Begin to Ground

I’m a big believer in the power of google. However, the other day I searched in google for some SIMPLE grounding exercises and got very complicated, long winded answers that didn’t really fit my needs. After clicking through links on three pages of google I realized that if I wanted something that was going to suit my specifications, I’d have to write it.

When I started in on the path towards things spiritual in 1994, the very first guide book I read was Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and I cannot recommend it enough. It is densely written, but has great information on visualization, grounding, and many other things. My early grounding techniques came from an amalgam of books by Starhawk, Scott Cunningham, Silver Ravenwolf, Patricia Telesco, and a few others. When I started on this path, the internet was not the helpful font of information it is today, so instead I read everything I could find.

I mention this only because I’ve read a lot over the years and I’ve incorporated a lot of those techniques into my own way of doing things. So if some of these sound familiar or like I ripped them off of someone’s else’s work, that’s because they are and I have.

Grounding is important for a lot of reasons. It can help alleviate stress, mentally prepare you for your next move, and in times of heightened spiritual awareness grounding can help you focus and see more. Any time I read tarot, I ground first. Any time I’m feeling stressed I will ground. Anytime I’m feeling scattered, angry, or even bored, I ground. I probably ground more than most people simply because I’m naturally flighty – it’s a problem for air signs sometimes.

These exercises are going to sound like they take a lot of time. They take a lot of time to explain, but not to do. Really you can set aside 5 minutes (maybe even 3) to these little exercises. These are foundational exercises – they help you learn how to ground and what it feels like. Once you have done one of these exercises for a while, you’ll find that you can do it anywhere when you need to.

Tree Visualization Groundings

This one is my favorite and the one I use the most, especially when working with a group of people. The variations you can do with the tree are endless.  Sit comfortably. If you can sit at the base of a tree for extra visualization support, go for it. Trees are grounded naturally by their roots and we want to emulate this, so sitting next to a tree will help if you find yourself blocked.

Breathing is important when grounding. Take deep, cleansing breaths. When I first started doing this I would start with breathing in on a count of four, holding the breath on a count of four, and then releasing the breath on a count of four. Breathing in a relaxed and slow manner helps with grounding immensely, so always start and finish with cleansing breaths.

While seated, imagine a straight white light flowing down your spine and into the earth. As this cord of light hits the ground, it will continue to go into the ground much as the roots of a tree would. When I visualize the cord flowing down my spine, it is a white light, but it almost always turns into brown tree roots when it is underground. Work with whatever colors flow easily for you.

If I’m feeling an excess of energy or emotions, I visualize that energy or emotion leaving me through these roots and being grounded into the earth.  If I’m feeling worn down, tired, sick, or just meh, I will visualize the roots burrowing all the way down to the molten core of the earth and I will bring that fiery energy up through my roots and into myself.

When pulling energy up from the earth into yourself, try to visualize the energy flowing up through your body bit by bit and eventually up through the top of your head. As the energy flows out of the top of your head, visualize this energy as your personal tree’s branches and leaves. Alternatively, you can visualize yourself as a conduit for a geyser of energy, but if you go that route, make sure that you ground any excess energy that may have come up.

This exercise can be as simple as you want it to be. While I encourage you to try this sitting down, you can also do it standing up by visualizing the roots coming out of your feet. For my nerdy friends who are familiar with Tolkien, I like to think of myself as an Ent here – when my foot is on the ground, the roots spring from my feet and burrow deep into the earth, keeping me grounded at all times. Unlike an Ent I don’t walk around like this all the time, the visualization would be exhausting after a certain point, but it is useful for when you are standing in a very long line, behind a crying baby, while someone behind you is invading your personal space. It is a good quick way to be grounded without having to stop what you are doing.

Foot Chakra Energy Dump

I work with chakras a lot and there are chakras in your hands and your feet. The chakras in the feet I think of as the grounding, flushing chakras because I use them so often to ground down energy. When dealing with energy overload, headaches, nausea, jitteriness, etc., using your feet chakras to dump this energy into the ground is super important. It’s June and there are many festivals both pagan and regular in the offing. These kinds of big events often can create energy overload as you have a ton of people incredibly excited about many of the same things in one place – that’s hella energetic.

