Bickering, Community Service, and Self-Awareness

Part two in a series on supporting newcomers (and oldtimers) in your spiritual community. May, 2013. Part one is on my other site, at http://www.outlawbunny.com/2011/06/14/welcoming-newbies/

A woman phoned me to inquire about my classes. That’s not unusual; I teach oral tradition style, so feel I should be available by phone if someone wants to ask about my work.

She immediately said that very few pagans are hard-working in their spiritual efforts. This is not unusual, either; I hear that sentiment plenty.

After addressing her community critique, I tried to move the conversation past it, but she kept returning to the issue. She is not someone for whom I’d be a good teacher.

It is only human to bond with someone new by denigrating others. But it is a tendency I try to avoid: While it feeds the ego of the two people bonding (they get to feel superior to everyone else in the world), it keeps them from getting any actual work done. I mean the sort of work that happens in my classes: for example, self-examination, self-care, nurturing of ability to serve community, and building shamanic skills. No, I am not the teacher for her.

Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

The fool is about love. Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

When first working as a spiritual counselor in an occult shop, I received a pretty big shock. I’d been guiding folks in a private practice, mostly by referral. Suddenly I was thrown onto the front lines. Someone would come to the shop to consult with me because their daughter had just died. Or their 14-year-old son had gotten somebody pregnant. Or their husband beat them.

I went home and threw out my lofty new age abstractions. I threw out my Celtic cross spread, at least for most of the shop appointments. (For those of you who don’t know the spread, it makes for a complex lengthy session.) A lot of these shop sessions were only ten minutes long. After that my boss pressed the buzzer: Time’s up!

I sat in my home and started coming up with very fast spreads that would tune me into the heart of the client’s issue(s) and the essence of the advice they needed. I compiled a list of community resources: contact information for women’s shelters, teen crisis counseling, etc. I honed my inner skills more than ever so that I’d sense a client’s needs stat.

I was a working minister.

Decades later now. As then, not all my work is with trauma survivors. Often, I help people with more “everyday” concerns,” as well as train folks in shamanism, other esoteric skills, creativity, and marketing. But I’m definitely always on the frontlines: in community, with a busy schedule of counseling and teaching.

I mention being a shop employee and my ensuing work because: I’ve rarely gotten involved in pagan debates; I am too busy! Mind you, I discuss my work with other front-line ministers who can help me polish my shamanic skills, not burn out, and otherwise address my work. But I do not want to be criticized because of theoretical issues that have little basis and are thrown on the table by angry people with no understanding of what I am really up against on the ministerial front lines.

When we’re busy looking at our own faults, polishing our own skills, taking care of ourselves, and serving community, we don’t have time to unnecessarily criticize people.

Criticism is appropriate sometimes. Each of us needs to be held accountable by community. And healthy debate is joyfully welcomed in my classes because fresh perspectives rise.

The sort of criticism that I’d like to see less of is the endless picayune bickering that seems to produce little. Hmm, well, it produces swollen egos, draws the limelight, hurts sincere seekers whether newbie or oldtimer, and silences timid souls. Important sidebar: It hurts the newbies not only because they feel rejected but also because it encourages them to behave in kind.

Even as an oldtimer, I can feel hurt and invalidated, when people get so riled up and so angry and bitter; and behind their words is the statement, “I am better than you, I am better than you, I am better than you.” And behind that statement is their primary one: “Go climb in a hole so that your sincere efforts don’t shame me any longer.” This can be devastating to newbies who are ardent seekers with hearts wide open!

Those kind of arguments and the comments of that person who phoned me are also tantamount to saying about the person being criticized, “You are the ‘other.’ You are ‘one of them,’ so you are not as worthy of love and respect. I do not have to treat you with caring and decency because you do not have the same vulnerabilities as me.”

