Archive for July, 2009

What becomes sacred?

A simple thought that isn’t so simple. What we see and experience as sacred is what allows us to glimpse the eternal through cracks in consciousness caught in the field of time.

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People are often very surprised that my wife and I are huge fans of mixed martial arts fighting. They don’t see how we can connect the spiritual path with something so apparently violent. For me combat can be a sacred act and I greatly admire the skill and the determination these fighters have, the years of dedication to their training. I see these fights as a beautiful dance of violence that is mutually agreed upon and engaged in. I have met and trained with some of these professional fighters and I can tell you these are not people who like to hurt other people or have anger issues or anything like that. They just find deep inspiration in the act of competition. So the question is, how can competition be a sacred act?

My experience of deity is that deity is plural. They are the forces of Nature (the wind, sun, earth, hurricanes, tornadoes, winter cold, forest fire, and on and on). These are forces of Nature we ignore and disrespect at our own peril. I honour these gods for not to honour them is life threatening. They have the power to kill. They are conscious and they have their own agenda and life process.

There are also gods of human Nature (love, anger, trade, jealousy, lust, creativity, reason, music, fear, etc.). These are forces of Nature that are ubiquitous within the human experience. One of the more powerful ones is the god of war.

One aspect of Druidry is not submitting to the gods. We don’t “worship” the gods. We honour and respect and commune with them. We acknowledge their power and the affect they have in our psyche, in our lives. Submitting to deity is a dangerous proposition. Submit to the will of the ocean and you will drown or be smashed on the rocks. Submit to the will of winter and you will freeze to death. Submit to the power of the gods of human nature and the results are the same. The gods don’t care about us having a “”normal” live. We can learn however to feel their power and let that energy move through us without losing “control”. We stand as whole souls and craft relationships with the gods based on mutual respect. We are humbled for sure. We are in awe. But we aren’t slaves to their will. We meet them in relationship and from that sacred place, inspiration flows. And that brings me back round to mixed martial arts fighting.

In MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting, two people are able to participate in violence without submitting to the gods of war. They can pit their skills against another within a framework that allows that energy of the gods of war to flow through them without fully submitting to it. There are rules. A tap out means stop and the fight is over. The ref says stop, the fight is over. Theirs is a dance of energies that has been apart of the human experience from the very beginning. It is a sacred dance for it is honouring the gods of war and from that place, inspiration flows. I know this from experience and from my conversations with MMA fighters.

For some people it is very important to work closely with the gods of war. We do this in sports and it is a healthy way to touch those gods without submitting to them. Attend a football match in England, Europe, or South America and it isn’t difficult to feel the gods of war flowing through the people there. They use that energy to compete and find inspiration in the competition. But they don’t submit.

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Last night my grove of ten years bid farewell to one of our grovemates as she sets out on a new adventure in a new State. For a full decade we have held our grove together, celebrating the seasons with ritual, supporting each other as family, helping each other build our lives and encouraging our creativity and dreams. For tens years we have been able to keep this together without conflict, always coming together with joy and appreciation for our circle. This is remarkable in pagan groups.

But last night, things shifted, the circle lost a link. While we all are very excited about our grovemates adventure ahead, we feel the absence. And we are left with a choice: embrace the change and reach for inspiration, or let what is left of our grove drift apart? Neither of these is the right or wrong path.

What happens isn’t important. It is the process that matters. Druidry is the journey to find certainty in change. It is a path of living fully in the moment, finding the flow of inspiration in all things and happenings. Nature moves in cycles and tides, everything that is built up comes down, everything put together comes apart, everything separated connects and then disconnects only to find a new way or place to connect again. Nature does this relentlessly and without mercy. All creativity is temporal.

As humans, we all have a tendency to try to hold on to something permanent. This is an illusion we all cling to as we try to orient ourselves in time and space. Anything we think of as permanent, isn’t. So how do we orient ourselves so we can manage a life worth living? We can only do that through relationship. And relationship is a process, an ever changing, ever shifting dynamic that allows us to have a direction of focus. It is easier to spin holding another, looking each other in the eyes in a beautiful dance, than it is to just spin on our own. One makes us dizzy and sick, the other excites us and fills us with energy.

So how do we let go without becoming lost? By making every moment part of the dance and by dancing with all the souls in our life, in our environments. We may dance better with some souls but we can not cling to it and refuse to dance with others. If we take that path, when the dance together slides to a stop, we just spin alone. Never having tried letting go, we don’t know how to embrace another and swirl into the next phase of the dance as the cadence changes.

So what becomes of the grove is to be determined? The music continues…

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I recently visited a pagan group at a local prison. It was an extraordinary conversation that was truly inspiring. These men are working really hard to raise their level of consciousness. I haven’t met people outside of prison who are more passionate about the environment. They talked a lot about the amount of waste in the prison – food, paper, and other resources. They are acutely aware of just what is happening to the planet with the burning of fossil fuels and what the end of cheap oil will mean for our way of life. And they are doing their best to address this in the prison through leading by example and offering suggestions to the management of the facility.

One topic we discussed was “sphere of influence”. All are working hard to make the prison a better environment for people to live while paying their dues to the State, and to begin to build better lives for themselves when they get out. To me, this was great example of how we have to focus our energies on the relationships that are closest to us.

We also discussed life being in the moment, that we all could die at any second, and what is the value of our pagan practices in the face of that reality. All life is change – continuous creativity, sliding into decay, and then once more the elements gather into new creativity. Paganism offers us a sense of certainty in the face of the reality that there is no certainty in life. The path helps us find acceptance for the fact that nothing in life is fixed. And it helps us develop the ability to raft these ever shifting currents.

I encouraged the group to focus on developing honorable conscious relationship, right where they are at. And to that end, their pagan practices off much. These teachings tell us, not just to wake up, but also provide us tools to do so, the tools to be fully present in life. And they teach us that being present is at the core of truly honorable, respectful, conscious relationship. For when part of us isn’t present, our ability to navigate relationship is compromised.

These men realize this fully. They are diving deeply into their pagan tradition and trying to live the path as fully as possible. They are faced with incarceration and owning up to their crimes and how that has affected the victims as well as the greater community. Yet at the same time, they are walking the talk with a level of dedication that I rarely see in pagans. From these men, I have learned the value of faith.

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