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Category Archives: Rambles

Random stuff that doesn’t really belong anywhere.

Questioning Your Way to a Solution

In terms of my religious practice, I have spent the better part of the past year aimlessly wandering. This may surprise some people (maybe?) as I’m sure that most would consider my conviction in regards to Kemeticism to be pretty rock solid. But the fact of the matter is that sometime in the past year or so, my interest in most things suddenly disappeared without a solid reason, and as a result I have been left with a void where my passion for religion used to live. This has caused me to spend a lot of my time questioning what this means and what I should do about it.

I have seen people suggest that having periods of questioning (or perhaps better referred to as “crisis of faith”) is somehow bad, as though you’re personally offending the gods by examining your place within your religion or relationship with them. However, I personally think that there comes a time in everyone’s practice where they run into a period of being lost or unsure; where they aren’t sure why they’re doing something or whether they should continue to do it. Like many topics that are considered “bad”, I find the lack of resources for sorting such a situation out to be unhelpful, not to mention that the semi-taboo nature of the topic doesn’t allow for people to openly search for answers. This is a problem.

Over on Tumblr, I will regularly get questions about how to handle situations where a god isn’t responding, where a practice is no longer fulfilling, where a person is unsure how to move forward, and each time that I receive such questions, I often tell people to self-reflect to see if they can better ascertain an answer for themselves. My logic behind this has always been a case of “how can you know what to do if you don’t know how you got here?” If the religion used to fulfill you, what happened that caused it to become unfulfilling? Examining where you started and comparing it to where you are can often times be enlightening.

That being said, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection this past year as I’ve looked for answers to my suddenly disappearing enthusiasm.

When I first noticed that I suddenly gave zero cares about Kemeticism, my gut response was to freak out. I think any of us would initially become concerned if something we used to be passionate about was suddenly of no interest to us, and I was no exception. It’s not something that usually happens overnight, but for me it felt like it did. As though one week I was interested in doing the things I had been doing for years, and the next week I suddenly no longer cared about any of it.

On the other hand, I wanted to ignore that I noticed a shift in things. I wanted to believe that it was a temporary issue that would resolve itself over the course of a few weeks. This is not uncommon for me, as I often burn out on a lot of what I do on a regular basis. However, as the weeks dragged on and nothing changed, I realized that something was definitely up. I now knew that I needed to shift gears to figure out what was causing these issues.

The Process

For me, there is a process that is involved with picking apart problems:

  • First is to notice that there is something that is off or different.
  • The next thing is to stay calm about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the issue (as I had) as much as it means not running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Remember that these issues can happen to anyone for any number of reasons, and nothing says that the current feeling or situation is permanent or necessarily indicative of a problem. It’s easier to troubleshoot something if you’re calm.
  • From here, I recommend a potential period of observation to make sure that what you are feeling or perceiving isn’t a momentary sort of thing. Things you could think about include: What do you notice about what you’re feeling? Does it come and go with your mental health, mood, or stress levels? Or is it consistent? I always find its best to wait and make sure that it’s a long term “thing” and not a spur of the moment misunderstanding.
  • Once you’ve ascertained that the issue is not going away, then you move into the questioning phase.

It’s also worth noting that I will often switch between periods of intense introspection/questioning and observing/waiting. I don’t think it’s mandatory to do everything in one go, and I think it’s very likely that most of us won’t find all of our solutions in a singular round of questioning. Being able to pick up your “problem” and inspect it from a bunch of angles, and then set it back down for a while before coming back to inspect it again allows you to process and consider other angles you didn’t think of earlier. Just like any sort of shadow work, none of this needs to be absolutely linear; I’m just trying to give some general guidelines for those who are new to this method of working.

Asking Questions

When it comes to reflection on a particular topic, problem or situation, I don’t think that there is necessarily a right or wrong way to go about it. You can sit and mull on all of these questions at once, or you could mull on them one at a time. You could try writing down answers to these questions or simply go through the answers in your head. You could even pose these questions to a sort of divination deck to see if you’re overlooking something about the topic in regards to the situation.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what could be asked, but is simply a place to get started on mulling your way to a possible answer or solution to any particular situation you’re in. I have organized the questions based off of general topic, and as such, some of these questions are redundant. However, I find it easier to mull when I’m not trying to parse apart several questions that have been stacked into one.

Questioning a deity relationship:

  • What first attracted you to this particular deity?
  • What about the relationship did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?
  • Has anything changed recently in your life or in the relationship that may be causing a shift in feelings?
  • How often do you reach out to this god? When was the last time you attempted to communicate with them? What was that communication like?
  • What is considered a normal level of communication with the deity? Has this changed recently, if ever?
  • Has the deity expressed any signs that would signal that there were any issues present? If so, what were they and did you ever ask for further information from the god when it happened?
  • What sorts of things are you looking for in a relationship with a god? What are you hoping to achieve by developing a relationship with a deity? If currently in a relationship, what of these things are not being met, if any?
  • What does your deity expect of you, if anything? How does this make you feel? Are the expectations realistic or feasible?
  • What feelings do you get when you think about said deity? Are these feelings different from when you first started out, or when you felt the relationship was stable (if applicable)?
  • If you could tell your deity anything about your current feelings/status with them, what would it be? Why would you wish to convey these emotions/thoughts to them?
  • If your deity could clarify anything for you about your relationship, what would it be and why would it be helpful?
  • When you think of no longer having a relationship with your god (or when you think of changing the nature of the relationship with your god), how does it make you feel? What could that indicate?

