Engaging the World

The beginning steps of  energy work and spirit work are internal work.

Through trial or trauma, we decide to engage that shadow us that Jung wrote about; that wounded, scarred, arrested development, rage-filled, frightened, broken person that lives inside of us. We make choices to heal that person, accept them as part of us and use that healing and acceptance to make us stronger.

Some people never move past that. And to be honest, moving past that is a scary prospect. Because using that internal knowledge in the outside world means trusting and caring on a level that we are socialized not to. Using that internal knowledge in the outside world means risking ridicule, betrayal, pain, burn out or even death.

So why would anyone in his or her right mind want to move beyond that?

Because if we believe that everything is connected, then you engage in the world with every breath, every thought, every breath. We can take that light we have created from darkness and hold it up for our sisters and brothers.

“Give light and people will find the way. ” Ella Baker

Your mileage will most certainly vary.


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July Link Roundup

In totally unrelated news, there’s a Doctor Who trailer!

Both of the primary authors on this blog are also currently swamped with real life issues, so it may be a little while before we get back to normal posting.

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Stigmas on Mental Disorders

This is a revised version of a previously published essay.

There is a huge stigma on mental illness and on mental health professionals in much of the western world, which gets in the way of honest discourse and helping people who are suffering from mental disorders. There is the attitude that psychology is an attempt to justify, rather than understand, and that mental disorders are a sign of an underlying character flaw, as opposed to a disorder or disease.

As Darryl Cunningham indicates: If someone gets diagnosed with cancer, their friends and family rally around them to support them. If they get diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, they tend to lose those support networks just as they are starting to need them most.

In the military you can get passed up for promotion or lose your security clearance if you get diagnosed with a mental illness. Doctors are also pressured by the military not to diagnose PTSD. Many mental illnesses are treated as something you just have to “man up” about, “get over,” or are treated as “not real illnesses.” Recently the JAG Tom Kenniff called vicarious traumatization psychobabble.

You can tell your friends you are going to the doctor to get treated for heart disease, or in most crowds a chiropractor for back pain. The response is dramatically different if you tell them you are going for treatment of your bipolar disorder, let alone paranoid schizophrenia or narcissistic personality disorder. There are taboos around these things, and these taboos make it significantly more difficult to get treatment.

This is further not helped by certain individuals, even (especially?) doctors who should know better, seeming to classify everything and the kitchen sink as being treatable exclusively or predominantly with chemicals, many of which have ugly side effects (including things like anterograde amnesia, a side effect of some of the anti-anxiety medications). Many others who seem to be of the opinion that everything is actually depression, even if it is, in fact, fibromyalgia or a thyroid condition.

Then we get into problems that therapists themselves run into thanks to malpractice, professional codes, and legal systems. Where we can look in retrospect and say “they misdiagnosed/misevaluated” or any number of other statements, but therapists who evaluate the situation will also say “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Treating real humans is enormously complex, and the legal framework surround it is almost as complex. The situation puts tremendous strain on therapists, who may find themselves in a position of being unable to predict the future, and then being blamed for not being able to at a later point.

So what we get is a situation where a lot of people in this country have undiagnosed PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorders, paranoid schizophrenia, and a thousand other things. At a minimum, these impact their quality of life and some of them may get more serious without treatment (or, depending on the nature of the treatment, with treatment). They are unable (quite possibly because of insurance) or unwilling–possibly quite rationally so, depending on their situation–to visit mental health professionals and get an actual diagnosis. If they have dissociative identity disorder they may have amnesia blanks over periods of time where they self-sabotage, and they may have a fight with a lover only to not remember even having a conversation with them later. They may spend years blaming themselves or burning out, may try self-help which may or may not make the situation better (or worse), and spend a lot of energy hiding these illnesses and differences from others.

These things are so heavily stigmatized in our society, that the stigmas themselves make it more difficult to function independent of that the disorder itself makes it more difficult to function. This can and does make the situation significantly worse. This is something to pay attention to, because it isn’t something you can prevent by pretending it is “all in your head”: it really could be you or a loved one who starts to suffer in silence, do poorly in relationships at school, or their job, and feel there is no way out as a result.

Further Reading

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June Link Roundup

  • Cat on Quaker Pagan Reflections wrote a really interesting and insightful article on pagan values and the Affordable Care Act.
  • Blue Flame Magick has posted an essay titled Welcome to Your Mind (Part I) based on a workshop that he presented with a friend that I was at. It was a really excellent workshop, and the series looks like it will be a really excellent discussion of what was covered there. The author (who is a Tibetan Buddhist) has also opened up an online store selling malas and pendants.
  • Naya Aerodiode on The Silver Spiral has written an excellent essay about modesty among pagans, titled Ye shall be naked in your rites…
  • Lupa has written a great essay on Taking the Plants and Fungi for Granted. This is a topic that deserves consideration, especially since we are finding out that the lives and natures of plants and fungi are much more complex than we ever previously considered.
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Colorado Wildfires

For those following the fires:

1) Don’t repeat anything or share anything you have not validated. One of the biggest problems in situations like this one is fearmongering and misinformation from people who mean well but haven’t validated what they are hearing.

2) If you are in the line of a fire, prepare ahead when you are asked to evacuate if you are able to do so. If it is not within your means, see if you can get assistance. At a minimum, plan what you will take.
2a) Some things to take that people don’t always think about a) Contact information for your insurance company b) Your birth certificate/passport c) Backup hard drives (if you use them) and/or get a remote offsite backup c) Photographs d) at least (but probably not significantly more than) 3 changes of clothes.

