Sharing is caring:

In this week’s Q&A Sunday, I talk about how uncomfortable, ‘negative’ and difficult emotions can act as pointers towards positive outcomes.

"How can I have spiritual connection when I don’t even know what my path’s called?"

image

How many friends do you know who are, like you, on a spiritual journey, and who have found their ‘spiritual home’? 

I’m betting you know many people who can confidently say, “I’m a Sufi,” or, “I’m a devotee of Amma,” or, “I’m a Druid,” or, “I’m a Christian,” or, “I’m a student of Kaballah.”

But you have no such label to use for your own seeking.

Perhaps you call yourself ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’, or simply a seeker. You find wisdom and benefit in the practices of many paths, but so far no one path seems to hold the key to your heart; no one path has set your soul ablaze.

Most of the time, you’re happy with that, but it does get lonely, with no-one to compare notes with, no-one to guide you when you feel stuck, no-one to point out the pitfalls and quagmires of the spiritual journey.

Sometimes, you feel it would be really nice to just have a name, a label, an easy identity to feel more confidence, ease and joy in your spiritual journey.

And just sometimes, when you’re low, you end up comparing yourself to your friends who have clear labels for their path. It leaves you feeling inadequate, as if something is missing, as if you haven’t achieved spiritual adulthood, as if you’re doing it wrong. 

You’re not doing it wrong.

There is a wonderful quote associated with the US civil rights movement:

We make the path by walking.

For some people, walking a path that has been trod by many before them is absolutely right. It lights up their heart, and feeds their hungry soul exactly what will nourish it. 

But for others, like you, your heart and soul need to walk off the beaten track, to create your own path by walking it

Companions for your journey

If you’re making your own path, and want to carry on, in your own way journeying to connect with your own truth, but you feel the need for some companionship and guidance on your journey, you might like to join the new Inner Truth Community on Facebook. It’s for people who want to:

  • stop being squished into the ‘normal’ box;
  • connect more deeply with our own inner truth;
  • find spiritual connection on our own terms;
  • improve our relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, our livelihood, our environment and the Divine;
  • support one another on our inner and outer journey.

It’s a safe space to explore, to share, to celebrate, and to ask for support. I look forward to seeing you there.

Sharing is caring:

Sharing is caring:


More video! This time, I’m in conversation with Amethyst Mahoney of Spiritual Badass about removing blocks to spiritual connection, relating with ancestral energy, and the importance of bringing the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical together.

If you’re interested in my Get Yourself Connected e-course that Amethyst mentions, you can sign up to try it here

Sharing is caring:


N.B. Skip to 1:02! Before then there’s no sound. (Doh!)

This started as an experiment, and I enjoyed it so much that I aim to do it every week :-)  

Next Q & A Sunday is at 7pm UK time, Sunday 31st August: click here to join

What is forgiveness?

image

I originally wrote this piece two years ago, in response to reading two Patheos blogs: first, Fred Clark, a progressive Christian blogger, wrote about perverting and inverting forgiveness. Then, Star Foster, a Pagan blogger and editor of the Pagan channel of Patheos at the time, wrote about why she doesn’t believe in forgiveness.

I think there’s a lot of confusion about the concept of forgiveness; so many people use it in different ways - as you can see in those posts and in the comments to them. 

Here are some of the things that forgiveness might be:


Obligation: (a) Something that you have to do to show to your peers that you’re a good Christian / Buddhist / New Ager / whatever, regardless of whether you have that movement of heart going on or not.

Oblig
ation: (b) A way of earning entry to heaven / Nirvana.

These two are quite clearly, to me, toxic ideas about forgiveness, which do a huge amount of damage, and allow cultures of abuse to remain intact and to flourish. They do not come from within, but are in some ways forced.

They also, in my view, amount to self-harming, forcibly ignoring one’s own emotions and experience of pain, in favour of an idea about ‘being good’; a self-delusion of piety, and as such to be avoided.


Something that a hurt person does to let their offender off the hook for their actions and the consequences of them.

The effects of this way of looking at and ‘doing’ forgiveness varies according to the relative power of the hurt person and the offender, but it almost always results in a continuation of the particular power dynamic in effect. 

If a more powerful person forgives a less powerful person in this way, it acts to bolster their power, as a magnanimous act of the ‘Lady Bountiful’ variety; also, the chances are that it was the powerful person who got to set the rules as to what is and isn’t an offence in the first place, with no input from the less powerful party. 

If a less powerful person forgives a more powerful person, it is likely to be because, as far as social rules go, the more powerful person is ‘owed’ their forgiveness, or perhaps because there is no viable way for the less powerful person to hold the more powerful person to account, so the only option available to them is to forgive. Alternatively, it may be a way for the less powerful person to feel some power over the situation, however illusory. 

This kind of forgiveness can also result in perpetuation of abuse — for example, a child forgiving an abusive parent — if there is not a balancing, sincere feeling of contrition and action of atonement on the part of the offender - preferably a public one.

Of course, if the relationship between the hurt person and the offender isn’t an ongoing one, it can be a way for the hurt person not to have to think about the hurt any more, and thus not hurt themselves further.


Letting go: (a) a way for a hurt person to release anger or hurt that’s past its sell-by date and has become poisonous to them.

Letting go: (b) letting go of what we want to be the case, and letting situations and other people be what and who they are.

When I was having counselling back in 2011, I talked about forgiving someone in this way with my counsellor. She rejected the idea that I was talking about forgiveness at all, and suggested that what I was talking about was simply acceptance. Either way, my experience is that both (a) and (b) are very healthy things to do.

I may wish that the person who hurt me hadn’t; but the truth is that they did what they did, and I was hurt in consequence.

I may wish that the person who hurt me would show some regret; but the truth is that they don’t.

I may wish that our peers, who observed the other person’s actions and the hurt it caused me, had stepped in to support me; but the truth is that they didn’t.

Going over and over what happened doesn’t change any of it. Initially, my hurt told me that something was wrong, and my anger told me that it was something that needed to change. But if the wrong isn’t righted, and the change doesn’t happen, despite my efforts, then thinking about it all the time and wishing things were different is just self-harming; like repeatedly poking at a wound, it prevents healing.

This kind of forgiveness is often, necessarily, accompanied by an ending of a relationship with an individual or a group. If a person has hurt me and is not willing to take responsibility for their actions, and if the group of peers around us has done nothing, then it is probably in my best interests to cut myself off from them, at least for a while, until my emotional wounds are not so raw. 

If I choose to re-associate with them, I can go back forearmed with knowledge of what signs to look out for that the past might repeat itself, and a clear set of boundaries, that is a firm inner sense of what behaviours I will and will not tolerate, and how I will respond if they are breached; or I can choose to still be linked to them, but never to see them again; or any option in between.


Dropping a demand for recompense or change, whether physical, behavioural or emotional, from an offender, when it becomes clear that they simply cannot, for whatever reason, pay it.

This is very similar, in many ways, to letting go, and also may require a cutting off of a relationship for the person doing the forgiving, so as not to put themselves in a situation of continued harm. It has the added element, however, of compassion — both for oneself, in not continually focusing on something that isn’t ever going to happen, and for the offender, in recognising their (current) limits. 

It is treating both oneself and the other person as human

If the offender sincerely wants to offer recompense and to change, but finds themselves currently unable to, this mode of forgiveness can lead to a deeper, more loving relationship — albeit probably one in a different form — by focusing on the connection in the present, not on the hurt in the past. For example, an abusive person who is sincerely sorry and wants to change, but currently finds it very hard to do so, may not be someone who their partner is able to continue living with, but friendship at a distance may be possible - especially if external support, such as counselling and supportive peers, is available.


An operation of Grace, a mysterious movement of Spirit within the human heart and mind, leading to a transformed relationship.

Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, in his book A Path With Heart, describes forgiveness as an unwillingness to eject another human being from your heart. He talks about a meditation student of his who had experienced terrible sexual abuse at the hands of a relative when she was a child. 

She had gone through all of her emotions, her anger and fear and all the rest, and had come to a place of peace. In this place of peace, she found that, although she knew absolutely that what had been done to her by this relative was a terrible wrong, she was not willing to put the relative out of her heart. The same week of her realisation, she received a letter from him, expressing his deep sorrow for his actions, and offering her a sincere and heartfelt apology. 

I do not recall whether or not she began a new connection with this relative, or whether she was simply able to continue in peace and an open heart with the knowledge of his contrition, as well as her own healing. Either way, this kind of forgiveness, this unwillingness to close one’s heart, offers cleansing and wholeness; it has a mysterious operation not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those who we refuse to hold apart from love. 

This kind of forgiveness does not belong to the realm of offence and recompense, of power dynamics, of justice; it is not something to replace the offering of apology and atonement. It belongs to the realm of Love. It is outside of time and space, where there is no separation between the person who is hurt and the person who hurt them.

