Category Archives: SOVEREIGNTY

Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


I’m Picking Up Good Vibrations

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Even in 1966, when The Beach Boys were extolling the virtues of good vibrations, the power of positive thought was nothing new.

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happenin’”

Beach Boys

Dale Carnegie wrote How To Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. It later became a course of personal improvement based on positive behaviors, hailed by business executives the world over. And it was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Tart Words make no Friends: spoonful of honey will catch more flies than gallon of vinegar.”

More recently The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne (2006), took the premise of the law of attraction and ran with it, selling the idea (by way of 30 million copies of the book) that the vibrational frequencies of our thoughts go forth into the universe and fetch back like vibrations—positive thoughts attract positive results. 

It seems positivity also attracts nay-sayers. Lately my social media feeds are full of chatter decrying the scourge of toxic positivity and the harm it causes in the spiritual community. In my opinion, it’s fast becoming a one sided conversation driven by those who feel they are being pressured to mask behavior or personality traits seen as negative, in order to be accepted.

In polite society, there are certain conventions regarding behaviors generally thought to be offensive. Let’s face it, you probably don’t burp, fart, or pick your nose in public regardless of how pleasurable it may be for you, or because you do it at home all the time and shouldn’t have to change who you are to be accepted. You know good and well such behaviors will draw criticism and avoidance.

Where does your right to act or speak as you feel, come up against my right to not be offended—or even feel uncomfortable? How does your comfort level, trump mine? Frankly, if your attitude is bumming me out, what compels me to engage with you?

If I see one meme a day, I see twenty, declaring that the poster is not a phony or fake and if you can’t take them as they are it’s your problem not theirs. But it’s not my problem at all. I can walk or click away, and maybe you don’t care if I do. Great, we’re both getting what we want. If it’s my page or my group, I can ask you to get with the program or leave. That’s when you cry foul.

Own Your Own Crap

Everybody certainly has the right to act and speak as they feel. However, there is no protected right to impose your true self on those who choose not to participate in the exchange, in real life or on social media.

I’m married to a man who sees his world through a lens of negativity—he points out everything that he sees as wrong, somehow lacking, below standard, or otherwise irritating to him. Whether or not his constant negative commentary is justified (by chronic pain, life threatening illness, profound grief over the loss of his only son, and probably complicated PTSD) is irrelevant. He chooses to focus on these things, and by verbalizing it in an endless stream of complaining, he imposes it on me. It’s exhausting, sometimes maddening, sometimes unbearable. I’m constantly shielding and deflecting his behaviors. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what the stress levels are doing to my own health.

I married him, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. More importantly I love him and have compassion for his struggles. I’m no saint, he tolerates a lot too—probably not the least of which is my incessant positivity. I’m not walking away. I choose to put up with his crap, which is one reason I won’t tolerate yours—I’m already fulfilling my quota, thank you.

We live in expanding rings of community, with self at the center, surrounded by family, then friends, work groups, social groups, and so forth. The further you move from the center, the more you have to moderate your behavior to get along in a crowd.

Being told that you are a buzz kill, a kill joy, a Debbie downer, a gloomy Gus, a drain, an energy vampire, a pessimist, or any other epithet denoting negativity is not toxic positivity. At the other end of the scale are the Chatty Cathy’s, the Pollyanna’s, those accused of being naive, sticking their head in the sand, being in denial, wearing rose colored glasses, too loud, too hyper, told to tone it down, take it down a notch . . . all for being too optimistic. 

I have heard every one of those at times in my life. Does it sting? Oh my, yes. Could it be said with more tact, maybe compassion? Yes, certainly. Does it cause me to moderate how I act? With some people, in some places, yes. I’m pretty sure that’s a lesson in social awareness. 

Accusations of toxic positivity as I most often see them, are a misnomer at best. It’s an umbrella term covering the new age, love and light, power of attraction schools of thought that abound in personal development, healing arts, and spiritual practice from witchcraft to evangelical Christianity. A few recognized thought leaders include Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and Joel Osteen, minister of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

I mention these three because all have drawn criticism from their detractors and contemporaries both. Williamson is being called a whacka-doodle, Robinson has been held up as a snake oil salesman of the worst kind, and Osteen is accused of bypassing the scripture of fire and brimstone to preach a false gospel of prosperity and positivity—despite heading up the fastest growing non-denominational Christian congregation in the United States. 

