PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

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ThinkingLikeaMountain-2
"Thinking Like a Mountain" by Robert Bateman

In this time of accelerating environmental change, many of us feel a sense of urgency to help transform humanity’s relationship with the Earth.  This sense of urgency is what drew together a large group of diverse Pagans, including Pagan leaders, authors, artists, and bloggers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia to draft “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.”  In honor of Earth Day, the statement has been published at ecopagan.com where you can add your signatureThe statement represents the beginning of a conversation, not the final word. Join us in our call to all people to rise to this historic moment in order to protect all life on Earth by signing the statementYou can sign on your own behalf or on behalf of a group or organization.


A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment

Who we are

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Meditation - The Gift of Transformation

Meditation is a huge part of my spiritual life.  It is something that I try to do every single day, in various shapes and forms.  I find that sitting meditation, or zazen is the best way for my self to refocus on what’s important, to stop the chattering ego and really get deep down to the issues at hand. So much clarity is gained from simply stopping, from allowing the silence to fill your soul. In that deep pool of quiet, in that dark heart of Cerridwen’s cauldron, lies transformation.

You have to be willing to do it, though. It’s difficult, as many of us don’t really like spending time alone, much less sitting still and “wasting time”. However, I would posit that this could very well be the best use of your time, realigning you to the present moment, grounding yourself in the reality of the here and now.  We can get so carried away on our emotions, on our problems with the world, on our own sense of self that we become blinkered to the rest of existence. Life is constantly happening, all around us, and we hardly notice it.  Sitting meditation is a great way to pay attention to it, to our selves, our bodies and our minds, to see how they work, to get in touch with them once again, thereby allowing us to get in touch with the rest of the world on a much clearer, positive level.

Like a deep pool, the waters may become disturbed, but if we stop the mud will eventually settle to the bottom, the clear water rising to the top to perfectly reflect the sky above.  We can become as this pool, reflecting with clarity the present moment in all that we do, in all that we say and in all that we think.  It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_101_0669.JPGRecently, Osireion celebrated the vernal equinox (spring) with our own version of the Egyptian secular holiday, Sham el Nessim.  We held a ritual to honor Isis, piling her altar with the simple feast which would follow: lettuce, smoked salmon, capers, onions, boiled eggs and cream cheese (yes, we like lox and bagels!).  Each of us decorated a red-dyed egg with glyphs and used it during ritual, then ate it afterwards.  We peeled little spring scallions, “sniffed the breeze” (sham el nessim translated) and nibbled them, and sang to welcome spring – “we see your life in the greening of the land, we feel your love and begin to understand.” 

At the same time that many of us were holding various kinds of Pagan ceremonies to mark the equinox, present-day Egyptians were picnicking and doing some of the same things.  I hear that Muslim authorities don’t like it, but for most Egyptians it’s a national holiday, involving the eggs, salted fish and onions.  Certainly, after such a long winter here in the States, going outside with family and friends to sniff the breeze and have some picnic-innocent fun has been quite welcome. 

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Effective Feedback: Giving and Receiving (Part 2)

Any leader or rituallist is going to get feedback. In Part 1, I addressed some methods to discern what feedback is useful and what isn't. It's also important to learn how to give good feedback, which is what I'll go into here.

While I love hearing, "That ritual was great!" what this primarily tells me is that this person (or the people telling me this) had a good time. It’s not, however, specific. “I loved the chanting!” or, "I've never experienced a ritual like that, I was able to connect to my ancestors in a way I couldn't ever before," is more specific and thus, more useful. 

I've facilitated rituals where I had an equal number of people tell me, "The energy in that ritual was great!" and, "The energy tonight really kind of sucked." So what makes good feedback?

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Effective Feedback: Giving and Receiving (Part 1)

Just weeks ago I had the honor of leading the main ritual at Paganicon, a Pagan conference in its fifth year taking place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I felt the main ritual went really well, and over the course of the weekend I received a lot of positive feedback from people who had a deep, transformative experience during the ritual. I also heard from the convention staffers that fully a third of the feedback forms positively mentioned the ritual or one of my other workshops. 

As a teacher and ritual leader, it's always really exciting to hear that my work has had a positive impact!