This kind of forgiveness cannot be faked, cannot be forced, cannot be brought into being through ignoring our pain, or pretending that nothing happened, or through an act of will. It is an action of Grace, a movement of Spirit, a blessing. 

All we can do is be willing, perhaps, one day, to allow it space in our hearts.

Sharing is caring:

Equal marriage in Scotland at last!

image

Same-sex marriage implementation in Scotland is now confirmed for mid-December!!!! \o/ *happydances*

Notice for all marriages in Scotland is increased to 28 days at the same time, so look for the first same-sex weddings in Scotland in mid-January :-D  

SO HAPPY to finally be able to legally marry same-sex couples!!!!!  Anyone want to get wed?!

image

Sharing is caring:

Sharing is caring:

Clover smells sooooo good. It’s starting to blossom all over here, and the meadowsweet and rose bay willow herb aren’t far behind. Soon, the whole valley will smell of honey. 

It’s my favourite, favourite time of year. The green earth blossoms, and my eyes and nose are overwhelmed with beauty. 

All I can do is surrender, like this blissed out iguana.

We are always changing: that’s how we remain true

"If I am to be great later, I must believe I am of much good now;
for corn is always corn, though the city folk mistake it for grass at first.”

~Vincent Van Gogh

image
Image credit: “Lovely Wheat field” by luke chan. Used under Creative Commons license.

There’s a line of thought, common in many cultures, that says for something to be true it must remain the same, always; it must be beyond the vagaries of space and time; it must be forever unchanging.

It’s a line of thinking I used to subscribe to myself, first as a Christian, and then as a dabbler in New Age-ry. I couldn’t possibly be whole, or true, because I changed so much and so often.

But life, and my observation of nature and my self — the core of my Pagan practice — has taught me differently. The corn that looks like grass, and the corn that bears grain, and the corn whose stalks make hay are all the same corn: if they didn’t change form, they would not be true to ‘corn-ness’.

Life is not about being, fixed and set, but about becoming: always and forever giving expression to the truth of who we are in the way that is true now, and now, and now.

Sharing is caring:

Sharing is caring:

Do what makes you happy
Be with who makes you smile
Laugh and enjoy yourself as much as you can
Love others fully every day of your life.

Unknown (via onlinecounsellingcollege)

THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. Do this. Be this. Create this.

(It is both easier and harder than it seems.)

Simple does not equal easy.

Chronic illness and the importance of being believed

chronicallyinvisible:

When you’re chronically ill it’s inevitable that you’ll have friends and family who just never get it, and I think you have to decide whether you want to keep them around simply because you love them and want them in your life, or whether they’re too great a source of stress for you and it’s just not worth it.

Truth.

I have been experiencing increased fibromyalgia symptoms the past fortnight. For me, it’s all about my pain/energy quotient for the day. When pain is low and energy is high, I will give an enthusiastic “Yes!” to most things. When pain is high and energy is low, I will give a reluctant, “No.”

Most of the time, though, I’m a “Maybe.”

image

My pain/energy quotient diagram.

Thankfully, the people around me respect my symptoms and needs, and we’re able for the most part to work around them. I am lucky to be in this position, where people know that it’s purely a case of practicalities — what workarounds can we manage to make sure that this or that important thing can still happen?

No-one — including my GP — questions my symptoms, or suggests I’m faking, or a hypochondriac, just because I can do something one day but not the next. But I hear stories from friends often, far too often, of not being believed, by employers, family and, most frustrating of all, by their medical practitioners.

image

Today, Monday 12th May is a day of raising awareness of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ME, lupus and other exhausting, debilitating, lifelong conditions which have, so far, no known cause and no known cure.  

If you are lucky enough not to have one of these conditions, do some research. Find reliable sources. Believe your friends, colleagues, family and patients when we tell you about our symptoms. Ask us what we need. Don’t assume that we can or can’t do something today because you know we could or couldn’t do it last week. 

If you have one of these conditions, know that you are not alone. Connect, connect, connect. There are communities online and in person. Sometimes it helps just to know that you’re not the only person with that weird symptom. It helps to have people to share your excitements and your bad days with who you know will understand. It helps to have people who’ve successfully navigated the hoops you’re having to jump through right now with doctors or benefits or work.

I will be doing what I usually do to look after myself — I’ll take my medications, do my yoga and breathing exercises, eat healthily for the most part — but with more conscious awareness that I’m not doing it just for myself, but as part of a community of fighters.

What will you be doing?

P.S. I highly recommend Grace Quantock’s 'Sick Chick to Trail Blazer' resources. Because Grace is awesome.

Sharing is caring: