Why this blog is not full of woo – Monday blogging

It is full of woo if I read back, but it is everyday embodied woo more than pithy words, Dali Lama inserts, and quotes from “how to be more yourself only better/happier/faster/more awe inspiring” authors who seem to have cornered the market on 5 word sound bytes that sound so important. My blog is not full of pointed “think on this today” questions. And it won’t be.

Those types of religious blogs are fine for others to write. I read some of those blogs myself. For many of them their public persona is very strictly controlled with professional image restriction in content stamped all over it. Everyone gets to be exactly who they are so I leave them to it. They are far better at spiritual declarations about the constant chase of their inner blockages in less than 100 words. Me, I’m gonna sit here and talk to you like we know each other intimately and with a lot more words. I can do the quips. I can do the eyebrow-raised core soul querying (I call these “deep thinky thoughts”) and sometimes I will do that, but mostly what you’ll get is a thorough and thoroughly flawed picture of me.

A couple of years ago during an intense religious ordeal I found myself making an oath alone in a large museum room with a stuffed buffalo. (For those curious a ceremony was done asking her permission to sacrifice her to educate others in the museum. She agreed and so it was done.)  As I pet her I teared up and leaned my upper body against her shoulder, head on her neck, forearms and hands on either side of my head. Words pounded into my head and I knew I was expected to say them out loud as an oath. I didn’t want to. I didn’t understand what the oath meant so I balked. But as the incessant pounding into my head continued it became clear the way to stop it was to speak it. And so I did.

I kept rolling it around in my head. I couldn’t make sense of it in a way to be or live or serve. It was a command for how to serve. I was focusing on the wrong part of the sentence. I was trying to suss out the wrong part. It was the beginning of the sentence that I should have noted. There is a thing about buffalo and the tie between them and the indigenous people of this country. Their is a bond and an agreement. The buffalo gives itself to the people and the people honour the buffalo by using all of its parts. 

I serve by using all of my parts. The glorious centered and grounded part, the broken parts, the flaws and foibles, the less than stellar parts, the high woo parts, the devoted parts, the Joy and Love parts. I show all of them here, not only some of them. You’ll get widely varied posts about: predators, naps, slips back into coping mechanisms, woo, and sitting in shit. This is who I am, religious blog or not, and the difference between this blog and the other one on Dreamwidth is I am focused on my practices and leaving out the other mundane stuff that ends up there.

I write as if I am talking to you with incomplete sentences, extra punctuation, rise and fall in pitch, and all the rest of the weirdness that is my writing. In ritual and out of ritual I am pretty much the same. Offline and online I am pretty much the same. I’ve met a good number of folks in “real life” that I had only previously known online and I have yet to hear one of them say, “Oh! You’re so different than online!” That makes me happy.

I’m far from perfect and pretty proud of the fact that I can comfortably know this while still doing my best. Comfortably knowing it doesn’t stop stage fright in some situations. Prior to stepping into ritual or facilitating a workshop or leading a ceremony I have long moments of jello-insides. I see the equivalent of me walking the red carpet in a gorgeous gown, stepping on the front hem and doing a faceplant. Not a trip and delicate fall, a faceplant with two broken teeth and a bloody nose. Sometimes that stage fright is less intense, sometimes more intense, but it is always there. “What if I am an ass??” the wicked voice in the back of my mind taunts. I know the answer is, “What if you are an ass? Then what?” I’ve learned that the world does not come to a crashing halt, I don’t lose friends or loved ones, and I don’t die of humiliation on the spot. (These were surprises!)

Here I want to show all of myself, even when I am an ass. Because being an ass sometimes is okay. Not being an ass is even better, yes, and I thoroughly enjoy those times (which are far more common than that wicked voice would let on; yet another surprise). When I do a fabulous non-ass job I tend to say it out loud as if hearing it in my own voice makes it true. “We really rocked that!” has been known to come out of my mouth. If when you hear me say that you see a little kid jumping up and down clapping her hands then you’ve got the right picture because that is how inside me feels when I say that. I am really happy to have the mental image of me sprawled on the red carpet picking up tooth chips and wiping a bloody nose on my gown’s sleeve fade away, forgotten until the next time.

So I present here my whole self as I do in my offline life. Sometimes I curl into myself feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes I sit sobbing across the table from you keenly feeling the pain of rejection that I did not take personally yet hurts just the same. Sometimes I bark out a high cackling laugh or a low tight evil-sounding chuckle. Sometimes I soften my voice and speak words of love to you. I try to convey all of that here. No, not your usual religious blog. Doing it this way is scary as hell, but it is one way I have been called to serve. It is the way I know how to be me and to live the oath I choked out, alone, crying against Buffalo two years ago.

Whoa …. what’s that smell?!?

I often state I choose to learn through Joy. What I do not mean is learning cannot occur through misery. It does. Frequently. I choose not to learn my stuff that way. I could. I have in the past. I didn’t like it. At all. And you may want to stop reading here if you hold dear the belief that “everything happens for a (good, Divine, learning) reason” or if you are offended by use of the word shit.

I also am not a believer that there is a good thing inside of every bad happening. Emphatically I am not a believer in such a thing. I believe, seeing as how we are all together making this co-created reality, that sometimes things just happen to us. (Based on others’ ideas of what this reality should look like.) And sometimes those things are shitty. Awful, horrible, mind-blowingly horrifying “why is this evil walking among us” shitty. For the record, I don’t hold to good and evil as static definable concepts that do not change throughout time, but static concepts seem to be a popular thing to voice when horrible things happen.

Being a believer in “sometimes shit happens and that’s just the way it is” is both terrifying and freeing. I like the freedom of it because it allows me to move forward in whatever way I want to in the face of shit happening. (Freedom is Joy.) I do not have to find the gem underneath. I do not have to buck up and strong arm my way through it. I do not have to find the Grand Lesson inside of it. Sometimes I get to just sit in the shit, be completely unhappy about the stench of it, shake my fists at the sky at the absurd unfairness of it, and when I am ready I can stand up, shower, and move forward, shit free. No lessons learned and no obligation to find a kernel of “I never could have learned this if I hadn’t sat in shit” thing. (No obligatory sugar-coating is Joy.)

Sometimes without looking I do find a gem or a lesson learned, but it is by accident not by desire or design. Other times I merely find layers of shit on top of shit and the only course is to clean it off and continue as if I wasn’t just sitting in it.

I do not think one way is better than the other. I don’t glorify my ability to manage shit appropriately when I do that. I don’t shame my inability to not find the gleaming good in it when that is my choice. I don’t glorify or shame others for their choices. I stand in the knowledge that sometimes we wallow and sometimes we don’t. I can stand to the side, look at another person in the midst of their shit and believe I would choose differently. (And always always always the little voice in the back of my head reminds me that that may not be true. I may in fact behave exactly the same as them.) So I try to stay away from qualifying terms such as good choice and bad choice and simply admit that in each particular moment whatever action is taken is the correct one for that moment. I do this whether it is me in the shit or someone else.

And that is where I find the Joy that I learn through. I find it in the freedom to choose each and every time what my course of action will be. It is the thrill of discovering anew which choice I’ll make this time: sit in the shit, punch my way through, or ignore it by quickly washing it off. It is the Joy of knowing that whatever my choice it is okay in the grand scheme of things. Of knowing that my choice is okay in the not-grand scheme of my everyday life.

I was reminded last night of the ebb and flow of the tide and what that constant process symbolically holds for me in my daily life. Clean lovely ocean water comes in, caresses the beach, and slides back out leaving behind debris. The debris is a mix of trash and treasure. Some is dull stones and seaweed and some is shiny stones and seashells. I can choose to pick up the shinies and shells. I can choose to stand in the dull and seaweed. Or I can walk away with neither trash nor treasure, shower, and continue my life. Any of those choices will be a Joyous one. Not because Joy is automatic, but because Joy is freedom to choose.

I have been sitting in shit this month. From a whole bunch of sides monkeys have been flinging their poo my way. And there I sat, smelling it, why-ing it, trying everything to change it to not shit. (It was still shit, untransformed.)

The odour has reached choking level. Pardon me while I go shower. While I feel this other kind of Joy.

Embracing a Calling: Death Midwifery

Signal boost for a worthy cause.

Foxglove & Firmitas

In my early 20s, I received that profound moment that others describe where they receive their calling towards ministry – The calling where you find yourself suddenly at complete peace and going “Yes, I can do this. I can help people with their spiritual lives.” I had originally planned to become an Unitarian Universalist minister, but truth be told the thought of being in school for another 8 years of my life and going into extreme life-long debt only to be saddled down with society politics (because I’ve seen congregations explode in my time and out a minister at the turn of a hat) seemed to kind of a dead end to me.

Then I was told to go into agriculture. This is still on my list of things to do. The problem is that we’ve discovered that I am photosensitive. I have many of the symptoms of lupus, but…

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Sacred Sexuality Workshop, the details, May 10th Pittsburgh

All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are My Rituals: Sacred Sexuality and the Mirror of the Gods

A Bone and Briar 1-Day Workshop in Pittsburgh, PA

What does it mean to hold something sacred? What does it mean when we say we hold our sexuality sacred? Join us as we navigate the pathways of our sexual selves and explore where they intersects with social mores, biological drives, our past, and our Divine Self. 

Broken and whole are we all, yet complete and worthy exactly as we are. Here. Now. 

“All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.” 

