Processing the Work

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog entry. A lot has happened. I haven’t so much as cocooned this time around as I’ve been processing the results of some powerful magick in my life. The results have forced me to hit the ground running and have given me time for little else in my life right now. It began in August with a trip to Pasadena to visit my dear friend Nick. The intention was to figure out where we were heading with our new business, but it turned into something a bit deeper than that. I can only speak for myself, but it became a trip of self-realization. I figured out more things about myself and why I was so stuck in my life.

“Know thyself”

This was probably the most difficult part of the transformative process that I’ve gone through, because I realized that there was a lot of self-hatred that I had never understood before. I brushed it off because I didn’t understand it for what it was. How often have I taken the time to write “Know Thyself” in this blog? It’s one of the reasons I was so stuck and unable to move forward. I annoy the hell out of myself and I often project that annoyance on to others. So, stuck I was and I wasn’t budging until I dealt with it.

One of the important aspects of the transmutation process is learning to love all the things about yourself, even the things you hate. It’s an oxymoron. How can you love the things you hate? But it is possible. One method is to see it in others. When you can see it in them and you can love them for it, you can look within and turn that expression of hate into the same type of love you have for the other person. We’re so much harder on ourselves than we our with other people in our lives. We don’t cut ourselves the same sort of slack we would for them. But if you’re like me, sometimes I don’t recognize how pissed off I’m getting at such minor things that I do. I build this list and it turns into a giant pile of “God damnit! Did it again!” Each little thing turns into a litany of failure to change that annoying thing I do. Then I see it in a friend or that others do it so often it’s been turned into an online meme and I think, maybe it isn’t so big after all. Maybe most of us are just goofballs and it’s nothing to get so upset about. Maybe I ought to just chill.

A Gila monster

Or maybe we actually are we’re blowing up at others and becoming screaming Gila monsters, but we don’t immediately see that because deep inside we know it’s something we do ourselves and it pisses us off. Our relationship with others is a mirror reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. When we work to repair the relationship with the other person or when we work to repair the relationship within ourselves, we repair the whole of it.

So that happened for me.

While I still have moments where I get angry with myself, I’m also much quicker to forgive myself. As a result, I’ve found my relationships with friends and family have improved. I’m far less likely to explode or act out in anger or frustration. When I do, I move quickly to resolve the problem. Mostly, I’ve learned to let things go. If I make a mistake, I learn how to correct the problem, let go of the anxiety and move on to bigger and better things.

I have much gratitude to Nick for giving me the time and space to sort that out for myself. We had a lot of fun and got into all sorts of shenanigans. I also learned that Nick was my true soul brother, so this trip was priceless. It took me about six weeks to unpack everything I learned on it. That’s how you know it’s good, it takes a while to process all of it.

The Venus by Michael Parks

In September, I had a revelation about how poorly I treat my body by not taking care of it in terms of what I eat and ignoring health care. This relates back to that self-hatred. This came through my work with Venus one Friday in mid-September when I was feeling great self-pity because I hated my work, I wasn’t feeling well and nothing good seemed to be happening.  Venus took me by the scruff and basically told me that I was killing myself! I had to get off of my ass, stop eating sugar, get myself to the doctor and start making the changes I wanted to see in my life. Otherwise, I could just walk out into traffic and die already because that is where I was headed! And she was right. Venus takes no shit and definitely has no time for self-pitying bullshit. It came through intuitively, but the feeling was quite palpable. I can feel it now as I type the words. She was angry with me and rightly so.

That Saturday I made a few appointments to visit some doctors. I started eating better and threw out all of the sugar in the house. I began treating myself better, exercising more, drinking lots of water, getting my work done on time, working out a daily schedule and just basically getting my shit together. Next Friday, out of the shear blue, I received a job interview from a third party I never heard of before. One month later I had a job that I liked that paid well with benefits. Along the way there were a number of other moments of magick and synchronicities that I won’t write about here, but it’s made the experience quite spectacular and beautiful. I put in the work, made a few sacrifices, and Venus had my back.

