Sunday, December 25, 2011


The last couple of days have been somewhat contemplative for me, as Christmas often is.

Friday I went to the Christmas party for my mom's side of the family. It was actually pretty decent. Although I couldn't help but feel amused that an aunt and uncle got me an ice scraper as a gift. Albeit a very nice one. I live in a part of the country where generally, ice only exists in refrigerator freezers. In all fairness, they also got one for my cousin. My cousin who doesn't drive and doesn't own a car.

Saturday, we went to a local park, which had Christmas lights up for display. It wasn't as good as the light displays in the park I go to every year in South Carolina, but it was still fun. On the way home, we stopped by a house that had an amazing light display, which I was able to video:

This morning, we had the Christmas gathering for my dad's side of the family, which was just his older brother and sister. They came to my parents' house, and we had breakfast, and we went to church.

Church with my fundamentalist family usually bores and frustrates me. Today, however, I just felt sad for them. The sermon was entitled "When God Came to Earth", and was..... well, what would be expected at a conservative church with a sermon of that title. I just kept thinking, "Why can't they understand that God never "left" Earth? Why can't they see that God is all around us, in everything we see, and within ourselves?" It saddens me that they can't see what a beautiful creation this is, and that God isn't just some stodgy guy in the heavens watching us with disdain, unless we think and believe The Right Things. No wonder we as a species are so war-torn, domineering, and destructive - we have no collective self-esteem or self-worth.

After church, we came back to my house and opened gifts. Then went to my aunt's house for lunch/dinner and opening gifts. Then we came back home and watched Christmas movies. I got some good movies, some not so good movies, some cologne, and a nice jacket. All in all, it wasn't a bad holiday. Now we'll see how I'll survive the rest of the week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CYF Religious Education: Session 2: Letting Your Light Shine

The opening words for today's RE lesson on the Church of the Younger Fellowship is comprised of a passage in the Bible, Matthew Chapter 5:14-16, which speaks of letting your light shine on your good works. The exact passage is:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting
a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see
your good works….
-Matthew 5:14-16

The reflection is by a minister, who states that she always wanted to be a jazz singer, and admired Ella Fitzgerald, until she realized she had no musical talent whatsoever. The following passage sticks out to me:

"At that moment, I had a crazy thought that might pass as a revelation. What if some
crazy flip-flop were the case? I thought to myself. What if I were to find out that years
ago a beautiful jazz singer had dreamed of being me? What if, more than anything else,
this singer wanted to possess the gifts and talents I possess? Indeed, what if she had
dreamed me up and her highest aspirations and life-long yearnings were supposed to
come to fruition through me? How ungrateful I would be to stand here wasting my
time dreaming of being her!
What would happen if each of us were to find out that we were the creation of
someone else’s dreams? I wonder: Would that change the way we live our lives?
Would we spend less time thinking about what we don’t have or aren’t? Would we
spend more time cherishing who we are? Would we approach life a bit like a treasure
hunt, and spend our time looking for the gifts the dreamer had hidden in us? Perhaps
we would stay awake at night, not worrying by wondering—wondering what great
works or wonders this dreamer had made us capable of making real?"
This is something, I admit, I struggle with. Even now, I always find myself comparing myself with others, usually in the negative. I have musical talent, but lack the showmanship and ability to overcome stagefright (not to mention, at this point in my life, opportunities). I work well with kids and have made many good friends, but still struggle with a great deal of shyness and social anxiety. I always wish I could be taller. Bigger. More outgoing. More comfortable in my own skin. You get the idea. Maybe my New Year's resolution for the upcoming year should be to rid myself of the negativity and pressure I always put on myself.

I will close with this session's discussion questions:

"What are you particularly good at?": Music. Photography. Helping people who are less fortunate - including animals.

"What are you proud of having accomplished?:" becoming generally self-sufficient when I never thought I would be able to. Surviving grad school to the extent that I have.

"What talents do you have?": I see this as a repetition of question #1, so I will refer to the above.

"How do you let your light shine in the world?": I suppose, by being the best person I can be. I'm still trying to figure out just how - and if - I'm impacting the world around me. I think this is something I will always question.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finding Your Path: a course from the UU Young Adult Office by Rev. Michael Tino

So, I know I haven't been posting a lot lately. Partly that's because, as mentioned in my previous post from last night/early Wednesday AM, I've been busy with school (brought my GPA up to a 3.4 by the way, 4.0 for the semester), and on a much lesser scale, work (I'm pretty much broke right now). But mostly, it's been because I've been in a funk. Emotionally and spiritually stagnant.

Today, I remembered the site I am still a member of and used to frequent, although much less so in recent months, the Church of the Younger Fellowship, and its parent site, the Church of the Larger Fellowship, both listed in my links section. I was pleased to see that the Church of the Larger Fellowship is transitioning to a new website with some new features, such as an online church service on Sunday evenings and Monday afternoons, which I believe I will begin watching.

The CYF also now has a "Religious Education" feature, comprised of (so far) 36ish daily readings and reflections, with discussion questions. In effort to bring new life into my spirituality and get myself out of this funk, I think I'm going to read through those daily devotionals, and blog summaries and my responses to discussion questions here.

Today's reading began with an intro, followed by some opening words for Chalice Lighting. The following poem was then made the focus reading, written by a CYF member and the writer of this day's devotional:

"Wild Night Wind
Michael Tino
I want…
…a hug each morning to greet the brand new day, and one each night to bid it farewell.
…to know love as vast as the sky and as pure as the first winter snow.
…a sandy beach each summer to keep me cool and a blazing fire each winter to warm
…to soar through the air like a bird, if only to remind myself of the magic and wonder
of being earthbound.
…a wild night wind to rustle the trees as I drift to sleep, and to call my dreams by name.
I want…
…to feel peace deep down in the core of my being.
…a babbling brook to sit by and notice the passage of time and seasons and the
unfolding of life before me.
…a room to call my own in which I can be free to create, to develop, to learn, or simply
to sit in a warm ray of sunshine streaming in through the window, amidst the dancing
dust faeries and shadows.
I want…
…to seek justice, simple and true, and to pass it like water for all to drink from.
…to be wholly a part of creation, in concert with beings and mountains and trees,
treating all which surrounds me as part of myself.
…a compass, true and steady, to point me the way I’ve been longing to go and to help
me remember the way that I’ve been.
I want…
…a steaming pot of Earl Grey tea to share with a friend and inspire conversation (or
simply silence, in gentle recognition that nothing needs to be said).
…to stand tall and firm, proud of my accomplishments but, at the same time, humble in
my minuteness in the glory of all being.
…to know God as the loving spirit in each of my breaths, transcending the boundaries
of all space and time and transforming my breathing into being.
And what do you want in the deepest center of your very being?
What quickens your heart and shortens your breath at the mere thought of it entering
your life?
What sounds an echo in the back of your soul and enters the symphony within you like
a high, insistent flute, calling your name over and over?
Is it peace? Is it love? Is it harmony with all beings?
Or is it a mission, a calling, a purpose?
Is it a reason that you want?
Or a question?
Or an answer?
Is it fields of purple heather swaying softly in the breeze
or libraries of knowledge to satisfy your growing curiosity?
Is it woolly socks in winter to keep your toes warm as you snuggle on the couch
watching the snow fall
or maple trees in autumn, blazing colors bright and true like wild fire on the mountains
towards the far horizon?
Is it a fountain in the summer, spraying, misting, sprinkling you with water and forming
puddles to wiggle your toes through
or a seedling in the springtime, pushing up through loamy soil and creating life from a
dormant shell?
What is it you really want?
An afternoon, a kitten, or a bicycle?
Or maybe justice like the waters
and pride
and love
and wonder?
A cup of tea, a ray of sun?
A peaceful, quiet moment?
Perhaps a hug to start each day, and one to fall asleep by,
or a wild night wind that moves the trees
and sparks your dreams
and lets you know possibilities without end."
 -- source - although it may not work if you haven't joined

The following Questions for Reflection are then presented, along with my answers:
"Who are you? Introduce yourself to the group": No introductions needed here, as most of my readers know me, and to any who don't, I wish to simply stick with "Chad" or "Chadly".

"What do you want?": I want to help others. I want to live and work somewhere I find fulfilling on every level. I want to travel. I want to fall in love and have a family.

"What are your dreams?": To make a difference in the world, and to find spiritual fulfillment.

