Friday, June 28, 2013

Reflection Paper #2: Working the Process

My monthly musings on the lessons of the Ministerial Training Program—an unpolished ramble straight from the heart that I turn in to the admin, my mentor, and post on my class Yahoo! group. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty transparent and accountable these days.

The Power of Humility: Choosing Peace Over Conflict in Relationships; Charles L. Whitfield, MD, Barbara H Whitfield, RT, CMT, Russell Park, PhD, Jeneane Prevatt, PhD

Instructor— Russell Park

Grandmother—Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance; Oglala Lakota

I’m laughing a little at myself, in a good-natured way, as I reflect upon the somewhat mad scramble of my initial attempts to “work the process” of this program. Navigating various facets of virtual and remote communication tools and techniques in this context is a new experience for me. One meaning of humility is a willingness to learn.

It feels like I’ve been blindfolded and am being led on a trust walk into an invisible school. So the deepest connections I feel with the community are when I am practicing the daily prayers and practices. After the first day of telling myself “This is a dream,” I had vivid, lucid dreams of an enormous school in a beautiful, ancient building surrounded by sky. It seemed I could never explore the vast extent of this school, yet wherever I went I would be recognized and welcomed. It felt wonderful.

The most useful practice from this module has been identifying moments I veer into blame, judgment or guilt. The increased awareness has led to sensing the slightest whiff of these Triangle 1, victim-based attitudes, and I’ve been able to remind myself I have options, and find my way into the co-committed attitude of Triangle 2. The concise descriptions of direct communication were very helpful here.

The practice that I find myself resisting is teaching and learning through story-telling, especially when I’ve heard the story before. This is difficult for me to admit because I love stories, and my identity is very attached to being a person who is known to love stories. So I laugh gently at myself again, and nod at the courage to be honest here. The fact is, I crave facts. I want to rush to the point and check the task off my list. It’s a form of spiritual materialism, I suppose. Somewhere in this training, maybe in the Grandmothers module, I think it was said that stories are told over and over until they are absorbed into your being. You don’t ask questions, you wait for the answers to unfold. Only we’re encouraged to ask questions, as well. Our learning is steeped in paradox, so it’s best to keep the sense of humor handy!

This reminds me of Russell’s statement that “challenges become tests” and the tests will be repeated over and over as we transcend old patterns. I liked how he said, “Don’t fear you’re falling backwards,” as it has comforted me when I wondered why I seemed to be regressing instead of advancing. To fall back a bit becomes the opportunity to develop the witness, and to observe the choices I’ve made before, and the options that are more perceptible at this time.

Grandmother Beatrice most definitely loves her stories, and so do I. I see how her life directly informs her practice. Our job isn’t to lead others but to cooperate with each other. Her prayer is so clearly a spontaneous expression of the heart. She speaks of humility as a deep respect for the Creator, as a way of showing gratitude and appreciation for our lives.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Required Reading, continued

Chapters 4-7 of Coven Craft are concerned with the issues and logistics of joining a coven or creating one of your own. I tremble with excitement when I read lists of tips and tools, like when I was a kid and would spend hours furnishing my dream home. This section of the book offers practical advice, such as what to watch for and beware of in potential covenmates. The chapter on step-by-step instructions for organizing a coven from scratch gave me much insight into the structure of my own coven. Amber K is deliciously thorough in the varieties of considerations to discuss with covenmates, from agenda topics to negotiating a rental space. There's even a full description of how to create an astral temple. The Internet has outdated some of the networking tools since this 2003 edition, yet it is still a introduction to this process that any student of the Craft could appreciate. I would definitely refer to this book if I were helping facilitate the formation of a coven.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Reflection Paper #1: The Grandmother Archetype

 At the end of every month —or "module"— of the CSS program, we are asked to turn in a 500-word Reflection Paper that captures the essence of our thoughts and practices based on the required reading, the conference call, and any teachings or assignments received by the instructors. We are not asked to polish up a finely crafted essay—simply to write from the heart. It feels a bit awkward for me, with a tendency to withhold anything that doesn't seem "perfect" (or at least "mind-blowing"), however I think it's wonderful practice for being fully present as my authentic self.

This month, we read Grandmothers Council the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet by Carol Schaefer. No instruction other than the introductory conference call, so this is what I wrote:

The immediate feeling I sense is humility and gratitude to be on this path. Grandmother love is unconditional, with infinite compassion for all beings. It was the loving presence of an energy I call Granny that led me to this training, and I know that under her protection, I cannot fail. I offer my reflections with an open heart full of curiosity and trust. I offer my words in the hope that it may be of benefit for all beings.

Reading the personal histories of the women who came together to sit on the Council showed me so many ways to hear the call, to resist and struggle, and to finally accept one’s place in our grand dance with the Divine. For many years I’d felt like I missed out because I didn’t learn traditional ways from my own grandmother, that I didn’t even grow up in any particular religious practice to embrace or reject. Worrying that I have had to patch together some personal practice out of whatever clues I find along my way, I’ve struggled with the self-confidence to let my own expression shine. To learn that some of the Grandmothers rejected and resisted their calling for even longer and to more extremes than I have was a surprise that both comforted and encouraged me. To learn about the varied paths that converged into one voice of unconditional love and healing thrills me.

It is through our willingness to show up and reveal our complete, authentic selves— no matter how far from an ideal we may think we fall— that we have an opportunity to look past the conditioning that has made so many feel unworthy of standing up or speaking up for what we value. The diseased culture of “perfection” that has led civilization away from our gloriously wild and potent roots is, ultimately, unsustainable. That’s the bad news AND the good news. The many prophecies referred to in the book speak of an urgency to take action to change the direction of the world’s energies in a small window of TimeSpace. I sense that every heart that joins the Great Turning somehow widens that space, allowing more and more people to discover and appreciate this opportunity.

Although I am a passionate supporter of women’s power in the world, and recognize the need to address the particulars of women’s ways in the world media, I feel it is drastically important to offer more guidance to the masculine-identified than the message I often see, even in this book; “Men need to move aside and let the women take over.” When one of the men in the MTP program said at first he wasn’t sure men were allowed to participate, it reminded me of how unwelcome the male-identified can feel in these changing times. My own work with my family and my ancestors has shown me that this is a particular challenge for me to confront, and I hope to develop skills of inclusiveness that encourage enthusiastic participation amongst all types in the gorgeous diversity of life.

PS: I forgot to include that reading about the Grandmothers inspired a part of my daily practice, in which I smudge with sage a picture of the Council and name the Grandmothers and their origins and achievements, one-by-one, thanking them for inspiring me to follow in their spirit. This action of appreciation helps me feel connected to a greater community of spirit and intention.