It’s also been exhausting and, in some cases, frustrating, but I’d rather have it this way than what went before. Change isn’t supposed to be comfortable, that’s why so many people resist it. I can’t say I welcome change with wide open arms yet, but I do see it as an opportunity rather than a sentence. That is worlds apart that what I would have said just a year ago.

What continues to amaze me is how much I am learning along the way. In terms of magick and my work life, I’ve come a long way baby! I couldn’t have imagined I’d be here now when I started this journey back in April 2018. The changes have been felt in body, mind and spirit, and I am so grateful that the Universe kickstarted this transformation. Now I am planning to work on a deeper spiritual transformation for 2020. I want to hone my witchy skills in plant medicine, but also dive deeper in to the mystical knowledge of Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and Sophia and the Divine Feminine. I have a feeling as we head into 2020 and beyond, we will need more healers and lightworkers in the world to help with the rifts that have developed over the past few years. I feel more ready for it now that I ever have before!

The Buddha didn’t really say this, but kinda he did.

The Long Hot Mess of Summer

I haven’t been blogging of late as July turned out to be a rather difficult month. Five planetary retrogrades, Chiron in retrograde (the Wounded Healer is strong in my natal chart), and a solar and lunar eclipse – oh my! You could say that this month was full of important lessons and growth. You could also say it was like getting hit with a meteorite traveling at the speed of light and you’d be right as well.

I wish it were this benign!

 Last year on this date, the universe gave me an important lesson. You can read about it in my first blog post. And up until a few months ago, I thought I learned it. I did actually learn it, but we don’t always follow the lessons we learn, do we? Intellectual knowledge requires life experience to truly drive home the point and transmute itself into Wisdom. Obtaining Wisdom is often done through challenges, obstacles and pain. During this eclipse/retrograde season, the Universe sent another loud message to get my head out of my ass and to stop falling for all of the shinies. All that glitters is not gold and all that.

Touché, Universe.

I am living through a financial scare right now. This summer I lost a good portion of my income temporarily as a number of my courses were canceled due to low enrollment. I started sending out application to schools all over the state. I stopped working on my new projects, the ones I love, the ones I believe will lead me to a better, more authentic life. I abandoned my pursuit of my Personal Legend, as Paulo Coelho called it in The Alchemist. I did this out of fear. I retreated back to what was old and familiar. To a place I already know no longer serves me.

Double punch!

The Universe sent me another big fat HELL NO! And then rerouted me to where I need to be again. Last year it was wrapped in a massive hail storm. This year, I was left with a much longer lingering affect which won’t be lost on me anytime soon. It’s been said that stupidity should be painful. This was physically and mentally painful. It left me sick, beat-up, worn-out and drained of energy.

This time around, however, I was able to reap the benefits of the growth I experienced over the past year. I’m not wallowing in this mistake as I would have before. I’ve been able to forgive myself. It wasn’t immediate, but it wasn’t months longs either as it would be in the past. I gave myself a few days to recover from the blow and nurse my wounds. Then I started a routine to get myself reoriented and back on track.

Here’s the gist of my lesson. Self-transformation cannot begin with giving in to old patterns, old ways of thinking, old jobs, and old thoughts about self. That will only breed more of the old. Self-transformation begins with deep self-reflection and taking steps in new directions. It’s far more than applying intellectual knowledge. In some ways, intellectual knowledge can get in the way. It’s about developing intuition and applying the lessons of lived experience. In other words, cultivating Wisdom. How often have I written in this blog, Know Thyself?

Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty, Anxiety, these negative thought patterns that ego clings too, need to be ejected. Easier said then done, right? But not impossible. Meditation helps quite a bit. It lead me to the realization that I had to realign my goals to place personal transformation at the center of everything. When I placed my income and financial prosperity as my stated outcome for my transformation — out of fear and a sense of lack in my life — what I got back was more fear and lack in my life.

