Category Archives: spirituality

Grateful for Gratitude

A few weeks ago I decided to start a gratitude journal.  Instead of getting caught up in the highs and lows of my bipolar disorder I figured I’d redirect my focus and look at the good things working for me in life.  There was just one problem; I didn’t count on something getting in the way.  That something is borderline personality disorder.

In addition to my bipolar disorder I have a daily struggle to keep myself balanced because of my BPD.   In short, having borderline personality disorder means that I have a hard time living a life of balance.  It is my disorder inside a disorder and it can make life very complicated for me.  BPD is the reason I often overreact to any given situation and have ongoing unhealthy relationships and thought patterns.  I typically only see life in terms of black and white not realizing that life is full of areas of gray.  I tend to fly off the handle at seemingly benign situations and my interactions with people are often based on pure emotion which, in and of itself, is quite detrimental to living life on an even keel.  Borderline personality disorder can also make it hard for me to balance my emotions and react appropriately to them.  For instance, I can get happy about something good happening to me and instead of just being content with the situation; I may go out and spend money that I really can’t spare as a reaction to it.  If something upsets me I may go into a deep depression and start toying with thoughts of self-harm or even suicide.  Often when a relationship is unhealthy or toxic I may still try to keep the relationship going because; in my thought process, some relationship is better than no relationship.

Earlier I said that this is my disorder inside of a disorder; let me explain.  Bipolar disorder is characterized by intense highs and lows, mania and depression, light and dark.  Well borderline personality makes these instances even more intense. I often suffer from extended periods of anxiety and I have trouble with major bouts of low self-esteem and overall self-loathing.  The mania and depression of my bipolar disorder are made more intense as a result of my BPD.  Already being overly stimulated, borderline personality disorder can make me appear like the Incredible Hulk when it comes to emotions.  One minute I’m fine and the next minute, after seeing a disturbing story on the evening news, I’m a wasted pile of tears and despair.  I know, this may sound extreme but that’s the nature of borderline personality disorder.  BPD is a constant struggle to maintain emotional equilibrium and avoid unhealthy situations and relationships.

I say all of this to make the point that starting a gratitude journal was more of a challenge than I ever thought it would be.  Because my view of reality is often skewed, it’s hard for me to be mindful and find things to be grateful for since I’m always in an extreme emotional state.  This being true, I was even more determined to be able to use mindfulness and find things in life to be grateful for no matter how small or mundane.  Even though mentally I tend to be in a state of flux, I have to realize that if I can compose myself and focus I’ll be able to see that there is just plain good in life.  I’ve decided that I will be grateful despite my diagnosis and I’m going to start that journal no matter what.

 

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Getting Out Alive

Getting out alive

My spirit is full

and I’m running from myself

I meet me around every corner I turn

and the disappointment grows stronger

minute by minute

I’m looking for that one thing that will

save me from myself

on this journey that never ends

The road gets longer the more I travel

Where is my freedom? I beg the question

Crying out for salvation

exhausted and abused with no one

to

break my fall

now I am confounded and confused

my heart is broken

This moment feels like forever

The darkness is the brightest thing I see

Sneaking up behind myself I am startled

by the realization of my sorrow

in all its majesty reigning

over the kingdom of my plight

I have struggled long enough

and my resolve is gone

finally I give in and lie down

with the melancholy of my truth

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Losing My Religion

What’s wrong with Wicca?  That’s what I’ve been asking for nearly four years now.  I have yet to get an acceptable or plausible answer to my question.  I arrived at this endpoint of being a practitioner of The Craft not through hasty decisions or following the novelty of a thing; I did much research and asked a lot of questions before I embarked on the road of the Old Ways.  This was not something that I did or do take lightly.  The step to Wicca was a very sacred thing for me.

I grew up in a Christian home the youngest of three girls with a single mother.  It was required of us to attend church with my mother until we were 18-years old or we moved out on our own.  Over the years I never questioned my mother’s religious or spiritual leadership nor did I ever question what church we would attend.  I guess it could be said that I was following my mother along her spiritual journey without even a thought as to tending to my own.  Throughout my life I’ve been a member of several different denominations; the Disciples of Christ, Baptist, African Methodist Episcopalian and, finally and most recently, I was baptized as a convert to the Catholic Church.

I’d studied religion quite a bit but I never really committed to one or the other fully.  Of course with my upbringing Christianity was pretty much inherent in me even along my search for the perfect fit.  I think that for too long I was caught up in the religiosity of religion more so than the looking for the satisfaction in my spirit and the relationship with the God I was searching for.

When my mother passed away prematurely I became very angry with God as I identified God at that time.  I searched the Bible, televangelists, gospel songs, Eastern philosophy and anyone or anything else I could get my hands on for answers to why my mother would be ‘taken’ from me at such a crucial part of my life.  At this time I was gravitating towards Eastern philosophy because it seemed to hold the most answers for me but, after a while, even that wasn’t working.  I truly felt like a lost soul.

For many years after my mother’s death I claimed no allegiance to any sort of religion or philosophy or spiritual path.  I gathered a hodgepodge of practices and did the best I could with my spiritual yearnings.  Through my studies I had heard about Wicca but I had never given it much thought.  Like many other people I equated it with little more than witches, magic and spells.  I did know that it was a sort of nature religion but as for the other things; I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Image result for images of wiccan symbols

I had a co-worker who I knew was a practicing Wiccan.  I never thought to ask him about his beliefs until one day when we were having a casual conversation about religion/spirituality when I got the nerve to start asking questions.  I was still a bit hesitant but I was curious.  I started doing research and reading anything I could find about The Old Ways.  The more I read and discovered the more increased my affinity to this path of spirituality.

To go back a bit, for a large portion of my life there was some sort of draw to the Catholic Church for me.  I was drawn to the ritual; the way Holy Communion was shared, the act of confession, the reverence for the Saints and even the Rosary.  I liked the observation of the different times of the Catholic calendar and the attention to the various Christian holidays.  It wasn’t until I started researching and learning about Wicca that I found how closely the two resembled one another.  When I got even deeper into my exploration of Wicca I learned why these two things looked so similar and why I was feeling Wicca in my spirit.

When The Church was organized there was a very large pagan population.  These people were primarily agrarian and they lived their lives observing ancient practices and rituals that had been handed down to them from generation to generation.  Being agrarian it was important for them to be in tune to the seasons, the phases of the sun and the moon and, more importantly, to the land.  The ways handed down to them were a guide for their way of life.  Not only were they a guide but they were also a systematic observance of the divinity in all things nature and man’s place in the world.  The goal of this belief system is to live in harmony with the world around us.

The Church, in an effort to convert these people, revamped many of their holidays and festivals, known as Sabbats and Esbats, so as to draw them in while letting them still have a semblance of what they were used to.  This is the reason there is so much similarity between the two.

One of the most widely observed holidays, Christmas, comes from the pagan Sabbat Yule or the winter solstice which takes place approximately December 20-23.  This holiday celebrated Mother Earth giving birth to the Sun.  It was a time to give gifts and lighting a Yule log and decorating with holly and mistletoe.  All of these practices were adopted by the Catholic Church.

Another major holiday, Easter, coincides to the Pagan Sabbat, Ostara, which is a festival of fertility, new birth and a time to celebrate the earth coming alive again.    It is also a time of new beginnings and a time to plant.  This was a colorful and happy time of celebration.

Lughnassadh is yet another festival incorporated into The Church.  This holiday is celebrated in August and is a time of baking cakes and harvesting wheat.  It is also a time of feasting and a time to begin storing for the winter when the earth sleeps until Spring.  Though originally celebrated in August this time was ultimately moved to November and became what we now know as Thanksgiving.

Halloween is also a holiday that has its roots in the Old Ways.  Halloween comes from the pagan Sabbat of Samhain.  During this time animals were killed to have food stored up for winter.  It was a time of sacrifice and, according to pagan ways, a time to observe the death of God who would be reborn during Yule.  It is at this time that the veil between the planes of the living and the dead is the thinnest and this is a good time to make contact with deceased loved ones.

Over the centuries The Church incorporated more and more of the pagan ways as a means to convert the people of the land until it was, eventually, unlawful to practice the Old Ways.  It was, quite simply, because of this that these practices went underground due to fear of prosecution or even death.

