Review: “When A Pagan Prays” by Nimue Brown

 

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I never really liked prayer when I was a Christian. The act of bowing my head in church and listening to somebody else represent my needs to the Divine Father never made me feel connected or represented. I could never close my eyes while standing because vertigo would take over and I would feel myself weaving. My eyes would snap open with visions of me lying sprawled in the aisle. I would stare at my feet, at the backside of the people in front of me, or I would take surreptitious glances around the room to see who else had their eyes open.

My own personal prayers weren’t much better. They always seemed too formal and scripted. “My loving heavenly father…..in Jesus name, Amen.” Sometimes I didn’t want to say those words. I wanted to feel the presence of the divine and telepathically send out my feelings of awe, gratitude, and love.

When I step out into nature and stand before a breathtaking sunset or revel in the power of the ocean, I want to open my arms wide and stare up into the sky with eyes and heart open and receptive. I don’t feel inclined to drop to my knees, bow my head, cross my arms over my chest, and act penitent. Such a position implies humiliation before a disciplining tyrant. Like a dog that’s been whipped too many times and has only learned to cower.

Prayer should be a spiritual experience, not a religious experience. Prayer is the ache which comes from the heart moved beyond words.

As a recovering Christian, I still felt the urge to pray but didn’t know how to go about it without engaging my mind to the exclusion of my heart. For this reason, I decided to read “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond” by Nimue Brown.

I’ve read a lot of pagan literature and was anticipating a light-read with this book. I was wrong. Ms. Brown’s approach to prayer was intelligent and scientific. She made many of the same observations I have always felt regarding formalized prayer. She even gives a recipe for successful prayers versus empty prayers. The book is honest and the author reveals her humanity throughout.

I am not a Druid, but I did not feel the information was limited to Druids alone. The information is valuable for anyone who has experienced a spiritual crisis and is finding prayer either a major turn-off or a challenge. In the last pages of the book, the author reveals the changes she has noticed in her life thanks to a regular practice of prayer.

Who does a recovering Christian pray to? This is a question I have asked myself numerous times. I find any word associated with my life as a Christian very off-putting. This includes: God, Jesus, Jehovah, Lord, Heavenly Father, Almighty, etc. When I do attempt prayer I address: Ancestors, Ascended Masters, Spirit Guides, possibly even Archangels since they were not  a prominent part of my Christian instruction. (When I first got started as a Pagan I addressed Goddess, but always felt rather silly so I stopped).

Ms. Brown addresses:

  • Who should we pray to?
  • Does prayer really works or is it just a placebo?
  • The social ethics to praying.
  • Different kinds of prayer and different ways of praying.
  • Can we live a prayer-filled life? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • How do we know if our prayers are answered?
  • Why isn’t deity more forthcoming with his/her responses?

I found the book very interesting and informative. Ms. Brown admits to being a bit of a wordsmith, so the text sometimes bogs down and turning the pages becomes difficult. It took me all month to read the book, and some of it I scanned through because the information didn’t seem wholly necessary to the overall theme. But I am very glad I finished “When a Pagan Prays: Exploring Prayer in Druidry and Beyond,”  because I found a greater appreciation for the author as a wordsmith, a Pagan, and a woman with struggles and flaws. I recommend it to anyone looking to explore an aspect of humanity that is often taken for granted.

 

 

 

GPS for the Soul

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I am still working my way through Eckhart Tolle’s Power of NOW (1999). Something he said made me realize that we have an inner GPS system which pokes us when we aren’t living the life we are meant to live. If we know when to recognize it and listen to its guidance, we will experience greater contentment and a healthier mental state.

On page 27, Tolle says, “The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment…”

This observation really resonated with me! First, I was reminded of my last few years in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. I was in mental anguish and couldn’t figure out why. I went to see a therapist because of it–something frowned on by JW’s, in general. I was seriously decompensating. I couldn’t focus. I was saying and doing all the wrong things. I thought of death on a daily basis.

After reading the above in Tolle’s book, I now realize that I was resisting something that had become painfully obvious. I don’t know if it was my subconscious mind, authentic self, Higher Self, or Spirit Guides, but something was prodding me to get out and I wasn’t listening.

On more reflection, I could trace similar periods in the past. When I was a full-time minister for Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 1997, I went through another comparable phase. I would break down into tears during the meetings for no particular reason. I attributed it to my own “sinful inclination,” which only made it worse. In this case I decided to leave English and start attending a Spanish Congregation. Things improved for a short time while I was distracted, but the red-eyed monster kept popping up and getting progressively more insistent until I finally figured it out and left the religion.

I’ve been going through something similar in the past few weeks. Since we moved to PA, I have been helping my husband with his Ebay business while my ankle heeled. Initially, I loved going to auctions and researching items and seeing them sell. Then we went to a few auctions where there was a lot of negative energy. I came home distraught. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I was a total fuck up. I got yelled at by a cashier at the local Giant grocery store and left the store crying. I started thinking about death again.