I tell my students, don’t focus on the grade, focus on the learning. If you focus on the learning, the grades will follow. They resist this. I often hear, “I need to get an A in this class! How do I get an A?” I tell them to focus on learning and understanding the content. Read my feedback on your assignments. Apply that feedback. Ask questions if you don’t understand. There is no other magic pill for getting an A in the class.

What I learned was that I was doing the same thing as my students: I focused on the financial outcome rather than the personal transformation required to live an authentic life.

But this set back isn’t without it’s gains. For one, I have much more empathy with my students. I can get very frustrated with them when they don’t heed my words. What I learned is that it’s quite hard to do when there is so much at stake. Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty and Anxiety rear their hydra heads and scared the bejesus out of me! It is the same for my students when the fear a bad grade will keep them out of a certain program or that they will lose financial funding. Or they won’t meet the impossibly high goals they set for themselves. I understand that one more as well.

I also learned to trust in my instincts and the synchronicities around me. Everything within and around me told me that I was going backwards. I convinced myself otherwise. I convinced myself that it was just a temporary setback to my ultimate goal until I got back on my feet. When ego is scared, ego lies. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but an important one.

The most important lesson, was that once I released the death-grip I had on controlling my finances, opportunities started to flow towards me. Ideas that I previously found elusive started to flow from me. I feel like for the first time in my life, I know what I want to do and how to get there. What it took was a realignment of priorities. Focus on the personal transformation, let go of my attachment to results, and the results that I need in my life will manifest.

It’s been a long, hot mess of a summer. But it’s also been quite productive. I know what I need to do and I’m getting on track with how to do it. The witch has finally awakened, let the magick begin!

The Fine Art of Detachment

One of the most difficult skills for me to develop as I work on increasing my magical abilities is detachment from the results of spells. It’s a skill one must master to receive the desired results, and with good reason. If one is constantly worried that a spell will not work, it sets up a resistance to it and the synchronicities required to deliver the results fail. It makes a lot of sense. Doing magic requires a faith in the deity or entities invoked, a faith in one’s own ability, and the knowledge that the universe is looking out for us because the universe is awesome like that. The worry does nothing to help that along and it causes suffering.

Unfortunately, I have a learning disability that causes me to overthink everything and it sets my mind in a feedback loop similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. I needed a little help with this issue and found it quite by accident with the planetary deity, Venus.

Lemme explain.

I started working with Venus in April to help me with issues of lack. A lack of prosperity, a lack of self-confidence, a lack of deep understanding of myself, a lack of all the good things in life that are causing hardship. She’s been a brilliant and supportive ally in my quest and I am grateful for all of her guidance and help! Last week, during our Friday chat session, she offered me tremendous insight into the art of detachment.

I’ve studied detachment – or non-attachment as it is also called – for years as applied to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism. Annnnd what I actually found out is that I only thought I understood it. Intellectually, I understood it as best I could and I taught it in my Comparative Religion classes. But what I discovered, was that an intellectual understanding of it and the practice of it are not the same thing. Not. Even. Close. In fact, I now believe that detachment can’t be truly understood unless one practices it and lives it daily. 

For the purpose of this blog post, I’ll give a brief definition. Detachment is the release of all desires from this world. One ceases to cling to people, objects, and ideas. The clinging attachment to things of the world creates suffering in a person as their focus is on having what is always in the process of changing. Consider falling in love with an idea you have of someone. What happens if they change and no longer meet that idea? What happens if they decide to leave you or if they die? By remaining detached, you are able to experience the wholeness of that person rather than the small idea you may have built up around that person. All things in this world are ephemeral. A detached person desires nothing and lives entirely in the moment. They don’t concern themselves with the past or the future. They achieve a heightened state of awareness which allows them to live a more complete and fulfilling life.

Easy enough, right?

I couldn’t get my brain to release the whole living in poverty thing. So, I found that every time I even read about the need to become detached from the results of my spell, my mind would enter a feedback loop on how desperate I need it to work.  I’ve done powerful magic before that worked. It worked because I wasn’t in a desperate situation, so my mind was able to release its hold on the consequences and I had beautiful results.

My altar to Venus during one of our chats

Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty, Sexuality, Art, Prosperity and Desire itself — and the last deity I would think to invoke for learning detachment — gave me an up-close, personal, direct, ineffable understanding of what it is to release all desires.

Perhaps she knows a few things about the destructive nature of clinging to what we want and desire. She can offer a far more constructive way for us to experience the fullness of life, when we let go of the choke-hold we have over the little things we’re able to cobble together and cling to for dear life.

When a gardener loves a flower, do they pluck it from the ground, or grow and nurture it in a garden? Do they weep bitter tears when it dies when the season is over or when it’s destroyed by bad weather or do they simply wait for it to rise from the ground again next year?  What is gained by obsessing over the dead flower? Isn’t there more gained by embracing a love of all plants and flowers? By doing so, doesn’t the gardener learn better ways to nurture what they dearly love?

Remember the rose from the Little Prince and all the fretting, drama and suffering that occurred around her?

No? Then what a delight! You get to read it for the first time!

Read The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

It is difficult to put into words the experience of immediate, undeniable understanding of detachment. These experiences are called ineffable for a reason. But I can say that I understood that I had a choice with the thoughts and emotions I had on the issue of my intention for prosperity. I could see my thoughts and emotions laid out before me. I could choose to be sad, upset, and filled with anxiety over something I didn’t have much control over, or I could feel a sense of serenity that Venus and the Universe had my back. Whatever would come my way was good, because I needed it.

Even with this experience, it’s not something I’ve internalized quite yet. I’m getting there. And I understand it in a way I never have before. I am grateful for what the Goddess granted me and I work at growing that understanding every day. It’s not easy, but I no longer think it’s unattainable.

Hi. I’m Stephanie, and I’m an addict (of depression).

I wasn’t going to write tonight. I woke up with a sinus headache and I felt sick most of the day. I decided instead to do a little shadow boxing to work out some internal problems, call it an early night and go to bed. Then I pulled out my tarot deck and asked it if I should write or go to bed. The deck handed me my ass and told me to get to work. I’ve been procrastinating since January, it’s time to get back to writing in the damned blog!

4 of Cups

I’m looking at you, Four of Cups! (Revelations Deck, by Zach Wong)

It’s in moments like these that I know I’m on the right path and that I need to stick to it. The past several days have been a series of synchronicities. Whatever is on my mind, I come across blogs, videos, articles, books, movies, and incidents when I’m out and about, all screaming at me that I’m on the right path and now I need to take action! It’s the action part that makes me freeze up. My mind shuts down and suddenly I can’t even compose an email to a friend. Actually do something? No. Can’t do it today. So, it gets left to the next day and the next. And nothing happens.

This isn’t a temporary rut, this is depression. I learned something interesting about it today while doing shadow work that I hadn’t considered before; I’m addicted to it. I’ve suffered from Depression most of my life and I never sought help for it. There were many reasons for that, some legitimate, some not so legitimate. Part of me was afraid that the type of drugs used to treat Depression would screw me up further. I still think that is a legitimate fear given the nature of psychiatric drugs and the not-so-scrupulous pharmaceutical companies. But there are other methods to treat depression ranging from the foods I eat to different types of therapy. My greatest move to even try to treat my depression was to take a B-complex vitamin (it does help a little). Depressed Cartoon

All of this changed last year. On my birthday I had a download from the Universe. It told me that it was time to get my shit together. I’ve discussed this a few times in my blog already. The short of it is, I was a hot mess in my head and I had a sudden and painful revelation that much of my depression was the result of trauma and abuse from my childhood. I spent a good portion of last year doing shadow work and getting at the heart of what caused my deep depression, which was constantly working to undermine me in all aspects of my life. My relationships, my work life, my finances, my faith, and my enjoyment of life are all suffering because of this depression.