Now, if this post ends now, my mental meandering amounts to me just being another superior jerk. But I am going somewhere productive (I hope):

It felt important to paint a recognizable picture of high-handed community strife and its outcome for three reasons:

1) If you avoid insane community debate, you still might be uber-critical of other pagans (or someone else) within the confines of your own mind. When I find myself doing that, it’s time for a good look at myself. Internal criticism (perhaps a running commentary on the superiority of others, lol) has the same impact on me as it would were I voicing it online. Same impact, dude! I might be avoiding looking at my own errors or avoiding responsibility, to either community or self.

Feeling superior is more comfortable than looking at my own faults. And superiority can, oddly enough, make me feel safer than self-care. And superiority is safer than getting out into the world to try to make a difference. You avoid the endless, high-handed criticism of I-know-better-than-everyone-else idlers who are likely to pursue you once you try to make a diff in the world.

2) Angry superiority is what many newcomers first see. Or we might meet newbies with a subtle version of the same thing. I want to make a practice of examining myself for this. For example, is my ego playing out in a more subtle manner? Goddess, when someone inquires about my work, keep me humble, welcoming, self-aware, and focused on love and service. Goddess, at all times, keep me humble, welcoming, self-aware, and focused on love and service.

3) If you are afraid of getting into the pagan community because of what you see, now you know i see it too. You are not alone. Please realize there are people who do not bicker. We aren’t as vocal because we’re busy living. If you ask the Universe to guide and inspire you, you will find us.

And, with us, you can work and dance and celebrate the Gods. Because we are pagan to the bone. Heathens, celebrating the stars, the earth, the seasons, ourselves, and each other.

You will find us. We are here. I am like you.

No Need to Fit In!

People trying to decide if I’m the right guide for them often say, “I’m eclectic, so I don’t know if I’ll fit into what you teach.”

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Detail. Faerie Realm, silk painting, Francesca De Grandis

Oh dear! It is terrible that the prevalence of bad teachers requires that issue to even come up.

Most of my students are eclectic. I am, too. Those who look for the core of reality, the heart of magic, and the essence of mysticism do not want to be boxed in by labels (Wicca, hedge witch, Druid, Taoist, Christian), and are not looking for ego-feeding titles. They are drawn to teachers who, whatever their path, support students to find their own idea—and experience—of the core of reality, heart of magic, and essence of mysticism. I hope I’m one such teacher.image

During our lessons, we transcend labels and titles, to focus on finding our individual beliefs, personal myths, and shamanic gifts. If folks already have them, I help them polish their personal approach, even if they’re already master level.

Magic, Spirit, and life cannot be standardized.

I do tend to call my classes “Wicca” or “Faerie.” I’m of the generation in which “Wicca” and “Faerie” referred to (among other things) individualized earth-spirituality. Unfortunately, nowadays, those terms are often used rigidly, to denote a set liturgy and belief system, which invalidates many beautiful Gaia lovers.

You’re not alone if you’ve faced invalidation. When first teaching (eek, that was in the eighties!), I thought I knew the one true way. Then I realized my students were my peers and fellow travelers. Guess what? After explaining I wld no longer support a hierarchy, imageI lost many of my students, they migrated to a fundie tradition of fey magic. I was devastated, stunned that people I loved—many of these were my beloved initiates—could not make that move with me, that attempt at being egoless. It was, and still is, painful to see ego takes precedence over ethics, effective magic, fey sensibilities, and beauty. But I mention my experience because it might be validating for folks who went through something similar. Ok, enough negative stuff. To quote “Buffy, “not for me the furrowed brow.”

Onto the rest of my beautiful day—my Gods’ embrace, a flow of joy, magic, and right livelihood, a flow carrying me toward even more joy, magic, and right livelihood. I hope this post is validating and/or, if you’re considering me as a guide, informative.

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Want shamanic counseling? I can guide by phone. Book an appointment online. http://www.outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/

Two Prayers for the Sacred Marketplace

This is a follow up to last week’s blog.