Then I read the above words in The Power of NOW. Was it possible I was causing my own pain with my resistance? “What was I resisting?” I asked myself. That same day, I decided to go back to work doing massage. I had been toying with the idea for a while and finally decided to take the plunge. I felt some fear after making the decision because I have been a basic shut-in for a year.

The next morning, though, I awoke with a whole new perspective. For the first time in weeks, I felt genuine enthusiasm and confidence. Is this what I was resisting? Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me, “You’re not a hustler. You’re a healer!” I went from being afraid of venturing out of the house to eagerness in getting the process started. I couldn’t believe the about-face!

All I can attribute it to is Tolle’s observation that unconscious resistance creates disharmony and pain. It’s like we have this inner GPS system that keeps us on our prescribed path, and lets us know (in no uncertain terms) when we get off-course. All we have to do is recognize the signs and adjust when necessary. Remember, 1) Pain, 2) Judgment, 3) Negativity. If your every thought is consumed with one, or all, of those, ask yourself what you are ignoring that needs attention. Is it your job? Your relationship? Your roommate? For the sake of your mental health, stop resisting and embrace the sweet relief that comes with following your innate guidance system! Resistance is futile.

 

Thursday’s News & Reviews: Armageddon Preppers

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From infancy I was taught faithfulness above all else. As a dedicated member of the Watchtower Society, I was trained to accept counsel and direction without question. To question implied a weak faith and vulnerability to the Satanic trait of rebellion.

I remember the first time I chose to disagree with something published by Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s). It was 1999. A was laying in bed in a cute little house I rented on the west end of Bend, Oregon. The spring breezes were wafting in the window and stirring the drapes around me. I was reading an article in the latest Watchtower magazine, which discouraged permanent forms of birth control (i.e. vasectomies, tubal ligation, etc.). As a person who never wanted children I found this a veritable death sentence. I didn’t just not want kids. I hated the little buggers! To feel like I was being forced into motherhood was more than I could swallow. The foundation of my faith cracked that day–a profound, irrevocable fissure that would lead to more and more weakening of my faith until the structure finally crumbled.

Fast forward 10 years to 2009. I was attending a meeting at my local Kingdom Hall when I heard a talk on “Go-Bags.” These were handy little receptacles a “faithful” JW would keep packed with essentials in the likelihood of “natural disaster.” They should be kept handy in the trunk of the car in case of instant and life-threatening need. Water, flashlights, batteries, change of clothes, food, compass–whatever one might need in a natural disaster. This talk fell right on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, so it may sound logical to some. It wasn’t logical in Central Oregon. The only natural disaster that threatened that part of the country was volcanic, and it’s not like the Cascade mountains are known for blowing up without warning. (This article in no way discourages disaster preparedness. If you live in an area known for natural disasters, power outages, or extreme weather please make the necessary preparations to protect yourself and your family.)

My bullshit detector went off. I knew the JW “brothers” were intentionally avoiding the mention of Armageddon or the Great Tribulation by couching their warnings in terms like “natural disaster.” For the first time in history, JW’s were being encouraged to prepare for “the end of this system of things” by putting bottles of water and granola bars in backpacks. The brother on the stage even insinuated this was a matter of faith, and the faithful would obey without question.

My bullshit detector was screaming. I’m surprised no one else heard it. One brother did hear about it after the meeting.  I approached him and asked him why he thought we were in danger of hurricane in landlocked central Oregon. He told me any number of other disasters could happen: earthquake, flooding (in the desert?!), spontaneous volcanic explosion, etc.

Up until this point, we had always been trained to believe that Jehovah would protect his followers when Armageddon struck. I told this “brother” that I thought go-bags were showing a lack of faith in God and his ability to take care of his people. I was given a patronizing look that indicated I was a sister and needed to stop asking questions.

So I did the next logical thing: I went to my dad. He had always been my rock. He knew the bible backwards and forwards and had read every piece of literature published by the Watchtower society since the 1940s.

He agreed with me. It was a lack of faith and he felt it was a localized attempt on the part of some area brothers to force others to succumb to doomsday prepping ideals. The fact that dad was an ex-Mormon might have also contributed to his aversion to such an approach.

Dad died a year later, but I wonder if his faith would have survived the latest attempt by the JW’s to force people into fearful scenarios.

Recently, I saw a picture that was posted in the latest copy of the Watchtower. It can be seen above. It shows people hiding in a basement, and an unmistakable look of fear on a child’s face to indicate the gravity of the situation. Undoubtedly, they are hiding from the rampant anarchy taking place over their heads. I imagine sounds of helicopters, bombing air raids, the shrieks of the dying, and the pop of gunfire. I can imagine those sounds because they haunted my dreams as a child raised with images of Armageddon and torture.

I have recently been informed that JW’s are now required to select a safe place to flee to in time of “Natural disaster.” Once a family, or group, have selected their “place of refuge,” they are to report this to the local elders who make a written record and share it with the Circuit Overseer, who then passes it on to the headquarters. This isn’t just a whimsical fantasy to make easily impressionable people excited over the prospects of global annihilation. All JW’s are required to submit a written document of their chosen place of hiding. (Is anybody else seeing images of Jonestown right about now?)

I spent 38 years deeply entrenched in that religion. They’re not about to drink any Kool-Aid, in spite of what their actions may sometimes indicate. I see this as nothing more than another ploy to keep people unstable and afraid. A lot has happened in the last 100 years of that organization, except for the one thing millions of people have lived, and died, for: Armageddon. After more than 10 decades of promising that “Armageddon is just around the corner,” if the JW leaders didn’t find a new tactic for threat and rescue they would start losing credibility.

I have to say, it’s a pretty good scheme. Twenty years ago, I would have been eating this stuff up. It would be so exciting to imagine my flight to some wilderness as the world fell apart and billions died at the hand of God. But I know that religion, and I know those people. I would be willing to bet you money that many of them have already initiated their flight. Just as in 1975 when many of them quit school and sold their assets in hopes of the imminent arrival of Armageddon, I am sure many are repeating those same horrible mistakes. The Ebola outbreak; the riots; the extreme weather–some serious bridges are being burned right about now, all in the name of faith.

Keep your eyes open. You might see some houses go on the market in hopes of a quick sale. If you are in the janitorial field, you might be able to pick up some new accounts as JW’s flee the western world to live in caves and bomb shelters. The most positive aspect of all this? If they are in hiding, at least they’re not knocking on our doors.

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Fear Promotes Ignorance

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Shortly after I stopped being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was introduced to an amazing tool that has been invaluable to me on this journey–The Tarot. In the three years since I started learning Tarot, I have been amazed how it depicts the ups-n-downs of life, the major life lessons, and the paths that bring us greater success. Its wisdom is incredible and it never ceases to amaze me.

I have traced my entire life’s journey with Tarot and predicted challenging times, including the sale of our house, the death of my husband’s mother, and the breaking of my leg last year. It’s the most valuable tool I possess.

So, perhaps you will understand why I became incredibly incensed by a conversation I encountered on Facebook recently. I just started an advanced Tarot class through Biddy Tarot. The webinar has created a group page for students to interact, trade readings, and post our homework. One of my fellow Tarot readers asked how many of the students hid their Tarot from censuring friends and family. I was amazed, and angered, to find that many did. One attorney can’t even bring his deck into his house because his ex-wife has threatened to take him back to court over child custody if the deck is even under the same roof as their kids.

Is our society really so slow to evolve that people with alternative beliefs still feel they have to hide from puritanical witch hunts?! It’s the 21st Century! How are we, as a society, supposed to evolve to the next level of enlightenment if we keep hiding who we are from narrow-minded Neanderthals?!

People who are judgmental and narrow-minded are the ones who should be forced to hide. Society shouldn’t support their attitude, nor fear their judgment. The world is evolving away from such limiting paradigms. The more we hide, the longer it will take for ignorant superstitious fears to be eliminated by human evolution. We’ve become so conscious of “other people’s feelings” we have become a society of apologizers and doormats. Those of us who actually worry about offending others end up enabling such ones to keep their ignorant, barbaric perceptions. Growth requires change. Change requires exposure to new paradigms. If people who are afraid of change must hide to protect their paradigm, let them. Let them hold onto their ignorance! If we hide from such ones we are contributing to their ignorance. We are hiding our authenticity behind fear of criticism.

Never fear censure, but fear a society ruled by fear.

Thursday’s News & Reviews: Suicide In All Its Forms

Topmost in people’s minds this week has been the news of actor/comedian Robin William’s suicide. The outpouring of sadness and compassion from the huge array of his fans has made us all wonder a bit about the painful depths hidden beneath his kind, and comical, grin. My first exposure to Robin was Mork & Mindy (1978-82), a show I adored as a child. His comedic genius was unmatched and the world has lost a light bearer who taught us empathy in the face of tragedy and gave us laughter as a healing salve. The greatest tragedy, perhaps, was his inability to find that healing when he most needed it. I wonder at the high price of comedy when I consider the greats that have been taken from us prematurely: Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Pinette, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Andy Kaufman, etc. etc. etc. Do successful comedians give so much they haven’t anything left for themselves?

On a related note, it never ceases to amaze me the depth of people’s cruelty when someone dies. I have experienced it, witnessed it, and am now stunned to find such vehement disregard for the feelings of friends and family who are suffering a terrible loss. Has our society become so devoid of human compassion that they take a man’s suffering and use it to beat his mourning family? Artists and actors commit suicide all the time with drugs and alcohol. What is it about this kind-hearted and selfless man that brings out the viciousness in people? Rampant jealousy?  Be warned, if I meet someone who says these things and doesn’t hide behind the safety of a computer screen like a fucking coward, I will kick you in the balls.

