What’s My Motivation? Or Avoiding Bad Method Acting in Ritual and Daily Life

What’s my motivation?  That is the plaintive question of every method actor.  A method actor can figure out a role based on that question, but if they don’t empathize well with the character they’re portraying,  then it leads to what is called the “ham factor.”  Don’t know what a ham actor is?  Watch Charlton Heston in the 10 Commandments, Planet of the Apes, or well, just about anything that he’s in really.

Knowing what motivates you to do something is a good thing, with that said, however, sometimes, it’s not such a bad thing to question our true motivations, and to not let method acting seep into our lives.  Here’s an example:

“I hate going to work.”
“Then why go?”
“Because I have to.”

So you’ve answered the question “what’s my motivation?”  But perhaps the answer isn’t as simple as you might think.  You do not have to go to work.  You choose to go to work.  If you don’t work, it’s unlikely that you will be able to:

  • Pay your rent or your house payment
  • Pay your car payment and insurance
  • Buy food
  • Pay the electric bill
  • Pay the water bill
  • Pay all of your other expenses

You Always Have a Choice, Don’t Surrender Your Power Over Yourself

You can stop working at any time, but you want to be able to do all the things above, plus have a little money for yourself and those you love.  It’s important to remember that you are choosing to work and say that aloud.   “I choose to work, so that I can pay my expenses and have money to live.”  When we choose something we feel better about it then when we think we have to do something.  That’s the difference between empowerment and being a victim.  But why is victimhood so prevalent? First off, it’s encouraged by our society.  Take a look at consumerism.

Advertisers target an illusory need, and aim for our subconscious.  Don’t have the latest IPhone or Samsung Galaxy?  You need it! Go! Go now! Supplies are running out!  So you go to the mall, and sit down in line, maybe even camp out, so you can get the latest IPhone from the Apple store.   You’ll shell out a lot of money and buy the phone, and for a while it is great.  It’s way better than your last phone.  It’s faster, more stylish, and you think you’re the envy of all your friends and family.  And that’s why you really did it isn’t it?  What’s my motivation?  Why to impress others with how awesome you are.   If you don’t have the latest gadget, then why you’re nothing.  You’ll always have one friend who will smugly show off the fact that their phone does one thing that yours can’t, because it’s an IPhone, or a high level Android.

To add to your awesomeness, you spend time feeding the homeless down at a shelter, not because you want to truly help.  You’re doing it for a bit of esteem currency.  Later on you’ll get a lot of status by dropping an offhand remark, “I helped feed the homeless the other day.”  You’ll get the oohs and ahhs you crave and hunger for.    You can feel better about yourself.  See, you’re not selfish at all.  Yes, you spent a lot of money on yourself buying a new phone, but you fed the homeless.  The problem with this sort of thinking is that after awhile your spiritual balance starts to crumble.

The Four Primary Goals

Sun-Tzu wrote that everyone is guided by four primary goals that all other goals spring from, these are:

  • Power
  • Pleasure
  • Avoidance of Responsibility
  • Love (Respect)

You get into a fight with your significant other.  If your goal is power, then you don’t care about resolving the dispute.  You just want to win the fight.  This is purely a power goal.  To someone motivated by pleasure, they will pursue their pleasure at whatever cost.  Avoidance of responsibility is pure undiluted victimhood.  “It’s not my fault because of ______.”  However, going for a goal of love and respect starts with yourself.  Think about your actions.  Are you doing it for self-love?  Are you doing it because you love someone else, or out of respect for them?

Understanding why you do something always carries over into our ritual practice as well.  You cast a spell for money with a motivation of greed.  You might get what you want only to find that no matter what you never have enough money.   Or you could cast a money spell to get enough money to get out of debt as well as take care of your daily expenses.

You want to find the love of your life.  Again, what’s your motivation?  Do you want this someone to be nothing more than an accessory?  A bit of eye candy or arm candy to show off?  Or do you want to find someone because you are lonely and want a live a happier more fulfilling life?

