Leibster Award: Nomination 4

So, I only posted three nominations on my original announcement, but I remembered another blog to nominate:

Kemetic vs. Athesit

As I keep remembering/finding, I’ll keep adding:D

Food and Joy

What is it about cooking and eating that feels so…prayerful?

How can things that take such time, patience, and effort be so pleasureful, almost as much as the act of eating? Is it the anticipation or the creative forethought that makes it so wonderful?

I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary, “Cooked”. Its only four episodes, and there are times when I feel the producers and speakers place motives and ideas on the food industry that the industry may not really have (e.g., “They are engineering food to be addictive.” They are likely engineering it to be good…and that happens to include things like sugar, salt, and fat, which we crave.)

But it struck a chord recently: cooking can get us back into touch with the planet, with our own fragility. Not right off the bat. Getting your ingredients is often as simple as going to the store, picking up a few things (even things that aren’t in season), and then returning home to cook them.

But think back to a time, a time not so long ago, when any food you wanted had to be grown. Pesticides of industrial sorts were not readily available or available period, and evading drought or plague or flood or frost was either a systematic effort or unavoidable. You toiled in the sun and soil in order to produce your food. You scavenged the landscape or hid among the foliage to catch your sustenance. Then, you returned home to cook, possibly another hours-long or even weeks-long process of preparing your food.

Compared to today, cooking is often a quicker, easier offering of time and nourishment to ourselves…in a setting where we believe time is more valuable than it once was (as there is less of it).

Not only does cooking potentially get us back in touch with the roots of our food, the sources of our life, the very fruits of our planet, and how delicate our existence is (and how well we are buffered, in America, against some of that fragility), but it reminds me of a simpler theme: how great and simple and yet wondrous it is to be alive.

How amazing it is that our bodies can break down plants that grow or animals that walked and get energy from those things. Its as if it’s an offering to ourselves, every meal we make and eat.

And when I think that 20% of our children go hungry in our own country, and that there are people world-wide who fight for their food, it makes me realize I’ll never be truly appreciative of the wide array of foods available to me year-round.

It makes me appreciative. It makes me happy. It is a simple pleasure, to eat. And it can be a mindful task, to cook.

Theism/Atheism/Agnosticism: The story of my struggle

If you visit my “My Practice” page, you will see that, in one of the paragraphs, I state that I am an agnostic that chooses to be polytheistic/pagan.

This is a pretty long post, just so you know. More

Celebrating Ma’at: Keeping your word and the Four of Wands

Today, the virtue was keeping your word. The card I pulled was the four of wands (excitement, celebration, and, in the deck I am using, completion of a phase/cycle).

What if when we keep our word, we complete a cycle?

A cycle of truth and of trust. One in which we place another brick into the bridge of a relationship – the bridge between you and “other”. To keep your word is to place mortar between others’ expectations and the outcomes. You provide evidence of your reliability. Trust is built. The same happens when others either uphold their word to you or fail to uphold it.

The cycle starts when the commitment is made. The cycle turns as time passes, and the deed is either done or abandoned. Completion occurs when one delivers the goods or services promised…or when they never appear. One outcome builds your honor and trust in the eyes of another (or endears you to the one who kept their promise to you). The other can breed many other things – sorrow, pity, disappointment, distrust.

There are very good reasons not to keep your word. In such cases, explaining your circumstances goes a long way  – sometimes building even stronger bridges than those built when promises are kept. The situations use the bricks of communication, with honesty as their molds and authenticity as their mortar.

When the cycle is complete and the wheel returns to its start, if the person has delivered (or been honest in why they couldn’t), whether the recipient recognizes it or not, they could have new reason to have faith in humanity…or at least in the person who’s delivered.

Keeping our word to ourselves…I’d imagine that builds efficacy and self worth. “Yes I can do it, I’ve done it before!” Or, “Yes, I matter enough to myself to do as I say. I told myself I would finish that project/go to the beach. I should do that for myself.” Sometimes, we forget that we matter.

Keeping your word to yourself is just as important as keeping it with others.

Keeping your word isn’t always easy. I gave up sweets for 40 days. I am eating a Millionaire my mother sent me for Valentine’s day. Whoops!

But, its the difficulty that enhances the trust-building. We need to be able to trust each other…and ourselves. Trust in the self can be the difference between succeeding and never trying. Trust in others is the difference between intimacy and acquaintance.

 

Leibster Award! Thank you, Mark Green!

liebster-award

I would like to give a huge thank you (and shout out) to Mark Green at Atheopaganism for nominating me for the Liebster Award! The award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 subscribers whom the nominator feels is worthy of others’ attention. I consider Atheopaganism to be a very well run, thought-provoking blog, so this is really an honor.