"How have they changed the way you live your life?": I moved to be closer to the sea - although I am contemplating a return to the mountains via Asheville, depending on my luck finding work in Charleston after school. I do love the ocean though. I chose a career field not based on money, but my desire to make a difference in the world. I try to get out in nature as much as I can. I've become much more open minded, and draw from many spiritual traditions - Gnosticism, Christianity, Druidry, and Zen - in my personal spiritual path.

"What do you hope to get out of this curriculum?": If nothing else, to give me some new ideas and concepts to think about.


Well, I'm finally finished with another semester at school. Only one more to go. Things have been crazy busy, hence my long absence. I'm now back in North Carolina, visiting family for the holidays.

The holidays are always an interesting time for me. I feel nostalgic for the better moments of my childhood. At the same time, it pulls me into spiritual contemplation and evaluation of my spiritual beliefs, as I ponder the deeper meanings behind the winter holidays I celebrate - Christmas (including daily Advent readings through a UU Christian Advent devotional I have printed out), with a more Gnostic, metaphorical interpretation than my mainstream family; Yule, with the acknowledgement of the changing seasons and the longing for warmer days; and Chalica, the 7 day long Unitarian- Universalist themed holiday, modeled after Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, in which each day represents one of UU's 7 Principles. I did experiment with Hanukkah  for a couple of years and, while it's still in my "rituals" section of my Grimoire, I feel I have not connected with that holiday as well as the aforementioned.

One thing in particular I find curious, is that even though I attend a Christian church, consider myself Christian - even though I do also practice Druidry and minimally interact with the Unitarian Universalists online - every time I take the Beliefnet religion quiz, which I do periodically, my top religions are almost always Neo-Pagan, UU, and Mahayana Buddhism. Now, I have been attempting to incorporate some Zen into my life, and once I get back to my regular post-Advent daily spiritual practices, I will be including my book, "The Buddhist Bible" in my daily readings (along with my NRSV Bible and "The Other Bible" which contains various Gnostic writings). But seeing as how I have had very little exposure to actual Buddhism (whereas I have had exposure to the others, via local Pagan groups I've visited, and visiting the local UU church), I've been curious as to what that "looks like", so to speak. How does it fit in with my various beliefs? Should I consider just becoming Buddhist? What about the fact that here in the West, many view Buddhism as a philosophy, not just a religion, and as such practice Christianity (or other religions) with a Buddhist flavor, so to speak? The benefit of being spiritually eclectic, as I seem to be, is that I feel the freedom to incorporate what works. It can be a bit confusing, sometimes though, and frustrating, when I'm not sure where I "fit in". Especially when it comes to being a part of a faith community and/or meeting others of like mind.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Quick Thought on Pelagius

So, I do believe that Pelagius is one of my favorite early Christian theologians. Living around the 400s CE, he taught against Augustine's view of original sin and the inherent badness of humanity and nature, believing everything was good. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from a book I borrowed from a fellow Celtic Spirituality bookclub member, entitled The Letters of Pelagius: Celtic Soul Friend:

“Many people out of ignorance claim that man is not truly good because he is capable of doing evil. In saying this they are denying the perfect goodness of God’s creation. In fact man is truly good for the very reason that those people say he is not: that he has freedom to choose good or evil. Within the heart of man there is no overwhelming compulsion to act in one way or the other; whereas animals are compelled to act according to their instinct, human beings have free will, enabling them to control their actions. And within the mind of man there is the capacity of reason: human beings are able to consider rationally the consequences of different courses of action. It is the combination of free will and rationality which makes human beings superior to all other creatures. There would be no virtue in doing good by instinct, without exercising free will and reason. But when people, after due consideration, decide to do good, then they truly share in the goodness of God.

                     To Demetrias”

"By granting us the wonderful gift of freedom, God gave us the capacity to do evil as well as do good. Indeed we would not befree unless God had given us this ability: there is no freedom for the person who does good by instinct and not by choice. In this sense the capacity to do evil is itself good; evil actions are themselves signs of the goodness of God. A person might say that the world would be a better place if everyone within it were always good and never evil. But such a world would be flawed because it would lack one essential attribute of goodness, namely freedom. When God created the world he was acting freely; no other force compelled God to create the world. Thus by creating human beings in his image, he had to give them freedom. A person who could only do good and never do evil would be in chains; a person who can choose good or evil shares the freedom of God.

                     to Demetrias”

“Come now to the secret places of the soul. Let us each inspect ourselves with care, looking at the emotions which stir our hearts and the thoughts which run through our minds. Let us learn  the essential goodness of the heart from the heart itself; let us learn the goodness of the mind from the mind itself. Why do we blush with guilt or tremble with fear whenever we commit a sin? Because our hearts and minds are good, and so recoil from evil. Why do we shine with joy and dance with delight whenever we do good? Because our hearts and minds are good, and so rejoice at every good action. A murderer may try to conceal his identity, but the torments of his conscience are worse than any punishment which the state authorities could inflict. An innocent man who is wrongly accused of some crime may be imprisoned and tortured; but even when his body cries out with pain, there will be peace and serenity within his soul, because his conscience is clear.

                        To Demetrias”

“When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge they were exercising their freedom of choice; and as a consequence of the choice they made, they were no longer able to live in the Garden of Eden. When we hear that story we are struck by their disobedience to God; and so we conclude that they were no longer fit to enjoy the perfect happiness of Eden. And we should also be struck by the nature of that tree and its fruit. Before eating the fruit they did not know the difference between good and evil; thus they did not possess the knowledge which enables human beings to exercise freedom of choice. By eating the fruit they acquired this knowledge, and from that moment onwards they were free. Thus the story of their banishment from Eden is in truth the story of how the human race gained its freedom: by eating fruit from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve became mature human beings, responsible to God for their actions.

                        To Demetrias”

“How is it possible, then, for an act of disobedience to God to bring such a blessing? When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden they were like small children: they simply obeyed God’s instructions without considering the moral reasons for those instructions. To become mature they needed to learn the distinction for themselves between right and wrong, good and evil. And God gave them the opportunity to become mature by putting within the garden the tree of knowledge, by which they could learn this distinction. But if God simply instructed Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, and they had obeyed, they would have been acting like children. So he forbade them from eating the fruit; this meant that they themselves had to make a decision, whether to eat or not to eat. Just as a young person needs to defy his parents in order to grow to maturity, so Adam and Eve needed to defy God in order to share his knowledge of good and evil. By defying God, Adam and Eve grew to maturity in his image.

                           To Demetrias”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Defining Moments

"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure... life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller

Today was a defining moment in my life. Never did I once think I would have the ambition, willpower, or courage to take part in a highly publicized protest, Occupy Charleston . It is, of course, an offshoot/solidarity movement in response to Occupy Wall St., which, of course, I'm assuming at this point needs little introduction.

For the Charleston, offshoot, at least, the main points of contention are basically the fact that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. The Average Joe gets screwed, while big corporations get tax cuts, which they then use to line their own pockets while laying off the "lesser people", and throw insane amounts of money to politicians in order to bribe them into looking the other way.

I was actually torn between class, which I have on Saturdays, and attending the March.  Then I realized just how important it was for me on a personal level to participate. This movement has gotten huge. For good or ill, it will go down in the history books, just like the Civil Rights movement did in the 60s, and the Vietnam protests did in the 70s.  When my future children (or heck, even the kids I may end up seeing as a social worker/therapist), read about this and ask me "Where were you when this happened?" Did I really want to respond "Oh, I wanted to go. I wanted to show my support because I agree with their cause. But I was in class." Or did I want to say that I put my money where my mouth was, that I voiced my beliefs and finally took the opportunity to put some actions behind what I've believed for years? It's almost as if the last few years of personal growth were leading up to this moment.... the moment where I would finally be willing and able to act on my beliefs.

My grandmother is 70 years old and can't afford to retire, even if she wanted to, because they would not be able to make ends meet on her husband's disability alone. This is who I stand for.

My sister is 23 years old, in a wheelchair, and still lives with our parents. She is perfectly mentally capable (in 4th grade she was reading on an 8th grade level), only her physical body does not work like the rest of us. In spite of obtaining her Associate's Degree and over a year of Vocational Rehab and job coaches, the only job she has been able to get is a part-time, VOLUNTEER position at their local Habitat for Humanity. God only knows what will happen to her when our parents pass away. This is who I fight for.

I'm in graduate school and will be in debt for years to come. In spite of five years of undergrad, the only jobs I'm able to get until I finish my master's, are jobs where you don't even have to have an Associates to get, only a high school diploma and "some experience". I'm one of the lucky ones to have the time to go to school to HOPEFULLY get a better job afterwards (vicarious in itself because mental health is always being underfunded, and even with a Masters I'm likely to be overworked and underpaid), but not everyone gets that opportunity. They are who I stand with.

We started off in a local park. There were completed signs lying around. I grabbed a blank posterboard and marker, and made the sign that I felt the most strongly about, which could be shortened to fit on a poster: "Stand 4 the elderly and the disabled. They are the 99%".  We marched from the park, to the Visitor's Center/bus terminal, then to the business district. We then traveled past the Open Air Market and to Washington Park. Throughout we got honks and waves, generally in solidarity.

Considering Charleston's history with previous protests, such as the Civil Rights movement, I was surprised at how much cooperation and leeway we were given by the City Council. Unlike the protests going on in places such as NYC, Boston, and even the offshoots which have emerged in Europe (there are over 200 "Occupy" groups worldwide now), there were no confrontations and no arrests. It was the epitome of a polite, peaceful demonstration. There was chanting. Some people brought drums. It was made up of older people, college students, professionals, and some families brought their kids. There were no drugs and no alcohol. The regulations were that we had to remain on the sidewalk. We had to make room for passing pedestrians. We had to follow the traffic signals. Police followed along on their bikes for supervision. We split up into 3 small groups of about 35-40, in order to comply with the law that states that you must have 49 or less participants in order to be able to march without a permit. This would leave room for spectators to join in if they wished, without going over the 49 participants limit. My group almost got into trouble because by the end of the march, we had exceeded the 49 person limit, because we had amassed that many spectators-joining-in, even with the failsafes built into the process. We stopped the chanting whenever carriage tours passed by, so as not to spook the horses. Only in Charleston would you find such an interesting juxtaposition, a 1960s era demonstration, alongside a colonial era horsedrawn carriage.

After the march, I went to a local beach and worked on my photography some. It was such a beautiful day.

I will end with a video I made using pictures from the day's activities, namely the march. Whatever happens next, I know I will never regret participating in history, rather than simply watching it. As I type this, I notice that I was even on the 11:00 news, although I was smart about it and covered my face with my sign.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Minor Risks

Lately, I've been doing something very uncharacteristic of me. I've been trying new things!

I've been going to church regularly again, and resumed being more active in the Celtic Spirituality group of which I am a part. I've been recruited to help give a Sunday School lesson on Celtic Spirituality, as well as participate in an upcoming Celtic-themed worship service, both occurring in November. I have a good friend, a fellow seeker, who has been coming with me to church, so I think that has helped my consistency.

Yesterday, I had the first of four digital photography classes that I signed up for via the hospital's Student Wellness Center. It was really interesting and I learned some new tricks for my Nikon that I had never known before. The class is on Wednesdays throughout the month of October.

Today, I attended a general meeting, held at the local Unitarian church, which was held by a local group of young people who are planning an event in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St. movement, one of many "Occupy spin-offs" that have been springing up lately. It actually seems like something I really want to participate in, if my schedule allows. The meeting was attended, in addition to the expected college crowd, by a few lawyers and the local Labor Council representative, acknowledging their approval of the movement and their full support. The local news was also present, so I'm going to watch the news tonight in the hopes that I didn't end up on camera! I want to attend the march/protest/whatever when it actually does happen, but I know I can't afford to skip work for it under any circumstances (I only work 1 or 2 days a week as it is, at my place of employment), so I'm hoping it will be planned for a time in which I can participate. Their next meeting is next Thursday as well, I may go to it. Two things really surprised me about this meeting, though:

1) We actually held a vote that this would be a NONVIOLENT movement. I didn't think that was even up for discussion, much less an item to be voted on.

2) When we obviously voted to be nonviolent, this guy stormed out of the room (slammed doors and all), calling us all "ineffectual liberal jerkoffs".  To say it was a weird and awkward moment is an understatement.

The other, REALLY uncharacteristic thing that I did, was also at the Occupy meeting. I introduced myself to a girl sitting next to me.

Granted, I'm not sure how much it "counts", because she did sort of initiate conversation by asking if she could sit in the seat next to me, but yeah. Anyone who knows me, knows that I almost never make the first start at any conversation with someone I don't know. We ended up having an interesting conversation interspersed throughout the meeting. Probably better than most of the actual dates I've been on, which always seem to end in my never seeing or hearing from the girl again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Simple Life

 Lately, I've been recognizing the importance of simplifying my life as much as possible. I have a lot of junk. And I overload my schedule (although at the moment, I do have to do so, to an extent). And I recognize that part of my waxing and waning in consistency concerning my not-so-daily spiritual practices stem in part from my lack of living out my beliefs, particularly my Druidry, in my everyday life. So I've begun making some steps to gradually make my spirituality a more conscious part of my daily life.

To start with, I began using more public transportation when I go to my internship. I don't utilize public transit here very often because it is so inadequate compared to bigger cities. But since I am interning at the local major hospital, I have two options for getting to work: I can drive from my house to the student parking lot (about a 45 minute drive with rush hour traffic), and then take a 10 minute hospital shuttle bus from the parking lot to the actual hospital (the campus is very spread out). Or, I eventually discovered, I could take the 5-10 minute drive from my house to the local K-Mart parking lot, which serves as a Park-N-Ride station, and ride the express bus (the only public transportation here that actually seems to be effective, as their regular buses are regularly late to stops, and a 20 minute trip could take at least an hour) for free with my hospital ID badge. This obviously saves on gas. In addition, it takes me right to the hospital, shows up on time (usually), and gives me a chance to read (either for pleasure, or homework) during the trip.

I have switched to a biodegradable bedding brand for my gerbil. With the aspen shavings, if they became too badly soiled they would begin to smell, and I would have to fill up grocery bags with the dirty shavings, and toss them in the trash. This brand is not harmful to the gerbil should he ingest any of it, and when I clean out the tank, my housemate and I have begun actually sprinkling it around the trees in the backyard to use as compost.  The bedding is pellets though, which keeps me awake sometimes if he gets active at night, so I may try out a different type of similarly biodegradable bedding next time, which can still be utilized as fertilizer and won't make any noise.

Upon noticing the sheer amount of books I have - filling up my own bookshelf as well as overflowing into the bookshelf in the guest bedroom (including my textbooks), most of which I haven't even read in the 5ish years I've had them - I bought a Nook Color. Then I took several hours to catalog every book I had. I then went through my Nook, and repurchased the ones that had eBook equivalents, and threw all the books in trash bags, filling up three. I then got a big box, and sorted through the books one final time. In the box, I put the hard copies of the books I had just repurchased through Nook, along with the books I knew I would likely never get around to reading, keeping only the books that I use for my daily practice (when I do them), the books that have sentimental value, and the books that I know that I will read. The box, when completely full, will likely be donated to the local library. My bookshelf is still kind of full, but I plan on donating the rest of the books (aside from the aforementioned exceptions) as I finish them.

My next step is considering resuming recycling. My problem here is that recycling is HORRIBLE in my county. They don't even have curbside pickup, and the only place I've ever seen a recycling bin is for junk mail at the post office. However, I found bags such as these which are about $15, which look similar to the reusable shopping bags I use for groceries, which are made for recycling. I'm considering buying a set, and using those to sort out recyclables, and then just drive them to the recycling center (which, admittedly, is only about 3-5 minutes from my house). 

It feels good to be finally starting to be more proactive in my spiritual life. I'm usually so tired that I don't, or I'm so caught up in day-to-day issues that I forget. I'm realizing, though, that particularly with the demanding field of work I've chosen, it won't get any easier, so I might as well start now.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Well, the job interview I recently had was basically a dead end. Again. They seemed interested, but it turned out to basically be the mental health equivalent of "a temp job", where when and if I get called to work is dependent on when an agency refers a client to them. So, in the interviewer's words "you could go three months without getting called for a client." And I just can't afford to leave my current job on such uncertain terms, no matter how much I want to.