 

You have to plan a ritual.  Why do you?  Are you doing it because you want to observe the passage of time in your own way, and give yourself a memory to carry forever, or are you doing it because you feel obligated to do it?

Sometimes, our motivations are based not on our open desires, but on habits.  That’s one reason why people sometimes get threatened by change.  Change disrupts our habits, and the patterns we build around them.

Don’t second guess yourself, however.  Sometimes your motivation is fairly simple, other times, you have to think about it.  When in doubt, a good way to examine your motivation  is to keep asking why you are doing something.  When you come up with an answer that you can’t argue, then you will know why you should take action, or choose another option.  If the answer to your question is “I don’t know,” then it is a good time to pause and think things over.

When you examine your motives and motivation,  and realize that you always have a choice,  it is then that you start to grow spiritually.  And, you’ll often stand amazed at how free you feel.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

Already Gone-The Eagles, Written by Jack Tempchin, Robb Strandlund

EXTERNAL LINKS:

http://www.puppetpress.com/classics/ArtofWarbySunTzu.pdf

Celebrating the Divine Mother on Mother’s Day

This morning I woke up feeling the slight pull of depression for no apparent reason. My life is going well, I love my job, my daughters are with me this weekend and it’s been a good one, and I’m feeling good health wise. So why the depression? Then I remembered that tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

If your mother is wonderful and you have great memories to celebrate, Mother’s Day is a fine day to do that. If you have this kind of Mother’s Day, I am happy for you.

If your mother was less than wonderful, or has passed and you miss her greatly, or you are wanting to be a mother but you can’t be, it can be a terribly painful holiday. The greeting cards, advertisements, and hearing about everyone else’s wonderful Mother’s Day plans don’t help.

In the true Reclaiming Tradition, I am going to re-create this holiday to serve my needs. May I present Mother’s (Mother with an extra-big capital “M”) Day. As in the Divine Mother, the Goddess.

And here’s why I need to do this:

When I was nine, my family experienced a tragedy that cost me my both my brother and mother. My brother was dead. My mother was still alive, but I was no longer allowed to see her. I remember that first year, when I was fourth grade. I lost my mother in September. In May, my teacher asked us to write a poem about Mother’s Day and how painful that was. It opened a barely-healed wound.

Because I was the only surviving child of a very busy and somewhat “tough guy” father, I spent a lot of time alone. I often took long walks in my neighborhood’s green belt, or even just sat under the giant ash tree in our back yard. And one day as I was sitting there, I became conscious of the Great Connection. I felt the pull of nature. I saw the Web. I felt held by the Web, and by the Mother. I did not know Her name back then, but I felt Her love, Her holding of me, and my place in Her family. She saved my life. Many times, She saved me. She saves me still.

The final connection came when I had the opportunity to aspect Earth at one of our community rituals about a year and a half ago. When I opened myself up, what filled me was pure love, the Mother’s love. And when people came to me and I held their hands, and that love passed into them, most of them audibly gasped. They could feel it, too. The Mother’s Love is real. And it is within us and all around us.

I became a mother myself without my mother being there for me. When the kids were older and repeating the Mother’s Day school crafts (some things never change) and came home with paper flowers and cards for me, I was both moved with joy, and I felt sadness at remembering my childhood self who never got to do this.

When my tiny firstborn daughter was set on top of my now-empty womb for the first time, I looked her over. She is of mixed heritage and has taken on more of her father’s darker features than my light, green-eyed ones. But there! Her toes! She has my toes, the same curves, the same shape. She has my barely-there little toenails. And though it has now been 16 years since that moment, I still sometimes smile at recognizing my own self in part of her when I see her toes.

And my second daughter– she has the hands and feet and body type of her father’s side. But she has the same brain structure as me, in the way she often struggles to learn differently in the exact same way as me, and my mother before me. And she has my heart. Love is her super power. She loves deeply and hurts deeply. She is an empath like me.