Once awarded, the recipient must follow these rules:

1.Thank the person who nominated and link back to their blog
2.Display the Liebster Award on your blog
3.Share 11 random facts about yourself
4.Answer the 11 questions you were asked
5.Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the award, by asking them 11 new questions (or having them answer the questions you were asked)
6..Make sure to let the bloggers know you’ve nominated them!
7.And don’t forget to copy the rules into your post!

So, here are 11 random facts about myself:

  1. I’m still not “out” with respect to my faith, save to a select few. Generally don’t see a reason to be.
  2. I was pretty active in the pagan community back home, but since moving have had less time to be active aside from online groups. (Shout out to Acadiana Spiritual Association)
  3. I am a grad student in Psychology.
  4. I went scuba diving at 12 and drowned at the bottom of a 70ft-deep spring.
  5. I love to kayak!
  6. I can’t wait to have chickens and spend lots of time in the Rocky Mountains.
  7. I can make me a roux, cher (and lots of other good things).
  8.  I can play a few things on the guitar, and I miss writing and drawing.
  9. I enjoyed discussing things in religion class in Catholic school (and I am eternally grateful to all the teachers that were never harsh and usually supportive when I had “out there” ideas or asked challenging questions).
  10. I was an elementary teacher, education is one of my highest values, and I like Common Core.
  11. I am the happiest I’ve ever been, the poorest I’ve ever been, and, independent of those two things, also completely in love (which seems to make the happiness ever happier).

The 11 questions I was asked:

1. What got you started with your blog?
I had been back home (after graduating college) for a while, where there was less religious diversity. I was looking for others with whom to talk things over. I discovered the online Kemetic community, and decided that might be a way to join and have conversations.

2. Post a link to your favorite blog post you have written and explain why it is your favorite.
The Gods of the Land: because it was filled with emotion, for me. I felt like I had really connected to the Netjeru in a way I never had before, in a way that seemed a tad more valid than other experiences.

Also, Ma’at: The word that escapes us and Hut in the Forest: I have grown a lot in my practice since these posts, but these posts stirred the thoughts that made some of the foundations of what I believe. In working through my agnosticism, in finding the courage to create a path that is mine and with which I am comfortable, these posts helped me to get there the most.

3. What is your favorite color?
Tourquoise and/or that red/orange autumn color

4. Where do you get inspiration to blog?
From things that happen to me, things I read, or things I wish I understood better. Writing about it helps me to sort things out. I’ll also “log” experiences that I have and come back to them (like the Lent stuff…which I still do every day but have had to stop blogging about temporarily).

5. Where would you like to travel that you haven’t travelled to yet?
South America, Japan, Southern Europe, Middle East, India

6. What was your favorite book or movie as a child?

I was an avid Roald Dahl fan, and my favorite book was The Little Prince.

7. What is your favorite season and why?
Autumn. Down here, the humidity is low, the cooler temperature is a relief from the summer, and this creates a “magical” feeling in the air. Plus, I like the holidays that occur in the fall.

8. Any goals for your blog?

I’d like there to be more discussion about the things I post or link to, mostly because I’d like to learn more from others/connect with others. I have to say, I do have some pretty regular commentors and people who “like” my posts, and I really appreciate it! They keep me going.

9. Do you have a bucket list? What is number 1?
To live in the country (simple pleasures, I know)

10. Favorite thing to blog about?
Something positive I’ve learned

11. What’s your dream job?
Consultant (what I’m going to school for) or a park ranger (or anything where I can be outside and do research on nature)

Here are the 11 I nominate (I’ll have to add more as I find them; some may not display how many followers they have, so I will try my best to follow the rules):

Carrying Their Light

Enyuki’s Embers

Faith and Belief

Kemetic Vs. Atheist

Admittedly, I don’t follow many blogs (particularly ones that have less than 200). But, as I remember/find more, I’ll add them here! 😀

Thanks again!

 

 

Listening: Scientific ways to do it better

The last post I wrote was on listening…and how its not something I’m the best at.

I used some of the literature I have access to at school to distill with some ways people can be better active listeners. In general, listening centers around letting go of your own world view (even if its just temporarily) to be open to another person’s experiences.

First, there are some don’ts from Robertson (2005):

Don’t judge
This does include criticism, but it also includes encouragement. While encouragement (and negative feedback, as well) are good and useful things, proven to improve performance and self-efficacy, there are times when people genuinely just want to communicate how they feel or their experience. In these instances, one must try not to communicate approval or disapproval…just understanding.

