Archive for 25 February 2019

Rippling from Centers Outward

Each of us is a center from which good things ripple outwards to others. We matter more than we know, more than it can sometimes feel like we do. Any time spent in a true practice confirms this again and again.

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Here’s a recent and unusual “comment” that ended up in the spam folder, even though it didn’t contain the typical hyperlinks that earn it instant spam status. (Track it to the originating URL, which I made sure not to include, and you land on a Russian-language small-equipment site. Go figure.) What caught my attention and rescued it from immediate deletion is its marketing build-up. Replace a few key phrases of this comment, and you could be talking about launching a physical exercise regimen, making prudent financial investments, improving your sex life, or learning a foreign language. It’s “Druidry” only in the very loosest sense. Here it is, punctuation unchanged:

Have you ever felt that you just don,t have the time to practise the Druidry that you want to? Wouldn‚t you like to be out in the woods meditating for hours, getting in tune with spirit and nature but the reality is a nine to five job in a town or city. You come home in the evening stressed and worn out and after you have spent some quality time with your partner, played with the kids and had some dinner, you just want to roll into bed. Then the whole sorry business starts again. I guess that like us you also thought of getting up half an hour early to have time for meditation or to greet the sun. You probably also have heard the alarm go off for that early start, reached out to turn it off and woken up exactly half an hour later at your normal getting up time. What if it didn‚t have to be like this? This is where Awen and the Art of Urban Druidry (with apologies to Robert M. Pirsig) comes in. Even in the most built up of cities there is life bursting out everywhere. The first stage on this path is to see it.

The comment treats spiritual practice as an addendum, something I can add to my diet like a supplement or vitamin, rather than where I live my life from. While “spirituality-as-supplement” is one perfectly valid way among others to begin, if a practice or spirituality doesn’t slowly and rightfully begin to pervade all I do, it’s not worth much — it’s not going to have the transformative effects I’m practicing it for in the first place. (More surprisingly, after such marketing language, the comment doesn’t follow through and offer its solution to the problem it identifies — “yours today for five easy payments of just $99/month!” And where’s the book? That title seems targeted for a quick spiritual pick-me-up.)

Very few Druids I know can regularly be found “out in the woods meditating for hours, getting in tune with spirit and nature”. This may occasionally happen at Gatherings — if we’re not seduced even then by the busy-ness of the Gathering schedule (here’s the wonderful but over-full, often double-booked, Feb 2019 Pantheacon schedule), or we forgo them altogether because if they’re any distance away, it takes fossil fuels to get there — or on long weekends, or vacations, or focused retreats.

A few solitaries may indeed carve out a daily block for deep meditation, by radically stripping away much else in their lives, sometimes including a partner. But it’s not a course specifically to recommend, or strive for, in the ordinary way of things. Plenty of Druids do little or no meditation — they’re fully engaged with other practices — you find the Druidry that works for you. Nor is some variety of meditation necessarily on the menu to set before newcomers. If I need to meditate for hours as my starting point, my chances of success, of sustaining such a rigorous practice, run from slim to none. (St. Paul counsels the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”, but that’s hardly a beginning practice for the new believer.) I gotta start where I am today, not from another place I have to go, just in order to begin.

The word “compromise” suffers these days — it’s practically equivalent in some circles to selling out, to treason, to soul-less complicity with the “Military-Industrial Complex” that president Eisenhower named over 50 years ago. Looking at all the many compromises every single one of us makes each day, I want to be mindful of my own first, before accusing anybody else. (Though you might not think so, to look at my comment on the opinion piece in the following paragraph!) I’ve taken the old song lyric as a matrix for vows and goals: “Let there be ____ on earth, and let it begin with me”. If Spirit can make headway with this 60-year old married Euro-American Druid-Eckist, using any part of my life as a center for change that might even deserve to ripple outward from there and influence others, then and only then do I have something to say to those others. If not, I’d best hold silence on such matters, listening to my trees when I can actually hear what they’re trying to tell me. Otherwise it’s all just another ego project that does little good for anybody.


looking west out our living room window

To get at this principle from the opposite direction, I’m now going to pick unfairly on a recent opinion piece in our local paper The Commons, titled “We have a choice: action or complicity“. (You can easily insert your own favorite divisive issue or polarizing problem or current controversy as the “choice”, without even reading the article). Such a self-righteous tone can feel really gratifying when we’re confident we’re perched on the “correct” side of the issue, and want to chastise all our weaker, conflicted, unprincipled neighbors who aren’t as woke and fired-up as we are about “Burning Issue-of-the-Day #327”. But attempts to ignite action through guilt, rather than offering a doable set of appealing steps that can start as soon as I set down the paper, haven’t exactly proven themselves as prime ways to effect change. And labeling the disengaged as “accessories after the fact”, as this opinion piece does those readers who sit out the controversy du jour and remain uninvolved in one particular struggle, probably will do little more than stir resentment at “damn liberals”. I’m a damn liberal myself in several ways, and even I grumble about damn liberals after reading the article.

In fact, most of us do have plenty of causes we’re committed to; it’s just that most of these causes are local, where we keep being admonished to act — they begin right here and now in our own lives: make rent, pay the mortgage, raise the kids, care for aging parents, save something for retirement, humor the crazy neighbor, pay off college tuition, care for our changing bodies, comfort a friend, invest time and passion into a love relationship, steady ourselves up for the next challenge, open ourselves to laughter and light wherever we can, and make of this world a home.

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“What if it didn’t have to be like this?” asks the original comment.

Well, it doesn’t “have to be” like this, and it isn’t like this in the lives of Druids I know. Every one of them has found valid and authentic steps to begin to rein in consumption, live greener, hear the call of the awen, and honor the voices of the beings around them. From radically downsizing both living space and possessions, and “simplify-simplify-simplifying” (B in northern Vermont), to joining Native protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline, training with a Native teacher and working in a nursery (M in New Hampshire), to training and mentoring in permaculture and raising much of their own food (R in Pennsylvania), to super-insulating their house, driving an electric car, working full-time to grow low-cost public housing (W in southern Vermont), to living in cooperative housing, hand-crafting, and raising a child as a single parent (M in Massachusetts), Druids are living their Druidry woven in the fabric of what they do every day, not as an “add-on” squeezed into an already-full schedule.

So here I’ll repeat the words I opened with: Each of us, regardless of the labels slapped on to who we are or what we do, is a center from which good things already ripple outwards to others. We matter more than we know, more than it can sometimes feel like we do.

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