I think of the Divine Mother, and what She must see in me, as Her daughter. Not only the flesh and bones that are made of the Earth, or the fire in the energy-houses in every cell in my body, or the air that rushes into and out of the caverns of my lungs, and is dispersed throughout my body as carried by the rivers within, or the electric sparks of nervous synapses. But also my heart. My growth.

And just as I often watch my children experiencing something for the first time—their first time splashing in puddles after a rain, their faces light up at their first live concert, their first time broken-hearted after having a fight with their best friend– I imagine that the Mother watches me. She lives through me. She sees the world through my eyes. My life individual life experiences add to the Whole.

As a mother, I have to know when to rescue, and when to stand back and let life teach my daughters by experience. They are now at that transitional stage, or rather, we are. They are walking ahead of me and I am holding back. It is hard, but it needs to happen for them to grow. They know I am there when they need me, and that gives them the confidence to walk ahead. I love it when my daughters have a moment of joy and they smile and then they turn to me and say, “Mom, look!” and they want to share that with me.

And when I have joy, I am sharing that with the Mother, and I am enhancing the whole Web. I take the time (or try to) to celebrate the gift of being alive. The smell of coffee in the morning. The deep sincere embrace between friends. The pleasure of playing my favorite music in the car while driving to work. The divine act of making love.

And like I do with my own daughters, sometimes She stands back and lets me walk my own path. It often hurts, the process of growing. But in moments of pain, if I remember to allow myself to trust, the Holy Web is there to catch me when I fall. Even in my suffering when I often feel I am alone, I am not. All I have to do is look around me, sit with Nature, start to see the Web.

Motherhood is a sacred thing. The bringing forth of new life. The breast that nourishes us. The soil that holds the roots of growth so that we may spread ourselves upward. We are our Mother. She is Us. Let us celebrate Her on Mother’s Day.

Living With Regret

By Archelon

I am human.  I make mistakes.  As my mom used to say: “If people didn’t make mistakes, there wouldn’t be erasers on the ends of pencils.”  Regretting what I’ve done can at best be only a temporary part of my story.  If I face regret and have true remorse, then maybe I can use it as a springboard for myself. I regret some of the things I’ve said and done.  I’ve messed up.  I have a few years ahead of me still, maybe even a decade or so.  I live with my regrets.  They were lessons.  And I choose to learn from them. And I forgive myself.  There is power in self-forgiveness, and sometimes it can be hard to forgive ourselves.   I say it again.  I forgive myself.

I can can live with regret.  And guess what?  You can live with regret. There, it’s been said.  A lot of people bravely say that they want to live life with no regrets.  However, there is a lot that needs to be said regarding regret, and you might want to think about living life without regret. But is having regrets healthy?  And what is regret?

What is the Real Meaning of Regret?

According to Psychology Today:

“Regret is a negative cognitive/emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.” [VIEW SOURCE]

Is It Possible to Live Without Regret?

There are only a few people who have no regrets, however, the only people that truly have no regrets are sociopaths.  A sociopath will have their own agenda and will leave behind their victims while constantly pursuing that agenda.  Regret involves pausing to consider their course of action, which is not something a sociopath can do comfortably.  So having regrets is fairly normal. The key to them is not to let regrets dominate your thoughts, nor allow them to be used against you.  Instead use them to your advantage.

If you have regrets for something that you’ve done, come to terms with it.  Own it.  Admit that you made a mistake and consciously choose to learn from that mistake.  So many people regret something that they did long ago, and use it to polish the wood on the cross that they carry around.  It’s an easy trap to fall into.  I’ve fallen into it a few times.  I also kept buying that crap about “Live life without regret.” However, without regret, without facing myself and all of my imperfections, I will never able to really learn and grow.   And not facing regret makes your soul and spirit sicken, trust me I know. Why?