I’m not here to debate the validity or value of these self appointed gurus’ offerings. I don’t necessarily subscribe to their pitches. For all the followers, there are as many haters. It boils down to a cup of tea—maybe it’s your cup of tea, or maybe it’s not. Offering you a sip is not the same as forcing it down your throat. If it feels that way, maybe you should reconsider hanging out with people who think it’s the nectar of the gods.

This is not to say that toxic positivity does not exist. At its core, toxic positivity is a problem of insensitivity and lack of compassion. Telling a clinically depressed person to cheer up, or suggesting they wouldn’t need medication if they just tried to be more positive is not only insensitive, it’s just plain ignorant. As is telling members of marginalized and minority communities, where systemic discrimination blocks upward mobility and success, that they need to stay positive and try harder.

Equally toxic is the implied (or direct) suggestion that if positive thought brings positive results negative thoughts attract negative results. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. As Rabbi Harold Kushner put fort in his best selling book, bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s nobody’s fault, it is not some divine punishment, it is not the action of a vengeful God or gods, or the powers that be.

  • Fact #1: Good and bad things happen all the time.
  • Fact #2: These things happen as a result of our decisions and actions.
  • Fact #3 These things happen through indirect forces we have no control over.
  • Fact#4 All three of the above facts can co-exist; no one is no more true than the other.

What About The Exceptions

Does positive thought have any efficacy at all, then? I choose to believe it does. 

There’s this funny little quirk of our brain and how it processes information—it’s not so good at distinguishing between real and make-believe. For example, watch a scary movie and you’ll feel your pulse quickening and your heart racing. Your body systems are also being flooded with stress hormones preparing the body to flee or stand and fight. All of this happens even as you repeat to yourself, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”

The same glitch has been used by competitive athletes for decades, under the headings of self fulfilled prophesy and mental conditioning. An olympic skater might go over their routine a thousand or more times in their mind, imagining each glide, spin, jump and landing, envisioning perfection in every detail, willing it to happen just that way.

Even the practice of making vision boards, providing a constant visual reminder of what you want to manifest, fools your mind into thinking it’s already a reality. Though you may not be consciously aware of it, you begin to make choices and act in ways that facilitate your goals. Or even more simply, the familiarity of the images compels you to have those things in real time. Whichever it is, I’ve manifested a good many material things in my life by first attracting them with thought.

Diversity in personality and behavior is one of the things that makes us all unique. Fly your freak flag, or your grump flag, or your love and light, positive attraction, unicorn pooping rainbows flag, and allow others to do the same. Maybe don’t join a camp if you don’t feel allegiance to its flag.


This Is What Self Care Looks Like Today

RANDOM THOUGHTS OF A CRONE

I’m struggling to feel good today—or even okay. All around me are celebrations of my county’s freedom—Independence Day, Fourth of July! Yet all I see are those precious freedoms slipping though our fingers.

I’m not celebrating our “Great America” today. I’m not setting eyes on any parade, especially one that appropriated tax dollars to ego stroke the interloper in the people’s house.

I don’t want to see or hear any celebratory fireworks—representative of the gallantly streaming ramparts. Not when an American war hero now laid to rest is repeatedly ridiculed by a petulant trust fund baby, the so called Commander in Chief, not half the man of any U.S soldier.

I will not celebrate when brave men who risked their lives on 911 must stand before congress, shadows of their former selves, eaten by cancer, and beg that their health coverage not end; their words fall on the deafest ears of a corrupt majority leader.

I will not celebrate when children are being caged and treated like animals at our borders, when instead they could be processed out to relatives already living here, to foster care, to many people who would temporarily take them in and treat them with compassion.

I’m not celebrating when Congress appropriates money to expand facilities and improve conditions in these kiddie concentration camps. Not when these facilities are part of this country’s for profit industrial prison complex that unjustly incarcerates marginalized people to maintain their money-making head counts.

Not when the interloper and a Supreme Court Judge have been accused of sexual assault and their accusers have been dragged through the mud, received death threats, and are left with a life in ruin.

Not when veterans who fought for our freedoms are homeless in the streets, and we spend millions on a bullshit parade for a fake president so he can impress the murdering dictators of the world whom he believes are fine people.

