Friday, November 29, 2013

Seeds - Some Advice on Fear

I have a story that is practically a stereotype, almost a cliche.

Years ago, I worked at a job for the Immigration Ministry of Canada.  It was an excellent job.  I had been hired as a temp, and was employed pushing file carts from one place to another, but due to the intelligence and savvy of my supervisor and the other people in authority at the office, I was brought on board within a year (incredibly quickly at that office) as a full-time employee, doing vetting work on the reported backgrounds of people interested in immigrating to Canada.  I did security work, participated in anti-fraud investigations, background checks, and information exchange with CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

I met high-ranking officers of CSIS and the RCMP, politicians, and even the Minister-Of-Curry-In-A-Hurry (actually, Immigration, but that was the media nickname for him), Stephen Harper's right-hand toady, Jason Kenny.

I was a cog in a machine.  Sometimes I'd interact with more important cogs, and sometimes even with (gasp!) GEARS, gears that people thought were centrally fixed and thus very, very important to the functioning of ... things.

As a result of being such a cog, I was well greased.  I was well-paid, and well-compensated for my time.  I had, for the first time in my life, a salary (one that I'd happily qualify as a FAT salary as well) and excellent benefits.  I had everything I needed, or so I thought.

Over time, though, I started to realize that the job was preventing me from quite a few things that I wanted to do.  After all, there was a clause in my employment that mentioned not being involved in "controversial social, political, or community" activities.  What could those be?  Why, a whole hell of a lot of things!

Protests, queer community groups, wild public events and parties, body modification, writing and speaking my mind and singing the songs of my soul, and even expressing my own gender identity.  I went once a year for a week to the Brushwood Folklore Center for vacation and had to lie out by rear end about what I was actually doing.  Instead of going to a pagan-centric, clothing-optional, spiritually uplifting (and sometimes intoxicant-soaked) event, I was going to a "campground" to "camp" - technically true, but any more information about that and I could have easily lost my job, or at least, so I thought.  I lied my face off about the majority of my life to my co-workers and superiors, I prevented myself from writing anything controversial and posting it on the internet (or trying to get it published) and I prevented myself from expressing who I really am to the point that I had a serious fight for my life on my hands, where suicide seemed like a better option that continuing to live.

I let my fear of losing the security blanket that was that cushy, comfortable government job get in the way of actually living, while convincing myself that I was doing something "worthwhile" and "helpful to people" when all I was was a glorified paper-pusher whose job it was to nitpick over people's self-confessions and reveal their lies to an uncaring bureaucratic machine.  In a lot of cases, the people who were caught lying to the government were pushed through anyway - because they had family in Canada, or (more often) because they proved that they would help to improve the country (i.e. had a lot of money probably gained through lack of conscience and abuse of financial systems and people).

So I spent my time there convincing myself that I was improving myself and the world while allowing myself to be ground down into dust by fear, all in the name of an admittedly surprisingly large paycheck and health-care benefits.

That job is gone.  The Minister of Curry-In-A-Hurry, the honorable Jason Kenney, decided that Buffalo was not a good place to have a Consulate, because it's not like it wasn't one of the biggest border crossings between the two countries, the closest to Toronto, and it's not like he didn't authorize the expenditure of hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for renovations in the Consulate and COME TO CUT THE GODDAMN RIBBON a year before he shut it and almost all of the other Consulates in the United States down.  In the process, myself and some people who had been working there upwards of thirty years lost their jobs - and the Americans who worked there have been treated like dirty kleenexes; Ottawa won't return our calls or letters requesting important things for tax purposes like, oh, proof of employment.  (Bitter rant over).

So, that being said, I spent many years of my life stunting my personal growth out of fear of losing a job that went away anyway.

All jobs will go away, in time.  In the modern market if you're employed for even a few years by the same place in the same position it's a miracle (it's an even bigger miracle if you get some kind of promotion).  Likewise, you're going to die some day, and then that job won't be any good to you or anyone else whatsoever.

Since I lost that job, my life has improved immeasurably.  I've been doing all of the things that I wanted to do all along, and I'm doing well with them.  I'm getting published in print and blog formats, I'm engaged to the perfect partner for me, I have a family, as in am part of a cohesive family unit, for the first time since I was a child, and I am living as myself completely unashamed.  My head is unbowed.

I could have lived like this while I had the Consulate job, but I would probably have lost it.  I think now that that would have been okay, though.  It would have been more than okay, it would have been good, because I would have lost the job for a good reason (I was growing and being myself) rather than for a stupid reason (the Harper Government is a sick machine).  I would have a reason to be bitter, to be angry, and to speak against my former employers in a way that could enlighten people as to how wrong the reasons that I lost that job were.

