Needing to Achieve Balance – I’m a Libra

Today was an absolutely lower levels of the Nine Hells kind of day at work. When I first looked up from all the stuff I was trying to get accomplished across the course of the day, it was 12:30pm and I had finished nothing. I had four different projects running at the same time, and was nowhere near to finish any of them. So I took a break, hit the nearby Subway and came back with an unsweetened tea and a foot-long cold-cut-combo in-tow. I had every intention of eating lunch. Again, more “immediate” issues, along with long, detailed explanations of SQL code to folks who don’t understand SQL code at all…I looked up and it was 4:40pm. Twenty minutes left in the work day, and I had YET to eat lunch.

This is a bad scenario for a diabetic (which I am). Skipping meals can result in catastrophic issues. Especially since I had already taken my fast-acting insulin shot just minutes before I was deluged with more issues. When I made it home at 5:30pm (I live very close to work), I immediately started eating to satisfy the very low blood sugars I was feeling. Close to sunset, I pulled on a pair of swim trunks and got into my backyard pool.

My backyard pool does not have a great view of the sunset to the west. However, if I stand in the pool where the water comes up to my chin, I can see the colors through the slats of my neighbor’s fence. Today’s sunset was apparently a wonderful set of hues ranging from deep plum to an egg-yolk yellow to an intense array of red from light to dark. As I sat there and watched these colors slowly fade as the night-sky started its nightly conquest for the start of evening, I felt a series of thoughts come to my mind.

What would Crow and Coyote and Abnoba think of me after today? There were several moments where I nearly lost my temper. Quick trips to the “restroom” allowed me to cool off sufficiently to not do so.

::Since you asked, I would wonder why do you work yourself to the bone there, but not in the tasks that mean more in your heart?::

That was the familiar, yet mostly silent over these past few years, voice of Coyote. I have rarely heard from Coyote, except for some painful taunts about who I am or some stinging retorts over what I had been doing. Coyote has played the role of sarcastic, sometimes hurtful, self-reflection for me. But in this, His response was not meant to be hurtful, but a stark, to-the-bone cut of the issue at hand.

In the past, I have let my job define who I am. That took a long time and a lot of effort to get beyond. What was left, after all the detritus in the bowl was burned away, was the effect of what I am – a workaholic. I enjoy the work I do, not for the assistance that it provides, but for the challenge that each data request provides. Writing code to extract data points from a database so that someone else can use that to determine the “right” or “wrong” of a choice – either after the fact or during planning. I don’t put one hundred percent effort into what I do, I put one-thousand percent. I work my ass to the bone, not to fulfill the data request, but to handle the challenge of what the request represents. I am Saint George, and the database is my Dragon.

Typically, when I get home, all the projects that I have get set to the wayside or have a half-hearted effort placed into them – simply because I am tired from all the mental effort and anguish I put into the job I perform. I work for a public community college, so my wages are pure shit, but I still put a ton of effort into what I do. Because its not about the money, its about the students. While my job doesn’t have a ton to do with the students, I do get to report on the efforts our students and faculty place into the battlefield that is the classroom. And while a noble and worthwhile (in my opinion) effort, the projects that mean the most to my heart are set to the side. My efforts there have been half-hearted at best.

While I know the retort from Coyote is mostly meant to be sarcastic, and a strong dig at my personal pride, it is an accurate statement. My writing is important to me, but it is obvious where my “master” is – the work-load. So, where and how can I achieve enough of a balance to put some better effort and heart into my writing? And another thought enters my mind of where does my daily Spiritual Practice fall in all of this? What about my studies? What about my life outside of all of that? And as I look, rather biased for the moment, I can sincerely say that I have let my work-life dictate my effort and participation in the rest of my life.

So what is the answer? I honestly do not know. And whatever answer I do manage to come up with for myself is likely to be of little effect for someone else’s. Each situation and its outlying variables will be different. While we are all human, we are all individuals who react differently to the same stimuli and input. But I do know this, I will need to figure out some aspect of a general schedule in my life. Not specific to time frames and the such, except where that may be appropriate. Just a general day-to-day approach, knowing that there is a good balance that can be struck between everything, as well as dampen some of what work does to me. I have books, so getting lunch and taking a break with a book may be an appropriate choice. But I do know there is a balance. I am squarely in the middle of Libra with my birth…if that’s any clue. ­čśë

Vacations, Writing and Centering -One Method of Refocusing Myself

One of the things I have really enjoyed is going to various locations – some considered sacred – over the course of the past few years. I am fortunate enough to be able to do this, thanks to my job. Over the past few years, I have visited Glacier National Park, Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn mountains, the Rocky mountain range, and Carlsbad caverns to name a few. Each was a special moment, which I treasure deeply. And I have goals for a few more.

Tai Shan is no secret for anyone who knows me. I have yearned to climb the mountains pathway and see the sunrise from its peak for quite some time. Coming in two years, I may get that chance, as it looks like my college’s Honors program may make a trek to Japan. There is no way I will get that close and not take the opportunity to go. On its face, it is somewhat pricey in nature, but it certainly is on my radar.

Then there’s the trip back to England for Stonehenge, the Tor, and various other places. All of these are locales that I want to visit without a group (for the most part) so that I can spend as much time as I want at each one. Not sure how all that will work out (if at all), but its something that I need to look into. Plus there’s several locations in Ireland that I would love to see, but just won’t have the time (or flexibility) to do so.

14224720_10205751176018782_59571031270202389_nLastly, there’s all kinds of places within the United States. Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. The Redwood trees in California. Further trips to Glacier, Yellowstone, and a return to Medicine Wheel that I promised during my first time there. Closer to home, there is dinosaur tracks to see, a trip or five into the woods in Arkansas, and trips to the Gulf regions. My lovely little red caravan gives me the capacity to do these North American trips.

Like I said, I am lucky that I have the capability to take trips such as these. Many others cannot. But, these trips are more than visiting locations that I view as “sacred” or “beautiful”. Its about getting outside of the four walls of the house. Its about what I consider to be a fundamental aspect of Paganism for me: being outdoors with the dirt between my toes and fingers.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself getting caught up in the media spin-cycle of the US Presidential race. I would spend far too many hours watching TV or reading online news. I even wrote quite a bit of it into my journal. And yes, I do go back and read what I have written. While doing just that, reading my journal, I started to notice a thread of sorts. I was not headed outside nearly as often as I had before. Not even for walks. I was caught up in something that had nothing to do with who I am as a Pagan, who I am as a Priest (as much as I think I *might* be one), or how I honor my Gods, my Goddess, or my Ancestors. In other words, I was off balance.

I never really noticed it, until a few days after the election. And once I recognized it, I started working towards correcting that, and finding my balance again. Instead of putting on National Public Radio when I got home, I put on Grateful Dead, Rush, Phish, Pat Metheny – any music that I identify readily with. I made time for meditations. I consciously put myself in a mindset to visit my Dream Crows before I went to sleep. I got back out to visit my Stone Circle. And I wrote.

Writing has been the really odd part. I have never considered myself much of a writer. I even decided to start in with the National Novel Writing Month, trying to cram three different projects into this idea. That failed miserably. I have since abandoned the idea, as I had become obsessed with word count rather than writing quality. Many of the journal entries that I wrote during that week-plus (about nine days) are really lacking in coherence and quality. Its a great concept for just writing something to be writing something. But its definitely not for me.

But everything has been about balance. About striving to find my center and cling as tightly as I can to it. Because wobbly, off-balance me is no fun to be around. I obsess on issues. I do not communicate beyond those issues. I become a very one-dimensional, one-note person. And that’s just not me.

There is not a whole lot of advice I can dispense concerning all of this. Find your center. See how far you are from it. Strive to get there. Make plans for ways to de-stress and regenerate your feelings towards the world around you. For me, that’s travelling to locations. And that means goals. Set those goals. See how to achieve those. And find a way to achieve those without risking the core of who you are. I have been a Pagan for over thirty years now. I have quite a bit of experience in knowing what works for me, and what does not. There is no way I can predict that for you, or even if this type of process will work for you or not. But trying it and making it work for you, is up to you.