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I wrote this prayer to help me be the best possible merchant of sacred goods and services. I never say it unless I follow it with “Merchant Prayer to Oxala,” which is below. Context for both prayers are in last week’s blog. But first, the prayer above, in case you cannot see it in its graphic:

Hermes, Mercury, Exu, open the road and gate to my profession today, that I may serve. Open the road and gate within my heart today, that I may serve. Open the road and gate, today, for the person whose needs and goals are well met by my particular shamanic skill set. Guide my day in the divine marketplace, today. Help me be a sacred merchant, today. Help me try and try and try, today, for to be a professional shaman who is well-serving community means to ever be resurrected, both in my private life and daily in my commitment to the market place.

I, personally, almost never pray to Exu without prayer to Oxala. So I wrote an Oxala prayer to say after my Exu merchant prayer. You might recognize phrases and concepts from my past writing, because I’m committed to refining, building on, and expanding on my spirituality. The version of the prayer in the graphic is a briefer version than the text below it:
OXlaPryr1

Merchant Prayer to Oxala

Oxala, please,
help me surrender to you.
Help me surrender to you.
Help me surrender to you.

Oxala, please,
help me know in my cells, each moment, that surrender to you is power and peace.
Help me know in my cells, each moment, that surrender to you is power and peace.
Help me know in my cells, each moment, that surrender to you is power and peace.

Please, clear the roads of obstructions.
Clear the roads of enemies.
Clear the roads.

Please, smooth the roads,
making my passage easy to travel.

Please, help me know in my cells, each moment, that surrendering to you allows me your smooth easy roads along which I can travel in power, peace, and success.

Oxala, you made all creation. Please help me know in my cells, each moment, that, surrendering to you, your power of creation is mine.

Grant me the wisdom that, no matter what I ask you for, I accept the moment I am in—the moment you actually send me—and know it, in my cells, as ideal.

Grant me peace.

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Here’s a description of my shamanic counseling sessions, and you can schedule online: http://www.outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/

Professional Shaman. World Tree Resurrection

Eagle with Iris in Great Darkness, OutlawBunny.

Eagle with Iris in Great Darkness, OutlawBunny.

This post is roughly-written, but felt important to post stat, for my personal growth. Spent the morning pouring my heart out in this, I hope you read it.

My commitment to being a professional shaman must be made daily.

Today is Feb 5. The World Tree resurrects today. It is a day to plant.

Ancient MetsoaAmerican merchants traded in sacred good, items of great mystic worth.

From an anthropological view, if you don’t charge for it, it ain’t shamanism. (I support all definitions of shamanism. I mention the anthropological one contextually.)

I tell myself, “Come into the market place, again, today. Do not be stopped by those with dubious claims to power, who brag about alliance with death.”

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

I tell myself, “Yes, they hurt my feelings and make it hard for people to understand my work enough to know it might really help them. Yes, this immense pain makes my tears appropriate. Cry, do cry. But remember that anyone wrongly claiming they belong to a fierce god of war or death or the underworld is a deluded pawn of the evil bastardization of such a god. They don’t just cause harm, they too suffer. (I’m not referring to an innocently mistaken choice of a patron deity, but an arrogant choice.)

I tell myself, “They’re children playing at grown up, teenagers claiming selves in loud clothes. Like foolish adolescents, they careen in magic cars, injuring or killing themselves and others. But there is nothing I can do, until they know they need help. Move on. Some day, they’ll know better. Then they’ll be attacked and have to learn to cleave to honest paths despite. Ultimately, we are all in this together.”

I leave behind my fantasy of telling them, “Ancient MesoaAmerican football was sacred, the losing team was beheaded, you are not up to that game.” They would not understand. Which makes me utterly frustrated. I leave behind my frustration.

I admit and honor my powerlessness. I focus on me, tell myself, “Honor your healing magic by selling it. Honor your ability as a shamanic guide by selling it. Make beauty with your magic and sell it. Become part of the market.”

Today, I remind myself today, “Every Mayan king was a shaman. Yes, admit in your gut that you’re attacked by those trapped in the modern american division of sacred and profane, market and magic. Admit in your gut how badly they treat you and how hard they make it for you. Then take time for self-compassion. Then stop thinking about finding self, heck, stop trying to find self. Go sell self. Only in service do we find self and fully heal self.