So, I decided to make the current job as painless and drama-free as I possibly can, considering the situation and all of the other various complaints I've had over the last couple of years. I realized the following things:

(1) I don't have much of a weekend, between classes on Saturdays and work on Sundays

(2) I'm 28 and single, so I kind of want to have at least a little bit of a weekend

(3) My regular days off this year are Mondays and Wednesdays, where I am not at work, class, *or* my internship (classes Saturdays, work Fridays and Sundays, internship Tuesdays and Thursdays)

(4) I'm virtually an insomniac at times

(5) I could work night shift on Sundays, catch up on sleep on Mondays, and since it's only one night a week, it shouldn't screw up my sleep schedule worse than it already is.

So, I revised my October calendar of availability and turned that in to my bosses. I will still work my original evening shift on Fridays, but on Sundays I will do night shift. That will hopefully be at least one shift a week where I'm not pulled into drama, being put into extremely compromising situations, or generally just have to deal with all the BS. On a somewhat unfortunate note, because I was late in turning in the revised schedule, three of the four Sundays I wrote down to work, were already over staffed, so I only work one Sunday in October. Which means I will not work much for October and therefore be more poor. But, hopefully it will be worth it in the long run, and I can make my small paychecks and what's left of financial aid overage check, last until next semester's overage check.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I remember where I was on 9/11. I was a freshman in undergrad. I was actually lying in bed, when my roommate turned the television on. It didn't really hit me until later that day, the impact of what really happened. I had a friend going to school in NYC at the time, and so I checked to make sure she was okay. Thankfully, she was.

It seems like our country is stuck in this mass PTSD episode. It was a horrible thing that happened. But we've watched our politicians turn it into a political catch phrase, using it to justify wars that seem to never end. Is this really what "not letting the terrorists win" looks like? We continue to treat Muslims - and indeed, many other minority groups - as "outsiders". We assume the worst of all immigrants, whether here legally or not. We continue to use religion as a patriotic litmus test, where if you're one of "them", you're not welcome here. What have we really learned?

Today turned out to be an AMAZING day for me, full of contemplativeness and growth. It showcased what I believe myself - that it's time for us as a nation to move on to the next stage of grief. From anger to acceptance. It's time to actually learn from what has happened, and realize that in order to *truly* not be defeated, we need to put our differences aside, and work together.

My (Christian) church's worship service was an interfaith service today. The youth group of the local synagogue, as well as a prominent member of the local mosque, participated in readings and music to commemorate 9/11 and to promote peace between the faiths. It was at this church service that I found out about the Coastal Interfaith Community's "9-11-2011: An Interfaith Gathering for Peace" event being held at the drama theater one of the local colleges. I, unfortunately was scheduled to work today. However, I have felt increasingly unhappy with work. We continue to be in the news regularly - a former staff went public when my workplace refused to cooperate with him in getting records of trainings (CPR certifications, etc.) for his aid in getting another job, claiming that they terminated him, rather than the reality that he resign on his own after they refused to press charges against clients who assaulted him, injuring in a broken nose; a sister facility recently had a riot in which at least one employee that I know of was injured; and the most recent rumors, which would make a sane person's blood boil, involve firing a lower-level supervisor who refused to fire someone else unjustly, and then bribing kids to make incriminating statements against that supervisor in an effort to greatly damage his future career opportunities and possibly even lead to legal action. As a side note, I have a job interview tomorrow, which I am VERY hopeful about. However, I am also a little concerned, because this interview was originally supposed to occur on August 5th. The interviewer has rescheduled at least 3 times - once because of a family emergency, the rest because of meetings and trainings on her end that "came up". Conversely, I only had to reschedule once, due to orientation for my internship that I had not been aware of, as when I originally scheduled the interview, I had not yet started my internship. However, I think I would be willing to deal with this place's disorganization as long as it works with my class/internship schedule, as worse comes to worse, it would only be until I graduate, and it sure as hell can't be any worse than where I am now. If I don't get it, I seriously think I might quit current job anyways and work somewhere like walmart or target, just to get away from things that are building up that could damage my future career options. I've put up with A LOT from that place. In part because their level of flexibility for school is the one good quality they have. And in part because I don't like feeling like a quitter (it's a familiar theme in my life.... I've also held on to relationships way past their expiration dates because I didn't want to feel like I was giving up). But they are starting to cross lines I can't even begin to remotely justify ignoring in clear conscience.

With all that in mind, I had absolutely no difficulty whatsoever in "calling out sick" and attending the event anyways. And it was a wonderful event. One of the best I'd been to in a long time. Wisdom readings and scriptures were read from 12 different religions - Hinduism, Native American (Lakota, specifically), Unitarian-Universalism, Paganism, Judaism, Yoruba, Buddhism, Secular Humanism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Baha'i, all read by a local follower of that particular faith. interspersed throughout were performances by a local African Drum and Dance Troupe, a local Buddhist youth drumming troupe, and a children's youth/theater choir. The choir brought back memories, as they sang a song that we did in my old choir days in undergrad. In all, it brought me a sense of inner peace, at least for the day. And although I'm stressed about the job dilemma, I know in the end things will work out how they should. I didn't come this far to let one job screw me up forever. My time will come.

I will close with the following video. The song was performed by the youth from the synagogue, during the worship service at my church. It's from an Israeli band called "Sheva". Sheva is Hebrew for the number 7, as the band has 7 members. The band is made up of both Jews and Muslims, and their aim is to promote peace between the two religions in their Israel, as well as throughout the world. Their musical styles typically draw from both traditions, as well as from other religious traditions as well. This song is called "Salaam", and it's in a mix of Arabic and Hebrew. The lyrics roughly translate to (source: youtube video):

"Sheva's Od Yavo Shalom Aleynu, the Peace Song

Od yavo' shalom aleinu
Od yavo' shalom aleinu
Od yavo' shalom aleinu
Ve al kulam (x2)

Salaam (Salaam)
Aleinu ve al kol ha olam,
Salaam, Salaam (x2)
"Salaam (Salaam)(ENGLISH)
Peace will come upon us
Peace will come upon us
Peace will come upon us
and on everyone.

Salaam ('peace' in Arabic)
On us and on everyone
Salaam, Salaam"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fitting In

Sometimes I feel like I'll never really belong anywhere. Never have a "niche" where I'll fit in without feeling I have to compromise some part of who I am. I'm too liberal to fit in with the conservatives and most moderates, yet too apathetic to fit in with the liberals. I'm too spiritual to fit in with the agnostics/atheists, but not spiritual enough to fit in with religion. I'm too "New Agey" to fit in with the Christians, but too Christian to fit in with the "New Agers". I don't do "small talk" very well, which makes it hard to make new friends, and half the time, once we do get to that stage where we start to feel comfortable talking about the "deep" stuff that I actually know how to talk about, they aren't interested in what I have to say, or seem to be surprised when I think differently from them, and can't handle someone who doesn't mesh with the "status quo".

Summer semester is over. I know I've been sporadic in my updating. I've just been in a really.... apathetic.... phase right now.  It's like it takes every ounce of energy to just deal with school, work, and now my new internship. I think I'm over-extending myself, but I have to in order to finish school. I've become stagnant in relationships (or lack thereof) and sometimes I really just don't care. I'm searching for something, without really knowing what it is I'm searching for, or if I'll know when I find it.

To honor my goal of talking about vacation: It was good, considering my family was with me the whole time. Went to the local aquarium, showed some tourist sites. I wish I had more time for fun stuff like that. And maybe even more local friends to do it with. But, that never seems to happen. Because, as the title and opening statements already mention, I just don't fit in anywhere enough to really get to know people.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I know I haven't updated in awhile. Honestly, just not much has been going on - whether spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. - that I've felt has been worth writing about.

Summer classes have started. It's going to be another difficult semester. But, if I can muster through it, I'll only have two more to go. I still haven't heard back from my upcoming internship's HR department to schedule the orientation. I'm giving them until early July to contact me, though(internship starts in August), because I know HR departments are notoriously disorganized and scattered (at least around here), and this is the biggest hospital, and the biggest non-tourism-related employer, in the region. So I'm thinking maybe they're kind of slow.

