Showing posts with label Peter Dybing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Dybing. 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, July 28, 2015

Boy Scouts Still Full Of Hate For LGBT Community

We awoke to great news The Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) have reversed course and have voted on a new policy that allows members of the LGBT community to be scout leaders.  From far and wide leaders of social justice focused organizations have published statements in support of this profound change in BSA policy.


Upon close inspection the new policy does not require troops that are excluding LGBT leaders to change their policy.  By creating an exception for troops sponsored by Catholic and Mormon churches the policy re affirms the right of troops to discriminate.  With more than 60% of BSA troops based at these churches the new policy allows the continued wholesale discrimination that has long been a center of BSA policy.

Essentially all the new policy does is say, those who wish to continue to discriminate have license to do so.  The only change is that troops not sponsored by these religious organizations no longer face sanctions if they have a gay leader in their organization.

Progress is not made by reaffirming the right of organizations to engage in homophobia. Progress is not made by continuing to disallow LGBT scout leaders to assume their rightful place in more than 60% of scout troops.  Progress is not made by engaging in a PR effort about BSA's inclusive policy while sweeping under the rug the continuation of hateful policies by the majority of scouting organizations.

Those posting their support for this new policy are well meaning people who want to see progress. They simply don't see how this effort is a sham designed to lesson the political pressure on the BSA while effectively making no changes in the core policy of the organization.

Simply stated scout troops are free to continue things as they always have been.  My sisters and brothers in the LGBT community deserve better.  It is my belief that liberal social justice organizations should reject this false "change" and continue to press for full inclusion as BSA policy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Discovering UUA Principles in Alaska

Being in Alaska is disorienting, living with 22 hours of sunlight brings one to appreciate what feels like a relentless Solstice.  Surrounded by boundless expanses of green it feels as if Gaia herself is holding onto the light; letting summer continue to hold sway upon the land in a never ending dance of joyous divinity.

All that grows stands at the foundation of mighty glaciers that remind those that behold the sight of a basic truth of nature, that the darkness arrives before the light in perpetuity.  Here the divine expressions of nature wash over the observer in powerful undulations that nourish ones understanding of the sacred.

This land holds her people as minor expressions of creation upon a landscape of powerful spirits that exist within its’ herds and wonderers of extraordinary size and power.  Here the bear is not simply a wild animal but the acknowledged master of a sacred expanse that stretches beyond the inner vision of even the most gifted shaman.

 Rivers teem with water spirits ever engaged in an annual journey that ultimately nourishes all the expressions of the Goddess that walk the land. To journey by water is to reach back to a time when this earth existed as divinity intended to manifest it.  Mountains stand century upon seashores that have existed since long before humans started to worship the achievement in grandeur that surrounds bountiful seas. 

There is humility here for humanity. One is overcome with a sense that it is we who have distorted nature: repurposed it for our own destructive and immoral benefit.  It is in standing among the dense forests of green that humans can truly grasp our small place as a single thread in the cloth of diversity that the Goddess has woven.

Here one can stand in full awe and awareness of one of the purposes of the UU community. “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life”

Upon this landscape one understands that the “forces, which create and uphold life” are so expansive that a right relationship with nature includes an understanding of how humans must return to their intended place as just one of Gaia’s creatures.

I am Blessed

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

UUA’s Future Lies With CUUPS

Gazing around the circle in my local CUUPS group I see an amazing diversity of ages represented. Young people fully engaged in seeking truths that transcend the values of our over culture. My heart is warmed

Paganism is growing, with each generation more people become engaged in the many paths that encompass our collective identity. Young leaders emerge and set their sights on a spiritual life that has meaning beyond the experiences’ of their parents.  These seekers embrace our non-hierarchal approach to relationship with divinity.

Fast Forward to Sunday Morning

As I sit in my local UUA congregation it is evident that the membership is predominantly retired individuals. Across the US churches are experiencing the same demographic shift in membership.  It is not so much that membership is shrinking due to less young people attending but the fact that people become more religious as they age. As the Baby Boomers age the population of individuals joining congregations is shrinking. 

According to ABC News  “The biggest gap is between the oldest and youngest age groups. Sixty percent of people age 65 and older report attending religious services at least once a week; among 18 to 30-year-olds, just 28 percent go that often. Previous ABCNEWS polls, similarly, have found that religious belief and practice increase with age.”

