||[May. 23rd, 2004|06:25 pm]
Last month, I attended my first public ritual, and I decided that I was going to attend one this month as well. Now, of course, I've been undergoing a massive amount of spiritual discovery over the past few weeks, which made the notion of a public ritual even more exciting. |
As is typical, I decided that I would feel a bit better if I was able to help out some, so I decided to show up for the work party that started four hours before the space opened. I e-mailed the organization about it, but never got a response. Still, I didn't get a response of "do not come unless you've signed up", and my figuring is that volunteer organizations usually can find a way to have someone help out. This organization was no different ... and it was really a pretty good thing that I was there, because there was a fair amount of work to be done, and it was being done outside on a typical Seattle day ... which is to say, it was raining.
We were clearing trails, making sure that the overgrown plants were trimmed back, avoiding massive plant-life destruction where possible, but we did need to make sure that the trails were clear.
The job got a bit easier once I recognized that two of the major offenders were non-native plants that were invasive, one of them being wild blackberries. (I can't remember the other, but it is equally bothersome, without having be pleasant side effect of producing blackberries. )
The rain started getting harder, and the weather started getting all a bit colder, but despite all that, I think that we did a massive amount of clearing. Cleanup was a pain, though. Bending, twisting, and lifting are especially icky for me when my clothing is thoroughly soaked, because the moving cloth highlights the cold spots. But, we got the job done, and I had decided that, despite the promise of free food, I was going to go home ... clean, dry clothes seemed to be an extraordinarily good idea.
Well, apparently traffic had other ideas ... there was a minor traffic accident, so I ended up going back to the ritual location, hoping to find a place to lie down, or rest, or, well, do something ... I was feeling pretty rotten by this time.
The trouble is, while I am getting better at dealing with people, even strangers, I found myself with a slight inability to say something useful, like "Okay, I was just in the work party, I'm soaking wet, and extremely tired ... does anybody have any ideas on what I can do to alleviate either of these because I can't go home just now?" Hell, I hadn't even had signed up, or otherwise alerted anyone that there was some long haired weirdo named John Palmer sitting around and, so who the heck was to know?
Well, I hung around for about half an hour, and realized that, since I couldn't sit down on any of the decent furniture in my wet, dirty clothing, all I was going to do was get more tired, and more miserable. So, I drove home ... thankfully, I was able to find out from some recent arrivals that the traffic had cleared.
Once I arrived home, I started to realize just how much I had been chilled by the thorough soaking that I had received. It's not that I was cold, it was more that I was slightly chilled. However, that chill had set in, completely. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that my temperature had been reduced to the low end of normal. Nothing dangerous, of course, it just enough to make me feel uncomfortably cold all the way to my core.
I stripped off my clothes, and decided to lie down for a few minutes. Hah, a few minutes... I'm sure that none of you have any problems guessing what happened next. I woke up about four hours later. Actually, I woke up be twice before four hours had passed. However, each of those times the woke up, I was still either tired, or slightly cold. For once, rather than sleeping under a single, very light blanket, I was sleeping under that blanket, and a good, thick, comforter. And, for all that, it took most of four hours for me to reach a point in which it felt warm under that much covering.
Well, I got out of bed, and got online for a few minutes, and tried to decide what I was going to do next. If I hurried out, I would have plenty of time to make it to the ritual, but I also had a little bit of difficulty about the ritual itself. The ritual was for some specific changes, and I still feel relatively funny about attempts to use magic to alter the physical world. I also know that some people strongly believe that skeptics do not belong at magical workings. Other people wouldn't care that I hold on to my skepticism, so long as I was actively participating, and hoping for the outcome they desired. Still, I didn't know who wanted what, and if I participated when skeptics were undesired, well, it'd be like a non-believer trying to score one of those funny crackers at a Catholic mass... 'rude' is the kindest word for it.
My choice was made easy after a few minutes. I was having some trouble with my network connection, so I decided to power off my hub/router, which meant pulling the power cord out. When I tried to put the power cord back in, however, the internal pin broke off, so I no longer had a way to share Internet connections between multiple computers. I'm sure that if I searched around long enough, I would find another hub here, so I could use Windows Internet connection sharing, but that was much too much like work for me, and I had also been sort-of looking for an excuse to purchase a wireless router kit, so that my laptop could be connected without a network cable. This seemed to be a sign that I was supposed to get such a kit, and I decided that I would go out to Fry's, get the kit, and then decide what to do next... go to the ritual, or not.
I was having another piece of ambivalence, because I was having some irrational annoyance. I mean, it wasn't irrational that I was annoyed, but I understood that the annoyance wouldn't do me, or anyone else, any good.
The fact of the matter is, I put in 2 1/2 hours of heavy work for some people, and they didn't know, or appreciate, what I had done. They didn't have very good volunteer tracking, which is not anyone's fault, really, it's just a disease of volunteer organizations that are not too formal. Plus, I had shown up unannounced, and more or less at the last minute.
Still, given that the work and the conditions, combined, knocked me out for four hours, I was feeling miffed at the fact that there was no way for me to do anything about their lack of knowledge and appreciation. These aren't the nicest thoughts to have, especially when you realize that they're not really very fair, and there's nothing really that can be done for them, but it was there, and it was real, and it would ordinarily be good reason for me to blow off the ritual entirely, figuring to come back fresh next month.
But, while it was at Fry's, I did my normal decision making game, and flipped a coin. Frequently, what I will do is use heads as the intellectual choice, and tails as the needful choice, which works well with American quarters, with the eagle on the back of them. "Head versus heart" is the way that I might think of it.
Heads was going to be that I would go out to the ritual, which I had decided to do if it had been possible, even though I was exhausted enough that my need, and my heart, were probably back home in bed already.
I flipped the coin, and it came up heads ... and I knew it was right. So, I got back on the road, and drove out to the ritual site again.
When I arrived there, the ritual was already in progress. I had expected that would be, despite the vagaries of pagan standard time. I decided that I would simply walk around past the ritual space (the only way to get to the main building) and hang out, figuring that if there was a reason I should be there, it would make itself apparent.
My first thought was that my coin flip had been completely reversed, and I was crazy for having thought that it was right, though perhaps not for the reason you might suspect.
They were singing in the circle, and there was a hauntingly beautiful quality to their voices. I can't explain it, and I'm not going to try to. I don't think it was that only trained voices were singing, or that the music was expertly written... but the sound was still beautiful. Their dancing seemed to be perhaps two circles, a la 'ring around a rosy', but again, I got a sense of the haunting beauty, that pulled at me.
This, of course, is why I had felt it was a bad idea. I felt this pull, this draw, and this beauty that I was outside of. Since I frequently feel like an outsider, this plays into my worst fears, and normally would be certain to make me think that I do not belong, and never would. But, I forced myself to have faith in my decision, and to figure out why it was that I felt drawn to this place. I was not going to let myself go, by saying that it was just an emotional whim. I'd pretend that my coinflip had worked, and seemed 'right', for a reason, until it was proven otherwise. I would pretend that somehow, I knew something was destined to happen tonight.
Score one for wishful thinking, or perhaps we can pretend that it was simply a successful hunch, though it took some time for me to realize this. I got back to the building at the ritual site, and there was nothing to do. I puttered around, straightening up this, or that, but was feeling very much like a seventh wheel ... kind of like a fifth wheel, only even more redundant
Eventually the ritual ended, and people started filtering back in. Whether it's good, or bad, there are enough people there that one extra long haired weirdo doesn't make much of an impression, so I just hung out for a little bit. Then it was announced that there was drumming, and dancing, at one of the other buildings on the site. I decided "what the hell", and went over. I spent a few minutes waiting outside, feeling nervous, and, again, feeling like an outsider.
I finally asked someone who was leaving the building if there was any reason that a person wanted to come in, and watch, and listen, would be unwelcome. They were, quite naturally, puzzled at what the hell am I talking about. But, they answered that there'd be no problem with that. So I went inside, and started to listen.
I think this may have been a large part of why I was there. For one thing, I received the insight about how stupid the question I had asked was. No one was going to recognize me, so unless I did something different than everyone else was doing, no one was going to care what I was doing. It wasn't as if they were casting a formal circle, or something. There's a reason I joke about being invisible in social situations; it's that, while I might not be memorable in a good way, I'm rarely visible in a negative one, either.
But then I was listening, and some of you may have experienced the same things that I have with deep drumbeats. They can have a very strange effect. It's just a sound, but it can feel like a sensory assault. I was determined to stick around, but I don't think I understood exactly why. Why (boom) stay(boom) and (boom) get (BOOM) battered (BOOMBOOMbaboom) like (Boom) this?!
Somewhere along the line, something changed, and I realized that the drum beats were no longer pushing at me, were no longer high pressure waves that were pushing me out to sea. They simply were ...
I suddenly realized the explanation for this ... or, if it wasn't "the" explanation, it was the one that I was going to hold onto. I was no longer an outsider, I had started to feel like I was one of the people there, not just an intruder of some form.
The drum beats were simply there, a piece of the most fundamental music known to humanity. I had nothing to fear, and I was not being pushed away, and I suddenly realized that I had some love for these people around me, though I didn't know any of them, by name, or by face.
So I did the only thing that I could do, the only right thing to do. I got up, and I started to dance to the drumbeats. Or, perhaps a better way to say that is that I started to dance *in* the drum beats. It was a very strange experience, but a very enjoyable one, though it's hard to express why. I lost a lot of my self and while my brain was still running off in random directions, I felt relatively safe, and comfortable. My brain might be doing its weird "overthinking" thing, but it wasn't about to go into a destructive spiral.
Eventually, I left, and went back to the main building. I ended up having a sharp moment of annoyance; one of the last things that I had done it at the end of the work party was transport the ladder, intending to put it away. No one that I could find knew where it went, so I leaned it up against the side of the building. Here it was, 10 hours later, and the ladder was still standing there.
Don't ask me why, but I went inside and demanded attention, and said that I had left that ladder there, and I wanted to know where it belonged, until someone finally assured me that they, personally, were going to be taking care of it. That was enough to put my conscience at rest... I mean, it's their ladder, they can leave it laying down in the wet grass for all I care, but not if *I* had put it in the grass. A bit of weirdness, but it made me feel better. Maybe it was just proof that I felt comfortable enough to raise an issue that I thought was important... especially because it *had* been my responsibility earlier.
Well, I hung out a little bit, doing my "invisibility shtick". Just hanging around, generally out of people's ability to notice, because I didn't have anything I particularly wanted to do, or say, until a few moments later.
There was a gentleman giving readings in one corner of the room and I started to hear some of the things he was saying. I was suddenly impressed, because many of the things that he said indicated to me that he had the same sort of understandings about certain things that I did. How can I describe it? I suppose it'd be like looking for martial arts instruction and seeing someone performing kata, or sparring, in a way that made you think "if that's not what I want to learn, it's related."
I asked if I could listen and watch the reading, and he said it was up to the person for whom he was reading, and that person was agreeable. So I listened, and became more impressed with this man the more I listened. If I were to believe that that I had come back to the ritual site because I was supposed to, meeting this man would certainly have been the reason, even if I hadn't received the insights I had received and the drumming and dancing.
When he was done with that reading, a young woman wanted a reading as well. He started to mention his fee, and when she seemed to be slightly concerned over the money, I simply piped up and said that I would pay for two readings ... so long as I got to speak to him for few minutes in lieu of a reading. So, that's what I did. I'm glad that I had my checkbook with me; I'm not carrying much cash these days, because I'm trying very hard not to spend money unnecessarily. If I hadn't had my checkbook (which I rarely carry... another interesting coincidence), I wouldn't have been able to make the offer.
So I hung out on the periphery as he was doing that reading, making sure that I didn't miss my chance. And, after he was done, we chatted for a bit.
I spoke to him about my skepticism, and my feeling that I was being challenged to throw it away. His vision on this is that we have the intuition, and the rational mind, and neither can truly stand the other in some ways. They can be in direct opposition much of the time. However, he felt that our intuition is what can grasp at the real universe, and while we might rationalize much of it, the intuition should not let itself be overly constrained by the rational world. He has had many experiences, and while he tries to rationalize some of them, he often imagines his intuition patting his rational mind on the head saying "there, there".
He gave me some advice that mostly confirmed things that I had already figured out for myself, which was a good thing. He pointed out that some people who have a difficult time shielding, have a difficult time going through life because of that inability... something that I thought he could well have been saying about me. He mentioned that one of the methods of improving shielding is by using different images for shielding, which is something I had also independently discovered just recently. Then he suggested, I should start working with others if I could, doing what reading I could, and remembering the most important lesson of them all: make sure the learning was fun.
I can't say that he said anything life changing, but he certainly helped me decide to keep following the path that I've been following recently, even if it did seem silly, or irrational. And, perhaps, he validated my decision that my next step does have to be finding others who are doing similar types of things, or who have already done them. While there are a lot of things that a person can learn on his own, it's always helpful to have the experiences of other people who have gone through the same types of things.
All in all, it was a very pleasant, but extremely exhausting, Saturday.
(Oh, yeah: Setup of wireless network occurred without interesting incident. I *am* a geek after all.)