Looking at “Practical Druidry” – My Starting Point (Part 1 of 3)

AwenOver the last couple of months, I have heard two terms getting tossed around quite a bit in the blogosphere – “Contemplative Druidry” and “Practical Druidry”. Well, I decided to have a little peek around these and see what I might come up with – and figure out how that relates to me. What I got into was something I was not quite expecting, and at times felt that I was in just a touch over my head with the topic depth.

During this little academic (at times) exercise, I thought it would be a good idea to encapsulate the entire endeavor in journal entries. I started this search at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend with the full intent to have something that was quick and simple to publish. Instead, I found myself approaching the two points from a manner that resembled some of my larger research paper assignments from my Masters of Business Administration degree. As I type this, I am reading through a few pages of what I have written and trying to find a summation that encompasses both what I have written and the frame of mind that I found myself in. The following is my best attempt at accomplishing just that.

My first search walked me down the direction of “Practical” Druidry. Before setting out, I decided to try and come up with my own definition/idea of what the term meant to me – and then lay that as a comparison against what I had found. Working from the idea of practicality, I set upon a boundary for this term:

Practical Druidry is the physical motions of putting one’s Druidic beliefs and philosophy into motion, such as the moment when an individual lets go of logical perspective when creating something, and divines inspiration from the Awen. In this manner, an individual ceases to think of what they are doing, and allows their reflexes and intuition to drive the process forward.

Not precisely a stellar definition, but its enough for me to intuit where my mindset is concerning this term. I started my search with Google, utilizing the term itself “Practical Druidry”. The first link took me to the website for my Druidry Order – the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.  The link was entitled “Practical Spirituality” and written by Steve Hounsome. I will freely admit, I do not know the name or the individual whatsoever – so the writing was something completely new for me. The article, it turns out, was a refreshing look at a principle I had already started to put into play:  finding the sacred in my own daily life and work.  Hounsome elaborates:

When we look at our life as a sacred principle, we come to the point where we begin to see something of that sacred, or Divine, in all that we do. As such, we can be as much a Shaman, Witch, Druid or whatever when we are sitting behind our desk at work as we are when we are seated in our ceremonial circle.

I have elucidated upon this quite a few times here on the blog.

I’ve mentioned before, my job with the college is Data Analysis – essentially finding patterns in data that is gathered and compiled by the college. Its actually a lot fun – I get to try and talk to the database, and learn its query language, I get to look at the data that gets compiled, and try to find patterns to present to upper management. The challenge is not to present the material with my own bias.  (…)  To be completely honest, I never dreamed that my Druidry studies would show me a new way of looking at how my daily life ties so closely to my own immediate surroundings and environment. There are days that I wish I had uncovered this way of looking at Life when I was far younger – but then if I did…I wouldn’t be who I am now. (Barcharts, Data, Leaves and Colors….)

In a manner of speaking, I am already trying to stretch my legs into the territory of “Practical Druidry” – finding ways to relate aspects of my everyday job, where I search for patterns and logical comparisons between sub-populations of the collegiate student body – with my continual mode of learning about how to utilize my Druidry lessons into finding these comparisons.

I was also surprised at how different my starting definition was from what the article had noted – and how similar it had turned out to be as well. The differences were by no means a rocking of the world for me – but the similarities were certainly not close enough to say that I had bulls-eyed the target, so to speak. There was certainly a large amount for food for thought in each of those notations. And that food I am continuing to chew to this day, slowly devouring the essence of what I am gathering, while savoring the magickal taste of doing this search in the first place.

…and soon, I was going to change gears again, as I picked up the very heady wine of Contemplative Druidry….


Let’s Be Confused Together

ArgumentOccasionally, I get folks that ask me what I think about this or that news topic. I am really unsure of what they are looking for — on the one hand, they may genuinely want to know my opinion on something or have a true discussion about the topic in order to help process a different perspective. More often than not, its usually someone wanting to argue or debate a point that they feel is relevant from their perspective. I can understand that – a need to argue one’s point of view in order to derive more meaning from it. I don’t really find it to be all that productive though. After all, a debate tends to seek a “winner” and a “loser” in the end. I’ll point to the definition as outlined in dictionary.com’s entry:

…a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.