3) Check out Help Colorado Now for those wanting to help. They have links to some of the organizations responding and talk about what forms of aid are acceptable. You can call 1-866-485-0211 to see what agencies are active in CO right now. This is a rapidly changing list, and they are posting to reputable charities.

Some of the major ones (designate to the High Park Fire):

Our thoughts go out to those who are being impacted right now.

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The Okay Plateau and the Occult

In Moonwalking With Einstein, Josh Foer discusses something called the O.K. Plateau:

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we’re as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot.

The idea is essentially that we rise to the level where we are good enough at something and then we tend to slack off on it. For example, most of us get to a comfortable speed with typing–usually trhough some sort of structured program+whatever we feel we need for a given task (between 30 and 80 WPM even for professional typists)–and then we stop improving. In large part because we stop practicing against an improving standard. When people actually focus and work at it, comparing themselves to others or to slightly accelerated versions of their own records, they have a tendency to start improving again and get significantly better.

We see this in the baduk world: it’s been observed since at least Kageyama that people will become a perpetual 5 kyu in strength. They will simply stop improving. They play actively, but they aren’t getting any better. Here it can be incredibly frustrating, because people will desperately want to improve, but feel that they can’t break out of where they are.

My observation is that this is a problem in occultism practices as well. We get to a certain level of competency with respect to energy work, magical practice, journeying, meditation, or whatever else and then we stop getting better. We can then get frustrated, thinking that we have reached the limit of our capability, or thinking that it is purely a matter of talent.

If you want to get better and improve, there are a few strategies to help break out of the okay plateau:

  • Keep a Journal
  • Back to the Basics
  • Attend a Periodic Workshop
  • Find a Group

These are all essay topics in their own right, but in summary:

Keep a Journal

Probably the single most common piece of advice I’ve heard in practicing occultism: keep a journal. The same applies here.

One thing I’ve found is that it is easy to improve (or decline) and not notice it. By keeping a journal you provide a basis to compare against over time. It also provides a reality check for your observations, and can help provide incentive to actually do your exercises.

Back to the Basics

The first thing we can do when we want to improve is that we can get back to the fundamentals of occultism. Pick something fundamental, like grounding or simply cycling energy, and then work on practicing it every day.

The disadvantage of this method is that you still lack a basis to compare yourself against. The advantage is that drilling the basics is one of the surest ways to improve, so long as you are doing it mindfully. The expression goes that habit is a frightening thing: If you dedicate a block of time just practicing the basics and working on improving those, a lot of other things can improve as a result.

Attend a Periodic Workshop

Attending HK Gather every year, for me, provides an awesome inspiration to keep practicing and improving. It is filled with people who have been working years to improve themselves, and it is hard to go there as an energy worker and not learn something new or see things from a different angle.

Go to an event that happens on a rare basis but has experienced people at it. This gives you outside inspiration and shows you more that you can do. It also can show what areas you are weak or strong in so that you have something to keep doing until you see them again.

Find a Group

One of the other big things you can do to escape the Okay Plateau is to find (or form) a group. There are hazards in this (e.g., many groups are not that focused), but by having a group of people–especially if you are all dedicated to improving–you can make dramatic steps by having other people who are enthusiastic and working toward some of the same goals you are. This can be as simple as just having a teacher, or it can be a group of people of varied skill levels. Whatever it is, this forms an outside check.


None of these works great in isolation. A journal that just says the same thing every day and never includes any practice may help some things, but it isn’t going to be as effective as keeping a journal and engaging in regular basics practice. Regular basics practice without an outside comparison can do some, but it becomes incredibly valuable when you have an outside basis to compare.

The Okay Plateau is something virtually all of us find ourselves on at one point. While there is a lot more to this topic, hopefully this list can help with breaking out.

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Backend Updates

There have been pretty significant updates on the back end. As always, let us know if you see anything strange.

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Brief Hiatus

I’d like to apologize for the recent silence. The authors here have been swamped by other things in their lives.

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CFS: Huginn 2.2: Ethics and Values

Volume 2, Issue 2 : ETHICS & VIRTUES

HUGINN is now accepting submissions for the Midsummer 2012 issue. Submissions deadline is 1 June 2012.

The Midsummer issue will deal with ETHICS & VIRTUES: living your values; ethics in myths, from Tyr and Thor to Loki and Bolverk; noblesse oblige, flyting, holmgang; the advice of Hávamál; embracing the Nine Noble Virtues — or not — and beyond. Is there room for situational ethics and moral relativism in modern Heathenry, or is the righteous way clear?

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Conversations with the Dying: Five Wishes, Wish One

My son’s father’s sister and my friend for over 20 years was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  She is an amazing, independent, insightful and gentle person. As she is the 3rd person in that family to be diagnosed with cancer, there is a lot of distress and upset about her wishes.

We will all know and love someone that dies. If the gods are kind, we will have the time and opportunity to let that person know how much we love them and what we value about them before he or she passes on to whatever lies beyond. The gods have been kind to me in this instance and I am grateful.

I go see her almost every night after work. We are having conversations about how she wants the time she has left to be. And we are working through an amazing document, Five Wishes.

Wish number one is who do you want to be your health care agent. There is a lot involved in making that decision. The document lays out all the pertinent questions. But the bottom line comes down to: in the event that you are unable to make the decision yourself, who do you trust to know you well enough, to understand you heart and soul deeply enough, to make the hard decisions so that you die the same way you lived?

In the Norse tradition, we are very invested in our reputations. We believe that it is the only reliable thing that survives us when we die. So the person you choose as your health care agent also becomes the person that makes sure you die how you lived. Choose wisely.

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