My place of employment continues to be in the news on a regular basis. There were two more escapes on June 5, although they caught them much quicker. That made headlines. Apparently last week, while I was on vacation, a 1st shift staff was assaulted, resulting in a broken nose and stitches. He filed a police report, and so that made headlines as well. Basically, at this point, ANYTHING that happens there ends up in the news, it seems. I've seriously begun debating trying to get my old job back at Home Depot. I feel like I'm not really making much of a difference there at this point (if I ever was to begin with). The most positive thing I've seen there in months is the fact that I've begun being asked more frequently by the recreational staff to come in early to assist on outings with the kids who have earned time outside of the facility (first it was to a local baseball game, and this Thursday I'm going with them to see Green Lantern). I fear being dragged down with this place the worse things get. DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control, the licensing body for group homes, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.) is investigating. Something is going to have to change. They are either going to change policies, or be shut down. If nothing else, they're going to have to do something to get the media off their backs, because everything that happens now ends up in the news. One of my good friends already quit, and another was basically fired for a pre-existing health condition that administrators knew about when they hired her (as soon as she was fired, she filed a complaint with EEOC). Although I'm working more this summer (since I don't have internship) to save up some money, once my internship starts I'm planning on cutting my hours back to two days a week, no matter how poor I get. My concern is whether or not other places of employment would work with my school schedule. I've applied to plenty of other jobs the last three and a half years, with no luck. The most recent definitely wouldn't have cooperated with my school schedule and commitments. That really is the place's only selling point for me staying there at this point - it truly is the ideal place for people who need flexible schedules. I just wonder where the line is, if it's really worth staying there at this point and risk getting pulled into more drama, if that's the only thing keeping me there.

This has gotten long, so consider this "Part 1" of a "catch-up" post. Next time I post (hopefully soon), I'll go more into the vacation I just had, as it was a very eventful week!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Built on Sand

There's a parable in the Christian Scriptures. In this parable, a man builds a house on sand. Floods come, and the house, being on a weak foundation, is annihilated. Another man builds a house on solid ground, and when the floods come, his home remains intact.

The point that I, personally, get out of the parable is this: if your faith (whatever "faith" means to you, and whatever/whomever you have faith in) is weak, then it will waiver and stagnate at every obstacle or whim of your emotions. But if it is strong, then you will be secure in your faith, and be able to use that faith to strengthen you in the difficult times.

Sometimes I feel like my "house" - my "faith" - is built on nothing but sand. Not even normal sand, but quicksand, that sucks everything in its path into a bottomless pit. My faith in Deity, my faith in my Druidic practice, and most of all, my faith in myself, seems to wax and wane on every whim of good or bad fortune, every mood swing I may have in a day.

Take recent events for example. Stuck in a dead end job. Inability to obtain a 2nd internship, in spite of interviews, prayers, and aggressive spellwork. Total lack of confidence in myself and cynicism towards my life in general. Faith, mostly in myself, is broken.

 On Tuesday, I went on a two-day long mini-vacation to another beach about two hours away, with a good friend of mine. Most of the day, we spent at a nearby garden and art sculpture attraction, which housed some of the most beautiful gardens and art sculptures I've seen in recent times. It had a small zoo, a butterfly garden, a boat tour (where we saw three alligators and a couple of turtles), and a nice little labyrinth for meditation. It was a beautiful day. The day had its standard little oddities that tend to happen to me - a bird in an aviary crapping on my new shirt I was wearing, somehow getting an earthworm stuck in my sandal and getting the poor thing's guts all over my sandal (of course, my "good" sandals), I think I actually walked into a tree at one point. I began a small meditative walk in the labyrinth. I focused my thoughts, did a bit of a mental chant to banish negative energies, and I started to feel more optimistic and better about things. Faith slowly being restored.

Then, in the middle of my labyrinth walk, I get a phone call from my University's field placement office, to basically tell me to hurry up and get an internship placement because they're running out of agencies with openings. I remind them of the fact that I had recently had two interviews, neither of which had contacted me when they said they would with a final decision of whether or not they were going to invite me to join them as an intern. After I get off the phone with the school, any positive effects from the labyrinth walk now rendered useless, I call the agency I most recently interviewed with, and most wanted to intern with, a program run by the psychiatric unit of a local very high-profile hospital. I left a message inquiring as to a decision, but without much hope. The rest of the day goes well overall, but frustration and anxiety keep me from fully enjoying myself. Faith is once again shattered.

On Wednesday, we had a low-activity day. Slept in, then spent the afternoon on the beach. That evening, we went to a local dinner theater.

In the afternoon, while out on the beach, I checked the time on the phone, and noticed I had two voicemails awaiting me. The first was from a local parasailing company, to reschedule our parasailing appointment for the next day. The second was from the hospital I was attempting to intern with, apologizing for the delay in getting back with me and offering me the internship position. Obviously, I immediately returned the phone call and, after a few minutes of "phone tag", accepted the internship. I felt all (or at least, most) of the stress leave me, a weight lifted off my shoulders. I remembered the spell I performed to try to obtain the internship, and the fact that part of the frustration was the fact that I included as part of the spell a stipulation that the internship come to me by the end of April (to provide enough time to to notify the school and get all the preliminary agency requirements and paperwork done before time to actually start the internship). Upon recognition that I actually made the initial phone call that led to the interview on April 28th, after being given the contact info by a classmate who had also recently gotten an internship at the same hospital, I begin to think that perhaps, spellwork really does always work, even if not in the way or timeframe we expect. After all, I was thinking to already secure the internship by the end of April, but one could say the spell still worked in a way, in that even though the internship itself wasn't secured in that timeframe, the process to obtain it began within the specified timeframe. Faith once again restored.

Thursday, the final day of the mini-vacation, was great. I went parasailing for the first time, and more than likely will not be the last time. This guy took us on a raft, connected to a jet ski, to the actual boat, where we did the parasailing. There were six of us, and it was quite amusing that, while I was the smallest guy on the raft, I was also the only one who did not fall off at some point. In addition, I checked my grades online while checking my summer classes to ensure I ordered the right textbooks. My GPA is now a 3.2, up from a 2.9 at this time last year, effectively ending my academic probation (if I was indeed still on it).

Finally, recently I've been talking to a local girl, an RN who is currently volunteering in Africa, and I believe there may be the possibility of at least a meet-up. Now, since the last ex and I split up in 2007, I have had a bit of a string of "one hit wonders" so to speak.... I average about 1 date every 3-6 months, and none of them have yet led to a second date..... so I'm not quite counting the eggs before they hatch. I'm just on a bit of a feel-good "high" that I haven't felt in a long time, because it's been so long since I've really had a significant level of good happen in my life...... and I really do feel good for once. But I also am a bit saddened, wishing I could just enjoy it all without the nagging feeling of "Okay, so when will the other shoe drop?" and wishing that my faith in myself had been stronger during all the uncertainties.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Successes and Regressions

Well, Lent and the Easter season are over. I consider my Lenten commitments a partial success.

My first goal was to eat vegetarian on Thursdays, as a part of my church's Lenten tradition of fasting in some form on every Thursday from the start of Lent through Maundy Thursday. This was my most successful practice, since I have been eating healthier, only ate meat on one Thursday, and plan to continue the practice of eating fully vegetarian one day a week(typically Mondays) as a spiritual/health practice from here on out (although I haven't tried out anything from my vegetarian cookbook yet).

My  next goal was to drink primarily water. This, I was somewhat successful in. However, due to frequent long drives as part of my internship responsibilities, as well as the long drive home for Easter, I did drink sodas with caffeine, even if in less frequency and quantity as previously.

My final goal was to do more spiritual readings and continue in my spiritual growth. I consider this my least successful component. In fact, it feels like in the last couple of months, I've regressed into some of my old cynicism of my late college years, prior to finding Unitarian-Universalism and Wicca (and subsequently Druidry). I haven't been consistent in meditating or my daily spiritual practices and readings. And I must say I don't like that feeling. Those days were probably some of the days I felt most lost, without purpose. Some people seem to do okay without the belief in a higher power, or the belief that everything has a purpose and works out as it should in the end. I'm not one of those people. I'm stuck in my dead-end, shady job - on a side note, they did finally catch the kid, he somehow made it back to his home state, and the facility is continuing to do its shady damage control. In addition, I have yet to definitively secure an internship for the next school year, in spite of several interviews with organizations, which I thought went well. As a "generic" theist in my conservative Christian days, I struggled with the question of what it meant when "prayers go unanswered", which I believe was a contributing factor in my shift in religious belief. Now, as a panentheist, my perception of deity is different, and when I pray, it isn't with the perception that He/She/It has that kind of control over anything - although I certainly continue to believe in lighting candles and saying prayers as well wishes, if that makes sense. I believe that the Divine exists both within and without all of existence, but as such, I don't believe that the Divine intervenes in the traditionally believed sense. In a similar vein, those on the nature-based spiritual paths must struggle with what to do or think when spells "don't work". Some interpret it as "it's not meant to be". Others, "I wasn't focused enough" or "wrong timing". Or perhaps a combination of both. As I struggle with the amount of unaccomplished goals I have, in spite of the level of hard work, spellwork, prayers, everything, I struggle with the meanings behind it all as well. I find myself anxious and frustrated, above anything. If I can't find a decent internship, I don't know how that will affect my next school year. And I'm running out of ideas of places to interview. I'm just not sure where to go from here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

When it Rains

As I'm sitting here listening to the rain, mustering up the motivation to finish my final paper due tomorrow, the last day of class, I can't help but think of how true the old adage is: when it rains, it pours.