Being able to take whatever wave of energy hits you and flow it out through your feet is an invaluable skill to have. I do this all of the time. Road rage hit you with the fiery energy to murder some motherfuckers? Ground that shit down. Let the rage flow through you and direct it down your legs and out through your feet. Even when in a moving vehicle you can ground or release energy through your feet. It won’t stop people from driving badly, but it will stop you from wanting to murder them for doing it.

Wind Tunnel

I enjoy going outside on windy days and letting the wind blow through me, clearing out anything that needs to go.  I use this same concept for this visualization.  I imagine the wind blowing through me and clearing away everything that is no longer working to my highest purpose.  I also imagine the wind keeping me on the ground.

Visualize wind blowing from above, down through your crown chakra.  As the wind blows through your chakras and down through the root, it not only clears away the debris you no longer need, it keeps you fastened to the earth.

I find this very grounding, but I will admit that I’m an air sign, so this may not work for everyone.

Shower/Rain 

This one is very similar to the one above, but it has quite a few variations.

The basic visual is that of water flowing through you and clearing off anything you no longer need – excess energy, bad mood, the guilt over being late that one time, whatever needs to be washed way.  Have the water flow down and through you and out of the bottoms of your feet.

This is a good one to do in a shower or out in the rain, but often I find the visual that sticks with me for this exercise is that of lying down in a stream.  If I visualize myself lying down in a stream, surrounded by the streams rocks and pebbles, the flow is easier and it feels more grounding.

Quick Fixes

For me, when I spend a day reading tarot or at a SIPA ritual where lots of energy is raised, it can be tons of fun to have that energy and zip around being friendly and talkative. However, you don’t want to hang on to excess energy for same reasons you don’t want drink too much caffeine. When doing something spiritual in nature that is going to have you zipping along on an energy high, some simple things to do to ground:

    • Eat something salty – salt is very grounding.
    • Eat in general, food helps keep you grounded, which is part of why most pagan rituals have a cakes and ale component.  Protein is your friend.
    • Stomp your feet, or go for a walk, dance. Walking barefoot in the dirt works wonders.
    • Epsom salt bath.
    • Hug a tree or sit underneath one for a few minutes. Trees have the flow of pulling up from the earth and down from the sky down to a fine art.
    • Hands in the soil, digging for a garden, weeding, all of these are just naturally grounding. We can visualize all we want, but nature is a good guidebook and an excellent source of help.
    • Rocks – hold one, sit on one, balance one on your head – rocks are the ground and help with grounding just through being rocks.

There’s a bajillion other ways to do this, but this is the broad strokes of how to begin to ground. I hope this helps!

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Tarot of the Trees Review

As a professional tarot reader, I love tarot decks.  There are thousands of different kinds of decks out there and I’ve purchased and passed along a tiny fraction of these decks.  The decks that stick around to be used in my readings on Psychiccenter.com and in my in-person readings do tend to speak to my particular aesthetic, as any tarot deck or divinatory tool you use will speak to yours.  A deck or tool that doesn’t speak to you in some way won’t be as effective and will certainly not be fun to use.

The Tarot of the Trees is a deck I discovered through my iTunes app store, when I was looking for a new tarot app – currently, I have three including this one.  This is the first time I’ve purchased the app before owning the deck and I really enjoyed the experience.  The app allowed me to get a feel for the artwork on the cards, explore quite a bit of the Tarot of the Trees’ divinatory spreads, and overall it rocked.  I would like a shorter card meaning summary for beginners in the app itself, similar to the other apps I have where you are given a few key words and then the lengthy summary, but for those familiar with the tarot the summary isn’t totally necessary anyway.

Not sold in stores in my area or on Amazon, the Tarot of the Trees can be purchased at this Etsy shop or on the artist’s webpage where many of the cards are shown.

The cards and the book arrived a few days ago and I am very pleased.  The cards are smaller than I imagined, but they are excellent quality.  Also, as someone who is used to fairly large tarot decks, I find one that will fit in my pocket quite nice as a change.