All this got me to thinking about the tremendous responsibility that comes with being an emerging demographic within the UUA fold.  If our institutions are to flourish and survive we collectively have a responsibility to become active, engage the wider congregation, bring to the table our ability to expand what full UUA membership means to include support of those who have so openly welcomed us among them.

 Without CUUPS and other groups that attract younger followers UUA congregations will shrink while maintaining their established infrastructure continues to be more costly.  Is it not our responsibility as spiritual sisters and brothers to support those who have provided us sacred space and honored our beliefs?

So I urge you my fellow CUUPS members, become active within your hosting church, demonstrate that we collectively understand how important we are to the future of Unitarian Universalism.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Alaska Wildfires, A Fireline Pagan Experience

My mind is muddled with images as I drive through Willow Alaska on my way to a new assignment. Images of lost Pagan land and all the energy expressed there affect me deeply. While I never visited what local Pagans call "the land" I know well the deep and sacred connections our communities develop with these sites that are filled with the energy of rituals and drum circles manifested by our honored ancestors and current community members.  The sight of the burned trees reduced from proud centurions of nature to burnt toothpicks brings tears to my eyes. I have seen many such places in my life, yet this stand of trees, being connected to sacred space stirs emotion.

The seven hour drive from the Yukon to Anchorage was a long one. After two weeks as part of the effort to suppress the Aggie Fire, now 20,000 acres, I am exhausted.  As of today the fire still burns and another team has taken command of the effort.  The tasks undertaken in support of our firefighters have been complex, the dynamic changing environment of wildfire makes logistical support of the effort like trying to fit together puzzle pieces from a vast array of pieces left on a preschool floor. Even determining where it is safe to feed the firefighters on a given day is a moving target dictated by fire behavior.  The Aggie Fire ran another 5,000 acres two days ago, homes were evacuated and fire resources were stretched to their limit.

Fire behavior in stands of Black Spruce is extreme. Even after days of rain, with just a few hours of drying, the inferno explodes and consumes more of the dense and lush forest.  It is always humbling to witness the power of fire and the heroism of those who respond.  Yet, there is always sadness and a flood of inner tears for those who lose homes, places of employment and sometimes entire villages. This work both nourishes my spirit and erodes my ability to focus on other aspects of my life. Driven by compassion for the land, it's people and the broader impacts of fire, I often find myself mentally and spiritually exhausted.  There is something unique about being a Pagan firefighter. it is almost as if I can hear the land crying out, demanding that humanity collectively do something to address the damage we continue to do!  Gaia weeps and my desire to act is watered by her tears.

Willow Fire

The smoke plums are intense, each night the smoke settles in fire camp and we all attempt to sleep in an environment of 24 hour light and choking smoke. My passion for this life is intense, yet the shared hardship bands us together in an effort to accomplish something beyond individual human ability, tame a miles long swath of fire manifested as if from a dragons mouth.

My drive ended with a new assignment working for the state wide logistical command center. For now, I am away from the flames, yet last night I fell asleep worrying about my sisters and brothers still on the fire line. Won't you join me in sending energy and prayers their way. This fight is long from over and any and all spiritual and magical support can only help!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Racist In Me

Once again our nation is hit by a violent terrorist attack with clear racist motivations. The perpetrator is a 21 year old white resident of South Carolina. The internet is alive with debate about the root nature of the attack. Conservatives attempt to paint the incident as an attack against Christianity. Post after post refer to the attacker as a "troubled youth".  The clear dialectic between how our nation views whites and people of color is clear.

When a black youth is arrested the media refers to them as a "thug" or a "Man," yet when the offender is white the language used clearly paints the offender as "mentally ill,' troubled, or a misguided youth.

As I read the plethora of stories it occurs to me that there is a personal "Mea Culpa" in all of this. You see if I honestly examine my own reaction, I am as guilty as the media is. In my private thoughts this offender looks like me, my brain seeks an explanation, my compassion is triggered by recognizing the individual as similar in appearance to myself.  Frankly these thoughts sicken me!