I didn't get the internship that I wanted. I am extremely frustrated and disappointed by this. I do have an internship interview next week with a local school district, but I'm just not sure about that either.

Work at the mental hospital on Wednesday was a disaster. A major disaster. FOUR patients escaped. FOUR. Three have been returned, but one - the most dangerous of the four - is still loose. It's made the news all over not just the local area, but the kids' home state (we take in patients from all over the country) as well. It's been in the local newspapers, their home state newspapers, and reported on at least 3 news stations that I know of. The Executive Director and another high-level administrator have been fired over it. And now I'm a target as well, apparently. Even though I wasn't even remotely involved in the situation, as on Wednesday I did not work on the unit that the escapes occurred from.

Why? Naturally, I posted some of the articles on Facebook. Now, I was careful, as always. I don't believe I did anything wrong. Due to my busy schedule(work, internship, *and* classes), Facebook is a primary method of keeping in touch with close friends and family. I have my privacy settings as such that only those on my friends list can see anything on my page. Furthermore, I have at least a couple of "lists", so that if I choose, I can block content from even groups of my friends. I do have a few current and former co-workers on my list, but it is mostly friends from undergrad, friends from home, family, or non-work related friends living in my local area. The articles didn't list any identifying information on any of the patients except the one who is still missing. I did add some of my own comments and a couple of complaints regarding the situation, but again, no information was disclosed that isn't already public knowledge now due to being in the newspapers.  In fact, one article I *didn't* post specifically *because* it listed the names and ages of all four escapees, rather than just the one who is still at large. In addition, I know of at least 3 other staff on my friends' list, including one who is a supervisor, who posted the very same articles on *their* pages.

Jump to this morning. I wake up to a text from the Day Shift supervisor, to call her ASAP. When I spoke with her, she told me that I was asked to come speak with the CEO and new admins who replaced the ones who got fired. I didn't think much of it, honestly. One other time a patient got away for a length of time, staff were all called in as a group to discuss the situation (interpreted: find someone to blame for his escape). In that particular instance, it was an all-staff meeting. So I thought this was another one of those - go, hear how this is all our fault, smile and nod, and go home. Imagine my surprise when it was a meeting to basically tell me to stop posting the articles on facebook, or lose my job. This infuriates me on several levels. For one, my content is friends only, so I have a rat on my friends list I need to find and delete. For another, I posted PUBLIC INFORMATION, and therefore did not violate HIPPA, privacy, or confidentiality laws, in spite of their accusations. Thirdly, other co-workers, including a current supervisor, have posted the exact same content with, so far, no similar repercussions that I know of (I know at least one co-worker would tell me, because we're really good friends and I've discussed this situation at length with her). I got a big speech about how it was "very bad judgment" and violation of confidentiality, and "if we get shut down, you'll be unemployed too". In shock over the absurdity of the whole thing, I smiled and nodded, gave my perspective when asked, and went home with the understanding that if it continued to happen, I would be fired.

Then, I called a damn lawyer. Turned out I still had a lawyer's information, which had been given to me by another co-worker, who was suing the facility, said that firm seemed interested in my workers' comp case from 2009. They then referred me to one of their former attorneys who recently started her own practice specializing in wrongful termination cases, and I called her. She basically said that I would have to see if our most recent employee handbook had anything in it concerning social media (I doubt it does, they're not that forward-thinking). She said I might would have some difficulty with the fact that I posted some comments on the articles, but with the posting of the articles themselves, I could have a case, if terminated, providing there's nothing in the current policy regarding such situations. And, basically, that it might would be easier to just take the articles off. Which I refuse to do. Yes, I'm not going to post any more, for sure. But I'm not deleting what's already there. To me it's pointless and reeks of cowardice. The place has so many ethical and mistreatment issues that led up to the escapes, that I feel like as much needs to be reported and kept a record of as possible, because if I do lose my job, even if I can't win a wrongful termination lawsuit, I *will* be a whistleblower.

To give the whole thing a final kick, I come home to a message on my facebook from one of my direct supervisors, which stated "You're a very hot item right now, you may want to lay low." This confirmed to me that I am being specifically targeted over this, in comparison with the several other staff who have posted the same information, the same comments, the same everything. It's sickening. And I can't wait to get the hell out of there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Celtic Fantasy Video

Enjoy this video, I certainly had fun making it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Mediums

 The last couple of days have been a bit indecisive for me.

Yesterday morning, I held my first interview for next year's internship, at the county Department of Social Services "Intensive Foster Care and Clinical Services" division. I'm not sure how much I will like that one, it seems like it would be better as a "back-up plan". The lady I interviewed with said they don't get interns very often, and she seemed a little flustered as to the internship acceptance process, as well as what kinds of responsibilities we as interns would actually have. My second interview, on Friday, is on the developmental pediatrics unit of a local very prominent hospital, which would look very good on my resume. I think I may hope for that one, and repeat the spell I did on the 19th to give it a little "extra" push. I'm still not *totally* optimistic though - when I first moved to South Carolina, I interviewed for a job there, with the same woman that I'll be interviewing with for the internship, and she never called back. Guess we'll see.

After the interview, I stopped by Bi-Lo to get a box of these Spaghetti Classics from Bi-Lo. They come with noodles, a pack of seasoning, and parmesan cheese. You boil the noodles, and boil some tomato paste and the seasoning together, then eat. It's perfect for if you're in the mood for pasta, but don't have an entire family to cook for. Yet this one particular Bi-Lo is the only one I've ever been able to find it in, so I don't get it very often, as I don't want to use a whole can of pasta sauce or a whole box of noodles, when I'm the only one who would be eating it.

I don't know if I'm only noticing it more now because I'm becoming more food-conscious, but I've noticed since embarking on this Flexitarian diet (abstaining from meat one day a week) that I eat more when I do eat, and I seem to get hungry more. The last couple of days, even though I eat at least two meals a day ( usually sleep through breakfast) and of course have snacks at varying times, I wake up in the middle of the night hungry. Now, I'm a whopping 107 pounds, so I'm not concerned or anything - if anything, it's probably a good thing. Perhaps it's my body adjusting to some of the more healthy foods I've been sort of trying to eat.

Speaking of healthy foods, I've been debating on switching my choice of regular grocery store. On the one hand, there's Bi-Lo, which I pass every Saturday as I go home from school (Saturday is my usual grocery day). Then, there's Publix, which has more organic, vegetarian, and overall healthy food options to buy, but still kind of limited, depending on which specific store location you go to - they all have MorningStar Farms, for example, but as far as a wider variety of foods is concerned, that's not necessarily the case. Then, there's Earth Fare . Now, I absolutely love Earth Fare. All the produce they sell is locally grown (within 100 miles), they sell some of the teas I like (such as sage and valerian root), they have all kinds of herbal products, home remedies, and such that can be used in home health or even spellwork. All their meat is free-range and/or organic (not that I cook meat), they have lots of vegetarian/vegan options, and they're overall a utopia for the health conscious food shopper. But, they're farther away and much more expensive. 3 days' worth of snacks and foods there cost about as much as a week's worth of food and snacks at my current regular places. So it's kind of a balance: closer, cheaper, yet less healthy, or farther, more expensive, yet healthier? I think while I'm trying to decide on a permanent place, I'll rotate around - go one place one week, another the next, etc. Now that the weather is sort of getting warmer, I'm sure I'll be going to the beach after class a little more often, and Earth Fare is right there on my way back.

In a perfect end to yesterday, even though it was cold and cloudy, after my visits with my foster kids for the day, I went to a local park and took some more pictures. Photography is quickly becoming a hobby, and is actually quite therapeutic and meditative. I should've done this years ago!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Reincarnation

I sometimes make the mistake of watching intellectually stimulating documentaries just before I have to go to bed so that I can get up early the next day. Just a half hour ago, I watched a documentary on History International called Science of the Soul. If it comes on again (which, it will, as educational channels tend to run amok with reruns), or if you happen to be able to find it on Netflix or anywhere else, I highly recommend it. In it, it discusses various views on the existence of the soul, and ways scientists are attempting to search for its existence.

Two stories in particular piqued my interest, one more as a curiosity as anything. The first was an interesting bit of trivia that I never thought about before, noted by an anesthesiologist: his study of the soul, of consciousness, points out that when we are put under for surgery, etc., we have no concept of time. I immediately remembered my latest surgery. When I sleep, I still have an awareness that time has passed. I dream, I wake up, and I know that it is later than it was when I closed my eyes. And then there's that whole "internal clock" thing, where you wake up at 9am, or 7am, every day, even though it's your day off at work and could sleep in until noon if you wanted and didn't set the alarm clock. But with anesthesia, you close your eyes, then suddenly you open them again and two hours, or six hours, have passed, but it's a concept you can't quite grasp. In this doctor's study, while treating anesthetized patients, he blinked a blue strobelight over their eyes throughout the procedure, while measuring brainwaves. The brainwaves showed the same neural stimulation that is shown when someone is actually conscious, with open eyes, looking at the light. I just thought that was interesting, and extra food for thought.

The other one that interested me, was an inevitable story on reincarnation, the case of James Leininger. James Leininger claims to have been World War II fighter pilot James Huston. His story is actually fairly classic in terms of who they showcase in these types of documentaries: a child, having nightmares about his past life's death, knowing details about that past life that nobody else would know, confirming those details with a living relative of that past life or some other form of document or visit to the "homeland", so to speak. His father published a book on the experiences, which I may add to my eternally growing reading list.  As an interesting sidenote, he also implied that in "heaven", he actively chose which parents he would be born to. That particular point I'm still undecided on, as I'm not sure I could see anyone choosing to go to, say, sexually/verbally/physically abusive parents, or as in my case, a single unwed mother and an adulterous father. But, if reincarnation is true, perhaps in the spiritual realm, our souls have deeper insight into what lessons we need to learn from one life to the next, an understanding that isn't comprehensible with our physical, limited brains.

 Personally, I admittedly do not give much thought about the afterlife. Maybe I'm wrong about what happens after death, maybe not. I feel that it is much more important to focus on how we live out our lives, than worrying about what happens when it is over. I know I do not believe in Hell, or at least not the evangelical Christian version of it. But I do believe in reincarnation, or at least that reincarnation is the view that makes the most sense to me.

All hyped-up past life stories and past life regression experiences aside (which, actually, I'm skeptical of - but then, I'm skeptical of hypnotism in general as well), I hold to the view that in order to experience all that life has to offer and learn all of the lessons Pleroma would have us to learn, sometimes we do have to be reborn. After all, how can I truly understand or fully have empathy or compassion for the homeless guy on the street, if I spend my whole life living in a mansion, with three full meals a day? A simplistic and perhaps easily refutable example, I know, but that's the best way I know to convey into words the concept I'm trying to relay with this particular reasoning.

Then there's the science of energy. Science says that energy cannot be created or destroyed, simply changed from one form to another. Druids, Witches, and others on the metaphysical paths often believe it is these energies that they work with when they hold a ritual or cast a spell. But what about when we die? The physical body is easy: it decomposes and becomes energy for the soil to give to the flora, which is then eaten by the fauna, and so on. It changes from one form to another. But if the soul exists, what form does it change to? And how long does it stay in that form?

And then there are more personal reasons, of course. One example is my sister. I remember once, when we were kids, she got a new doll, and named it Litha. What kid in the '90s would name their toy Litha? I remember a look of surprise on my mom's face, and her commenting on how strange it was that she would choose that name, as we have a long-dead relative by that name.

When my mom and her siblings were kids, my grandma went with my uncle on a school field trip to a local attraction, the Biltmore House. Even though she had never been there before, she knew where and what everything was, what it was all used for, and so on, as clearly as if she were one of the tour guides. The whole time she had the classic "deja vu" feeling. Even today, she refuses to go back there, ever.

For myself, I've had several similar deja vu experiences that made me wonder if perhaps I was connected with those places in a past life at some point. And I admit, I've somewhat felt that perhaps some of my interests in certain cultures (Celtic and Eastern, for example) lie in part due to having been a part of those cultures in a past life. 

There is a saying in Druidry, which is also sometimes repeated in Paganism in general, and I think I've even seen it in some Gnostic circles: "As above, so below."  The physical world and the spiritual world complement each other. In the physical world, life moves in cycles - the web of life; the food chain; summer turns to autum, which turns to winter, which turns to spring, which turns to summer.  So it makes sense to me that the spiritual world would follow likewise. Perhaps in the spirit world, there are an infinite number of souls, some active in the wheel of reincarnation, some not, to eventually reach full awareness of their true natures as spiritual beings and children of Pleroma.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Portrait of Life

Today's theme has seemed to be all about water, that ever-present element that I am so drawn to.

First, a friend and I went to Waterfront Park, a local park located along the Cooper River. I recently bought a new digital camera - a Nikon Coolpix P100, and I wanted to experiment with it. All of the pics shown within these posts, as well as my new profile pic, are pictures that were taken today with that camera.

  One of the more beautiful things about this park is the water fountain. It arcs beautifully in streams from the edges into the center.  It's a great thing to walk through on a hot summer day. 

Nature was in a very good mood this morning. In response to the late night rain, the sun had risen and made the morning nice and warm. Birds sang. Pelicans and birds I do not yet know the identities of swam in the river, digging for food and enjoying the Spring. 

After the walk in the park, we went to church. Currently, as part of its' Lenten practices, my church is holding an 8:30 AM Celtic Meditation/Contemplative service on Sundays before Conversations in Faith and the regular 11:00 Service. The service centered around water and spirit. Water is everywhere. Spirit is everywhere. The Natural World and Spiritual World are equally holy. If only more people realized this.

The Sunday School topic was "Who Killed Jesus?", a part of the "Saving Jesus" curriculum developed by the liberal theologians who also contributed to another class curriculum, "Living the Questions". It focused on Christians' history of blaming the Jews for Jesus' crucifixion, rather than who really executed him - the Romans, who were the only ones who were able to carry out death sentences. The discussion further turned to how society undermines the already underprivileged, and how much more commonly, for example, minorities are executed under capital punishment laws as compared to prisoners who came from Caucasian, middle-class backgrounds.  After Conversations in Faith, we went to the main service, which again focused on water and the spiritual connections of water.

After church, we went on a miniature graveyard tour given by one of the church members, detailing the history of the church, which I have detailed in previous posts. I took some pictures of some of the gravestones and their "soul effigies" (a Google search failed to provide me a description of the symbolism behind a soul effigy and what it is). I then took some pictures of some of the fauna as well.

After  this, we went to a local Irish restaurant and ate some lunch, before heading to the South Carolina Aquarium. This was my second time going to the aquarium, but the first time I got to really enjoy it, as the first time I visited, it was with a group of kids from work, and keeping up with a bunch of teenagers makes it hard to really enjoy such tourist attractions. I had a little more difficulty taking pictures in this setting, as it was indoors, but I still quite enjoyed it.

All in all, it was a very good day. It was a reconnection to nature, to spirit, that I needed after stresses of the week. And it reminded me once again of why I do what I do: life.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


As I may have mentioned before, for Lent, my church is encouraging its members to fast from something every Thursday, to end on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). For me, I have chosen to fast from meat every Thursday, in which I only eat vegetarian foods on Thursdays. It is a spiritual practice to make myself more aware of what I am putting into my body, recognize spiritual solidarity with my animal neighbors, and help the environment by not contributing to the meat industry and its associated mistreatment of animals and carbon footprint via transportation of products, etc. At least for that one day a week. I will likely continue the practice after Lent by participating in a movement called "Meatless Mondays", which was begun more from a health standard, but also can be viewed with the same aforementioned spiritual standpoint as well - my decision to continue it on Mondays is primarily one of semantics (the name is easy to think of, and therefore, remember to practice), and the fact that Mondays are typically less busy days in my schedule and therefore may have a little more time to put more effort into my cooking.

