her.  Or It.  Whatever.  Right now, it just doesn’t make sense.  I need to see it to believe it.”  He speaks firmly.  I reach out and rub his hair.  Then we put the groceries on the counter and start putting them away.  He washes off the strawberries and looks for one without a bruise, eyes sparkling as he finds the one he was hoping for.  I open my bags and smile as I look at the dragon mug.  Treasures are everywhere.


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All in a Day’s Work: The Magic of Both/And

I met with a young woman who promised me she only used clean needles.  Going through withdrawals from heroin, she wept as she begged the Emergency Room doctor for something that would make everything feel better.  She wanted to quit using—she just didn’t want to experience the pain of quitting.  She expressed anger when we couldn’t produce a magic wand and make her addiction and it’s consequences go away.

In a world that emphasizes either/or, black/white, now/never, there is a place for learning that there is more to the moment than now-or-never.  I tried to help the young woman recognize that she was in the best place she could be, and did my work to get her the help she so desperately needed.

It was easy to see her “I want it NOW” mindset.  I see it often in my line of work.  I grew up with it in the bowels of Christian fundamentalism (The sinner’s prayer or go to Hell!).   As destructive as I know it can be, I inadvertently carry it around with me all too easily.

As a clinician, I want to be amazing…now.  As a parent, I want to be incredible…now.  As a partner, I want to get all this relationship stuff exactly perfect…now.  When I get into the now-or-never mindset, I can start beating myself up at the drop of a hat whenever I feel like I fail in any of those areas.

Instead of getting it all “right”, I fumble around, lost in the forest when I should be observing a tree, or stuck in the tree when I need to have a view of the forest, and only sometimes managing to be at the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

Or maybe that is more of that either/or, right/wrong thinking that trips me up so often.  Maybe there isn’t necessarily a right thing.  Maybe it’s okay to be stuck up a tree when a view of the forest is handy.  Maybe I can learn how to climb a little higher in that tree and get a good look at the top of the forest, in both at the same time.

Both/and.  Both/and.  Both/and.

I love the concept of both/and…but it can sure be hard to live.

The young woman wanted a magic wand.  Both/and can be that magic wand.  It is an instant anxiety-reducer when one is in the grip of  the stressful either/or.  Both/and gives me space to breathe, to think, to feel, to know that all will happen in its time, remembering process as well as product, journey as well as destination.


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Spiritual Growth Re-Defined: Finding Me, Finding God

“The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not.  It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening.  The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”  — Aldous Huxley

I like this.  Spiritual growth is the growing awareness of who I am, at my core.  My essence is wildly Divine.  My ego? Not so much.  My pain-body (as Eckart Tolle would call that thing that has a life of it’s own) is a disaster.  But there is a difference between those things and my essence.

In the evangelical Christianity of my childhood and young adult years, I was taught that my essence, my spirit, was dead.  I learned that the whole of humanity was like walking zombies.  You were born with a dead spirit.  I was born with a dead spirit.  Until the day that I asked Jesus to live in my heart, they explained, and then that was the day that my spirit came alive.

And so then it wasn’t so much a matter of coming to myself but a matter of trying to learn more about who Christ was.  Because it wasn’t about me—it was never supposed to be about me.  It was all supposed to be about Him.  And my spirit was now alive and all the work was done (since we can’t earn salvation) and that was that, so the business Huxley is talking about, the business of growing in awareness and understanding of my own essence, wasn’t on the table.  It wasn’t even under the table.  It wasn’t even in the room.

But for some of us, it somehow accidentally got in there.  Or we accidentally got out there, however it happened.  We started asking questions that our books, our theologians, our pastors, our Bible study group couldn’t answer.  We started noticing how those questions were hushed, shamed, or just ignored.  Sometimes we were even told that a good Christian would never ask such questions.  And sometimes, working to be good Christians ourselves, we told other question askers that very same thing…

There is a lot of energy that goes into making sure that people do not become aware that they are very powerful beings.  My suspicion is that this is because powerful beings will not be dependents.  And while I happened to experience this primarily within Evangelical Christianity, this interesting expenditure of energy focused on keeping people from their power is certainly not solely found there.  It’s found all through history in a variety of contexts, settings, governmental structures, religious paradigms, relationships…

I am walking in the awareness that coming into my own power (coming into my own God/dess-likeness) and learning to walk in that power (learning to live and move in love and compassion and truth and mercy, etc) is the spiritual journey I have been on for my whole life.  I just got really mixed up on the way.