 

The recent, and still unchecked, outbreak of Ebola in Africa has westerners fearing contamination as doctors and travelers return home from infected countries. Ignorance and superstition are fueling its spread in Africa, but the centers for disease control within western lands seem to have the issue well in hand. This doesn’t prevent doomsdayers from proclaiming this pestilence another sign of the inevitability of Armageddon. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Jehovah’s Witnesses particularly are likely hoping 2014 will not pass without definite signs of The Great Tribulation, if not Armageddon itself. The ones that aren’t praying it will occur, are terrified it won’t occur and yet another year will pass with no sign of the prophesied “end of this system of things.”

 

In the last few weeks, the paranormal community has been following the latest kerfuffle involving Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society (PRS). For those of you who don’t know, or don’t care, Ryan Buell has finally burned his last bridge and alienated many of his fans. I will say, however, that PRS fans are amongst the most loyal human beings on earth, as many of them continue to sing Ryan’s praises despite continued disappointments and thousands of dollars unaccounted for.

My first exposure to Ryan was with Paranormal State, a 30 minute A&E program, which portrayed Buell and his fellow Penn State students ridding homes of demons and bringing in priests for weekly exorcisms. I found the show entertaining in that it was saturated with Catholic dogma and demonology. The worst cases of demon possession always seemed to occur in trailer parks with hugely obese people who never left the house.

Ryan had apparently experienced difficulty with dark spirits since childhood. Which may, or may not, explain his constant issues with health. I attempted to take a class offered through PRS a couple of years ago. Elfie Music was the instructor. She always amused me when I watched Paranormal State. I got the impression that the producers of the show had given up trying to get her to look, or act,  presentable. She wore some of the worst ensembles I had ever seen, and I never knew what horrible thing she would do to her hair from one episode to the next. She was supposed to be the occult specialist of the group, but she always seemed a little lost.

I’m not sure why I took her class on the history of spiritualism, but I did. And, together with the book, it cost me $85. The book was mind-numbingly boring and the class was, basically, a waste of money. Elfie spent most of the time commenting on inane chatter in the chat box. She’d giggle, drink something, respond to some question by an empty-headed uber-fan, spend a few minutes discussing some slide in her Powerpoint, then go back to the chat box. The class had endless technical difficulties, and some of the participants had already been disappointed by other classes they had paid for that never transpired. I abandoned the class after the second attempt and wrote the whole PRS community off as badly run.

Sure I lost $85, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars some fans invested in a tour Ryan announced for this summer that never transpired. Fans all over Canada and the U.S. bought plane tickets, event tickets, and made hotel reservations for a tour that never even got off the ground. Ryan claims, not for the first time, that it is due to ill-health and bad management on the part of others. But like the boy who called wolf, many of his fans are shouting fraud and an investigation is underway. If the money isn’t repaid, a lawsuit will be the natural result.

I find this whole situation extremely short-sighted. This young man already had a career and a bevy of devoted fans. All he needed to do was travel around and spend time with people who thought he walked on water. Yeah, they may not be the most intelligent group of people, but who cares right? They’re willing to travel any distance to worship at the feet of their modern-day saint. Ryan has managed to commit professional suicide and will likely never regain the notoriety he enjoyed before he started screwing people over. I don’t get it. I would live that life in a heartbeat, and be way more deserving of the loyalty of my minions. As it is, I have no minions. Even my cats barely tolerate me.

Heal Thyself

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I have been battling my weight for more than ten years. Until I got married at 30 I never had a weight issue and could eat and drink whatever I liked without consequences. I married someone who had his own weight problems. Suddenly food took on more importance as I was eating more regularly, eating out more consistently, and hitting the drive-thru more frequently. Marriage was also a huge adjustment for me and I battled with depression off-and-on. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was 100 lbs heavier than I had been on my wedding day–and no, I can’t blame any pregnancies.

I had an “aha” moment a little over a month ago. I was going into the local YWCA for a massage. (I have a membership to the club, but I don’t use it for anything but the pool and the massage therapists.) My physically fit massage therapist came out to greet me and I followed him down the wide hallway past gyms, racquetball courts, and Zumba classes. We weaved our way around ellipticals and treadmills. I kept my eyes on my feet trying to look small despite the fact that I am almost 6 feet tall, 255 lbs, and wearing baggy clothes that only accentuated my size. I imagined everyone looking at me and judging me. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

As I lay on the massage table I thought, If I could just lose the weight I would be happy.” Then it occurred to me that this had been my mantra my entire life. My weight was just one more reason to hate myself–as I had done since primer school. The first thing I hated about myself was my red hair. Then it was because I was too tall. My eyes were too far apart. My mouth was too wide. I had bad acne. I had bad acne scars. My hair was frizzy. I had no personal style. My teeth weren’t white enough. I had an awful personality. I was too fat.

I asked myself what I would do if I lost the weight. Would things really be better? Or would I just find something else to beat myself over? Is it possible the problem isn’t my diet, but me? Why should I take care of myself when I find myself so undeserving? I didn’t have any motivation to improve my physical appearance because I believed it a hopeless endeavor. I had reached a point where I realized that I was my own worst enemy.

