Tag Archives: connection

Crafting Relationship

In my previous post I explored the necessity for equality in relationship. This doesn’t mean treating folk as identical. It’s actually (as Sparrowhawk pointed out – my thanks for that) a very passive state. Recognising equality, that we share humanity and the same basic rights to respect and dignity, doesn’t call for much active engagement.

True relationship is not passive, it is an active engagement. We shape it in word and action, define it through the ways in which we give it expression. It’s very easy to go into relationship carrying all our habits of thought and behaviour, all our assumptions. In previous essays I’ve explored some of the more dysfunctional things we might unwittingly bear with us.

Every relationship is different, so there can be no one right way of doing it. But that’s perhaps the first point to make – the importance of allowing each unique connection to find its own way, rather than trying to shoe-horn it into a predetermined shape.

To my mind, what defines relationship, is what we share. I’ve had connections wholly defined by the sharing of music, or druid ritual – folks I seldom saw in any other context. We have people we share work with, or share living space. I am not convinced that the sharing of blood makes relationship  because that doesn’t call for any active kind of doing. Relationship is more than an accident of birth. We can choose to craft relationship with blood family, or not, but we certainly shouldn’t assume it exists just because we share some genetic material.

The more we invest in the act of sharing, the more scope there is for deep and involved relationship. If we just skim along the surface, happening to share the same living space, the same office, or go to the same leisure club, than that’s a degree of acquaintance, but not much of a relationship. The more we do, the more we give of ourselves, the more relationship we are likely to find. That giving should be born of love, underpinned by care and respect. If we are seeking relationship just for the joy of being with a person, then we have a good foundation. As I’ve said before, if we’re looking for power, control, influence or an ego boost, it’s not relationship, it’s using.

To be able to offer care, love and respect in ways that are meaningful, we have to listen. Really it’s as simple as that, listen, pay attention, actually hear. Don’t impose assumptions about what the other will like, want, or need, just listen, find out. Part of the joy of relationship is in finding out who the other is, and in doing that, learning more about ourselves. If we go in swaddled in assumptions, we don’t get the chance to do that, and we miss out on all the best things that relationship, in all its many shapes, can offer.

Relationship and Inspiration

How do you understand friendship, parenting, relating to colleagues, dealing with family members, neighbours, people you dislike? Go further, how do you relate to the town you live in, the land you live upon, the food you eat and the clothes you wear?

Humans do not exist in isolation. Everything we do connects us to other living beings, to humans and non-human animals, to plants to the land, and (for some of us) the gods. Everything we do has implications for those who will come after us. Most of those relationships we don’t give much thought to. In practical terms it’s very hard to be that aware of everything we interact with, all the time – a person could go mad trying. However, that’s not an excuse.

Ignorance is very comfortable. If we don’t let ourselves think, we don’t have to risk being unsettled, challenged or upset. Thinking about our many relationships and their implications is frequently uncomfortable. Who made our clothes, and how does their standard of living compare to ours? Who did we glare at today? Who were we short with, unkind to? How many creatures died today because of our actions, or inaction?

That’s the downside.

But when we think, and pay attention, our scope for action radically improves. Aware of more of our many relationships, we can take control of them, and shape them in more honourable ways. No one is going to be perfect in all things, but the sense of triumph that comes from doing better is something to promote and celebrate.

To offer an example. I’m a freecycle-er – it’s all run through egroups and it’s international, see if there is a group near you! When I don’t want something, and there’s some scope for it being used, I offer it to my local group rather than sending to landfill (thus improving my relationship with the land). Some nice person comes and takes it away (thus improving my relationship with my local community) there’s a moment of human interaction. Or, I find something I need and pick it up from another, offering gratitude in return for the item. There’s pleasure to be had in the giving, and receiving, in keeping things out of landfill, saving total strangers money, making people smile. It feels useful. It feels good.

There are so many ways in which we can have better relationships, but it begins by casting aside assumption. We’ve learned mistrust, treating strangers as potential muggers and rapists rather than potential friends. Where there is contact, compassion, listening and gentle, positive action, relationships become rich, nourishing things. Where we invest in relationship (with anything) there is soul nourishment, and we give ourselves the opportunity to be inspired. At the same time, we can also inspire others.

Turn off the television. Go outside. Smile at someone you don’t know. Stop for someone. Make time for something you wouldn’t normally bother with. Life is connection, and connection is inspiration.

Nature in the City

Birmingham's fake beach

Connecting to nature is a core concept in paganism. Cities, seem a lousy place to do this. Nature is, surely, somewhere else? Not so. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Cities create heat islands, there’s always noise and light, plants and wildlife aren’t so obvious. But nature is all around you. Here’s some tips for connecting.