Questioning your place in a religion:

  • What first brought you to your religion?
  • What do you enjoy about your religion–whether the religious practice, community, or structure, etc.? What don’t you enjoy about it?
  • When did your feelings about your religion change? Was anything going on at the time that could have caused the shift in feelings?
  • What do you hope to get out of your religious practice? Is your current practice meeting your needs? If not, what could be done to help your needs be met?
  • Are there any external factors that could be causing a shift in feelings about your religious practice?
  • Have you talked to the gods about your shift in feelings? What have they said about it?
  • What makes you hesitant to leave or join [insert particular religion]? Why?

As I had stated above, this list of questions isn’t exhaustive, and they may not cover exactly what each person who reads this is looking for. However, I feel that they indicate the nature of the questions I typically ask when I’m trying to figure a situation out, and as such, can be used to formulate other questions of a similar nature for other situations.

I’ve answers some questions… what now?

This is the hard part, in my opinion. Its easy (sometimes) to sit around and mull on some questions, but figuring out what to do with the information you uncover is a different story. Generally speaking, I like to ask questions so that I can get a feel for my thoughts on a situation, and then use that information to make an informed decision on what to do in said situation. However, it can sometimes take several rounds of questioning and mulling before I actually arrive at a decision that I’m comfortable with. Remember that none of this has to happen all at once, and sometimes you may ask yourself a question and find that you don’t have an answer to it. The whole point of the questioning is to really get to the heart of the matter to better inform yourself on what you really think or feel about a particular situation. And then to use that information to make a better decision.

Do you find that questioning helps you arrive at a decision in a difficult situation? If so, what sorts of questions do you typically ask yourself?

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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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The Only Choice

This week has been a long, hard week.

Like many of you, I spent Tuesday night pensively watching the election results flow in. Like many of you, I spent Tuesday night feeling worse and worse as more and more of the US map was painted red. Like many of you, I woke up Wednesday morning concerned and afraid about what the future would bring.

Like many of you, I am still concerned and afraid about what the future will bring.

At first I found myself in shock. I’m not surprised that Trump won, but I was holding out the possibility that he wouldn’t (hint: there is still hope that he won’t, however faint it might be.) And so when the news came in that he was officially our elect, the shock set in that this was really going to be something I had to live through. Something that we all have to live through. I won’t try and tell you that things will be okay, because they won’t be for many of us. Many of the people in our country have a hard road ahead, and I know that some of those people won’t make it.

Some people do believe that this sort of response is overreacting, but I’m going to assure you that it isn’t. This isn’t a petty case of “oh no, we didn’t win and now I’m upset.” This is bigger than that. This is a case of someone who built their entire campaign upon hurting others and spewing fascist rhetoric left and right now having the loudest voice in the country (with a VP pick that is almost worse, if you can believe it.) This is a case of someone whose follower base is going and committing hate crime after hate crime after hate crime after hate crime. All within the first 72 hours after the announcement was made.

fffffffff

For many people in our country, this is just a small taste of what we can expect to come in the future.

As my shock gave way to wanting to take action, I realized that I should probably be saying something, even if it wasn’t much. I know that sometimes people will look to others for comfort or direction, and all things considered, it probably would make sense to at least attempt to offer one or the other. I feel that trying to comfort people at this point would be disingenuous. As I mentioned above, there will be people in our country, and possibly even our community, that don’t make it through the next four years. To tell people that “we’ve made it through worse” is a lie, and I won’t disrespect you with such things.

Since I can’t really offer comfort, I’ll opt for direction instead.

In the final hours of the election, posts began to roll in about what we should be doing if Trump actually wins. What would the NTRW do? What is the correct action in regards to ma’at? What does Kemeticism say about moments like this?

If I had to sum it up succinctly, I’d say that it’s this: Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. And look after one another.

We all know that the gods fight isfet every single day. Every night, they climb onto the barque to drive back a/pep so that Creation can be renewed and start the next day over again. The gods continue to fight even when they are tired, even when they want to give up. They never stop, and they never back down. If we are to emulate their actions, then that means that we, too, should not give up or stop.

building a new boat(source)

 

divinek(source)

nasadii(source)

There was once a time when I was feeling particularly beat down. I asked Osiris where he found the urge to continue to push back isfet day after day. He returned my question with a question. He asked me “what choice do we have?” To him, the only choice forward was to fight. To give in and to give up was to die or stop existing. He knew that it was hard, but that he had no other options that were worth considering. I believe that this is the same for us. We have to keep moving forward, we have to keep fighting, and we have to take care of one another. It is a core tenet of ma’at to take care of those who are oppressed. Those who are without. Those who need assistance.

As we move forward into this uncertain territory, I ask that each of us do what we can to assist those who need help. Particularly those who belong to marginalized groups.

In the spirit of helping with this, I’ve gathered a bunch of links and other resources to try and help us to push forward. If you happen to have good resources to add to this list, please let me know.

How to be an ally, things you can do to help moving forward:

Charities that have pledged to fight the loss of rights, healthcare, etc. and/or need donations to continue to do so:

Resources for people who are at risk:

Protest Organization and Attendance Resources:

Other posts about this topic from other Pagans/Polytheists:

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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The Importance of Stability

I feel that all of my astral travel has really given me an appreciation for some of the difficulties that gods and spirits probably face when trying to interface with our world:

  • “I’ve finally managed to get to the other side, and now I can’t get anyone there to pay attention to me. How do I talk to people?”
  • “I figured out how these beings communicate, but I can’t get any of them to listen to me. What am I supposed to do?”
  • “Why am I in this house, this is not where I intended on showing up.”
  • “Oh where did all of the doors in this house go? Why did all of the furniture move?”
  • “What the hell is that? And will it hurt me if I touch it?”

