Friday, April 9, 2010

Using Google Calendar as a Spiritual Diary

I assume many Wiccans and Pagans keep a diary or journal. I myself sometimes post to the private online journal Penzu, and sometimes in my hardbound journal. And with a diary, you can look back and see what you've been doing and thinking, so as to track your spiritual progress (or non-progress, as it may be.)

The problem with these type of journals is it's hard to get an overall view or spot patterns and trends. Also, sitting down and composing a paragraph is sometimes intimidating or takes up too much time. So, in addition to my traditional journaling, I've been tracking stuff in my Google Calendar as well.

Whereas a journal is usually narrative, my Google Diary is decidedly bullet-pointed. It's quick and easy.

First, I started by creating a new calendar called Diary, and colored as I saw fit. Then I started adding significant spiritual events. But, over time, I started adding more and more stuff. This is not only helpful, but coincides with the concept that one should not have a spiritual life and a mundane life, but should be one and the same.

Things to Add
  • Practices such as meditations, rituals
  • Positive and negative personal interactions
  • Spells and successes
  • Acquisition of sacred objects and books
  • Daily Tarot Readings - I tag these as "DTR"s
  • Creative pursuits
  • People you've met
  • Encounters with the divine
  • Communion with nature
  • Things that weighed heavily on your mind
Put Things in Context

Another thing that helps is context. I have other calendars in view, such as personal events and appointments and U.S. holidays. But I've added other stuff as well that helps put spiritual and personal diary entries in context.
  • Wiccan Holidays
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Moon Signs
Some calendars can be found by going to the "Other Calendars" box in the lower left, clicking on "Add" in the lower right corner of the box and selecting "Browse Interesting Calendars." Then you'll get to a page with three tabs near the top: "Holidays," "Sports" and "More." You will find Phases of the Moon under "More."

Unfortunately, with the other two, I don't have links. I found them and added them, but forgot where I found them. If you're net savvy enough, I'm sure you'll manage. If not, drop me a line and I'll try to locate the original sources.

These contextual elements not only benefit looking backward, but forward as well. By seeing the future Moon phases and signs, you can prepare yourself accordingly. This is especially helpful with scheduled personal events. You can see in which phase or sign things sit such as business meetings, doctor visits, and social gatherings. It may even influence when you schedule these events.

Other things to try

Since you can create multiple banners, and color code them, I thought about color coding things as positive, negative, or neutral. Or, you can create a calendar for each of the elements, color them accordingly, and tag them to the bullets where you think they had the most correspondence. Such as, blue/water for personal interactions, yellow/air for creative or intellectual pursuits, green/earth for communion with nature or actions toward sustainability, and fire/red for passionate or bold events.

Things to look for

Once you have all your events and all your context, look for the following:
  • What do you see happening during waxing and waning times. Are you more meditative during waning? Are you more productive during waxing?
  • Do your bullets align with the Moon signs.
  • Did your DTRs pan out for that day?
  • Are there clues to why you had times where you were depressed or spiritually dry?
  • Are there clues to why you had times where you were happy or spiritually ecstatic?
  • How did your spirituality correspond to the current season?
If you like this concept and have other ideas of what to post as well as other tweaks such as color-coding, please leave comments.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My miracle prayer beads

A few weeks ago, during that first, awesomely warm Sunday, I went to my local country park to find a place in the woods to pray at. I drove around, looking for walking trails. I found plenty of paved ones, but was having trouble finding the dirt ones that cut through the woods. They didn't seem to be marked, whether via signs or on the park's map.

Well, finally I found a path. But it quickly ended at a road. So I decided to just march into the woods without the benefit of a path.

Well, with some work, I got a bit into the woods, walking up a short rise. Then, I noticed a pair of deer making their way at the top of the rise. I thought, where there's deer, there's gotta be some kind of path. So I headed their way.

But instead of finding one of the well-treaded dirt trails, I found a bit of a clearing. And it seemed to be at the apex of an old dirt access road, which was now covered over with leaves and brush. There was also an old rotted picnic table, with some of it's planks lying on the ground. It was a quaint, quiet spot, so I dropped my backpack and stayed.

I ended up staying about an hour. I prayed a bit, meditated, and did some Om Shanti mantras on my prayer beads. I also set a solar wheel pendant on the ground to soak up the sun. A friend had made it for me out of Sculpy and I now wear it to remind me of this place. I could hear a bit of civilization now and then, but mostly lots of birds, including a number of woodpeckers. It was neat to hear all the different pitches they were sounding, based on the size and type of tree they were pecking into. All in all, it was a lovely outing.

Well, I wanted to return the following Sunday, but it was quite cold and rainy. But I did return this past Sunday, and this time, with my new bike. I sat, prayed, and meditated. Then I took out a pair of binoculars I had brought to look around and maybe catch an interesting bird or two.

While I was scanning the woods, I caught something surprising. There was something hanging on a nearby tree. (See the picture at the top of the article.) And it looked an awful lot like my prayer beads. I got up and retrieved them. They looked like them. But to make sure, I had to smell them. My beads were made of sandalwood and have a wonderful smell. And yes, they smelled the same. They were mine.

I wondered how they had gotten there. I don't remember hanging them there for any reason. Also, I knew I had misplaced them, but didn't know if they had been gone for two whole weeks. So I thought I must have left them there, either hanging in that tree, or somewhere on the ground and someone had found them and hung them.

But then I wondered if something amazing had happened. Had I left them at home somewhere and some deity decided I needed them and hung them there for me. I keep a bit of a diary of events in my Google Calendar, and I do remember specifically using the beads while eating lunch at a park near work. If I returned home and saw that that lunch had happened after my first visit to the county park, then something truly magical would have happened.

But then I thought, even if I had left them two weeks prior, something magical still had happened. I've read from many books and web sites that magic doesn't violate laws of physics. But it may tweak them. If someone had found my beads and hung them instead of leaving them or taking them, that's a tweak. And if I had left them on that branch, the fact that they had stayed there for two weeks, amidst all kind of weather, was a type of a tweak. Plus, I was greatful they were there. They had soaked up a lot of nature energy that whole time and were now set to continue delivering blessings.

I left a note where the beads had hung, thanking whoever may have hung them there. And I did return and discover the lunch I had used the beads happened more then two weeks ago. So no magical teleportation had happened. But I was happy nonetheless. Happy to have my beads back, and happy that the Godess and God had blessed me with a little tweak.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lunchtime Companions

I often have lunch at the nearby Point State Park in Pittsburh. Yesterday, I sat down under my usual tree and these two Canadian Geese headed right to me. They were quite beautiful.



Plus, I've lately become appreciative of the elemental inspiration that can be drawn from waterfowl. (There is in facts a group of ducks that live in the stream next to my T stop.) Much of their life is spent in either water or air, so to me they represent compassion and inspiration.

However, as anyone who has been around ducks and geese knows, they're not always compassionate. That is, they can be very territorial and aggressive. (In fact, not too soon after I took this video, another pair of geese landed nearby, and they all put up quite a noisy and aggressive display.) But, the site Animal Totems does have some interesting things to say about Ducks. (You'll have to scroll a little down their page.) Here's a excerpt:

Affectionate and community oriented duck medicine people love and are loved deeply. They often feel a great need to be of service and make excellent healers. Because the coloring of ones personal duck is symbolic, healing with color can be beneficial.

Ducks are graceful as they glide through the water reminding us to be gentle with ourselves as we heal, learn and grow into our perfected self.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Post Your Altar!


No matter which religious bent I was in, I often had some kind of altar. And, happily, Pagans and Wiccans definitely love their altars. So I made a blog called Post Your Altar for Pagans of all kind to share photos and descriptions of their altars.

To post your altar, please email me at wmbittner at gmail dot com with your picture, or link to your picture, plus a description of any length, and any links to your blog, twitter, etc. if you wish.

Also, please spread the word about this blog. My hope is that this become both a celebration of this beautiful tradition and a cherished resource for the Pagan community.

You can find the blog at postyouraltar.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Kinder Way to "Banish" Water From Your Laundry

A wonderful thing happened sometime after I started to explore Druidry and other things pagan.

Our clothes dryer broke.

Now why is this wonderful? Well, I told my wife the dryer suddenly started to take 2-3 cycles of 80 minutes each to dry a load of clothes. But instead of worrying about having to spend the money to fix it or by a new one, she just simply said we'll get a few of those cheap drying racks and dry the clothes in our daughter's bedroom (who's currently away at college).

I thought, what a wonderful opportunity to step more lightly on the land. By air drying, we'll be cutting down on both gas and electricity.

But, I discovered something else. I am a naturally lazy and impatient person. However, my exploration into Druidry has helped to make more a bit more industrious and a lot more patient. I now equate chores with the earth, since they are physical things that must be done. And my mindfulness about Time has made me make amends with my impatient nature that doesn't want to take time to do things I don't want to do.

Well, this may sound odd, but hanging up wet clothes has become a bit of a spiritual exercise for me. I'm not only reducing the smallest bit of our carbon footprint, but it's actually quite peaceful to do. And, my wife and I often do it together, which is also a pleasant experience.

But then I asked myself today, "Is there something deeper to all of this?" Well, I half-jokingly thought about how the element Water might feel about all of this. For by hanging the wet clothes, am I not encouraging Water to leave the fabric and dissipate into the air. A nice thought, huh?

Then I thought of how we used to do it. Put the clothes in the dryer, which called forth Fire to heat the Air, then expose the clothes to the hot Air. The Water would get all agitated, hot and bothered and be rushed out of the fabric, through the exhaust vent, and out of the house. Sounds pretty violent, huh?

So, methinks it's more polite to hang the clothes on the wooden dowels and patiently let Water depart from our clothes at it's own pace.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pets and Ritual

There's an interesting post on the Pagan and the Pen about children in rituals. Well, I don't attend community rituals, and my stepdaughter is in college. But, I do have lots of pets. A sheltie and 5 cats to be exact.

When I started doing ritual at my altar, my cats were obviously intrigued, what with all the plants, burning candles and shiny objects, as well as an edible offering. When they first poked their heads around the stuff on the altar, I had the quickest impulse to nudge them away. But then I thought how wonderful that they are getting involved. Most of the time they sit next to me and I occasionally pet them. And if they want to eat a bit of the offering, they're welcome to it. They too are divine, aren't they? It really makes me think how free and beautiful the pagan/druid/wicca world is. It's not about how perfect, ordered, serious and quiet your ritual is. It's how much it comes from your heart.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The humanity-based path of Druidry: The Star Path


When I discovered Druidry, I first focused on nature and time, or, the Earth and Sun paths. And a lot of things started to pop into my head.

For example, to me, the Earth path includes appreciating and accepting the entire physical realm. This not only includes Nature, but our bodies and matter itself. Thus, I realized that to follow the Earth path not only includes living in harmony with nature, it also means living in harmony with our bodies. And this means taking care of it nutritionally and fitness-wise.

And on the Sun path, I learned to accept and appreciate Winter, rather than moaning about it. And this year, in Pittsburgh, as well as much of the Northern Hemisphere, we really got a heavy dose of it. But instead of fighting it, I took time to appreciate the feel of the cold air and snow, as well as the beautiful shapes the snow and ice took shape.

But then there were other thoughts that I couldn't fit into the Earth, Sun, or Moon paths. And that had to do with people.

As I was learning to appreciate and accept both the beauty and inconveniences of nature and the seasons, I was learning to do the same with people. Like nature and the seasons, people can be both beautiful and downright "inconvenient." And instead of fighting with this reality, I worked to accept people. Just as nature and the seasons have their realities and limitations, so do people.

Since I couldn't find such a practice in the three Druidic paths, I made a personal alteration to the Druidic way and added a fourth path that was the realm of humanity. I added this path to the three others, resulting in four. And instead of paths, I've chosen to call them the Four Realms. But, they are really the same thing as the Three Paths plus one.

Since this realm is based on people, a lot of other concepts and ideas can fit in it as well. For example, ethics, compassion, politics, etiquette, and relationships. And as many can attest, this realm can be both the most rewarding, and the most horrific. We all know wonderful people, as well as monsters.

Lately I've wondered whether I need to create a new version of the Druidic Awen symbol for myself? If so, what would it look like? Would I just add a fourth path?

Well, I thought that if the three paths are represented by Earth, Sun and Moon, is there another astronomical symbol that would represent the path of humanity? And it came to me: the Star Path.

Of course, all symbols are man made. And symbols are really versatile. So there really is no true, intrinsic or right-or-wrong meaning for a symbol. But when I thought about the Star Path, it seemed a good fit to represent humanity.

Whereas there is only one Earth, one Sun, and one Moon, there is a monstrously-large numbers of stars. Also, humans have long looked to the stars for inspiration and guidance. Also, in aligning the four realms to symbology and elements in Tarot, I had affixed humanity to water. And, the largest concentration of stars in our sky is the Milky Way, and has oft been referred to as a river.

Then I figured instead of adding a fourth Star path, I would replace the three dots at the top with 3 or more stars. And, to me, this is fitting. Because, as Jeremy Rifkin claims in his new book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, it is through interacting with other people, that we become the most human.

Yes, as Druids, we do need to live in harmony with nature, the seasons, and the creative and mystical realm represented by the Moon. But to me, most importantly, we need to live in harmony with each other. If we neglect this path, there is a danger of too much navel-gazing. But if we follow it and embrace it, it can only inspire and enrich our journeys on all the paths.

Image is by Carl Jones.