This is privilege, insidious, always present and in need of being confronted. Our nation will not change until people across the country are able to look at their own reactions and have an internal conversation about the thought processes that occur which lead to racism, discrimination and unjustified systematic violence directed at people of color.

Collectively people have greater empathy for people we perceive as somehow like ourselves. This is a part of human nature that needs to be confronted. If we ignore these feelings we move from a person with privilege to a perpetrator of adverse racism. Ultimately, the idea that people are blind to color is a cancerous concept that allows the continuation of a racist culture that has no hope of becoming just, equitable and based on reality.

Yes, when I look at photos side by side of a young black man and a young white man my unconscious tendency is to have more empathy for the individual who looks like me.  It is in my personal awareness of this that I am able to balance the scales and develop a realistic view that does not oppress people.  Racism and privilege live in every Americans psyche, our collective challenge is to admit and confront such thoughts.

Our nation has a cultural sickness as a result of decades of racism, we who profess to support justice and racial equality will never be successful unless we are able to confront our own part in this oppressive system.

It is difficult when addressing racism to confront our own unconscious contributions to the collective racist culture, yet there will be no progress until this becomes a personal issue for white Americans across the country.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

PSG, Blessed By Our Collective Ethic Of Mutual Aid

Flooded ritual greens at PSG [Photo credit: L. Dake] 

The photos are dramatic, This years PSG has been subjected to a flood. As a disaster responder I have witnessed many such events. Following the posts of those present and those witnessing from afar has been insightful.  How does a Goddess centered community respond when disaster strikes?  Simply stated, the response reflects the beliefs that we hold scared.

Post after post talks about the efforts of established infrastructure like the Guardians and PSG staff,  but even more is reflective of our communities natural instinct to engage in mutual aid when disaster strikes. These events, while dramatic, make clear that the very essence of the PSG gathering is real community that pulls together in the face of challenges.

Online posts from those not present offer support ranging from places to stay on the journey home to financial assistance to those most impacted.  All these efforts reenforce for me how important the PSG event is in demonstrating the collective values of our community. From offers of spiritual support to the more practical corporeal efforts this community is demonstrating how effective mutual aid is in the face of challenges.

Even more heartening are the reports coming out that reflect a positive experience in the mists of chaos. A little part of me is sad to be missing this chance to be of service and the outpouring of the love of the Goddess. May she bless all those affected and continue to bless them with the spirit centered mutual aid that is supporting hearts, spirits and the more logistical based needs

Selena Fox stands as a collective example of the hundreds of great Pagans in this community and their heart centered approach to collective magic when the community is affected by the power of the elements.

I am deeply saddened by these events, Yet, witnessing the response re-enforces for me why I consider PSG and Circle Sanctuary a spiritual home that reflects the best of what the Pagan community is.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Divine Circle, Being Touched by Divinity

I sit, observe and am overwhelmed by the sense that here in this moment my entire life is whole.  Conversations are animated, mutual respect and love are palpable and I am filled with an overwhelming joy.  My innermost heart is awash with a wellspring of satisfaction.  In this circle I am whole in a way I have never experienced before.

So some may ask where does someone experience such complete joy and self-actualization; among a group of accomplished elders maybe or possibly in service to humanity?   Well no, over this past weekend I have essentially returned to my first circle.  I have had the pleasure of witnessing generations of my family interact and learn about each other.

More than five decades ago I was born into this circle, the years have seen my core family unit spread across the nation. This weekend we gathered in Saint Louis and 26 of us re connected.  In the faces of small children I could see the legacy of my parents.  My sense that this is one of the seminal events of my life is strong.

There is no stronger or more spiritual circle then this one.  With 11 children attending it has been hectic, yet with each hug I am grounded, reminded that the circle of life from which we all spring is the very basis of my beliefs.  My personal experience is nearly ecstatic, compassion, love and insight flow like the waters of a great river ever seeking its destination and I am blessed.

This weekend my practice has been to return to the circle of my emergence, reflect on the sacred circle of life and wallow in my first community.  Surrounded by others who have vastly different beliefs than mine I am blessed by our collective diversity and remained that the wheel turns and ever replenishes its self.

In my family's faces I see the grand dance of creation and am honored by their presence in my life.  Filled with love I am blessed an unable to find the words to fully express my emotions. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Taking The First Step, The Activist At Home.