As I drove away from the “Y” that day, I squinted into the summer sun and stuck my right index finger into my mouth to chew on the already non-existent fingernail. I asked myself, “What can I do to make myself feel more attractive?” I replaced my right hand on the steering wheel and looked at the fingernails. I had chewed on my fingernails since I had stopped sucking on them at age 8. I had learned about Oral Fixations thanks to my college psych class, but was it possible my ferocious attacks on my digits had a deeper meaning? Wasn’t I literally trying to devour myself–chewing the fingernails down until they bled and hurt? (It’s probably a good thing I am not flexible enough to get my foot up to my mouth…at least not literally.)

I resigned, right then and there, to see if I could stop my habit of feeding on myself. I wanted to determine if that wasn’t somehow contributing to my tendency toward self-annihilation. I have attempted to quit in the past, but it was always very hard and I eventually caved.

This time was different, however. Once I made the decision, I didn’t even have the urge to chew my fingernails. I went out and bought a manicure kit and some black fingernail polish. The black polish appeals to my latent Goth personality. I love it! I have started wearing jewelry more often and it makes me feel a little more feminine.

I have also started a regimen of positive affirmations. I have a wooden rosary (no, I’m not Catholic) and I use it for  affirmations on a daily basis. I have also started meditating again.

My peace of mind is improving. I know exercise would help enormously with improved self-confidence, endorphins, and increased energy. I determine every day to do some exercise and always find reasons not to. So, I am still working on that one.

My husband and I have stopped eating out all the time and we avoid the drive-thru. We are endeavoring to eat better food from better places.

So far I have lost 6 lbs. It is slow progress, but I believe that life-long changes must come gradually or we just return to our old habits.

I wonder how many of us battle with weight, addictions, relationships, or depression because of deep-seated self-hatred? Is that self-hatred brought on by the Western world’s definition of beauty or masculinity? There could be any number of reasons a person may consider themselves unlovable or unattractive. But instead of focusing on what we need to do to change the way we look, we should focus on changing the way we feel:

  1. Look in a mirror and look past the usual flaws you focus on. See the beauty. Look into your eyes and see your incredible soul.
  2. Don’t allow a negative criticism to cross your lips. Everything you say about yourself must be said with admiration and gratitude.
  3. While you’re practicing the art of not criticizing yourself, maybe extend it to others. If you are in the habit of saying negative things about others it creates a dark energy that will only drag you down.
  4. Practice gratitude for your life, body, family, and wealth of knowledge and experience you have gained. You’ve come a long way, Baby!
  5. Stop living in the past and remembering only the parts that include you as being young and/or thin. You had problems then too. Being thin/young doesn’t solve everything.
  6. Stop imagining the future as a time where you will be thinner, healthier, more confident, and more successful. If you push those goals into a nebulous future, that is where they will always remain. Make those goals part of your present, and the future will take care of itself.
  7. Be present! Stop regretting the past and dreading the future. Be completely immersed in every moment. See the wonders of the world around you and bask in the excitement of every minute we are alive and breathing. Live in the present and, trust me, the gratitude will overflow!
  8. Don’t meditate to lose weight (I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work). Meditate for your own mental health. Meditate because you know that anxiety and stress only contribute to weight gain. Meditate because a healthy mind will inspire you to develop a healthy body.
  9. I’m not telling you to keep a food diary. Pour out your thoughts, fears, dreams, ambitions, and disappointments. Download all the mental gobbledygook onto paper so you don’t have to carry it around with you.
  10. Finally, be consistent. I have ADD when it comes to personal improvement. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I had stuck to something a year later when I have gained 20 more pounds. You will have bad days. You will cheat. Just make sure you keep getting back on that horse. You won’t regret trying, but you will regret not trying.

 

Thursday’s News & Reviews: Who’s A Psychic

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I remember the first time I ever heard the term, “Old Soul.” I was in my mid-20’s and fully entrenched as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I didn’t even believe souls existed. I was taught that we were souls, we didn’t have souls, and those souls died with our physical bodies. There was no after-life. No immortal soul. Death was simply the opposite of life–nothing.

I can’t remember where I was–a coffee shop, a book store, a park–but I overheard two women talking. They were watching their children play, and I heard one say to another, “He’s an old soul.” I didn’t stop to look. My steps hardly faltered, but I knew exactly what she was talking about. I knew she spoke of a child that was more serious than the other children. A child who may prefer looking at the pictures in a book than playing interactive games with the others. I knew, because I had been that child. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was an old soul.

How could I be an old soul when I didn’t even believe they existed? Some people would call that cognitive dissonance. I spent my life giving mocking lip-service to the idea of reincarnation. I used to make my fellow JW’s laugh in the car groups, by telling them I was a dandelion on a golf course in a previous life–but my life was cut short, tragically.

For someone who didn’t believe in reincarnation I gave it a lot of thought. I remember vivid dreams when I was under the age of 5, in which I would dream about people and places  I didn’t recognize but would miss with a melancholy fervor upon waking. Or the dream I had in Junior High of dying in a Nazi Concentration Camp.

I have spoken to a few psychics in the years since I left the JW’s. All of them confirmed what I had already figured out–I was indeed an old soul.

Until I spoke to Joe Who, celebrity psychic and frequent visitor to the paranormal radio show Darkness Radio.  He is a voice recognition psychic. I had listened to a few programs where he told different ones that old souls were night-owls and young souls were morning people. I have always been a night-owl. I have way more energy and ambition after 7 pm than I do before 1 pm. I can count on one hand how many years I’ve spent at jobs which required an alarm clock. I become so miserable after a few weeks that I quit for mental health reasons.

Mr. Who told me I was a young soul. He also said my night-owl tendencies were a learned behavior. I don’t think so. I remember hating the sound of my dad’s chipper voice in the morning. He used to ask me, “Cheri, why are you such a bear in the morning?” “I don’t know dad,” I would say sarcastically, “Maybe you should lower the volume of your voice and try not to sing sunshine songs!” I started drinking coffee at 12, which was unheard of in 1984.

Then Joe Who went on to tell me that my mother’s energy was nowhere near me, whereas my father was always around. Again, this runs counter to what I feel intuitively. Am I a medium? No. Am I psychic? No. I only have my gut instinct, and everything he said conflicted with it. He also told me that my mother and I didn’t get along very well. I adored my mother until the day she died when I was 19.

In the days following the reading, I tried to force myself to succumb to his version of my life. Even now, about 6 weeks later, I am still torn  as to whether or not I am an old or young soul. I believe I am slowly starting to realize that I may not be as old as I thought, or maybe our interpretation of what constitutes an old/young soul is not quite accurate.

I always enjoyed listening to him do readings on Darkness Radio because he does teach a lot about soul age, but I am less impressed with him as a psychic. I believe everyone has a bad day. I could give an awesome massage on some days, and then fall flat on others. A few days after that Malaysian airplane disappeared some months ago, Dave of Darkness Radio asked Joe if the passengers were still alive. He said they were, whereas another woman who was channeling that day said they were all dead. Again, I think he got it wrong.

I have read a lot about psychics and how they channel their messages. Most, if not all, get images they have to try to interpret based upon their own experiences. Sometimes, they might misinterpret  a message. Does that mean Joe Who is not a good psychic? No. I have heard him read many people on the radio and most are impressed at his abilities. The reason I sought him out was because I liked his tendency to tell people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear. He’s not very tactful about it either, which is kind of fun–when it’s happening to someone else, that is.

Give him a try and judge for yourself. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with him.

 

 

Lurkers Are Welcome!

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On February 14, 2012, I published a blog here called, “Lurkers Beware!” It was in response to some contact we had received from a friend who was still a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He thought Jehovah had directed him to contact us and try to save us from abandoning the “only true religion.” Once he realized he couldn’t convince us to “return to the fold,” he said his final goodbyes claiming we no longer had anything in common. Forget the fact that he and Roy still had a lot in common. All they ever did was discuss history and the Civil War. But because we could no longer worship in the same way as he, we were no longer deserving of his association.

I couldn’t let the situation rest though. I would not let him get in the last word. So, I sent him a message, unsigned. I didn’t want him knowing it was from me, I wanted him to think it was my husband whose opinion mattered more to him. I said, “As we are, you will be. Soon you will tire of the lies and hypocrisy. When that happens, you know where to find me.”

I didn’t realize till much later, but as a practicing witch, those words sounded remarkably like a spell. I didn’t light any candles, or cast any circles. I simply had my emotions to back-up my intention.

Exactly one year later, this soon-to-be Ex-Jehovah’s Witness contacted us and told us his story. He spoke of witch hunts, lying, manipulation and injustice within the organization. He spoke of being railroaded by false testimonies and a body of elders who wanted him out of their ranks. It was disastrous. He stepped down as an elder just before they disfellowshipped him for drinking–in spite of the fact that he brought witnesses forward that testified he was not drunk.

His family was torn apart. His father was later removed by the same elder body. Everything they had ever known and valued was ripped out from under them in a matter of a few weeks.

That was a little more than a year ago. He has come to realize that the JW’s actually did him and his family a favor by severing the tie. He and his family, including his parents, no longer want anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I’d like to think we helped a little, but I believe the Universe did the bulk of the work. Some people leave willingly, others need to be kicked in the backside. It’s a wonderful thing when someone gets the opportunity to start all over again with a clean slate. It’s a gift.

I admitted it was me that sent that last email. He admitted he couldn’t get it out of his head. Roy has his friend back and they text continually about history, the Civil War, and why they are grateful to be out of the Watchtower organization.

Happy endings can occur. Not everyone will leave that religion, but I believe as time goes on that more and more people will start to recognize the lies. We live in an age of information. It is getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Even as a JW, my limit was 2014. I knew if Armageddon hadn’t come by then (100 years after the JW’s claimed Jesus took his throne in heaven), then it wasn’t going to come and I was going to stop wasting my time. I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Once October passes (an auspicious month for JW’s), I believe we will see a mass exodus similar to the years following 1975 (the last time they tried predicting Armageddon).

I now have a small circle of family and friends who have left the JW religion. We love buying presents for each other and wishing one another Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas! We are like adolescents, learning new things, like how to make special brownies or smoke a pipe, and how to sing The National Anthem or wrap a present. We may not fit entirely into the world-at-large, but we can finally rejoice in the knowledge that we have the freedom to choose.

 

Thursday’s News & Reviews: The Dead Files

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I love to watch anything on the paranormal. There have been quite a few shows I have started to watch only to realize they were too sensational and fake–or I felt like the producers were actually trying to insult my intelligence (i.e. My Ghost Story Caught on Camera).

The first time I watched The Dead Files I wasn’t a fan. I thought Amy acted a little too weird, like she was putting on a show for the camera. I gave it another try on the second season. By this time, I had read a few books by psychics and knew a lot of Amy’s behavior may have been her authentic reactions to what she was seeing. I became a fan and haven’t missed an episode since.

Amy Allan and her partner Steve DiSchiavi investigate haunted locations from two different perspectives: Amy communicates with the dead and gets impressions of the site by walking around and interacting with the spirits; Steve is a retired New York Homicide Detective and he investigates the claims of the living and explores the history of the location to corroborate or deny Amy’s findings. Usually, their evidence fits together perfectly, as is presented in the final moments of the show. One of the show’s highlights is when Amy gets an area sketch artist to draw who, or what, she sees and reveals these sketches, with shocking results, to the home-owners.

I was excited to realize that last week’s episode was filmed less than 30 miles from my home. In the episode entitled Assaulted she and Steve visit Hanover, PA. Many of the overhead pictures of Steve driving to and from his destinations are filmed right here in Gettysburg.

My initial impression of the episode was that the female householder wasn’t a very good actor. I really got the feeling she was grandstanding for the sake of the cameras. I’ve watched enough of these shows to realize that there are some people who use Amy and Steve as free advertising (like Villisca Ax Murder House, and the Lizzie Borden B&B). I’m not sure if this woman is hoping to turn her house into a paranormal tourist spot, but I did get the impression she was enjoying her 15 minutes of fame.

At the end of the episode, Amy does her usual prescription for ridding the home of the nasty haunting. This week it was a male witch. Apparently, Tom and DeAnna Simpson called in the male witch and reported that activity had subsided, but the news reports tell a different story. Hanover’s local newspaper, The Evening Sun, reports the male witch left after only six hours and refused to return. Since then, activity has actually increased and the Simpsons have had to close up parts of the house because of it. A local FOX news crew’s reaction to attacks they experienced while filming the home also prove to be very interesting with captured scratches, orbs, and a shadow hand.

I found the newscast very interesting as spirits rarely perform for cameras. Especially since these cameras were likely only there for a few minutes. To have that much happen in a short amount of time, during the day, makes me think this place may be very haunted. The Evening Sun reports a lot of looky-loos passing the house, and with the huge number of paranormal groups in and around Gettysburg, I’m sure DeAnna’s getting many phone calls offering investigations and cleansings–which have so far only managed to aggravate the situation.

One observation I would like to make about The Dead Files, in general, is their total lack of physical evidence in all the places they visit. Amy reports some pretty horrific encounters, and she always wanders the place at night with everyone gone. You would think her interaction with the spirits would bring them out and there would be captured orbs, shadows, or even poltergeist activity,but I have never seen anything like that captured on camera. Not even footsteps, which seems to be Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters bread and butter. Is it possible The Dead Files have never captured any visual evidence on their cameras? Or are they under some sort of contract that inhibits them from showing it? As a paranormal enthusiast, I would love for them to share some of that to corroborate what Amy is feeling!

I also find some of Amy’s prescriptions for house cleansers a bit random. Shaman, witches, Latin witches, Voodoo practitioners, Native American Witch Doctors. Many of Amy’s suggestions can’t be followed by the people because they can’t find the person Amy describes. Even in the age of the internet, apparently these people don’t advertise a lot. It seems Amy should provide more of a full service and provide contact information for some of these people. They seem to be able to dig up area sketch artists, so the producers of the show should set up some sort of network directory for skilled cleansers to join. I seem to remember earlier episodes where she would tell people how to cleanse their own houses. I found that extremely informative and thought it was a good idea to return the homeowner to a position of power. I think it’s important for people to realize they can be powerful in the face of supernatural encounters. Perhaps the producers get better ratings with fear tactics, however.

Also, I find Amy’s strong reaction against anyone else who does paranormal stuff, or dabbles in the occult, a bit off-putting. She gets angry if people have a Ouija board around or attempt séances. She turns up her nose to paranormal groups who only manage to stir things up. I know she is a pro, but she must understand that her gifts are rare. Many of us have a lot of unanswered questions regarding death and the afterlife and we search for answers in the only way we know how. I wonder how she can criticize witches who dabble with the occult in one breath, then prescribe their services in the next.