Perhaps I am just a little too old, and a little too set in my understanding of the world around me, but I have no desire to spend time trying to be in a “contest” over an opposing viewpoint. That sounds an awful lot like what the politicians of today do:  endlessly argue over some ultra-fine point of legislation, tying up the entire process until the problem eventually goes away. Then no one needs to make a decision. And then no one gets blamed because something was or was not done — the problem just went away.

Ok, perhaps I am a little jaded over the entire political process. I can admit that in the way I look at politicians and legislators. Endless, pointless arguments over issues with no regard for how the problem is currently affecting people for whom the problem is very real.

In a manner of speaking, this is a lot of the way I see the issues of police force that are currently permeating the news. There are many ways to slice up the information and dissect it to figure out who is at fault. Perhaps its just the police for using the force?  Perhaps its the people that have a blatant disregard for the authority of a police officer to enforce the laws of the community? Perhaps its the individuals that choose to resist arrest for [x] reason?  Perhaps its the officers who profile individuals based on their skin color, clothing, hair-style, gender, brand of cigarette that they smoke, the type of water bottle they carry, the area they live in, or whatever strange, curious or obvious division or descriptive that can be created and utilized??

I hear [and understand] the people that scream for the firing of officers that are involved in incidents such as the ones that have made the news lately. What about the people who choose to set fires to businesses shortly after they are done looting them? I certainly don’t hear or see protesters trying to get these individuals into the hands of the authorities to have them prosecuted for the crimes that they have committed? Perhaps I missed where the looting and burning of stores within the Ferguson, Missouri community were “ok”…

Sure, I hear the racial overtones to things. I grew up in the late 1970s, and early 1980s – where we tried our very best to be inclusive. But I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that racism was over. I have heard that a lot too. That my generation was foolish enough to believe that racism was over. Trust me, many people I knew during that time frame were not foolish enough to believe that. But we had certainly hoped that a large enough dent had been placed in it. Now, thirty some years down that road…I can see that the dent has been pounded back out.

Who am I blaming?  No one.  No one at all. And all of us.  Every. Single, Fucking. One of us. I am not here to debate any of this either. Its the way I think. I tend to keep this stuff to myself. If someone else reading this is nodding and saying “I’m confused about this too”  — have a seat next to me here on the curb. I could care less who you are.  Or the color of your skin. Or what religious beliefs you have. Have a seat and be confused with me…and remember, debating this is going to do nothing. But then again, I have to wonder what can we do?? My only thought is that we stop classifying ourselves according to our skin color and genetics. Perhaps the best step we can take is to start classifying ourselves as human beings. How we get to that point – is, in my opinion, anyone’s best guess.


Daring to Break the Sound of Silence

musicSo its the start of a new work week…and its also the start of a new month…and nearly the end of the year. And like most folks, this time of year has me looking inward…but strangely enough – I am also looking outward and forward.

I have been podcasting since…I don’t know….2006?  Something like that. I do believe I started at the beginning of January. That would make the end of December as the end of my ninth year. The podcast has changed a lot over those years – including a full name change from “From the Edge of the Circle” to “Upon a Pagan Path.” And I admit, I have not done a lot with the podcast over the last year-plus…

Now, before the six of you that still listen on a regular basis start kicking up dust and making tracks through the dust that has settled around the show — no, I am not about to stop podcasting. In fact, its time I started doing what I set out to do with the change in the show. I need to get into the process of interviewing folks.

Scott and Daphne (you two still part of my six listeners??) are currently first in line. A Christian and Pagan that groove on each other enough to find respectful disagreement and some mutual agreement on topics of a Spiritual nature. In a way, interviewing (hopefully) them will bring something I believe in to a great degree:  working with others of beliefs that sometimes seem to be polar opposites, but aren’t really when you start to look deeper into things. But then, there’s a question of who else might make for good interview victi….err…candidates. Yeah, candidates.  ::smiles:: I have a few ideas of who to approach – starting with some of my long-time fellow podcasters…and then moving over to a handful of writers that I know…and a potential musician or two….but what about ya’ll?? I would love to find more folks that are not normally “seen” in the public eye…any suggestions???