Activists shout from roof tops, lead emotional protests, confront government oppression, organize the mass feeding of the homeless, lobby Congress, confront animal shows for their treatment of their charges. Consistently those who engage are in our collective consciousness.

Within our faith communities we are urged to organize and implement actions that reflect our common vision of social justice.  Our leaders demonstrate passion in their efforts, we are inspired and join in seeking change in the world.

Let me, however, propose that the most effective activism springs not from our collective efforts but instead from our own first steps in confronting hatred, inequality, environmental destruction and economic disparity.

Simply stated,

Your actions in buying a meal for and sitting with a homeless person have a more profound effect on hunger, homelessness, and recognizing human dignity than all the committee meetings you may attend.

Your confrontation of hate speech you witness in the community will do more to eradicate bigotry than attending weekly Black Lives Matter marches ever will.

Your actions in announcing that you will not go to Sea World on your vacation will do more to save the whales than any dozen blog posts you may write on the subject.

Your decision to hire an individual with a criminal record will do more to stop the school to prison pipeline than all the petitions you may sign.

Your admonishment of someone you see littering will do more to save the environment than any vote you may cast to establish a recycling program.

Activism is about taking the first steps; engaging locally where we take some risk for our positions, where our actions help to establish new community ethics concerning social justice. These "First Steps" are the hard ones, we are alone, no committee of like minded individuals, no mass of protesters at our backs, no congregation of supporters, just you confronting that which offends your sense of social justice.

While all the collective actions listed above have great social value, it is our willingness to "Take the First Step" that establishes social justice as central to our identities, making us valuable and available to engage in broader action.

So today my friends I urge you to adjust your view of Social Justice, bring it a little closer, engage in your home, your work place, your community.  The first steps will be the hardest, attempting to skip them, however, only leads to hollow efforts at reform. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The UU Church and the Secret Pagans

It is a Sunday morning and my entire being is resistant to the situation I find my self in.  This Pagan who has circled thousands of times in celebration of divinity is sitting in a pew, row after row of individuals surround me.  I see a hymnal in front of me and all the memories of why I left organized religion flood back serving to further enhance the temptation to flee.

This Sunday morning I sit in respect for the local UU congregation that makes space for the CUPPS chapter I have joined.  It seems only right that I grant a measure of respect to those manifesting a space for my community to circle.  I have done hours of reading about the UU church and intellectually am in agreement with their ethics.

My Pagan identity is so strong that I wonder if this is the place for me, how can I engage in this service that looks and feels so much like that which I rejected in my youth?  As the service starts a chalice is lit and a song is referenced, I reach for the hymnal and am awash with memories of my youthful disconnect with divinity and meaning.

In this moment something happens, I focus on the words of the song and recognize the earth-based theology at its core. As the congregation sings, my hardened heart softens and I find my self singing , the sense of divinity is palpable, I am confused, here among the trappings of organized religion I am connected to divinity.

As the service progresses it is evident that the words spoken from the minister value diversity, compassion and social justice.  I am engaged, the sense that the Goddess is present is nearly ecstatic, and my confusion deepens.

As the service ends and I enjoy coffee and snacks with the membership, I am warmly greeted, informed of the many efforts the church is engaged in and made to feel welcome.

As I walk away I have one of the moments that I so cherish in my life, insight into my own preconceptions about religious identity flow from my core self.  The questions are profound.  For how many years have I excluded the worship practices of others from my personal practice?  Why has my engagement in interfaith activities always centered on “working with” people of other faiths instead of “worshiping with” those that simply call divinity by another name?

After a number of services I now feel part of this church, something I thought I would never say.  I cherish my Pagan circles but I will no longer see exclusivity of sacred space as a refuge but rather an artificial construct erected by my own desire to establish a self-limiting religious identity.  Secretly in my heart I consider the entire congregation I have joined as “Secret Pagans” embracing divinity with the same fervor and focus on social justice, as do I.  They simply have a different vocabulary for celebrating all that I hold sacred.

 Today I embrace both may Pagan identity and my membership in the UU church. It has always been my belief that all paths lead to divinity, I was just never aware how walking more than one path at a time can so clarify the divine's intention to hold all humanity as sacred.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Police Violence And The Schism In Our Community

Recently I posted an opinion on a Face Book post that expressed my solidarity with the movement to hold police accountable for their actions. Immediately an individual responded that I should “preach elsewhere”.  The following thread made it clear that some in our community feel that of you advocate for police accountability you are anti police.

This line of logic tempts people to believe that if you support accountability you are one of the bad guys.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I consider my position as pro police.  After viewing dozens of videos of police abusing restrained subjects who pose no threat, the very idea that confronting such behavior is “anti police” is misleading at best.

In my professional life I am often in the position of supervising a great group of federal officers, to a person they are professional, respectful and focused on the safety of the community. Opposing police violence is about supporting the great officers in our communities.  Daily, officers are faced with the toxic choice of supporting fellow officers who behave badly or loosing the respect of other officers for their choice to report abusive behavior.  This “thin blue line” ethic is destructive to other officers, our community and the overall reputation of police officers nation wide.

Each of us should guard against the kind of logic that urges us to disregard the facts in favor of an approach that blindly advocates for maintaining a system that is clearly in need of repair.  Answers are available, body cameras for police that have a 2-minute delay when turned off, support for officers who come foreword with reports of abuse and outside review boards that have no connection to involved departments are great places to start.

To those who oppose accountability I would say the same thing police officers say to suspects,” if you have done nothing wrong, there is nothing to fear from accountability.”

The current situation in which honest officers are afraid to report abuse must change.  When the day comes that dishonest officers are afraid of honest officers reporting them we will have established a policing system that reflects the values that our nation holds as important.

Today I stand in support of all the great police officers out there and will continue working towards the day when they have nothing to fear from a system that allows abusive officers to put them in situations that compromise their values.  It is my hope that, within our collective community, others will also acknowledge that what they are working towards is a day when interactions with the police stir no fear on the part of the community, only respect for the job they are doing.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Vicarious Trauma, Pagan Responders and the Nepal Disaster


"Vicarious trauma (VT) is a transformation in the self of a trauma worker or helper that results from empathic engagement with traumatized clients and their traumatic experiences. Its hallmark is disrupted spirituality, or a disruption in the trauma workers' perceived meaning and hope."

Over the past few days a small group of Pagan responders and other colleagues have been experiencing some dramatic reactions to the situation in Nepal. These reactions are directly tied to their experiences in disaster zones in the past. Simply stated we collectively share a level of empathy with the victims of this current disaster that transcends anything others are able to manifest.

Expressions on social media from those without these insights may rub us in the wrong way as we seek to help shape the communities response to this disaster. We know well the logistical, political and resourcing challenges that the disaster victims face. Our collective insights are based on having seen on the ground what works and what does not.  Pagan responders are not immune to hyper empathetic responses to events like these. Our insights can be very valuable at times like these, yet please understand that we have unique experiences that leave us with little tolerance for expressions that avoid direct support for the victims of this disaster.

Frankly, while as Pagans we value spiritual expressions that call for prayer, we also well know that what will make a difference is manifesting payers for the response, not prayers. With past direct exposure to the kind of suffering now taking place our hearts are broken by our inability to be there and bring our skill sets to the table. Perhaps one day our community will mature in such a way that we have a direct disaster response infrastructure. For now our collective hearts ache to take direct action.

Many have come forward asking about where to donate. While I have chosen to give money to a few organizations I have worked with in the past let me share some principles in giving.

1.  Small NGO's who were already on the ground prior to the disaster have established infrastructure enabling them to respond without having to establish complex logistical operations.

2. Very large NGO's generally have long response times due to their size. If you want to help now, giving to smaller organizations can insure your donation has a direct impact now.

3. Small villages away from the capital where there are few photo opportunities are in dramatic need of help. These communities do not provide NGO's with the ability to stir emotions among their supporters and as a result are most in need of help. Seek out those intending to provide responses to these communities.

Most of all, please understand as past Pagan disaster responders focus their attention on this issue; collectively our experiences lead us to be frustrated with social media, pictures of puppies and "which Rocky Horror Character are you" posts while we are seeking to focus the worlds attention on the suffering we know is happening. 

