gatherings

The Sober Pagan

November, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

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About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Witch & Popcorn

October, 2018

American Mystic

I was gifted a copy of American Mystic, and I am so glad. Here is the trailer.

Released in 2010, it is an intimate portrait of three non- mainstream devotees. One is Pagan, one is a Lakota Sundancer, and one is an Xtian Spiritualist.

The stories of each person’s faith/path are explored from their gatherings to their personal mundane home life, and their individual personal practices.

Chuck, the Sundancer, welcomes the crew into the parts of the ceremony, teaching, and explaining different things that go into it. He shows years worth of scars gotten during Sundances, and he and friends open their hearts, and sacred spaces to anybody who wants to learn and understand.

Of course, Morpheus Ravenna, the Pagan is the one who most resonated with me. She welcomed the crew into her home and into her rituals. She sang, shared writings, and showed her amazing property where she has a permanent Pagan sanctuary set up. She can be found on Facebook at this link.

Kublai is a young New York Christian Spiritualist who is very involved in his community, and the film finds him working to develop his gifts to work towards helping others. Xtian Spiritualism, a non mainstream denomination, believes in the power of faith healing, angles, and psychic gifts. In the film, many mediums and clergy persons in Kublai’s community welcome the crew to film their meetings and classes.

It’s hard to keep a dry eye watching the devotion of these three beautiful souls, and their openness to share is exactly what we need today. The more people know about those who are perceived as different, the closer we can move towards full acceptance despite differences.

All around, this is a very moving and beautiful film.

 

American Mystic

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About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

Lessons From Indigenous Communities: How We Can All Benefit From Some Of Their Principles by Guest Writer Omar Beretta

July, 2018

Lessons From Indigenous Communities: How We Can All Benefit From Some Of Their Principles

By Guest Writer Omar Beretta

 

(Photo by Pablo E. Ortiz on Unsplash)

Imagine this: you switch off your iPhone now, pack your backpack, and get lost in a tropical jungle in search of powerful lessons from Indigenous communities. You’d better have a passport, because Indigenous communities are rarely found in our backyard. And we need to go now, because Indigenous wisdom is rapidly evaporating in the heat of modern times, but there is still a lot we can learn from them.

But direct to access Indigenous tribes isn’t always easy. Not everyone has an enlightened employer that will support your mystical journey and time away from the office. Or, an understanding and loving significant other that will drive you to the airport without a return ticket.

What’s the bottom line? Accessing alternative sources of knowledge may change your life forever — and this is good news. But you do not need to burn all your bridges to take the first steps in the direction of a new understanding of life. Take one step at a time.

First – what does “Indigenous community” mean, exactly?

This may seem crazy, but Karl Marx got it right when he explained that the natural world is further and further removed from us and arrives only in a relatively processed, mediated form. And he wrote that in 1844. The immediacy of nature has been lost, and nature confronts humanity as an alien entity. Moreover, as the Marxist theorist Max Horkheimer would later put it, “The history of man’s efforts to subjugate nature is also the history of man’s subjugation by man.”

The chances of finding an authentic Indigenous community in a natural, pristine environment, willing to share their wisdom to a newcomer that does not speak their language, are next to nothing. What we can learn from good old Marx is that we have created a production system that alienates us from nature, and over the years it has generated an urban malaise from which I suffer, and, if you have read this far, probably you too. The bad news is that apparently this malaise can only be cured by accessing the wisdom of aboriginal communities, which have been almost entirely crushed by the very system of production to which we contribute each day by waking up, buying coffee, and going to work.

But even if we got lost for a few months in the Peruvian Amazon, we would discover that most of the Indigenous knowledge has already been formatted to the urban lifestyle. It would take significant time and effort to find a spot where white men and women have not already set up a spiritual shop to cater to our quest. And before the spiritual shops arrived, various churches roamed the aboriginal wilderness, turning original knowledge into a mere remembrance of things past.

So, if you only have one or two weeks to spare for your spiritual quest, do not shop in the Spiritual Supermarket. More importantly, do not buy that six-day, four-ayahuasca ceremony package tour to the Amazon, facilitated by white people that can speak your language. Rather, donate that money to a reliable NGO and wait for good karma to hit back. It always does.

Here’s the kicker: we may actually find powerful lessons in our backyard. We have the atavic need to be a part of a tribe, because it offers protection and the possibility of achieving greater goals. Some of us might have belonged to, for example, a gym tribe or a clubbing tribe. Over the months we found out, perhaps with bitter resentment, that the tribe we thought we belonged to was actually what is called a pseudo-community, a gathering that was not based on fundamental principles, merely on transitory activities. The day I stop going to the gym or reduce my clubbing expeditions my tribe will desert me.  

But perhaps you have a meditation tribe going, or you feel that you belong to a yoga tribe that has passed the two-year acid test. If you and the core tribe members are still meditating or practicing yoga after two years, your tribe may be ready for the second stage. This is advice I got from actual Indigenous masters in the Amazon, as well as from teachers at an intentional community in Scotland: first you need to have things in common, then you strengthen the bond. Finally, a real community is born.

Want to know the best part? Here is something that you can take away. Basic aboriginal wisdom: consume less and spend more time together. You can divide your tribe in three groups. On week 1, the first group goes shopping for organic products to cook veggie burgers. The second group gets together and cooks the burgers, while the third group rests. On weeks 2 and 3, the groups shift chores. This may prove more challenging than you think, because it entails coordinating people to get together once a week to do an additional activity that is not merely recreational; it supports the welfare of the tribe. Thus, we learn to put the interest of the collective before the interest of the individual. If you can achieve this, you have probably learned the most important lesson there is to learn. It is highly likely that your tribe will be decimated over the first two weeks, but you will learn who is for real. Keep it going for a couple of years, and abundant wisdom you never thought you had inside you will flow from your heart.

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About the Author:

Omar Beretta is the co-author with Bénédicte Rousseau of Shaman Express. A former lawyer, yoga instructor and publishing company owner who – after a near-death experience – left his corporate career to practice yoga and shamanism, Beretta is now a full-time world traveler. He learns from people living in countries not yet fully spoilt by Western capitalism as well as indigenous communities. When he is not traveling, Beretta teaches creative writing workshops in Asunción del Paraguay. For more information, see www.yacarevolador.com

About Shaman Express: Amazon US link: amzn.to/2vKd4CZ 

Shaman Express