Don’t offer solutions
I am incredibly guilty here. I love finding solutions to the problems…because it eliminates the problem and therefore the crappy feelings it creates, right?!?!
Not entirely. First, Carl Rogers (and others) have pointed out that when someone needs to talk, they have likely considered the problem for a long time and from multiple angles. When you offer solutions, you are (1) risking that they feel condescended to or like you don’t understand their frustration (if the solution were so easy, they would have thought of it). At the same time, you (2) are using your own past experiences to formulate a solution, which can make the person feel as if you are not focusing on understanding their side of the story.

Don’t avoid the issue
Often, when people bring concerns, issues, or worries to us, we are inclined to ameliorate their anxiety: “Don’t worry about it! You are sweating the small stuff. Those things are very unlikely/don’t matter.” Again, here, you risk misinterpreting their message or, worse, communicating that you don’t care about what they have to say. As someone who has some pretty frivolous anxieties here, I agree with the authors I read when they state that this sort of approach, though it has good intentions, is paternalizing at worse, and at best, denies the person their desire to communicate.

 

So…how DO you listen actively

Listen for more than content
Most people know that body language, tone of voice, tone of the conversation, and facial expressions count. You have to pick up on what Rogers and Farson (1957) called the total meaning of the message. “I’m so glad to see you!” said excitedly can communicate something very different form “*huff* I’m so glad to FINALLY see you!” said loudly.

Show you are following
A lot of people know that you can use nonverbal gestures (like nodding, leaning in, or having an “open stance” [not crossing your arms, for example]) to communicate that you are listening. Some have also heard about the importance of paraphrasing to “recap” or make sure you are understanding. Asking clarifying questions can also indicate that the message was received.

Something else you might do (though the data seemed to show there was little difference between groups that had speakers that did and did not do this) is show that you are keeping track. Writing notes was not supported by the data at all. However, recapping at the end or finding other ways to make sure you have gathered all of the listeners most pertinent points can be helpful (for example, maybe, at the end of the conversation, you might say, “Would it be helpful to you if I did X, Y, and Z to facilitate your access to the documents you need? It seems like they are the most problematic.”). This sort of falls in the camp of restating, but some authors differentiate this aspect. It shows not just that you’ve heard but that you remember.

Give the speaker time and space to tell their story
Be careful, however, of asking too many questions or paraphrasing too often. This interrupts the speaker, and may come off as ingenuine if done too frequently. Only ask questions you have carefully considered, and keep these interruptions to a select minimum.

Beware of “asking for help”
Sometimes, people may come to you asking for advice or solutions. However, they may just be looking for a venue to communicate. Thus, it is imperative to first given them ample time to explain their entire story, check your understanding with rephrasing or recapping, and asking about or rephrasing how they have stated they feel. If you are too quick to offer solutions, you run into issues cited above under “Don’t offer solutions”.

 

Rogers and Farson (1959) admit that listening this way can require you to change your attitudes about listening (that it is to understand the person’s world view, not find answers, value, or to articulate your own view eventually).

This takes time…and practice.

Citations to follow soon.

A Religion of Boredom

Source: A Religion of Boredom

Celebrating Ma’at: Listening

For 40 days, I will think about a value I have each day. I am also continuing the daily draw, a short rite to Ma’at, and reading 10 pages a day of Dr. Karenga’s “Maat: The Moral Ideal”. I’ve given up sweets as a way of connecting this celebration back to my New Year’s Resolution.

Yesterday’s virtue was empathy, and today’s was listening.

The Ancient Egyptians made a big deal about listening. As far as I can see from the wisdom texts I’ve been exposed to, you gain wisdom by listening. Things in the world run smoother when you listen. The ancients also seemed to differentiate between simply “hearing” and “listening”– anyone can hear. But to really understand what was said and take it into your heart…that was listening.

It seems very passive, from a Western view (or at least my Western view). Talking is what creates solutions, share ideas, and breeds understanding. Ask questions, share your view point, offer advice, arrive at solutions by talking through it with others. Listening is certainly an important part of this process, but not nearly as important as the talking. Listening, in many ways, sometimes feels like a way to get “talking-fodder”. It gives you more to talk about. Conveniently, it can give you time to think about what you’ll say next! Yipee!!

While I certainly love to learn, the above encapsulates a lot of how I used to think about listening…and how I have to fight approaching it. But its not really listening. You can’t come to understand what someone is saying if you are too busy forming a rebuttal. You may not come to understand the person’s feelings or unique experiences if you are too busy forming solutions (solutions that often rely on our own past experiences and may not take into account someone else’s experiences if we don’t think carefully).