Our collective open hearts bleed for Nepal, we are unable to remove our thoughts from the disaster. If you have the desire to help, please give where you can, repost calls for action, help manifest a sustainable response that will save lives.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Change Starts Right Here, In Our CUPPS Groups

Over the years I became very frustrated with my Wiccan path.  I loved the people, yet our ritual structures had become static with dogma induced scripted formats that ignored advancements in social awareness.  This frustration eventually led me to leave the Wiccan fold and develop a more inclusive practice.

Specifically my frustration surrounded the continual use of gender beaneries in ritual practice. Circle members would all acknowledge and support the developing culture of gender fluidity and at the same time all their rituals continued to follow binary outlines.

Last night at our local CUUPS planning meeting for our Beltane event a ritual script was presented that reflected a traditional Wiccan approach.  Quarters, God, Goddess and the Great Rite; briefly I suggested we add a simple acknowledgement of gender variations prior to the Great Rite part of the ritual.  It was a simple suggestion that was readily accepted by the group. It read something like this.

“While we acknowledge the divine value of all expressions of gender identity today we celebrate the Grate Rite”

It is as simple as that; acknowledgement goes a long way in sending a message of sacred regard to those who would otherwise see our ritual as exclusive.  There was no need to erase the ritual as written, only a simple and honest statement of acceptance.

This ability to bring social justice to the spiritual table is one of the things I love about CUUPS.  In my experience we seek first to adjust our own relationship within the context of the intersectional relationship between divinity and social justice.

So my fellow CUUPS members, is there a place in your local CUPPS group to stand for diversity?  Do you also experience the ability to influence unconscious habits towards greater inclusion?  I would really like to believe that my experience reflects a collective ethic in CUUPS and not a singular experience. Let me know, I really am interested in your opinions.

Friday, April 17, 2015

CUUPS is Pagan Lite, So Untrue!

Profound spiritual experiences nourish my ability to connect with divinity.  Over the years as a Pagan I have belonged to many organizations, identified with multiple traditions and participated with a diverse group of Pagans.  Generally my spiritual cup has been overflowing over the years.

Recently as I have engaged as a “new” CUUPS member my expectations have been exceeded.  Many have pontificated on CUUPS as “Pagan lite”, with no central belief system or required degree system they see CUUPS as a place for the less serious.

My experience has been exactly the opposite.  Within my CUPPS chapter there are people following multiple paths, our rituals together reflect a silent tenant of CUPPS, that all paths have value in seeking divinity. 

It is this ethic that demonstrates the beauty of the CUPPS organization. Individuals are able to dig deeper, explore more and experience divinity without the fear of running into one of the various walls of dogma constructed over the years by various Pagan belief systems.

It is this sacred regard for all paths that allows CUUPS members to transcend disagreement over belief and focus energy on divinity in all its’ blessed manifestations.

Becoming a CUUPS member has enabled this long time Pagan to refocus on the sacred within all paths, to see divinity in the footprints of those who travel paths very unlike my own.  To release the age-old issues around what we collectively believe and engage my spirit in what we do!

I am grateful for these deeper insights and value dearly the intensely deep experiences that have come my way since joining CUUPS!

In Her Service,

Peter Dybing

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!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

No Guide Book For Pagan Elders

With much discourse occurring in the community about ageism, Elders and young Pagan Leaders conversations can be divisive.  It is important to consider that our Elders are the first generation manifesting an “Elder ethic” in our community.  As a group they are expected to know when to transition to the status of “Wise Elder” and leave community leadership to a younger generation.

These highly respected individuals are blazing a new trail, as the first generation to face these issues, en-mass; there are no reference points for them to follow in achieving these transitions.  They are protective of the organizations they have built and concerned that new Pagan leaders do not have the institutional background to fully embrace what is needed to insure the survival of what has been manifested by their generation.

Complicating matters is a new generation of what can be seen as ‘Generational Pagans, raised on the very ethics these Elders established, this generation is on fire.  New leaders are well educated and burning with a desire to manifest changes that will allow our community to embrace change in a way that make sure the community thrives well into the future.

Instead of establishing a dialectic, lets support our Elders and New Leaders in their struggle to transition leadership in our community. Respect Elders for their wisdom and at the same time expect that they will engage in a succession planning process that ensures that emerging leaders are allowed to drive discourse in our community towards advancements in tolerance, compassion and social changes that will benefit all of us.