That Stone Circle…Its a lot More than Rocks to Me

There is so much going on around the world these days. A terrible United States election cycle that has devolved into the hurling of insults and accusations. Strife and issues ring out anew in the Middle East, bringing back the specter of Cold War relations between the United States and mother Russia. First Nations lands being desecrated in the name of “progress” while long-honored treaties between the US government and those nations are flung aside like refuse thrown into the dust bin. Racial tensions throughout the United States. Religious tensions throughout the world. Terrorist concerns. Individuals being marked as terrorists, who really aren’t. Cries of governmental procedures being formed to revoke a citizen’s right to weaponry. A businessman turned politician being accused of sexual assault by many women, while he continues to utilize language that shows how insensitive he is to appropriate behavior towards these same women. This weekend, a building was fire-bombed and sprayed with graffiti equating Republicans with Nazis. Its all enough to make your head spin twice a day before your first cup of coffee – Linda Blair style.

How in the name of the Gods above and below are we supposed to maintain a sense of calm and balance in a world that seems to spin faster and faster out of control with each passing news story? The details come quicker than an Aroldis Chapman fastball aimed at your ear. Every news outlet spins the story to provide a positive outlook towards the political bend that they favor. The truth seems more elusive than ever.

Well, for one, turn the TV and radio off every once in a while. Get off of Facebook and other social media sites. Stop going to the news web sites every five minutes. As a Pagan and a Druid, the outdoors is where I find my solace. Its where I find my balance. Its where I contemplate my own place in the scheme of everything. And I usually find that a lot of what I am seeing and reading – I don’t need to endlessly wring my hands over. Some of the stuff that I wind up reading, I just need to let it pass down the river. There’s nothing I can do about Donald Trump’s commentary on women, except to say that I find it disgusting. As more and more of it gets heaped out – I can only point back to my original statement of how I feel about it, and move on. I can; however, do more concerning the issue of an oil pipeline being built underneath a fresh water source, and the First Nations burial ground┬áthat was desecrated and destroyed to make the pipeline’s construction towards the river viable. I can offer nightly prayers to the Gods and Goddesses asking for assistance in stopping this. I can give monies and supplies to the defenders that are there. I can write to officials for the oil company, the construction company, the local governments, the state government, and the Federal government voicing my concerns. If I had the resources to do so, I would drag my Winnebago trailer up there, and stand on the front line with the defenders. There are plenty of actions that can be taken.

Its all about picking which fights I can help make change in, and which fights will provide no more change than the sound of my voice. In ┬áthe case of Trump, its doubtful that anything I saw will change his mind on what he’s done. Best to just make my singular statement and move on. With #NoDAPL, writing these folks can make a difference, particularly if I write effectively and respectfully. Calling these folks a$$hole$ is the surest way to turn them off to what I am trying to say. Standing shoulder to shoulder with those folks is a direct action that can carry change. Singing my concerns and requests for assistance to the Gods is my way of adding in the Spiritual side of what I believe. I believe that such requests hurts no one…except the folks who get subjected to what I call “singing”. Whitney Houston, I definitely ain’t.

But what’s more – for me – getting out by the stone circle at night does more than just provide me a place to compete with the alley cats for the “song of my people” moment in the moonlight. Being out there, gazing up at the bright moon reminds me of who I am, and where I live. My ancestors are European in flavor. Most likely Celts. They sat around their nightly fires and looked up at the skies. They saw the Moon in all of Her glory. They saw the cloudy skies, where She played hide and seek among the Stars. They saw the stormy skies, and cowered slightly to the awesome display of cold, torrential rains coupled with the awesome flash of lightning – followed by the deafening sound of thunder following close behind.

I’m quite sure that they dealt with tribal politics. They got tired of hearing about how the blowhard herder Donaldus Trumpus had a better plan to lead the tribe in battle against the Slavic types just over the next ridge line. Or how the Romans were going to tip the balance in the region by propping up a half-Celt, half-Roman soldier named Barrackus Obamus as the next sacred Chieftain. And I wonder how they found balance with their daily lives? They lived much closer to the Spirits of Place then we currently do today. I would like to believe that they found their solace, their balance in daily life from living so close to what is Natural. Their lives constantly in the same balance that the rest of the natural world was in. As the bear went, so would the tribe. As the wolves managed, so would the tribe. As the deer survived and thrived, so would the tribe.

My stone circle is not much. It consists of fairly good sized stones from places I have visited. Each holds special meaning. Each holds a specific space and role in the circle. Altogether, it forms my sacred space. That space is where I take time to bring myself back to balance. To remember who I am, what I am, and how I will go about accomplishing what I need to do. Sometimes, the mundane world is part of those thoughts. Sometimes its not. It all depends on my frame of mind and the moment.

When I feel overwhelmed, I go this sacred space. Either physically or within my own self. My own circle. My own sacred space. Its here where I bring myself back to center. Its here that I achieve balance. Through meditations. Through prayer. Through centering, as in the OBOD Tree Meditation. There is no FoxNews or CNN located there. There’s no need for things like that, for me. I created my sacred space to be what I need it to be. A place to study, a place to contemplate, a place to remember, a place to rest….

Of course, its far better than sitting cross-legged on the ground, fingers in my ears, eyes shut tightly and screaming “LALALALALALALA” at the top of my lungs. That didn’t work when I was a kid, either.

My Backyard Stone Circle

Following My Own Advice, For Once

Its nearly the end of my vacation time. I am back from being in the mountains north of Salt Lake City, and am now working towards just spending some time in my own headspace. Monday, I will be back at work – knowing that there will be some “unfathomable” disaster waiting. And knowing that the disaster is only a disaster because I wasn’t there to keep things in check. That’s an area of balance I will need to recreate for myself. In the meantime, I spend some time thinking about how nice it was to get back into the mountains.

Over the last eight months, I now realize that I have done a poor job of trying to find my balance. My job is not intolerable. My two bosses can sometimes be overly demanding and not too clear on comprehension skills, but there are far worse places to work. When I leave work and trek the eleven miles home, I carry too much of work home with me. I wind up spending much of my day trying to work out solutions for the tasks that I still have before me, rather then spending my time doing tasks, and magickal workings that are far more important to me. Much like a nice engine that has been run too long, and too hard, I need to spend some time fine-tuning how I approach my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Yes, goals. And workings. I need to fine-tune my life to be a better Druid, be a better person, be a better me.

Part of what I have not followed through completely on, is being the Druid I should be. I should be exploring new connections to the world around me, while strengthening the connections I already have. I have fallen out of my morning/evening rituals with the cycle of the Sun. Its long past time for me to renew that aspect of me. I have spent far too much time trying to follow through on work-related issues that mean nothing to the people I am doing these for – and not enough time following through on what Fliodhas, Crow, and Coyote ask of me. My relationships with these Gods and this Goddess are not those of requirement, but more along the lines of request My dedication needs to be far better than it has been.

I also need to step back into taking far better care of myself. How can I handle the things that are asked of me, when I cannot handle the things that are necessary for me to function? And instead of falling back to my old standard of making lists, and trying to schedule time – perhaps its time to fine-tune that process as well. Perhaps, fine-tune may be the wrong term – more like completely over-haul. No more schedules. No more lists. Just doing. And completing. And moving to the next things that shows. Lists and schedules can be laid at the feet of something more mundane, like work. Doing what is needed right now….this is where being a Druid should be, for me.

I have said it to so many people:

Work is something you do to pay the bills. Doing what you were meant to do is what the Gods set before you.

img_0112It sure would be appropriate for me to follow my own advice, wouldn’t it? Ravens have been a huge part of my dreams, and even my waking time these days. I have no idea why…except that one of them was looking underneath my rental car. Perhaps, these Ravens are here to look underneath me..

Good Jazz and Changes (Waiting Out the Politics)

With the Presidential nominating process for the Big Two finally winding down – you would figure that everything would be ramping down as well. ┬áNot really. ┬áJudging by the rhetoric and anger and posturing that takes place in social media, you would think that the entire election process would be far closer to November then where it actually is. Essentially, its down to three candidates: ┬áTrump, Clinton and Sanders. None of which I will likely cast a vote for. Why? ┬áBecause I don’t really care for any of the three. But in today’s social media climate…you can’t just make a statement like that and leave it alone. No, instead, you have to defend why you aren’t for this candidate or that. Sheesh.

But that’s where things really have seem to have gotten to. Everyone seems to be looking for a debate or an argument…even when the statement that is going to be in contention is a non-committal and neutral one. Everything’s about arguing and debating to be “right”…there’s seemingly no room for discussion. The true reality is that most of the social stratosphere in the internet is not about socialization, its seemingly about how correct you can make yourself out to be.

As I watch people move more and more to one side or the other throughout the Presidential nomination process, I have started to notice how few the numbers are here in the middle. Once again, there that feeling of being in no-man’s land during World War I trench warfare. And to be honest, neither side in the trenches seems like a place where I would want to be. Thus, there’s a growing feeling of strapping on my helmet, getting as low to the ground as I can, and weathering the coming battle.

But is it really that much of a battle? My mind goes back to when Bush v. Gore was underway, and there was anger of a similar nature then. It took a few weeks, but eventually it all blew over, and everyone settled back into their daily lives and routines. That’s known as the short-term memory of the American voter. But it starts to bring up other thoughts for me as well.

People get hot and bothered about change. Whether that be in politics, or in their own mundane lives. They stamp their feet, stand around debating the points that they feel are relevant, and raise their voices when they feel that they are not being provided the proper amount of attention or respect for what they have to say. And once the dust settles; everyone starts to head back to their routines. The parts of their lives that they have agreed to handle, are comfortable dealing, and are not as bothered over. And the desire for change begins to recede into the past, melting away as quickly as ice cream on a hot summer day.┬áPerhaps, that’s why change is not really taken seriously by so many. Because its essentially lip service to the moment.

Now, having started this point by dredging up the political backdrop, I am going to ask you to forget all about that stuff. In other words, I am about to change the scenery in the background. All I ask, is that you set the politics aside and keep up with the backdrop’s change (there’s that fscking word again!).

Change is important in our lives. Without change, we don’t grow. We stagnate, become rigid, and eventually we will break rather than bend. I turned 50 last year (those of you over 50, shut up with the smart remarks) – an age I never thought I would be alive to see. Seriously. My twenty-something mind could never comprehend that. But as I have grown older, I have noticed an odd trend in my life….I am far more pliable now then I was in my youth. I am more accepting of change; more willing to allow change to happen before reacting to it; more understanding of the reasoning behind the change; more conscious of all the choices that change can provide. I always thought it would be the complete opposite. That I would get older, become less accepting of change, more settled into routine…and I have no explanation of why things are set up this way.

To be honest, I am not sure I care why things are this way, either. So I handle change a lot better than most people I know. Big deal, right? Well, at least that’s the sentiment that I tie to it. Life is going to happen all around me. There’s not much I can do to alter things…so I should be cognizant of what takes place and figure out how I need to adapt to it. For me, life isn’t about making changes – life is about adapting to changes. And I can’t say for sure where I picked up that concept in my beliefs.

Perhaps it came from my studies within OBOD, perhaps my studies within Zen Buddhism, perhaps a combination of those…perhaps something altogether different. All I know is that life is a lot like improvisational jazz. There’s an underlying rhythm to the music that has to be honored, but across that current – you can bring whatever notes you feel are necessary. Or as a blues musician that I used to hang out with was fond of saying: “You don’t play the music, the music plays through you. You’re just the conduit from which it flows. Don’t fight it. Play it.”

So let’s set the politics backdrop back into place. Its May. The election takes place in November. That’s six months down the road. A lot is going to happen between then and now. And if you think that politics is at a fever pitch now, you’ve honestly not seen anything yet. Down here in no-man’s land – among those that look to the third-parties, or those that have not made up their minds yet – perhaps we need to dig our own trench here in the middle of the battlefield. And then hunker down for the long haul. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I am going to sit down in the trench here and play. Play whatever comes to my fingers, and see what happens.

Oh…and who will I vote for? I honestly have no idea at this point. Currently, I see three candidates for the Big Two…and I won’t vote for any of them. There’s still time for newer candidates to come forward, and I am sure I can find someone among them that I would want to cast my vote for. And with that vote, I will essentially be saying that I want that person to stand in my place as a representative for my values. And I will likely be criticized by some quarter of society over my choice. So be it…I just hope that wherever that criticism comes from, that they won’t feel compelled to get further into my face, when I smile and provide no other response to their statements.

Good jazz, centering and balancing….yeah, man. Good, centered calm. Watching for the changes….on my back porch with my guitar, some birdseed, and my stone circle.