Holding onto regrets  is the absolutely worst thing you can do.  Why?  Well for one, regrets are always part of your past.  Whatever you regret could be just a few seconds ago, or years or even decades past, but they are all in your rear view mirror. There are no regrets in the future, nor the present.  And look at it this way.  If someone in your life constantly reminded you of some mistake you made in the past, after a while, you’d sever ties with that person.  It is crucial to forgive yourself; and if you hold onto your regrets you haven’t truly forgiven yourself. And as Jack Kornfield once said: “If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it is incomplete.”

So maybe that is what they mean by living without regrets.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s all in how you perceive regrets.  Regrets can be weights that you carry with you, constantly weighing you down, and making you doubt who you are.  Or they can be mileposts that you look back at and see how far you’ve come.

Other Resources

Questioning Forgiveness by Djourney April 26, 2017 https://azreclaiming.com/2017/04/26/questioning-forgiveness/

The Psychology of Regret, Melanie Greenberg Ph.D, Pyschology Today May 6 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201205/the-psychology-regret

20 Quotes to Inspire Self-Compassion Habits for Well Being http://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/20-quotes-to-inspire-self-compassion/

How to Love Your Authentic Self By Lori Deschene Tiny Buddha http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-love-your-authentic-self/

Why I Stopped Apologizing for Being Me By Jacky Exton http://tinybuddha.com/blog/why-i-stopped-apologizing-for-being-me/

 

Trusting the Labyrinth

This is the year of the Labyrinth. It is the theme of this year’s upcoming California Witchcamp. When one goes to Witchcamp, one must be prepared to dive in. I already feel it pulling me in.

We are born into the Labyrinth, into its twists and turns. Most people, naturally, seek a solid place to stand, building a life that is secure, unchanging, and safe. We allow ourselves to settle into our chairs, enjoy the view. And then along comes something outside of our control that changes everything. We fight it, we beat at it, we resist it, we grieve it. And eventually we realize that in order to survive, we have no choice but to turn the next corner. The Labyrinth insists on it.

This is not to say we are helpless. Anything but! We can make good decisions and unwise ones. As Witches, we know that we are interconnected in endless ways, that we can gather energy like a fisherman’s net and cast it out again into the world. We can, to some extent, change the course of the Labyrinth. But still we must walk it. We build houses that sometimes crumble. We fall in love with someone who proves false to us. We grieve the deaths of loved ones. We feel anger. We find it hard to forgive. We are human. And, Blessed Be, some of us are Witches.

What sets us apart as Witches? Before I was as a Witch I prayed to God to make my path smooth, without further pain, without illness, and though loss was inevitable, I prayed for as little of it as possible. And then those prayers failed me, and for a time I lost faith in that Divine Being that I once called God.

And then I became bitter, as many do. I lashed out at God. I lashed out at the fact that no matter how hard I tried, the Labyrinth kept twisting and turning and making my homes crumble. I fought. I became rigid and resisting of change. The Labyrinth fought back. It bent me. Eventually it broke me.

And then I stopped fighting. Defeated. Afraid of feeling anything. Some people are stuck here. No longer growing. Afraid to. Growing hurts. It’s uncertain. It’s scary, and there are no guarantees that the growth will lead to greater security. Some people stay here, paralyzed, their whole lives. But I became restless.

I decided to stand up, dust myself off, and walk forward into the unknown. This is the moment I became a Witch.

I am learning to accept the twists and turns. I’m learning to accept the dark shadows, the sharp corners. It is my choice to keep walking. There is power in being able to choose. I have found bravery to look deep into the shadows, for there is wisdom to be found.

This is not to say I am not afraid. On my worst days I am pulled down by my depression, a constant companion who waits to surge forward when I’m not on guard. Even on my best days I know I’m taking a Holy Risk to walk into the unknown. Or known. Sometimes the shadows are my own. I look at the unflattering reflections of myself. I look fully at myself, and I seek to change myself, to grow.  This is a brave thing.

Since embracing my path as a Witch, I see connections. I see “coincidences” that remind me I’m in the place I need to be at this moment. Even in painful moments, for we must walk through pain even as we walk through joy.

And there is joy to be found there too! The joy of growth, leaving burdens behind, curiosity as to what is around the next bend. Looking forward. Finding my tribe, my people, my Loves.

Where once I lost my faith because God did not hold my hand and ensure a smooth journey for me, I have now regained my faith. I have faith in the process of the Labyrinth. I have faith that each step, each turn, each time I think I am close to the center and then am turned away again, it is where I am meant to be at that moment. I am held by the walls of the Labyrinth.

And what happens when the Labyrinth travelers reach its center? What happens when they reach the place where they can go no further, and they sit for awhile. Then what? Some people believe that’s the final end of the journey. Life stops. They go away. Some people believe it is a gateway to a holy paradise, where all their loved ones gone before are waiting. Where they finally get to see the Divine face to face. And that’s all fine and good for them.

But I am a Witch. I believe that I am the Divine in briefly human form. She sees through my eyes what it is like to be human. She feels what it is like for me to walk on gravel with bare feet. To have my heart torn out with deep grief. And to fall in love. To wrap my body around another in pure passion. To hold a newborn baby in my arms. To help someone stand up after they have fallen down. To give. And to feel helpless, so that I must learn to receive. That was the hardest lesson of all for me. To receive. To trust.

And at the center of the Labyrinth, when I finally reach the center, I sit for awhile and reflect on my journey. Then I let go this life with my final breath, and I dive back into the mystery of the Labyrinth. I become that newborn baby held in someone else’s arms. And when I learn to walk again, I will walk the Labyrinth. For to walk the Labyrinth, to leap and dance in the Labyrinth, to stumble and limp and sometimes crawl in the Labyrinth is to live life fully. I trust in the Labyrinth. I trust in the Witch’s Path.

Let’s Talk About Love

by M.W. Whitaker

Ah, l’amour.  Love is an emotion that transcends borders, social strata, and even time.  Even someone who seems not to need it, both craves and treasures love.  To give you an idea of how much we value love, over 85% of songs that you hear are about love.  Love is one of the most complex emotions around.  Love is so complex that there are different classifications of love.  There is filial love, which is the love for a friend.   There is familial love, which is the love for your family; and of course, there is romantic love, which probably needs no explanation.

Love is even more complex than you might think.  The way movies cause us to perceive love is a linear flow, where two people fight their feelings for one another, but sooner or later, there is an epiphany, both characters usually run to each other’s arms, there is a stirring romantic score, and we reach for the tissues after they go off into the sunset together.

But love is both wonderful and terrible, harsh and gentle, and even has its own flow and ebb.  It’s not an accident that the ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was born of chaos.  It is also noteworthy that some depictions of Aphrodite portray her as Aphrodite of the Tombs, almost as a death goddess.  Why?  Well, first off, love for all of it’s beauty has a darker side as well.  Love can motivate people to do things that they would never do for anyone else.  If one falls in love with the wrong person, that love can in turn lead them to their end.   But why do we do it?  Why do we become vulnerable to someone, let down all of our carefully crafted defenses and let that person in our heart and our life?  Well, this video clip from The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) sums it up rather nicely, I think.   While this whole clip is excellent, the most relevant part is from the 3:24 mark forward:

If you have not seen the movie, one of the most important things that the movie also brings up is the importance of learning to love yourself. And that is the real thing to think about on Valentine’s Day, but perhaps a little more than that. Instead of buying someone flowers, gifts, and treating them like someone special for one day out of 365, maybe do that more often. Realize that love always and ever shall be, a gift, and one that is precious and rare. But if it is a gift, who do we give it to, when there is no one willing to receive it, or able to? Then you have to give it to the one person who matters, at the risk of sounding selfish. You have to give it to yourself.