Not when children live in poverty within our own borders and we cannot feed, clothe or care for them with tax dollars, but will stop at no expense to protect those not yet born, not yet hungry, not yet naked or cold or sick . . . right up until the moment they are born and become hungry, naked, cold and sick.

Not when single mothers are shamed as immoral sluts and welfare queens, while men pass laws that will force all fertile women to bear children. Not when a pregnant woman sits in jail because the bullet from somebody else’s gun killed her unborn child and she is deemed the guilty one.

Not when judges slap the hands of rich white boy rapists to preserve their promising futures, while throwing the victim and a good deal of her hope for a promising future to the dogs.

Not when innocent people of color are shot down in the streets, in their own yards, in their own cars.

Not when the blood of those who gave their lives to secure our freedoms cries out from the grave and is denied.

Not when the poor, the sick, the minorities and the marginalized are fodder for the GOP Corporate money machine, fed into the grinder to churn out the God Almighty Dollar for the rich.

I will not celebrate America and her freedoms today. I will mourn the loss of both and conjure whatever force—in whatever name or names—that might still exist for good, for decency, for compassion, and for justice to rise up and smite all the corrupters and corrupted.


A Year of Becoming Crone

Crone woman in mosaicI marked sixty years of life last month. I am relishing the milestone. True, a trace of mourning for my lost youth still lingers around my edges, but the circle turns ever onward and aging is life. I find I spend more time imagining my crone years stretching out before me, who I want to be as Crone, and what legacy I want to create.

The triple goddess archetype of Maiden, Mother and Crone has been much misunderstood and often reimagined. I see it as a broad metaphor, not to be applied literally, nor its increments marked so precisely to biological functions in the life span of a woman.

The Maiden embodies youthful spirit of adventure and exploration, she is unfettered and carefree. Her energy is the awakening of and to life and in that respect she is ageless.

The Mother is the perpetuator of life. She has the potential to grow a child, give birth and care for the child, but that potential need not be actualized by the process of physical birth. The Mother is Creatrix of all life. Her energy is to bring change, to keep things moving forward, to create the unfolding of life, especially her own.

The Crone, of course, is the woman of experience. She is a vault of knowledge gained though life’s lessons—often hard learned. The Crone sees the bigger picture, her energy is of comprehension, compassion, and temperance. She has, perhaps, the most revealing of all vision, that of hindsight. The Crone brings closure, a laying down of burdens too long carried.

The passage from one life stage to the next, does not erase the former. We carry with us all the ages we have been. Neither are the transitions set hard and fast in the flush or loss of hormones. Some women enter their croning earlier, some after they are much older. Becoming Crone is not about age, it’s knowing, in your deepest place, when you have arrived.

I have been hearing the Crone whispers for some time now, but events of the past few weeks have turned up the volume. The voice inside me calls, “Don the mantle and cloak, enter the circle of Crones. Your time is at hand.”

But what does that mean? Sit on my porch swing and wait for younger seekers to come ask my advice? Check my inbox for an invitation to the circle? I’m thinking not. So, like I’ve done with most everything in my life, I’m jumping in feet first. The plan is to spend this year defining the parameters of my Croneship.

Many modern adaptations of the Maiden, Mother, Crone life cycle have expanded it beyond the three archetypal phases. Two models stand out as revolutionary and the books that introduced them have become timeless classics:  The Queen of Myself by Donna Henes and The Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard.

Ah, but of course! The three stages of the Triple Goddess are not the only points along the way. As on a beautiful color wheel, they are the primary hues, and between them are all of the beautiful blends—some in equal amounts, yes, but also those with a bit more of this than that, to give us all the colors of the spectrum.

The Queen lies directly between Mother and Crone. She is a powerful woman with much of the warrior about her, fighting for the right to her own sovereignty and for that of all women. From advocate to activist, she is a brave force in whatever causes she takes up.

In The Women’s Wheel of Life, Davis and Leonard give us thirteen unique archetypes, all distinct stages of the progression of blood mysteries, but again like the color wheel, the energies of each archetype strengthen the opposite aspect on the wheel. There are no less than five stages between Mother and Crone—Midwife, Matriarch, Amazon, Priestess and Sorceress.

In the Triple Goddess model, I have been more Crone than Mother for some time now. Queen felt right with her empowerment energy and capacity for the work of shaping society, but my urge to pass the scepter and crown to the next generation has become strong of late. While age alone and the death of my own mother makes me a Matriarch, the energy of Priestess and Sorceress feels much more visceral.

This makes sense to me. The Matriarch bears much of the Queenly qualities, still shaping and nurturing her family and community, while the Priestess and Sorceress are channels of Spirit. Their solo journey takes them through the deserts or to the mountain tops, they walk in the dark places, carefully listening, stirring past experience with divine truth, distilling the message that will be shared as Crone wisdom.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that true croning has almost nothing to do with natural age progression. True croning is an emergence from the depths of our self reckoning and the integration of our shadow and light, a beautiful blend allowing for all the tones. Where once we thought we knew everything, Crone shows us how narrow our vision has been.

The particular Crone energy I’m feeling is one of understanding, compassion, and acceptance that there are many paths to the same end. Between right and wrong action is a wide, gray chasm of potential for harm. I want to choose the way of least harm to myself—this precious, mortal vessel deserves at least as much love and care as I have given to others throughout my life.

I am quite ready to lay down the sword of the Amazon & Warrior, to pass the scepter and crown of the Queen to the next generation, knowing that it doesn’t mean ceding territory already hard-won. I have no doubt there are still many lessons to learn, but I believe they will be of a less corporeal and more transcendent nature.

Whether short or long, my journey to becoming Crone has begun.


Historical Trauma Is Not A Free Pass for Creating More Harm

Reaching for the LightI belong to a lot of online communities, among them groups for writers, groups for artists, and groups for spiritual seekers. I mention these three because they come together in a hybrid practice of seeking deeper relationship with the Divine as we each know it, through creative expression.

Like other communities (both online and off) dealing with endeavors in creative and intellectual spirituality, there are sometimes concerns over cultural appropriation. Those advocating against dipping into and borrowing from culture practices not your own, encourage seekers to dig down and find their own roots, find the traditions of their heritage and culture, and practice in alignment. To do otherwise causes harm to cultures that have been historically oppressed and/or enslaved, suffered cultural genocide and/or are disadvantaged in a marketplace where white European descendants are more favored and white privilege gives advantages non-whites do not enjoy.

If you want to better understand cultural appropriation with good examples , read Pulitzer Prize Winning author’s, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Arguments Over The Appropriation of Culture Have Deep Roots.

As might be expected, there is room for disagreement and misunderstanding at every level. What exactly is appropriation? How does it cause harm? What about freedom to practice the religion or spirituality of my choice?

One example, that of Indigenous Americans’ ritual of smudging, has been talked about in every group community I belong to (note that burning herbs and incense to purify person, spirit or space is found in many cultures from ancient times to modern).

In popular culture, we think of smudging as burning sage in an abalone shell, using an eagle feather to move the smoke. But there is much more to the Native American practice of purification, including the use of not only sage, but sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar for different purposes. 

If you are not of Native American bloodlines, or were not specifically taught the practice by a Native American, it is considered appropriation to smudge in this fashion. To do so without understanding the deeper meanings and various uses does not honor the practice. Widespread practice without proper knowledge dilutes the deeper meaning. Appropriating and sharing the practice as a teacher or facilitator, even writing about it results in profit or gain, whether financially or simply by building credentials.ricky-turner-585075-unsplash (1)

I will disclose here that I have Native American (matrilineal) bloodline, Ojibwe. Though not a percentage sufficient to be enrolled in a tribe, I have been taught by a tribal member how to smudge and gifted the tools to do so. Still, what does it matter if I make that declaration? I can’t prove it. I don’t carry around a gold edge certificate stating I received the right instruction, or that I was named by an elder and welcomed by the community, nor that I participate in spiritual ceremony with them. I can’t credit my indigenous mentors when I perform the ceremony (as is often suggested) because they are private people, they don’t want their names bandied about social media or in public. Even if I were to give names of teachers, few people outside the tribal community would know who they are.

I don’t look Ojibwe. If I’m smudging outside of my personal practice and I’m questioned about appropriation, I can answer honestly that I followed the respectful path. But, so can anybody who hasn’t followed a respectful path—how is it to be proved or disproved?

Unless we want to go so far as saying that cultural practices shall only be performed by those that are obviously (visibly) of said culture as to not question their heritage, there is no way to regulate it. I don’t think anybody wants to travel down the slippery slope of entitlement or restriction per cultural identity.

This is just one example of the a chasm of ambiguity that troubles me. Any online group or community can urge right practice, they can urge refraining from cultural appropriation, teachers and facilitators can lead by example, but when compliance depends on making assumptions about another’s cultural heritage, how do we rightly proceed? Will those of us putting ourselves out there as mentors, teachers, and leaders all wear armbands issued from some authority designating what we may and may not practice?

artem-bali-572467-unsplash.jpg

The thing is, there are no cultural or spirituality police in this country or within the online community—at least not any with actual authority for enforcement. Nobody is going to come break down my door and confiscate all of my herbs, my sage or incense, crystals, prayer beads, or rosaries. It won’t happen even if I’m teaching others. The choice not to engage in cultural misappropriation is entirely individual and depends entirely on the honor system—and enforcement (even attempted) is in direct opposition to honor.

As it stands now, within the online community, public conversations among and about teachers and facilitators who fall short of the desired standards in enforcing right cultural practice, often become heated, burning with accusation, demands that offender apologize and indignant flouncing.

Followers and students often have front row seats to the facilitator wars. Not good. It’s like sitting in the faculty lounge watching administration and teachers in a heated battle over classroom policy. As an online student, I have witnessed while one faction of self appointed cultural police have so harangued another over the title an imagery used in her marketing material, that she was forced to take the course down, even after making changes and apologizing.

The woman in question makes her living offering online classes and workshops, and was effectively hamstrung by her competitors, in the name of right practice. I am left wondering what is right about that?

In the example of smudging, I’ve seen many students sickened with shame and fear that they are doing something wrong if they practice cross cultural rituals in the privacy of their own home. Others are angered by what feels a whole lot like policing of the faith-based practices in which they can and cannot engage.

Teachers and facilitators, even thought leaders and bloggers, have an obligation to their students and followers and should take care to tread lightly in the territory of personal values and standards. The challenge is drawing clear lines between encouraging right practice among peers, and imposing personal values on impressionable students and followers.

Likewise, those offering their knowledge and skills  must take care they don’t fall under the spell of their own hubris; honestly there is no way to prove right or wrong in these issues and teachers who claim to know the only right way in matters as ambiguous as personal values are treading into troubled waters. Again using cultural appropriation as an example, how do we know that the increasing emphasis on bloodline entitlement, isn’t going to lead to even deeper division, harassment, and increasingly violent spaces?  

Even beyond values and right practice, in seeking to learn the pre-Christian spiritual practices of our ancestors, who of us knows the entirety of our cultural roots? My 95 year old patriarchal Auntie just received her DNA profile. There is only a small sliver of her pie that is not South Central European—and she knows her mother and father came to the U.S. from the same village in Yugoslavia. But you need only read the history of the multiple invasions of Slavic people throughout the centuries, or for that matter look at my own daughter and a nephew, who are often mistaken to be of Middle Eastern heritage, or my cousin with her very almond eyes, to realize Balkan people carry a rich mix of ancestry from East of their historical borders.

Further, my patriarchal name, though likely a boggled Americanization of something more Slavic, hints at an Irishman in the mix. Even if Auntie’s DNA seems to disprove this, who knows for sure? One contribution of Irish DNA several generations back, would become pretty watered down in all that Slavic blood. Yet, like my daughter, nephew and cousins who are visual throwbacks to ancient ancestors, could there not be spiritual throw backs as well? A family member unexplainably drawn to Celtic tradition?

Additionally, we must consider the incidence of non-biological children by adoption, and those by donor eggs or sperm. While were at it, lets not forget children born of secret liaisons and, yes, rape. It would seem, then, that if we are strongly attracted to a spiritual practice we have no apparent connection to, there may be (so called) good reason for it and we should be left to follow what our gut, or blood, is telling us.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a certain irony in all of this; spiritual seekers are generally quite accepting of the ideas of collective consciousness, Akashic records and even reincarnation, you’d think they’d also be accepting of being drawn to a cultural practice otherwise unrelated to present characteristics.

And let’s not discount the power of capitalism to influence the American Gestalt. We are experiencing a shift of consciousness, falling under the thrall of yet another feat of marketing magic. Test your DNA, find out who you really are! Trade in your lederhosen for a kilt. It seems we have gone from holding unity as an ideal, to becoming the much more interesting, flag bearing embodiment of our separate cultures. I suggest proceeding with caution. Go ahead and test your DNA if you’re curious, but not to use as a weapon in the war over who gets to rightfully smoke a peace pipe, or play a bagpipe.

If you are an online teacher, facilitator or thought leader working hard to establish and maintain an ethical standard among your peers, I respect and appreciate that, but please, don’t overlook the potential pitfalls. And please stop soft selling what is a very militant movement by saying people are being called in, not out. It may start as a call into the fold, but as soon as there is non-compliance, it quickly becomes a calling out and sometimes a tearing down —own that, don’t neutralize it to make yourself feel better about what you’re doing. 

When engaged in a controversial topic, stop counting those likes on your comments—accept that being in the majority on social media posts might represent a false endorsement, because those who don’t agree are either afraid to speak up or have simply grown weary of being dismissed out of hand and just scroll on by.

Admit that you are using your loud voice (because we all know what a loud voice is online even without the shouty caps), and that doing so along with with the many other loud voices of dogged insistence comes across as intimidation, regardless of the intention—own that, too. Do not soften it by calling it educating. I wouldn’t stand for an educator treating any student that way in a brick and mortar classroom.

If you, or others you know offer sound advice and information in the comments of social media posts, please refrain from later declaring that some people deserve to be paid via their Patreon or other similar monetizing sites for their contribution to the conversation. I have been a consultant in the business world. Would that I could drop facts and helpful information on people, completely unsolicited, and then send them a bill for payment.

This is not to say those who are offering insights don’t have valuable information worth monetary compensation, but perhaps a more professional approach would better serve their cause and their credibility. “I believe I have some helpful information. Here’s a link to my site with info on my experience and credentials, my hourly fees, and a payment link. If (X-number) of donations are made (or X-dolllar amount reached) I will join in the conversation.” Barring that, understand that any advice given is given freely. If he conversation doesn’t go your way and the game is no longer fun, you can’t demand payment for your ball before taking it home. 

And can I just say, if you are an expert working in your field, you should be too busy actually working to spend a day repeatedly commenting on social media.

Not that giving a tip, or buying a coffee should be off the table, we can all use the little extra income. Likewise there is a better way to encourage others to do the same“Hey, peeps. I was recently in a discussion where (name) dropped some real pearls of wisdom on us and I’m visiting (site) to buy her a a cup of coffee.” 

Finally, if you are taking it upon yourself to facilitate groups, please understand the weight of your responsibility regarding impressionable students and followers. Consider providing a concise, written/downloadable/printable statement, easily accessible in your marketing materials and also provided by email at course sign-up, listing your values, standards, and expectations in your online classrooms. Consider directing students to a well written, easily digested explanation of cultural appropriation (and anything else of import). Encourage them to do their own work, inform themselves and make their own decisions on right practice.

When debate arises within your own community of leaders and facilitators, please do not carry it over into your instructional spaces. If you feel you must make a statement, because you previously endorsed an individual or program you no longer wish to recommend, keep it simple—”I am no longer endorsing (teacher/program) because she doesn’t align with my values regarding (xyz).” Refer students and others with questions back to your provided statement of values and standards, and remind them that they have to do their own work and arrive at their own decisions.

Finally, given the room for so many unknowns in cultural heritage, please consider the fact that as altruistic and ardent as you may be in the cause, there is a huge potential for turning your passion into a bully pulpit, regardless of all good intention. Understand that we are all on individual journeys to spiritual fulfillment, and there are many different points along the way, some of us are more ready for the hard work than others. Each of us should have a wide array of online class choices to meet our current need when we are paying for personal enrichment.

Remember, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Your students will find you and you them.

As for myself, I stand firm in my conviction that past harm is not a carte blanche excuse for creating more of the same. Today’s bloodline entitlement is tomorrow’s discrimination. If all we manage to change is which culture or group is being oppressed or restricted in their choices, then there is no change at all. It is not progress and it is not healing

*          *          *          *          *          *

Comments for this post are disabled—not because I’m avoiding dissenting opinions, nor did I write this for any ego boost derived from “likes” and positive comments. I’m not allowing comments because I don’t want this to become another showcase for the problematic behaviors that concern me.

I also want to thank those who have informed my understanding of cultural appropriation thus far (there is always more to learn), and those whose ethics classes gave me solid foundations, but I’m not going to name any—you know who you are, you are doing your work and you are encouraging and allowing me to do mine.


%d bloggers like this: