Laying the Past to Rest

In my journey through pagan spirituality, I have experienced many past life regressions – usually as a shaman or medicine woman. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the karma attached to me. I’ve even uncovered the foundation of some issues I have now, like why I hate apples (one of my previous incarnations choked on one and died) and my fear of bugs (my previous war torn child-self forced to live in roach infested ruins). Whether those visions were real spiritual experiences, or just my subconscious mind concocting pictures to explain trauma doesn’t matter. Either way, they have proved to be invaluable in the understanding of myself, and my purpose in the world.

I’ve had many past life sessions with therapists and readers, and each one taught me something new. But the main lesson taught in any session is how to let go of the pain and negative habits gathered in previous lives. And lately, this knowledge has come to help me in this incarnation, helped me to deal with issues in my youth and recent history.

Sometimes a spiritual journey is not about venturing into past lives, but purging the lives you’ve lived in this existence, in this body. It is amazing how many lives you have within one lifetime.  Every major occurrence in our lives can be viewed as an event unto itself, an experience that shapes who we are – whether its relationships, moments of epiphany, etc. We all know the basic cycles: childhood, puberty, young adulthood, adulthood, menopause, wise woman days, aka maiden, mother, crone, and the cycles in between. Each time we begin a new cycle of life, the old cycle dies. And much like a past life experience, we have to lay it to rest, and take the lessons from it and move forward.

However, we often forget that within each of those cycles is a depth of experiences we don’t honor and mourn appropriately. Instead, we marinate on them, the problems and shame running through our minds over and over again. And suddenly, our decisions in the present are based on our experiences in the past.

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t that how its supposed to be? Well, yes – we are supposed to remember and use the wisdom of our past, but not to the degree we sometimes take it.  We spend so much time worrying about things that have already happened that we often miss what’s happening in the here and now.  Our history should be a point of reference, but not have a hold over the current time.

Each moment of our lives has power, a center of its own, and when an incident ends negatively it is very much a death wound to our spirits and energy. If we were to look at each time we have been hurt, disillusioned, disheartened, wronged, we would see just how many deaths we have experienced in this incarnation. Mourning these experiences is vital, then “consciously forgetting” them can be viewed as a type of reincarnation, a way of rebirth.

In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes discusses the process of conscious forgetting:

“To forget means to aver from memory, to refuse to dwell – in other words, to let go, to loosen one’s hold, particularly on memory.

To forget does not mean to make yourself brain-dead. Conscious forgetting means letting go of the event, to not insist it stay in the foreground, but rather allow it to be relegated to the background or move off stage. We practice conscious forgetting by refusing to summon up the fiery material, we refuse to recollect. To forget is an active, not a passive, endeavor. It means to not haul up certain materials, or turn them over and over, to not work oneself up by repetitive thought, picture, or emotion. Conscious forgetting means willfully dropping the practice of obsessing, intentionally outdistancing and losing sight of it, not looking back, thereby living in a new landscape, creating new life and new experiences to think about instead of the old ones. This kind of forgetting does not erase memory, it lays the emotion surrounding the memory to rest.”

Perhaps this is another lesson in the death/rebirth section of Goddess teachings. Cerridwen puts us in the pot, stirs it up; and we melt and boil and scream but emerge cleaner and wiser. Pele tosses us into the fiery volcano and we climb out with inspiration and new understanding. Persephone guides us to the underworld and teaches us how to rule as Queen.  The theology of the Goddess shows us exactly how to overcome the stagnation of the past; but instead of thanking Pele for the creativity and realizations, we bitch about how hot the lava was and tell anyone who will listen about the misery of the whole incident.

By practicing “conscious forgetting”, the power of our rebirths is suddenly visible. We become witnesses to our awakening; we can honor ourselves for all the times we have crawled up from the dirt and started again.

The fact that you are still here, still in an earthly body with a heavenly spirit, means that you have been reborn from a death. Reincarnated. Transfigured. It’s time to focus on the rebirth, not the death. Honor yourself for the strength it took, the courage you had/have to begin again.   Mourn, and then let it go.  It doesn’t mean the experience still doesn’t influence you, but it does rip the power away from the circumstances and the past, and place it back into your hands in the present. There is a difference between learning from your past, and reliving your past. The you from yesterday is gone.  Pay attention to who you’ve been reborn as today.

In short: let it go.

Women’s Work

This was inspired by a posting to an OBOD egroup I’m on. The initial posting raised the issue of the value of things that are traditionally woman’s work – the home making, child raising, meal crafting, nest building skills that enrich life. As we’re talking about healing women, this seemed like a topic to explore.

Plenty of women still stay home to raise children. Some raise children and hold time jobs – part time, full time. The last lot of statistics I saw on the subject suggest that even women who work full time bear the brunt of the childcare and housework. Women’s work. And there are still men out there who would find it undignified to do such tasks. I’ve met them, and heard stories. Plenty of cultures still view women’s work as lesser. Part of this is because it does not earn money, and out there in the ‘real’ world, money talks, loudly.

I think a chunk of the problem stems from the fact that governments are interested in money, not wellbeing. Economic activities, that generate money and government revenue are given priority, are talked up like they’re the only things that matter. The only meangingful work, in this context, becomes paid work. If the unpaid work falls to the women, the status of women is reduced, in this mindset. It isn’t clever, it doesn’t help and it needs resisting.

Men need to know how to take care of themselves, and their offspring. Division of labour is fine, so long as its fair. The only way forward is to teach our sons, (and our husbands if needs be) how to do these things. A boy who grows up able to cook and clean, and to take pride in that, is not going to deigrate those skills in later life.

The unpaid work that enhances life, feeds the soul, encourages wellness, both mental and physical, but does not involve an exchange of money, is not fashionable. It is ‘drudgery’. This is wrong. People (usually women) who stay home to care for sick children, parents, spouses etc, save governments a fortune and largely go unrecognized. A clever and dilligent housekeeper (of either gender) can make a house run on a lot less money, stretch the resources further, reduce the effects of poverty. A parent who undserstand nutrition and can make good food raises healthier children. 

If I do something from scratch, I save money – be that in making soup, or handkerchiefs, or cutting wood for the fire. I improve the economic situation of my household. But the prevailing culture does not value such things. The current culture encourages ‘labour saving devices’, ‘disposable’ ‘pre-packaged’. Plenty of that is aimed at ‘making life easier for mum’. It costs households. It has a terrible environmental impact. Disposable nappies, anyone? But no one will pay you to scrub terry towels by hand. There is no kudos in it. Instead, you become the person who spends hours each week scrubbing human shit off fabric. It’s heroic work, and needs to be treated as such.

In our culture, money equates to respect. We need to challenge that. We need to respect the people who work for their families and communities, who volunteer, raise children, mop up, and prop up. We also need to stand up for the men who are proud to be fathers, unafraid of laundry, equal to the challenges of nest building.

The process of recognising and valuing what is traditionally ‘women’s work’ is also a process of getting away from the horrors of gender stereotyping. It’s a protest against rabid consumerism, and systems that encourage people to spend all their waking hours working so that money can move round in the ‘growth’ process that obsesses governments. It is actually a very radical thing to be doing, and necessary, if we are to improve our relationship with the planet.