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I purchased the book along with the deck, which I encourage you to do.  I find that even tarot books I do not like very much provide insight and depth to the readings.  Knowing what the artist was thinking or trying to evoke with the cards also helps get a feel for them when you read with them.

I do know that a lot of people purchase tarot decks for the art, which is simply fantastic.  This deck has 80 cards instead of the regular 78 and between the Wheel of the Year (aka Wheel of Fortune) and the new card, Regeneration, I was in love with this artwork.

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My husband looked at the Wheel of the Year and the Queen of Wands and commented that this deck was very much “me.”

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I love the squirrels taking the pentacles off of the tree – such a great visual for the card’s meaning.  Also, a black cat in a tree with sunflowers for the Queen of Wands?  This card incorporates much of the traditional imagery in a new and really powerful way.

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This is one of those decks that I will probably end up buying a few times simply so I can have a reading deck and one that is pristine with very nice artwork.  While I wish this deck was offered through Amazon because often there are discounts, the deck itself was very much worth the $25.

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One of the newer problems I’ve run across with many decks lately is that they are made poorly and will rip or split through simple shuffling.  This deck does not have that issue – the quality of the material used for the deck makes shuffling easy without damaging the deck.  The last several times I bought replacement decks they were of poor quality, so it was really nice to see well-made cards again.

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Other than wild life along with the trees, this is a deck that has no people, no face cards.  Just trees.  I’m really happy to have found both the app for this deck as well as the deck itself.  There are many oracle cards out there that are about trees, but this is the first deck I’ve found that is tarot.

This is a seriously awesome deck and one that I think many people who love trees and tarot will like.

 

 

 

*I wrote a book!  Go vote for it and you’ll get a free copy if I win!

 

Being Told You’re Wrong Doesn’t Make You the Victim

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted something on FB that started off with the sentence, “Did you know you can be gay and Christian?”

Two different people responded with anti-gay sentiments, because “sin” and “god” and the “Bible” and the regular bullshit one gets from bigoted people who clearly haven’t read or understood the book they are using to metaphorically beat people up with.  I’m not going to go into what the rules of Leviticus were meant for in the first place or the fact Jesus never condemned homosexuality. Those things have been well established by better authors and better scholars, than me.

What I am going to say is that I am tired of people telling me how I must live my life, or that my friends or family members are wallowing “sin” by people trying to force me to live the rules THEY think are best.  When I push back, when I say that no, you are wrong for trying to condemn and change people, the attitude of these people who attack is to then cry victim and foul play.

“Homosexuality is sin and you are on the same level as wife beaters, drug dealers, etc. Politically correct ideas have no bearing on Gods word.

“That is simply not true the Bible says….”

“You don’t get to attack me for having an opinion.”  When your opinion causes psychological harm AT BEST and beating or death the rest of the time, yeah, I’m going to call you out on it.  Being called out isn’t an attack.

In the world we live in, this dominant group believes someone DISAGREEING with them is too harsh and too mean and they are poor little victims.

How about fuck you?

How about we talk about real victimhood.  Let’s start with something small.  When you say on a public forum that you think being gay is a sin, you are causing actual harm to actual people.  Suicide rates among GLBTQIA+ is higher than it is for straight, cis people.  Bullying of this group – especially by Christians like the one I encountered yesterday – is high not just in schools, but continues once people strike out into adulthood.

The poor, victimized Christians are so put upon and so victimized that they created conversion therapy – which is basically a method of torturing someone “straight” – so that they wouldn’t have to be “victimized” by the existence of someone their preacher says is “bad”.  How do we protect ourselves from sin?  I know, let’s torture children who trust us!

I have been encountering more and more of these deluded people online.  They attack you for posting something gay friendly and when you defend yourself, they honestly and truly believe that you are victimizing them.  DOES ANYTHING SAY PRIVILEGE MORE THAN THIS?  These people who want to push their archaic, broken beliefs down our throats get upset and believe they are victimized when we say no.  That isn’t kind or correct or even a good interpretation of the Bible.  Pointing this out to them in even the kindest, least confrontational of ways causes them to flip out and feel victimized.

Being told that you are wrong isn’t victimization.

Being forced into conversion therapy because someone else’s god thinks you are bad is victimization.

Being beaten to death because of something you were born with is victimization.  Matthew Shepard was victimized.  The trans women in New Orleans that are being murdered were victimized.

Honestly, I don’t have the heart to list all of the examples, because there are so many it is horrifying and depressing and awful.  Don’t believe me?  Believe the FBI https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/16/us/hate-crimes-against-lgbt.html

The LGBTQIA+ community is victimized in the USA in a real, violent, constant way that people like this Christian woman couldn’t even begin to understand.

When you come onto one of my friends pages – especially when that friend is spreading a sentiment of love and acceptance – and spout the hate you were taught in your small minded church, you are not a victim when people tell you that not only are you wrong, but you are contributing to the violence against the LGBTQIA+ community.

The words “You are wrong about that” do not victimize you the way your hatred creates victims.  When you cannot even let someone post about love without having to correct them about gays being “sinful” you are working actively to create an environment of hate.  The gay community wouldn’t be victimized so often in their every day lives if it weren’t for people like this spreading around dehumanizing messages about them.

“I’m just saying it is a sin!”

Yeah, you are and fuck you.  You could just as easily said nothing.  Instead, you felt you needed to add a little more condemnation and hate.  Way to love like Jesus.

Humans don’t like harming each other.  The best way to convince a human to harm another is to make that person “other” and “bad” in some way.  If they are bad and therefore not as human as you are, hurting them and causing them psychological or physical damage is much easier.  After all, they are the ungodly ones, they are the sinners, they are “other” so causing them pain is ok.  Even if you have never punched someone for being GLBTQIA+ if you contribute to their condemnation verbally, you are “othering” them and making them targets of victimization through your othering.

When we try to show you that the Bible wasn’t really condemning homosexuality, we aren’t victimizing you, we are trying to stop you from othering people who will be hurt in very real ways because of it.  We are hoping if we educate you that you will stop spouting useless hate that actually gets people killed (those murdered are called victims, by the way) and start to understand that maybe there are other ways of understanding the world.  I seriously recommend science, if you’re interested.

Science helps a lot.

The thing that kills me about this is that just a few days ago I got into it with someone on a pagan site because they slammed Christianity with this casual, “I don’t understand how anyone could be Christian” and as someone married to a Christian, that pissed me off big time.  My husband and his church, the Disciples of Christ, are some of the kindest and most generous people you would care to meet.  My very first Christmas in his church, the minister read a story of an Italian Christmas where a witch delivers presents.  She did that because she knew I’d be there and wanted me to feel welcome. The majority of Christians I encounter are kind, loving people, who don’t want to harm anyone.

But then we have those who are being taught their religion is to hate and if anyone stops you hating on them, then they are robbing you of religious freedom and thereby victimizing you, people are going to dislike the entire religion.  These Christians make the rest look bad.

And because I simply cannot say it enough – not being able to force others to believe the way you believe isn’t victimization, it’s freedom of all religions.  I know most of our legislators right now don’t understand this concept with Christianity being the dominant religion of the land but that doesn’t make it untrue.  It just makes them wrong and being told you are wrong doesn’t make you a victim.

 

 

It’s about Subjugation

I’m not a fan of the March for Life or even the moniker “pro-life” for the people who are anti-abortion.  Watching our country’s representatives rail against abortion while abolishing the ACA says to me that they don’t really give a fuck about life.  If someone were truly pro-life they would be fine with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), they would be fine with low income families receiving Link or other aid so they don’t starve to death or die.  They’d be ok with allowing refugees to come to our country.

They would actually fight for the lives of the living beings as well, not just those in utero.

Spoiler alert – they don’t actually care about life.

When they de-fund free contraception and teach abstinence only, abortions increase.  This has been shown in various studies.  If someone is truly against abortion because they feel it is murder, they should be the biggest proponents sex education and contraception on the planet.

However, the virulent anti-choicers out there are now attacking contraception, sex education, and other systems that actually PREVENT abortions – don’t even get me started on the demonization of Planned Parenthood, one of the biggest organizations out there providing the tools to avoid abortion.  This illustrates that the anti-abortionists don’t actually care about the lives of unborn children, they care about the subjugation of women.

Pro-lifers handing out condoms and sex-ed pamphlets would show me they care about the unborn, but instead most of them just think you shouldn’t have sex.  As if it weren’t a biological imperative.

All of which is to say that I’m done with the abortion debate.  As far as I am concerned the abortion debate is simple – let us do what we want with our bodies.  Period.

Women wanting body autonomy has been at the crux of most of my feminist issues.  No one should feel ownership over my body except for me.

After the March for Life I read a Rachel Maddow quote about how if women are forced to have a child because abortion is illegal then men should have to be there to pay for child support.  That’s a lovely thought that ignores the history of abuse that is often intricately tied to childbearing.  Abusive men will tamper with birth control.  Abusive men will knock someone up to “keep” them bound to their side.

Hell, a rapist can knock someone up and then sue her for custody and visitation rights, meaning that the rapist is now in the woman’s life forever, even though she didn’t want him in the first place.  This isn’t something men have to worry about.

One of the most effective ways to subjugate women is to keep them poor and pregnant.  That seems to be what this administration is all about.

 

We’re Pissed

People have been having some run-ins with “angry” feminists. There are so many schools of feminist thought that no one person can speak for all, but I will tell you where this feminist is coming from and how I think it might apply to run-ins with “angry” feminists people might be experiencing.

Ever since the election there is a part of my brain that feels like it’s on fire with rage. It’s visceral and real and constant. Frustration and fury are omnipresent.

I’m pissed. We have a rapist president because of many reasons, but the biggest one is the inherent misogyny in our society. Trump won because he has a penis even though he is a demonstrable monster lacking empathy or morality.

My husband was trying to support a friend arguing about why women felt betrayed and I asked if I should jump in on the conversation, too, and he said, “No, I think we need more than a ‘Fuck off and die’ for this argument” because there is a part of me furious at ALL men because this happened. My knee jerk response to these dumb reactions tends to begin and end there.

I can recognize this and tamp it down with logic, but I’m seriously at the point of slitting Bern Bros throats just for speaking. I’m tired of men getting make the rules and women being fucked over in the process. This country hates women so much we elected Cheeto Hitler.

We already have laws being suggested making it easier to rape. The president sets the tone, whether we like it or not, and our rapist president’s tone puts all women in danger. Before he was even sworn in, women reported being grabbed by the pussy and the total lack of help they received when they reported it.

All of which is to say that being told to fuck off because you’re a man trying to add to the conversation doesn’t surprise me. If these women are anything like me they feel betrayed even by our male allies, especially the so-called allies tearing down Clinton with terms like Kilary etc. We’re fucking pissed off enough to march globally in goddamn January.

Women have been told how to act, think, behave, fuck, drink, dress, talk, argue and everything else under the sun so much that we’ve collectively hit a breaking point. When a man opens up his mouth to comment on how we should protest, too, it becomes infuriating.

This is not to excuse their behavior but to maybe explain why you aren’t getting a terribly warm response.

Compassion Over Conflict During Mars Retrograde

OK, Goddesses … here is a 3 page (literally – three single spaced pages in my word document) article I’ve been writing for the last hour or so. It expresses some very important thoughts and feelings that I need to share with all of you.

Many of us have felt the direct effects of the 2014 Mars retrograde. As we’ve discussed, “retrogrades” have these rocky influences on our lives, and the important thing to remember when working with these energies is the “re” … reflect, remember, reexamine, reevaluate, reimagine, recreate, redo, repair … repose …

In specific reference to Mars, retrogrades happen only about once every two years, but last several months. The current retrograde isn’t over until July 21, 2014. Here is some information from Café Astrology about the current Mars retrograde:

When Mars is in its retrograde cycle, we are forced to re-assess our current projects, our approach to getting what we want, and our desire nature. Rather than directly asserting our desires, we tend towards introspection … with Mars in retrograde motion, Mars energy is essentially turned inward–it’s internalized, intensified, personalized, and perhaps pressurized. We can be hesitant about taking action, second-guessing our instincts or our natural impulses rather than acting upon them […] When anger is internalized, there can be some rather negative byproducts, such as tension, resentment, depression, apathy, and even some paranoia. […] We might require more rest than usual. Some of us are more accident-prone or illness-prone, almost as if the cosmos are forcing us to slow down if we haven’t listened to our natural impulses to take a break. It’s time for regrouping, and this is important on both physical and emotional levels. […] Rather than direct and healthy expressions or outlets for frustrations, we might resort to sneaky, indirect, or obtuse methods of going after what we want. If we push ahead impulsively, we run into problems, obstacles, and frustrations.

In addition to Mars in retrograde, we’ve experienced a lot of astrological influences in the past week that lead us towards irrational behavior, quick anger responses, confusion, flights of imagination and fancy, and on Wednesday and Thursday last week specifically, an inability to develop closeness and connection with friends and loved ones.

I’ve been prattling on about these energies for several days. I think it’s very important for us to be aware of these energetic influences, so that we can understand what might otherwise seem to us to be irrational thoughts or behaviors – either from ourselves or others – practice patience and compassion – BOTH with ourselves and others – and temper our responses in able to internalize, hold space, and actively engage in all the “re”s mentioned earlier. This is how we grow. If we didn’t face tests and trials, we would remain stagnant. We need these energies to help us reflect, reexamine, and learn from our experiences and internal natures. We need these challenges to push us further. If we think about our water exercise – the vesica piscis – this is exactly what that is all about.

So now I want to get right down to the nitty-gritty, and it’s about “re”action and “re”sponse.

The manners in which we react to external situations, events, discussions, matters and issues are a personal thing. We encounter comments, conversations, behaviors, interactions and events that do affect and raise emotions within us. Emotions are visceral, and we simply can’t help the way we “feel”. But we can control the way we react, and, in turn, the way we respond. Bringing personal emotions into these matters can often turn what may just be simple matters of problem-solving and solution-seeking into conflict and drama.

This brings me to the very reason I’m personally reexamining discussions, actions and reactions, behaviors, and motivations we as a group have encountered as a whole. What I’ve seen and realized as problem-solution events can easily become “conflicts”, “fights” and thus “drama,” based on the manner in which we may or may not react to those events.

Not everything that comes up as a logistic that needs to be worked out, a decision that needs to be made, a matter of how to work out issues that affect one or all of us or our group energies, needs to become “conflict”. The very term “conflict” is defined as:

1. to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash. 2. to fight or contend; do battle. 3. a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife. 4. controversy; quarrel: conflicts between parties.

Conflict implies a FIGHT. Conflict implies that lines are drawn, we are divided, and we are focused more on working towards winning a battle rather than working towards finding a solution or compromise that works towards the good of the group.

I truly believe, as a group of peers, equals, sisters … with a goal of exploring our spirituality, growing magickally in a safe space we provide for each of us, working with women’s energies, learning about women’s roles in religion and spirituality in varied systems and cultures, and providing love and support, that it is very necessary to allow everyone a voice. When asked our opinions, when discussing how decisions affect us as individuals, when each woman gives her input and ideas, we are working towards solution and compromise. If we don’t agree with what another says, feels or believes, this does not mean we have to react as if her words were an attack. This does not mean we are in “conflict”; this means we, like any group of individuals, have different opinions and ideas, and that is GOOD. We each have that voice, so that as a collective, we can hear one another and strive towards SOLUTION.

When we engage in the process of discussion and problem-solving, but in turn react in response to a perceived “conflict”, then our process becomes one of “drama,” where lines are drawn, feelings get hurt, people “choose sides” and the overall energies and harmonies of the group are damaged. These reactions are not conducive to coming to solutions that work best for the majority of sisters and flow with the focus and intentions of the group.