 Make sure you stop outside every day. ‘Outside’ should not just be the dash between car and office, car and shop, car and front door. Or bus, or whatever you use. Stop. Stand still for just a few moments. Look up at whatever sky you can see. Feel the air on your face. This is nature.

There might be light all the time, but if you pay attention to when the streetlights come on and go off, you can become more aware of the patterns of natural light level.

Mummers in an urban green space

 

Find some urban trees. Once you start looking, cities are surprisingly green places. Parks, gardens, canals, and urban tree planting all result in green spaces. Urban decay leads to plants moving in. Where there are plants, there are often insects and birds as well. Find out what kinds of trees are growing around you, and keep an eye on them. See when they come into leaf, whether they fruit, what they do in autumn. An urban tree has just as much tree spirit as one in a forest. You can still talk to them, sit under them, or meditate with them.

Find out about urban wildlife. You may be surprised. Foxes and rats are normal, but Birmingham has peregrine falcons, and there have been sightings of wild otters in the canals. Bats thrive in urban environments.

 Think about the tarmac. In reality, it’s only a few inches thick. Under the tarmac there is soil, and the energies of earth are still there, even if we have put a lid on them. You can still connect, it just takes a bit more effort.

Spirits of place exist in urban environments just as they do in wilder ones. Spirits seen and unseen, known and unknown. If you believe that every living thing is imbued with spirit, then it surrounds you. Cities teem with life.

Cities are also an excellent place to commune with the spirits of our ancestors. Find out more about the human history of your city. Who founded it? In the UK, cities may date back to the Roman occupation – Gloucester does (along with any other place-name ending ‘cester’) and there are remnants from many centuries of human society. The past is very much with us in cities. We can see it, touch it, be part of it and connect with our ancestors of blood, place and tradition.

 Cities feel very much like big human constructions in which we have taken control of every aspect. They seem remote from nature. They aren’t. Nature sneaks in, and works its roots into the cracks. The rain still falls, the sun still bakes us. We still depend on water to drink, and food grown on the land to nourish us.

 Take some time out in an urban space, and imagine what it’s like to be a bird, or a plant there. To be a rat, a seed, a tree. Wild things do not perceive cities as we do. To a sparrow or a butterfly, this is just another environment. The cliffs may be weirdly regular, but that’s about it. To a non-human, it’s just another landscape offering potential and risk. Another place to adapt to and seek a niche in. Experiencing nature in the city is very different from encountering it in a more overtly wild place, but no less important. But then, encountering nature on a beach is different from the top of a mountain, or the depths of a forest. This is the environment we have made, but it is still an environment and we are not the only ones living in it.

GLBT Paganism

One of the (many) things I love about paganism and the pagan community, is its acceptance of people who aren’t straight and conentional in their relationships. I’ve met some fabulous gay, bi, transgender and polyamorous folk along the way, and they’ve really inspired me to explore my own identity. But then, Druidry is non-dogmatic, and that includes not having ‘one true way’ for how relationships are supposed to be.

Druidry is very much about connection, for me. Not having any assumptions about what shape a connection ‘should’ have opens up the ways in which we relate to each other, to the land, the ancestors, the gods and the non-human denizens of this world.

Here’s a little something from Enchanted Waters, which follows on from this line of thought.

Precarious though it was, Bracken squatted down, so that she could reach into the pool. She wetted her hand, then rose, sprinkling the water over Catherine.
“Blessings of water, healing and cleansing, washing away the past. Blessings of this place be upon you, and peace be in your heart,” she said.
“Thank you.”
For the first time, they looked at each other properly, standing almost nose to nose on the stone. Bracken saw dark eyes full of melancholy, and a tender, compassionate, wounded spirit. She wanted to reach out and console, but not knowing why this woman suffered, she held back. Some people were victims of their own mistakes, and she didn’t want to support anyone in not dealing with their problems.
“You’re a witch or a priestess of something then?” Catherine asked.
“Priestess and Druid,” Bracken replied.
“Does this sort of thing happen to you a lot?”
“A fair bit, yes. I seem to attract it.” She had a feeling there were things she needed to do here, and tried to find their shape. Words to say. Moves to make. Sometimes all it took was a small gesture or observation to set people on the right path.
Trusting her instincts, she took Catherine’s hands in hers.
“You’ll find a way through this,” she said. “Accept your own feelings, embrace them, work with them. If you understand yourself and your own needs, everything else will be a lot clearer.”
“I know. I just wish I knew where to start.”
“You’ve already started.” Bracken leaned closer, placing a chaste kiss on Catherine’s brow. The woman sighed deeply, tension seeping from her. “You’ll be fine. You’re strong, good and brave. You will find a way through.” With that, she relinquished Catherine’s hands, smiled, and turned away. The time had come to leave, as she still had a few miles to walk.

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