Intro to Sacred Drumming Jan 31st & Feb 1st, 2009 Saturday & Sunday 10–5 pm. $150 suggested donation. At the Center For Vitality and Wellness in Berwyn, Pa. www.centerforvitalityandwellness.com (directions on web site) Learning about playing Sacred Shamanic Rhythms as a form of meditation, prayer, healing and energy work. Going deep as a circle into rhythm vibration. You will learn and play simple rhythms within sacred circle. Shamanic drumming and rhythms can facilitate deep energy shifts, meditation and healing. We will play shamanic frame drums with a beater. This is not about being a musician, but about experiencing the healing vibration of shamanic rhythms. You do not need any experience in drumming. You don't even need to have a drum - we have drums for you to use. But bring a drum and a rattle if you have one, as our supply is limited! Tao is a Shamanic Healer/Teacher, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Musician. Tao has been on a spiritual path for over 28 years, she has studied and practiced Shamanism intensely for over twelve years. A graduate of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies' advanced 3 year program, she also has been trained in teaching Shamanism by Sandra Ingerman (author of Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth).
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
[The original version of this essay was submitted to my mentor in the Clergy Program. This version has slight changes to make it work as a blog post.]
My thoughts on the path.
I could have gone with a title like "Reconstruction. Some might argue that that "Asatru" as a term is better suited to to the reconstruction going on in Scandinavian states, particularly Iceland, and that it is less than ideal as a descriptor of Germanic spiritualities. I'm not going into those arguments at this time. And belief can be a dangerous thing. The Abrahamic faiths have beliefs, beliefs that preclude all others, beliefs that motivate some toward violence, beliefs that are not up for debate. And all those beliefs are grounded in (dictated by?) a "holy" book of some sort. Hence ... "my thoughts on the path."" or "How I See Asatru" or any other of 100 phrases that incorporate some form of belief/believe and Asatru. But Asatru is only one way to describe Germanic
Now, I will admit I was in one of those Abrahamic camps for many years. Given where and when I was born, it's not at all surprising that I bought into the culture surrounding me. The only alternatives were differing flavors of Christianity. Sure there was a minor exposure to Judaism -- more of a token nod, if you will -- but that's to be expected. The point I am trying to make here is that there was a predominantlyscene during my formative years. I had no contact whatsoever with Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, etc. Not until my high school years, but even then it was sparse.
My interest in (and modest aptitude for) science combined with what I had seen of several varieties of Christian expression led me to seriously doubt all the "one way" rhetoric that I had been exposed to ("One way? You cannot even agree on what that one way is!"). My Judeo-Christian foundation further cracked when I explored Taoism and Buddhism, which I started exploring during my study and practice of Okinawa Kenpo Karate-Kobudo (now called Ryukyu hon Kenpo Kobujitsu). As an aside, I must say I find comfortable parallels between Taoism and Heathenry, but not nearly so in Buddhism (though its mental discipline and philosophy are quite interesting).
Around this time I ejected Jesus as a deity in my life, but I still held to some concept of a generalized, amorphous "God" figure -- sort of a variable that could be filled with one's personal experience/concept of divinity. For a while, I even espoused the “All the gods are one god” kind of shtick, but I now seriously doubt I ever truly believed it.
Why do I bring all of that up here?
I don’t believe (oh no, there’s that word again) that spirituality exists in a vacuum. I can choose to reject a concept or even an experience, but I cannot remove its effect upon me. And each experience I have is affected by my earlier experiences in some shape or form. Not all experiences have direct causal affects on later ones; nor are all effects equal in application. Not too long ago, I told someone, “There is no God, and yet there is. There are no Gods; yet here they all are!” I would claim this statement as rather a wonderful pluralistic/polytheistic stance.
I am at this point because of how I see the process of experiencing the divine. The human brain, in my opinion, cannot fully comprehend/process/grasp/etc. the fullness of divinity. We can only catch a glimpse of it through the– those seemingly rare moments of transcendence that link a person to the greater mystery. This glimpse, or partial view, is then further filtered through the individual’s language, social class, culture, etc. And when that individual tries to share the experience with another, it must once again go through his filters and then be processed through a similar – though not necessarily identical – set of filters of his audience (be it one or several people). To me the development of dogma came about as a means of sharing religious experience or at least pointing the way to having one’s own experience. Rigid dogma, then, is the result of the sharing becoming more important than the actual experience.
This brings to my personal conclusion that all faiths (or spiritual paths) are simply means of experiencing divinity in this world. All faiths are, in one way or another, mere symbols in order to effectively communicate and share divine experiences. But they are not THE divine, which remain somewhat beyond our full comprehension -- at least while we remain in this world of forms.
I do not mean to give the impression that there is something wrong with our symbols. This could not be further from my heart. As human beings, we crave symbols and ritual because we need something tangible to help us relate to the intangible. We feel the need to DO something. That's where we are, and where we have come from.
And please note: I did not say that all faiths are EQUAL or the SAME. Nor do I say they are all EQUALLY TRUE. They are all, in their own ways, simply VALID. If a path works for an individual, then it is valid.
