Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking

Author: Levi

Many times when people find the Pagan community we hear that children display many unique abilities, unlike their adult counterparts who have been conditioned to our modern mundane world. How do children view the world of seeming superstition and magick? What can we learn from this and apply to our lives as modern Pagans? It is with the tools of skeptical thinking, psychology and a dash of good old fashioned pondering that I would like to explore with you these topics.

First of all children take things for face value; while observing, they soak in every comprehensible detail unknowingly. Yet their actions are based more on what they have been instructed to do, not what they observe independently. If you were to throw a notion or better a devout law into their thought process, and couple that with the respect they feel for the notion-dropper, that child is capable of believing in any possible thing. Think about Hansel and Gretel, Harry Potter, God, the bogeyman, any of the archetypal “make-believe” characters, and you know what I mean. Their level of belief in the characters, and/or magickal thinking, depends greatly on which level of cognitive development the child currently maintains. Aside from that, social learning plays an important role because parents are the children’s first and foremost teachers and the sheer scope of their job is extensive. “Therefore if children are to learn to walk, to speak, and to take care of themselves, adults cannot simply wait for a time driven process of cognitive development to unfold, neither can they wait until a child exhibits desirable behaviors by chance, and then lavishly reinforce the lucky episode.” (Vyse pg. 157) As the years pass from pre-operational thinking, ages 2-7, to concrete operational thinking, ages 7-11, so declines their susceptibility to superstitious beliefs and irrational concepts of reality. Skepticism is an adult characteristic and is acquired, if at all, with age. Which brings us to formal operational thinking, over 11 years of age, which starts to incorporate logical thinking over the more fiction-based, directly-handed-down method of learning. The pre-adolescent begins to put together abstract thoughts and construct its own views on its reality, and other realities. After the pre-adolescent stage the child therefore begins to seemingly take on a more what we would term adult view of reality and reason. Though conformity can be seen as the destroyer of intellectual thinking, it nonetheless steps in around this age. It works as your individual observations weigh less as your understanding of social interaction and acceptance begin to affect more and more of your decisions.

What exactly does all this mean, you may ask. Well all of these facts show that in our increasingly modern world we are slowly conditioning our children to no longer think with imagination and creativity. Nevertheless a starling array of what are termed as old wives tales, warnings and magickal thought still survive till today and are reflections of many preoccupations and/or human fears that have been passed on over time. But it is my thought that we need not view these things in such a light, as it would be much wiser to view them as a part of oral tradition to pass on. It is also interesting to note as a parallel that sometimes science has demonstrated that certain beliefs relating to various plants and foods that hold magical powers do in fact have a basis in reality and have been proven to work. On the other hand people still avoid walking under ladders and knock on wood and cross their fingers in order to guard there luck. With this in mind, of all things this teaches us that it is not only important to instill our traditions into our youth if they are to survive, but to instill these traditions as a way of love, if the world and intelligent humanity is to survive.

My personal experience with the topic of traditions could be viewed I guess in part as a long legacy if you will, which everyone has, if a little thought has been put into it. First off I come from an Irish/Sicilian descent; both cultures have been steeped in magickal and superstitious thinking for millennia. Ever since I was a small child I remember a figure or wall plaque of the triskele in my home. The triskele is a symbol of Medusa surrounded by three legs representing the three magickal nymphs. In essence the story of this symbol dates back to the times and stories of the goddess Diana within ancient Italy. Still today many Sicilian people have this symbol within there home to guard the home from negativity and yes today here in my home, hanging over the front door, is a triskele symbol. Somehow throughout my childhood I have taken on this simple traditional superstition, accepted it and have woven it into the workings of my own life. But this is typically how family traditions or what may be termed superstitions seem to work.

Thrown into this mix I was born and raised in Kansas. Now the Midwest doesn’t seem like it is much of a magical place, but actually it is a place filled with local traditions and legends, mostly belonging to the Native Americans that once lived there and other people known as God fearing Christians! In addition to this I can remember as a child being told by my grandmother to stay close to the house because of the Gypsies who at one time were known to be in the area. But moreover she taught that they would kidnap me and never let me come home. Actually and generally these Gypsies were immigrants that would travel through the area from time to time, but were long gone before my days on the prairie. What I do know now is that this was her way of protecting and keeping me close to home as was also her way of keeping me in bed at night with tales of the bogeyman and his nightly rampaging of the land in search of children! “But don’t worry; he might let you lose when the sun comes, if you’re lucky, ” she would always say, ever so wisely.

Over the years as I grew up and have (unfortunately) gone far beyond my stages of development I have later learned that these fictional creatures have served as a tool for elders throughout time as means of safeguarding children. Even though I still may think of Mr. Bogeyman from time to time, and maybe I’ll pass that one on. I believe that because of these experiences that I have had in the past, my upbringing and the fact that I am the product of two old hippies, this has led me to where I am today. It has led me to my view upon the world as a much more magical place than what the average may think. Witchcraft and the study thereof, is an earth-based religion passed on from our Pagan ancestors that looks to the divine within the aspects of nature, therefore working and following closely with the waxing and waning seasons of the year. It is heavily involved with ecology and moral issues in addition to environmental issues. Witchcraft also teaches us to be open-minded and at the same time to think very wisely of the world, and the issues within it. It also teaches you to value the people around you and your future of this world, remembering not to take everything for granted or at face value, thereby devaluing one’s own self and worth.

It is suggested these traditions are that of false superstitious behavior and are abnormal in nature. Probably no other aspect of psychological behavior is more challenging to understand than that of the abnormal because it is thought of as kind of working hand-in-hand with mental disorders. In everyday life, people often talk about “mental illness, ” a term which echoes of medical asylums and twisted and cruel mental health practitioners, so in turn this view has given a negative view or stigmatism upon the subject of abnormal behavior. In hand this is placing a negative view upon traditions, which may be viewed as abnormal, because they do not fit into the mainstream. The reality is that public understanding of true abnormal behavior is fairly limited and right now we still don’t have all the answers when it comes to understanding and treating disorders. But is abnormal behavior by itself really a disorder? When you think about the word itself all abnormal behavior really is the fact that when someone may act in a manner that does not fit society’s expected view of normal behavior, they are viewed as abnormal. Does the behavior make them mentally ill? I think not, in fact to me this sounds a little reminiscent of what we now term as The Burning Times. Truer things to consider or to ask when deciding if someone is abnormal are: Is this person suffering? Is her or she seemingly maladaptive? Are they irrational or unpredictable? Or are they violating morals or society’s standards? The thought is that when a person displays a couple or more of these conditions then we could label one as abnormal or as having a mental condition with some confidence. I also think this is a good approach and also say as long as the person is not harming him or her self, others, or the surrounding area then there may really not be a problem at all. Maybe the person is very creative or there could be a long list of other possibilities that do not fit under the heading mental illness. When real thought is put into it maybe the real problem lies in the observer of this “abnormal behavior.” It may in fact be touching on some of observer’s own personal fear, bias and or issues on an unspoken or hidden level. Or simply it may be a behavior that the observer has never been exposed to before.

