Monday, June 17, 2013

Fire, Well, Sacred Tree, flow and flame and grow in me.

“The fire, the well and sacred tree; flow and flame and grow in me.”  So goes a commonly used phrase in ADF liturgy.  It is said in various ways at high day rites and by different groves, but the idea is all there.  The other day, a person publicly announced that they were leaving ADF because they found it did not focus enough on what was going on inside a person.  That it was too focused on devotionals. That they also think we spend all our time talking about “right relationship” and that they do not care about that or right action.  That ADF does not spend enough time dealing with “the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
  I have pondered over their words for several days now, and to the writer I can only say they did not integrate the concepts, they did not enfold the metaphor to their inner life.  That is, the fault is not so much with the ADF but with the person.  You see good readers it is all METAPHOR!  Every religion;   all of them.  Every single one of them is a metaphor for our spiritual experiences in life.  Hey!, Great if they think they are literal truth, but with that truth is a metaphor.  It is up to the individual to integrate that metaphor into their life, thus finding the wisdom and unlocking the secrets to a spiritual existence.  No one can do this for another.  At best we can say “look this is a metaphor for your life, now figure out what it means to YOU. Apply it to YOU as you can.”   So to the charge that ADF is not inwardly focused, let me point out just a few of the ways I see that it is.  As noted at the beginning of this post ADF ritual tell us to “Let the waters flow within us, let the fire burn within us, and to let the tree grow within us.” This is a metaphor that means that we each need to tend to all the associations of the well, fire and tree, inside us.  What are these associations you ask?  I am happy to tell you, but it’s all just metaphors.  You would be a thousand times better off going about your own inner work and coming to understand what the associations are TO YOU.  How do you do that?  YOU TURN INWARD. 
                ADF is concerned with “right relationship” and rightly so I think.  Before I go on we need to have an understanding of what is meant by “right relationship”.  It means to maintain a balanced relationship between you and the gods, the spirits of nature (thus nature itself) and the ancestors.  It also means to maintain a right relationship with yourself.  How do you maintain right relationship with yourself?  YOU TURN INWARD.  To know if you are in “right relationship” with oneself you are forced to turn inward and address what one finds, then taking actions both internally and externally to bring that relationship back to balance. 
                As part of the Dedicant’s path the novice is asked to start what is called “mental discipline”.   This is some sort of practice that forces the novice to sit down at least once a week and turn inward.  For most this is some sort of meditation, though not always.  Though the requirement is weekly, I recommend that it be done daily.  Though again not required, this practice is encouraged to go on long after the Dedicant’s path work is done.  All of this is a form of ADF having a person TURN INWARD.   
                Once past the Dedicant’s work, we have several trainings that encourage further practices of Trance work and poetry that if applied correctly will cause a person to TURN INWARD. 
So I have shown a number of ways that ADF directs the person to turn inward.  ADF gives metaphor with which to navigate the inner world, and in the courses it asks the student to find techniques that will turn them inward.  All of these are tools that help a person deal with the “..messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful act of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are.”
The author finishes with “…I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way to good standing with the Gods.”  To this I would share what a wise druid once told me, “Whether you think you can or you can’t…your right.” 
               ADF is not at all a perfect organization, and probably not a perfect religion.  It certainly is not the religion for everyone.  People come, do, and decide to go.  That’s great.  Just do not blame the system for your missing the road signs, not internalizing the metaphors, or finishing the work of the DP.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sometimes the bear wins