Not that long ago, John Beckett had a great blog post about focusing one’s perspective away from detailing who you are not, and putting a perspective of who you are into focus. The post is “Tell Me Who You Are, Not Who You Aren’t” – and it plays into a perfect moment of synchronicity of where I am right now on my own Path.  John notes:

Tell us about your Gods and how you worship Them. Tell us about your ancestors and how you honor them. Tell us about the spirits of Nature and how you work with them. Tell us about the virtues you live by, and how you embody them. Tell us your vision for a better world, and how you’re working to manifest it here and now.

And he’s right on target for me here. Looking back on the podcasts and the topics I have covered – as well as many of the blog posts here on “Footsteps on My Path” – I have spent more time framing my conversations against what I am not.  Or in the words of Simon and Garfunkel:

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

–Simon and Garfunkel, ‘The Sound of Silence’

Who am I?  What am I?  Who are the Gods that touch me on a daily basis? What myths and stories touch me? What awakens the flame of Awen in my sacred space? If you are starting to see a thread and pattern – then you are starting to see where I am headed into 2015. Yes, I am about to try something very, very different with both the podcast and the blog – I am approaching this as a theme going forward. I am about to dare to disturb the sound of silence….

One other instance of note — now that I have a job that is not completely tied to a teaching schedule, my ability to make events during the school semester is much more flexible. Right now, I am down as a “yes” for The OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering in March of 2015. I am also checking to see if I will be in conflict with any major deadlines for the Pantheacon 2015 event in San Jose in February. Yes, it means that I am looking into making some events in the future. And yes, I will be looking to record my thoughts for both the podcast and the blog. Like I said — its time to move forward in a positive vein.  Looking forward to seeing folks and shake hands, hug, and talk…


Finding Thanks….

Its Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. A “holiday” that has become more and more clouded with retail visions – rather than a point of giving thanks for what we have in our lives. I have plenty to give thanks for – a new job where my skill set is appreciated, and wanted. People that are unrelated to me that are true family. The freedom to be able to follow my own religious beliefs and convictions. And the freedom to follow any intellectual path I desire.

I have a lot of other things that I am grateful to have – but these are material possessions, and I find that I have far fewer things that I “need” to have – but am still thankful for their presence in my life. Technology – with which I would not be able to be in contact with many people I know, central air and heating, which make my life a little more comfortable in the winter and summer months, and a reliable vehicle with which I can travel.

See? Plenty of things there – including a handful of “nice to have” material possessions — and I have yet to set foot into a retail shop or head off on a spending binge for any other item. And its that part of materialism that has really gotten me to start watching the world around me – and shaking my head with a mixture of confusion, disgust, and a touch of despair. Add in a rather strong dose of “the whole world is against me because of (add your own descriptive here)” — and you get a part of today’s society that I just do not understand.

Perhaps its a matter of my time in the US Air Force, and the people I was stationed with. When the going got too tough, we stepped back, and found a less difficult way to get things finished. Sometimes, that meant breaking the rules. Sometimes, it meant exploring a path that lead to nowhere, and then coming back and starting over. Whatever the case may have been, we looked at such moments as obstacles to overcome, and the changing nature of the environment to achieve that success as a way to find creative solutions…sometimes so unorthodox, that it raised eyebrows from others. Whatever it needed to be, we found a way.

I have carried that into my life, along with an additional piece of advice I got from one of my supervisors:  “Fight the battles you have to fight. Step aside from the battles that won’t have any meaning in the future. Wisdom comes from figuring out which battles are worth the fight.” And that Wisdom has comes at a hefty price…where I chose the wrong battle. But over time, I have learned which battles will have more meaning to me than others.

For instance, when people rail about pro-football quarterback Michael Vick’s dog fighting past, I share their concerns over what his role was in all of that. But there are those that are super passionate about these kinds of things, and cannot forgive him for what he has done. They continually rail on his ability to earn a living as a pro-football quarterback, and denigrate his character whenever they get the chance to do so. I am not as passionate about the issue, and I believe in second-chances for anyone. So I don’t share in their desire to heap derision and anger upon Mr. Vick and/or his employer(s). I certainly give thanks that America is a society of second-chance opportunities – if it were not, I would be in a bad spot, considering all the wrong choices I made back in my twenties.

