Spirituality, Privilege and the Laws of Nature

Some of you might know that besides being a professional psychic and spiritual teacher I work part-time as a counselor and youth group facilitator at the local LGBTQ center. Nothing like regularly working with kids and young adults who suffer from serious depression, PTSD and dissociation to keep you and your spirituality grounded. It regularly makes me reevaluate what works and what doesn’t in terms of spreading awareness, health and empowerment through my teachings and perspective. It makes me perceive my own privileges better – and challenges me to figure out how to let this understanding inform my spirituality and my work.

See, I’d love to just sign up for ‘positive focus’ as the feel good drug of choice at any time. The problem is that is doesn’t work for most people on earth, because being able to maintain positive focus for even a couple of minutes isn’t as much about commitment and will as it is about privilege. Most people on earth aren’t that privileged.

Privilege means that you are given certain rights and can expect certain benefits and treatment in life which aren’t available to most other people. Especially not for other people who don’t look , love and pray as you do.

circle of different shoes in various colors, but of the same size (diversity)In most cases privilege is so commonplace among the members of a privileged group that they don’t even realize the benefits they are granted as special. They simply assume that having these things, being treated that way and finding yourself represented in the media and government is a normal experience for everyone. They don’t perceive a variety of perspectives because their friends, family and social circles are made up of people who look, love and pray at least similarly to them. They don’t really experience the ‘others’.

Like in agriculture this kind of cultural monoculture is not only cost intensive and requires a lot of resources and restrictions to maintain – it actually created ‘pests’.

Isolating a piece of land from the natural diversity surrounding it as is done in conventional agriculture is creating a rift in the Web of Life. Nature always promotes diversity and will be trying to close that rift. Which is why pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, walls, fences and plain force become necessary. They are weapons against nature. Weapons used to defend the rift. Weapons which have been shown again and again to create only more resilient pests. In the end Nature will always get Her way.

Even though we have been brought up to believe in a distinction between the human and the natural world this is just another lie of separation. In truth no such distinction makes sense. Our buildings are build out of wood, stone or metal. Even the chips in our computers require crystals to work. We can built walls and come up with ‘new’ materials in our labs – but we only have this natural world to depend on. We still depend on the resources and abundance of Mother Earth. We still depend on the Sacred Elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Ether/Spirit to survive and thrive. Trying to push them out and reject the laws of nature did never work in the past, isn’t working now and never will. We are part of this fabric no matter what.

honey bee sitting on a pink flowerGiven that we are part of the Web of Life and therefore subject to the laws of nature above everything else the question arises what that could mean for the ways we life, love, pray and built our life. Do we continue to fight the laws of nature? Or will we try to figure out how to respect them better so that we can begin to live in harmony with them and being supported by them as a result?

For this post let us just focus on one law for the moment. The Law of Diversity.

Nature strives for diversity always, because it thrives on it. The more diverse an ecosystem ends up to be the more resilient it gets and the more diversity it can sustain. A meadow always strives to become forest. A true forest is always chaotic and diverse.

Bringing that back to human society we can hopefully see now how trying to maintain a cultural and spiritual monoculture is as futile and as harmful to the earth (and human beings as part of the earth) as an agricultural monoculture. It will be impossible to maintain it without violence. Violence against the ‘others’ on the outside of our walls, fences and neighborhoods. Violence against the ‘others’ in our own midst as well. Violence which in most Western cultures is directed against the feminine, the queer, the transgender, the Black, the brown, the indigenous, the ‘oriental’, the dis_abled, the poor, the Pagan, the Witch. Essentially everyone who looks, loves or prays differently than we do.

It is worth mentioning that the constant threat of violence has caused those of us who find themselves at the receiving end of the lash to build our own walls and castles in self-defense. It is our way to cope with ‘minority stress’ and surrounding danger.
While this is understandable and the establishment of ‘safe spaces’ necessary we need to be careful not to create and nourish the rifts that divide us further in the process. We, too, have to leave our own castles regularly and start to listen to the ‘others’ more. Usually we will find people who have even less privileges than we do. We need to listen to their stories. We have to stop assuming that the stories we keep telling ourselves are more correct and worthy than those of the less privileged. Usually the outsiders are the ones who can take a better look and have deeper insight particularly because of their ‘otherness’.

We need to visit those who have more privileges as well. They need to see us. They need to hear our stories. We need to make our stories heard by them.

Looking at our spiritual communities we need to stop condemning those who pray differently than we do. Especially when their reality has been shaped by violence and structural discrimination beyond the scope of what we are able to perceive and believe yet.

We need to stop judging their practices, emotions and goals from a place of Ego. Instead we need to approach them with genuine curiosity and respect.

Why do they curse? Why don’t they? Why do they kiss the floor? Why do they light candles? Why do they pray to demons and angels? Why are their ethics different from mine and what can that teach me about my own position in the world, my own blindness and my (in-)sight?