But since I entered my adolescence, I’ve built an identity around this depression and as I grew older, my choices and actions reinforced that depression. I not only became comfortable with it; I started to crave it and resist any attempts to cope with it in a more constructive way. As with most mental imbalances, I didn’t realize I was doing it. I didn’t wake up one day thinking, I love my misery I’m gonna keep it! It was a gradual thing which consumed me. Eventually it led me to a career I hated, financial instability, poor health, deteriorated friendships, and to nearly destroying my marriage.Monsters

The realization that I was feeding the depression beast of my own volition came to me last night while reading an article (Q&A) on Existential Kink, by Carolyn Elliott, the creator of WITCH magazine. It wasn’t the first time I had this thought, though. It’s come up before on restless nights in the small hours of the morning. And it was easily forgotten after I slept. But reading it last night, after shadow work and meditation, it hit me like a sack of bricks to the face. Yes, I do it on purpose. Yes, I sabotage myself. And I do it all the time.

The misery I’ve wrought upon myself is comfortable. I know what to do with it. I built up an identity around being an impoverished, deeply misunderstood, antisocial creature. Getting out of the mess I made for myself is intensely terrifying! All of the “what ifs” come up. What if I’m really not that smart? What if no one wants to read my blog? What if no one cares about my ideas? What if I can’t figure out how to market myself? What if I’m wrong? What if I have a successful business and I can’t figure out my taxes? (Cart before the horse, much?)

I became inert, out of fear of breaking out of an identity that only served my comfort zone.

This is not to say that one’s depression is their own fault. It’s not. I had two big things going against me; abuse and a chemical imbalance. Neither of these things were in my control. It hit fast and hard once I started puberty. Then the reinforcement cycles swamped me and pulled me under. My physical addiction became sugar, while my mental addiction was the depression itself. And boy do I ever have a sweet tooth! You know those orange circus peanuts that are basically just whipped sugar? My favorite when I was a kid. I pretend I’m better now because I haven’t had them in about 25 years. Don’t let that fool you, I still have a stash of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs in my freezer.

Circus Peanuts

Don’t let these orange pieces of death happen to you!

When I found out that people with sugar addiction have the same chemical imbalance as alcoholics, I decided to get some help. I checked out a diet that assists people with leveling out the chemical imbalance. I bought books, read testimonials, and even gave it a good shot for a whopping month! And then slid right back into my old patterns. The sugar wasn’t just due to my chemical imbalance, it was also emotional support. I couldn’t give up that emotional boost. Especially when it was typically the only good thing that happened to me all day. Which landed me with a raging case of diabetes. You’d think THAT would have been my wake-up call, but it wasn’t. It shocked me and I got on the wagon for a bit. But then I got a new job and I hated it and the sugar became quite irresistible as I dealt with getting up early in the morning every day to go to a job I detested. It was only towards the end of that nightmare job that I started to wonder what the hell I was doing in this cycle of jobs I hated and eating myself into an early grave.

Jung FateI don’t want this anymore. The good news is, I don’t have to live with it! I’m learning to accept the things about me that I don’t like. I acknowledge them with my awareness, and let them go without judgement or shame. It’s about acknowledging, yes, I did this and I did that and those things weren’t good for me. This is what I learned from those choices. Now I move on.

It’s taken me a years’ worth of shadow work to get to this point and it culminated with the New Moon on April 5th. It’s been an exhausting, painful ride. Most days I feel like I’m trying to climb over electrified chicken wire with quicksand waiting for me on the other side. Still, I’m ready to move on and find a better place.

Accept ShadowWhat do I want? I’m still working on that. But I now know what I no longer want. I don’t want a soul crushing job. I don’t want to eat myself into an early grave. I don’t want to pass up good opportunities because I’m scared how I will be perceived by others. I don’t want to live inauthentically because I can’t figure out a better way to pay my bills.

I want my wife and I to be happy. I want us to not be afraid of when the money runs out. I want us to be free to live authentically. Whatever I end up doing when I grow up, I want to add value to the world. I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel like I’m crawling out of the hole I dug for myself. I feel like we’re going to make it!

