Monday, October 19, 2009

Fear of Trance

Why do I tell you guys this stuff??

I may have mentioned before that my books are in for Magic 1, which I need to complete before I can begin Trance 1, since there is a Trance 1/Magic 2 crossover journal requirement. I have not cracked one of them. In fact, I began Bardic 1 and lent a book out so I could buy some time before I have to start. The sooner I start Magic 1, the sooner I have to do Trance 1. I decided to (finally) spend some time trying to figure out what the big deal is with trance. What am I so afraid of that I don't even want to do it? Because it's not that I can't do it. It is that I won't do it, but without knowing why, I didn't know where to begin.

I have had a few trance experiences. Most of them have involved music and are safe. My guitar makes an excellent barrier, and if I am the one playing the music, I am the one in control. I have had many encounters with Deity in a deep meditative state, but these are states out of which I can bring myself fairly easily. I have been "taken hostage" by a Deity of two who really wanted my attention, but other than that, since I have become a pagan, I have very little experience or desire for trance.

This has recently become a bigger problem as I begin working toward my first oath with the Order of the Crane. I am not taking any of this lightly, and entering into trance to meet Garanus is something that I will be needing to do soon. This may be one of the hardest lessons I have to learn on the Initiate path, and now that I know why, I hope I can finally begin the work.

So, why, you ask? Story time, Children. Circle round.

What seems like ages ago now, in 1994, I was an impressionable and young (16) woman who had just decided on her own to go through the Catechism classes and convert to Catholicism. I had several meaningful experiences and loved the church at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. These folks are not your typical Catholics, however. No sir; no ma'am! These were Charismatic Catholics. These were the speaking in tongues, slain in the spirit, Glory-Hallelujah! Catholics. Yes, I was one of them.

I began attending a weekly music Worship night, in which I became musically involved as I got a little older and my talents became known. Keep in mind the congregation was made of primarily college students and the high school students from the area who attended the Christian Fellowship meetings that a few of the students majoring in religious studies lead for the other local churches. (I'm getting there, I promise.) From the vantage point of the musicians, watching what I now know to be ecstatic trance, I would see grown (to me, they were grown) men and women, humbling themselves completely before an all-loving, all-merciful God whose unconditional love would rain down like Mana from Heaven. These people would pray with all they had until they wept, many of them would speak words that sounded a lot like gibberish, and more often than not, at least one or two of them would become so overwhelmed that they hit the floor.


I started to attend Worship nights on nights when I wasn't performing, and one day it happened. I lost myself completely in my favorite song. I was praying quietly, just thanking God for this and that thing that made me happy--being appreciative and asking for nothing in return (It's funny, really. I still pray like this). I began to sing, and I focused myself through the words, made the words I was singing my prayer. I felt a warmth washing over me, not unlike what Wiccans describe when they "draw down the Moon." The feeling was very overwhelming to the point of tears. I felt them running down my cheeks before I realized they were coming. I began to sing louder, without really deciding to, and then, (why am I telling you this?), a stream of words came loudly out of my mouth. I have no idea what they were, and I am quite positive it wasn't even English. I felt as though I were somewhere else, back inside of my mind, and this was all happening to someone else. Then, the world tilted, and I hit the floor.

This phenomenon happened to me only a handful of times. The first was almost the most powerful. The most powerful occurred in a Hotel in Chicago with my College Fellowship group. A small handful of us women went to a National Meeting held over New Years. New Years Eve, we had a full-on worship band that had a member from Franciscan UofS, and they played several songs that I new. This time was much like the first, only there were a lot more of us, and we danced as David danced that night. This was the only other time I spoke in tongues.

(Still my friends? Good.)

I lost track of time that night, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck when I came to almost an hour later. There were several of us on the floor when I awoke, apparently all still lying exactly as we fell. I was startled, and I felt very uncomfortable. I was almost ashamed at what had happened, and I immediately shut down from it. A few people approached me and told me how lucky I was to be "chosen." "Chosen?" I asked. They said, "Why yes, to be touched by the hand of God." The looks I got from the Hotel staff that had come in to begin cleaning were very telling about the way they were feeling. As someone who has a very hard time accepting criticism, and believe me when I say that I was far worse back then, I couldn't even keep eye contact with any of them.

Long story short, I felt completely undeserving and quite embarrassed by the whole thing, all at the same time. In the end, as the "ritual high" faded, I decided that I was an adult, lying on the floor with a bunch of other crazy people. This was not normal, and I must never allow myself to be in that position again. I began systematically shutting down that part of myself, that small piece of you that is capable of reckless abandon. For years since then, I have been battling with control issues. I have finally been able to achieve sexual freedom within the past two years, and now, it seems, I am ready to conquer the need for mental control and achieve spiritual freedom.

Wow, this is long, thanks for reading. There is quite a lot more to this, but I am not sure how to put all of it into words. I fear it would end up being a dissertation on my psyche that no one, including me, really wants to read! What I hope to accomplish in saying all this aloud is this: I want to learn to give in to the call, to travel to those places where I will meet with the Kindred without the bondage of societal norms and fear of rejection. I want to let myself go enough to leave this mundane world behind and go to the Kindred--instead of always expecting them to come to me.

So yeah, Samhain is going to be a big deal for me. I am going to lead in the hopes that someday soon I will be able to follow without holding back.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Heart Songs

My heart is singing today. I've spent a lot of time emailing an chatting with A., and I am so glad he is a part of my life, even if long distance. His perspective, openness and honesty are slowly tearing down the walls I have built around myself, and I find that I am telling him more and more personal anecdotal things about me. I am also really starting to look forward to his emails.

One thing that I have also been enjoying is the new-found flirtiness that is resulting from these interactions. I feel prettier, and J. has noticed the increase in my self-esteem (from which he is benefitting).

Breath of fresh air, coursing through my life...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reflections on building self-esteem.

Why is it that baring my soul always comes hand-in-hand with internal change? I mean, to others. I just vomited an 800 word essay all over the Grove mailing list about music and my personal issues with performance anxiety. I hope the typos aren't too bad. This was one of those instances where I knew if I went back to proofread that I wouldn't send it. It was honest and ugly and all sorts of healing, so I have no regrets.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me is my personal capacity for insecurity. Does one ever outgrow that? I am 31 years old, and I still shake in my shoes when someone asks me a question in case I might not know or might stutter when I talk. I sometimes make mistakes when I play guitar in a religious setting because I am so nervous that my hand gets all sweaty and slips on the strings. It's really annoying.

And what I hate the most is my projection of negative thoughts about me into the minds of others. These are the inner demons I fight to ignore. I can thank my father for many of them. It's not that he was a mean or judgmental person (with me, anyway). He just spent a lot of time "teasing" me about those things that were the most important to me "to make me stronger." He wanted me to be able to handle anything that was thrown at me by the world. If only he knew the worst I ever had thrown at me would come from him.

I actually feel really good right now. I feel like I am making improvements, and this letter I sent to the Grove is a definite sign of growth on my part, as will be evident to those who know me at all. And I think that where I am right now, observable while I am still in that space between the brake and the gas, is somewhere I haven't been before inside. These are uncharted waters, and I am not as scared as I used to be. This fear of performance, this inability to share my bardic arts with ease, this is the last to go. Once I get over this, I think I may finally be free.

There was a moment at the last liturgy meeting when general mayhem broke out for a few minutes. There were about six or eight individual conversations going on all at once, and I was not participating in any of them. I felt very alone in that moment and out of place. I was drawn out of it when I made eye contact with Mike, who asked me how I was doing from across the room in his Mike way (which made me happy), but I was left trying to explain how I felt and why I felt that way for days (which I posted about). Spending some time in reflection now that the emotions of that moment are gone has made me realize that moment was a period of adjustment. I am very different than I was at the beginning of the summer. During those few moments where I was not participating, I was internally adjusting, aligning the new me with the Grove in ways of which I still don't know the full depth. I feel more confident than I ever have and more mature. I'm sure I still have a ways to go (don't we all), but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I feel capable of doing what I have been charged to do, music, IP/OotC or otherwise. And therein lies my joy: in my confidence in myself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sacred Center, now in two parts!