We need to come with an open mind and listen. We need to come with the intention to learn in order be able to mend the Web of Life. Only then can we gain understanding and develop true compassion.

If we truly want to live in peace with the earth and each other, then this is the only way I see that happening. Even though we might need to redefine what that ‘peace’ should look like based on our new-found diversity of perspectives.

hands of a black person greeting the sun

Staying Sane During Apocalypse

I originally wrote this post in August 2015 for an old blog project of mine. Given the almost daily news of homophobic, racist and other violence we find ourselves confronted with right now I felt a need to re-share it here with you today. The post itself initially focuses more on the reality of human-made climate change, but the basic advice for spiritual self-care in challenging times remains the same.
May we find meaning. May we find strength. May we continue to co-create what is desired without turning a blind eye on what’s not, but which is still happening.

There comes a time every couple of months or so when I start to wonder how it’s possible to stay sane. Watching the world around us crumble to pieces in what has been called and is expected to become the sixth mass extinction of organic life on this planet is hard. It’s not just worrying, but frightening. How are we supposed to survive that? Can we start taking climate protection seriously for a change? Will our interpersonal conflicts keep us from transitioning into a future worth living for? Is it time to give up? Or are we just in the middle of labor and need to keep pushing just this little while longer?

With all of these questions and the things going on it’s hard to stay sane. It’s hard to not give in to depression and desperation. It’s hard to keep believing in our own power and humanity’s potential for rapid change. It’s hard to believe that there is any God at times.

Well, we can obviously use our spiritual tools to directly engage with the Gods and spirits. That’s part of what they are there for. We can tune in and listen to them. They can give us direction and help us make sense of the external and internal struggles and changes. There is this path. And there are several others.

For people who have trouble trusting in their own psychic abilities or who haven’t developed these abilities to a degree which allows them to get direct counsel and direction from the ‘Otherworldly’, it’s helpful to remember that you don’t need these abilities in order to understand or give your life purpose. All you really need is your mind.

Crow with key in its mouth stands on a collection of beautiful flowers (Spiritual Self-Care)One of the tools which I have found to be highly efficient in certain circumstances is the tool of positive focus. Essentially this tool is all about choosing where you focus your attention most of the time and directing your attention towards the ‘positive’/desired. This doesn’t mean that we should neglect or ignore the ‘negative’ (more on that in a second). It means accepting, though (or at least pretending at first), that not everything is in fact negative. There are not just bad and dying people out there. There is hope. There are beautiful activists. There are amazing landscapes. There is beauty all around us. Permaculture gardens, rewilding approaches and intentional living communities are spreading. Wolves are returning to landscapes who haven’t seen them in decades and longer. There are several examples. Desired change is in fact already happening. The transformation of society which we seek is on it’s way. The media aren’t always telling us so since ‘news’ are usually centered around the negative. It’s a conscious choice for them to tell just this side of the story. We are free to make a different choice. Acknowledging and spreading information about beautiful and inspiring people, places and initiatives is actually helping them. It’s more than just focusing selectively. It’s actually helping to build a better world in tangible as well as intangible ways. Starting with the fact that giving yourself and others hope reduces stress levels and allows us to act more compassionately and loving with each other and ourselves. Just one of several positive side effects we might not think of at first but which are at play regardless. Something worth considering, right?

martin-luther-king-25271_1280If everything else fails it helps me to remember how far we have already come in such a short time. Look back at the beginnings of social justice movements, feminism or the environmental movement. Look at what they protested against in the beginning and what has already changed since then. For example a couple of decades ago the term ‘animal rights’ wouldn’t have made any sense to the ‘ordinary person’ on the street. The idea of opening marriage to same-sex couples seemed far fetched at best and completely unrealistic at worst. Look at how far we have come! This doesn’t mean that there are no longer things to work on and improve, but it means that our fighting is worth it. It means that tangible change is actually possible.

That said, it’s alright to be sad, frustrated, angry and depressed about the state of the world as well. Pretending like we already live in paradise doesn’t make it so for at least the majority of beings on this earth. Species are still going extinct. Police violence and structural racism still happen on the streets. People still get molested, raped and abused. Looking away doesn’t help any of them.

What I propose instead is that we make a commitment to watch and listen. Not in spite of, but fully embracing all the emotions that this might bring up for us. We need to let our anger burn us to ashes before we can rise from the flames like a phoenix. We need to let our sorrow and pain consume us. Our tears will cleanse our eyes and hearts. However we might feel, it is OK. Our emotions are there for a reason. Accepting them will keep us sane. Once we stop running away from the way we feel we can begin to look Apocalypse in the face and still remain sane and able to act.

I agree, this is the work of a Warrior and it takes practice, but I believe it’s where we need to go next in order to deal with what is. I believe in our ability to do it in self-loving ways.

