Kate Soulstar's Journal

October 17, 2011

A State of Doing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 7:58 am

It’s been a good while since I’ve posted here.  I’ve had a very busy summer.  Lots to do with the boys, some day trips, summer school and camp.  Our family vacation was in Vermont, which was a balm not only to the body, but to the soul.

It’s been very hard to write.  I feel like I’ve said what I’ve needed to say on the one hand and on the other, I’m busy doing.  It’s been a time of putting my study, training, and practice to the test.  Living it more than talking about it.  For a long time it was very easy to be introspective about things, writing and talking about things.  Now, it’s much harder.  My typical day is both the same and very different from before.  There’s much more behind the words “I woke up, got the boys ready and off to school, cleaned the house, and ran errands.  Then the boys came home from school and I took time to talk about the day with them, fix snacks and supervise homework, make dinner and have a peaceful oasis for my husband to come home to after work.”  There’s a sense of going with the flow, of a deep current of peace underneath things.  Yet, I’ve had my share of challenges too.  My little guy has been taken off a medication that was causing tardive dyskinesia.  Fortunately, his tics and mannerisms have just about disappeared completely, so the damage wasn’t permanent, which it too often is when someone is on medication for a long time.  I’d say seven years is a long time.  We eliminated the side effect, but exchanged it for disrupted sleep patterns where my son would begin his (and everyone else’s day) at 2:oo am two or three times a week.  Also he’s become much more aggressive towards others and his impulsivity and self-injurious behavior has increased.   So now we’re trying to find what will work so that he can get back to learning at school instead of spending the day managing and dealing with challenging behavior there and at home.  I would really like to not feel like I have to constantly worry about my son’s safety because of head-banging (he’s smashed a window before) or cuts from scratching (yes, I trim his nails, but when there’s a will, there’s a way to still scratch).  Needless to say, I’ve been a far more regular and frequent visitor to school so far this year.  Meanwhile, there’s my elder son to consider, work with, play with and care for as well.

On top of this, I’ve returned to the workforce, in a part-time support position at a local school.  So any “free time” I’ve had is far, far less these days.  I will say this, though.  All the study, training, and practice I’ve done as part of my work in this community has paid off in spades and has really made a positive difference in my life and in the lives of those I’m part of every day.  I don’t do big heroic stuff – just little, day-to-day, regular life stuff.  Since I see my call as a call to serve and guide, that’s just what I do.  Every day.  Right now, that’s more than enough for me.  That’s why I’ve been so quiet lately.  I’m just in a doing place, rather than a “talk about it” place.

June 30, 2011

An Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 9:02 am

Well, there’s been still a good deal going on these days.  The boys are out of school for the summer and there’s gardening and lots of outdoor activities on the docket.

My sister is healing quite nicely and they got all of the melanoma removed.  Yea!  My brother’s surgery is July 12 and he’s not talking about it with anyone, keeping things close to the vest.  I guess I’ll find out when and if he wishes to share.  In fact I saw him recently and asked him about it, and he replied that he didn’t want to talk about it.  At all.  My little guy does NOT have seizures.  Another yea!  However, we’ve switched his care to the larger hospital neurology practice because they have a department entirely dedicated to the treatment of autism.  We have two appointments scheduled this summer.  One is a medication review and the other is an assessment for tics/OCD type behavior and behavioral management.  Looking forward to it.

A project I decided to focus on this summer is about American Indian spirituality and how to integrate that part of my heritage better into my life and practice.  I’m doing lots of background reading and have been realizing even more just how much that spirituality is already a part of my life, handed down within my family.  It dovetails quite well with my Celtic heritage and background, because a number of cultural and spiritual practices from that background have also been handed down to me again within my own family.  These traditions and practices coexist side by side with the obstensible Roman Catholicism with which I was also reared.  They were treated relatively independently of each other, which I think is why these practices and knowledge were preserved, practiced, and passed on through the generations.  Of course, in today’s atmosphere of uber-Catholicism and a movement to a pure, non-syncretic Catholic practice that is prevalent in the Church these days, the ways I was brought up with are under threat and attack from religion.  So the older ways and knowledge go further underground, renamed and identified, a re-christening if you will.  I know that St. Brigid and the goddess Brigid have been conflated, with many of the attributes of the goddess now attributed to the saint.  These kinds of integrating of Christian beliefs and practices with indigenous practices in North America was readily appropriated and connections made, not so much by the missionaries and black robes European settlers brought with them to the Indian tribes, but rather by the tribes themselves.  So there is definite conflation between biblical stories and accounts, symbols and cosmology and those of the native tribes.  They found the common links between the tribes’ own stories about creation, the gods and goddess, and the earth and the tribes’ place in the world with that of the European settlers.  They wove the stories together in an inextricable web that persists today.  This has given me much to ponder in terms of its implications for my own life and spirituality.  I have a patron saint and a medicine helper.  I have a Confirmation name and an Indian name.   It certainly promises to be an interesting summer as I sort through some of this and untangle some of the mixed feelings and experiences I have about these things.