As many of you know, I have been working through the Bardic Guild study program. I have the musical pieces done to carry me through the second circle for a few of the tracks, and the third circle composer track calls for liturgical music for an entire ritual. I wrote a short chant for the sacred center portion of the rite that I used for the dawn ritual at Summerlands soas not to include any reference to silver. It is a cute little ditty whose words are as follows:

Well and Fire and Sacred Tree
Flow and Burn and Grow in me

I like it, but it has always been missing something. I revisited this song tonight, and I finally figured out what it needs: it needs another part! So, there are two parts to this song, sung simultaneously. The above lyrics are now a descant.

The melody line is as follows:

The Land, below us
The Sea, surrounds us
The Sky, above us
at the center are we

I can't wait to hear it someday!

It's rather disheartening sometimes, writing liturgical music. I know most of the pieces I have written are just for me. When I write, I can see the entire ritual in my head, including where everyone will stand. Staging, liturgy, music, all of it. I can see the shimmer of those who have come to join us and the mists surrounding the ritual space. I am not leading these rituals. It's almost as if I am one of the beings visiting this sacred place, this sacred center created just to bring us together, and I am watching, listening, communing, feeling. And when called to do so, I pour out of myself and into the ritual space, enshrouding those within in a cloud of mana...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Musings for a dreary Saturday.

Cleaning always gets my brain moving in random directions, and with the approval of Div 1, I am feeling pretty confident today. I was asked to trade readings with Saoirse via computer in celebration, and it went very well. I'm not sure why I am always surprised when I actually have learned something, but it was great to be able to do that reading this morning--and just what I needed.

The Initiate program, in general, is about growing those less scholarly aspects of self and exploring the beyond. This stuff is what puts the "magic" in magico-religious.The further I walk along this path, the more people I see that lie on the other side of the mists. (For those not familiar with this reference, I had a recurring dream and my best friend had a dream that all involved me walking into a mist and others not being able to follow me. At first we thought I may be in some sort of trouble, but after a brief meditation, I realized quite quickly that where I was going was a place others could not follow unless they do the work to get there themselves.)

Before Druidry, before solitary pagan, I was in a coven. Had I stayed with them, I would be a third level priestess by now. When I went solitary, a lot of things stagnated as those around me adjusted to the changes in me. The same thing happened when I found Druidry, huge steps forward followed by a period of stagnation, or more aptly idling as I waited for those around me to adjust. I am coming out of a period of idling, and it is in these few moments between the two, that point when you take you foot off the brake but haven't hit the gas yet, that I often have the best perspective on where I've been and where I am going.

So, where am I going? Magic 1 and Bardic 1, I think are next. Bardic 1 needs done so I can begin handing in musical work. Magic 1 needs done because there is a Magic 2/Trance 1 crossover requirement, and I really need to begin trance 1. Patience, young grasshopper, I know. It will all be done in good time.

In final thoughts, I want to relay a synopsis of a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. It seems she thinks I am studying to be a Priestess. I spent some time explaining the difference between the study programs, and she asked, "wait, which one are you doing?" I was shocked to hear her then ask when I would be beginning the clergy program. She is the second person in the last few weeks who told me I would be good at it and suggested I give it a second thought.

Honestly, I could absolutely see myself completing the clergy training program and following that route, complete with Oaths and vows to serve ADF and give my life to the service of the Gods and the Folk of our organization. I think that I would do a good job at it, because once I set my mind to something, I tend to find ways to improve until I have mastered something (It's a musician's quality). Had my life path brought me to a different place, I would accept the challenge, but in this life, the clergy program is not for me. I have strong responsibilities outside of my religious life, no matter the draw and immense satisfaction it brings to succumb to the call of the Kindred. I have a career and a family, both of which come before the group needs of my spiritual life. I do not have the time to dedicate myself to the work of the clergymen that is necessary to do it well. Solitary work, it seems, will be the bulk of my practice for a long time to come, but it is fulfilling when you realize this and embrace it.

Happiness, after all, is not getting what you want. It is wanting what you already have. Happy Saturday, everyone.