It’s amazing to think how important context is and how easily and often we disregard it.
As an example, any person who has truly felt overwhelmed knows how all encompassing it can be. In that raw state, reason often abandons us. We can’t concentrate on the thing in front of our nose, never mind focus enough to find ourselves an exit. It is a true feeling of helplessness, with no solutions in sight. In this vulnerable state, what a person needs most is a tool to help them get their feet back under them. One of the simplest ways to do this is to picture yourself in a bubble. Being inside a bubble creates a distance between you and whatever is overwhelming you. It allows you time to catch your breath, or for a moment remove yourself from the situation. Visualizing yourself inside a bubble is a very popular New Age technique to deal with stress, and therein lies the rub.
What was old becomes new again, and many New Age tricks and techniques are variations on spiritual or religious trappings. It’s perfectly normal for these practices to continuously change – or evolve, if you’re a “glass is half full” type – to suit the needs of the people of the time. Look at meditation, which has been practices for thousands of years by the wisest and most profound thinkers of all time…and which you can now learn at a local community centre for $5 a session. For many people, that simple half hour of quiet contemplation can change their entire outlook on life.
One challenge in the resurgence of Earth-based spirituality is how we are perceived by people outside our own circles. To be fair, not all of their criticisms are unfounded. Taken out of context, a lot of what we do would seem foolish. I think the same is true if you think of the ceremonies of any main stream religion. In our case, I think part of the blame lies in the commercialization of our spirituality – from false self proclaimed gurus to energy bending witches in television and movies. There is also a naive over-sharing enthusiasm in our community, as the exposure to our religion exceeds it’s maturity. These things don’t invalidate our choices, but the spotlight we are sometimes hit with can take them out of context. It can make others doubt us, and more dangerously it can make us doubt ourselves.
I have an old pagan friend, that in fact is among the first group of pagans I ever met. We haven’t celebrated much together lately, but we still sometimes talk about that first study group we belonged to. My friend often brings up that he misses the secrecy and privacy that used to surround Paganism. It’s great that a person in need can readily find a book that tells them to envision themselves inside a bubble to protect themselves, or encourages them to look for a local meditation class. What maybe is missing is a firm suggestion to keep these things to yourself. We all have vulnerable moments, and we are choosing our own spiritual tools to help us get through them…but perhaps we should save a piece of the strength we gain from them to keep our private lives private, so it can’t be taken from us when we need it again.
Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB