I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about Spirituality. In my book, Manifest Divinity, I talk about spirituality as our unique relationship to the Divine (however we might define that.) I stand by that, because I do think spirituality is highly influenced by that feeling of connection. But we all have moments when we question that connection, or wonder if it’s even there.
There is something that sustains us, even through that “dark night of the soul”. We cling to life and are wired for survival, but WHEN people give up varies dramatically. We press on, going through the motions, doing what needs to be done or we curl up and check out. We continue to lean on the connection, out of faith or habit, we look for something “more concrete”, or we despair.
What we often don’t recognize is that challenges to spirituality often strengthen the connection. When night falls we trust the sun will rise again, because that is our experience. When winter comes we trust that eventually it will be spring, because we’ve seen that happen time and time again. When we have lost touch with our spiritual connection, and hold on until it returns that too becomes our experience.
For many people, coming out the other side is what actually crystallizes their connection to spirit. Having the experience of that dark night is the contrast that makes spirituality real. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what was the experience that gave me such a strong connection to my own spirituality. I don’t know.
I talk about playing the Faerie as a very young child in my book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity Based Perspective. As far back as I can remember I’ve always felt connected to something. Those connections have been challenged in large and small ways.
My mother tells the story of her 3-year-old daughter “disappearing” on Memorial Day weekend. This is a big weekend in Minnesota. It’s when everyone goes up to open the cabin at the lake. They found me, with my dog, walking on the center meridian of the main highway headed north out of Minneapolis. I was, apparently, unconcerned. I don’t remember the incident, it had no impact on me. I know I trusted the dog.
I got lost as a kindergartener trying to get home from a new friend’s house. I do remember this one. I found a spot to plant myself and cried. A stranger (probably the woman whose house I was sitting in front of) collected me up and took me home. I’ve always had the support I need when I really need it. I also knew my own address. I have to meet the Divine half way, and do my share of the work.
Fifty years later I am again awed by the way help and support has appeared in my life when I needed it. I trust it, I count on it, because I have no other choice. I don’t take it for granted. I know I’m expected to do my share of the work as well. Some of that means getting up, going through the motions, and doing what needs to be done.
Spring is coming. Light and warmth are returning. The green peeks through and my hands are back in the dirt (inside, but in the dirt.) It’s hard to have any perspective on spiritual journey while we’re walking that center median overwhelmed by traffic. It’s the shift of time and distance that allows us to see how big the small miracles in our lives truly are.
Last week was an uphill week. The time change kicked me in the ass. Monday I missed yoga because the clock I was looking at was the one I hadn’t remembered to change over. Tuesday I was so tired I could barely get Orion out the door. I slept through my Dr. appointment. (Literally, I went back to bed.) Wednesday the alarm didn’t go off. I woke up spontaneously at 730 am, which would have been great the week before when it would have been right on time at 630! By Thursday I realized the week was almost gone and I hadn’t done anything to prepare for Paganicon. Friday started the convention, which of course threw what was left of my sleep schedule entirely out the window.
In the course of my sleep deprived daze I heard someone say, “What if instead of being angry at the weather I was grateful instead.” I actually think they said it to me weeks before when it was so cold but it finally sunk in. My women’s group is working with Hanuman this month. He helps us with our lessons by sending both good and bad energy. Then I saw Peg-o-leg’s blog about her struggle with her own pity party. When the universe sends the same message three times I start to pay attention.
I spent the weekend working at being grateful for everything that came across my path, good and bad. I’m trying to be grateful for all the time I’m spending in health care hell. I’m considering gratitude towards my physical limitations. Instead of grumbling about how many extra things I have to do making arrangements for Orion this week, I’m grateful his Dad is taking him so I can go to Paganicon unaccompanied.
The attitude adjustment made all the difference in the world. I still hurt, couldn’t do as much as I wanted, and didn’t get anywhere near enough sleep but it didn’t matter the same way. I got to spend time with my publisher Taylor Ellwood and his wife. When we were told there was a 40 minute wait for a table at dinner we took the opportunity to sneak over to the hotel and get them checked in. When we got back we were at the top of the list. My workshop was scheduled first thing Saturday morning. That meant only the people who really wanted to be there showed up, and it was a good-sized group. For a first time presentation it went really well and much of the feedback I got was that even after 90 min. at 9am they could have stayed and talked another hour or two.
I had a book signing with Taylor scheduled in the afternoon. My new book When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity-Based Perspective was released in time for the event! Because I was with Taylor I was introduced to a few other Immanion Press authors. The friend who came to help me was miserable with allergies, but her presence also brought folks over to say hi who may not have noticed us otherwise. I was debating going home for dinner when my friends hosting the Standing Stones hospitality suite realized they didn’t have trays to put cheese and crackers on. I volunteered to dash home for trays (this con is VERY close to my house) and came back just in time to get an invitation to dinner with my students.
I had a great time at Paganicon and felt really good about the marketing and presentation that I did. I was grateful to have the time with friends, old and new, to really sit and talk. I always enjoy the opportunity to learn new things and was delighted by the art featured in the Sacred Gallery space. I really do understand that sometimes the bad things really are a lot better than they look.
All that “understanding” doesn’t make it easy or automatic. I find pushing at gratitude an exercise in futility. Gratitude is something that requires opening up and accepting unconditionally. It is making room for the bounty of life to fill that open space. When facing frustration, practicing gratitude is a step back, taking time to breathe, letting go and allowing. When I achieve gratitude I know that anything is possible and that I will have all the support I need for whatever dreams may come.
So I continue to remind myself to be grateful, for everything. I remind myself to be grateful for the irritants, the frustrations, the stumbling blocks. I remind myself to be grateful for the pain and the heartache. I remind myself to be open to the possibility that it’s all for the best.
Maybe with enough practice I’ll be better at gratitude.
At the end of winter the season gets boring. I have my conveniently placed birthday to provide a little relief, but there is still the whole of March. While much of the country is keeping an eye out for actual signs of spring we might see snowdrops before April in a really early year. So how do we “keep the faith” that spring will come again?
Living in an age of hot houses and shipping there’s a lot to be said for fresh flowers brightening up the house. Come May I’ll be outside with my clippers looking at lilacs and apple blossoms. Now I have to go to the store for tulips. I’ve tried to force bulbs myself. Apparently I have a talent for mold.
We’re having a little bit of a thaw this week. It’s encouraging and there is more activity from the wildlife in the area. The turkeys are actually up at my folks house. The deer, turkeys, coyote, skunk, groundhog, and an occasional bear are the neighbors who occasionally stop by to visit.
In a long harsh winter the wildlife can become very creative in their hunt for food. They are aware the people in the area have abundance. Many of the animals have learned my parents routine. In the summer the hummingbirds are clearly irritated when someone is late putting out the feeders. The turkey has learned that the dining room is vacant at 11am every day. My Mom is watching her soap opera.
He takes advantage of that little window to hop up on the porch and steal from the chickadees. The squirrels do it too. I don’t have photo’s but it was a days worth of laughter to watch a squirrel jump onto the turkey’s back to chase him away from the feeder. The chickadees put up with all this nonsense and feed to their hearts content while Mom and Dad putter in the kitchen.
While the wildlife may be entertaining, sometimes I want to totally escape the winter. That when I sit in the sunlight with a good book. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is the fictional work of a blogging buddy Andra Watkins. She’s currently walking the Natchez Trace, where much of the book takes place. I’m following her journey on her blog, but the internet isn’t as satisfying as disappearing into an actual book.
My new book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism From a Deity-Based Perspective, is out as well. I’m not curled up with that one. I am busy preparing for its “official launch” this weekend at Paganicon in Minneapolis. My publisher (Taylor Ellwood at Immanion Press) is coming out and we’re doing a book signing along with our respective workshop presentations. Having something to look forward too always makes the days a little brighter.
In the meantime we’re enjoying the break in the weather. It’s an unseasonably warm 50 degrees Fahrenheit today! Maybe a walk is a possibility!
It seems early to consider things like New Years resolutions. (I don’t really work well with those anyway.) Still I seem to be getting lots of push from the Universe to review the past year and think about dreams, wishes and goals for the next. My women’s business group is working on creating our vision statements for 2014. Our Yule ritual planners have asked us to consider where we’ve been in this past year and what our hopes are for the next. Even visiting with old friends at the funeral last week and digging through the holiday ornaments put me in that reminiscent state of mind.
Luckily having a blog gives me a handy record of the past year. My first post in 2013 was about the family egg nog challenge. This year our “secret ingredient” is sugar. I have desert, which seems easy at first until you start thinking about having an impact after a full meal where every course features sugar in some form. All I’ll say is that this year I’m playing to win.
Then in February I took a trip to sunny California. Given our early sub-zero temperatures I’m looking forward to giving a workshop presentation at Pantheacon this year. March was Paganicon where Orion and I hosted the con suite. This year I’m seriously considering proposing a new workshop (that will likely cause much controversy – my middle name.) It’s good that I’m planning so many presentations since I’m really hoping my second book “When Gods Come Knocking: A Continuing Exploration of Relationship with the Divine” will be released (through Immanion Press) early in the year.
April and May were all about welcoming spring. I didn’t garden last year and I really hope to do at least a little in 2014. I also hope I’ll manage to get my taxes in early for a change. In June this year we had that big storm. I expect a little (metaphorical) storminess about that time in 2014 as well. Karina is turning 21 (my baby is all grown up!) and I’m planning to have bariatric surgery. My big wish for 2014 is to get my health back on track and that surgery will go a long way towards making it happen. My weight is aggravating my back problems to the point where some kind of surgery seems necessary. This one will potentially address more than one problem.
July and August were about adventures in camping. I’ll be recovering so it’s hard to say what will be possible in 2014, but I remember doing a lot of similar post-surgery travels in my 30’s so anything is possible. As we moved into the fall I got caught up in a rush of busy. I can hope for more of the same in 2014. Hopefully I’ll find some time out amidst the crazy. Maybe I’ll be editing my third book by then.
That will pretty much bring us around again to the holiday season. My wishes for next year are that my family will stay happy and healthy – and that I will myself on that bandwagon. I hope my writing influence expands out into the world and finds its audience. I also hope that my readers will find my work inspirational and affirming. I hope that I can do my part to make the world I live in a kind place and that we can live in beauty and bounty.
Thank you all for being with me this year. I hope you will continue to read, comment and share in the next.