I feel like all of these statements could easily be uttered by a god trying to get some human to listen to them, and they are all statements that have fallen out of my mouth at least a few times while trying to travel. I’m sure that interfacing with foreign planes is probably not as challenging for some non-physical beings, as they have more power and practice than I do, but there will always be challenges when you’re trying to interact with beings on a foreign plane.

As I’ve worked to get better at my astral travel (and with communicating with my menz and gods over here), I’ve found that there seems to be something that helps everyone get on a little bit better, and that is stability. I mentioned in my post about working with unknown beings that stability can be useful for establishing a solid connection with non-physical beings. However, I didn’t go too terribly in-depth on what I meant by stability, or how to incorporate it into your practice. Today, I’d like to talk about two kinds of stability–stability that we can create for non-physical beings here, and how we can incorporate stability in astral travel to better our success rates while traveling.

Stability While Traveling

I feel that it’s better to start with stability as it applies to astral travel, because I think that it helps to round out the picture about how stability here can benefit beings that don’t really live here. You see, when you’re traveling in the astral, you’re effectively doing what the gods do with us: you’re taking a non-physical portion of your body or Self, and taking that portion to places that you don’t (typically) fully live in. While it’s true that I have a form that lives with my astral household 24/7, the human portion of myself doesn’t really live there 24/7. That portion comes and goes as I split my focus between here and There. And while the gods may indirectly always reside in our physical layer of earth, on the by and large, they aren’t living here fully, either (which is why Open statues are helpful, which I’ll cover in another post).

While I don’t pretend that my experiences are the same sort of experiences that all travelers have, I wouldn’t be surprised if my experiences aren’t entirely unique, either. And with that being said, my experiences have shown me that the process of getting from here to There can be convoluted. Sometimes it’s really simple, and I look inside, and I am instantly there and ready to move around. But most days, there is a sort of acclimation process that occurs as I move from here to There. For those who have never traveled, imagine waking up in the dead of night after having taken some medication. Someone flicks the light on, and your eyes haven’t fully adjusted to everything. You can’t really see well, you’re not very steady on your feet. You’re not sure where anything else because your brain is still fuzzy.

There are days when “waking up” Over There feels similarly.

And when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to move quickly, part of the reason you’re able to move quickly at all is probably because you know where you’re at. You know that you’re in your bedroom, and you subconsciously have an idea where the furniture is, and where to move or not move, etc. Your pre-existing knowledge of your house gives you the stability to know where to go, even when your brain isn’t running on all cylinders.

Now imagine that in an astral setting. You finally are able to connect in, but you’re not sure where you are or who is around. Your hearing is doing pretty poorly, so even when your bestie reaches out to talk to you, you don’t necessarily hear it or register it. The house shifted while you were gone, and you’re not sure where any of the furniture is, or where you’re supposed to go. You may not even be certain which room you fell into when you woke up.

You have no stability to know where to go or what to do.

Stability is key in these examples for being able to hit the ground running. In my household, we know that I have certain things that need to be done in order to visit regularly, and all of these things lead to more stability for me as a traveler. For those who might be interested in incorporating some of these ideas into their astral households, here are some of the things we keep in mind:

  • Keep some of your housing the same. The rooms that I get put into always have beds and doorways in similar or the same locations. That way, I always know which way to head to reach a door. Similarly, keeping the furniture to a minimum can be helpful.
  • Keep walls and/or space to a minimum. Whenever I’m having issues with connecting, we will remove walls, or shrink the size of the room that I’m in. That way, I don’t have to try and process as much information when I come into the room. Just like with video games, I can usually only process so much of a given space at once, and if the space is smaller, it’s much easier to move around because I can process the entire space in one go.
  • Keep a schedule, and utilize a partner. One of the best ways that I’ve found to make porting into the astral easier is to keep to a schedule. If I tell my menz that I’m going to be arriving at XYZ time in XYZ location, they know to keep an eye out for me and can assist in helping me to acclimate to the location that I’m shifting into. This also helps because you’ll know exactly where you’re going, and you won’t have to utilize as much energy or time trying to figure out your surroundings.
  • Get physical. I’ve found that when I’m having a particularly hard time hearing, seeing, or just being in an astral space, that touching someone’s face, or holding something and focusing on the physical sensations that I get can help to ground me into my body well enough that I can start to move better.

Stability for the Unseen

As you might have noticed, most of these things involve giving the person who is traveling some predictability in where they are going or what they will be doing. And when we are trying to facilitate stability for our non-physical compatriots, you’re essentially trying to do the same for them. Obviously, some of the situations listed above don’t necessarily happen all that often. We don’t have to worry about walls appearing or disappearing here. We don’t have to worry about rooms being reorganized, and most of us aren’t moving every few weeks like some nomadic astral people might. However, there are still things that we can do to help make our experiences more stable and predictable for the entities we’re reaching out to.