Remember to laugh. Drink enough fluids. Eat healthy food. Spend time in the sun and outdoors. Exercise a little. Meditate. Seek out beauty. Fundamental self-care will bring you a long way with this.

Much love to you during our shared journey! May we keep each other sane.

Open hands offering beautiful violet flowers (spiritual self-care)


Punishment and Reward Unraveled

Most of us have been raised based on the system of punishment and reward. It’s what most of our parents have experienced in their own childhood. As did their parents. It’s a pattern of intergenerational magnitude. It’s a highly abusive and harmful cycle that needs to be stopped.

I was raised by an emotionally absentee father who left the family physically as well when I was 8 years old. Getting his attention was always hard work. Usually he would work in his office all the time when he wasn’t working elsewhere. The only way to get his attention (which equals love in a child’s understanding) was to show interest in the subjects that interested him (mythology and the cultures of ancient Europe) or put on a show for him.

a zebra in natureOne of these ‘shows’ which I repeated a lot because it seemed to be the most effective was to spend an hour or more on creating fascinating landscapes and scenes with my toys. I created stunning circus themes or arranged my toy animals while imagining their behavior at a waterhole in the African savanna. Then I would go to my father and show him the arrangements. He would take pictures. Praise my work. And go back to his office.

So that granted me his attention for 5 to 10 minutes after spending an hour or more on my own to impress him. It seemed like a very good deal back then.

My mother was way worse. In my childhood she exhibited strong narcissistic behavior towards me and my sister. If you have ever experienced or did some research on narcissistic child abuse you know how damaging that is. In essence I was not supposed to exist as a separate individual with my own needs, thoughts and emotions.

My mother was deeply disappointed in modern men in general (even before my father left us) and glorified ancient Roman and Greek gladiators as the perfect incarnations of manhood. During my childhood I heard a lot of times that the last ‘real man’ she had ever known had been her father. It was her plan in giving birth to me to raise the next ‘perfect man’ according to her image of what that would mean. Obviously everything about me that wasn’t living up to her expectations of what that kind of man would look like (and everything reminding her of my father) was severely punished. Particularly after the divorce when physical abuse became a regular thing for my mother to use “for your own good.”

Gwydion Blackrose at 7 years old sitting with a transverse flute

Me (about 7 years old) being ‘good’

The only way to get any approval or love from my mother was to express interest in what she liked or thought I should like. Since my parents have been highly trained classical musicians I tried to please them by first trying to learn piano (which my father taught), then different kinds of flutes (which my mother taught) and finally violin (which my 11 years older sister already excelled at – which means I was expected to work at least as hard as her which didn’t work out). Thank the Gods that my parents were old enough to think that becoming a ballet dancer is a masculine thing! Which means I was left with at least one last form of self-expression (besides singing) which was actually mine and aligned with what I wanted. At least until I expressed a desire to progress towards modern and street dance which didn’t find my mother’s approval. Listening to anything but classical music at home for lunch or dinner was already a fight.

I hope you see how in both cases constant threats of punishment were present. I mentioned emotional neglect and physical violence. Rest assured that plenty of verbal abuse was a part of daily life as well.

At the same time I was given money for good grates at school, chocolate for performing well in front of an audience, praise in front of others (almost never when on my own because my mother was convinced that “saying nothing is praise enough”).

In case you aren’t aware yet: What my mother and father practiced towards me is conditional love. It’s a form of withholding love as a reward for ‘good’ behavior. It’s the carrot. The stick was all the abuse (and truth be told: I didn’t even realize the full extent of the abuse I had experienced by my parents before reading the very helpful book Toxic Parents by Susan Forward, PH.D.).

What I think people need to understand is that any kind of conditional love is a form of punishment and reward, because emotional neglect is always practiced in this circumstances. Likewise every system that engages with the punishment and reward mentality is teaching ourselves and our children that their worth is in question. That they have to prove 24/7 that they are in fact worthy of attention, affection, money and love.

I can tell you from personal experience that this produces a very messed up personality structure. Being raised like that keeps us from developing any sense of secure self-worth and makes us feel and believe like we deserve to be punished anytime we do less than perfect.

It is my understanding that this very pattern is what keeps many of us in the claws of abusive relationships, addictions and self-abusive behavior – because if we can’t find someone else to punish us for being ‘bad’ we continue to do the job ourselves.

It is my hope that by understanding these patterns better we can begin not only to raise our children with true, unconditional love, but begin to show ourselves this love. We need to become more aware of all the ways we deprive and punish ourselves. Then can we begin to make better, more self-loving choices. Only then can we begin to become whole again, because we no longer will see a need to reject those ‘bad’ parts of ourselves in order to avoid external punishment.

We need to become the self-loving parents towards ourselves (and our children, if we have them) which we want to see more of in the world.

parent and child taking a walk together in nature