In my mind I can hear all the arguments and see the shocked, worried and disapproving expressions of many people in my life that I have, at one time or another, looked up to and valued the opinion of. Often when I think of these things I wince, I bow my head, and flush with embarrassment and shame. Then later I rebel against those thoughts and hate myself for being emotionally weak and for letting thoughts of what others may think of me influence who I am and what I think today.
What I think. I feel anxiety based on what I think. That has appalled me. None of the scenarios I have imagined in my mind have actually come to pass in the real world. No one from my past has approached me and said disapproving things. I do not put myself in social situations where anyone would tell me I am going to hell for aligning my spirituality more with my heart and less with my head.
I do not really have much contact with those people from my past who would act disapprovingly. I very rarely have communication with my parents and it has been years since I have spoken to some of my siblings, even though we have been at some of the same social events, like my brothers wedding at our old church. I lost that community long ago - and have been better for it. But I still miss it at times, strange as it may sound. I suppose I miss that sense of belonging and acceptance. Even though it was a very toxic community, it was home to me for the majority of my life. All my memories of my childhood and growing up years and early years of adulthood are tinged with it. And I did have a very happy childhood, especially those early years.
And though no one from my past has said it to my face, I think I know the community and the thought process well enough to know exactly what they think of me - well, if they think of me at all. In these sort of toxic communities, someone who leaves (and I did leave, both physically and spiritually) are thought of as, at best, a lost soul beyond help except divine intervention, and at worst as dead.
I spend too much time thinking about what others think and I hate that. I hate the constant cycle of going over it in my mind. Some times I feel like I still cling to elements of that belief system and that, in truth, Druidry can fit in with many of those elements quite nicely. After all, there are certainly many practicing Druids who also identify as Christians. But if I examine myself closely I know that
I do not really want to be a Christian Druid. I do not want to retain the title "Christian" when describing my spiritual path just to make it sound more acceptable to people I used to look to as spiritual leaders.
I have to say, though, that thinking about this and examining Christian beliefs more closely has really made me more sensitive to just how toxic many Christian beliefs are (certainly not all beliefs - Jesus' teachings of kindness, acceptance, love and humility are wonderful things to emulate). Thinking about this has helped me more fully understand how lucky I am to have been able to even reach the point where I can question my past.
It's been hard, though. The more I question my past and work through the guilt I experience by even questioning it the more I realize how horrific that spiritual prison was. It affected every aspect of my life and in some very big, very negative ways that will never quite go away. It affected how I thought of myself as a person and led to much self loathing that I still struggle with even though I rationally know I am wrong for having such thoughts.
But while this past year in the Bardic grade of OBOD has opened extremely painful past wounds and brought up memories I'd rather forget, and has caused me to look at my whole upbringing in a different light - it also has been gentle with me. Many helpful meditations and exercises are given throughout the course that have helped me deal with these things bit by bit and the teachings have always been so reassuring - it is ok to feel these things, to take time to work through them, to let them occur in our minds naturally. It is ok if it is not the right time to examine these things from our past. It's ok to move on for a bit and go back later and see if the time is right then.
One thing that astounded me was the idea that in ourselves we carry the wisdom of our Older Selves as well as the innocence and curiosity of our Young Selves. I have gone back to this idea again and again. It has been - amazing to me. To not think of myself as just me here, now, in the present moment, but recognizing elements of both the Old and Young within me. It has helped me recognize and appreciate the very good things both versions have and how those good things influence my Present self. (Does this sound absolutely crazy? It's ok if it does! ha.) It has also helped me recognize and deal with the bad things that have happened and the worries I have about the future.
I feel like the past few months I have been at a kind of stand-still on my spiritual path, but I think it has been necessary. I needed to take time to really address my guilt and work through why I was feeling guilt and what I needed to do to allow myself freedom from my self imposed chains. That is not to say I am no longer struggling with these things. I probably will always, to some extent, deal with guilt. But I feel like I am no longer really frozen by it - I can anticipate when I'll feel it, recognize it right away, and deal with it in healthy, positive ways. And hopefully, with that action plan in place, I can move on to exploring and learning more on my path.
After one year, we are asked what struck us most about the first year in OBOD. I think my answer is - it leaves nothing uncovered. It forces you to bring to light everything you had hidden in dark places and hoped to never see again. It wasn't all golden light and nature walks and inspired feelings. It's also been a lot of pain. Floods of it, in my case - which I think definitely led to feelings of deep depression on my part (yes, I did talk with my Dr. about it). But it's been so absolutely good.
Every year I ruthlessly prune my peach trees and my lilac. I didn't want to, at first - why examine a seemingly beautiful, healthy plant for parts that aren't quite as efficient as they once were and cut them out? But I soon realized the necessity. By examining and dealing with parts of the plant that were actually preventing the plant as a whole from flourishing I was doing the plant a favor and helping it be all it could be. I am no different. I must spiritually prune myself - and I think regular, frequent prunings are necessary!
Always striving for healthy growth. Always seeking the sun, welcoming the rain, and rejoicing in the cycles of life.