As I grow in my understanding of the ways of my pre-Christian ancestors, I find that the path(s) they blazed are the most practical for me. Polytheism – which did not exist until monotheism declared to be so – was simply the natural way of things. It is a way of seeing the world as it is, and accepting it, instead of trying to force little thing to comply with a rigid, and ultimately artificial, view of “why” things are they way they are. Granted, we cannot go back and practice exactly as our ancestors did; we need to make the faith relevant for the time in which we live. This is natural. The religion revealed by our source materials, our lore, is an imperfect snapshot (mostly taken by outside observers, if you will). While helpful, this snapshot does nothing to help us understand how the religion developed to that point. And it does less than nothing to tell us how it might have continued to progress to the present day. We can, however, extrapolate. Carefully. And this is the exact mission of reconstruction.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
[News] Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs says that because of his health issues he will take a medical leave of absence from the company until the end of June. See full story.
Montalban's death was announced at a meeting of the city council by president Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.
"The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in my Council District — where the next generations of performers participate in plays, musicals, and concerts — stands as a fitting tribute to this consummate performer," Garcetti said later in a written statement.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Another year as a technical writer for a major ecommerce firm, and I find myself with another award. This time it was a team award for all the folks that support our suite of software tools, but I did receive my own statue (and a cash bonus). I was also promoted this year, so I am once again a Senior Technical Writer. And, yes, that is just as exciting as it sounds. In other work news, Mrs. Brainwise celebrated her 15th year at her company -- can you believe that? 15 years in one place! Kudos to her. I swear she is the heart of that place.HOME
The basement renovation is nearly complete. After the installation of new windows and a coat of paint on the walls and floor, it looks brand new down there. The wait for a new steel door to be installed, however, continues. Until then, stuff from the basement is strewn around the rest of the house and Mom Sibley's basement (many thanks for her continued patience). Update: We shifted alot of stuff from the living room, dining room, office, and guest room back down to the basement just in time for the holidays. It's amazing how much room that reclaimed!CATS
Milo and Otis started a new canned food diet and Mrs. Brainwise thinks they have never been happier. I think they have never been more annoying (at dinner and breakfast). But there is no denying the boys love their new food and it does seem to be helping their health. The newest cat news concerns Milo: For no discernible reason, he has taken to sitting on the couch with us. Oh, and it's not just sitting near us -- he is actually right up against us, especially when the heater is on. Otis has always been cuddly, so Milo's transformation as cuddler #2 has Mrs. Brainwise overjoyed.TRAVEL
Mrs. Brainwise traveled extensively this year: overnighting in Atlantic City with her mother a few times, and flying out to California to visit her sister. Aside from attending a few weekend retreats for the School of Sacred Ministries, my only travel occurred in late June/early July when we joined my family for a trip to Atlanta. My sister was scheduled to attend a school counselor conference so everyone tagged along for a vacation. The hotel was gorgeous if a tad crowded and noisy (a slew of high school kids were also attending a conference). I recommend the Botanical Gardens if you are ever in Atlanta – they are simply beautiful. But the real highlight of the trip came the day we left Atlanta and drove to the Smokey Mountain Ruby and Gold Mine in Cherokee, NC, where we panned for gemstones! It was so much fun finding all sorts of great gems. Next, Mrs. Brainwise and I struck out on our own to follow the Blue Ridge Parkway -- starting out by going the wrong direction (maybe we didn’t want to go home so soon). This was the most amazing drive ever, and we ended up in the most amazing town ever: Boone, NC. This little mountain community is perfect. It has that Penn State feel -- provided by Appalachian State University -- and it is a beautiful town. It could even become our annual vacation spot.ANNIVERSARIES
Mrs. Brainwise and I celebrated eight years of marriage and my 40th birthday this year. We observed these milestones by attending a football game in Philadelphia: the Philadelphia Eagles (her team) versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (my team). We sat in season ticket territory -- about 10 rows behind the Steelers bench -- and saw a great game (according to Mrs. Brainwise, that is). Lincoln Financial Field is a great place – from the workers, to the layout, to the food (not that there is much we can actually eat on a gluten free diet), to the game day feeling. It was Mrs. Brainwise’s day as her Eagles defeated the Steelers 15-6.THEATER
I've completed another season as Project Supervisor for the Montgomery Theater, a small professional theater in Souderton, PA. This year, I focused on upgrading and expanding music and sound effect control for Main Stage productions. For my efforts in this and other projects, I was honored with the 2008 Award of Excellence. Mrs. Brainwise schemed with the theater's staff to ensure that my parents and a few close friends were in the audience for the presentation. And, believe me, I was completely surprised. I just never saw it coming; never expected such an award.MINISTRY
I continue to serve on the School of Sacred Ministries' Advisory Circle, and have taken a leadership role as the Interim Co-Administrator. Earlier this year, I conducted my first class, Introduction to Indigenous European Spiritualities. This class replaces the previous topic of Celtic Spirituality and Earth Studies that had been part of the curriculum for years. One of my fellow graduates was a co-presenter with me, and our class was a great success. We not only expanded on the original topic -- as evidenced by the title change -- but (in the words of our previous Administrator, who is also the School's co-founder) our presentation was "probably the best class on Celtic spirituality the School has ever had." I am looking forward to teaching my next class, Introduction to Rituals and Ceremonies, at a retreat this coming March. Earlier this year, I was certified to offer premarital counseling and I conducted two more interfaith weddings over the summer -- both of which were outside. I am also honored to say that I am recognized as a gothi, performing spiritual observances for a growing community of Germanic Reconstructionists in the tri-state area.And now here we are in 2009. I hope you enjoyed the recent holiday season, and I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.