Falling out of practice, out of doing the needed maintenance for myself has led to a lot of problems. From not paying attention to my own needs, to not doing regular meditation, each part that fell away put something in its place. Where I could once find stillness I found chaos; where I could once find happiness I found anger, resentment, boredom, or apathy. There was a ritual the group I used to belong to did a long while ago, dedicated to the Goddess Astarte. In it, we called upon Her to help us accept ourselves, empower us, and through us as a group, to bolster ourselves as people. We wrote messages on hand mirrors, some in foreign or ancient languages, but many wrote in English phrases each person wanted another to remember. Thing like “you are a beautiful person” or “You are powerful and beautiful”. Empowerment for each of us, tailored to each of us. I stopped picking up the mirror, stopped looking, and other things fell by the wayside too. It’s amazing how crystal clear it can all seem so much later; had I worked on my self-confidence, maybe I would have had enough inner fortitude to meet the challenges then that I face now. Now, I look at the words, and I still feel that empowerment, and I also feel that drive. That drive to feel like I’m ‘square’ with my Gods and Ancestors, like our relationship is in equivalent exchange. That drive to feel that wholeness in myself.
When I get right down to it, I am largely square with my Gods. Sure, I have work to do, but I do it. I pray regularly, I am relearning to listen to their Voices, to get my feet back on this shamanic path in a way that, in the long term, is sustainable. The drive really comes from me, and this sense that I need to do. Sometimes this has pushed me into the situation that got me into this mess, whether it was horsing when I could have passed along a message, or “I’ll do it!” or “Can I help? ” every time I thought there might be a case for me to help or do something in. Sometimes that came from pure motives, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes I did it because I genuinely wanted to help, and others because I wanted to feel important, special, or like I was worth something. So I am being very careful when I respond to that drive to do. I’m asking myself more questions like “Why do I want to do this?”, which tends to be the first one out. I ask my Gods more questions; it has taken me getting knocked on my ass to realize asking more questions are not pestering Them, but including Them in the conversation and in my life. I pray more often, let things fall into “I can let this go; I don’t need to control it”. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but compared to where I’ve been in terms of asserting spiritual and other forms of control over my life, I’ve been a lot more lax in the last few weeks than I have been in the last few years.
Part of my spiritual maintenance is really learning how to let go of that control and be an instrument of the Gods when I need to be, and being myself at others. I love writing, and I love writing about spirituality, philosophy, and similar topics. I get joy from it. I would probably be doing these posts even if I wasn’t required to…but something the posts force me to do, as required by the Society, is really dig into the meat of where I am sitting emotionally. Where I am right now, is falling back into love with my spirituality, rather than it being a burden or something I do. I am relearning how to embrace it with my whole Self, to put myself to it not just as “this is what I do” but “this is what I love”. Yes, being a shaman is what I am, and it is something I have embraced, but I’ve always had this point where I put things at arms length in terms of embracing the work. I think that is where the control comes in, where the horarium failed me. I don’t need the control, I need the emotion. The vulnerability. To look my Gods in the eyes, or to kneel before Them and truly say “I put myself in Your hands and trust you”. That scares me. It scares me because it opens me up to possibilities I have not considered, plans I have not thought of, requests I may not want to fulfill but will, and journeys that will challenge me in ways I don’t want to face.
Some of those challenges are from Loki. Since my fiancee and I broke up, I have been scared to approach Him. I thought He would be furious at me for using the horsing with Him as I did, as some kind of patch-job to our relationship. What really angers Him more, I am finding, is that the lording over other people, like “I’m doing x, y, and z, what are you doing?” or “I have had x years of practice; do you know what you’re doing?” and similar kinds of crap. Yet He has been waiting for me to pull my head out of my ass, stop being afraid, and approach Him in that vulnerability I have always been scared of being in His Presence. He, not Odin, will be the main God I will work with during my upcoming fast, and that scares me more than my Hanging on the Tree did. I realize something though, in all this fear: I don’t really know Him. Not really. I mean, I horsed Him a lot, but did I actually develop a working relationship with Him? No. We had dialogue, we shared notes, we talked on occasion, but it was more like that cartoon from Looney Toons where the dog and coyote check in at the beginning. It was more business-oriented, more doing oriented, than an actual working relationship. So many times I could have simply talked to Him rather than open up my body to Him. So many times I could have listened instead of done; something I am working to correct.
At the end of the day, I have to sit down with myself and ask myself “Do I trust Him enough not to permanently break me, and trust Him enough that any scars I get from working with Him I can see as being good lessons? Am I willing to negotiate with Him as with Odin? Am I willing to be vulnerable and truthful with Him?” It shocked me a little bit to realize “Yes” despite the deeply painful lessons He put my ex through. I am still scared…but it isn’t the same fear with the Gods as it used to be. I’m facing old demons, this I already know…but I am also facing vulnerability before my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and others. This isn’t like “I bare myself before Them all the time”, but in the moments where we both need me to, in the moments where I was most afraid, such as in prayer, to be intimate about how I felt towards my Gods and/or ask for help as if I was bothering Them. To trust that I am worth Their time and energy, to trust that I am worth the work They have put into helping me get where I am today. To really realize not just in some bullshit mental exercise, but in practice, in feeling, Gebo with Them. That allowing Them in, to truly let Them give back, is what I am finding myself doing now, bit-by-bit. The fast will be good for me. I know it. I trust the Gods; I am putting myself into Their hands…and though I am afraid, I trust Them. I keep remembering the Litany Against Fear from Dune. It’s an apt, and powerful piece of writing for me. Now that I think about it, I will print it out and put it on my door. To me there is a wealth of difference of being afraid and experiencing fear. The former can overwhelm, be that mindkiller, where the latter can challenge you to move beyond it, and experience something new, something profound.
Sometimes the fear is there for a reason, but to be consumed by it is something that has kept me at arms length from my Gods at times where I did not need to, from people where it hurt them the most, and from myself because I would not face myself. My fear with my Gods hasn’t been an all-consuming panic, but a creeping worry, a moment of deep doubt that cuts off communication, that fear that “I am not good enough” that translated me into bullying my friends and hurting myself but shutting myself down and ignoring my own heart, and even inner goodness. That imbalance allowed hubris, that imbalance of “I’m not good enough, I need someone to tell me I am!”, and “I need to be better than this; let me show people I am!”, of not being happy or content in my own skin has produced so many problems. So much of this work has been about getting me grounded and back into my own head, and this fast is one more step in that journey of healing myself, and through that, of eventually healing others.