This also works within the realm of Magickal traditions. Because of the mainstream views upon Magickal traditions as irrational in nature it is thereby simple to label someone as irrational. This type of labeling can be very tricky and or harmful, as history has shown us. But again we tend to view irrational behavior within the context of the extreme, which leads us back to that old abnormal behavior. Are my beliefs or traditions abnormal and/or irrational compared to that of a Christian or a Jewish person or are theirs compared to mine? I think not, because as we can see every faith and/or culture around the world has its own set of values, traditions, and thoughts on belief, magick and superstition. It’s how we think that is really important because when we think in a linear way opposed to a more creative way we tend to push our personal views and/or perspectives upon others and in the long run can lead to conflict, maybe even harm. We see these downfalls and issues working everyday within the media alone.

My closing thought on growing up learning and passing on magickal traditions and in effect living one’s life with the belief in these ways is not something to be shunned. The point is no matter how odd society would like to view us and our magical ways of thinking or what labels they would like to put upon the subject, in actuality under some circumstances it can prove to be very rational, therapeutic and/or a combination of the two. Our beliefs in Magick as well as our traditions will continue to flourish as a natural human expression around the globe even in the most technologically advanced societies, and probably as long as there are humans to utilize these tools… The fact is, is it above irrational to bring comfort to the modern human condition? Which the magickal traditions can and do provide. With this in mind learn once again to think with the imagination of a child and create new beautiful realities for our future to come.

Footnotes:
Vyse A. Stuart (Oxford university Press 1997) Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition
Pickering, David (Cassell 1995) Dictionary of Superstitions

 

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Asking Questions

ASKING QUESTIONS

 

One of the most important skills you will ever learn in your life is learning which questions to ask and when to ask them.

You will never learn how to do much of anything in your life if you do not learn how to ask questions, and not only that, but to question the answers you get in return.

For instance, “I want to learn about wicca,” is not a question. It is a statement.

“Teach me about wicca,” is also not a question. It is a command, even if you add the word please.

Think about what you really want to ask. “Can you teach me about wicca?”

Ok, you’re getting closer to the question you really want answered. “Will you teach me about wicca?”

Even closer, but the topic at hand is a large one.

Look for where you actually want to start learning.

Good questions to start working with are “What makes wicca different from other paths?” or perhaps, “What is the first thing I should learn to start my journey of learning about wicca?” These last two questions are good questions because they are specific and and give the person you are talking with an idea of what you are actually interested in learning.

Here’s another example.

I want to learn how to bake bread.

First of all I find someone that knows how (the right person).

Then I wait until they have the time to help me and a place ready to show me how to bake bread.

I try to read up a little ahead of time if I can and show up well rested and ready to learn hopefully without any preconceptions (the right time).

Now I could ask them what the chemical structure of bread is, or why it browns when it bakes or what type of butter to use on it, but none of these are very good questions to help me towards my goal of learning how to bake bread.

True it might be useful information, but I can always learn the answers to those questions later once I have learned the basics.

So my first questions are, “What are the ingredients we use?” and “How do we start?,” two specific and useful questions.

A good question asked at the right time to the right person helps the person answering it almost as much as it helps the person asking it.

If the person you are asking questions to has no idea of your level of knowledge of the subject or your specific area of interest at the moment they cannot help you nearly as well as they could if they knew these things.

Good questions are one way of helping a person understand what you want to know and what level of difficulty you want it explained at.

A Pagan Students Bill of Rights

A PAGAN STUDENT’S BILL OF RIGHTS

1. You have a right to the quality of education commensurate with the medians in similar education for others in your chosen area. Check several teachers or schools to find just what those medians are considered to be.

Corollary: You do not have the right to expect your teacher to be a “SuperPriest/ess” who will fulfill your every need, want and desire. Today, many are advertising themselves as “teachers” with little more than a few years experience themselves, much of which may be book learning. Truly experienced Elders and “Grand Masters” are exceedingly few and far between. Consider yourself astoundingly fortunate if your teacher falls into this category, but within reason, expect a teacher of Paganism to be human and fallible – resolve for yourself to learn what you can from the situation you are in.

2. The terms of your education shall be agreed upon in advance of its commencement by mutual contract between both teacher and student. Either party may at any time with prior advance notice, rescind said contract. Don’t accept an amorphous “well, we’ll just take it easy and see what happens” approach. You have the right to know exactly what to expect in terms of time, commitment and subjects learned.

Corollary: You may not drop out of tutorial with a teacher without making a reasonable attempt at telling them why you are feeling uncomfortable enough to do so. Be specific, they need to know how their behavior affected you and your potential for learning from them.

3. You have the right to expect a teacher who is compassionate, has a good sense of humor, has respect for you and others and who has a healthy level of self- esteem. A good teacher will admit when s/he is wrong in the moment and will usually heark back to their own novice days with anecdotes of their own trial and error to share with you. A good teacher knows how to maintain the delicate balance between friendship and appropriate discipline.

Corollary: Any teacher who projects as “too perfect” definitely isn’t. Beware also the teacher who is continually in a state of personal woe – these people need too much of your energy that you won’t have to give them. Walk out the door and keep searching.

4. You have the right for the teacher to always be truthful with you. Choose teachers whose styles permit you to question freely, who “lead by example” and show you as well as tell you the things you are learning. You can’t learn herbalism solely by reading books, some day you have to get out into the garden and root in the dirt. Look for a teacher, whatever their specialty, who does the equivalent in their particular form of practice.

Corollary: Beware of teachers whose main boast is how many books they’ve read, or that all of their knowledge is “book learned”. Such teachers will not be giving you anything authentic that you cannot learn on your own from the same books. A person “teaching” like this is perpetrating little short of plagiarism. To bring in the danger factor, you do not want someone “teaching” you the art of soul travel/astral projection who has never really done it themself. Don’t be someone else’s guinea pig. A teacher is a rich resource not only of the literary materials they have consumed, but of their own experiences: those triumphs, failures and illuminating moments of true enlightenment that cannot be learned from any book in print.