What’s more, I’ve come to find that often, people aren’t looking for solutions. They are looking for comfort and support. Throwing a thousand questions and possible solutions doesn’t really provide the sort of understanding and support some are looking for in such times. If someone comes to you with that end in mind, it is very helpful. But at this point, I have to remind myself to either ask, outright, “Do you want me to help you find a solution or do you need me to listen?” or just forgo the question altogether and learn to shut up. If you ask questions, its not to find a solution, its to better empathize and understand the feelings and experience of that person. Big difference.

So that’s what I tried to do today. To be more aware of when I was really listening, and when I was not listening. It was, one might say, an exercise in mindful listening. It was difficult. It is something I must continue to work at, if my listening will truly cause me to learn from or support others.

We can also try to listen to any god we might honor. Whether they are real or not, I often feel that if I go into any sort of prayer, meditation, rite, or whatever, there has to be an end in mind. “What am I looking to accomplish today?” or “What will I focus on?” or “What will I work on/ask for/think about?”. But prayer or meditation doesn’t have to be so active all the time…in fact, meditation is all about being less active.

I think the sort of listening I need to work on with others is also the sort of work I need to do when I decide to spend time spiritually. Learning to listen…to sometimes have no objective in mind other than to connect, relax, and just…be. To let what comes, come.

Here’s to listening.

 

Celebrating Ma’at: Persistence and the Ten of Wands

For the next 40 days, I will think about a value I have each day. I am also continuing the daily draw, a short rite to Ma’at, and reading 10 pages a day of Dr. Karenga’s “Maat: The Moral Ideal”. I’ve given up sweets as a way of connecting this celebration back to my New Year’s Resolution.

Today, I pulled the Ten of Wands to go with the value of Persistence. It seemed appropriate…in the face of burden, continue on. I always thought persistence was born of passion…when you really care about what you are doing, its processes and its ends, it motivates you to continue. But after thinking on it for a while, I wonder if this is always the case. I think there are times persistence can be endless while also passionless.

With respect to the ten, curiosity lead me to reference “Tarot and the Tree of life” by Isabel R. Kleigman, a book which focuses on the Minor Arcana and how it connects to the Kabbalah. The deck I used is which relies heavily on the Kabbalah for symbols and inspiration, so it seemed an appropriate reference.

The tens of each suit are associated with Malchut, or “Kingdom”. This sefirot is associated with the physical world. It is where things manifest. When the fiery Ace finally gets to the ten, there is conflict. Kleigman explains that the ephemeral flame struggles to express itself in the solid, physical ten. It needs the gifts of the other suits to survive: the planning of Air, the constant efforts of Earth, the motivation and flexibility of Water.

Passion alone cannot overcome obstacles. It must be combined with strategy and analysis, resources and consistent effort, a cool head and flexibility to persist. Does passion always need to be in the equation? When the sky is darkest and our trials their hardest, don’t we lose passion, temporarily?

I will admit. There have been times when I have lost my passion, but found a way to persist despite my dwindling interest. In those times, the planning and effort sometimes gave way to a small reward…which renewed my passion. But, I often think the reason I continued in the absence of passion was due to other motivators…I needed money, or an accomplishment, or I had made an obligation. Without those external motivators, would I have kept going?

In such a case, perhaps going through the motions can, at times, lead to fruit. While you may not be enthused about your work, at least going through the motions gets you there, perhaps enabling you to find your passion again or affording you the foundation upon which to inspire passion. But this idea of “going through the motions” seems to be something we are averse to in modernity. It’s not the type of thing for which people want to advocate …if you aren’t passionate about what you do, why do it? We should be in love with life and all it entails, right?

Well…ideally. But realistically, not everyone will love their work. Not everyone will find the most mind-blowing romance. Not everyone will find the deepest faith or have exciting travels. Sometimes, one area of life is simply a means to another, more fulfilling area. Work can be this for many people. Work affords us a home, a family, or a means to create new adventures. Surely we must be passionate about something, but we can’t be passionate about everything. When we expect perfection constantly, particularly of things we cannot control, we are doomed to disappointment.

Do we always need passion to persist? Certainly, when all your ducks are in a row but one thing stands in your way, passion can be the deal-breaker. But is passion something which is sufficient but not necessary? Can discipline or obligation feed persistence? And at that point, isn’t persistence still legitimate?

Obstacles are a given, but success is not. May, may all of you forever persevere, and may your perseverance lend you success.

 

The crash.

Source: The crash.

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