Showing posts with label Compassion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Compassion. Show all posts

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeking Divinity in Darkness

Dawn at the Hayfork Fire Camp

It is pitch black in Fire Camp and I am awake at 0415 a.m.  All is silent; the firefighters sleep just as they were doing five hours ago when finally I lay my head upon the ground. In this space I can connect with the sacred, slowly and intentionally I am able to sense my place as just a single note upon a magical sheet of divine music.

Up early I sacrifice an extra hour of sleep but I am also able to focus on the powers that transcend the effort I am involved in.  My mind is able to reconnect with compassion, insights well up and I am comforted: energized even.

When urgency for the mission at hand overwhelms my ability to connect it is critical that I find the time to seek the Goddess, sit with her in the darkness and refill my spiritual cup. It is not so much that the experience is profound; it simply returns me to a place where my actions and reactions are based upon my core values.

There are more than a thousand firefighters here, if I am to do my part in assuring their safe return to their families it is incumbent upon me to bring the best that I am to the table.  It is the compassion that my morning time with the Goddess manifests that fuels my passion for service and ability focus.

Time for me to go, the fire camp stirs, soon the sun will rise and a multitude to tasks will distract me, yet she will be with me, ever my guide along this journey.

My daily practice is brief, yet critical to compassion based service to humanity! 

In Her Service, from the fire line,


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Accessing Compassion via Social Media Negativity- An Activists’ Lament

Wow it has been an intense year. My Face Book feed has been filled with disgusting images of violence, injustice and environmental degradation.  Many of my friends have expressed a growing sense that these images are harmful, promoting an ever-expanding morass of negative experiences and feelings driven by social media.

It is worth considering, however, that these very images trigger our internal access to compassion in a world where it is sorely needed. Yes, I get enraged at all the digital chaos, yet it is true that my compassion is triggered; my desire to act in a meaningful way is manifested into corporeal action.

It is human nature to avoid things that make us uncomfortable. There are times when I need to disconnect, go dark and care for my self.  These times nurture my ability to re engage and bring a small touch of divinity to our collective discourse. It is in fact these objectionable mental pictures that create an upwelling of compassion.  They nudge me into a place where the status quo is unacceptable; where by being a member of the human race I am propelled to take action.

While many, understandably turn away; activists experience a very positive emotional reaction, the urge to change the world.  Collectively these individuals believe that the world is malleable and can be positively impacted by the hands of compassion.  In seeing the image of the starving child or the bloody face of a person of color assaulted by the police we tend to look beyond our revulsion and perceive the injustice as personal, affecting our collective responsibility to act, activists believe that silence is consent.

So the next time negative images trigger disgust, access this emotion to empower you to act on the side of compassion, return again to the youthful and optimistic belief that you can do something to nurture change. Negative images have a place in our world; they water the seeds of an ever-expanding garden of social justice that blooms with ever more diversity as time passes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Parliament of the World's Religions, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!

Over the past few days I have been working on my proposed presentation for the Parliament of the Worlds Religions titled “Sacred Regard, Confronting Hate with Love, Compassion and Education”.  This process has driven me to consider what it is that the Parliament stands for and how I can contribute to these organizational values and ethics.

Simply stated my goal is to LISTEN!  This event provides a profound opportunity to engage with people of other faiths in respectful and compassion centered dialogue.  There can be no greater contribution to world peace than developing a deep and abiding understanding of other cultures and belief systems. 

This focus has led me to revise my proposed presentation many times with the goal of giving voice to participants experiences and view points. As challenging as manifesting a presentation which features interactive components can be, the revisions are well worth the effort.  It is my task to surrender control of the direction the presentation precedes and embrace the unique opportunity to engage with viewpoints arising from cultural contexts with which I have little experience.

In the end my goal for the presentation mirrors my hopes for the entire event. Seeking mutual understanding and respect for the incredibility diverse expressions of divinity around the world. I am committed to not huddling with others Pagans during the Parliament, but instead engaging in a sacred process of learning about and embracing divinity in a plethora of manifestations.

In short, I intend to listen!

Friday, March 6, 2015

On Being Kind To The Invisible, Seeing The Homeless

Yesterday I dropped by a donut shop and bought donuts for the staff I work with, no big deal, just being part of the group. Having time on my hands before work I also stopped to shop for a pair of boots for the coming season. As I got out of my car I noticed a group of 15 or so homeless individuals sitting under a shelter in a near by park.

In the moment, I decided to take the donuts over to them, surly they would appreciate them more than my co-workers. Let me state I work in a Detox unit during the winter, so the idea of noticing these individuals is no great surprise for me. The thing is, I sat and spent about fifteen minutes enjoying conversation and eating donuts. I was enriched and amazed that they kept saying how people drop by “stuff” all the time but never stay and interact, never really want to know who they are.

Therein lies the rub, the homeless are invisible. Sure well meaning progressive people provide gestures of support in an effort to sooth their place of privilege in the world, but it is striking how rarely such actions lead to real meaningful interactions with the homeless population.

It is natural of course, for our brains to not want to wallow in the unfortunate, to really see the suffering that surrounds us, to attempt to screen out that which makes us uncomfortable. Yet such a process devalues human beings that are as much an expression of the divine as the friends I so cherish.

Imagine, if you will, being so marginalized by society that the only real interaction you have with broader society is expressions of pity and or charity. Sit for a moment in the place of the individual that society treats as if they have nothing to offer; experience being reduced to a sad statistic. Now consider how profoundly such a situation could affect your ability to move forward in life, how being invisible in public discourse could led you to doubt yourself in every way.

So today my call is for the homeless. Not for feeding them, not for housing them, not for providing resources, but for something more profound, providing human kindness.  Let’s open our eyes, make friends, and really get to know those among us that our culture considers invisible. Lets take a seat in the park and discuss, laugh, encourage, and recognize the divinity and self worth of those most in need of the compassion that our beliefs encourage us to express.

So today I issue a challenge with a simple question: Do you even know the name of a homeless person in your community?  If you don't, maybe it is time you do! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Local Governments Regulate Compassion

  Homelessness Now Criminalized

Those who follow activism closely are aware that the internet is often awash with hyperbole utilized to stir support for causes related to social justice. In this deafening symphony of notes demanding attention it is nearly impossible to discern which causes deserve support from the average activist with limited resources.

Generally, social justice advocates come to adopt individual causes by following their compassion, which in turn leads to discovering their passion.  Incredible advances in social justice have been realized through this focused approach.

There are times, however, when activists recognize the urgency of a specific cause and join in unity of action.  An example of this is the profoundly successful effort by the Human Rights Campaign to "Turn The Internet Red".  Organizations across the globe engaged in other social justice causes set aside their own focused interests and manifested an event that changed the very nature of the conversation about LGBT rights.

Across our nation laws are being enacted that effectively criminalize the homeless.  Among the activities now legally restricted are sleeping, setting down ones possessions, and feeding the homeless.  These laws are being sold under the “false flag” of safety issues.  Our nation is marginalizing our most at-risk population in the interest of supporting the activities of the very corporate interests that are at the root of the problem of poverty in America.

We, as activists, have the opportunity to act before it is too late.  All social justice advocates involved in other issues need to recognize the profound change in our national character that such laws will establish. We know that LGBT youth, people of color, veterans, abuse victims and many other marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by homelessness. 

Today lets call for a national event to focus the social justice community on confronting these immoral laws.  It is time to speak up or let the very idea of social justice go quietly into the night with barely a whimper.  Lets select a date and focus the entire nation on this issue. Non-Profits, bloggers, writers and activists can and should band together and make a difference.

Americans should not allow our nations character to be re-defined with the first principle being that “people of power and privilege have the right to marginalize and regulate to the shadows those who are most in need.” 

Let us, through our actions, manifest a world where we refuse to grant governments the right to regulate actions that reflect our compassion for all of humanity!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ebola, Testing Our Humanity

Our nation announces we will build hospitals in West Africa; the world applauds and ignores the fact that the plan is to NOT have Americans staff these clinics. Compassion on the world stage evidently extends only to the point where our self-interest as a nation would be put at some risk.

In the west,  a couple of Ebola cases fill the news, on the hour reports related to their condition and those they have infected focus our nation on “our country”. Missing in all this is the dozens who continue to die daily in West Africa.

As West Africa continues to sink deeper into chaos, half measures and promises are made to placate western sensibilities. On the ground, where the disaster is occurring, pleas are made for more funds, more equipment and more responders.  Governments and NGO’s are moribund by their “procedures” which were not designed to address the immediate needs of a medical disaster of this magnitude.

Our national system of Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) has not even been considered as an option for addressing this disaster.  Instead our government has sent the military, with guns and all,  to take up positions in a foreign nation.  Essentially, we have used this crisis as a pawn in the international geo political chess game with China in Africa.

My heart aches to be in Africa assisting, yet all attempts to get there have been dashed.  Evidently those who wish to respond with years of training are not needed.  Inside I weep as I consider the lives being needlessly lost.  Unable to put my compassion into action I am also lost.

Deep inside me in a private place, I wonder if the faces of those dying were white, would the response be the same? The conclusion I come to is shameful! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

End Of The World

Today is the end of the world and it will hopefully be a great event.

 May the violence end 

May the bigotry end

May the destruction of our planet end

May the vicious divisions in our nation end

May the need to satisfy nationalist pride before addressing human suffering end 

All endings breed beginnings

May compassion centered communication begin

May understanding between individuals, cultures and nations begin

May cooperative efforts to live sustainably begin

May world peace, once only a slogan, begin

May each of use share our blessings with all of humanity, each in service to the other. Welcome to the

 New World

Monday, December 3, 2012

Embracing Wal-Mart Pagans

Often, I am taken by surprise when Pagans begin to take the moral high ground in their interactions with other Pagans. Political correctness assaults and victimizes ever more members of our community and as a community we sit in silence, crossing our fingers, that we will not be the next individual to “slip up” and speak plainly.

The victimizing is not intentional, it is the result of the false belief that others “should” believe as we do. In a lot of ways Paganism has a lot of growing to do before we truly learn to work cooperatively.

Personally I have friends who shop at Wal-Mart, support the death penalty, work for Monsanto, support Republicans, think the use of military force is a great way to establish democracy and support cracking down on pot smokers.  As a product of the counter culture revolution I find these beliefs and actions to conflict with my personal beliefs. I DO NOT, however, find the individuals holding them lacking in humanity or Pagan conviction.

As a Pagan I am growing alarmed at the tendency of our community to engage in the very tactics that have been used in the suppression of our beliefs: namely establishing those who disagree as ‘the other, separate and apart from Paganism”.

I have seen the language of opposing privilege used to stifle all debate and label individuals who have differing views.  Even more insidious is the intellectually dishonest tactic of claiming “what you are saying or what you mean is” Such statements would not survive in a Junior High debate class, yet they are routinely used in debate in our community. I have seen supporters of all sorts of causes claim that to not join them is tantamount to supporting those who they are opposing.

When I was a boy my father taught me to “Say what I mean and mean what I say” I attempt to live by this, does it make me politically correct? no, it makes me direct,  which some people consider rude or being an A@#$*, or “not listening”; because if I was really listening I would agree.

I will work for peace in our time and I will have friends who are in the military. I will not shop at big box stores and I will continue to have friends who do. I will oppose the death penalty and still have dinner with those who support it, I will refuse to buy Monsanto products and still hold dear my friend who works there.  Frankly, taking the so-called “Moral high ground” and labeling others is divisive and demonstrates a lack of compassion.

There are many worthy causes in our time. You have those you believe in and I have those I believe in, yet we are both of the GODDESS, both perfect just as we are.  I will continue to inform others of what I think is important, but I will not join in and label those who disagree as my enemy, they are my sisters and brothers. I love all the Pagans, Wal-Mart Pagans included.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Being Fundamentally Flawed

Yes it is true, I consider myself an individual broken, fundamentally flawed in oh so many ways.  I am, I believe, just as the Goddess intended me to be.  For too long our wider society has emphasized the need for absolute competence, lack of insecurity and bold confident action.

For decades I have known this about my self. I have known that my failures belong to me alone.  With each defeat, I have had reinforced the secret knowledge that the outcome has been due to my own ignorance or laziness or feelings or fear, or, or, or. Yes I am flawed and it is in my flaws that my humanity is manifest. Now don’t think that I am succumbing to some monotheistic idea of the fallen nature of man. I believe I am a better person for my flaws, just as the Goddess intended me to be.

The Gods I follow are also flawed; many having engaged in the very behaviors that tend to create disasters in my personal life.  Gaia herself, is also flawed. With each natural disaster I respond to I witness the destruction of so much that is divinity manifest, so much beauty destroyed.

After reading the many recent posts in the community about why our community is so contentious, I wonder why so many expect that those who step forward to write or lead, be flawless, humanity removed?  How is it that we who profess to venerate deities who have very human flaws expect our community members to not reflect their humanity in statements, actions and thoughts?

Maybe, just maybe, it is time we added a dash of compassion, a teaspoon of empathy, a pinch of understanding and a large dose of reality to the cauldron of Pagan expectations and brew up a new more open and workable discourse in our community. A discussion that embraces our shared humanity as an expression of the Divine.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dear Son,

There are those who say people are Sheep or Wolves.

It’s best to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Use your instincts to protect others, be strong yet compassionate, avoid violence, act instead with strength of character.

There are those who cling to the rules.

Life requires that we all follow some blueprint for acceptable behavior.

At times you will be confronted with the choice of following the rules or doing what is right, blindly following rules can lead to a hardening of the heart. Do what is right and be willing to pay the price for your action. It is better to be able to sleep at night with an untarnished soul.

There are those who will judge your mistakes.

Acknowledge when you have made a mistake, take responsibility for your actions, and be willing to pay the penalty. Yet, once done with the process allow no one to bind you or your reputation to the past. Let go, act boldly in building a better life and worldview.

There are those who will seek to control what you believe.

When seeking your truth pay more attention to those asking questions than those providing answers. Your beliefs belong to you alone.

There are those who will point out the differences in people.

Focus on what all people have in common, this leads to compassion. Attempts to establish people as different or the “other” lead to fear prejudice and hate.

There are those who will insinuate that money and power are the measures of success.

Kind words, warm hearts, good friends, compassion, truthfulness and a loving family are the real measures of success.

Dear Son,

Enjoy your life

Monday, June 27, 2011

Divine Manifestation Shared

Leaving PSG this year there was much discussion of the transition back to the “real” world. After an entire week of open hearts, open communication, ritual experience and embracing the divine we return to our daily lives. In this discourse there is also a myth ingrained in our community that it is within tribe that we find our fullest spiritual insight and expression.

As we packed our gear many also seemed to be metaphorically packing away the experiences of the entire week. This process denies a principle that is central to my belief system; the divine is present in everything, including our daily lives. If we compartmentalize our wonderful Pagan experiences how do we hope to set the example that life is a manifestation of the Goddess, that all peoples are deserving of the same openness and trusting communication practiced at Pagan events.

Today I return to work, it is my intention to bring the lessons reinforced at PSG and speak to all with a sense of compassion, love and understanding. If I were to pack these things away with my gear they would add up to little more than a self centered indulgence, a setting apart of my self and our community as ”the other” manifesting only a brief flash of what humanity is capable of if people of all faiths recognize the divine within.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lessons from Texas

Writers in the Pagan community often confront attempts in the media to single out the Pagan community as “the other”. This process enables people to view our community as separate and not deserving of the protections that all Americans enjoy.  My recent experience in responding to a disaster in a small Texas town was enlightening as to how this very process that we resist at every opportunity has subtly entered into my own thinking.

Jefferson Davis County in far southwest Texas is certainly a bastion of conservative thought and culture.  Being there for three weeks felt like I had stepped back in time three decades.  So what was this far left wing Wiccan doing in this cistern of extremist thought?  Learning about the unity of humanity in crisis.

At home each day I read about conservative attempts to restrict the rights of women, children, religious minorities and Mother Earth herself.  I read and become enraged, sign petitions, write articles and rally my friends in resistance. The conservative agenda has become the well-funded enemy with which I do battle.

On a hot and windy day in Fort Davis Texas I meet a young man and his five-year-old son.  His truck featured stickers proclaiming his support for the NRA and George Bush.  In casual conversation I learn that the fire I am responding to has reduced his home to ash.  His strength and positive attitude is admirable.  As he expresses his appreciation for all the firefighters who have responded to this emergency, I begin to wonder about my own beliefs about who and what it is that I am so focused on defeating.  Certainly, this humble man walking in dignity after a great loss is not my opponent.

Have I engaged in the same kind of thinking that I so abhor?  A re-examination of my thought process is certainly in order.   As in all wars, in this war of ideas we risk becoming the thing we are attempting to defeat.   Maybe the solutions we seek are in a more compassionate approach, the understanding smile, the strength of unity of purpose and intent.   Have I lost my ability to view those with whom I disagree as others following their path in pursuit of what they believe is right and just?  No, yet it is a precipice I nearly tumbled over.

There is no “other” only humanity

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Musings of a Dianic Male

Ok, so the statement “Dianic male” may seem unusual but the experience of living with a Dianic Witch for eight years has profoundly affected my practice as a Witch. Living for many years where there were no other Pagan groups than the local Dianic Coven left me with a treasure trove of experiences that have shaped my beliefs about the craft in general.

Participation with this group has included attending open rituals, living with them in camps at Pagan festivals and developing strong relationships with the coven members over the years. Many of these women have become my loved sisters whose wisdom and friendship I cherish dearly.

What have I learned? First, being the partner of a strong Dianic Witch is not for everyone. Second, all of us have and continue to be influenced by the patriarchal society in which we live. Third that service to the Goddess can take many forms and that power, dominance and the need to direct have no place in my worship of the Goddess.

In service to this group there have been many opportunities to get to know the “new” male partners of coven members. With each meeting a conversation ensued about the nature of a relationship with coven members. These interactions tended to include how strong this group of women are, the need to be willing to support and serve their activities without attempting to influence and how a strong sense of the masculine self is required to remain grounded in these relationships. One by one I have witnessed these individuals struggle with these issues and move on in their lives seeking new partners and experiences.

Setting up camp, tearing down camp, planning the days activities, preparing meals, planning open rituals or just informal gatherings, all these activities are lead by powerful women. Some men just are not prepared to truly participate in a culture where the leaders are women. In this there is no judgment. All of us are affected by the messages of the broader society and I have many times had to examine my own reactions when excluded from the decision making process. Each time it has been my ability to access members of the coven and discuss these feelings that has allowed me to grow and transcend patriarchal attitudes and beliefs.

As an observer I have witnessed how the coven operates and seen what happens when a male voice is raised in the decision making process. Generally there is a shift of energy from a collaborative process to one focused on influence and power. It is not just the male voice that represents this change but the behavior of the coven members also. This experience has given me insight into the sacred nature of Dianic tradition. Each of us, male and female, is a product of our experience. In reclaiming the sacred feminine strong women need the space to express their power in an environment that puts little value on conflict, force and other patriarchal traits and great value on the feminine principles of compassion, understanding, communication and sisterhood.

All this is not to say that I do not value the sacred masculine. As a member of the community I have been involved in many groups where my skills, abilities and masculine energy have been of service to the community. As an individual that identifies with the heavily male influenced “warrior” archetype, it has been my privilege to be of service as a guardian, healer, and administrative leader. Yet, when I wish to contribute it is through the eyes of the Goddess that I attempt to view situations and tasks. This approach allows me to proceed with compassion and be mindful that in service to the Goddess it is my first responsibility to act in a manner that honors the entire community.

Within Dianic tradition there is the concept of “the Kouretes” who are considered the male equivalent of the Dianic Priestess. “One of their roles is to help women create their Sacred Space, then to leave, and guard against other men interfering with the Sacred Womyn's Mysteries.” This is a role that it has been my honor to fulfill.

All this leaves me to wonder how can I also support men in my community who are partnered with strong Dianic Witches. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me.

Support the reclaiming of the sacred feminine by supporting your partner and her coven in any way you can. It can be a deeply meaningful experience to witness this manifestation of a principle that our community is based on.

Develop your own practice within the community where you can participate and develop and reclaim your own sacred masculine energy.

Take the opportunity to examine your own beliefs and actions around conflict, power, control and leadership. You have at hand a community that is an example of how powerful compassion, trust, communication and the sacred feminine can be.

While I am highly eclectic in my practice as a Witch, the Dianic influences I have experienced hold great meaning for me. Being associated with women of this tradition has taught me many valuable lesions in my quest to honor the Goddess. I am ever grateful too all my Dianic sisters.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Compassion, - It’s not just for your friends anymore

Much of my time lately has been spent considering the concept of compassion and its power to set humanity on a new course. As part of this interest I have been focusing on the examples of compassion that I see in my daily life. This experience has been an eye opener.

While I have witnessed many examples of compassion between friends and members of communities, much less common are examples of compassion expressed for those outside our comfort zones. Inherent in the understanding of compassion as a spiritual principle is the ability to apply it to “The Other”. This concept requires that we direct compassion to those who are different than ourselves in religion, race, culture, economic status, nationality, political ideology, gender identity etc.

As a Pagan, my heart breaks when I hear stories of Pagan children being tormented for their beliefs. This reaction, however, is not a reflection of spiritual compassion, only my normal human tendency to empathize with those with whom I share a commonality. Spiritual compassion is not the same as the emotional response we feel when a member of our community experiences a tragedy.

As the concept of compassion for “others” becomes more central to my thinking, every thing I do begins to be informed by it. Compassion is at its most powerful when expressed in support of those whom we have very little in common. Knowing this I had to ask myself some hard questions.

Am I as passionate about the rights of other religions as my own?

As a straight man, am I ardent about other’s ability to freely and openly embrace their gender identity?

When I engage those on the political right, do I speak with respect, compassion and a willingness to listen?

Would I risk my life to save a stranger as I would my friends and family?

My answers to these questions and many more are helping me focus on the practice of compassion in my daily life. It is, however, a broader application of this principle that represents the best hope for humanity. In the end, we are one human community who must live together. To do this we as people, communities, nations, and religions must embrace compassion as the road to understanding, tolerance, cooperation and peace.

Peter Dybing

Withholding compassion from those you don’t know only leads to the inability to express it to those you do