When it was introduced back into society after being underground for centuries there were many misconceptions about the truth of Wicca, it is for this reason that clarification is necessary.   Following Wicca does not mean bashing of other spiritual practices or religions.  Quite the contrary, Wicca is about kindness towards all people and recognition that we are all a part of the divine in the world.  Wicca is about reverence for nature and all of God’s creatures and elements.  Wicca is about recognizing God in all things and in all people.  Now, yes, some of us do practice spells however these are not directed to interfere with anyone’s free will or to cause any type of harm.

Wicca is not about worshiping Satan; it is not about animal or human sacrifices and it is definitely not a cult.  Practiced in its true, original form it is about love and harmony for all and in all.

My spirit was never as content in my past as it is now.  Wicca has taught me so much about love and tolerance and harmony with the world.  Every day I grow closer and closer to the earth and all the creatures in it.  I have a tolerance for other people and other religions and spiritual paths like never before and I have no need to be better than this person or that person or to try and put my beliefs above someone else’s.  I am learning to be a better human being, a better sister and a better member of society.

So I ask again; what’s wrong with Wicca?

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A Perfect Bowl of Fruit

I am by no means a dogmatic Christian or, what some may call, a Jesus freak, quite the contrary.  I am more of a spiritual person who can appreciate many different religious/spiritual philosophies.  I respect the Noble Truths of Buddhism, the tenets of Wicca, the Vedas of Hinduism and the ritual of Catholicism.  Since I do consider myself more of a spiritual person I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a Christian pamphlet that had a subject matter right up my spiritual alley.  This little publication ultimately has made a positive addition to my life.

The pamphlet was about a much-taught passage from the Bible that discusses a set of characteristics that can be attained by following the life of Jesus Christ.  These characteristics are known as the fruits of the Spirit.

Paul instructs the people “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.” (New International Version, Gal 5:22-23).

The pamphlet spends a great deal of time explaining these verses.  It explores understanding them in the context of the place and time they were written, the author of the epistle where the verses are found and even what was going on in the timeline of organized Christianity.  All of this information is very interesting and written in a very accessible manner; I did read the entire thing.  However I found myself drawn to the discussion on how the afore mention fruits can be a part of life.  The pamphlet explains that these fruits are a blessing to the person who has them and not all fruits are given to all people to the same degree.  Most importantly, they are not an absolute.

“The first important thing to understand about the fruit of the Spirit is that   it is fruit of the Spirit.  …They are the Spirit’s.  We must understand that these characteristics are produced by the third person of the Trinity.  He is the agent, the source, and the power that grows the fruit” (Campbell 9).

Now this really caught my attention because even though I am quite familiar with the Bible as a text I’d never before seen or thought about this passage in this way.  I’d always assumed that you either “grew” these fruits or you didn’t and I thought that only Christians would even exhibit them in such a righteous manner.  I also believed that all Christians were gifted with all these characteristics together.  To my great satisfaction the more I read the more the smile on my face grew because I’d been mistaken.

“Indicative and imperative are ten-dollar words that simply mean the difference between an observation of the way things are (indicative) and a command or instruction to do something (imperative).  The significance of this shouldn’t be overlooked.  This means that the fruit of the Spirit is not a to-do list.  Fruit grows from the Spirit.  It’s not the result of our hard work or discipline, it’s not a list to check off when we feel we’ve “got it down”.  It’s not even a list to put on our wall to remind ourselves of things we need to work on.  It’s not a list of imperatives—commands for us to follow.  It’s a list of indicatives—it’s just the way things are” (Campbell 9-10).

That’s when it hit me that I could have some fruit too.  These characteristic are, quite simply, the way we should all act as members sharing this planet and towards one another as members of humanity if we believe in any sort of Higher Power.  Who couldn’t use a little more self-control in their life?  Couldn’t we all stand to be a bit more loving, peaceful and patient?  Really these characteristics could be useful to us all at some time or another.

I want this fruit in my life and I know I can have it.  I want this fruit not just for myself but so I can share it with others.  Regardless of religion or spirituality I see incorporating these characteristics in my life as a win-win kind of thing.

Now whenever a person or situation seems to be seeping into my psyche or being trying to unnerve me, I think back to the fruits of the Spirit and tell him or her or it to just stop eating my fruit.

*Referenced work  Live Free A Fresh Look at the Fruit of the Spirit Our Daily Bread Ministries  Constantine R. Campbell

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