Several years ago, my life as I knew it ended. I lost everything except my long time love, Herb. I think if he could have seen into the future, I certainly would have lost him, too. When I have had to courage to ask him why he stayed, he has answered that he thought I would get better.
Here’s briefly what happened. A truck hit me on my way home from the fabric store where I had been shopping for the fabric from which to make my wedding dress. For the first few weeks, it appeared that it was a simple whiplash. Over the months, it just kept getting worse. The pain spread down my back and arms and eventually down my legs. I went to specialist after specialist trying to find a cure.
Finally, I was sent to a doctor who explained that I had healed – well, if you could call it that. I just hadn’t healed incorrectly and now it was time to learn how to deal with the disease, disorders, and syndromes that the accident left with me.
I spent years banging my head against a wall trying to recover what I had lost. In the meantime, I just kept losing. I lost my business, I lost my friends, and I lost my faith. I re-educated myself so that I could work from a wheelchair and found that I couldn’t even take the stress of a desk job. Then one day my dog was killed and I lost my mind. I wanted to kill the person who killed my puppy. It was worse than an old country western song.
I had read in atheist chat rooms about some non-believers who felt hopeless because they just had no higher power they could trust to make things better. At that moment, I identified with that feeling. I went into hysterics, quite literally and grabbed a bottle of sedatives and downed them.
I woke up some time later in the hospital glad that I had failed but still wondering where I could find the strength to try again. I had a great doctor who tried to explain to me that if I had died I would not be reunited with my family or with God, “It will just be over.” He didn’t understand, That is what I wanted – for it all to be over. I wasn’t looking for some light at the end of the tunnel with a glorious reunion with my ancestors. (Truth is, I never saw one either). Twice, in fact, I have been near death and both times have seen nothing. Not black, not a bright light, no voices of comfort – just nothing. There wasn’t even a sense of passing time.
When I awoke, I was put in a five-day program that began to turn everything around. Five short days of learning to put one foot in front of the other, and then I was released into a two day a week program that pointed me in the right direction.
I began studying on my own and learned that I could choose my emotions. I can’t choose what the world throws at me, be it illness, or loss, or people crowding in line in front of me. However, I could choose not to feel despair, overwhelming grief, or anger.
A few weeks ago, I found an article in the Tacoma New Tribune on research showing that those who practice religion on a regular basis are happier than atheists. (I have since discovered that there is research to the contrary. It just depends on who you read.) It mentioned that in England a group of atheist have begun meeting once a week to see if the gathering of like minded people creates that feeling of well-being.
Having been a devout fundamentalist Christian in my youth, I recalled those meetings and the abundant feeling of joy I felt afterward. As I was remembering those meetings I recalled that they were full of ritual. Rituals that I knew and could participate in without having to follow some outline on a page. I even knew all the words to all of the songs. It occurred to me that it is not just the gathering but the ritual involved in those gatherings that causes the beneficial effects. The gathering itself is filled with ritual. Each person has a ritual for getting ready for the meeting, there are ritualistic greetings of fellow believers, the meeting itself is filled with ritual be it centered around refreshments, a speaker, collecting donations, prayer, sharing of personal blessings, etc.
Rituals are important to all of us because they allow us to access our subconscious and actually change our brains. Mastering the details of a ritual teaches us discipline, self-confidence, problem solving, and allows us to have a sense of being in control, even if just for a while.
I decided to create some form of “religion” without religion – no deities. Something that even those of us that for some reason or another can’t accept that there are creatures that control the world and are involved in our personal lives.
One of the most well-known and easily performed rituals is prayer: Asking one of these higher powers to intervene in the maelstrom for us to turn things to our favor. I believe this particular ritual works by focusing our minds on what we want to have happen. The most effective prayers are said to be those during which we picture and describe exactly what we want, taking care to ask for all the supporting details. I believe that rather than a superior being bringing these thing to fruition, it is our own minds directing us to behave in a way that makes our answer possible and even probable.
There is a lot of research that shows the effectiveness of what is called mental imagery, visualization and mental rehearsal. An experience looks like the real experience, but occurs without the reality of substance. In other words, it happens in our minds.
I quickly looked up some studies on visualization and it’s effectiness in creating what we want in the real world. The most common and probably the first type of research done was on athletics. The first study was done as a meta study – meaning that the researcher took several studies and looked at the results to see if even when given a group of studies the results held true. Overall, the groups who practiced mental rehearsal showed a better performance of about ½ of a standard deviation above those who did not visualize their success. [Pavio,A. (1985). Cognitive and Motivational Functions of Imagery in Human Performance. Journal of Applied Sports Science, 10, 22 – 28.]
There is a study out of the University of Houston showing that cognitive (mental) practices can relieve anxiety. (Feltz, D. L., & Landers, D. M. (1983). The Effects of Mental Practice on Motor Skill Learning and Performance)
The American Psychological Society reports studies that help with depression, PTSD, eating disorders, panic disorders and a whole list of other maladies. (http://www.psychiatry.org/practice/clinical-practice-guidelines)
In order to make visualization of request for aid for our problems that are directed toward our own subconscious more easy to create, I decided to direct them to an image that actually exists in reality.
I chose Paganism because it comes ready made with a plethora of Gods and Goddess which can stand for almost any type of request that a human might come up with. When I am in need of programming my mind to create something in reality I visualize it using the image of a God or Goddess associated with that object.
It can also be practiced in a group or individually, which can help people who prefer to meet in groups.
The multiple Gods and Goddesses are also great you can choose to build a ritual around healing, gratefulness, problem solving, finances, or whatever you need to work on. Simply chose the God/dess specializing in your particular issue. I have chosen mostly the Celtic Deities simply because if is my heritage. If you want to do the research you can use Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Nordic, or whatever group with which you identify. Almost every culture has a pagan culture somewhere in it’s past that you can draw upon.
Don’t get me wrong! They do not represent actual God/desses to us, but rather that part of our brains that knows the truth or where to find it.
There are certainly enough gods and goddesses in this world to meet the needs of billions. There are gods of love, goddesses of fire, gods of blacksmithing, and goddesses of wild animals. Yet there is only one highest power in your life.
There is no one in your life that makes the final decision about what you do except you. Your doctor can tell you to stop eating carbohydrates yet you will continue to eat them until you decide not to.
Our mothers told us to practice to piano more, but we didn’t unless we decided to.
Our Fathers told us to get out and get a job, but one way or another; we survived until it became important to us to get that job.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not god/desses exists because they have no power over us. Each one of us is the one who decides what we will do.
Stoicism was a school of philosophy around 300 AD. To put it simply, they taught that all destructive emotions, such as hate, anger, and even emotional and physical pain, are caused by belief in something that was not true – or at least could not be proven true.
You can find the truths of Stoic Paganism anywhere that wise people have written about how to love, accept, tolerate and master ourselves so that we may have reasonably happy lives without the need to turn our brains over to someone else.
You will find it in many philosophies such as stoicism, in many forms of psychotherapy, and yes, even in religion. These contain the wisdom to love living without either grasping at or pushing away our lives.
I have even found truth in Star Trek. “Resistance is futile”. You can resist it all you want, but the world will go on, both the good and the bad and eventually everything ends. Nothing in this world lasts forever. The only thing you can control is your reaction to it.
You can control your reaction. I know that doesn’t sound right but stay with me and I will show you how your brain takes what you think is happening and puts it together with what might have happened in that past, adds a little imagination and creates one miserable cry-baby of a human being. That’s right. Your very own brain causes all of that suffering and you can learn to control your brain.
Now if you could choose not to be angry, upset or miserable, wouldn’t you? Well you can!
I would like to help you learn how to do it. You can start by clicking here.