                “Sometimes the bear wins” or so the saying goes.  I think for perhaps the first time in my life I have gotten the full taste of this statement.  Nursing school has been my bear for the past two years.  It has been by far the most rigorous course of study I have ever undergone.  The sheer amount of information we must learn is often overwhelming.  I have lost sleep, and felt the strain on my marriage do to its demands.  On top of all that is the pressure for me to finish so that I can get out in the work force and be gainfully employed for the first time since 2007, so that my beloved water witch can get out of the job that she does not like, but supports us for now.  Add to that the building debt incurred by the costs of school; nope, no pressure there.  Well, it didn’t happen.  I made one too many mistakes in my clinical rotation and the instructor felt I was not ready to move on. So it is that I will be forced to retake the 4th and final semester of nursing school over again.  The fallout from this decision has been a huge learning experience for me on a spiritual and emotional level.  My wife was angry.  Having to tell my father, a retired physician, was embarrassing.  Never in my life have I suffered such a defeat.  I who learned two foreign languages by the time I was 23.  Who has a 2nd degree black belt and taught others to that level.  I who have helped hundreds of people over come pain and discomfort both physical and emotional; I who built a tight night, healthy and loving pagan community where none existed before.  I of my own doing failed, and at a time when so many were counting on me.  
                I cried, I felt shame and embarrassment, I did not give up.  I did not crumble or throw in the towel. I did not blame anyone else.  I sat, in front of my altar, and I gave my daily offerings.  I walked my spirit-journey and spoke with the stag and the old teacher.  I asked “why?” a LOT.  I played out the events over and over, finding every fault and error.  What I did not do was start throwing magic and energy around wildly.  I did not summon spirits to do more than help me learn from this process and to help me get through it.  The instructor offered me the option to stop coming to class, or to continue on and finish out the semester knowing I would receive a “No Pass” regardless of my actually percentage grade.  I knew immediately what the courageous course of action was.  I continued on.  I studied and took every test.  I learned all I could, for it was made clear to me that this is the way of champions, the path of the hero. 
                All people suffer times when things do not happen as they would have wished…everyone.  However, not everyone fails.  The difference being between those who suffer a setback and then give up, and those who regroup, and continue on, changed in some way, but still trying to reach the goal.  One of the things that an instructor said to me when I was given the news of my defeat was that “things happen for a reason.”  When I was younger, high school years, I believed this strongly.  Somewhere along the way, I lost this point of view or rather I became cynical about it.  Thinking “sure it happens for a reason, people fuck up.”  Not me though.  In my spirit work it has come clear to me that part of why I suffered this setback was to be humbled a bit.  I admit, I was cocky coming into the nursing program.  I had a string of scholastic successes behind me.  I have also come to believe that I suffered, am still suffering this “setback” because I had to learn lessons about pulling it together and continuing on, about not giving up and making it a failure.  With these lessens I will be better able to guide others who might come to me for advise when I receive my ordination from ADF.  I have also been lead to believe that by being forced to repeat this last semester Lugh wants me to master as much as I can of the art and science of nursing before I hit the workforce.  Half-assed or “good enough” may be acceptable to others, but not to devotee of Lugh.  Excellence is the bar to which I excel in all that I chose to do.  This is both the reward and curse of being a “Lughvian”. 
                At the end of the semester, the head instructor sat down with me for my final review.  She was Impressed with how much she had seen me grow.  She was impressed with how well I handled the situation and took responsibility and did not blame others.  She told me then she was considering graduating me, but that if she did so, I would have an uphill battle to face on my first job.  I also knew that I had missed most of the interviews for new grads into the local hospitals.  In a matter of a few seconds all of that I have learned and come to accept swirled into the decision for me to not be passed. 
                Why not glamour your way?  Why not call upon the spirits to blind the instructors to your mistakes?  I have asked myself this same question as well.  The answer is comes down to this: sometimes you have to accomplish something by the strength of your raw ability unaided by magic.  If I had used magic and been graduated without really being competent what danger would I be placing any future patients in?  Whose death might I inadvertently cause?  No, in this situation magic simply would not do. 
                Now I await news if I will be accepted back into the fourth semester and you can bet your silver chalice that I have and am using magic to influence that decision.  I will continue to offer to Brigit and Lugh, the spirits and my ancestors for aid in learning, and guidance in action.  I have learned much from this experience, and have been humbled by it.  I however will not give up on my goals.  I am not done, and this battle is not over.  I am currently enrolled in a nursing skills lab class where I am polishing my skills and knowledge base and work toward excellence.