I think it’s important to hold space for one another when such issues arise. For example, “When we’re faced with this kind of situation, especially one that has yet to be completely resolved, we have good cause to refrain from snap judgement, and to hold space. “Holding space” may be a useful way for Pagans to practice discernment, for by holding space I mean waiting, listening, keeping in kind thoughts all the parties involved. […] Our partisanship does not always contribute to the resolution of political conflicts. It often exacerbates it. The quick creation of an “Us v.s. Them” mentality makes it very difficult to consider all of the information with a clear head and without bias” (Teo Bishop, “How Do We Respond to Conflict in Pagan Communities?”).

I personally found my reactions to the problem and resultant reactions to problem-solving over the past few days as LACKING in compassion and understanding, on my part. Yes – I said LACKING IN COMPASSION ON MY PART. But I stepped back and reexamined, reevaluated, and THEN responded. By the same token, I perceived that reactions to my efforts were met with a level of emotional manipulation and a certain level of questioning of my abilities and experiences in facilitation. That is my ego speaking, and my own emotions very raw and on display for all of you to see. What my goal and intentions boil down to is nothing more than this: I want this group to be one of safe space, support, focus, sisterhood, and a positive experience for the women who participate. I work very hard towards this goal, and like any human being, my emotional state and energies reveal that vulnerability, and I am angry and hurt when I feel like others don’t understand or see this. However, my reactions and responses are what ultimately affect the group. I responded by being honest, expressing my opinions, and doing my best to find a solution that worked.

So, back to the nitty-gritty … not every situation is a “conflict”. We don’t have to draw battle lines. Each woman’s honest opinion about her experiences and energies within our space is valid and must be heard, while we hold space for one another, and respond with honesty, openness, and compassion. This isn’t a “fight”; this isn’t “drama”. This is a group coming together to work towards growth and sisterhood. Everyone’s opinions and needs are important. We can’t forsake our focus and experience in group for the conveniences of a few, but we can work together towards finding solutions that can best accommodate everyone. If accommodations cannot always logistically be met, we must each take personal responsibility for ourselves, our own energies, and respect the needs of the rest of the group.

Unsung Heroes – Like My Mother, and Like Her Mother Before Her

My mother was a trailblazer.  She is not famous, although in our home town she cannot go anywhere without running into ten people that know and like her.  She is not a world renowned figure.  She is not someone that you will read about in the history of feminism.  That doesn’t really mean anything, though.  The reason women have made the strides for equality successfully is because of the unknown trailblazers like my mother, the women who simply defied convention to go their own way.

My mother was born in the late 1940’s and raised Catholic.  She went to Catholic school, she played the organ at all of the Catholic masses growing up, and she was considered a “good girl”.  What my mother really want to be when she grew up was a physical therapist.  However, her father wanted her to be a wife and mother.  He refused to pay for her schooling.  My grandmother worked as a nurse, though, and thus was able to afford to send my mother to nursing school.  My mother did not go to school to be a physical therapist, but was able to go to nurses training and become an RN.

Her mother told her that education was important because no one could ever take it away from her.  This sounds like a small act of defiance, not much of a big deal, but you have to think of the time period here.  The early 1960’s, as an only child colluding with her mother to defy her father, going to nursing school was very much a brave act of defiance.  A young woman at that time period simply did not do things like that.  Except people like my mother did.  These little acts of defiance, standing up for what she wanted, even if it was merely a compromise, was a huge deal.

My grandfather was not an easy man, and could really make life miserable for the people around him when he didn’t get his way.  My mother has spoken of how he refused to speak to her for weeks at a time.  As a people pleaser, I cannot imagine how much determination and bravery it took for my mother to simply follow through with her own plans for the future.  To simply choose a small part of her own future, a compromise at that, was an unpleasant, uphill battle.

The fact of the matter is that my mother getting that education was important to the success of our family, as she was able to bring in enough money to afford to send her kids to college, because she had three girls and she wanted to make sure that they all had an education, because it would be something that was theirs alone, and no one could ever take it away from them.

Another act of defiance from my mother came from her desire to marry my father.  My dad lived, literally, on the wrong side of the tracks from my mother in my hometown.  My mother lived on Elm Street, and across the railroad tracks, my father lived on Oakland.  Good side, bad side.  My father was a Marine, he rode a motorcycle, he smoked, and he probably scared the shit out of my grandfather.  My grandfather made the mistake of telling my mother that she would not be able to marry my father (or possibly even see my father, I need call her and ask what the exact ultimatum was) while she was living under his roof.  So, she moved in with my father.  Without being married.  In the early 1960’s.

She was raised in a strict Catholic home, and in a time period where “living in sin” was NOT something you did, but she did it.

My sisters and I have what I like to affectionately call a “fuck you” streak.  If you give us an ultimatum, you’ve lost.  It may make us miserable, it may hurt us, it may be a case of us biting off our noses to spite our faces, but we will simply respond with “Oh, yeah?  Fuck you.”  I think it comes from an intense resistance to being controlled.  Ultimatums are situations about control.  The person giving the ultimatum wants their way no matter what and takes discussion or logical thought off of the table.  Well, we can either talk and work out a compromise or we can be irrational and deal with ultimatums.  If you are irrational enough to make the ultimatum, we are irrational enough to take the option where you are not in control of us.  For example, when deciding whether or not to play the trumpet or the flute as a child, a boy in my 5th grade class told me, “Girls can’t play the trumpet.”  Of course, I then chose trumpet because fuck you.

My mother thinks this is something we get from our father, but I think she is wrong.  I think it comes from her.  Oh, so I cannot marry the man I love as long as I live under your roof?  I’ll just defy convention and my upbringing and move in with him prior to the wedding.  Problem solved.

Another lesson from my mother was to never give your money to a man.  She worked with a woman who honestly had no idea how much money she earned per pay period as she simply signed her checks over to her husband without looking at them.  This might not be such a bad thing if her husband was a wonderful, genius, financial expert who wisely invested her earnings while making sure all the bills were paid – although I would still have an issue with working and not knowing where my money was.  However, it seems the men who want you to blindly trust them and sign over your money are always the ones who don’t work, but drink a lot or do a lot of drugs, or both.

Another lesson from my mother was “Never sign your money over to any man.”

There are so many young women today who eschew the word “feminist” as if it were the most awful thing to be associated with.  They don’t have the memory of stupid things women were raised with or awareness of the stupid things they were raised with.  My mother was raised in era where just her getting an education – and not even in the field she wanted, but rather in a field that was more socially acceptable for women to have – was a major act of defiance.  Where choosing what man she would marry was another act of defiance.  Where women still handed over their money to the man of the house.  Women today have made so many strides towards equality, that many don’t see that these strides have really come about in the past several decades.  It is still new, and that is part of why we have to keep fighting to keep it.

Women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920 – which means that women have not been voting in the United States for 100 years, yet.  It took from 1848 until 1920 for women to be allowed to vote – 72 years (although, it might have even been longer than that, this is just what history has documented).  Some of the women who fought for the right to vote died before ever even achieving this goal.  This was the first wave of feminists.

The second wave came during the Civil Rights era, and gave us a lot of the progress we have made up to date.  My mom lived during the time of second wave feminists, and she did her part by simply making her own choices and sticking by them in the face of her father and convention.  Her personal act of defiance was echoed by other women across the country who were tired of being forced to do things by men seeking to rule and control their lives.

I am a third wave feminist, by birth year and in thought.  I am saddened by the number of women who have benefited from feminism who look at the word as a pejorative.  Even the many liberals in my life often tell me I should be a humanist instead.  As long as we still have a large number of rapes and general abuse of women, I am going to go with feminist.  As long as we still have men making the laws about my reproductive health, I am going with feminist.  As long as we have women blaming other women when they are raped or harassed, I am going with feminist.  As long as any discussion of rape comes with how the woman could have “avoided” it, then I am going to go with feminist.  As long as male and female pagans are offended by Dianics, I am going with feminist.  This list could go on and on and on, but you get the general idea.

My mother raised me to be a feminist simply by telling me I have the right to be in charge of my own life, and that my wants and needs are second to no one else’s, not even a man’s.