  • Create a space that is just for them. This is usually going to be your shrine area, but it doesn’t have to be a shrine per se. Having an item or a space within your home that is specifically for the entities you’re hoping to interact with will help to give them a solid place to settle in whenever they come over. This allows entities to saturate items with their energy, or place markers and other identifiers into their space that will allow them to transition into our plane much smoother. Using items that they readily identify with will help make it easier for them to ground into the space, and settle into their “body” or a vessel/item that can contain a portion of their energy.
  • Keep a schedule. Just like with my family preparing things for when I arrive, it can make it easier for the entity you’re trying to communicate with to manifest if you’ve got a regular schedule. When some sort of schedule is kept, it makes it easier for them to time their efforts for trying to communicate with us, and it makes it easier for us to hear them because we’re both working towards the same goal at the same time. I often feel that devotees end up playing this never-ending game of phone tag with the gods, and figuring out a schedule for everyone to work around can help combat that.
  • Start off sessions or rituals with similar dynamics. These dynamics can be any number of things. It can be playing the same song before your ritual. It can be saying the same words at the beginning of each ritual. It can be wearing the same thing for each ritual. Or sitting in a certain way. Anything that can be repeated regularly can help create a trigger that can help both you and any spirits you’re working with transition into a different mindset before communing begins. In the same way that a bell primed Pavlov’s dogs to be fed, starting off your sessions or rites with the same thing can prime your brain (and your gods or spirits) for astral work.
  • Provide energy. Traveling across planes takes up energy, so if you can give some sustenance to your spirits or gods to utilize during travel, it can help them to become more prominent within the space. Energy can be in the form of food, but it can also be the energy you raise in ritual or energy you give of yourself, etc.

When all of these things are met on the regular, you essentially create a predictable schedule that the entity can plan for, which will occur in a predictable space that the entity can settle into when they arrive. By having familiar items and sounds around, the entity should be able to grasp onto these things and settle into the space with less issues. And the easier that it becomes for the entity to settle into our physical world, the more likely they are to do it more often. And further, I believe that it helps the gods to better understand us the more often that they come here.

While this is certainly not a definitive list, I feel that these are the staples for creating more stability for non-physical entities to alight within a space, and if you end up trying any of them, I’d be interested to hear how they work for you.

 

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Side Effects of Astral Bleed-Through

I don’t know if my experiences are considered “normal”, but I’ve found over the years that it’s really only a matter of time before your astral life starts to bleed over into your day-to-day life. In many ways, I expected it, as you’re essentially immersing yourself into a separate culture, and creating something of a second life that you live. Though I suppose how much this second life effects you will largely depend upon how much time you spend traveling, and how different the world that you fall into Over There is from over here.

For me, the process of bleed-through hasn’t been exactly linear, but it’s definitely occurred. At first it was relatively small things, and they were things that I either expected (such as problems coping with traumatic experiences, or the inevitable learning curve that comes with astral work) or purposefully worked to pull into my life (such as changing my clothing or buying new items that remind me of my family, etc.)

But then it started to get worse, this bleed-through. I started having issues with not saying “oh where I come from, we do this” because I knew that if I did, someone would want to know where exactly it was that I came from, and I wouldn’t have an answer for them. And then I found that my accent from Over There started to show up more and more over here, which I constantly have to battle now. And then it became things like saying words that belong to a language that I don’t even have a name for. As I caught the words in my throat, I anticipated having others ask me “oh what language is that”, and the resulting embarrassment of going “I have no clue :)”. The more bleed-through I began to experience, the less control I had over it.

And then I noticed a lot of my fundamentals began to change.

The more work I did in the astral, the more people I met, the more my ingrained views were challenged and scrutinized. The more experiences I had, the more I was forced to question how things are done here, and whether those methods are truly for the best. I found that we readily accept a lot of things as truths, as being “the only way” of doing something, but when you get far far away from home, you find that there are actually many ways to do things. And sometimes the way you know best isn’t necessarily the best way.

I found that my ideas about ethics for things began to shift and morph as I learned about other places. I found that my distaste for certain things went down in some ways, but went up in others. I found that I became more and more frustrated about the limitations of this planet that we live on. I found that my new methods of approaching things might not make other humans thrilled or happy.

I found that through the act of traveling, parts of myself had begun to change. The me from Over There was really beginning to bleed into the me that is over here, and I was left figuring out how to reconcile the two. Or more accurately, I was left figuring out how to reconcile living in this world with the new knowledge I had gained from traveling.

This opened up an interesting dichotomy for me. On one hand, it’s readily accepted and acknowledged that entities that live Over There might operate differently than humans. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen people mention that gods might behave differently than us because their ethical structures are different than ours. I’ve seen the same said about fae as well. It’s more or less accepted knowledge that entities that don’t live here don’t always behave in ways that we expect or would prefer. And the sentiments that usually accompany this thinking is that we shouldn’t try and change their methodologies just because they’re foreign to us.

But on the other hand, what about the people who consistently work with these beings? How long can we expect practitioners to rub elbows with entities who aren’t from here before they start to act more like the beings that they’re rubbing elbows with? What of the bleed-through that spirit workers will (likely) inevitably experience? How should spirit workers and/or astral travelers be expected to handle such bleed-through? What about situations where a spirit worker’s actions grate against their own morals and ethics (because sometimes you are not in control of yourself when you are traveling), how do they cope with the gap between the two? What are our collective expectations for such situations?

This is especially important because there is a lot of double-bind logic going on within the pagan community. Based off of what I’ve read, a lot of people would tell you that you shouldn’t go into someone else’s culture and try to change it. In that respect, we should respect that the gods do things differently than we do and that we shouldn’t push our human methods onto non-humans. Makes sense and seems respectful, right?

But then on the other hand, if a spirit worker has picked up traits from Over There that belong to that culture, but clash with our more human mentalities–what then? If you’re not supposed to change the astral culture you live in, you’ll be forced to more or less assimilate into the culture in order to get along, fit in, and get work done. But you’re also not allowed to bring it over here because it’s foreign or weird or is considered immoral by humans–what do you do? Currently, the answer seems to be that you shift your mindset from here to There and back again as you travel, but is that causing harm to the spirit worker’s health? Are there better methods to doing this? We won’t ever know unless we can openly discuss such things.

Speaking purely for myself, I have kept most of my bleed-through entirely to myself. I don’t talk about it publicly very much, and I’ve found that I’m able to keep a lot of the shifts and changes I’ve experienced to myself. I’ve learned to split my brain apart even more, to remind myself that “when you’re here, you do X, and when you’re there, you do Y” so as to not make anyone uncomfortable or weirded out. But just like with anything that lives in a closet or compartment, there are always days when it’s harder to keep such things hidden. There are days when I’d like to openly discuss some of the weirdness I’ve picked up along the way, with the hope that maybe I can network with others and learn from them about how they cope with maintaining separate mentalities for here vs. There.

Bleed-through was completely expected, but the way in which it’s manifested has taken me by surprise (at least a little bit). I’d certainly love to hear if other spirit workers have experienced bleed-through or shifts in their life because of what they’ve picked up while traveling or working with spirits. And if you do experience such things, how you cope with them or handle them.

 

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The Evolution of Mental Illness

I was recently participating in a discussion on Facebook about the negative voices that live in our heads, and heka that can be done to keep them at bay. In the post that was sparking the discussion, the author suggests that giving the negative voices in our heads a name and a form can help us to sit down and discuss things with them. It allows us to interact with parts of ourselves so that we can learn more about who we are, and more importantly, what causes some of these voices to speak up as they do. The long-term goal, as far as I could tell, was that by conversing with these voices, you’d hear less from them in time.

This got me thinking about the voices that pop up in my own head. Of course, I’m not talking about the voice of the gods or spirits that I work with. I’m talking about the voices that often tell me that I suck, or that remind me that I’m not doing as much as I’d like (often stated as “not doing as much as I should“). I’m talking about negative voices that often come with mental illness.

The more I began to mull over what those voices that embody my mental illness try to tell me is the “proper” reality that I live in, the more it really hit home that conversing with my internal voices probably wouldn’t do much for me. Why? Because I’ve found over the years that my mental illness evolves. You see, when I was younger, those voices would still tell me that I suck, but they’d use different reasons to showcase why it is that I suck. For example, when I was younger, I was a lot more isolated from other people, and I was frequently wracked with loneliness. So my voices would remind me about how no one really liked me, and how I could very easily just disappear and no one would notice, and I believed what my mental illness told me because I had nothing to prove them wrong. But now that I’ve worked through some of that baggage? It’s no longer used against me. If my voices want to bring me down, they know that that angle won’t work anymore, and so they choose a different soft point to poke at (such as “this particular person doesn’t like you and never will because you suck” etc.)

This is probably even remotely possible for me to detect on my end because of the shadow work that I’ve done over the past several years. I feel as though my trudging through life with all of my issues was a relatively plateaued affair until I began to actively hack at it in my late twenties via shadow work. Or in other words, my mental illness could hit me in the same spots over and over again when I was younger because I wasn’t making leaps and bounds worth of changes in the mental illness arena. The same issues and concerns I had in late high school were relatively similar to the issues and concerns I had in my early twenties. It only really shifted once I began the shadow work process.

But this highlights for me one of the ultimate caveats to shadow work that doesn’t seem to be spoken about enough–sometimes all the shadow work in the world won’t actually fix everything. I know I talked about this briefly in my post about shadow work being an ongoing process, but it really hit me hard when I realized that as I was beginning to learn how to outwit and overcome my mental illness, my mental illness was evolving to learn how to outwit me.

A side effect of this is that the voices have changed their ‘sales pitch’ to fit whatever topic is the most damaging at any given point in time. Once upon a time, my anxiety and depression could get away with telling me just about anything, and I’d believe it. But now they both have to work a little harder by formatting their statements a certain way in order for me to listen.

This probably sounds like an improvement, and in some ways it is. Due to the work I’ve put in, I can now shrug off certain statements that my brain will fling at me, and certain topics are relatively harmless to my mental health (in comparison to before). But don’t get me wrong–just because these mental illnesses seem to have to work a little harder to figure out what to tell me to get me to sink doesn’t mean that it’s still not effective. Nearly two years of being in mental illness hell is proof that these illnesses are very much in full swing and are effective at crippling me when they want to.

Another way to possibly illustrate it is to compare it to holes in a boat. If I have a boat that has a large hole in the bottom, there is no getting away from the fact that that sucks. Boats with holes don’t float very well. But let’s say that I learn how to somewhat patch this hole up, and now I have two smaller holes instead of one large one–some might consider that an improvement, but my boat still has holes in it. And that’s how I feel when I look at how my mental illness has shifted over the years. In some ways it’s an improvement, but I still have to live with mental illness. And that mental illness is still damned effective at doing what it does despite all of my best efforts.

The biggest point I really wanted to emphasize here is that shadow work will only do so much. Not many of us emphasize it enough, but there is no getting away from that fact: shadow work, therapy, all of these things that we use to try and heal ourselves from our trauma–they only go so far for some things. All of the shadow work in the world won’t erase mental illness, nor will it fix everything. You can definitely wage war against mental illness and push it back a bit, but just like isfet, it is always there lurking at the corners of ones mind. Just like with the gods working to maintain ma’at, the work we put in to stay as healthy as possible with mental illness is a non-stop, never-ending process.