Looking for Balance

Feeling out of sorts. I know the feeling quite well. When I roll out of bed, slip on my house-shoes, and make it down the stairs to the living room. And the feeling hits that nothing is “right” in the world – I need to get back up the stairs, and go back to bed. And yet, when I seek that momentary explanation in my head – when I reach of for the reasoning of ‘why’ — my closed hand comes up with nothing. And the hardest part, is that this typically happens when I have to be in my classroom within an hour of that moment – to lecture on some topical point of Business administration or some salient point on how computer technology helps bolster a business’s practices towards the successful movement of their chosen product. In other words, I need my head on straight, and I need to be able to make cogent points. Or to put it in more practical terms – I need to not be speaking like I write here in the blog. ­čÖé

For me, its a matter of finding where I am out of balance. Easy enough to say as a simple sentence, even more difficult to describe in-depth. I usually revert to other initial step descriptors when I am at this point – I need to find a comfortable sitting point in the saddle, I need to regain my focus, I need to become grounded and centered on my daily path. All nice statements to make – and if anyone else has been in the same position – an easy way to get your point across. But, if you are trying to explain this to someone who has no understanding of these statements, it can increase the misunderstanding of what you are saying/doing – and place further conversation trying to explain the lack of balance to the neophyte individual seeking answers towards a new way of complicating that lack of balance. I have been at that particular moment many times during my time on this Path.

One of the best descriptions I have managed in trying to explain being out of balance comes from trying to get the querent to put themselves into your moccasins, so to speak. Have you ever leaned back on a four-legged chair, so that you were balancing on the back two legs? You find that position where your weight perfectly balances the chair in the impossible position of being on just the two legs and not falling forward or backward. And then, you make a tiny shift of weight, and the chair begins to fall backward – and you manage to arrest your momentum at a point where you felt where you were going to fall. Remember that feeling? That is how being out of balance feels for me. Except that it doesn’t dissipate after I catch myself – it lingers. That’s being out of balance is for me – feeling like my momentum is going to carry me forward to where the chair comes to rest in its normal four-point stance – or knowing that the chair is going to fall completely backwards and land on the ground, where I may bump my head on a hard surface (trust me – many people say that such a thing would likely not hurt me).

For me, solving this takes about ten to fifteen minutes of time for me – ten to fifteen minutes of undisturbed time. That’s even more difficult to obtain these days, particularly when I have an 8am morning class. Where I am in a rush to make it to campus, get the door opened, and get the class settled for a lecture, presentation, lab, or test. So, I try and get at least some aspect of being partially balanced. When I reach campus, I spend a few moments in the car, practicing my breathing exercises. One long breath in, two shorter breaths to expel the air. All the while, I push any thoughts out of my mind for the moment. It doesn’t always work, so sometimes I think of erecting a tall, fence around me with those thoughts just on the outside. And once I achieve that moment – I come back to remember who I am, why I am, and hardest of all what I am. I don’t need full answers – just a little reminder that my foundation is not about to crack, and that I can get this done until I can spend more time in a stronger point of meditation and reflection.

Yes, its a band-aid method. Its a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. That comes later, after I am done teaching classes, after I have finished all other commitments, and can close the door to my office, turn out the light, and turn off my phone. When that happens, I can turn my focus towards doing my full meditation and ground and centering. To be honest, I do prefer to do this outside, where my bare feet can touch the ground, but that’s not always something that can happen. When I first learned the meditation of grounding and centering, it was sitting in the classic Lotus position, which tends to bring pain to my knees very quickly. I shifted eventually to sitting on my legs with my lower legs tucked directly underneath me. However, this also started to bring me pain. Then one day, I stumbled across this video on YouTube, while searching for other videos on the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD).

Its this style of meditation that I use to focus and ground myself – in essence, bring myself back to balance. This is where I remind myself of who I am (TommyElf), what I am (Professor, Teacher, Priest, Pagan, Friend, and whatever other hat that seems appropriate at the moment), and why I am (to help others when asked, to be an example for some to follow, to be respectful of all including those who do not respect me). And once those reminders are back in place, back in primary focus…I feel balanced and “right” with my surrounding environment.

I know there’s a lot of other ways to go about doing this type of balancing method. This is the one that works best for me…and answers the question of a couple of viewers who had thought to ask.

–Tommy /|\