It would have been kind of cool, too!  I could have lost that job with style.  I might have had a meeting where very serious people said, "Allright, unless you change this, you're out." and I could have walked out with both middle fingers up (I did actually walk out the door the last time dancing, with headphones on, to Soul Coughing's "Super Bon Bon").  I could have lost the job with style, and with confidence, knowing that I was doing the right thing.

Instead I let fear dictate my actions.

Fear can do one of two things to you: debilitate you or exhilarate you.  It can make you freeze, and crush yourself, or it can make you run or dance or scream or attack.

If you let it debilitate you, you WILL regret it.  You will be sorry that you held back, that you cowered, that you hid.

If you let fear exhilarate you, it gives you a kind of wild, mad energy.  It causes adrenaline to pump, it sharpens your senses, it makes you want to sing and dance as you do that thing that terrifies you that you're doing anyway.

I'm not saying never to run from something that you're afraid of - sometimes running is a good idea.  Sometimes it's time to 23 Skiddoo, to nopenopenope, to get the Hell out of Dodge.  Freezing, though, is never a good idea unless you're in Jurassic Park and the Tyrannosaur is looking for you, and even then, it's no good against the velociraptors.

Okay, terrible analogy.  Don't let fear make you freeze, don't let it stunt your growth, don't NOT do the things that you know will make you a better and happier person because of that fear - especially social fears.  Fear of loss of a job, fear of loss of friends, fear of being kicked out of your church - all of these things are something that you can live through, something that you can survive.

Preventing your own growth is something that you may not survive, and if you do, you will regret for the rest of your life.  Don't cower, don't freeze, don't hide - enjoy your fear and embrace it and let it give you the power to be more alive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seeds - Back to Hell With You!

The world is changing rapidly, and, as Terrence McKenna pointed out, the rate of increase in complexity and activity seems to be increasing.  Some folks speak of an Armageddon, a Ragnarok, a Singularity, and I can't comment as to what that will or would look like, but our species does seem to be in a plastic, stretchy, alter-y time, and things are moving to a head (if they haven't already passed it).

I think that at this time more than any other it is important to keep an eye out for bullshit and call it when you see it.  Even, or especially, if it comes from you.  Don't base your decision about what is or is not bullshit around anyone else, either - use your own mind and intuition to form these opinions.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't take other people's opinions or thoughts into account, I'm saying, please, for the love of all that is (and I am not being facetious or flippant when I say that it should be "for the love of all that is"), please use your own internal bullshit filters.

You'll be wrong about some things.  I certainly am, and have been.  But you'll be less wrong than you would be if you just listened to and agreed with someone else.  Whether they are someone who is painted as a whacked-out conspiracy theorist or as Someone Who You Should Trust, please, again, for the love of all that is, think and feel before you decide to agree with them, and if something feels off, take some quiet internal time to figure out what that is and follow the trail of discomfort back to its source.  It is (always, but especially now) time to let people know that we are wise to their tricks and traps and that this is NOT acceptable.

Also, read this blog post by the inimitable Gordon White, especially the last couple of paragraphs; they are very pertinent to this and to a lot of things that are going down right now:

He says, "You just need to see these things moving. You just need to call bullshit on their bullshit. The clue is in the name but dark power can only ever move in the dark. If you shine a light on it, if you reject it, then it will eventually fail. Here is where the storytellers have left us without a map. We may just have turned the tide on unstoppable forces but that doesn’t mean the tide has gone out. We have more than the last few moments of the third act to go."

Read more:

It's never too late to start, especially considering that this all started a long, long time ago, and new betrayals of our trust are starting every day.  Nip the new ones in the bud and help the rest of us take an industrial sized chainsaw to the old ones (and to the Old Ones?).  Start here and now and today.

Leaves - Mindfulness Meditation

Oh, there are so many things that I want to share now.

I think a description and discussion of my mindfulness practice will come first, largely because of how helpful it has been overall in life.  Seriously, if you practice no other kind of meditation, if you put forth no other effort to clean or inspect your consciousness, if you embrace no other type of spirituality, try mindfulness meditation.  Twenty minutes a day; it's like exercise for your psyche.  You CAN find the time for it, most days.

Sit down, be comfortable, try to sit cross-legged with your ankles lower than your tail bone (which generally means sitting with your rear end on a pillow or cushion and have your feet on the floor).  Close your eyes (optionally, focusing them upwards towards your forehead, but really, you can just let them rest), and breathe deeply.  Pay attention to your breath.  To help make things even easier, pay attention to one specific spot, preferably your diaphram or solar plexus.

