Archive for ‘Theo(a)logy’

November 7, 2011

A Particular Thought

How deeply do we let spirituality into our lives?

So much of being a contemporary earth spiritualist means to be directly in dialogue with modern life — its expectations and normalcies, the ways we think, move, define space, understand ourselves and the world. Such a linear way of thinking, a box-like hierarchy of undifferentiated perspectives. And it is so demanding. College life packed with exams and  papers squeezed away my wellness until I, forgetting until the last moment, tried to force some spiritual space back in.

That sort of life builds habits, and mental frameworks.

By building spiritual focus, giving time for our own development and goals, I don’t mean worshiping a deity or performing religious rituals. I mean giving space to that feeling of  connectedness and inspiration, a powerful excitement mixed with calmness that makes life so clear — whatever it is that brings us true and deep joy and fulfillment. That kind of time, work, dedication. For ourselves, for our own wellness.

Of course, I turn to nature, cycles, plants and trees to tap in, to feel the greater things at work of which I am a part, and to reach that spiritual well within that gives such meaning and beauty to my life. It is so easy to forget, to let mundane things sweep in and obscure what really inspires you. I hope for a fresh awakening, as many as it takes in my stretch of life.

October 10, 2011

Earth Immersion

We so frequently limit ourselves to our minds, denigrating the physical, losing that knowledge of being. I feel as if I am constantly trying to remember the deeper complexity, working to acknowledge the seasons or tap into my environment.

Earth connection. I am staring at the screen, trying to figure out how to offer advice on something that isn’t quite touch or sight, that comes from practice but can also flow naturally. Scattered attempts to describe a form of meditation (or is that quite it?) that invites you to reach down into the earth, to submerge your mind into the soil and open yourself to the quiet pulse.

An easy route to earth awareness is to find mountains. Which is exactly what I did, here in India. I spent roughly six weeks in the Himalayas, mostly in the Tibetan Buddhist town McLeodganj, but also in Gangotri, where you can see snowcapped peaks in the distance.

I clung to them, the heavy rocky fingers forming valleys for rivers and villages, hoping that I could attune myself, find something more in their presence.

Gangotri’s sharp cool air and youthful Ganges smashing over rocks stuns, but the craggy peaks reaching high high high around you overshadow them with their awe-inducing beauty. Every time I came out of my ashram hut, I would stare, light yet grounded, at them.

I couldn’t tell you what beauty is, exactly. But they are it.

Even now, in the jungle heat of hectic Mumbai, I can bring back the effect on my body and spirit. There’s a gentle weight, never oppressive, simply quiet. That’s it. A quietening. That slow easing of the mind, where it slides down into the earth, relaxing into groundedness. Earth warmth, like a woman’s body holding a child or the entangled arms of lovers. The remembrance of our humanity, our physical manifestation, our aliveness known through the connection.


September 28, 2011

Mabon in India: Adaptation

This Mabon, I drank apple juice, seated on the cushions in a rooftop cafe next to the Ganges in India.

Being immersed in a radically different climate reminds me that earth religions must be adaptable. Not only is modern Paganism widespread in the United States, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand due to cultural similarities and a common language, its symbolism and mythology is grounded in the four seasons. Naturally, considering that a large percentage of its practitioners can trace the evolution back to Great Britain. What does it become, then, in other climates?

If you don’t have forests, can you have a Green Man? Does our symbolism fail? And what, exactly, are we without four seasons?

My feet slipped softly into the sand as I made my way down to the Ganges. A couple of cows lounged on the beach, enjoying the sun and quiet, I suppose. Leaving the holy men in their orange robes and painted faces behind, I climbed over and around boulders, finally settling on one that rested at the water’s edge. Balancing cross-legged on the rounded surface, I gazed at the eddies swirling and disappearing in the sacred waters rolling by.

Letting my consciousness slip into the stone, I felt the heaviness tempered by the water’s movement. Permanence experiencing change in a slow etching of a trillion tiny droplets moving together. As many have said before, rivers are never the same. They, in a sense, are “water when it moves through this particular space at a generally large volume” — not quite the water itself, not quite the space. And this river is the spiritual artery of a nation.

Although the apple juice was lovely, trying to celebrate Mabon as if I was not in India denies the point of the holidays; which are for grounding yourself in the season, the cycles of the year. Shifts here are less subtle, and my spirituality flows into another expression, a different form of grounding. Because it has to, and I think that is healthy. Perhaps traditions like Wicca may not so easily translate to other areas of the world, but the core ideas — earth connection, world-immersion, and nature grounding — can find expression everywhere.

September 22, 2011

Responding to Troy Davis’ Death: Community Responsibility

The death of Troy Davis, a recently executed and very likely innocent man, has sparked discussion and writing from my friends in other faiths. But, as far as I can tell, no Pagans are writing about the situation.

Being un-organized is one of the Pagan community’s defining characteristics. Liberated from rigid perspectives, we can move intuitively, shaping a practice and our perspectives organically. With no system of transference, education and spiritual development must come from each of us – deeply personal by definition. We are responsible for ourselves.

So, what do we lose?

Although we are a diverse community, the importance of the Earth and the recognition that we are pieces of a whole – whether that whole is divine, biological, or some combination – is a common idea I find across modern earth religions. Theologically, the execution of a potentially innocent man (seven of the nine witnesses later recounted their testimony, and clemency was still denied) should spark outrage among furious Pagans everywhere.

And perhaps it did. Perhaps many of us, independently, signed petitions and challenged those around us to see the imminent injustice.

But what could we accomplish as a community? And is there anyone out there writing on the death penalty from an earth religious perspective?

So much of what I see online and in the average bookstore is focused on spells without much theo(a)logical grounding; and too often a false history. At best, you could make the case that most of that writing revolves around identity formation, which is a consequence of the lack of organization.

I won’t deny that I found the earthy path as a teenager. It took time to develop a religious understanding and identity, and that is important work. I don’t want everyone to think the same, or lose the potential and significance of the personally developed. But we cannot stop there. We need to move forward, grounded in our ideas and practices, towards social justice and community responsibility. We need to put our voices out there, calling for equality and humanity.

Because we are earthy. Because when you are a piece of the whole, a human on Earth, a soul in the Divine Nature, being responsible for yourself demands community engagement.

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