Overall, I’d say the show is extremely formulaic but it works. I enjoy it. I am entertained by Amy’s terrifying descriptions of strange entities that always want to harm the householder.  My favorite person in the show is Steve. He seems like he would be cool to hang out with. I’m sure he has some interesting stories. I hope someday to attend a paranormal event where they are sitting on a panel, then I can ask some of the questions above.

If you are a paranormal enthusiast, what do you think of this show?

 

 

 

Diggin’ Up Bones

After my previous blog on the ego, I was reminded how powerless we can be before the onslaught of the ego and its demand for retribution and recognition. I was wandering around an auction house last Sunday waiting for the auctioneer to take his stand. I overheard a man a few feet away loudly expressing his opinion on every item he encountered to whomever was around him. I moved in the opposite direction because, as an introvert, I find people who talk for the sake of talking obnoxious.

I was reminded of an event that happened at a summer convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses I attended (around 2006) in Portland, Oregon. My brother, an extrovert and Pisces, was being his normal dramatic self and talking to my other brother, when a man with an “Attendant” badge stepped up to him and asked him to be quiet. (Attendant badges are given to men (only) who have authority over the crowd of minions in his assigned section. Their assignment usually entails finding people seats after the session has started and counting attendees, but it could involve quieting unruly children or asking women with short skirts to sit more modestly in the stadium seating.)

When my brother was asked to be quiet, it was not during the session. It was at lunchtime, and this “brother” told my brother that he needed to lower his voice and stop talking about what he was talking about because nobody else cared what he had to say nor wanted to hear it. My brother, trained as we all were to be doormats, apologized for living and continues to this day (no doubt) with one more memory meant to obliterate any self-esteem he may have deigned to develop after 45 years under Watchtower control.

I was not present for this put-down but heard about it later, after the same man had lectured me about crawling over stadium seating (in my skirt) to avoid a crowd of people blocking my aisle. He also went on to reject my friend’s offer to assist in First Aid, which upset her so much she couldn’t attend the convention and spent the whole time weeping in her car.

Now I take you back to the auction this last Sunday in Cascade, Maryland. I’m walking around remembering all of this, not for the first time, and feeling such anger I am fantasizing about the things I wish I would have said to this stain on humanity, this “Attendant.” I am picturing myself standing beside my brother as this total stranger approaches him and tells him to be quiet and stop ruining everyone else’s day by talking. Before my brother can apologize for being alive, I step forward, point my finger in his face (because misogynistic men love it when women do that), and say, “Who the hell are you to tell this man to be quiet?! Do you think just because you wear that “Attendant” badge you have any right to lecture people on how to act and talk? I want you to turn around and walk away. I don’t want you to address me, my family, or any of my friends with your corrosive presence. As a matter of fact, if you come near anyone I know, I will seriously fuck you up! Now go fuck yourself!!” The original version had about 30 more swear words added in, mainly because I know how much Jehovah’s Witnesses hate that shit–but you get my drift.

At any rate, I was in full ego-mode. I was carrying some serious angst about something that happened almost 10 years ago. Some might say this kind of anger is good because it prevents me from being taken advantage of again–and they would be right–but I have had this same conversation 100 times, at least, in the intervening years. Some days the anger strikes me more aggressively than others, but overall it is the same helpless anger I feel over many similar situations within that organization. Situations where men in power used that power to humiliate and oppress people whose ability to defend themselves has been taken away by their fear of God and his reprisals. (My brother is still in that religion and has likely been the brunt of many more hurtful scenarios. I don’t think he will ever recover in this life. By now his ego likely needs so much propping up that organized religion is the only way he could survive.)

While I was walking around the auction stewing, I happened by this little boy who was excitedly admiring a small antique, tin train. His mother and grandmother assured him they would get it if they could. My first thought? I’m going to bid on that, because mom and grandma didn’t look like they had very much money, just so I can see that little boy cry. (I didn’t. Nobody else did either. He got the train.)

My point is, my ego was having a heyday. I was completely immersed in the past and dwelling on things I can’t do anything about.  My residual anger, which had only gotten stronger over the years, actually had me convinced I wanted to hurt someone else so I wouldn’t feel I needed to shoulder the whole burden of my own pain. In a sense, I had turned into one of the bullies I find so repugnant. I wasn’t targeting another adult. I was targeting a helpless child. Someone who couldn’t defend himself and wouldn’t understand why he couldn’t get the train. Would it have made me feel better? No, I assure you, I would have felt like shit afterwards.

But it got me thinking, how many people have we hurt while in the throes of ego obsession? How many times have we been hurt by those experiencing an ego-reaction that has no bearing on the here and now? I think ego can be good if it encourages us to stand up for ourselves (to an extent), but once the chance has passed, is it really beneficial to keep digging things up and reliving them? If it’s not helping you process your feelings, then no. Move on. Write out your feelings on a scrap of paper and burn them. Shout them out to the moon. Put them in a blog–actually, this is a test, I’ll let you know if it cures my angst surrounding this situation.

The journey to reign in the ego is an arduous one, but I believe it a worthy goal. Imagine the peace we could enjoy if we could control our reactions to the past, present, and future?

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