I know there are those who will not agree with me – and I am certainly “ok” with that. After all, I live in a country where individual expression and opinion are valued – so long as you are not harming someone else in that action.

I know that current events have some folks angry about one thing or another. In today’s uber-hyper-political environment – someone, somewhere is angry about one thing or another that has been or is being perceived as being done to them. My point is that you can set that angry to the side for just a few moments…and find something to give some positive thought to instead. I know I am doing that – or trying to do my best – each and every single day. And to be honest, its been something that has certainly made a difference in my outlook for the day.  Give it a try…see if you like it.  What’s it going to hurt??

On the Plus Side of Things – A Further Step Away From Facebook

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading - even when I go to the beach

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

Life has been a little different these days. I spend most of my work day trying to discern patterns of one sort or another in the data we gather on students and classes. I have a HUGE office, of which I use maybe a little more than half of it. I never had anywhere to hold meetings with students when I was teaching. Now I have an office large enough to add another person with no problem. Yes, I traded a three mile drive for one close to fifty miles. Both of those measurements are one-way directions. But I have health care benefits for the first time in my life since 2006. I am capable of paying off my bills now, and getting a full cart of groceries — rather than trying to decide between eating, and paying a few of the bills. I am even planning a trip to Scotland and England for next year. Yes, life has changed a lot for me.

And life continues to change in other areas. Some of you may be reading this from a link you found on my Facebook page to WordPress. However, you have likely found that I am not posting that much on Facebook, and have removed all of my photos from there. Yes, I am placing Facebook in the corner. I have seen very little benefit from it since I joined back in 2009. For the most part, I am playing games, or reading meme after meme. or there is the bashing of some politician, some political figure, some religious figure, some belief system, or some sports figure….or something else along those lines. And when someone voices a differing perspective, they get denigrated for it.  Frankly, I have had my fill. However, I am not going to move along….I’m just not going to make Facebook into my priority Social Media location. Instead, I will split my time between Google-Plus, where my posts will be more public and closer to just talking about my daily life, and Ello, where my posts will be a little more introspective and “quieter”. I’ll still have the Facebook presence, just not as utilized as before.

I have only just started this yesterday (Friday), but already I have seen benefits from it. I spend far less time hunched over my keyboard – which I also blame for a lot of my shoulder and neck issues. I spend more time doing other things around the house – and reading. Gods, I have missed reading. Now that I am not spending tons of time on Facebook, I can pour that free-time into other things that have more meaning in my life. Like my Druidry studies. Reading. Spending time with friends. And sleeping.

Now, I hear folks saying – “why didn’t you just stop spending so much time on Facebook?” I imagine that these would be the same folks who would look at my cross-eyed when I noted that after stopping my soda drinking, I started to feel “normal”. “Just stop doing that stuff.” Its easy to talk about.  Its also easy for some folks to do. For others, such as myself, its hard.  Particularly, when you start associating comfort and necessity with those activities. And that was precisely what I have been doing.

I am under no illusion that completely quitting both will not happen. Soft drinks are everywhere, including work. I am having to educate co-workers on the point that not everyone wants to drink soft drinks. That – perhaps – bottled water would be a better option for many folks there. And with something that seems like 99.99% of the planet seemingly on Facebook…its hard to completely quit when there are so many folks I know there – and in some instances, ONLY there. Thus the reason that I am not simply deleting my account.

Nor am I advocating that you – the individual reading this – should do the same thing. This is my choice – it might not be the right choice for you. For whatever reason. That matters not to me. I am not here to look down on you for choosing to use something that I am beginning to move away from. In my opinion, that would be the wrong thing to do. Your choices are right for you at whatever moment that you make them. Just don’t snub me because of the choices that I make.

Anyways, for those trying to find me:

Google-Plus:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/110049757322376115517/posts

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/t_elfster

Ello:  https://ello.co/tommyelf



Barcharts, Data, Leaves and Colors….

Everything has been a run-run-run mode for me over the last three weeks. Every time I turned around, there was something else that needed to be done and completed – and there simply was not enough hours in the day to do everything. This weekend, however, has been a complete opposite of all that. So far, I have had the opportunity to take a walk – even though it was a misty rain, I decided to go walking anyways. I have had the chance to sit down and do a few meditations – one guided and the other just me finding my center.

I’ve mentioned before, my job with the college is Data Analysis – essentially finding patterns in data that is gathered and compiled by the college. Its actually a lot fun – I get to try and talk to the database, and learn its query language, I get to look at the data that gets compiled, and try to find patterns to present to upper management. The challenge is not to present the material with my own bias. Just present the data and let them make their own minds up as to what it says or does not say. But I continually find myself putting the lessons I have learned in both Cat Treadwell’s Druidry class, as well as the lessons I have learned from the Gwers in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids’ Bardic Grade course into practice.

Data can be presented a variety of ways. You can put your own spin on what data points are important. You can highlight particular data points with certain colors in charts.  For instance, red is a major standout color – so any data point you may wish to highlight can be placed into that color mode. Also, if you wish to de-emphasis a data point, putting it into a grey color in that same chart can have a similar effect. The red color draws the eye, while the grey color is dismissed to some degree by the individual’s eye.

This fits some of the perspective in understanding and relating to one’s environment, in my opinion. Take a walk and just observe everything around you. Your eye will be drawn to the bright oranges and yellows of the changing leaves, but will you notice the more subdued colors of the branches and trunks as well? I’d wager that most people will not. Just as the eye is drawn to the budding colors of the emerging green leaves at the start of Spring or the full foliage in the start of Summer. The leaves get the press coverage because of the brightness of their colors played out against the browns, blacks and greys (for the most part) of their respective trees.

Have you ever noticed that many of the animals in the forest have coats of subdued colors? Many times, people will not even notice some animals are nearby because their eyes slide over the subdued colors. Instead, their catches on color and movement. When I was taking survival training in the United States Air Force, this was one of the lessons that was taught. Staying still and remaining in subdued colors will help you blend into the background far more than finding an excellent location to hide your entire frame. Patience and endurance are keys to learning that survival methodology.

To be completely honest, I never dreamed that my Druidry studies would show me a new way of looking at how my daily life ties so closely to my own immediate surroundings and environment. There are days that I wish I had uncovered this way of looking at Life when I was far younger – but then if I did…I wouldn’t be who I am now.


You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round….

This afternoon, I stopped doing my work for a few moments to catch up on the news.  A few moments. That’s about all the time that it really took as well. Just a quick look at the headlines at http://news.google.com – a deeper look at the Technology news – and then I was back on to doing my work. it took a few minutes for me to realize how little time I spent reading the news.

In the past, I would spend literally hours reading the news – bouncing between four different news sites. Now, I spend far less time reading the “news” as it gets presented to me via the web browser. The other time frame that I gather news is the hour drive to and from work – with my local National Public Radio station on. Once I am out of my car, that’s just about as far as I go for the news.

It used to be, the news reported a large variety of stuff — but now its seemingly nothing really worthy of my time. A political spin on events from one aspect of the political realm or another. The true meaty bits of information tucked between the slices of bread that spin the information this way or that. The news is interpreted by whatever political bend the writer has. And to be honest, if I have to read between the shitty bits of spin just to glean some small facts of what the story is, I just don’t have that kind of time to spend. Nor do I have the patience for it any longer.

I’m not sure who may have said it – but I am starting to see the merit behind the statement:  “true news reporting is dead.” The media – big and small, corporate and independent – report the stories with spin designed to give you the facts with the appropriate tint. Red or Blue, Democrat or Republican, with a cup of Coffee or a cup of Tea. No need for you to think…just read, and swallow the party line.

Honestly, I would rather sit outside underneath my big tree in the backyard – and listen to the Gods and the Spirits of the Land whisper in the leaves and branches above. I would rather feel the sun on my face, and the grass and dirt between my toes. This is where I get my daily recharge from…and honestly, I trust this far more than any media person or politician….