And similarly, if you find that you’ve been working for years trying to get headway with your mental illness, but find that you’re still only treading water, please know this: you’re not alone. Fighting against mental illness is hard and it’s a non-stop battle, and you’re not less for not being able to squash your mental illness down entirely. While so much of the world seems to want to imply that you can somehow teach your mental illness a thing, and make it so that it no longer effects you, that’s simply not true (and honestly smacks against the fact that it’s an illness). And if my experiences are any indication at all, as you improve at waging war against your illness, your illness could get more adept at waging war against you.

Because I haven’t said it enough, remember that shadow work is a tool in your toolbox, and the same way that a hammer doesn’t work that great for putting screws into something, sometimes shadow work isn’t the right tool for the job. Sometimes you’ll do your shadow work exactly as you’re supposed to, and you’ll still come out not completely healed. This isn’t necessarily your fault, but is the nature of living in imperfect bodies that are often riddled with illness. You’re not bad for not being able to fix an incurable illness. You’re not bad for not being able to “magic” such things away. And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Have you found that shadow work only goes so far with mental illness? How do you combat this? Have you found that your illness has evolved or changed it’s “angle of attack” over the years?

 

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The Internet Lacks Object Permanence

Over the years of interacting with people over the Internet, I’ve noticed that many people online seem to lack some amount of object permanence when it comes to other Internet users. Now, this isn’t object permanence in the strictest sense, obviously. I’m fairly certain that most of us have the ability to “understand that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way)”. But just because we get it on a superficial level doesn’t mean that it’s actually being absorbed and utilized on a deeper level.

Object permanence: what it is, and how I’m relating it to religion

For those of you who have never heard of the concept of object permanence, it’s basically the concept that you understand that things exist, even if you can’t see or experience  them directly. It’s something that most people develop when they’re still a toddler (there are some exceptions to this, as some disorders involve having difficulty with object permanence), and so most of you reading this probably do understand that when I place a cup in the cabinet and close the door, the cup still exists inside of the cabinet, even if you can’t see it. Your inability to experience this cup directly doesn’t make it suddenly vanish from existence.

You’d think that a group of people who spends a lot of time talking about entities that none of us can touch or see in the physical sense would have a really firm grasp of object permanence. In many ways, our entire religious experience is a drawn-out exercise in object permanence. We can’t necessarily experience our gods directly (as in: we can’t touch them, see them, or talk with them the way that we would a human), and so nearly everything that we do requires utilizing object permanence in order to be effective or successful in what we’re doing as practitioners.

However, it seems that many of us have a blind spot in our object permanence: other practices and how they are presented on the Internet by co-religionists. I think that objectively we understand that many of us aren’t talking about the entirety of our practices online, but it seems that many of us forget that on the regular. It seems that for a large portion of Internet users, if you’re not actively talking about it or posting about it, it doesn’t exist.

To use my cup and cabinet metaphor above, if I decide to keep part of my practice (the cup) in the cabinet because I don’t wish to share it with you (aka: I don’t post about it online), then a lot of people assume that the parts of my practice that are in the cabinet (the parts of my practice that I don’t openly discuss) don’t exist.

Or in other words, because I haven’t dredged up every aspect of my practice and put it on display for you, I’m obviously not doing those things ever, and those “missing” parts of my practice don’t exist.

Building roadblocks out of assumptions

This habit can be very damaging on multiple levels. First of all, it can create a very hostile environment where practitioners may use their assumptions (aka: assuming the cup stops existing because it’s in the cabinet) to berate or chastise other practitioners. This seems to manifest in a lot of ways, but the most common that I’ve seen is that people assume that because everyone only posts funny, lighthearted or “fluffy” stuff online, that none of them is actually serious in their religion or practice. This then bleeds into the belief that others aren’t historically driven enough, serious enough, or legitimate enough because they’re not seeing the “proper markers” to assume that someone isn’t making a joke of this very serious business known as religion.

These assumptions can then create a toxic environment where co-religionists have to worry about appearing “legitimate” enough to their peers in order to be taken seriously or given respect. Some members may feel pressured to over emphasize the “real” parts of their practice so that their peers will give them the time of day. Conversely, others may feel that they need to hide the “less legitimate” portions of their practice, or even stop talking or participating all together because of the pressure to meet this unstated standard of perfection that these assumptions have created for the community.

And as can be seen and witnessed in multiple communities right now, this dichotomy of “good enough” and “not good enough” creates a very large divide within a religion. It creates a divide between those who are deemed as legitimate and those who are not. You are either serious and follow a set protocol, or you are a pleeb who is “ruining our religion” and “disrespecting the gods” because we’re making assumptions about what your practice consists of based off of what you say online. The fact that you may go away from your computer where you’ve just posted 10 sparkly NTR gifs for funsies and are about to do a 3 hour long ritual means nothing if you’re not posting it online.

Destroying roadblocks by destroying our assumptions

To be honest, every time I see an instance of someone forgetting that people don’t display every aspect of themselves or their religious practice online, I get very sad. To me, it seems like such a waste to spend all of our time comparing practices and telling others that they’re doing it wrong because they don’t meet our own personal criteria for what makes a practice “correct.” It’s one thing if a community member is being problematic or hurting others with their practices, but honestly, if no one is being hurt by what they’re doing, why do we make such a big deal out of it? Why are so many of us more interested in judging how others practice or worship than tending to our own business?

I think the only way to actively work against the lack of object permanence that exists in our online communities is to actively work against our own assumptions that we make. Each of us makes assumptions about what others are doing or not doing, about how legitimate their experiences are or aren’t, and about how serious they may or may not be about their religious practice. We all do it, it’s part of human nature.