5. You have the right to expect your teacher to hold a broad education themselves, with specialty areas in which they might be considered to hold above-average knowledge. Anyone purporting to be a teacher of Witchcraft, Shamanism or one of the other forms of Paganism is held to a standard of excellence in their own community, and usually will have specialised in some branch or another of its components. Bonus points to a teacher who has cross- cultural initiations or similar expertise/other cultural referents to draw from. A broad educational base generally lends another primary desired quality of a good teacher: a broad mind.

Corollary: Ask your teacher to name their teachers or others in the community who know them, and talk to them before signing on to that particular teacher’s list. You may find they have an expertise in permaculture, spellcasting or soul retrieval – or you may discover knowledge that might lead you in another direction. It never hurts as a consumer of a service, to obtain references.

6. You have the right to expect discipline from your teacher. You have the right to expect that they will not let you get away with slackness in your learning, presentation or commission of your duties to them. When learning, expect no less than to apply yourself with the diligence most would reserve for a graduate school degree. A good teacher does their own research and give credit where it is due – expect the same of yourself. Be on time; ahead of time even, for lessons and coven/circle activities as your teacher should. Do one more bit of homework than is expected of you. Expect no less than excellence of yourself and you will be richly rewarded.

Corollary: You have the right to expect your teacher to be firm, but flexible within reason. Teachers should be expected to keep their committments to you as you do to them. Overly regimented structures are not conducive to learning, although sometimes in some traditions, such strictures may be put into place specifically to challenge you and help you grow. Look for teachers who walk the balance between firm and flexible for the best learning environment.

7. You have the right to expect change. Do not expect a smooth ride. Life is its own powerful teacher – learning the arts of Shamanism or Witchcraft are seriously advanced study in the crafting of your own soul. By virtue of this process, your issues will be brought out into the open and you will be expected to deal with them and act/react accordingly. How you react will be noted by your teacher and you can expect to have such reactions become the topic of discussion for your further growth. You have the right to expect during these “spiritual crises” for your teacher/s to be there for you to consult, lean on just a little bit and to provide you resources for getting through. You do NOT however, have the right to call the teacher in the wee hours every night of the week with a new crisis, to monopolize your teacher’s time for weeks on end due to a major crisis or series of smaller ones. Some support is to be expected from a teacher, but not unlimited support. Ask prior to your training what level of support the teacher is comfortable giving you and adhere to that. Know also when to refer yourself to a competent psychotherapist or healer. And if your teacher suggests you do so, take their advice without quibble. Clinginess from crisis-prone students who do not engage competent healing staff at the appropriate times is one of the behaviors that can be incredibly abusive of the teacher. If such clinginess is particularly time and energy consuming, it may cause the teacher to end their relationship with you.

Corollary: Your teacher does not have the right to use information concerning your spiritual crises against you, or to pass you off without seriously attempting to help you. Any teacher who does this you should immediately disengage from. Such a person is not the one to be trusting with your soul and your psyche as is required from a teacher of the metaphysical arts.

8. You have the right to be listened to, to have your questions answered and the right to expect a reasonable amount of your teacher’s time for the discussion of issues you might have with your training, different areas you wish to explore, etcetera. A good teacher like a good psychologist learns to listen more than talk in order to know what is important and relevant to you, the better to help them custom-craft your learning experience. Walk away from teachers who refuse you time to state your concerns, pooh-pooh your questions or who motormouth over your every utterance.

9. At the appropriate time, you have the right to expect your teacher to either inform you that it is time for you to move on into your own practice, or to be open to your suggesting something similar to them. A good teacher expects their students to mature and progress beyond them and will be quite pleased for you when this happens.

Corollary: Any teacher who keeps you hanging on indefinitely for initiation, advancement, further training et. al. with prolonged and continual protestations of “you’re not ready!” when you know you are is not behaving in a mature manner. If it gets to this point, leave and seek those who will support your spiritual growth and advancement.

A Synopsis of Evil

A Synopsis of Evil

Author:   Bryce 

Within the Pagan community, we tend to avoid discussing the topic of evil. While many of us accept the idea of at least some form of karma or retribution, we do not generally dwell in depth on it. Indeed many of us were raised within the “mainstream” religions that focused all too much on the topics of sin and Satan. Thus we try to stray from these concepts and instead focus on the “brighter” side of things.

Yet as human beings, we cannot deny that there is a certain level of evil and negativity in our world. We also cannot reject the simple truth that we ourselves often take part in such acts. So how do we, as Pagans, react to this concept? How can we come to understand it and combat it?

Now I cannot and would never tell you what to believe. Spirituality is a journey, and we must come to accept it and understand it on our own terms. Thus what I have provided here is my understanding of evil. If you agree with it, that is wonderful. If you cannot quite accept it, that is just as well. Either way it is my intention that this perspective will give you new-found strength in dealing with and understanding evil in your own life.

What Is Evil?

Over the millennia, evil as accrued many different titles, the most popular of which among the Western World is sin. However no matter by which name you call evil, its nature is the same. Evil is the conscious choice to turn ourselves away from the Divine. We hear this a lot in Christianity under the summary that “sin separates us from God.” While this is true, for Pagans it is not quite the whole of it.

Many Pagans view the Divine as being within Creation. Thus the Creator and its Creation are one. In this light, then, the meaning of evil begins to take on a new identity for Pagans. While evil separates us from the Divine, it moreover separates us from our Divine-selves. This self is the Divine spark that lies within us and connects us to the great All. Thus in choosing to commit evil, to act so that we go against this notion of solidarity, we cut ourselves off from the Divinity within us.

In accordance with this, we now have a Pagan understanding of evil: a choice that fails to recognize our Oneness and thus separates us from our Divine-selves.

How Does Evil Exist?

If we can accept that the Creator is within its Creation, therefore making it one, we encounter another puzzling question: If the Divine is perfection and the perfection is here, how can evil exist within it? In truth, the answer to this question is the same as what prompted it.

The Divine is within everything, including us. As such, the Divine seeks to work through us that we and others may come to experience it. Thus we, and all other life, are co-creators of our own reality. However we are different from other life on this planet in that we are reasoning beings; as humans we have the ability to decipher what is right and wrong.

This gives us options: we can choose to work for the betterment of Creation, or we can choose to work only for ourselves. It is when we choose the latter that we allow evil into our lives, for no longer are we working for the Whole but only the singular.

What Prompts Evil?

Only we can ultimately decide to allow evil into our lives and our world. Yet we know that there is a certain prompting, a certain push toward evil that is often involved in our choices. Like evil, this too has been known by many titles, such as Satan and demons. However I would like to present a revised understanding of this concept, one that does not view it as a being but rather as a natural human condition.

In the natural world, both energy and matter flow through the path of least resistance. The human psyche seeks to do the same. It wishes to follow by the easiest path in order to get what it desires. However this route is not always the best, and we may end up harming others. Therefore, while we are provoked to do what is most convenient, we must remember that we are reasoning beings. We must do what is right rather than what is easy. If we fail in this, then we allow evil to enter our lives.

For example, while it may be easier to steal the apple rather than paying for it, we must use our reasoning abilities to discern what the just path is.

How Is Evil Combated?

This is a question that has been tried and tested over many thousands of years. From confessing your sins to a priest to allowing an aesthetic Yogi to pay for your wrongs, religions the world over have found their own ways to eradicate their practitioners’ evil. Yet what about in Paganism? What do we have that allows us to move beyond this state and back into alignment with our Divine-selves?

Most of us would say that we have some understanding of karma and that we will pay for our evil acts. However, while this may help us recognize them, it does not necessarily get us to move beyond these actions. To do that, I believe that we must look again at a reoccurring theme in this essay: Oneness.

If we accept that the Divine is within Creation, we must accept that it is also within evil. To absolve evil from us and from our world, then, we must seek the Divine within it. If we allow ourselves to revisit our acts and instances of wrongdoing, we can invite the Divine into these experiences and look for its messages and teachings.

There is something to be learned in everything, even the most heinous of crimes. If we open ourselves up to these Divine lessons, we can pass them on not only to ourselves but to others as well; thus we can help prevent the same evil from being reintroduced into our world. And it is in this act that we leave behind our evil, our sin – for we have turned it from selfish evil to love that will benefit the Whole.

The Great Irony

There is a great irony in all of this, of course. While evil may be done, it can never prevail. Energy spent on evil is useless, for it ultimately benefits no one. As we can tell from the natural world, Creation abhors anything useless and therefore makes it useful, whether it is through the decaying of dead organisms or the evolution of a species. Thus it is with evil. It is useless, but the Divine may make it useful in the form of lessons and teachings. Therefore the only way that evil can ever win is if we, the reasoning co-creators of our reality, let it.

My Advice

What I have presented here is a summary of my thoughts on and reasoning behind the concept of evil. Whether you accept all or any of it is up to you. However, this is my hope for you: take your negatives and create them into positives. Live life not by what you have done but rather by what you have learned. Above all remember that in the Divine—no matter how you perceive it—all things are possible.

Slán leat

Intolerance: A Curable Disease

Intolerance: A Curable Disease

Author:   Kestryl Angell 

For some years now, I have been in solitary practice and have purposely placed myself in a position that allows me to observe the growth of the modern Pagan movement in the United States. One very significant thing has come to bother me through those observations. One that leaves me, to say the least, perturbed with my fellow human beings of every belief system, but assuredly of some that call themselves Pagan, as well.

Now, I realize that everyone on this planet is here for his or her own reasons, as well as for cosmic ones. I also realize that everyone grows, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually at his/her own individual pace. But some things, to my mind, are basic points of human respect and are sadly and sorely missing from a society that is supposed to be “the most advanced society history has ever known, ” as some would phrase it.

Though there are many points of human weakness that are causing overall weakening ripples throughout the newer generations when it comes to ethics, I feel that there are a few that are particularly problematic and need to be addressed at every opportunity. I hope to write about several of these in the coming weeks, as I feel that discourse is where all solutions may be found. With that in mind, I’d like to begin with a personal favorite.

Let’s begin with intolerance.

What, really, is the point of going through a life-changing, spiritual awakening, a “rebirth” as many coming to their Paganism as adults from other more mainstream backgrounds often state they go through, if all they come to be is not Pagan at all, but really could be better characterized as “anti-Christian?”

Coming to a new spiritual path does not automatically make the one you came from innately “wrong.” It simply makes it wrong for you.

Perhaps you did have experiences with the darker side of human nature packaged as harmful behavior, selfishness, egotistical preaching, the use of fear as a control and all the bad things that are written about in the news every day. That does not automatically make every single person that practices that belief system wrong, evil, awful, stupid or deluded.

Therefore, it is just as wrong to condemn others in a blanket fashion as it was for them to condemn the various Pagan paths throughout the course of history. In other words, coming to Paganism just so you can feel justified in Christian- (or other belief systems including alternate paths of Paganism from your own) -bashing is as hypocritical as the day is long! Get real and lose the excuses!

Allowing something to exist and realizing it is different from yourself doesn’t give you the right to pass judgment on it’s correctness for another soul’s growth or it’s validity in the Universal scheme of things! You are not their Creator/Creatrix. You are not here to live their path. In fact, you have no idea what is going on in their karmic path, in their personal development that might be assisting them to be learning lessons you don’t even have the strength to recognize, much less deal with yourself.

If you consider those who follow “younger” faiths than your own to be “deluded, ” it is you that does not understand the growth of the soul. It is you that is still struggling with the idea that the Universe has bigger plans than your little human eyes and mind can fully comprehend and it is you that is making a fool of yourself by stomping your proverbial feet and saying you KNOW better!

For yourself, yes – you may know that what you left behind isn’t what you need. For others? That is theirs to choose and theirs to choose free from your judgment and condemnation of that choice – just as your choice to become Pagan was your own and was equally as worthy of not being judged negatively by their fears or ignorance.

Just because you yourself happen to be in “spiritual middle school” doesn’t mean you have the right to pick on the “spiritual kindergartners.”

Furthermore, spiritual middle-schoolers don’t have anything on the spiritual college students and PhD s, but nearly every single time you will see them shining loudly in their personal struggle with their own ego by the way they attempt to play children’s one-upsmanship-games with their Elders, while showing glaring examples of their own ignorance by their complete lack of basic respect for the efforts, knowledge base and wisdom of the Elders they’ve been honored to come to know and learn from.

They would rather argue entomology of a specific word of a specific dialect than seek out the fullness of all meanings of the given word to more fully explore its meanings before making a decision as it applies to their own cause.

They would rather see other’s ignorance as “proof” of their own self-proclaimed greatness while never realizing that those things greatest in this world don’t need human declarations to make them great.

It was said by the writer, John G. Neihardt, “Humility is bowing before Truth. Humiliation is bowing before people.” Humility, Tolerance and Compassion are the internal partnership that should come to a truly spiritually awakened being – not their old set of personal and world grievances packaged in a new dogmatic format.

There are those under the Pagan umbrella who will say, “Well, I don’t believe in karma like that.” or “Respect is earned, not just given willy-nilly.” or “Well, in my belief system the world runs on the eye for an eye principle so if someone screws me over or makes me feel stupid, I can do whatever it takes to level that playing field.”

You don’t have to believe in karma to understand that what goes around comes around.

Universal principles exist and show themselves, with or without your belief in them or your petty arguments on terminology for said events. The seasons, the life/death cycle, “acts of God” weather and other Universal events will soon show you differently if you truly feel you’re the one in control of the entire world’s development!

The only thing that glaringly, embarrassingly shows, like a run in your brand new stockings, is your own overblown ego if you refuse to understand there are forces larger than yourself at work in the Universe as a whole.

Respect should indeed be earned within specific arenas such as professions and education, to name but a few. However, there should also be a basic, human respect of one living being to another, without the need to prove anything other than that they too are a person living on this planet with the same basic needs and desires as every other human being on the planet – good, nutritional food, clean water, community, family and the like. Even if their needs and desires don’t immediately meet or match your own doesn’t make yours or theirs any more or less vital or valid than the other.

As for the “eye for an eye” folks, all that happens when you take out the eye of another based on that principle is that you end up going blind, in one way or another, yourself.

I am not saying forgiveness is always the answer or that “turn the other cheek” is the answer in all situations either. But more often than not, when a human being thinks his or her own bruised ego, knee-jerk, forceful, violent ways are the answer; it is the opposite answer that is usually the one that would actually solve the problem for good.

Differences in personal dogma have been call and cause for the culling of our world populations for centuries, since the beginning of known, current history. Do we really need to continue to prove to ourselves that human beings can find constantly new and more awful ways to be horrendous to one another?

Furthermore, why are we still actually entertained by such violence or allow something as petty as big business concerns to be the reason our fellow human beings proudly go off to die by the hundreds of thousands in service to their country – with a very few that make it home alive only to find that they have no home to come back to?

This is not to say that I am all the “Light, Love and Happiness, Rainbows and Pretty Unicorns All Day Every Day!” kind of dreamer. I simply feel that the Universe itself already has chaos and death and violence in its own makeup without human beings adding to the mix out of basic ignorance, ego, selfishness and intolerance.

Mother Nature has that whole destruction thing down pat, people! She doesn’t need our scum covered little human toddler hands muddling up the works by trying to “help!”

Like kids in the playground sandbox, we’re still caught up, after all these centuries in basic Intolerance-based border skirmishes! Pagan communities are just as guilty of this issue as many Christian organizations and many of the “problems” that I hear bantered about in mainstream organizations are just as rampant in Pagan ones because we still aren’t addressing Intolerance actively as individuals, much less as a community! You cannot claim to be better than the thing you abhor and left behind if you’re guilty of the same crimes against humanity after you change sides.

Border skirmishes based on differences of dogma were a good portion of the basis of the Middle Eastern conflict since long before the US ever became interested enough in the business aspects that finally rooted our entry into the wars in the Middle East.

Border skirmishes based on intolerance, racial differences, religious differences are at the root basis of much of the gang violence rampant in Los Angeles and many other parts of the US and have even gone so far as to spawn their own subculture out of the necessities of their living circumstances rather than strengthening as a community to truly fight the issues that took them to that point of de-evolution that effects gang neighborhoods.

Border skirmishes based on Intolerance, lies and violence were what displaced every Native American in this country when the English, French, Spanish and others all came to a land the Natives had already figured out how to live harmoniously upon.

Did those people who were new here listen to those that had lived there for generations?

Oh no, they were seen as “ignorant savages” who knew nothing of community elderly and child care, community health care, balanced inter-tribal politics and trade or even the simplest necessities for making it through the winter alive.

Yet, here we are still stuck in wars where body counts, gun counts, missile counts and cash numbers, advertising and fear tactics, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction threaten the supposedly “enlightened” peoples of this day and age? Seriously?

Can’t we just get out of the sand box, stop fighting over who brought the coolest toys or who can do the most damage and have some dang milk and cookies like good little spiritual brothers and sisters here?

Intolerance should have no place in the modern human mind.

Look to the simpler, tribal times of our ancient ancestors and to those who are still living in those harmonious ways in many places in the world today that we spoiled Americans call “third world, undeveloped” countries. Perhaps they don’t have our amenities in their homes, our advertising and fast and un-nutritious foods on every corner of their city streets or even have motorized vehicles.

But when women group together to gather the water for entire streets and neighborhoods while singing, serving more than just their own family’s needs every single day, it is we who could learn something from their joyful song and service.

When villages in South America that have disagreed for generations can work together to build pipelines for water for both villages’ benefit, we have something to learn from those “savages.”

When doctors and shamans in Tibet still ride donkeys or walk, sometimes for days, to treat the ill in body, mind and spirit and the community comes together to see to the needs of that doctor if the patient cannot pay for services themselves, it is our “modern physicians” and spiritual healers that could learn something about true caring compassionate healing for a patient and our community’s selfishly spoiled upper crust could learn what it means to make sure that all are cared for instead of arguing over whether or not our individual choices can remain as cushy as we’re selfishly accustomed to as we begin to explore a National Health care system in the US.

Get a clue, people! In the United States, our biggest sign of malnutrition is the over 65% of our citizens suffering from obesity! There are currently over 154, 000 US veterans – those that fought for our right to be this freely spoiled rotten – living on the streets, homeless!

Our ignorance, gluttony and selfishness is written all over us in our own fat flesh and high blood pressure ratings while these other “uncivilized” peoples starve from lack of food and clean water, but have us completely beaten on how to treat each other as human beings!

How can that be acceptable to educated, aware, community members? ANY community, much less ones who supposedly WORSHIP Nature’s balance and bounty?

Let’s also be keeping in mind that most of the other major countries of the world have already gotten some of these questions, such as National Health care, answered successfully decades ago and it is the US that is catching up and griping all the way about rises in taxes to help the overall common good of all Americans, top to bottom of the food chain.

Canadians are thrilled to only be paying 10% taxes right now, down from the 18-20% its been in the past to help pay for their health care system and other social amenities currently underdeveloped and desperately needed in the US.

Those in the UK have paid the English equivalent of anywhere from $10-20 per gallon for gasoline for years and yet Americans were having fits over gas hitting $4 per gallon within the last year? Who is it really that needs to get real, learn some Tolerance for people and for change and learn to attune as citizens of the world’s needs instead of for their own selfish, individualized gains and stunted, silent caste systems of bigoted intolerance so obviously still active in many places in our country?

How can it not be seen that intolerance is at the root of all of these issues…and that it is a curable state of being that, if taken on by the whole of a community, doesn’t really weigh all that hard on the individual?

As a student of the Universe, I do not look for a time when all people will “believe as one.” I do not believe that Harmony requires everything be alike, as that in itself would also be an imbalance. Diversity is a necessity of life. If sameness were the truth of how things should be, music wouldn’t have different notes that make up the chords that sing the songs of the Universe through orchestrations. Harmony is created when notes co-exist on different lines for their own sake and in their own timing to a rhythm that is greater than each individual note.

Therefore, what I look forward to is the day when individuals can learn from and about other’s beliefs without their own being threatened in any way, without fear or disgust. I look forward to the day when those that do not believe the same way can simply agree to disagree and still work for the common good of all living beings on the planet. I look forward to the time when tolerance and compassion is as common a pair of qualities in human beings as ego, laziness, selfishness and desire.

I look forward to the awakening of human beings to the idea that tolerance is not acceptance nor is it automatically an admission of support of the differing idea or practice presented. I look forward to the day humans sing in beautiful, diversified harmony, the song of the planet’s common good.

Tolerance is simply the ability to allow all things to exist, as the Universe would have them, not as you would have them. Tolerance means allowing even those things that you do not agree with personally to exist for those who do believe in them.

Tolerance is difficult, however, as it requires a type of fearful and fearless faith in the patterns of the Universe to be “correct, ” whether we human beings see that correctness, the fullness of the pattern or not. This is not a concept that many human beings find easy to comprehend, much less practice inside themselves or in their daily lives. However, if goals such as this were easy, there would be no need for the inner battles that make each of us better people.

I believe Tolerance is a worthy and attainable goal for every individual that can have the bettering ripple effect of creating a harmony as yet unseen by modern history.

Care to join the experiment?

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

Author:   Sarrestia 

I was thinking about writing all the examples and instances up front, and then lay out the bottom-line, but then I decided, what the heck:

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is not a damn thing you can do to be anything like the person next to you. No matter what you do, no matter how you live, no matter what you think, you will always, from before birth to after death, be different. This is not an opinion, this is not an ‘in-a-perfect-world’ statement, and this is fact, genetically to psychologically to metaphysically.

Every single person is built on two things: their genetics and their environment, not one or the other, but simultaneously.

Your genes are the product of half of two people’s genetics: your mother and father. Though you have their genes, you do not have all of them; you have a combination of genetics that they can never have. You are different! Even if you suddenly start looking ‘like’ your parents, or acting ‘like’ your parents, you are still not your parents. It is a genetic, biological impossibility.

Your experiences are the product of your environment, your genetics, and most especially, the thoughts and emotions you keep within your mind of those experiences. From the moment of birth, you begin to the act of experiencing the world around you, and within you. You are different!

Even identical twins, with the same exact genetic combinations, due to their experiences, will never, can never, be the same; they will be different. Though many studies of identical twins have shown that separated twins will display similar likes and dislikes, similar activities in their lives, but they are vastly different because of the families and environment they were raised. In addition, identical twins that were not separated, but were raised together have shown, repeatedly, that despite the same environment, they develop different personalities.

So, the very core of every single human being — in the genetics and experiences and behavior — will never be the same as another; we will always be different.

If this is so, then why do people demand that they be different? Why do children develop the intense, rebellious nature to become different from their parents, when they are and always have been? Why do people fight and kill to be different?

As to the title: I’m Right, You’re Wrong, it is this very thing of proving to another that they are different, in their personalities, their ideologies, etc that causes so many issues when it isn’t even about who is right or wrong. The point of any of this is that we are both right and we are both wrong. We are right in ourselves, to ourselves, but we are wrong to everyone else.

I would love to say that this problem is only the vice of the major religions, but alas, no. From the major religions to atheists, everyone thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong.

I will take this moment, before I continue, that this species of ours is blessed with the few individuals who have pulled themselves away from this trap to understand that it doesn’t matter what you believe in, they are happy with what they believe in and who they are; your beliefs, though nice to know, are irrelevant to their happiness. Sounds harsh, yes, but honestly it is the only way one can be happy, is to not allow everyone else’s opinions about one’s beliefs or their beliefs to be of any concern.

Unfortunately, this right vs. wrong attitude is deeply impeded in the pagan community. From the ceremonialists and traditionalists looking down at eclectics and solitaires to pagan women vs. pagan men to Wiccans vs. Witchcraft vs. New Agers vs. Fluff Bunnies… I can go on, of course. For a spirituality that is so ambiguous that the beliefs and actions of an individual is based on what feels right to him/her, and a spirituality that is far more accommodating to a person’s choice of lifestyle in any manner, it seems ridiculous that we would carry this issue with us. Of course, it may just be the result of the majority of pagans carrying this right and wrong issue from their previous religions, but I’m going to be optimistic (or pessimistic) and say it is just human nature.

By stating that I’m Right and You’re Wrong is human nature, it may be a lost cause and we, except for individuals, may never overcome this issue. However, at this point, I will be optimistic and say that the people who are formulating one of the greatest spiritual movements this world has seen in such a long time have the ability, if not the necessity, to overcome this pitfall and rise to a higher form of thinking with regards to anyone who is in the least bit different from you. Because guess what, they are, and will never see the same thing you see or feel or think or smell, and NEVER have the same spiritual experience as you.

Let the main religions continue their never-ending fight to be right and destroy, even if not physically they are still trying mentally and emotionally, those they feel are wrong. Let atheists struggle in their fight to convince people to shrug off millions of years of myth-based philosophies. Understand that you are different and will always be different and embrace that; embrace your weirdness, your difference, while at the same time acknowledging what we all share.

Which brings me to another point: despite all of our differences, we are still all members of the human species (unless there is someone that is reading this that does not currently carry human DNA within them…beg my pardon, no offense) . Every single person feels the same emotions. Whether they are expressed differently or triggered differently, a happy person in Iraq will look and act the same as a happy person in Nebraska (I know, I’ve seen happy Iraqis but I’ll have to debate the extent of a happy Nebraskan) .

We are different and we are the same, we are all right and we are all wrong. We are all individuals within one species on one planet, with DNA that is at its most basic the same with every single living creature on this planet.

Pagans, we are a fractious bunch from the very start because we choose to follow what is right within our hearts and souls, not because of what someone else says is right. So why do I constantly see people writing and commenting on their opinions of another person’s spiritual choice? Does their decision to join a coven, take the best from all the rest, or follow the creeds of people with less than credible sources change your beliefs, affect your beliefs, make you doubt your own? If so, then your heart and soul are telling you that the path you are currently on isn’t the one for you.