That’s it for now.  My appearance will be more spotty during the summer months with the boys home.  I will be around and will keep in touch.

June 3, 2011

Recent Events

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 9:31 am

Well, things have been very busy for me of late.  Lots of stuff going on in my personal life that have taken precedence over anything else going on.  Let’s see… where to start?

My sister had melanoma surgery last week.  They had to remove a larger margin around the actual melanoma.  She’s been laid up for about a week, but is improving daily and does not have any complications, unlike her last surgery.  Also her liver biopsy went well and the results were negative.  So, she’ll still be on a very close watch (checkups every two-three months at the regional cancer center where she’s a patient), and every time an atypical mole appears, it will be removed.  Of course, that happens at every appointment, but she’s hanging in there and they’re keeping a close eye.

My little guy went to a neurologist at a regional teaching hospital because of possible seizure activity development.  It’s been a difficult month or so.  He started developing a kind of facial and bodily tic that seemed partly voluntary (e.g., behavioral) and partly involuntary.  We had to wean him off a medication, because such movements are often a side-effect.  The tics decreased, but continued.  Meanwhile, the reasons why he was on the medication in the first place, self-injurious and aggressive behavior, came raging back.  So, it’s been lots of sleepless, little sleep, and restless nights and constant vigilance to stop him from scratching himself bloody, head banging, and from hurting others, impulsively or not.  Plus, his sleep is very restless now being off the medication, and he takes about an hour and a half to fall asleep and he wakes up to 2 hours early.  Anyway, we now have to return to the hospital for a 5-hour EEG test to rule out or confirm seizure activity.  Only then will we be able to know what to do next.  This hospital has a center specializing in the treatment of autism, so we might transfer all his neurological care to them, even though it’s quite the commute to get there from where we live.

Then there were a series of tornadoes that hit my home state, including a heavily populated urban center near where much of my extended family and several friends live and work.  It took hours to find out, but everyone is okay, alive and relatively unscathed, except for some minor damage to personal property.  Some of them have affected workplaces, either because their workplaces sustained damage or because the roads to get there are impassable.  Now, efforts are focused on cleanup, relief, and rebuilding.  So, that’s another effort I’m part of, because I am originally from that area.  In fact, the school I did my student teaching at during my college days, was partially destroyed by the tornado as well.  It’s unbelievable to see all the damage and destruction from the storms wake.

Lastly, but not least, I have a brother who I am not close to for many reasons who was told yesterday he needs exploratory surgery to deal with a mass found in his abdomen and that the surgery is of an urgent nature, needing to happen within the next two weeks.  No idea what it is, or how serious it is, until they can see what it really is and what’s causing it.  He can expect to be laid up for the summer at the least, just from the procedure alone and of course what happens next depends on what they find.

I’d swear with stories like these, my life was a soap opera, that I was making this all up.  This cannot possibly happen to one person or their family at the same time.  I can tell you this.  I certainly wish I was making this all up.  But I’m not.  So, that’s why I’ve not been around quite so much these days.  I’m hanging in and so is my family.   All that study, training and practice that comprises my path?   It certainly have made this all much more manageable to deal with.  I can be that calm center and support to those around me.  My life daily proves to me the viability, value,  and truth of my path, training and practice.  It’s where the rubber meets the road.  My tires are at the proper pressure, they’ve not gone flat or bald and I’m still moving forward, thanks to what I’ve learned and put into practice since September 11, 2006, the first time I joined this community.  Right now, it’s what I need to do.

May 12, 2011

The Banality of Evil

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 9:05 am

Over the weekend, I watched one of the most disturbing movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It was called Untraceable.  The movie is about the FBI’s cyber crimes division’s search for a serial killer in Portland, Oregon.  What makes this killer special is that he kills his victims live on the internet and manages to link the speed of the killing with the numbers of viewers his website gets.  In other words, each of the site’s viewers on the internet get to help kill the victim just by watching.  Of course, there is a point to the story.  The killer is a young adult son of a professor who jumped to his death from a local bridge while a local news station carried the event live, watching and filming it from their traffic copter.  All the victims are linked to that event.  After watching the movie, I spent some time learning more about the movie itself and how it was received.  Interestingly, many critics linked this movie to the Saw movie franchise and the Hostel movies as well, calling the movie “torture porn.”  I did some more digging around and tried to get a better sense of this particular movie subgenre as well as a fuller definition of the term “pornography.”

As a teen, I remember that being the time when all the “slasher” type movies were the rage.  Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and Michael Myers were the headliners.  There was considerable discussion about the effects and impact of such movies, particularly on young people and how their subject matter might desensitize people to violence and gore.  It was a popular topic in current events classes and in the media at the time.   As a teen, I never watched any of those movies because frankly I was too scared and didn’t want to have to deal with the disturbing lingering of powerful visual imagery that would persist for a long time.  It was a case of knowing myself and my limits and leaving it at that.  During the summers, I worked in a factory and during break times and after work, hung out with a small group of people close in age.  We used to talk about “forbidden fruit” type of topics.   One such topic was a movie called “Faces of Death.”  That’s when I learned that pornography was far more than explicit sexual imagery.  It included graphic, gory violence and/or depictions of actual deaths on film, which was the case of the above mentioned movie, which showed executions as they were being carried out in different parts of the world.  I remember the fascination and interest this film and topic had for some of my same-age coworkers.

Fast forward to 2001 to the present.  It is in the first decade of the new century that “torture porn” becomes more commonplace in the theaters.  I do not think this is coincidental and I think there is room for considering just how and why this is a current phenomenon.   Like so many people, I watched the events of September 11, 2001 unfold on live television.  That meant I watched people die on live television, right in front of me.  Many were not visible to my eye, but there were some that were.  I remember seeing people choose to jump out of the towers of the World Trade Center.  Trying to wrap your head around such a horrific event and make some sense of it becomes extremely difficult.  Of course, one of the first questions people have in the wake of events like this is “Why?”  “Why did this happen?  to us?  to our country?  to my loved one?”  What’s more, one of the typical places people go to for answers is religion.  Unfortunately, some religious people and faith traditions did not respond too well to this kind of situation, and what’s more, in some sense many people saw religion as part of the cause in the first place.  That made it difficult for people like me to find any sense or comfort from religion.  I think that happened on a far greater scale than people are really willing to think about or consider.  When “why?” becomes an unanswerable question, many people turn to the question “how?”  How is more of a process oriented question.  How did this work?  How did it happen?  Can we do something to stop that from happening again?  How? becomes a way of reasserting some modicum of control and sense into our lives.  Our culture, particularly television and movies, started to reflect that kind of thinking.  Movies like Untraceable, Saw, and Hostel are among the results.  On television, CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS are other examples.   The gore, the testing of the limits of the human body and special effects artists, are all ways of using “how?” to distract us from the fact that “why?” the real question underneath it all still goes unanswered.  Or maybe, it isn’t unanswered, we just don’t like the answer.

So, when I came online yesterday and saw another post in the forum about evil, I realized that this post and that topic are really linked to each other.   What’s more, the fallout from the movie “Untraceable” at the time of its release is reflected in the fallout resulting from the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.  We want details.  We want pictures.  We want proof.  Or is it that we want the vicarious thrill that comes with voyeurism?  I doubt that even if all the evidence was presented and everything made public surrounding Bin Laden’s death, that the conspiracy theories and doubts would be settled.  I would bet that most people watching the murders on the internet in “Untraceable” thought they were being put on, that it was a hoax.  After all, we know it’s just a movie, just special effects, right?  Of course, that is something that the publicity for the movie played up, even to the point of making a mock up of the killer’s website so that you could check it out for yourself, then scolding you for a lack of morality for indulging your curiosity.   It’s an interesting paradox.  I think that we have this paradox because of the questions raised in Master Thompson’s post “The Problem With Evil”.  In some respects, religion has failed to disentangle itself and the Deity from that why? question and the cause of events like September 11, 2001.   In ten years I have yet to see the Divine settle the matter or the best of human reasoning satisfactorily stop the arguments from spiraling round and round in a circle. 

I titled this post after a book title I believe from a book written by Hannah Arendt.  You know, I’ve finally gotten round to watching all those gory horror movies that scared me as a kid and teen.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I had tons of very vivid, very violent, and very bloody dreams all around protecting the child I carried within me.  Watching those movies helped me cope with the imagery of those dreams and made me realize I was tapping into an archetype and that I needed to pay attention to what I was experiencing.  It was a cathartic experience, one that involved shedding fear, of pain, of travail, of death itself.  It prepared me to face death square in the eyes when my sons were born and to choose LIFE not just for them, but for myself too.  I get the sense that our culture is still grappling with the demons in our world and existence, both human and divine, striving to make sense of it all for ourselves.   We seem to as a people have the tendency to push too far sometimes, and I think this is no exception.  The cost in indulging our “how?” questions is costing us our humanity.  It’s time to reclaim that and push back against the chasm that threatens to swallow us.  I stared into that watching that movie.  I stared into that watching the History Channel’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  It’s time to choose life and embrace my humanity.

May 3, 2011

I have been haunted…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 12:29 pm

by a war that wasn’t mine to fight.  It happened before I was born.  Yet somehow it seems to seep its way into my consciousness, particularly during the month of April.  And so it is again.  World War II.  I’m 43.  World War II was fought over seventy-five years ago.  My ancestors left Europe for the New World in the early 1600s on my paternal side, and in the coffin ships following the great potato famine in Ireland on my maternal side in the mid-1700s.  Add a dash of First Nations ancestry on my paternal side and there you have me.

When I was 12 years old, I remember reading a story in my Western Civilization history book about a small village in Czechoslovakia.  During World War II, the occupying Germans gathered all the villagers in the town square, killing nearly all the villagers (save six if my memory serves correctly – the story came from one of the village’s survivors) by various means, including trampling them with horses.  I remember being absolutely stunned when I read this.  I realized very quickly that I would not be able to ask my teacher about what I read either.  I don’t know why, I just sensed I shouldn’t so I didn’t.  Of course, this was not my first exposure to the long shadow of World War II.  The first word I learned about, at 10 years old, was Holocaust.  I have Jewish relatives and they were of age to learn about this from their teachers at Hebrew School and naturally, being close in age, they shared what they learned with me.  I remember a miniseries about the Holocaust that was on television during the late 1970s.  In fact, I clearly remember the only scene from that show that I saw before my babysitter and parents realized what the show actually was (I had thought it was Emergency! and was waiting for the Los Angeles Fire Department with John and Gage to come, save the people, and put the fire out).  A synagogue was on fire, just being observed and watched, but not put out, by fire fighters.  It turned out that there were people locked inside the building who burned to death in the fire.  What was so startling, which is why I can so clearly remember the scene in my mind even more than 30 years after the fact, was watching civilians talking, eating and drinking at a local restaurant, and going about their business as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.    These impressions, as well as formally studying the time period for the first time during sixth grade Western Civilization class, caused me to begin a significant quest.  I wanted to understand how and why such a monstrosity was able to occur.  As I asked my father:  “Who is this man Adolf Hitler and how did he turn all those people into skeletons and why?  Why did nobody stop him?”  I plumbed my teachers’ personal library, the school library, and the town library for years, reading all kinds of nonfiction, fiction and historical accounts detailing the lives and stories of the people who lived during that time period.  I was indiscriminate.  I read about Jewish people, girls my age, and their stories.  I read about Polish people, girls my age, and their stories.  I read about German and Austrian people, girls my age, and their stories.  I read about the Netherlands, Hungary, France, Italy and girls my age from those countries.  At one time, I could probably have given a pretty comprehensive layout of the entire camp system established by the Third Reich throughout Europe for Jews and others that ultimately led to death for so many in Germany and Poland in particular.  There wasn’t a European country with a German occupation presence that did not have at least one camp.  Over time, as the years went on and I read more and more, I found out that people did know what was going on, but either could not or chose not to act.  After all this time, I still cannot comprehend the magnitude and monstrosity committed by ordinary people, many of whom would argue they didn’t know what they were doing or that they were following orders.  We are not talking stupid, backward, or ignorant people here, but highly educated, skilled, smart people.  Just look at the legacy of so-called Western civilization and all the European contributions to that legacy in all fields, history, technology, art, science, philosophy, theology, industry, economics, and so on.  Even now, I still struggle to make sense of it.

So, why do I write about this topic today, right now?   Well, in some of the internet places I frequent (as a lurker), I’ve seen a conspiracy theorist kind of approach that seems to rehabilitate Hitler and his ideas and values.  One place calls it fabulosity.  I could easily just ignore it and chalk it up to ignorance, but I simply can’t do that.  Here’s why.

My Jewish relatives have a great grandmother who was one of the only members of her family to escape from Poland and survive Auschwitz.  She was never the same and needed specialized mental health care for the rest of her life.  The ideology of “fabulosity” would have forcibly sterilized me because of my family genetic and medical history.  This same ideology would have killed my autistic son with a phenol injection and lied to me about it. Because of his disability, he would have been viewed as “life unworthy of life.”  I can’t help it.  That realization leaves me cold.  It haunts me.  When I see intelligent, thoughtful people give a pass to that kind of thinking, it haunts me.  Never again?!  Bull cookies.  It’s amazing to me to see such conspiracy theory claptrap be treated with any consideration or respect or even worse, met with silence by others in the same group.  I’ve seen it in a number of places, not just one or two.  I’ve seen it gaining traction.  I find it despicable and sad.  “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

I know this is not the usual kind of post I make, but it’s something that’s weighed very heavily on me.  The anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the observance of Holy Week and Easter, and the face and presence of my autistic son, coupled with one too many World War II documentaries about the Third Reich on the History Channel will do that, I suppose.  For an event which I had nothing to do with and little connection to historically, ethnically or familially, it is amazing just how much it haunts me.  Maybe my sharing of this will allow me to slip its grip on my heart and spirit.

February 7, 2011

Winter Reflections

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 9:28 am

In the Northeastern United States, we’ve been having one very difficult winter.  We’ve had a snow storm once a week since the end of December, and the snow totals add up to over 70 inches in my area alone, with some more northerly areas than mine with even higher totals.  The current totals are more than we typically get in an entire winter season.  And, of course, there’s more to come.  I think we might get a small reprieve this week (with predicted totals from this week’s storm less than 5 inches), but there’s still plenty of winter left and the current weather pattern is still holding and looking like it will persist into March.  My boys have had 6 snow days to date, and the schools are now looking at ways to make up for some of that lost time.

I’ve certainly gotten quite a good work out shoveling snow.  The least amount of time it’s taken to clear the driveway and shovel out from the plows at the end of the driveway has been an hour and 1/2.  The most it has taken, working with my spouse, is 5 hours.  Needless to say, sore backs and muscles have been par for the course this season, although it has been good for improving my conditioning and stamina, if not so much for weight loss.   I’ve got 6 foot mounds of snow on either side of my driveway towards its end.  It’s a universal phenomenon and sight everywhere and has certainly made driving a challenge these past weeks.  There have been over 70 roof collapses in our region alone because of all the snow and other precipitation we’ve received, particularly during last week’s storm.  So there has been lots to do in the community  to help each other cope with all the consequences of the weather.   It certainly is a good way to act on and live what I believe and practice.  I’ve both needed and given help this season.  And, so it continues… I am so looking forward to spring.

January 19, 2011

More on Walking an Unnamed Path

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 11:08 am

There was a point in my online involvement around two years ago where I was fairly sure of myself and what I believed.  I could actually define it pretty clearly (or so I thought).  It was a decent definition as definitions go, but after more reflection and digging I realized something.  The whole concept of Jedi, which I thought I understood and was trying to live out and practice was more a mile wide and an inch deep.  It was a good start, but didn’t stand up as well as I thought or expected upon deeper and closer examination.  My path ended up with a rigidity that was far too confining and ultimately dehumanizing.  My Sith(ist) training, largely done during the time Ashla was down, showed me just how limiting the Jedi concept and idea could be.  It was a difficult truth and took me a good deal of time to accept.  I liked the idea and the image.  But the reality was far different.  In the fictional world of Jedi, the idea(ls) and concept was drawn up by a committee in the sense that you have the movies (written by one group of people), then the novels (written by a number of other people, with their own spin and take that often differed from the films), the children’s novels (yet another group of authors), the role playing guides, the games, and all kinds of materials all written by several groups of people more for entertainment value than philosophical content or consistency, although I think there were still some efforts to make it coherent.  Then there was/is an online community that used the term without any real definition (except the varying ones site to site) or even agreement of what it meant.  What is most notable about the online communities is that while few agree on any kind of definition of the term Jedi, most people are quite vocal about saying what or who is or is NOT Jedi, which is very interesting.  There’s been a rebellion against the term led by people who view the term Jedi as narrow and dogmatic, but I’d bet these rebels would be hard pressed to define how, because that would mean the word Jedi would have to actually mean something definable.  In practice, what I’ve seen is a refusal except for a tiny few to actually say what it means, because then they would be able to be held accountable for how they live up to it (or not).  Even the Sith(ists) among the community have no problem identifying what is NOT Jedi, even as they criticize those Jedi as not having a definable, clear path.  So, in practice, other than a series of good-sounding movie quotations and sound bites, the term Jedi is largely defined by what it is NOT.  The greatest divide I see is between the martial artists and those who aren’t; however, it is not the only fault line in the community. 

So, what’s the point of all this?  For me, I got a really close look at the faultline and shatterpoints of the Jedi path.  I realized that I needed to move beyond the imagery to the source materials, rooted in real world historical, philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas instead.  The Jedi ideal is syncretic in nature, with influences from several different ideas and paths, several of which contradict each other.  There is celibacy from Western Christian and Eastern Buddhist practice.  The Knights of the Middle Ages share space with Bushido and Samurai principles from Japan.  There is Taoism, Buddhism, and Christian principles all rolled up into Jedi teachings and practices, again several of which contradict each other.  That’s just the highlights.  There are several other influences from literary, political, military and other concepts all rolled up into this neat package called Jedi.  Again, though, it’s a mile wide and an inch deep.

Another interesting phenomenon, one that only underscored for me the need to break from the use of the Jedi term, was the attitude and behavior of certain people who claimed and used that term to describe themselves and their path.   I realized that for the most part, I’m certainly no better or different from them, but sharing a common identification with them was adverse to my personal spiritual and philosophical progress.  There was a realization on my part that for most people, calling themselves Jedi (or Christian, or anything else for that matter) didn’t change a thing.  I knew of people who called themselves Jedi but were violent to others at home.  I knew of people who claimed all kinds of abilities and talents, yet were in life situations from which they couldn’t extricate themselves.  What’s the point of being able to have so-called “Force powers” if you weren’t able to use those abilities to change negative patterns and behaviors?  If they wouldn’t get someone out of a bad situation they were in?  Then there’s the folks who carry the double standard banner where it was okay for them to use any means necessary to show the duplicity and bad behavior of others, while engaging in and indulging that behavior themselves, only to cry foul when that gets pointed out to them.  Even more elementary and basic, why want to be called or to call yourself Jedi if these are the people who often also claim to be arbiters of what is or isn’t Jedi or what is or isn’t authentic?  There is a blindness that is pervasive these days.  It’s the kind of blindness that is quite capable of pointing out everyone else’s faults, foibles and how they fail to live up to these arbiters’ undefinable definition of Jedi, then fail not only to acknowledge their own, but act and behave in the same manner they so ardently criticize in others.   All these issues have laden down not only the word Jedi but the communities that claim the ideal that represents for their own.  It’s a universal issue, no one is immune or guiltless here.  I know very well that I’m part of this too, even as I pull away from it.

I am a bit of a mystic.  The beginning of the break with me and the Jedi concept started well before I saw what it was and realized what it meant.  I got to a point where I was paralyzed with inaction because of all the internal philosophizing and synthesizing I was doing in my head.  I was living more in my head and needed to get my feet back on the ground and get back to living more pragmatically, making my path more rooted in real world constructs instead of fictional ones.  This is still a work in progress naturally, but I do feel I have my feet more firmly back on the ground.  Thankfully, I have my family and there is nothing like the day to day duties involved in daily family life to help keep me grounded.  My focus is much more on the here and now.  I don’t try to make up great deeds to do, my concern is doing what I already am doing now the best way I can.  Not for reward, or recognition, or the hereafter, but just because it’s what is right to do, the best response to a given situation.  For me, one of the best and simplest ways I’ve been able to get out of my head and make my ideas reality starts with doing something physical.  Moving around.  Getting things done.   It can be exercising or laundry.  It can be running errands or shoveling snow and chipping ice off of walkways.  Simple, basic tasks that involve my physical being, not just my mind.   It’s a counterbalance to getting so wrapped up in the mystical that I get paralyzed.  That’s happened before and it’s not anywhere I’d want to be again.  It’s like that dark soul of the night experience.  I refuse to give that aridness and emptiness center stage either, because I’ve got a live to live today and I’m not willing to waste it.  I’ve learned that even when these challenges are not front and center, work on them still continues and progess gets made.  And, for now, that works for me.

January 5, 2011

Walking an Unnamed Path

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 10:03 am

It has been a very insightful month, both on and offline.  Now that my boys are back at school and I’ve had some time to ponder things, I want to reflect a bit.  I did something that I had been loathe to do, that had an unexpected result – a great feeling of release and freedom.  I work very hard to keep a tight rein on expressing strong emotion, because I believe that strong emotion can cloud judgment and discernment.  I tend to hold back and let things work themselves out.  It turns out though, that in some ways, I’ve managed to only become attached to feelings or situations, while appearing to be the opposite.  Tight control over my emotions has served me very well in many ways, but it can and did undercut me in a certain situation.  By standing up and speaking out about something that really and truly bothered me, I was able to claim my personal power.  Having just finished a novel all about personal power and both positive and negative ways to go about claiming and then using that power, it gave me the opportunity to process and better understand what happened in my own life and situation.  It was truly a freeing moment and one I am still unpacking the implications of for myself.  The process of facing and embracing ourselves as we really and truly are, both the good and the bad is an incredibly humbling and humanizing experience.  But that’s only a small part of what I want to talk about here in this entry.

My title talks of walking an unnamed path.  This is something with which I’ve struggled since Ashla came back online.  I have been a member of this community, when it taught “the Jedi way.”  That “title” was one that made sense to me, and was something I tried to live by, embody, and integrate into my identity.  But there were some very real problems with doing that.  First, there’s no getting around that fictionally-based “Jedi Code.”  Lots of great ideas, sounds really good and yes it can work, but only with an asterisk after each line, which gets qualified and amplified in all kinds of different ways by each person who claims that path.  To follow those words literally, at a literal level, creates a bit of a dehumanized monster of sorts at first in the practitioner, then it becomes more and more clear that  it. just. doesn’t. work., unless you want to give up being fully human.  Then those same words, that same Code, becomes more of a stumbling block, if not to the practitioner themselves from within, then it becomes one that others use to say “look at how much you fall short”.  What’s been proven to me over and over and over again ad nauseum is that the term “Jedi” is a trap.  I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere who lives up to the word, the title, even in the fiction be it movies or novels.  And those around who continue to claim that word and title to describe themselves and their path have, for the most part, given me ample reason through what they have said and done to shy away from its use.  I don’t want to be associated with some of them. There are a very, very few who strive to live up to the name and ideal, but get besmirched by those others, who seem to have some of the loudest voices online.  I know very well that I fall well short of the ideal, certainly the one I hold within me and have had my share of fingers pointed at me for that failure.  I’ve certainly done my share of besmirching the name by what I’ve said and done at times too.  There’s still yet another reason why the word “Jedi” no longer serves.  It no longer has any meaning because it gets bent and twisted to mean whatever a particular person wants it to mean.  It stands for nothing when it is used to include everything.  For me, it stands for drama, for posturing, for endless useless discussions with little applicability to the real world, far, far too often.  I’ve seen people use it to justify their desire to act with an extramilitary or paramilitary type vigilante mentality, fueled by martial arts.  I’ve seen people drag the term through the mud, seeking their version of “justice” and “truth” using snark to rip people, communities, and their reputations to shreds, to serve their own personal version of “justice” and “truth” or to indulge their sense of humor.   Anyway, I am heartily sick and tired of it all.  I’m also sick and tired of those who use the term as a double standard, to measure their opponent’s conduct in a discussion or any other setting, but then not their own.  Then there’s the whole “aspect” light/dark duality which gives some people license to behave badly because they claim to be “dark” and can then break all the rules of engagement, politeness and civility.  They can be emo, create conflict for the sake of conflict, or so that they can feed off the energy thus created.  For the most part, Ashla in its current incarnation is relatively free of that kind of crap.  Of course, I still see it around at my other community, Force Academy, but for the most part, I just choose not to engage.

The truth is, I am Light, Dark and every shade, gradation, and color out there.  I am a multifaceted gem.  There is no room for the limitations imposed by duality.  It doesn’t make sense to me anymore personally, philosophically, or spiritually.  The energy of the Force (because to me the Force is far more than life energy, since nonsentient objects have it too – I’ve sensed it) is far more and greater than whatever lens or perspective we use to view it and make sense of it for ourselves.  For me that’s the bottom line.  I am a restless seeker of the All in All.  There is no where that the Force is not, whether I can sense it or not.  Nothing, nothing is outside of it.  It is why I care so deeply about what I say and how I say it because everything I say and do, within the Force as it is, has an effect, for good or for ill.  It behooves me to take care and be prudent.  So that’s something I strive for within myself and those I encounter as I walk life’s journey.

To get back to the event that impacted me as I mentioned in the first paragraph above.  That experience of release, of freedom, of claiming that personal power caused me to take certain actions.  I realized that I had given over and invested some of that personal power in someone else, when I should have known better.   I made them and their thoughts, words, and deeds far more powerful in my own mind, than they actually were.  What’s really interesting is that once I spoke my mind, it no longer mattered what the other person felt or said afterwards, once they disengaged from any constructive, rather than destructive, resolution with me personally as I had requested.  I cut ties to that person and their associates, both literally and figuratively.  What’s really interesting is that I discovered that I was never understood at all, because there was a certain lack of openness and resulting closemindedness in the other.  It made me realize and understand that there was nothing I could say or do to help them remove their blindness and see things from my perspective.  So I consigned them to their own projections, knowing now that they really never understood me nor really cared to do so.  So, I don’t need to understand or care about them or their projections either, other than releasing them to their own path and journey, whatever it holds for them.  As for me, what you see is what you get.  I learned that I am only as transparent and clear as my words are.   There are no hidden meanings or motives in my words, as far as I can help.  Some things I leave in shadow for the sake of others, particularly when I talk about personal experiences where I don’t have the others’ involved consent, but I do strive to make my feelings and the lessons I’ve learned clear.  For those who choose to see what isn’t there, that’s their problem, their drama, and their projection, not mine.  There’s a great lesson and freedom in that.  I’m still learning and reflecting on it.  What I’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg.  Maybe, I’ll have something more to say about it all in another post.

For those who might wish to add more context and deepen your understanding of some of the ideas I share in this post, I direct your attention to the following:

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist and Brida 

Philippa Gregory, The Wise Woman

These authors share much wisdom in their writings and I am so grateful to them for the insights and food for the journey they’ve shared with me.

December 7, 2010

Reflections on death and grief

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 9:17 am

The month of October was marked by the death of my father-in-law and his father, so my spouse lost his dad and grandfather, and our sons their grandfather and great grandfather.  My husband is now the family patriarch as it were.  These deaths happened in the space of two weeks.  It felt like we had spent an eternity in the funeral parlor for wakes and services.  This was the first time both of our sons had experienced the death of someone very close to them in their memory.   For our youngest, it was the first time he had to deal with grief and loss.

Some people would object to having younger children be at wakes, funerals, and burials.  For our family, it was important to give our children the opportunity to confront death and begin the process of making sense of it.  My husband and I felt very strongly that it was important to give our boys a chance to say goodbye, to cry and feel sad, to talk and be with the family.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a good way to open the door to the grieving process and the letting go it involves.  Now, my boys can understand why mom, dad, and gramie feels sad and cries sometimes.  They can start working this through for themselves, because it is part of life.

Both boys have been working these events out in their own way, taking the time to talk about things at different times.  Often, some of the most profound conversations we have had about death and grieving have come in the car, while running errands or going somewhere.  Both my guys are process oriented, needing to understand how death works physically (like how a dead person can’t sleep or wake up, or eat and drink anymore).  In a spiritual sense, both boys talk of heaven, and grampy and great grampy not being in pain anymore, and being able to walk, see (great grampy was blind), and eat anything they want (both had diabetes).  Sometimes, they might feel sad or cry too.  My youngest tends to walk around with grampy’s picture and talk about him and to him.

For my part, this is the first death of someone really close to me since not only my father’s death, but since I chose the spiritual path I’m walking today.  It has been a great help to me and has given me a solid foundation to be there for my husband, children and in-laws.  We recently had our in-laws traditional Thanksgiving family gathering.  There had been some talk of changing it, but I suggested it would be better to do what we’ve done for years so that we can experience it in the context of dad and grampy’s deaths, face that and then begin to move on.  There were tears and sadness, a sense of loss and the keen awareness of the empty places at the table.  There were also funny stories shared, laughter and fun still to be had, not to mention good food.  Our youngest was truly the life of the party, interacting and being silly and generally bringing happiness in his wake.  It was as if his autism took the day off and stayed off to the side more.  It was certainly a great gift we experienced that day.  It was again a reminder that death may be part of life, but it does not have the last word.  Life does indeed, go on.

It’s been a while…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kate Soulstar @ 8:56 am

Yea!  I’m back up and running here!  It’s been a while since I’ve had something to really say, so I’ll be getting to it.

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