Which Witch – Florence + The Machine

Intuition

intuitionIf I had only one message to pass on to people as we enter 2019, it would be to develop your intuition and trust it. When we are young, we’re often not taught to listen to the inner voice we have that tells us if we’re going in the right direction or not. The direction could be something as simple as whether or not what we eat will disagree with our body or more complex like whether or not we choose to trust someone. We’re taught to give someone or something the benefit of the doubt. You never know, it might just turn out for the best! However, there are many times in my life where I hear that voice in the back of my head, and I wish I would have listened to it. Does something deserve attention in our lives just because it might turn out alright? If our reservation is only due to fear of the unknown, then perhaps it needs to be re-evaluated. The benefit of the doubt may be in order. But if we’re listening to our internal voice that speaks to us from a place of inner knowledge, then we ought to listen to it. It will tell us whether or not something is right or wrong for us.

einstein-intuitionIntuition, like most things worthwhile in life, takes some time to develop. It develops out of experience, the ability to read and assess the nuances of a situation quickly, a thorough knowledge and understanding of self/mind, and the ability to trust the inner voice that tells us the low down on what’s really going on in a given situation.

I think most of us develop our intuition to a certain extent, but it stops where fear steps in and takes over the reins. In many cases in my own life, I’ve often confused fear for intuition. I’ve missed out on opportunities and jumped into bad situations because of that confusion. This didn’t happen because fear and intuition are closely related and easy to confuse, rather it happened because I did not thoroughly understand myself.

pythiaoracle

Pythia of the Oracle at Delphi, by John Collier

The words Know Thyself or Gnōthi Seauton (in Greek γνῶθι σεαυτόν), were inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Kings, statesmen, merchants, and holy men, came to Delphi to meet with the oracle, who would impart to them prophetic messages. The oracle always spoke in ambiguous language which needed to be interpreted by the person receiving the prophecy. To correctly interpret the meaning, one had to first understand their own mind. Without this self-knowledge, the prophecy was often interpreted in the favor of the receiver, what one wanted to hear, rather than more accurately how their biases and hubris would bring problems and catastrophes upon them. Just ask King Croesus of Lydia how that all worked out for him when he went to war with the Persians after visiting Delphi.

To know thyself means to be aware of everything about oneself. Even the dark, nasty things that we don’t always want to recognize in ourselves. In other blog posts I spoke of that mean, petty part of me that can lash out and cause all sorts of hardships in my own life and the lives of others. That aspect of me can even sabotage myself from moving forward and set me back further. Understanding that this aspect of me exists, means that I can put energy toward it and transmute that energy and shift it elsewhere, to a place where it is more productive and positive.

But knowing thyself is not just about recognizing the bad stuff, it also means that we can recognize a lot of the good stuff that we bury. I’ve done this quite a bit in my life. I can recall times when I was working on a project or a task, it was criticized or laughed at, and I pulled back into my shell and opted to forget I ever tried it. That’s fear. Rather than assessing the situation, I recoiled and gave up for fear of being laughed at or viewed as an idiot. In cases like this, it wasn’t intuition that was whispering in my ear, it was fear. otherside of fear

Fear is like a noxious weed if you let it into your life. It can strangle your intuition if it’s given a chance. Had I listened to my intuition, I wouldn’t have given up, I would have kept going. I would have assessed the worthiness of the criticism and made adjustments if necessary. I would have recognized the goodness in my own vision and I would have given it my love and time.

The Super Blood Wolf Moon on January 20/21 2019, ushered in a new rebirth for many of us who have been on a roller-coaster of emotional, draining energy over the past four years. July of 2018 felt like the sudden death of the old path I was on and I entered into a healing restorative period of my life for a few months. Now it’s time to rise from the ashes. To move forward, I know I must understand myself; the good, the bad and the ugly. With knowledge of myself grounded in reality, I can trust my intuition and let fear go. I can start to live authentically.

superbloodwolfmoon

Lego My Ego

egoI teach religious studies and philosophy to make my living. Teaching has taught me so much more than I could have hoped to learn as a student myself going through the process. All my students, dedicated and not so dedicated, have given me valuable lessons in both academic and life in general. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned, is that the ego is very sticky. If one is trying to banish it from their lives, it will try to defend itself in whatever way it can. It can act like a beast or a frighten child to keep its hooks firmly in place.

Normally I start to see egos come out around the time we start studying Hinduism. The idea of detachment doesn’t sit well with most students who were mostly brought up with Christian values in American households, even if they no longer identify as Christian. Individual rights are placed higher than that of community for most of them and those values run deep. Hindu ideas of the Divine, the trappings of the ego, and Eastern values of community over individual entitlements, typically do not resonate with them. They have a difficult time wrapping their minds around a seemingly polytheistic tradition that see the Divine intrinsically tied to all things. For these students, God created the universe out of nothing and is entirely separate from Its creation. Placing community above individual interests is communism and destructive in nature. This is not something that is thought out, it is the result of indoctrination. It is also the ego claiming its stake.Christinaity-and-Hinduism-212

As we go through Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Jainism, and so forth, the students tend to conclude that we must agree to disagree. For a few students, they have found their home and they continue to research and learn about these faiths. But most walk away with the notion that they’re glad they were born in the West.

This is not to condemn them for this stance. Most people prefer the ideals and religions of the region they were born into, as is to be expected. Our place of origin is an accident of birth, its not something we can control. And each place has their own form of teaching children their values and beliefs. Typically, through the methods of indoctrination by their parents (who were indoctrinated themselves) and educational institutions. Breaking out of the paradigm one was born into is not an easy task and comes with many negative consequences. Even those who intellectually rise above the indoctrination must weigh if that is more important to them than losing the support of family and community. In counties like America that claim to value individual rights, the irony is not lost.

As I watched them resist the new ideas they were exposed to, I’ve recently concluded that I was pretty self-righteous in my own position. I’d sometimes get irked that they wouldn’t even try to wrapped their minds around them. I never expect students to actually change their ideas on their own values or faith, I just want them to understand that there are other ways of thinking and these different modes of thought are not inherently wrong. In addition to that, their out right refusal to entertain these ideas also leads them to form misconceptions. How can they reject something they didn’t understand?

Ego GotG

Ego the Planet from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume #2

Last night I was meditating on the new fall term and how I would approach it. And in an overwhelming sudden realization I asked myself, how the hell does your ego fit through the door? Was I not a student once too who had a difficult time accepting new ideas that were previously foreign to me? Hell yeah, I had a hard time with some of the new concepts! I may have changed my position on many of them, but it wasn’t over night or even over the course of a single class. I was introduced to concepts that then took a few years to stew. Some new ideas I encountered outright scared the hell out of me!  And, of course, I’ve been down right wrong in many ideas I had and conclusions that I drew. I’m often wrong now and change my opinion as I learn more about something. I am seeing these students in 8 or 15-week intervals during one fraction of a phase of their life. I do not know the path they are on or where they will end up as they go through life.

I once read a review that a student submitted regarding my Ethics course. The student stated that they liked me and I was very helpful, but that the subject matter was boring and not useful. I nearly cried. But that’s ego. It is ego to think that what interests me should interest anyone else as well. The example I give regarding the power of the ego, is to imagine your best friend hates your favorite song. Since that song becomes part of the Ego2ego identity, it can be hurtful if people you know and love hate it. It might mean that they hate the real you too! It doesn’t mean that at all. But when the ego is bruised, it can be difficult to shake that off.

It is pure ego to think that after a few weeks in my class, while they are taking three or four other classes, my course should have any effect on students. My job is to present the information and hopefully drive their curiosity to seek more. In my own experience, I’ve found that it’s sometimes years later that a particular class I took or idea I learned starts to germinate. And so, I think, it is with many of us. Some things we learn speak to us immediately and take up our total focus for a time. Others take their time and only come to full fruition years later. And still yet others are quickly forgotten and discarded, only sometimes rediscovered later, or never.  I have no idea what will stick and what will fall by the way side for some students. It should not be my concern. Each of us is on our own path. My job is to teach my courses to the best of my ability and spread a few seeds of understanding. What happens after that, is none of my business. In my previous perceptions of my class and students, I violated Agreement 2 and 3 of the Four Agreements.

FourAgreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz

So, my lesson this term, is to keep the ego in check and understand that my job is to teach my course material to the best of my ability and encourage curiosity and discovery in my students. It is not to judge them or think myself above them. It is not to create young philosophers in my own image. It is my hope that they take this information and turn it into their personal growth, but what they choose to do with it is theirs. When one offers a gift, it’s not a good idea to check up on it and make sure everyone is using it as intended by the giver. It’s not a gift if there are rules attached; it’s a leash.

Letting Go of Toxicity

Types of ToxicDuring this period of letting go of the past and things that no longer serve me, I came across the most difficult of them; letting go of certain people.  Some were easy, because they never were a major part of my life. They were the people that breezed in and out due to jobs or mutual acquaintances. These types of people are always coming in and out of one’s life. Seeing some of them go is a relief to me. One was so highly toxic that I was a bit fearful of the enormous amount of poison that she emitted. She was my former boss, so it was difficult to completely extricate myself from her initially. Cutting ties from my former line of work means I no longer need to worry about recommendations from her. I wish her the best, wherever she is now, so long as it is far away from me.

Unfortunately, not everyone that needed to go was as easy as my former boss. There is an old friend whom I’ve loved since I was in my teens that continues to occupy my mind. We’ve had a rocky relationship since the beginning. Back then, I was so desperately in love that I twisted myself into various shapes to get his attention. I’ve never been able to keep it long. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure I ever had it at all. About a decade ago, we renewed our friendship and began to talk with each other frequently again. By then, we were both in relationships with other people. Neither of us were looking for anything more than friendship. We both had similar interests and views about the world.

After a bit of time, I started to notice that he only came around when he needed emotional support. He’d turned the conversation toward sexual jokes. This did not initially bother me, because we live on opposite sides of the country and we’re both in happy, stable relationships. But when I wouldn’t return the flirtation, he’d lose interest in other types of conversations and drift off. More and more, I’d get irritated with the way the conversation became littered with sexual innuendo and jokes. I noticed his contact would be timed with fights he’d have with his wife.

I let this go on for a long time because of a friendship that existed mainly in the head of a fifteen year old girl. I am starting to realize, that “we” never really existed as anything other than a hope I once had. A few days ago, I was listening to an astrologer (Sky of Esoteric Healing on Youtube) talking about letting go of bad relationships. He stated that sometimes we get stuck in the narrative of a relationship rather than the reality of it. I began to realize that this was true for me. At a young age, I created a narrative of our relationship that I never let go of from that time. Perhaps I was holding on to hope, but as time went on, I forgot why I was holding the torch. I just kept holding it out of inertia.

cycleOur continued friendship is not serving either of us. He keeps me around for emotional support and I keep him around out of a sense of nostalgia. In the end, I think we both irritate the hell out of each other. Over the past few weeks I’ve come to realize that we need to part ways. Neither one of us are currently happy with the friendship. But making that move to say, no more… it’s tougher than I thought it would be. I feel like a gambler that keeps thinking, one more time, “This time it’s going to work out!” Except, we’re in different places. I know we no longer “vibe” with each other. In many ways, I’ve out grown him and he continues to lingers in the past. Most of the time, lately, I think he’s an asshole. I know he feels the same way about me. And still…

Most people have that one asshole in their life that they just can’t walk away from for whatever reason. First loves are hard to shake. Over thirty years later and still it lingers. No longer love, just old memories of something that never really was.

This is a person that I need to let go of if I am going to move forward.

Sanvean – Dead Can Dance, Toward the Within

(When words don’t really cut the emotions going through the mind, there is always Lisa Gerrard)