THE YULE LOG

THE YULE LOG

The Yule Log, an ancient symbol of the season, came to us from the Celts. The log, a phallic symbol, is usually cut from an Oak tree, symbolic of the god. The entire log was decorated with holly, mistletoe, and evergreens to represent the intertwining of the god and goddess who are reunited on this Sabbat. The log was burned in the hearth or fireplace. Modern pagans also have the option of using pieces of oak small enough to be burned in the cauldron.

In modern times, another tradition has emerged since not everyone has fireplaces. Three holes are bored in the top of the log for three candles, representing the goddess in her three aspects — maiden, mother, and crone. Normally these candles are white, red, and black in honor of this triple aspect. This log may be reused year after year, with the candles changed each year.

An ancient rhyme of unknown origin reflects the importance of the Yule Log on this Sabbat:

May the log burn,
May the wheel turn,
May evil spurn,
May the Sun return.

The ashes of the yule log or spent wax from candles are tied up in a cloth for the entire year as a charm for protection, fertility, strength, and health.

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 7)

About.com
Day 7: A Nordic Yule Blessing                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca     
                                                                       
The Norsemen of old had a custom that if two people who were enemies met under a bough of mistletoe, they must lay down their arms. This time of year, set aside old conflicts. Take a moment to meditate upon the relationships you have, and try to find ways to get along with people who normally antagonize and anger you.
 

A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

Yule is a time to set aside animosity between yourself and people who would normally antagonize you. Set aside your differences, and think about finding peace in the spirit of the season.


Beneath the tree of light and life,

a blessing at this season of Jul!

To all that sit at my hearth,

today we are brothers,

we are family,

and I drink to your health!

Today is a day to offer hospitality

to all that cross my threshold

in the name of the season.

Additional Reading                            

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the holiday season becomes a time of conflict with their non-Pagan family. They may not understand what it is you celebrate, or there may be old wounds that surface each year when family gets together that have nothing to do with your beliefs. Regardless, read on for tips on how to Survive the Holidays With Your NonPagan Family.

Tomorrow: Snow Prayer                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 1)

About.com
Day 1: A Prayer to the Earth at Yule                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca                                                                           
Welcome to the 12 Days of Yule Devotionals! We’ll begin today by taking a moment to honor the earth at the time of the Winter Solstice.
A Prayer to the Earth at Yule                            

Just because the earth is cold doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on down there in the soil. Think about what lies dormant in your own life right now, and consider what may bloom a few months from now.

 

Cold and dark, this time of year, the earth lies dormant, awaiting the return of the sun, and with it, life. Far beneath the frozen surface, a heartbeat waits, until the moment is right, to spring.

Additional Reading                            

Cultures around the world have celebrated the winter solstice for eons, and each has its own unique set of traditions. Take a moment today to get to learn about some of the customs of winter.
Tomorrow: A Sunrise Prayer for Yule                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

Finding Your Own Pagan Family Values

Finding Your Own Pagan Family Values

 

by Sienna

Before I got to know any pagans in my area, I was a stay-at-home mother of two. Because this was a very boring lifestyle, I volunteered to help out an organization called Parents Anonymous and became a group therapy counselor. What a relief it was to learn that much of the organization’s methodologies tied in with pagan values. I’m sure many pagan families can benefit from this experience, so I’ll share what I know here.

Pagan families are growing, both in number and in size, and now at the family season of Yule it’s a good time to take a look at the environment that pagan children grow up in. Many of our children (including mine) are getting to the age of puberty. This means that there are some heavy lessons ahead involving sex, drugs, peer pressure, societal pressure, setting morality and setting guidelines.

In a Christian community, the Bible provides the framework of morality that parents can teach their children. A Christian community has 10 commandments that allow parents to draw lines between right and wrong behavior. But what framework can we work from if we are pagans?

The answer is simple: An ye harm none, do as ye will. Even if you are not Wiccan, this guideline (or something similar to it) is in most codes of behavior for most non-Christian belief systems. But whichever code of conduct you choose for yourself in your dealings with other adults, you must use the same code of conduct when dealing with your children. Kids are the first to spot a hypocrite, and if they spot you being hypocritical, you will have a hard time regaining their respect.

So let’s take a look at what that phrase, as stated above, means. Doing your will, and by this I mean your True Will, which has been defined as “the true purpose of the totality of one’s being,” means finding out what suits you best. Your Will is made up of tiny decisions made every day that lead you in one particular direction. The voice of your conscience is a part of your Will, as well as your long-term goals, and what people and things are attractive to you. Everything you have done so far has put you where you are now. So remember: When you are interacting with your children, it was an act of your Will that put them there.

One of the things that we sometimes forget about Will is that I have no right to guess what my kid’s Will is, and she has no right to guess mine (or anyone else’s, for that matter!). Although parents can offer advice and information, in the end the decision to act or not act belongs to the child. Whether my daughter goes to college, is gay or straight or chooses Christianity, it’s none of my business, unless she tells me it is. Just because my daughter is my offspring doesn’t mean I get to set her Will. Any attempt to do so violates the first part of the sentence: An ye harm none.

Let’s take a look at the word harm. Harm occurs when one person attempts to stop another person from doing his or her Will. Kids can do harm to their parents by breaking the law while they are minors, not telling the truth or breaking well-established rules. Parents can do harm to kids by expecting too much, disciplining too much or neglecting their needs.

Watch yourself and your reactions to your child, and see if there is any Will subversion going on. Do you give in when he gets emotional? Do you get angry when she states her own opinion? Discuss the rules of your household with your children. Make sure that all of them are logical, and take the time to explain each one to the child. If you can’t explain it in words he or she can understand, do you really need that rule? This means no because-I-said-so’s.

But what about when someone’s Will is causing harm? What happens when a drug dealer sells drugs to curious children? What happens when someone’s sex drive causes him or her to react inappropriately toward a minor? How does one deal with the harm that this causes without hurting our children or impeding another person’s Will? This gets tricky, indeed, when there are no commandments that outline particular behavior.

Each lifetime has its lessons to learn, and perhaps your path has crossed the path of one of these types of people. Think about the lessons learned from a drug dealer, an oversexed acquaintance or a violent maniac. The lesson to “stay away from these types” had to be learned somewhere in life. Would you be who you are if no one had ever done you harm?

This is not to say that drug dealers should be allowed to sell crack to your kids on the playground. This is never good, for Christians or for pagans. But what is more effective, openly attacking the drug dealer, or telling the kids how it does harm to themselves and their parents if they choose drugs and why the dealer is a person to stay away from? Many people would choose both of these methods; however, an open attack on someone usually makes them sneakier or more determined in the behavior you want stopped. The most peaceful resolution is to educate those whose naïveté would allow them to be harmed. In this way, you are helping your children choose the correct path of their Will and allowing the lessons they need to learn to happen.

When I have warned my children of all dangers, when I know they understand what my words mean, I have done all I can do without causing harm to them myself. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own behavior and with whom we choose to associate and avoid. Therefore, getting angry at children for getting themselves in trouble is pointless and sometimes heartless.

Punishment in a pagan family is yet another issue of Will. If my son’s Will is to stay out all night on a school night, he will pay the karma in lower attention span and perhaps lost grades in school. But teenagers have very little idea of what the long-term consequences are, because they have not lived a long term. Therefore, it is my job as his parent to drive the lesson home. When he says he’s going out, I ask him what time he is coming home and discuss whether or not this is an appropriate time to be in bed for a full night’s rest. Then I explain that if he does not stick to his word, he will be given extra chores, have privileges revoked or have other nonviolent unpleasantries occur. At that point, the decision of whether to stay out all night is back on him, and because he knows I’m consistent, he knows he’s going to do those chores if he is not!

In writing this article, I was asked, “So what about the kid who is impossible to deal with, who is entirely unreasonable?” There is no such child. Just because your teenage daughter is not listening to reason from you doesn’t mean she is entirely unreasonable. Someone, somewhere, has her attention, even if it’s her best friend who gives her lousy advice. What has happened here is that the child has lost respect for you somewhere down the line. All it takes is one time for her to see you not being honest, fair or reasonable yourself, and she may lose respect for you. Just once.

So begin by reinforcing the positive parts of your relationship with your child. Remember, you are both individuals, and you can be yourself with your kid, as much as you are with your best friend. When you understand that this is an adult in the making, and not an annoying, needy creature that you have to support, you will find the most reasonable path of communicating with her or him.

Which brings us to communicating with kids. Think about how young you were when you began having independent thoughts of your own. Your kids have been thinking for themselves since day one and will continue to come up with their own original ideas and attitudes for the rest of their lives. Allowing your kids to tell you these ideas without judgment will encourage them to think for themselves and preserve the level of respect that they have for you. Showing respect to my children while explaining my point of view makes sure that they have heard me, so that they don’t learn the lesson the hard way. Children listen when they have respect for the adult speaking. Winning respect that has already been lost is a long, hard job, so it’s easier not to disrespect them in the first place.

If you provide a basis for communication that cuts through all the fear and worry with your kid, there is nothing that any other person can do or say to undermine your authority with the child — including his or her other parent. Don’t fear what the other parent will say, and don’t pull any punches when talking with your kids.

Lying is something that all children attempt at some point in time. In most families, this is the point where communication breaks down and arguments start. Saying “You’re lying” will just get the kid defensive.  However, if you know your child is lying to you, do you really have to tell him or her that? Just act as if you did not hear the actual words that came out of his or her mouth, and behave as if you know the truth. In other words “I didn’t make that mess” is not answered by “yes, you did” but by “clean it up.” Once a kid figures out how pointless it is to lie, he or she will stop on her own.

The most effective way to communicate with children is positive reinforcement. Catch them acting in a way you like, and tell them you like it. When writing this article, I asked my well-behaved 11-year-old, “What keeps you from breaking rules?” She said, “I want you to be happy with me.” This is a natural reaction for all kids; they want to please. Use this tendency by telling kids when they are being pleasant.

Most attention-getting behavior (which is 90 percent of “misbehavior”) can be rectified by giving the attention energy that the kid is trying to get. If you’re used to doing energy work, just visualize a direct line of energy between yourself and your kid whenever he or she wants your attention. Yes, you might find yourself giving more energy than you were prepared to give at the moment, but isn’t that the job of a parent? Realize that eventually your child will have enough energy from you and learn to find some within his circle of peers. In the meantime, make sure the lines of communication stay open.

Open communication is especially important when you are trying to teach your children to follow their own Wills and oppose outside manipulators or people who would do them harm. Respect is important here. Even though the person committing the act against them is not necessarily respectful, it is important to teach kids a perspective of respect for their own minds. Two wrongs do not make a right, and two disrespects do not teach respect.

If possible, it’s best to begin response to any unwanted pressures with a simple “No.” However, if someone puts a hand somewhere that my daughter didn’t agree to, it is perfectly acceptable for her to say in a loud voice “Get your hand off my ____!”  This is a clue to everyone around to protect her. It also tells the perpetrator that this child is not a pushover and will help my child be able to withstand the real world and its manipulation tactics.

When it comes to drugs and alcohol, it is extremely important to explain to kids that after that first drink, you are no longer in a position to exercise your Will. Remind them that it is illegal for a minor to drink, which could harm you, the parent. Secondly, if they find themselves being pressured to alter their awareness against their Will, the safest bet is to walk away. This is one argument they need not get into at all.

The best approach I’ve found yet in dealing with Will manipulators is to know your own Will so that you recognize when it is violated. Explain to kids that it is probably not within their Will to get high, give sexual signals to an adult or commit acts of violence. It is a kid’s Will to create his or her future and learn how to live in this society. It is a kid’s Will to dance, sing and play and make good decisions about who to dance, sing and play with.

To help children stay safe, give children healthier options in the first place. Ask any “good” kids why they don’t shoot heroin, and they will tell you that they have better things to do. The kids who wind up doing drugs typically have unhappy home lives, no knowledge of addiction patterns or consequences and access to drugs. All three of these are direct lines into drugs and can be stopped by the parent, if the parent is paying attention and interacting positively with the kid on a daily basis.

One of the fastest way to lose a child’s respect is to overreact in situations where the child’s well-being is at stake. It’s easy to get angry when you see your children pressured or hurt. Many parents overdefend their children in such cases, often causing harm for others in their zeal. To keep yourself from this situation, keep your actions balanced: equal energy returned for the amount of energy received. If someone insults your kid, it is not equal energy to get violent with him or her. If someone pressures your kid once, it is not equal energy to spread rumors about that person for the next six months. It is, however, equal energy to ask that the person leave your child alone.

Balance cannot be kept if you are acting in anger, because anger adds to the energy you return, and therefore it becomes more than what was received. Calm down before taking any steps to correct the balance between your kid and whoever stepped on his or her Will. Always return the same amount of energy that was given; in my observation, the laws of karma become instantaneous in such situations.

We don’t live in a perfect world; however, we raise our children the way we do because we all value our freedoms. Respect, communication and love are all we have to combat the negativity in our environment. To keep our children safe, we must first not allow ourselves or them to be vulnerable. The best gift you could give a child is the capacity to walk his or her Will.