Every chance you can, look at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself how beautiful you look, regardless of your gender, because the word beautiful is infinitely more powerful than terms such as handsome, good looking, etc. Tell yourself that you believe in yourself. Then with emphasis, say “Now, go out and get ’em.” If you make this a habit, you will find that you have cast a truly powerful spell on yourself. You will find that you approach a lot more situations with confidence, whether that be with a potential date, a new business opportunity, or even a day at work. You have to follow up these expressions of love with real action. Start exercising a bit, and taking care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you, with dignity, respect, and kindness.  After a while, you won’t be just okay with yourself, you’ll be happy with yourself. But what do you do with all that love? Sooner or later, it has to go somewhere, so where does it go? Maybe start showing love for others in small ways. Pay it forward whenever you can, hold open the door for someone coming behind you. Smile at strangers and say hello and good morning every now and then. When we love ourselves and send that love out, the world starts to change around us. There is also, a funny thing to note about the power of self-love.

It is often counter intuitive, but where love is concerned, the more hungry we are for it, the less likely we are to receive it; and when we are okay without it, or even ambivalent towards it, it often appears. I don’t know if you will ever find love with another person. But give a lot of love to yourself. You are worth it.

-M.W. Whitaker
Valentine’s Day, 2017

Other Resources:

“A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love” by Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D, Psychology Today, March 27, 2012. [https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love]

“What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good to Yourself” by Banu Sekendur, Tiny Buddha, March 2014 [http://tinybuddha.com/blog/what-self-love-means-20-ways-be-good-to-yourself/]

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) , Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges.  Available through multiple sources, including the Maricopa County Library District (free checkout)

What Are You Afraid Of? It’s Only You

By M.W. Whitaker

Have you ever thought that that reason you don’t do something is that you are afraid? Sometimes our fear is valid. Fear can protect us. Not wanting to swim through a crocodile-infested river doesn’t make you a coward, nor does running with the bulls indicate bravery. Fear can protect us in some cases, and give us the fight or flight necessary for our survival. But what about our other fears? Where do they come from and how do they shape us in our daily lives?

We fear rejection. We fear being alone or of something bad happening in our lives. But worst of all, we are afraid of ourselves. This last fear is one that is instilled in us, whether by others, by diverse religious beliefs or because we learn it somewhere. We are taught to fear and suppress our darker sides. We’re taught that we are born evil and can only be redeemed through Christ, and that our whole life we must deny the darker part of our nature. And that’s the kicker. We’re denying part of who we are.

Dark and light are interconnected and interwoven throughout existence. Consider the Celtic knot, or the yin-yang symbol. Even the Gods have this duality. Amitābha is one of the many incarnations of Buddha and is kind and benevolent, however, he also has a wrathful side: Yamantaka. Shiva is a destroyer god, but his destruction brings renewal and regrowth, just as Sekhmet can for her devotees.  Need  further convincing of how darkness and light are interwoven?  Look at nature.

Great white sharks are terrifying creatures.  The are the size of a good size car or truck, have hard dagger teeth, and can swim far faster than a human being.  They attack from below and underneath  a person who would never see them coming.  However, sharks of all persuasions serve a vital ecological niche.  Look at coral reefs.  A large shark preys on fish like the giant grouper.   If there is no shark to eat the grouper, the grouper will eat the parrotfish which loves to eat algae off of coral reefs, and keep them healthy.  With no predator, biodiversity can collapse, and reefs can die.    Fishermen were killing Pacific sea otters because they were eating some of the salmon, however, while sea otters do like salmon, they also like to eat purple sea urchins which kill the kelp forests that baby salmon mature in.  Fishermen found that when they stopped killing sea otters, their catches improved.  A ladybug looks sweet, but it eats other bugs in a garden.  A sunflower sea star is beautiful, but is also an apex predator on the sea floor.

This plane of existence is the union of opposites.  You cannot have life without death, joy without sorrow, nor light without dark.  Why would you be any different?

Have you ever met your shadow self, or seen the darker side of you? If you haven’t, you might want to introduce yourself, and embrace that part of who you are. Should you let your dark side run everything? Of course not. Sometimes it is more appropriate to work with light. But sometimes, as a witch you have to stare into the abyss within yourself and know that you are being stared back at. Nature is an interwoven tapestry of darkness and light, and so are you. What are you afraid of? It’s only you.