Do this for twenty minutes.  Set an alarm or something.

It's tough at first.  Early on in regular practice you'll get bored and wonder what time it is.  You'll want to fidget, you'll want to get up and move.

You WILL think of other things.  This is absolutely inevitable.  When you think of something other than the gentle, calm motion of your diaphragm, move your attention back to it.  That's all you need to do.  Don't get frustrated by the fact that you are thinking of other things; that's part of the process.  Any time something else comes to mind, gently re-direct your attention to your diaphragm, and to your breathing.  I often use the imagery of being a rock in the river, letting the thoughts slip past me, and focus on being the rock.  Once the thoughts stop trying to slip past me, I let the river and being the rock slip past me.  It's that simple.

Except when it isn't.

I've observed over time that my mind likes to play tricks.  One of the ones that has come up recently has been, "All right, you're done, time's up!" without the alarm having gone off.  I'm not sure where that one is coming from.

Another one is the miniature dreams.  Once I had a pretty good grasp on controlling my conscious thoughts, I would start getting spontaneous visions and dream sequences.  As soon as I recognize them as such, I go back to my diaphragm and my focus of attention.  Sometimes these sequences are wild, and I've had the urge to record them, but a voice within me suggests that that is not a good idea; that holding on to these images and dreams would be counterproductive because part of what I am doing with them is releasing them.

There are numerous articles online and in books, both new age and sooooper sciencey, that speak about the benefits of basic meditation practice.  I'm going to make myself unpopular here by arguing one thing that a lot of the fluffier articles state: that ANYTHING that you do can be meditation.  Don't feel like sitting around breathing (such articles will state), no worries, put on your headphones and walk the dog!  Sit and read a good book!  Make some tea and watch TV.  Anything that you do that is relaxing is as good as meditation.

The problem is, neither serious spiritual practitioners nor the serious scientific research behind meditation back these things up.  The practice that I describe here is the most basic and simple form of meditation, and there are far more advanced and complex versions that I've taken part in in the past, including ones involving guided imagery, physical motion, and music, but a lot of the activities that are suggested as alternatives (hey, I ride a bike, that's the same as meditating!) do not involve the conscious focus/lack of focus, the mindfulness, that a regular, disciplined meditative practice has.

As I rebuild my spiritual practice I am working hard at starting from the ground up again.  Mindfulness seems to be the way to go.  I've got other things going on, but as long as I spend a little time in mindfulness and a little time attempting to make a spiritual connection during the day I don't feel that I've fallen behind.

Try incorporating it into your practice.  It's like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, and eating your greens for your pysche.  The differences will be nearly immediately visible, and after a while, you'll notice if you haven't gotten your daily dose of mindfulness.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Seeds - A Renaissaince

It has been well over a year since I've published here, and I'm only now returning to it.  A lot has happened in the last year, regarding myself and my understanding of who I am on multiple levels of being.

On a social level, I came out of the closet as transgender, and began to live openly as the person who I am.  This ties in closely with the spiritual level, where I've had a serious reset and re-examination of what I believe.

Over the course of this past year I've lived through a dark night of the soul.  Surrounded by voices online that tried to convince me that everything was nothing, that nothing mattered, that all was pointless, that I should give up trying to find meaning or understanding the world because it was just a bunch of random, pointless, empty crap.


The places I traveled to and through to climb out of the pits of numbness and abandon were many and varied.  My partner held me in a tent in a campground while I ranted drunkenly about nihilism and wept and tore at myself.  I consulted a Heathen priestess and pushed her to channel a Kemetic Goddess, which turned into a strange and stirring occasion for the other participants and observers as much as it was for me.  I forced myself to look, eyes skinned and blank-wide, over and over into the abyss of nothing that I was continually told was behind everything.  I confronted the idea of Nothing, of Absence, of ultimate, total loss, and I've been tempered by it.  I stood beneath the sky when the planets formed a hexagram and opened a window to the Limitless Light and heard secrets that I was told that I would forget until I needed to know them, and saw the paths to the light.

This is no accident.  This is design.  The design exists at all levels.  We are not alone.

And, just as I am writing this, I receive a message from a complete stranger:

"May the light shine through you and give you strength, 
keep the faith."

So, this blog is starting back up.  When I stood beneath the hexagram I was told over and over again that it was time for me to let my light shine, and this is going to be one of the prisms or lenses through which I cast it.  So be it.

Namaste, Amma, We Are One