All acts of love and pleasure are Your rituals. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014


$20 pre-paid through Paypal, $25 at the door

To register, email thewitches@boneandbriar.com

Due to the content of this class all attendees must be 18 years or older to attend. While participants are expected to willingly and fully engage in this challenging work no one will be asked to interact sexually with others.

Predators in our community – Monday blogging

There is so much to say and so little coherence in me right now. Recent dredging up of past events because of current ones is not a bad thing if used as an example for how to correctly have conversations going forward about abusers in our community. Getting stuck in the quarreling over that past event is counterproductive and rarely moves that conversation forward.

That doesn’t mean everyone should shut up about it. It means finger pointing backwards in time at those you believe didn’t do enough or did too much when there was no template in place for how to speak of abuse in our community doesn’t promote the conversation we need to have. There was no template for accountability when legal authorities weren’t involved (or yet involved)  and the rehashing of blame only stalls the conversation at the point of the past crisis. Stalled means we stay where we were before we started. It is not useful.

We need to find ways to allow these conversations to occur unhindered by kneejerk reactions as the abuse is happening, as the abuse is being addressed (by community and/or legal authorities), and in the aftermath. The only successful way to allow it is to actually allow it.

That sounds so simple. It is not. It means withholding judgment. Not only withholding judgment about the people who speak up about their abuse, but also withholding judgment about people who initially speak up in support of the abuser in words similar to, “But he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He’s my friend. I’ve circled with him.”

Withholding judgment is not the same as putting on blinders. Withholding judgment is allowing people to be the humans we all are. “Not in my neighborhood.” “Not in my family.” “Not in my religious community.” This is an initial, self-protective response by those who have not suffered abuse when hearing about a horrific thing. If we are going to have truly open conversations in our community about abuse we need to know going in that initial kneejerk reactions are going to happen. We cannot stop them. (How could we?) We need to move past those very common reactions with grace and put ourselves where we should be – at the side of the victims.

Part of what needs to be put in place is clear appropriate support for the victims who speak up. Part of what needs to be put in place is the acknowledgment that the first step of speaking up isn’t the hard part no matter how much it seems to be. The hard part is standing in your truth while the backlash washes toward you. The abused need to know that the community will stand with them not only when they first speak up, but as a deflection wall around them when the naysayers first cry their disbelief. They need to know we will still be there after the cries have died to whispers to silence. Sometimes the silence after being brave is the most perplexing and disheartening phase to navigate.

I don’t have the perfect template. I don’t have the answers for how to address this enormous task at the level of “all of the community.” I don’t even know that it can be addressed at that large a level or if we have to trust the individual communities to hammer out their own templates. I’m thinking the latter with support from media outlets like popular sane blogs, newsletters, and e’lists.

There is no one perfect way. There are many incorrect ways. Let’s avoid as many of the incorrect ways as we can early in the conversation.

Incorrect (not an exhaustive list):

  • Shushing the victim by saying or implying they are traitors to their community
  • Telling the victim they are wrong or they misunderstood the actions of the abuser
  • Interrupting the abused as they tell their story to ask questions, clarify, whatever. (There is time for that after they have finished speaking.)
  • Derailing the conversation with stories of how “good, kind, well-respected” you have found the accused abuser to be
  • Shaming the victim by telling them what they could have done differently
  • Giving advice before being asked for it
  • Trying to minimize fallout by attempting to control the story and who hears it
  • Diminishing victims by classifying them: “the crazy ex”, “the one always in the center of controversy”, “the mouthy/bitchy one”, “the spotlight whore”. Even if all of those things are true.
  • Allowing your previous beliefs about the victim or abuser to close your ears to their story

Correct (not an exhaustive list):

  • Listen
  • Listen more
  • Listen some more
  • Make eye contact
  • Unfold your arms
  • Straighten your face (Feel eyebrows wanting to go up? Pull them down. Feel a frown coming on? Pull the corners of your lips in line.)
  • Let Love flow out through your core and your eyes
  • If they start panicking about the details of the abuse event urge them to stay in the moment of what they are feeling right now. Details of the abuse do not matter in the moments of first telling. The details will come back later. Support through the enormity of emotion that full realization of abuse brings requires staying in the here and now. (Focusing on remembering details keeps them in the scenery and time of the abuse event. The telling phase needs to stay in the present because that is where you are and the only place you can provide appropriate support.)
  • Allow yourself to be uncomfortable. Sit in that discomfort. It is minor compared to the discomfort they are in and if you can sit in it they will feel they can, too.
  • Finally, listen

Years, almost 2 decades now, I have been walking the healing path from (sexual) abuse that began in childhood which was the prevailing form of abuse with me. The above guide works with all categories of abuse. I walked with books, and workbooks, and conversations with other survivors. I walked with the grand idea of trying to initiate a child abuse education program in a religious community. I walked into face-to-face meet ups with survivors. I walked this healing path with many different tools and therapeutic relationships. The most useful, compassionate, and healing part of this path was when I walking with the telling and listening and telling and listening some more. The above partial lists are some of what I’ve learned. I offer them to you. May they be useful.

Sacred Sexuality Workshop – save the date!

All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are My Rituals: Sacred Sexuality and the Mirror of the Gods

A Bone and Briar 1-Day Workshop in Pittsburgh, PA

Mark your calendars!

Saturday, May 10, 2014


$20 pre-paid through Paypal, $25 at the door

To register, email thewitches@boneandbriar.com

Due to the content of this class all attendees must be 18 years or older to attend. While participants are expected to willingly and fully engage in this challenging work no one will be asked to interact sexually with others.

Monday blogging – the value of naps

A big part of my practice is listening to my body. It informs me in many ways beyond things that are aligned with its organs’ functions. And yet, and yet and yet, if I push away my body’s messages in regard to physical functions I will less be able to feel its wee twitches when it connects outward and informs me of what is alight in the ether.

I’m not always good at listening to it. I strive to be better. Sometimes meals are skipped, sleep is shortened, or warning bells ignored. If I do any of those for too long my body has a way of reminding me of the cost of my ignoring in less than pleasant ways.

Today my body said, “Nap. Now.” I fought it for awhile. I have to go to the drug store! I must practice Tai Chi! “Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap”, it replied. And so I did. (Better listening already.) I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes. Five minutes to fall asleep and 10 of actual nap time = all of my parts happy. Turns out that timer just counts down and doesn’t even make a ding when it ends. It just falls silent.

The nap was 20 minutes. Somewhere in my brain said, “Whoa, better wake her up or this is the last time we get a nap.” Smart brain. I woke up, put on my shoes, went to the drug store. I sang in the car all the way there, partway across the parking lot, and all the home. That was an effective nap.

In service to community

Sometimes things stick in my head and just sit there like a splinter until I finish working them out. Annoying things, useful things. Things that often matter only to me. Maybe this is something that matters to you, too.

I was having a conversation the other day about a particular situation wherein I had a choice in how to act (as we always do) when confronted with someone else’s mythic reality. (See Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) if you’re unfamiliar with the phrase mythic reality.) I could either break the other person’s reality or allow them to view me as a person who had done a horrible thing. (Horrible in their created story as I’d not committed a crime or the like.) Either choice can be correct depending on the circumstances. I chose to let them view me in that negative light rather than break their reality. Here’s why: they were bravely standing in a place of extreme vulnerability. To break someone’s reality in that situation I think makes you at minimum a clueless asshole. If you go in for the purposeful whammy you are not clueless, you are blatantly cruel. (We will exclude from this places where prior agreements have been made to break another’s mythic reality when necessary regardless of the vulnerability quotient. Those places are rare in my experience.)

So that was part one. Part two of this conversation came when the person I was conversing with replied to my reason for my choice of action with, “You took the hit.” I went on to explain that I felt no, not really, there was no hit to take because I had not in fact done the horrible thing so my reality remained unchanged. A quizzical look passed over their face when I said this (or it was just the glare from Skype), but it left me on thinking how both of those things could be true because I heard Truth in her assertion about taking a hit.

My conclusion is both can true depending on which reality you are speaking of. Internal reality, it is true my reality is not affected. External reality wherein repercussions can bounce back through the community and telephone game style go from “did a horrible thing” to “is a horrible person” can be true, also. What one person sees as taking a hit when looking outward another can see as not hitting when looking inward. So, both are true.

When do I think breaking someone’s mythic reality is an okay thing to do? One example is mentioned above with prior agreements. Another is when they come to you in the moment and say, “This is what I think happened because I feel [this]. Did that actually happen?” That occurs usually when someone has worked with the idea of how we create our own stories and what mythic reality means. A third example is when they are no longer standing in that place of extreme vulnerability and at a later date they bring up the “horrible thing you did”.

Discussion can be useful and allow them to see other ways of reacting/acting in their life. Not useful would be later discussion just to “be right” and let them know just how right you are. Useful mostly happens when they initiate the later discussion. Not useful happens when you seek them out to tell them they imagined things based on their internal dialogue.

So, what if they never seek out discussion on the topic with you or someone else who was there at the time? You indeed take the hit. And sometimes that is just the way it goes. If those repercussions bounce back to you there is little you can do about it except continue to live as a person who does not do horrible things and allow it to sort itself out.

The potential to have to take a hit is part of the agreements you make when you step into a leadership role whether it is as a parent, a boss, or a Priestess. It is part of the agreements I have made with my Gods for when I interact with my community. No cruelty, take the hits, and be okay with that.

Aaaahhhhhh ….. splinter gone.