People attack me instead of facing that they’re not willing to get into the game of life and marketplace. My preoccupation with them is my way of avoiding life and marketplace. :-)What a self-perpetuating cycle of avoidance! So I focus on my own failings and on being of service. I focus on today!

EagleWithIrisDetailI pray, “Hermes, Mercury, Exu, open the road and gate to my profession today, that I may serve.Open the road and gate within my heart today, that I may serve. Open the road and gate, today, for the person whose needs and goals are well met by my particular shamanic skill set. Guide my day in the divine marketplace, today. Help me be a sacred merchant, today. Help me try and try and try, today, for to be a professional shaman who is well-serving community means to ever be resurrected, both in my private life and daily in my commitment to the market place.” (I support all definitions of shamanism. This paragraph is specific to a moment in time.)

I post this today, because my heart needs to touch someone who will understand my pain, my commitment, my happiness in my work, and in hopes the post will help them. Please tell me if you understand and/or if this post helps.

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Here’s a description of my shamanic counseling sessions. And you can schedule online. http://www.outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/

Being Seen in Truth

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

Recently, a new student told me, “I expected to be blown away, but not in the very first class. Wow!” That felt great, but frustrating, because my work’s exceptional quality is hard to believe, so when I describe the nature of my classes and counseling, and the benefits of working with me, it sounds like promotional hype or an ego party.

(I should represent my work as mediocre, more people might study with me, LOL!)

It is crazy-making to be extraordinarily gifted and not get to use that as much as I could to serve folks, bc some fool told them my class descriptions are hype. Ok. End of vent. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

The solution: I trust the Universe is divinely, correctly aligned; I keep telling the truth re who I am and what I do; and I hold foremost in my thoughts the immense blessing I am given—that some folks fully see me, the same way I see them; as I reflect their full beauty and power back to them when we work together, they are my fellow seekers, awesome camaraderie and support in my spiritual growth.
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I’m so excited to offer Archetype Coaching in a one-hour appointment, instead of only as part of something else—such as a class—which is how I have done it til now! http://stardrenched.com/archetype-coaching/

Solstice Snow-Kitty

The kitten almost knocked over huge houseplants trying to get a good view out the window. I figure that was pretty clear guidance from the Universe to take a break from shipping books and go outside with my kitten into the snow.

Our venture probably lasted only ten minutes, and was just us hanging out. But I felt joy and wonder.

Cosmic Cat Nap, Francesca De Grandis

I feel blessed today that I find immense joy in small things, despite daily challenges that would’ve killed many people in both spirit and body. I also feel the hope that my classes impart the same sense of miracle in the wee gifts amidst enormous difficulties. That is not necessarily spelled out in my curriculum descriptions, but it is innate in an authentic spiritual teaching and methodology: life brings challenges, and with them great sorrow; life also brings us great joy if we open to it despite our struggles.

There are, of course, times when trauma or other challenges will overwhelm. Then my job during class or a counseling session is not to be a Pollyanna who callously insists, “If you were really spiritual, you would be cheerful anyway!” The recent deaths of Connecticut children has us deeply grieving. At such times, I share coping and grieving tools, ways to heal, and methods to overcome problems.

We cannot always have the joy the World Tree offers us, and must face inevitable pain. My hope, in my heart today, is that I help my students and clients do that and also help them find as much joy as possible, when it is possible. I am an ecstatic, in love with the world tree, and I believe, deep in the cells of my heart, that the world tree is in love with each of us, so It wants to celebrate existence with us.

On solstice day, I smile thinking about my little faerie kitten looking up at the snow, studying it thoughtfully, and I wish you happy solstice.

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I experience profound love from—and connectivity with—the Divine. Do you want spiritual reading that reflects accessible Divine love? How about that honors your idea of Divinity (e.g., God, Goddess, God within, World Tree, Universe)? Read Sprinkling Faerie Dust on Breakfast. Available here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/114317006/sprinkling-faerie-dust-on-breakfast