If I say pro youth and you hear anti elder, examine your reaction!

If I express support for Elders and you see it as resistance to change, examine your reaction!

All generations have so much to offer; instead of a struggle for the heart of Pagondom, lets manifest a future together in mutual respect!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rethinking Our Choices, The Prison Industrial Complex

Much has been written about the school to prison pipeline.  Incarceration rates in our nation establish America as one of least free nations in the world.  When crime happens people have to decide to call the police or not.  The question I wish to pose here is; should there not be other options?  Must we support a system that is destructive to our collective culture in order to respond to individuals breaking social norms?

Story after story posted online over the past few months make it clear that calling the police can result in un-necessary escalation and can place even the caller at risk of being the victim of police excess. Individuals in the Trans Gendered community know well the fear that calling the police manifests. When they do so, they place themselves at risk of being arrested or beaten.

What would happen if communities manifested other options?  Collective community action to hold accountable perpetrators, engaging their families, friends and employers in plans to hold them accountable for their actions.

What would happen if communities established response teams for victims that would hold them safe from further violence, provide emotional support and help them receive emotional and financial compensation from those who victimized them?

What would happen if communities created programs that focused on restorative justice instead of punitive punishment?  Establishing a framework of community involvement that discards the ethic of “mind your own business?

It is clear that by only having a choice to call the police or not we are not serving our communities well, only supporting the perpetuation of a system that oppresses members of our community, victims and perpetrators alike.

So lets consider community based options, real solutions that manifest change beyond the destructive roles of the helpless victim and the demonized offender.

Lets have real choices that go beyond activating a system that is oppressive in its’ very nature!

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! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rejecting The Culture of Respectability, New Pagan Leadership

It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the evolution of our collective Pagan community, discussions about multiple uncomfortable issues have been processed both online and in local face to face conversations.  What strikes me most profoundly about these conversations is the incredible eloquence, insight and collective clarity of vision of what many have been calling “Young Pagans” 

Let me just briefly mention that this label of “Young Pagans” is, in my opinion, a misnomer.  Clearly when we are discussing these individuals it is our Elder centric culture that labels everyone under 45 as “young leaders”.  

Over and over I have witnessed “Elders” explain the realities of a diverse group of Pagan micro communities to these “Young Pagans” seeking change.  Essentially, the impression I get is of an established community defending what they have built and seeking to stave off the reality that it is these new Pagan Leaders that are manifesting real change that will ensure the flourishing of our collective communities.

These “new leaders” speak their truth directly; they have little concern for what Jason Thomas Pitzl, calls the “Culture of Respectability” that has manifested in our community. Their actions reflect the fact that a static community will enter a period of entropy if it does not continue to manifest positive social change, a sense of collective community and direct honest confrontation of the issues that infect our collective tribes.

Frankly, I am impressed with their passion, their willingness to proclaim an enlightened viewpoint with out regard to who it might offend.  These so-called “Young Pagans” are the Pagan movement; they have transcended the accomplishments and structures built by the proceeding generation.

 Our communities' Eders laid the foundations of their work, something they all deserve respect for.  Today however, these same Elders seem unable to embrace the reality that they carry many attitudes and ideas that if allowed to prevail will begin to eat away at the very community they so cherish.

Simply stated, the views, ideas and actions that I most respect in our community are all coming from this new generation of Pagans who will not tolerate a community which bases its’ actions on a culture of respectability. The widespread ethic of “play nice” that resulted from the “witch wars” that occurred during the formative years of our community has become an insidious barrier to real discussion and the evolution of our community.

While I am always cautious to engage the word “leaders”, I do believe that the current people who I respect  the most for their leadership abilities are from these emerging generations.  It seems to me that it is time for established Elders to pass the responsibility of leadership to these individuals and stop framing them as “young leaders”.  They are the best of us, willing and able to take our community into a future that is more inclusive and reflective of our Pagan values.

We need our Elders for their wisdom, knowledge and temperance. They command our respect, yet the time comes when actively steering our community into the future should be left to those who have a clearer view of the future rather than the past.

It is my intent to focus what limited voice I have on ensuring that these passionate, focused and effective Pagans are encouraged to continue steering our community forward in the direction of their collective vision of a healthy, dynamic and inclusive community