However, after I returned from the event, I was directed to a blog post from another presenter at Paganicon who really disliked the ritual I facilitated. In fact, this presenter also had some problems with my presence on at east one of the three panels I spoke on. And it made me think a lot about feedback and leadership.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    This is super helpful, thank you for being so open and sharing this!
  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight says #
    You are most welcome! The issue of feedback is, I think, a crucial one. So often folks go into the knee-jerk place. They're either
  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    Good article. You and I have a lot in common; similar issues for similar reasons, including our ego issues and their source; and
  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight says #
    Glad the article is of use. I just posted part 2, and I'm thinking of writing another just on how to run a useful feedback session
  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight says #
    Oh, the ball dropping. People have such cool projects and I want to support them...and then I look at my to do list and I weep.

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The Solitary Path

Some people find comfort and deep learning in solitude. Others find inspiration and wisdom in the interaction with others, where the edges of our souls meet. I find a good balance between the two in my life, needing solitary reflective contemplation and the shared words, laughter and brilliance of my friends to encourage and nourish creativity. I have a strong circle of female friends with whom I share ritual practice, dance, creative crafts and good food, alongside weekends away, sometimes as "girly" weekends, sometimes as spiritual pilgrimages.

I have found ritual with these ladies deeply inspiring, and the bond that it creates reminds me of the sanctity within all our relationships.  However, I mostly practice my Druidry on a solitary level, literally walking the wild paths of the heath or deep into the heart of the forest alone.  In those moments I feel a deep connection to the world around me, whereas in ritual with others I feel a deep connection to them.

I think a balance is definitely required, in working both alone and with others. But here I shall speak of working alone, and the benefits that can be obtained from following a spiritual path with your own wits, instinct and inspiration to guide you.

I think that more of us need to spend quality time alone. I realise that in our society many people already feel alienated and isolated, but I wonder how much of that stems from not really being able to properly be with your self. I worry about the next generation, who have phones and tablets and a constant barrage of virtual communication that they can resort to anytime they are left alone. I remember a time when my husband was away for a work conference, and feeling the need for human company I went down to the local pub to chat with others from the village at the bar. There was conversation between the customers and the publican, but as soon as she left to go to the kitchen conversation died, and people went straight to their phones rather than talk to each other. I sat there, wondering what on earth has gone wrong with our society in that we cannot talk to each other anymore, but I digress.

The need for other human companionship can be strong, and it's not a need that we should ignore, being a social species. However, what I would posit is that we certainly do need to learn how to be alone, to listen to ourselves, to become attuned to our thoughts and behaviour in order to better understand ourselves. I strongly feel that when we understand ourselves, we understand others and can be in the world with more empathy and compassion. Often I have taken time out away from the world in order to better understand it - in this I feel a very strong connection with monastic traditions. By removal from the world and the thoughts of others I can better hear the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of place all around me. By spending time alone with my thoughts I learn the cycles that they go through, paying attention to them and really noting them.  With a little Zen, when we actually pay attention to our thoughts they don't control us as much as they might otherwise, offering us an opportunity to live with real intention instead of leading reactive lives.  

Spending time in meditation alone, learning how the mind works we can then begin to hear the songs of others as naturally our thoughts quiet down.  We have paid them attention, and now that our thoughts have received the attention they desired, they no longer crave more.  We hear the birdsong, we feel the sunlight on our skin, the wind in our hair where otherwise we might have been distracted by thoughts, feelings, emotions and situations.  The world opens up, and we are once again reminded that the world is more than just us - that we are a part of a beautiful living, breathing system where everything is inter-related. It is an exquisite gift.

Spend more time with yourself. If you can, spend half an hour, an hour or a couple of hours each day alone, perhaps going for a walk or meditating. If at all possible, go on a weekend solo retreat, or a week-long solo retreat in a place that inspires you, where you can really connect with what is important and with your own beautiful self. Learn to love that self for what she is, for who she is and connect with her, giving her as much time as you would your dearest friends.

When we learn to love our own self, that love will then spill out into the wider world, nourishing and sustaining others. 

For more on the solitary path, see my latest book The Awen Alone: Walking the Path of the Solitary Druid, available now through Moon Books.

 

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