What’s important is to actively work against those assumptions, though. Even if you start to assume that someone has something wrong, maybe take a step back and ask yourself if it really matters. Does it really matter that someone sees a god with pink hair? Does it really matter that they’re offering to the gods in plastic solo cups? Does it really matter that people are joking about a god’s butt?

It’s a lot like the yardstick of dickery: is what is being said or done actually hurting anyone, or is it just bugging me? Is there any actual benefit from me saying something?

If the answer to both of these is no, then there isn’t really any need to get upset over it. And it’s important to remember that what we’re seeing online is not the totality of anyone’s practice. Just because someone might appear to be practicing one way online doesn’t mean that that is all that their practice consists of.

And as I’ve said a million times before, if the behaviour is truly damaging to the gods, we should learn to trust that the gods will handle it in their own time using their own methods.

Learning to work together with something as personal and important as religion can be challenging, but the sooner we learn to ease up on our assumptions, the better off things will get. Learning to remember that no one shows every aspect of their practice online is important, as is remembering that different deity-devotee relationships can take different forms. The more that we can work to find common ground between different methods of practice within Kemeticism, the better off our entire community will be.

Do you have issues with assuming too much about others’ practices based off of what they showcase online? Have you ever assumed something about a practitioner’s practice, only to have that assumption proved wrong later on? How do you stop yourself from assuming too much about your co-religionists?

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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in Boat Paddlers Arsenal, Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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Devoted without Devotion: Why?

I wrote a post last year about some of my revelations and experiences of devoting yourself to the gods even when you don’t feel a whole lot of emotion towards them. It’s one of my favorite posts, I think, because it really does sum up a lot of my experiences not only with the gods, but with life itself. Due to the broken structure of my brain, or perhaps it’s just my nature in general, I don’t base a lot of what I do off of my feelings, and ever since I wrote that post, I’ve become more and more okay with this. I have become okay with being devoted while not feeling the devotion (aka the love). In many ways, I wear it like a badge of honor that I have managed to continue to develop my relationship with the NTRW despite my emotions sometimes telling me to quit.

I am proud of the fact that I can see something through, even when that something becomes frustrating, difficult, or mundane.

Despite that pride in my acceptance of myself (and to an extent, my limitations), there seems to be an awful lot of confusion about why someone would bother to do work for the gods even though they don’t seem to love their gods (this, of course, is all dependent upon how you define love). When this came up on Tumblr (because it’s always Tumblr, amirite?), the confusion seemed to largely come from non-Kemetics. However, I think this is something worth talking about, so that maybe we can reach a better level of understanding about different methods and reasons for different practices styles. So in that spirit, I’m choosing to go a bit more in-depth about the misconceptions of what a somewhat “emotionless” relationship/practice might entail as well as the why behind the continued devotion despite the lack of feelings.

jobunenjoyable

“It’s a job, therefore you don’t like it”

I think one of the biggest points of confusion about my lack of love for my gods is the idea that viewing my work for them as a job, combined with a lack of perceived love for the entities I am doing the work for, inherently means I don’t like it. Now don’t get me wrong, there are days when I definitely don’t like doing this work. Days like when tumblr explodes because Kemetics were talking amongst themselves. Days like when I have to deal with drama within the community or on one of the boards I admin for. Days when people are being particularly mean to one another, or I see back-biting occurring.

Even in the best of jobs, relationships, and life–there will be bad days.

And due to having depression (and I’m in a fallow period that is coupled with a really bad stretch of depression right now, for context), there are often more days where I dislike doing the work than not. That doesn’t mean that I don’t always like the job, though. And calling something a job doesn’t necessarily mean that I dislike it, either. There are certainly people who love what they do for a living. Jobs and enjoyment aren’t mutually exclusive. You can call something a job, and still get enjoyment out of it. I just happen to be the kind of person who will take something more seriously if I call it a job. For me, calling something a job reflects how serious it is for me. It’s more than a hobby or something I do when I happen to have time. And that’s part of why I call it a job–because it keeps me serious about getting the work done.

Of course, that doesn’t answer why I continue to do the job despite it’s bad days. Unlike a bad day job, I don’t get paid for this, so I can’t cite that. Surely there has to be some reason, right? (the answer to that is yes, and I will get into that in a minute.)

whydoit_somanydevotees

“There are other people who can do the work”

Another misconception that I saw thrown around was that there are certainly other people who love the gods more, and surely they can do the work instead of a negative nancy like me, right?

Perhaps in other religious groups there are enough devotees to spread the work around (I disagree, but maybe I’m wrong), but Kemeticism is not one of those religions currently. As small as we still are now, there was a time when we were even smaller. In the time when I was first contacted by Set, there was very little to speak of in regards to an online Kemetic community. Nearly everything was KO driven, and there were only two small groups that existed outside of KO (Children of Kemet and eCauldron’s SIG). So the assumption that there is enough people doesn’t really work for our community.

To build off of that, even if there were enough people to spread the work around, it’s entirely possible that the gods might have felt I could do this particular job better than another person. I think that many times the gods hand us work based off of what we are good at doing, not necessarily what we want to do (which is why I didn’t get to be a priest, I assume). So to that end, it’s worth remembering that sometimes the gods don’t really care about what we want. They care that we get the work done.

There are also other factors including having enough time to get the job done, having the resources and tools to get the job done, beyond the basics of how effective you are at the job. In the mundane world, we say that love doesn’t pay the bills. In the Unseen, love can certainly be a useful tool or asset, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get the job done that needs doing. I may not have a heart overflowing with love for my gods (though I think I might have once upon a time), but I certainly did get the work done.