This practice is one of many along the continuum of omnivore (on one end) and vegan(on the other). It is called Flexitarianism, in which either one is primarily vegetarian, but eats meat occasionally, or is generally a meat eater, but also engages in vegetarian eating on occasion. There are varying levels of Flexitarianism, and a practitioner does so for various personal/spiritual reasons. There are also Pollotarians, who eat poultry but not red meat, and Pescetarians, who eat seafood, but not red meat or poultry. I don't know that I can ever see myself becoming full-out Vegetarian or Vegan, but I find this Flexitarianism is at least a good start or middle-ground, and a good addition to my spiritual practice as Druid, Panentheist, animal rights supporter, and environmentalist. I can't recycle very well where I live, so this is something small I can do with what resources I have available to me. To assist with this, I stumbled upon a book at Books-A-Million, called Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian .   This is actually a big step for me, as to date my cooking has been confined primarily to things like Chef Boyardee, Banquet, and other basic TV dinners, with the exceptions of MorningStar Veggie Burgers I occasionally buy. Hopefully this will help me to develop healthier eating , as well as teach me some basic independent living skills that weren't very well reinforced in my college years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creation Spirituality

 Recently, I came across something, I believe through either my church or the Celtic Spirituality group, called Creation Spirituality . It is a fairly recent movement within liberal/progressive Christianity, developed by liberal theologian Matthew Fox in the 1970s. Seeing as how Matthew Fox is an Episcopal priest, it is a form of mystical Christianity, yet it draws from the mystical versions of other religions, as well as indigenous religions, as well. Although some websites list ten principles, the website which seems to be most detailed, and likewise most common in a Google search, lists twelve principles (taken directly from the linked website):

1. The universe is fundamentally a blessing.
Our relationship with the Universe fills us with awe.

2. In Creation, God is both immanent and transcendent. This is panentheism which is not theism (God out there) and not atheism (no God anywhere).
We experience that the Divine is in all things and all things are in the Divine.

3. God is as much Mother as Father, as much Child as Parent, as much God in mystery as the God in history, as much beyond all words and images as in all forms and beings.
We are liberated from the need to cling to God in one form or one literal name.

4. In our lives, it is through the work of spiritual practice that we find our deep and true selves.
Through the arts of meditation and silence we cultivate a clarity of mind and move beyond fear into compassion and community.

5. Our inner work can be understood as a four-fold journey involving:
- awe, delight, amazement (known as the Via Positiva)
- uncertainty, darkness, suffering, letting go (Via Negativa)
- birthing, creativity, passion (Via Creativa)
- justice, healing, celebration (Via Transformativa)

We weave through these paths like a spiral danced, not a ladder climbed.

6. Every one of us is a mystic.
We can enter the mystical as much through beauty (Via Positiva) as through contemplation and suffering (Via Negativa). We are born full of wonder and can recover it at any age.

7. Every one of us is an artist.
Whatever the expression of our creativity, it is our prayer and praise (Via Creativa).

8. Every one of us is a prophet.
Our prophetic work is to interfere with all forms of injustice and that which interrupts authentic life (Via Transformativa).

9. Diversity is the nature of the Universe. We rejoice in and courageously honor the rich diversity within the Cosmos and expressed among individuals and across multiple cultures, religions and ancestral traditions.

10. The basic work of God is compassion and we, who are all original blessings and sons and daughters of the Divine, are called to compassion.
We acknowledge our shared interdependence; we rejoice at one another's joys and grieve at one another's sorrows and labor to heal the causes of those sorrows.

11. There are many wells of faith and knowledge drawing from one underground river of Divine wisdom. The practice of honoring, learning and celebrating the wisdom collected from these wells is Deep Ecumenism.
We respect and embrace the wisdom and oneness that arises from the diverse wells of all the sacred traditions of the world.

12. Ecological justice is essential for the sustainability of life on Earth.
Ecology is the local expression of cosmology and so we commit to live in light of this value: to pass on the beauty and health of Creation to future generations.

These principles are concepts that, overall, I find myself agreeing with very much. It seeks to recognize the Divine within all life. I have long considered myself a Panentheist, one who believes the Divine is both within and beyond creation. Since Creation Spirituality as a "formal" movement is still very new, it does not yet have any set of praxis, or practices, for living out life as a follower of CS, beyond meditation. Nothing quite as clearly laid out as, say, Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. However, what it does provide in this stage of its development is a spiritual supplement, a deeper way of looking at life around you, and a deeper way of interpreting whatever spiritual practices or rituals the follower of CS already engages in. Like much earth-centered theology, there does seem to be a bit of Celtic flavor to it. As such, perhaps it will provide a bit of structure in the way I live out the more Druidic aspects of my own spirituality. In any case, it seems like a good way of spelling out ones' beliefs within a liberal Christian context, to someone who may not understand liberal Christian theology. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Falling into Place

There are those rare moments in life where, even if you're in a transitional period of life, things just seem to fall into place, and life seems to have a theme of sorts.

The full moon Saturday was amazing. I went to the beach and, although it was cold, the view was beautiful. I love the beach at night. The way the moon sparkled over the water. The sand cold beneath my toes. I barely even needed my keychain flashlight. It filled me with energy. Later that night, I performed a spell to aid my efforts in obtaining an internship for the next school year - I've been having some difficulties narrowing down my options, and further in getting in touch with the organizations in order to set up interviews (my school's procedures for getting an internship are basically the same as for getting a job - call the place, set up an interview, they say "yes" or "no). I don't do spellwork very often; I've noticed that when I try to force it, the words just won't come to me, kind of a spiritual writer's block, so to speak. But when the timing is right, I have no trouble coming up with the right words, materials to use, etc. It's like the Universe's way of telling me that the time, the energies, are just right. And, typically, the full moon is, after all, thought to be a very powerful time for those on the mystical spiritual paths.

Sunday was Ostara. The Spring Equinox. It seemed fitting that I was the churchmember scheduled to provide the Scripture reading for the day - my church, a member of the United Church of Christ denomination, places heavy emphasis on lay involvement, and not simply following the minister. The scripture for today likewise included one of my favorite Psalms - Psalms 121:

1I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?
2My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

This, to me, is not saying we don't have bad things that happen to us. God knows I've been through a fair amount of hell in my 28 years of living. But Pleroma will not leave me. The Divine Spark that is within me, that is within every living creature, every rock, every drop of water, is still there. Bad things happen to good people (and innocent animals, and so forth), and when that happens, I remember that I'm part of Something bigger than myself, and that I will come out of the situation a stronger person having survived it.

For Lent, the Celtic Spirituality group at church, of which I am a part, is holding a meditation service on Sundays before Conversations in Faith. The meditation service is a short time of responsive readings, singing, Irish meditation music (a woman playing a harp), with the leader reading a passage on a chosen topic. The theme for today was "New Beginnings". It brought to mind not only the new beginnings symbolized by the holiday - the first day of Spring - but also the preparations I am making for a new school year that is to come soon. The theme for today's Conversations in Faith discussion was compassion, and how can we have compassion for others, as well as ourselves? The teaching in church was, likewise, on love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Everyone. Everything.

After church I went to a local park and read a chapter out of the book we are reading in the Celtic Spirituality group, before going and buying an amazing (so far) new digital camera. Tonight, to finish off the day's activities, I held a solitary Ostara/Spring Equinox ritual that I found from a Pagan newsletter I subscribe to. It was very calming, and focused on the balance between light and dark, winter and summer, old and new. Ostara is a time of balance, so such things should be the focus on this holiday. I thought of all the things I want to do, but don't seem to know how or where to start. I want to recycle, but the county I live in has virtually no recycling program - if we want to recycle, we have to take it to the recycling plant ourselves, there is no curbside pickup like with trash. I want to eat healthier and buy more local, but the only places I am aware of are our local grocery stores, which, while they do have good local/organic options, I just don't know recipes or how to actually go about cooking the food, nor do I have time to learn very much right now, between work, class, and internship, all three consisting of separate schedules. I want to experiment with an indoor/windowsill garden, similar to what many people who live in more urban areas do, but I'm lucky if I remember to adequately and consistently remember to water the one houseplant that I do have. I know I have the potential, and am getting better at the self-discipline. I just also know I have a tendency to take too much on, and end up not doing any of it as well as I could have. So I think these things are goals I'm going to try to keep in mind for "after graduation", to bring greater focus on these spiritual growth practices, once I have achieved my academic goals. Things seemed to be falling into place intellectually/emotionally this weekend; maybe someday things will fall into place for me to put it all into practice.