Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Chronic Pain Meditation

Pain Meditation

A woman of my kindred has asked that I share my pain meditation, so for her, and such others as it may help, here it is.

Background:

 

I am a soldier, son, grandson of soldiers.  Not just people who did their trades in uniform, but the kind of front rankers that do the bulk of the actual fighting.  We have a history of standing into battle in this fashion that stretches back over a thousand years, our descent is from those who lived such lives and came back to have families.  This gives an inherited skillset that includes a wonderful tool for dealing with pain in active settings.

In terms the army would use as it sought to teach the same lessons I had learned from before I grew my first tooth, the trick is to “eat the pain, and shit power” (don’t you love the army?  Such poetry).  That is you take pain, feed it to your rage, and channel it through your discipline and trained reactions to allow you to overcome whatever is in your path.  It is a wonderful tool, on the tactical level.  It does however have that limitation.  That path is an active path, a violent and focused path, fueled by rage, turned ice cold by discipline, and utterly suited towards dealing as swiftly and decisively as possible with whatever challenge it faces.  There is neither hesitation, nor remorse; there is also no reckoning of the costs.  You will achieve your goals no matter the cost.

 

To all those who are nodding because this sounds really neat, you missed a lot of the important information. Firstly, it’s a tactical tool.  There is no long term thinking, zero creativity.  This is a purely reactive state.  As far as a survival tool, there is literally nothing better, but it will ruin your life, and those around you if you live in this mode.  You won’t consider the cost to yourself or others, you will not try to find a better way, you will simply go directly through whatever is in front of you with whatever is the quickest solution, with no consideration of anything beyond that immediate task.

 

The other thing you have to understand is that this is an active process, it consumes energy and causes you to harm yourself by ignoring your limits (the safety limits your body puts, like speed governors, to prevent you from tearing yourself apart with all the power you can actually generate, rather than safely channel).  The more pain you are in, the more of your energy this path takes.  If you are in acute pain, as a short term solution, it can power you through the bad spots.   If you are in chronic pain, then this will stop you from actually living, keeping you in survival mode until you have driven away everyone you care about, and finished destroying a body you refuse to listen to or allow to heal.

 

I had the opportunity, and boy did it take a long time to view it that way, to undergo an ordeal after a major spinal injury, and seek answers from our gods and ancestors as to how to cope with my injuries.  I was given some gifts I cannot explain, and cannot share.  I was also given instruction in something to deal with my pain, an instruction that was not short or pleasant, but was effective in ways I cannot explain to anyone who has not spent years trapped in chronic pain.
I will explain the meditation.

Pain Meditation: Form and images

 

This is not an otherworldly meditation.  This is perhaps the most difficult thing for most people with a lot of magical experience to grasp, this meditation is anchored in this world, and does not seek to take you out of your body at all.

 

Begin with opening your awareness.

Your back is to the Tree, Yggdrasil  The world tree.  Let your back rest against it, feel the bark behind you.  Know that it rises above you, branches reaching all the upper worlds, roots reaching far below to the underworld itself.  Feel the bark behind you, breathe deeply and let it go.  Let your hands touch the ground.  Feel the earth, the rough material of this world.  Know that you are rooted in this world, you will not journey this day.

Take a belt, a rope, a string, whatever you are comfortable wearing, and lay it upon your lap.

Take a deep breath, feel the tree, the bark of the world tree, the pillar of this world, the axis of all reality.  Take up your binder.
Let your breath go.  This is your world.  This is your place

 

Bind yourself, belt yourself, in doing so, bind yourself to the Tree which is this world, bind yourself to it because you are committing to stay here through what comes next.

 

Take a deep breath, let go, feel your pain, your fear, the tiredness that runs at your heels like Skoll after the moon; half a step behind, and always hungry.

 

You are bound to the tree, no force in the nine worlds may move you, no external force may touch you, you are safe from all that comes from outside.
Breathe in, accept that there is no external threat, and let go

 

Open your inward eye, your visualization.

 

You sit cross legged beneath the tree, before you laps a great ocean, it laps at the roots of the tree, and fills your foreground.  Above you in the sky wheels a raven, slow lazy circles as he watches the tide come in, gently lapping ever closer to your feet.

Look at the sea, and know it for your pain.
Tree at shore
Your arts have pushed it outside of your awareness of self, have locked it away until your strength faded, for the tide is rising, and none may turn it back.  It is time to meet it.
Take a slow breath in, and let it go.  Watch the waves lapping ever closer to your body.  Let your breath move in time with the waves.

Breathe with the waves, they are not foreign, they are a part of you.  Move with them, breathe with them.  Each breath, the tide washes closer until it begins to lap at your body.

The waves begin to lap at your feet and lower legs, let yourself become aware of your feet, your ankles, your arches, your calves, shins.  Feel each of them, itemize each pain that you find.  Learn them.
Breathe in, breathe out, the water is lapping over your legs, and with each brush of the wave you feel the pains of your legs.  This is your pain, this is your body.  This is not foreign, not an enemy.  Relax

Bound to the tree, you are immovable.  You cannot be lost, no storm make take you, no wave overcome you.  Bound to the tree, you are safe from all external threats.  Breathe in, breathe out.

Feel the waves wash over your knees, thighs and hips.  Feel each pain as the tide washes over them, feel them, acknowledge them, own them.  This is your pain, this is your body, this is no threat, no enemy.  Breathe in, breathe out.

 

Let the tide wash over your stomach and chest, feel the pains of your gut, your back, your shoulders, chest and abdomen.  Breathe deeply, let the sharp stabbing of those pains you learn to breathe shallow to avoid be felt now, accept the pain, and breathe, breathe.  You are still here, still safe, the pain is part of you, your pain, your body.  You are anchored in the tree and cannot be lost.

Let the tide roll over your shoulders and arms, down your hands, feel the waves taking your arms and moving them as it washes in and out.  Do not fear, this is your pain.  Let it guide you to the places that you force yourself to ignore while you work.  Feel the pains you normally block out, accept them.  Feel your hands moving in the tide.

The tide now laps at your chin, at your mouth and nose.  Fear rises in you.  Pain is trying to overwhelm you, and you feel the strong temptation to reach for power, to reach for adrenaline, and make the pain go away.

 

You are bound to the tree, no external force may harm you.  No external force may move you.  All that exists here is you.  There is no other, no threat; no enemy.
Open your mouth, and breathe.
The tide fills your mouth, rises to cover your nose, washes over your eyes and crown of your head.  You drown in the pain that rushes in to fill your body.
Breathe in, breathe out.  Offer no resistance.
Breathe in, allow the pain to fill your chest.

Breathe out, let the pain flow from your chest throughout your body.
Breathe in, this is your pain
Breathe out, this is your body

Sitting underwater
Breathe in, I claim this pain

 

Breathe out, this is my pain

Breathe in, I claim this body

 

Breathe out, this is my body

 

Breathe in, I love this pain

Breathe out, I love this body

 

Breathe in, I do not fear my pain
Breathe out, I do not punish my body

Open your eyes

 

Breathe in, look at the room around you
Breathe out, feel your body, feel its true state
Breathe in, rise up
Breathe out, feel the sharp pain, the aches, the bright burning wires we train ourselves to avoid

Breathe in, sway as the tree sways, move in the wind that drives the tide ashore

 

Breathe out, feel the pain in your limbs, in your trunk,

 

Breathe in, feel the edges of it, the hard edge that warns if you push, it will punish
Breathe out, this is a limit
Breathe in, you could summon your power and push past it
Breathe out, but right now, we see the limit, we acknowledge it

Breathe in, learn your body like you learn your lover
Breathe out, touch, move, allow yourself to feel

 

Breathe in, we do not resist

 

Breathe out, we accept our limits, we do not resent them
Breathe in, we thank our pain

Breathe out, we thank our protector
Breathe in, we move through the shallow waters
Breathe out, we let the pain of our resting body be known to us
Breathe in, we let the pain of our resting body teach us our limits

 

Breathe out, we move to those limits and not beyond
Breathe in, I accept this is my pain

 

Breathe out, I accept these are my limits

Breathe in, I am at peace

 

Breathe out, I am alive

 

Breathe in, this is my body

 

Breathe out, this is my pain

Breathe in, fill my lungs with pain

 

Breathe out, feel it wash through my body

 

Breathe in, It is still my body

 

Breathe out, I love my body
Breathe in, look around you

 

Breathe out, let your mind wander

Breathe in, is there beauty?

 

Breathe out, take time to look at it, let yourself get lost in it

 

Breathe in, is there foolishness, silliness, or humour?
Breathe out, laugh

 

Breathe in, pain does not preclude joy

 

Breathe out, pain does not preclude laughter

 

Breathe in, the pain is part of me

Breathe out, I accept it as the price of joy

 

Breathe in, look for a task to do
Breathe out, begin to work, slowly
Breathe in, think about what you do
Breathe out, experience it, feel your body

Breathe in, listen to your pain

 

Breath out, feel it teach you your limits

Breathe in, look at your task

 

Breathe out, does it require sacrifice?

 

Breathe in, is this an all cost task, do I need to hurt myself to finish it?

 

Breathe out, you can summon your power, if you need to
Breathe in, but not now

 

Breathe out, let go the power

 

Breathe in, laugh

 

Breathe out, accept this is your limit

 

Breathe in, move slowly and carefully

 

Breathe out, listen to your pain

 

Breathe in, let it fill you
Breathe out, let it guide you
Breathe in, let it know you

 

Breathe out, let you accept it as part of you

 

Breathe in, move through your task without raising your pain level
Breathe out, if you must pause, then pause

 

Breathe in, you will not hurt yourself
Breathe out, you love yourself

 

Breathe in, pain does not hate you

 

Breathe out, pain wants to stop you hurting yourself
Breathe in, love your pain

 

Breathe out, hate your pain

 

Breathe in, your task is complete
Breathe out, let yourself rest
Breathe in, your pain is still here
Breathe out, you are still here
Breathe in, beauty is still here
Breathe out, joy is still here

 

Reach down and grasp your binding

 

Breathe in, the pain is mine
Breathe out, this is my body

 

Breathe in, I am not lost

 

Breathe out, this is my body
Release the binding, let go the tree that anchored you

 

Breathe in, you are just you

 

Breathe out, whole and well

 

 

-At this point the meditation is done, you have taken yourself from the pain induced body fear, to body acceptance, and begun to reclaim your sense of self, sense of body.  You will also have gained the passive state required to accept, perceive, and address emotional nuance in anything other than survival mode, which honestly is a threat/response system that really is a relationship killer.  In the passive state you will be sensitive to inspiration, because you will no longer be actively blocking the channels that are shut down by the adrenal pathways.
You will still call upon adrenaline when you must overcome your pain to get stuff done.  This is still a requirement as some tasks, especially for working people and parents, need to be done, regardless of cost to you.  It is however not the only path open to you anymore.

 

For those people who have experienced sexual dysfunction related to pain, or a decreased arousal due to chronic pain issues, I would suggest a sensual exploration of your body as part of this meditation.  I am not actually telling you to masturbate, because too often that is focused on getting enough signal through the pain to get you to your happy place, I mean sensually explore your body and rediscover the joy of being touched.  Learn to see your body again as a thing of sensuality and joy, rather than simply a source of pain, a tool and a weapon.

 

The adrenal pathway of using rage to convert body pain into power is useful, and I will be the last one to put it down, but it is about survival, not about living.  The gods chose to share this little tool with me, and allow me to regain my joy, my creativity, and such interpersonal skills as I possess at the best of times.
I was always a good killer and healer, adrenaline and tactical thinking will get you that far, but you cannot be a leader, a lover, a parent, an artist or a whole and joyous human being if all you are doing is surviving.  Living requires acceptance, rather than defiance.

 

Notes on Effects:

This one takes months of use before it becomes instinctive.  Actually, you might be able to do far better, I am really good at the active pain pathway, too much berserker in the bloodline probably, so those who are a little less drawn to self destruction will find the pathway easier than I did.  The good news is, that if one of Odin’s little hardcases can make it work, anyone with half a functioning brain and no active death wish should find it tons easier.

 

Side effects I should warn you about, if you have been shut down creatively for a long time, your dreams will be an issue at first.  Vivid, powerful, emotionally really potent.  You have a back pressure to deal with, but it calms down after a while.

 

Empathy.  When you use this often enough, you may notice an increased sensitivity to the emotions of others.  This is a mixed blessing as not everything you learn will be pretty, but it also allows you to understand the effects of your own behaviour and take such steps as you feel are required to be comfortable with the effects of your actions.

You are not who you were; be prepared for the restored creativity to be different.  This isn’t bad, you haven’t lost anything (well traded, like youth for maturity), you have simply added more to your awareness and this is reflected in the form and content of your creative modes.

 

Your sexuality may have a couple of new bits.  There are some things about learning to accept and love your pain that expand the horizons a bit.  Trust me, there is nothing wrong with learning new things that bring you joy, when the world has already gone out of its way to show you new things to bring you misery.

 

Notes on Drugs:

 

I am not telling you to use them, or not to use them, this is a tool I am giving you.  There are other tools as well.  Some tools you want to take a long hard look before taking up, and sometimes there are no other options than taking up tools that come with side effects, if you want to have a life that is useful and productive on terms agreeable to you.

I find drugs good for acute pain, and crappy for chronic.  In using them only for acute pain, or really bad periods of chronic conditions you get the maximum bang for your buck, and minimum amount of side effects.  That being said, many people simply are not going to be functional without medication to augment their other efforts, and the correct thing to do is just that.

The gods and ancestors gave us wonderful tools, some are magical, some are skills, and some honestly are science discovered pharmaceuticals.  I kid you not, your ancestors were not stupid, and suffering for no reason is about as close to the definition of stupid as I can get.  We were gifted with the need to learn, to explore, to understand, and the tools our ancestors have left us are there for us to use.  Use no more than is necessary, but by all the gods, use no less either!

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Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Embracing Failure: Lessons of Frigg

 

We are not raised to accept failure.  We are trained from birth to seek success, to define ourselves by success, to adapt and overcome, that there is always a path through to victory.  This is how we are taught to deal with a world that we must overcome to succeed.  It is good to teach the young that they must strive, for against anything but their wyrd they may triumph.

 

Note the caveat.

Wyrd weaves as it will, and against it even the gods may not stand.  At the end of the first war, the goddess Frigg had seen her best loved son, Baldur, the shining one, at the forefront of every battle.  First into battle, as he was ever first with a laugh, with a song, with a smile; his courage was as great as his heart and she lived in fear that his courage would lead to his doom.  Determined, now that the Aesir and Vanir were at peace and the Aesir held sway over the worlds, Frigg set to earn from every creature that lived, every thing that crawled, flew, swam, grew, or rooted in the earth; indeed from every rock and metal, every gem and stone, a promise to do no harm to her son.  She succeeded almost beyond belief in securing the oath of every thing that existed in the nine worlds, except for one.  Mistletoe.  It was only Mistletoe that refused to swear, and with an arrow of Mistletoe was Baldur slain, and winter came into our world.  The goddess blessed with the ability to see wyrd, the weavings of fate more deeply and truly than any other, a goddess with power and knowledge almost beyond all definable limits set out to protect her son, and she failed.

Frigg and Baldr

 

Why was no one paying attention?

We can all tell you about the revenge, about the consequences, and the saga are rich in detail about all of that, but what no one discusses is that the great goddesses Frigg, perhaps our most powerful goddess, failed at the thing most important to her.

 

We get told by the better instructors in first aid that some people are going to die anyway.  Then the rest of the weeks are spent working the premise that everyone is savable, and the only deaths you encounter in training are due to failures on your part.  When our soldiers fall in battle or training, the immediate call goes up to see someone punished, as if one of ours fell, someone must pay, because a mistake has been made!

 

No.

 

Death is woven into much of what we do, and there are a lot of things that you can do everything right and still get killed.  That is why we honour those who serve military, police and fire services, because they can make no mistakes and still fall in our service.  We honour ambulance attendants not nearly enough, as they have the unique chance to experience what our soldiers see too often as well; you can’t save them all.  Watching people die when there is nothing you can do about it sucks badly.  The longer you draw this out, the more it sucks.

 

Parents and sibling caregivers get a part of this too.  Like Frigg they have one (or more) they are responsible for, one that they must protect, defend, and provide for at all costs.  Death before dishonour is a great war cry, but in practice leaves either corpses or broken people in its wake.  We somehow forgot that even the gods cannot simply decree victory, that beyond a certain point, how much you have to lose does not actually affect your ability to win.

 

Sometimes the stakes on the table really won’t turn a pair of two’s into a winning hand no matter how you try to play them.  Sometimes you have given everything you have, and it is not enough.  What do you tell the person who has given everything they have, and it is not enough?

 

Society tells them to suck it up buttercup.  Family most frequently will tell them “You have always been the responsible one, I’m sure you will find a way”, or “Its not that bad, I’m sure you are exaggerating”.  The latter one comes most frequently from those family that dump their problems on you and walk away trusting that you will deal with them because you always have.  Family will allow you to get sucked dry by parasitic members of the family because “they need help”, all the while refusing to supply any of that help, or assist you when you get so overburdened you cannot cover all the commitments any more.

 

We have the lesson of Frigga, that even the gods cannot simply decree a victory, that some things really are beyond our ability.  We don’t like that lesson, we don’t look at that lesson, we don’t acknowledge that lesson.  We peddle the dangerous myth that if you love someone enough, you can make it work.
I tried that once, drove myself past all human limits.  It didn’t end Disney.  It ended badly, and the cost was far, far higher than it would have been if I would have acknowledged I was failing, accepted my failings, and saved what I could.

We are not taught to do that.  There is a shame in failure.  A stain, a blot upon your honour and name.

 

We are taught to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold the gods to.  Think about that for one second.  We expect each other to be more powerful and more perfect than the holy gods.  I am trying to wrap my head around how that got accepted as anything but complete and utter horseshit, and I am failing utterly.

 

To people living with chronic pain, depression, or physical handicaps the challenges of our normal lives are harder by about the same degree that walking would be harder if you were carrying a pack with 80lbs of rocks in it.  They can walk, yes.  They can sort of shuffle while you jog, and they will be able to power up a limited amount of stairs, the will is a powerful thing after all.  When you drop them off the side of the boat and swim for shore, understand that they will now drown.  They can’t suck it up, they can only suck up lake water as their burdens take them to the bottom.  Some things are simply beyond your strength, and there is nothing the will can do about it.  That is just that.

 
Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, yet we somehow fail to cut ourselves the same slack.

 

There are people out there suffering in silence, sometimes motivated by pride, but most motivated by shame.  They are busy drowning under their burdens because they have been taught that they are not allowed to fail, and to let go their burdens and save themselves would be shameful.  They will drown, they will break themselves, and guess what, that won’t save their burdens either.  Their dependants do not magically get cared for if they die in the attempt, they just end up short a caregiver.

 

Against wyrd even the gods are helpless, and even the gods fail.  You are not a god, cut yourself some slack.

Everyone else out there; understand we are ALL PART OF THE PROBLEM.  We are the ones looking at the family members doing the care giving and accepting the “I’m OK” from someone who looks like they are about to collapse, patting them on the hand and going back to your life, content someone else is dealing with those unpleasant things.

 
We are the ones telling parents that you have to “tough it out for your kids”, when they are telling you they are losing it, coming apart, not able to stretch their resources enough any more, and watching their house of cards come tumbling down about their ears.
We are the ones telling those who are struggling with chronic illness or pain to just “concentrate on the positive” or “be happy”, as if there is a dial somewhere in their head that allows someone to choose to be overwhelmed and coming apart or “happy” and until now they just never thought to turn it.

I live with chronic pain, so I know this particular dance.  I am doing OK, so this isn’t a cry for help from me, because when I needed it I wouldn’t have asked, and what I was getting was so not helpful, so it was for the best.  I include that remark for one reason alone.  For all of those who are going to read this and say this is whining from special snowflakes who don’t know what real struggle is like, I have lived through more shit than you can believe or I had any right to survive, and that honestly makes me the one who needs to stand up and say this now.

I should have accepted failure when the cost was something I could live with.  I didn’t and the cost was more terrible than I want to remember, but I don’t really have a choice.  Be smarter than me.

 

If the gods can fail, why do we not permit it in ourselves?  There is a saying in French:

“sauve qui peut” save who you can.  When you are going to fail, you can accept that and save what you can, or you can deny it and end up saving no-one and nothing.  There is no honour in this, only quiet despair, humiliation and loss.  There is no victory to be gained by going down in flames, no one will sing your praises, and everyone with you gets burned too.

Failure is sometimes your wyrd.  Accept when you face a challenge you cannot win, that you will not win, and devote your energy and your effort into saving what you can, getting out from under the inevitable results of that failure as many as you can

 

We treat failure like we treat death, but I will tell you a little secret that should be obvious, but actually isn’t; you can recover from failure.  Death is simply the end, failure is a bit like falling, it tells you the point at which you have arrived (flat on your tushy)  but does not say anything about where you go from there.  You can get up from fallen, can rise from failure, but broken and dead is broken and dead.  There is no way back.  Do you see what I am getting at?  Failure can be accepted when its results are best described as fall down, even fall down weeping, rather than fall down dead.  The first two you can rise again and go on to triumph, the last one….the last one is forever, and there is no going back.

Failure is not something we ever want, not something we are prepared to accept when the failure is for those we love, for what we are depended on to provide.  It will happen, unless your life is uncommonly blessed, that you will fail, and if you are really unlucky you may face the position of looking at a failure that you would rather die than allow.  Ask yourself; will death bring your victory?  Will death solve the problem you can’t for those you are leaving behind?  If the answer is not absolutely clearly yes, then you are faced with a cold choice.  Accept failure while you can still survive it and recover something from it, or lose everything by dying.  If you lose everything and live, you can actually go on to win some back.  Death really is the end of all possible aid you can give anyone.  Death is the end of possibilities.  Failure alone, is not.

 

We are told death before dishonour, we are told to put duty before our life.  We are told a lot of things, and then set free in the world on our own to sink or swim.  When there is no way to win, losing is what is left.  When there is no way to succeed, failure is what is left.  Not all losses are equal, not all failures are total.  Accept when facing what you can’t beat, that victory is not going to be yours, determine what you can save, and put your strength into saving what you can.  Swallow failure in all its ugly squalor, but wash it down with hope.  If you chose to accept failure when you still have options, you can do that.  If you attempt to deny failure when there are no paths to victory, you will lose everything, most likely including your life, or at least your ability to function in it, and never allow yourself the chance to find your way back.

Failure is a dirty word, but many necessary things in this life are dirty, humiliating and unpleasant.  Many things in this life are simply necessary to survive to get to the parts that make it worth living for.  Don’t let fear of failure destroy you.  Learn the lessons of Frigg.  Move all the nine worlds to do your duty but if that is not enough and you fail anyway; accept it.  Wyrd weaves as it will, and if it weaves a loss for you right now, save what you can, save yourself as much as you can, and hope to rebuild on the ashes.  Failure, even when it costs you everything you have now, only costs you everything if you let it end you.  It cannot take away what you will do tomorrow, nor next week, next year.  Give yourself the right to fail, and see if the right to rebuild gives you something you can live with afterward.

 

Frigg could not save Baldur.  Sometimes love is not enough, duty is not enough, pride is not enough.  We are no more powerful than the gods, and even they fail.  They showed us you can continue.  They taught us you can be worthy of respect, of trust, of love, after failure; even a failure to protect those whom you love more than your life.  We are so quick to learn the lessons of revenge on others, and so slow to learn the lessons of forgiveness for yourself.  Blame not the gods, they are marvelous instructors, blame ourselves, for we cherry pick our lessons, preferring blood and honour to failure and shame.  Failure and shame are where you start from to rebuild what you can, save what remains.  Failure and shame are ours too.  They are not pretty, they are not cheap, and they are not ever forgotten, but from such mean things can you rebuild a life.

Baldur grave

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Living with pain: Lessons of the Tree Hanger

I live with chronic pain, and some days are better than others, but the key word here is live.  I don’t let pain keep me from work, from doing my duty to wife or children, or from doing such activities as bring me pleasure, like getting out and enjoying the physical comforts of my community celebrating together.

 

Right now I can barely breathe, an old wound, the kind you get when you get your ass handed to you by a black bear strong enough to toss three hundred pounds of me like an empty beer can, has my left chest and abdomen on fire.  Whenever the scar tissues inside get aggravated this happens.  The bastard damned near killed me, but I got up again, and he didn’t, so I have nothing to bitch about.  This is what victory feels like, so the Victory Father expects me to savour his gift, and I do.

 

Before the incident with the bear I picked up a chronic and degenerative spinal issue that will leave me with pain and spasm for the rest of my life.  The drugs that I was given are not ones that I can afford to be on, as they made me a danger to be around.  So, no drugs for me, I needed a better way, and I was given one.

 

Most of us who wore some form of green, be it CADPAT, MARPAT, or Multicam learn the way of the berserk, to use pain as fuel for power.  This is an awesome tool to drive your body beyond its limits, and explains why veteran soldiers and atheletes who get up in the morning like 80 year old men can out march, out work, and out fight the young and hale soldiers under them.  It only works when you are pushing, and really is not a constructive model to use at home.

 

There is another way, a really counter intuitive way.  I did not figure this out, and I did not seek out instruction to learn this, for honestly, no one was teaching it.  At the worst time in my life I chose to take the pain and lack of sleep and make use of it through and ordeal.

Ordeals are stupid.  Seeking to do an ordeal is really stupid.  Sometimes you are already dealing with all the negatives anyway, sometimes you have already paid the cost, it is only for you to take up these tools that have been thrust upon you and weild them in your own defense.  I know there are people that talk about what you can do with ordeals, well balance the cost of the damned things to body, mind and spirit and what you are basically proposing sounds a lot like “shove a football (fully inflated, none of this Tom Brady half inflated crap) up your vagina to understand the miracle of childbirth!”

Woman holding football

 

If that sounds really stupid, then that is exactly how I feel about putting yourself through an Ordeal, rather than accepting your wyrd and turning to the gods and ancestors for assistance when you are undergoing a period of life changing trial (ie, you are already given the ordeal, now you are simply asking for instruction).  If you find yourself with something the size of a league official football on the wrong side of your vagina, then childbirth, even if it is an ordeal, really represents the best of the available options.  When you ought to be doing an ordeal, that is the sort of choices you are looking at, if stupid and horrific is the commonality of your choices, but one represents a better option for going forward, that would be the path of the ordeal, that is what it was left for.

 

I am an active person, my nature and my training have always been to act.  Even as soldier and hunter, waiting and watching is not passive, it is immersive, extending yourself and stilling yourself to a state of utter awareness leaving you at rest in such a way as to be able to be able to act instantly, not so much at rest as poised to complete a pending action.  Of course, none of these tools or techniques will help at all, and most will get in the way.

The reality of the lesson of the Tree Hanger is one that I was not prepared for until I had exhausted all other options, all strength, had all pride and will stripped away until I was ready to accept whatever instruction was offered, reguardless of how it meshed with what I knew.

 

Submission.

 

When you speak of submission and pain, people frequently make the sort of mistakes that mistake BDSM for spirititual practice, you could not go farther wrong if you tried deliberately to.  That is aversion to pain, submission to the person hurting you.  That is kink not cope.  Now don’t get me wrong, if you get your rocks off on BDSM, have fun doing it, and you will also learn lovely ways to make use of pain, but like the path of the berserk, it will not help you when you have no strength left, for lust like rage is active, not passive, and fails with your own limits.

 

Submission to pain is the lesson of the Tree Hanger.

My ordeal experience was messed up, the way such things generally seem in the lore, and I’m not sure where the symbolism was drawn from, was it external and that explains why it is similar to the lore, was it internal, and because I had read the lore that is where the images were pulled from?  Don’t know, don’t care.  Really more of a pragmatist myself.  I could care less where the torque wrench was invented, I just want one that works.  I got one that works, and this is how you use it.

 

The meditation to implement this is unpleasant, but hey, if you are already deep enough in pain to be needing it, unpleasant is not a problem.  If the meditation I am about to describe is too unpleasant for you, then you are really not in that much pain, so suck it up J

 

I prefer to imagine myself sitting, if you can’t physically sit, the mental image still works, but closing your eyes becomes more important so that physical reality does not conflict with the mental imagry at the beginning..

 

For me pain is a dark red, not the bright red spray of fresh blood, but the dark red filth of old clot.  Imagine yourself sitting at the base of the tree, your back to it.  Imagine your pain rising up out of the ground, and lapping at your body.  Breathe deep, and relax.  Pain is rising, pain is filling your body.  Flowing from your legs and back, a building tide of it, and your body is recoiling striving to react.  You breathe in the fear, the aversion to pain, and you let it go.  The pain fills your belly, and the sickness of it fills you, the horror and shame of weakness fills you.  Breathe in all of this, and expel it.  The pain rises slowly within and without you, lapping at your chest, filling your lungs as you drown in it.  Your survival instincts now seek to take you over, fight or flight rises, but you are on the tree now, not a part from it.  This is the choice; to hang from the tree, or to run from it.

 

At this point you take the mental action, the spiritual act of choice.  At this point you sacrifice yourself to yourself.  The tree is the tool, the tree is not the object nor the recipient of the sacrifice, you are.  The tree simply is, binding  the worlds within and without and making what is done here binding across all the worlds we touch; inner, outer, and beyond.  At the point where your sanity is clawing at your controls and demanding you act, take up the spear, for when you open your hand it will be given you, and drive it into the source of your pain, and pin yourself to the tree.

Odin speared to tree

 

This act, sacrificing yourself to yourself is the only active portion you can do, as you are literally actively choosing to be passive before your pain.  The pain will now rise and fill your mouth and nose, cover your eyes, and fill your ears.  You will be in  the silence and the dark filled with and consumed by your pain.  You do not offer your pain resistance, it is your pain, you claim it not only for yourself, but as yourself.  You submit to your pain let it fill you, and you dwell within the pain, allowing yourself to experience it fully and deeply.  Learn it.  Know it, let it know you.  Learn and accept it as you.

 

Breathe, pain flows in, pain flows out, pain flows through you like your blood, filling you, sustaining you.  Your body cries out against it, but you do not listen.  You hang upon the tree, you hang as sacrifice, yourself to yourself, and pain fills you by your act of will.  Breathe, pain flows in, pain flows out, pain flows through you, and you know it as your own, you own it, you know it as yourself.

 

Open your eyes now, feel the pain throughout your body, feel it and accept it.  Do not reach for adrenaline, do not reach for power to fight back the pain.  Let the pain fill you, submit to pain, as you submit to the cold of winter or heat of summer, letting your body accept and adapt to the new normal, and while the pain, like cold and heat, are not forgotten, they are background colours of what your senses perceive, and again the rest of the world comes into focus.

 

Submission to the pain, embrace of the pain, accepting that you as you are now and going forward includes the pain is the goal of the exercise.  Now the pain does not get in the way of noting pleasure, hunger, joy, want, sadness, anger.  You do not need to expend strength at all times to fight it, but rather you can relax into the pain when you do not need your strength and enjoy life, take respite, restore your strengthe and take pleasure, knowing that when the time comes to embrace your power and once again consume the pain via the active pathways we already know, you will have your full reserves to use for the  times we need to overcome our bodies limitations, and pay the price for power.

The people of the Mediterranean and Red Seas built rigid ships that resisted the sea, and they drowned when it turned against them.  The people of the North faced a great angry sea, a terrible power that could not be resisted, so they didn’t’ try.  The  klincker build ships of our ancestors accepted the terrible power of the sea with cheerful unconcern.  Their ships bent like a willow, great serpents that slithered through the sea, not brittle sticks that broke upon it.  They did not fight the sea, they danced with it.  From them we inherit the lesson not to spend our strength against the tides, but to learn to move with them.

Drakkar in Storm

 

When pain is a stream we stride through it, when pain is a river we build to channel it, when pain is the sea, we must learn to accept it, to learn its ways, to move with it, and to learn to ride its currents to take us where we need to go.

I like life, I like pleasure, and accomplishment, power, challenge, love, lust, the burn of alcohol, the savour of fine foods, the sight of beautiful women, and the company of good friends.  Pain is the cost of admission, so it behooves me to see that paying that price is both worth it in terms of what I receive in return, and in terms of the cost to my body and mind of that pain.

I am not going to tell you this takes away your pain, because it doesn’t.  I am going to tell you that I don’t bother taking pain medication at all, because what I have learned literally gives me more comfort and function than the finest narcotics junkies and physicians rhapsodize about.  Given the choice between what chemistry can do for me, or what the tools the gods and ancestors have given me can do instead, chemistry can go back to making mead where I have some use for it.

 

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Ordeal

Ordeal

Valknut-Symbol-triquetra

In September 2009 I was broken.  My back sustained an injury at the junction between the lumbar and the thorasic vertebrae, and while my spinal cord was not directly affected, the nerves of my lower chest, abdomen, left leg and buttock, and all associated internal systems were.

I could not walk or stand without assistance, could not go to the bathroom effectively, could not lie down without careful support unless I wanted to throw up everything I had eaten that day.  I could not sleep.  I was in agony, and spasm.  To treat the pain and spasm I was on drugs that eroded my control and cut away at what little grasp I had left of myself.

We were swiftly running out of money, my children needed what I could not provide, and yet must provide.  I was struggling to force myself to do what needed to be done for them at a time when honestly I should not have been driving at all, and in which my grasp on sanity was slipping from my fingers as fast as the load of debt was piling up.  I was failing on all fronts, and getting worse.  Lack of sleep had driven me well past the borders of sanity, and I was living not only in the sick fear that I was failing my children, but the growing fear I was becoming a danger to them.
I locked myself away when I needed to, which grew more and more as I followed the medical system into a holding pattern that was nothing but an endless downward spiral of my physical and mental state, in which the drugs required for my physical survival were  rendering me Fenris Wolf, rage without thought or limit, chained by a will that was growing tenuous and frayed, and far too often failing.
Medicine was not getting the job done.  I needed to either find a better way, or I would have to end.  The threat to my family must be eliminated, either by me, or as me.  We are the inheritors of a rich cultural tradition as Heathens, and certain parts of it never have sat comfortably with my very comfortable and well understood scientific mindset.  I cherished the world as I understood it, with rules that yielded to the tools of reasoned analysis and science.  I used instinct and the esoteric senses when I fought, and when I used my skills in life saving.  You learn to trust what works, and when instinct and the subconscious animal senses augment the observation and training of discipline it makes for a potent combination.  I trusted those parts of my unconscious, my spirit, without question; but I did not look deeply into their source, or extend my acceptance of those parts I could prove worked into any logical correlaries because I was not looking to introduce a conflict into a comfortable worldview.

My world was burning, and I was the torch.  I could no longer afford a comfortable worldview, I required a complete one.  I have always said that I don’t recommend the path of the ordeal, and there are a few good reasons for my reservation.  They are as follows.  There is enough suffering in this world already, there is nothing noble or redeeming about suffering, it is a knife that cuts at our humanity, and while we may grow strong at our scars, we also learn to shy away from the pain, and close off those parts of ourselves that have been hurt, and give up those parts of our humanity that we have learned represent only ways to be hurt.  Ordeal is a powerful, sacral thing, to use it for trivial purposes demeans the user, the rite, and the gods, spirits and ancestors.  Lastly, I don’t trust me with pain.  I learned early that my bloodline has an affinity for pain.  We are able to use it as a source of power, to drive into our pain, to mine It for strength to push beyond all physical limits.  I have watched my father destroy his body doing just that, called upon again and again because he could do what others could not, until his body was shattered as an offering to a will that would not listen to pain as it marked the limits of what was sustainable and survivable.  I too have that in me, I know Ordeal is a gate that would open for me, but I also know that it is to me what single malt whiskey is to an alcoholic.  Just what I want, and I will try hard to find a way to sell it as a need.  This time, I actually had the need.

My children were growing to fear my rages, almost as much as I was.  This could not go on.  By my will it would not, but I did not know a better way.  Medicine and psychiatry were pathetic failures that rendered me more and more of a danger to myself and others, and more and more helpless physically.  The drugs were growing in negative side effects, and their already indifferent abilities to counter pain and spasm were actually diminishing.  It was time, and past time.

Ordeals are like omelettes, you cannot get one without smashing a lot of metaphorical eggs, that correlate to real physical and mental damage.  I don’t favour breaking eggs unnecessarily, but since my body was a mass of smashed eggs right now, it seemed a really good time to make an omelette.

I had not slept at this point in months, my memories are not really comprehensible, as they are so disjointed that I cannot navigate within them, nor understand them.  They are encrypted in a code I cannot read, if indeed I could ever comprehend them, even at the time.

I took my pain, and my lack of sleep, and I stopped taking my pills.  The doctors and nurses were quite insistent, but at that point I was surrendering to instinct, and my instincts were screaming at me that behind the veil was my only hope of aid, and while pain and lack of sleep could thin the veil enough to pierce, drugs robbed me of my will to claw my way through and seek what I needed.  I know there are those who swear by psychotropic substances, they do not have the snakes in my head or the wolf in my soul.  I do not cast off my internal defenses for a damned good reason, it is for your protection, and trust me, you need it.

My ordeal.  I heard the storm, the literal thunder and lightning of our traditional spring storms, and I slipped into vision.  I saw Woden riding Selipnir, long spear in hand, and wolves coursing before him.  I felt my body twist as spasm took me, but this time I did not fight against it, but dove into it.  My body shifted and tore, and I threw back my head and howled.  I ran with the hunt on four legs not two.  There was no thought, no reason, just the joy of my body moving tirelessly under me, the lust of the hunt and the savage joy of the kill.  I woke, which indicated I actually slept, and my body was soaked in sweat, but I felt far clearer than I had in days, I had blood staining my beard and filling my mouth, and no wounds, nor signs of nosebleed to account for it.  The nurses checked me for bites in tongue and mouth but found nothing.

I had the focus now that I needed.  I took liquid only, no food.  I stopped listening to the doctors and nurses, they were a distraction, an irritant, with nothing to contribute I had not heard a hundred times before, and they would repeat it a hundred times after, so there was no point in wasting energy I did not have on their blather.

The Wild Hunt had shown me how to surrender to the spasm to transform.  That wasn’t real of course, surrendering to the spasm leads to being locked in spasm, puking all over yourself and losing control of your bodily functions while you try to breathe without being able to raise or lower your chest wall.  Still, real and unreal are not the same as true and untrue, so I took what was offered and turned it sideways.  I had mastered the techniques to control my pain, to master it, now Odin seemed to be suggesting I should stop.  I surrendered to my pain.  I did not weep, or wail, or show any of the weakness of those who fear pain, honestly, it holds no fear for me, it is like breath, a part of my life until it is over, so no real ability in inspire fear, but it hurts, oh boy, do you get familiar with exactly how much it can hurt you, given enough time.  There really are no upper limits to the pain you can experience, what doesn’t kill you increases your ability to experience greater suffering.  Not good news, but good to know.  I surrendered to my pain.  In my vision, I sat cross legged (not a chance of pulling that off in the flesh just then, trust me).  I felt the pain as rising liquid.  It looked like blood, and it rose over my waist, and up my chest.  I simply schooled myself to accept it. Agony rose with the liquid and I wanted to reach out to the adrenaline to hammer it back down, but I must not.  I let it cover my mouth and nose, and panicked.  Real or not, I felt myself begin to drown, but at some point, you have to trust, so I let it happen.

There was a heavy silence and the pain became a sort of white noise that filled everything, but became hard to focus on, hard to really perceive.

I could feel the veil, the way between the worlds. I opened myself to what I have termed my skaldic vision.  It is not literally a vision, it does not replace what my eyes see, it replaces the way I interpret what I see.  Your mind works hard to filter out things, when you get tired those filters fail and you start seeing things.  You also start to overlay things that are, with the things they represent and connect to.  This is what I call skaldic vision, where you see things and people not as the literal thing, but the symbol of all they or it represents.  This is like looking into a tesseract, or kaleidoscope, where as singular vision becomes the source of a thousand related images as you see the “real” object as a rock thrown in a still pond, and each ripple outward is a meaning or connection flowing outward from it.  You can lose yourself in this vision, and those who walk these paths learn to ward against doing so.  I did the opposite and raced outward along the opening lines, deeply into the veil between worlds, into the awareness beyond or between conscious thought and animal instinct.

Raven’s did not guide me.  The followed me, and mocked me when I stopped, but they did not guide me.  I sought my ancestors, specifically my grandfather Benjamin Mainer, but I did not find him.  When I called out for him and followed what I felt might bring me closer I found instead an old woman.

She was working at a grinding stone, an upright one that looked like a spinning wheel.  Her eyes were grey and hard, mouth lined an grim, and her body rocked as she worked the pedals to spin the wheel.  She was sharpening sickles, not the half moon things you see, but perhaps a foot and half to two foot wooden shaft and matching length forward curving blade.  They were not lovely instruments, well worn and made of unfinished wood with many layers of colour from hands and use.  There was a screaming scrape coming from the steel as she worked the pedals and the rhythm of her rocking and grumbling drew me, even as the sight of the sparks seemed to take my sight and still my mind.  I felt my heart beat slow to match the rhythm of her pedals on the wheel and my breathing matched her rocking as she continued, seemingly oblivious to me as at the same time I felt her measuring and weighing me down to the last molecule and stray thought.

Grinding Wheel 1

She turned to look at me, and I have the sense that I told her why I was here, what I was seeking, but I would be lying if I said I remember speaking at all.  I swear I communicated, I can’t actually remember doing so.  She simply grunted and extended to me a package wrapped in tattered black cloth, it was about half the height of a 7.62mm Ammo box, but the same width and length, it felt heavy, but solid as if there was no room for anything to shift inside it.
“You will not open this swiftly, and may never open it at all.  I give nothing that is not earned. Work for it”

I turned to leave and emotion entered her voice for the first time.
“You did not ask the way back boy”

I snarled, my rage actually had my teeth bared and blood hammering at the thought I needed such aide, which is really, really ironic considering how over my head I was, and how much disparity I could feel in the depth of the two of us.  If I cast a shadow in this place like rubber duck, she cast one like the bloody Bismark so much broader, deeper, and denser than my own presence that In retrospect I wonder how solid I actually appeared to her.  Arrogance has always been my defining characteristic, and my balls have a better record of defining my probable course of action than my brain in most cases, so I absolutely meant it when I hurled my defiance back at the very potential of her mockery or suggestion of her contempt.

Her laughter had a simply uncomplicated joy that lifted a burden I did not even realize I was carrying, and I turned to slog towards my self.  Since working with Tranceportation I do not have to do any of what  I had to do at that point to find my way back to myself, but then I really did have to go the long way, and the weight of what I was carrying had my heart hammering, my limbs burning, and my breath gasping.  The fact I didn’t actually have my body along for the ride should make that all really hard to explain, but honestly logic not a great tool inside visions.  They have their own rules, play by them or lose.

I would love to give you a fairy tale about what was in that package, but I can’t I don’t know.  I would love to be able to articulate how I gained control over my pain and my spasm and was able to toss the drugs I was supposed to be on for the rest of my life.  I can’t.  I cannot tell you what the tools were I was given, they are mine, they are a part of me now.  I sought them in my ordeal, and I found them.  They took time and self mastery to master.  If I could teach others what I have learned, I would retire a millionaire, but I am not Diana Paxson, I can’t take what I see in those realms and translate it into a model my logic will accept and can use any more than I can fly by flapping my arms and making crow calls.

I am pretty close to 100% functional now, without question the strongest and most high endurance person in my workplace of over a hundred, even if my work is largely supervisory.  I am safer to be around than at any time in my life, and am able to bring joy, love, and protection to those around me.  This I got through the path of ordeal, through the practices of Heathenry and Seidr.

The world view I am most comfortable with is hard science and reason, but all scientists understand that what we have are models of reality, not truths.  We use the best models we have, because through understanding those models you can predict the performance of the universe and make intelligent choices with a reasonable expectation that a given action will have the predicted result.  This works.  This is reason.  There are things the best models of science cannot explain, places they cannot help you choose, cannot offer any guidance to navigate.  There are other models that are required in these places that reason does not tread, and the only reasonable, rational, thing to do, is to accept that a model you have proven works is the right tool for navigating these areas.

A rational worldview would leave me either a danger to my family, or dead by my own hand to prevent it.  A more complete world view encompasses both the rational scientific world I am comfortable with, and the unseen world, the world that our ancestral practices of Seidr and Galdor exist to help us navigate and function in.  My life, my ability to care for, provide for, protect, and love my family at this point is owed to those esoteric practices that my comfortable world view did not contain.  For this reason, I accepted my responsibility to push my understanding into the esoteric traditions our ancestors left for us.

Having accepted this gift, and benefitted from its teachings, I am obligated to give my thanks to those who rekindled these traditions, and offer my support to those in the community who have been mocked for pursuing the more esoteric traditions that have always been a part of Heathenry, but which many of the mainstream heathen groups choose to reguard with somewhere between amusement and revulsion.

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