And that is a sort of love, in a way, is it not?

whystay

And now we get to the part that everyone is actually interested in- the big fat “why” behind why weird ol’ me continues to do this work despite breaking the holiest of holy commandments, which is not loving my gods. This list is not exhaustive (I could probably give you a solid ten, but then this post would be really long), but I think highlights the top three reasons behind why I stick around.

Reason 1: I said I would

One of the first things you have to understand about me is that I place a lot of value in my promises and my word. I don’t sign up for projects and then drop them. I don’t start stuff and not finish it (although sometimes it can take a long time to finish a project, due to life getting in the way). And that is the same for this situation, too. Set found me, and told me that he wanted me to help build a thing (and later to do other things). I agreed to help because I was starstruck and naive.

However, just because I am less naive and a bit more jaded now doesn’t mean that I’m going to revoke my agreement. I said I would help with what he wanted to build, and I aim to see that through.

I recently saw someone say that devotion is a series of choices, and I have chosen to stick this out even when every part of me wants to quit.

Reason 2: It allows me to help people

One of the biggest things I love about the work that I do for Set is that it allows me to help people. While I may not always love Set, and I may not always love his methods, I do have a love for what his methods and direction have created. Yes, it sucks that a large portion of my life is spent dealing with drama. Yes, it sucks that I’ve made enemies along the way that I probably could have avoided otherwise. Yes, it sucks that there are days when I really want to be lazy, but instead need to get something done because he told me to.

But when I get anons telling me that my posts have helped them, all of that becomes worth it. When people tell me that I’ve made a difference in their life, that makes all of the hell worth it.

I once equated myself to a guinea pig for Set. That he would throw me in front of a bus so that I could document it and pass the information on to the rest of you so that you wouldn’t have to be hit by a bus like I was. I go into situations knowing this, and willingly doing it anyways because I know that it could help someone. For me, helping others is one of the main reasons I continue to stay alive. For someone who is a proud nihilist, one of the biggest achievements you can make in life is to help others–it’s the best way to leave a lasting impact that could persist beyond my short lifetime.

Set knows this, and he uses it to his advantage. I let him because it’s one of the only things I’m truly passionate about- helping people.

Reason 3: It serves a purpose (tw suicide mention)

Another reason for why I continue to serve despite not feeling the love sadly comes down to my survival. This isn’t the “woo” spirit worker kind of survival that you often hear about- where the spirit worker has to continue to do the work, lest the spirits kill them. Oh no, this is far more mundane.

What I mean by survival is that it often keeps me from contemplating ending my life.

Yes, there are several other things besides Kemeticism that I use as leverage to keep myself alive in a tough spot. But this whole community shtick is still a pretty hefty thing that I use on the regular. Having something to do with my time that I can convince myself as being bigger than myself, and therefore more important (see reason 2), often keeps me feeling like my life isn’t a complete waste of time. It gives me something to direct my energy at. It gives me something to work towards, even when I don’t feel like working towards anything except a 6 foot hole in the ground.

In that same vein, it’s worth bringing up that many of the people who chose to go after me for my lack of love for the gods seemingly ignored the ties that this has to depression. The implication was that if you don’t love it, you shouldn’t do it–especially if there are many other people who could possibly do it better, and be happier in the process. If I, a depressed person, took that attitude towards everything, I wouldn’t be alive. While I’m sure that there are readers who will disagree with me, in my opinion it’s not a far jump for someone who has problems with suicidal ideation to take that mindset and go “well I don’t love my life or myself, and there are other people who could fulfill the same job and functions that I do, so I should just call it quits.”

For those of us with damaged brain chemistry, listening to our brain every time it decides something isn’t worth doing can become a matter of life and death. This is also another reason why I don’t place so much emphasis on how I feel, because if I based everything off of my feelings, I’d likely not be here to type this out. Kemeticism and all of its trappings has helped me to not take drastic measures during low points in my life.

TL;DR:

So to sum up everything above (because creating a nice, succinct outro was not working):

  • There is nothing wrong with calling your devotion a job. There are several reasons why one may choose to do that, and those reasons may have little to nothing to do with their feelings (or lack thereof) towards the job or role they are fulfilling. Much like with “work with”, let’s quit attaching baggage to words.
  • You can still have a job that is fun. They are not mutually exclusive.
  • There isn’t always enough people to go around to fulfill a function. We should stop assuming that there are enough people to go around. I think there is a reason so many polytheists end up with 3893756 gods knocking on their door. It’s likely because they’re short-staffed.
  • Even in cases where there are enough people to fulfill a role, that doesn’t mean that those people are the best choice. Strong feelings, while nice, don’t instantly make you proficient at a job.
  • The number of devotees available to perform a job also doesn’t invalidate someone else trying to fulfill a role. You can still perform a job, function, or role well while not feeling super awesome about it (and to bring this into a mundane sphere, there is even a ruling that an employer can’t force you to be happy while performing your job, which should further reinforce this point), and the fact that others might be able to do the same stuff as you doesn’t make your actions any less valid. Another person’s success doesn’t inherently mean you’re a failure.
  • The reasons why I continue to stick around and perform my role for Set include:
    • I told him I would, aka I’m loyal
    • It helps me to fulfill some of my own personal ideals for a well-lived life (aka helping people, trying to leave a positive impact on the world around me)
    • It’s one more thing in my arsenal to use against my depression
    • It allows me to learn and grow as a person, while also fulfilling the above

Hopefully this helps to clear up some of the miscommunications that were occurring earlier this month. If anyone has questions, I am more than willing to clarify and explain a bit more about anything listed above.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Kemeticism, Rambles

 

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