THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, and of the Magic and Mundane channel). All opinions are those of the speaker, not necessarily those of The Atheopagan Society. Named #3 in the top 20 Pagan podcasts for 2023! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/
Monday Aug 21, 2023
Monday Aug 21, 2023
Monday Aug 21, 2023
Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
Inner Critic episode: https://thewonderpodcast.podbean.com/e/the-inner-critic-1612153312/
The Jewel ritual: https://atheopaganism.org/2015/03/05/the-jewel-a-solitary-ritual/
Yucca: Welcome back to The Wonder: Science Based Paganism. I'm your host, Yucca,
Mark: And I'm Mark.
Yucca: and today we are talking about psychological freedom. So, to do your practice, to feel, to be vulnerable, all of that good stuff.
Mark: Yeah, because this is so often a challenge for folks who are first coming into naturalistic pagan or atheopagan practice, especially if they're deconstructing from other religions that are much more about conformity and obedience.
Mark: There's that feeling of being watched. There's this sense of shame about either doing it wrong or that you're doing it all at all.
Yucca: Just that judgment, all of that. That icky judgment all over the place.
Mark: it's just a real minefield, and so we wanted to talk about it and make some suggestions and just normalize that this happens, right? This is, yeah, this, this is a real thing. There's nothing wrong with you if you're feeling it. And maybe there's some things we can suggest that might make it a little better.
Yucca: Right. Because this is something that comes up a lot in different words but a thing that people deal with, right?
Mark: hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Especially when they're first entering the practice, there are a lot of people who are like, Well, I don't do rituals, but I go for walks in nature. And that's fine. That's perfectly fine. If your experience of a ritual is going out for a walk in nature and having that kind of communion, there's nothing wrong with that, and you don't have to do anything else if you don't want to.
But there is something about investing a place in a moment. in deliberate psychological manipulation of yourself in order to get freer and happier and wiser.
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: And that really is what our, our path is about. And there are so many voices in our society and especially in the mainstream religions that discourage you from being freer and happier and wiser.
Mark: That we We want to help facilitate movement in that direction.
Yucca: Right. So there's a lot of different things that could be contributing to this. One of the things may be the critic voice. And we've, it was quite a few years ago but I think one of our best episodes where we talked about the critic voice, and I'll put the link to that in the show notes if anybody hasn't listened to it before but that critic, that, that voice has a, a function, right?
It, it came about trying to protect you and there, there may be some of that happening when you are When it's, okay, so, when you get a wound, let's say you get a cut it, when you need to clean that cut out, you need to do it, because otherwise you're gonna have dirt and sticks and whatever it is inside that wound, but it hurts, and so you have this instinctual response of pulling your arm away, not putting your arm under the water and washing it out, and sometimes that critic is Is the, that instinct to pull the arm away and not let that happen, protect, stop it, don't let it happen.
So I think that's going on to a certain extent, and then also, we aren't, we don't really learn in our culture how to really check in with ourselves and be really honest with ourselves, especially when it is the vulnerable. Right? We're taught to just kind of look the other way and, you know, man up or, you know, whatever the particular phrase is for whatever your gender or culture is, but it's, it's like, we are encouraged to be soft and be okay with the parts of us that are soft.
Mark: Right, that's absolutely true. Particularly for men, but, but, it's true for everybody.
Yucca: Right. That's why I use the man up expression,
Yucca: Which, you know, it happens with women as well, but it, but it seems like the pressure is, looking from the outside, it seems like the pressure on, on men and, and young boys especially is much, much stronger
Mark: Yeah, the vice that is applied to those that identify as men is so compressing that the only emotions permissible are anger and the only response that's available is violence. It's just really, really challenging to step out of that and say, no, actually, my feelings are really hurt.
Yucca: And I am a whole human who has all of these feelings. All of these things are human and I, I get to be and have all of these things too.
Mark: right. And it's ironic to me because there are many who point to ancient cultures like in the Norse Eddas or in Greek mythology, and there are men who weep in these stories. Right? Who, who are, you know, devastated by events that happen in the stories, and they weep, and somehow that just kind of gets ignored in the modern drawing forth of these,
Yucca: Right. Well, I think it ties back around to something that you mentioned at the beginning about the more controlling religions.
Yucca: are, the religions are part of a larger framework for, of culture and that we, we're, We have a lot of cultures right now that are really on there being a group that controls another group.
Mark: yes, yes. The, the largest and most powerful religions in the world, and this is not just Christianity, it is Christianity, but it's also Islam, and it's also Buddhism, and it's also Hinduism, is Orient, are oriented around obedience,
Mark: around supplication to what we believe is a mythical, supernatural presence,
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: and And self flagellation in so many ways, you know, I'm unworthy, I'm a sinner, all those things.
And emerging from that, which is, let me just say right now, a tremendously courageous act.
Mark: We see people coming into our, our community who, I mean, we have people that were pastors. They come into our community that were not only, you know, following that, that path, but had all eyes of a congregation on them to encourage them to toe the line.
And they said, this is wrong. I'm gone. I'm leaving.
Mark: And that is extraordinary. It is just extraordinarily courageous. But it carries a lot of baggage with it. Just because you say, I'm not going to do this anymore, doesn't mean that its frameworks and its mental habits don't come with you. And so,
Yucca: got a lifetime of habits and unconscious beliefs. Mm
Mark: exactly, exactly. And so, we've been talking in the Facebook community recently about, for example, that sense of embarrassment at being observed while doing your atheopagan practice. And so, You know, even having someone in the house or just kind of, you know, it's like a soap bubble when it's new, right?
It's just so fragile and precious and you don't want it destroyed by critical eyes and the critical voice in your head. And that is absolutely a legitimate experience and feeling, and I want to start there.
Mark: you're, there's nothing wrong with you for feeling those feelings. It absolutely makes sense,
Yucca: they're there. They're, they came about for a reason. Yeah.
Mark: especially if you are accustomed to being in a religious community where everybody watches everybody else to make sure they're conforming,
Yucca: Right? Mm-hmm.
Mark: which is not ours. That's, that's just not what we're doing. It's radical, and it's different than the mainstream, but it's what we're about, and if that's what you want, then we welcome you and encourage you to, to find your path. Find, find what's meaningful for you. I can guarantee that there is no focus in the world, no alter in the world. I use the word focus that looks like mine and that there is no spiritual practice of athe paganism that looks like mine. And that's great because
Yucca: Even though you've literally published books on it.
Mark: yes, absolutely, because I want it to work for the people that choose to embrace it.
I don't want them to do it like me. I want them to do it like them.
Yucca: Right. So starting with the acknowledgement that that, that, that feeling, that soap bubble feeling is, is valid, right? Mm-hmm.
Mark: Absolutely real. And so the question is then, well, what do we do with that? Right? And Especially when you're in the context of having had a lot of pain, pain of separation, pain of castigation by former community members who call you an apostate or a heretic or whatever it is, an infidel, whatever they label you. It's really easy to feel like I just, I can't do this either. I just. I just have to wander away and just have this kind of very gray, unexceptional life, because when I try to be me... It just sets off all these alarm bells that are really, really hard. And I think this is certainly true of our marginalized community members.
They understand what that is like. You know, our queer members, they understand how hard it is to stand up against the mainstream culture and say, Sorry, this is who I am. I'm going to be me, and you're going to deal with it. And that's how it's going to be.
Yucca: Well, and especially when you're figuring out who me is, right? When you, when you got the sense of, I know that's not me, but I also still am figuring out what me is. Is and trying to have that, the, the space to do that and giving yourself the grace for that in the face of this very oppressive trying to, what's the word?
Force conform, conforming on you.
Yucca: yeah. It's a, it's a challenge, right?
Mark: Yeah, and our impulse as humans is to move away from discomfort,
Mark: and that's... Natural and normal, I mean, you know, as mammals, our thing is generally move away from the pain, as animals generally move away from the pain, move toward the pleasure, right? But that said,
Yucca: 600 million years later because of it.
Mark: exactly, it worked really well, but humans are complex, and we have choices that go beyond the simple animal choices that are built into us, right?
Mark: and so what that means is that at first, you may have to simply say to yourself, this is going to be uncomfortable. This is, this is not going to be completely, completely okay with me because it's going to churn up all this sentiment that's been laid down at the bottom of my self.
Mark: that's gonna bring up experiences and pain and memories and all that kind of stuff, and you just have to kind of sit with it.
And my recommendation for the first thing to do to address that is ritual activity around self esteem. There's a ritual called the Jewel that I've referred to before that's on the Atheopaganism blog, and it'll be in my forthcoming book. The, and we'll, we'll put a link to it in the show notes. And what it's about fundamentally is looking yourself in the mirror and realizing this is a good person, this is a person of value, who's unique, an absolutely unique snowflake of the universe.
There's never been one like you, there will never be one like you, and that's terrific. Everything about that is wonderful. And so, living in the fullness of that, walking through the world with your shoulders back, understanding that you belong here, that's, that's the mindset that we're hoping to get to.
Took me a long, long time to get to it, and sometime I'll tell the story about all the things that were necessary for that to happen because I came out of a very abusive, very difficult childhood. But having gotten there, having gotten to the point where there's a core self esteem of just knowing that I am a person of value, no matter what happens around me, no matter what somebody says to me, it changes everything. makes you able to make choices that are in your own best interest.
Yucca: Mm hmm. Hm. Mm. Mm hmm. Yeah. And working on that, doing one ritual about that, don't expect yourself to just switch some, flip some switch, right? This is a continual process, this is, this is a lifelong thing but the process itself is worth it.
Mark: Yeah. We live in a very instant culture. We want immediate gratification for things. You know, I'm hungry, give me the fast food. I'm bored, give me the entertainment. And so it's easy to just sort of assume that There must be some kind of a magical activity or pill or something that can make everything okay. that's not the world. The world is sometimes things are work.
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: And if you can just stay steady and love yourself enough to know that you're worth it, and gather community around yourself that you can see yourself reflected in their eyes and know how valuable you are. Then the change can come.
Yucca: So, first, doing some work on the self esteem and that, just that recognition that you know what you're doing is, you've got a right to be doing it, right? This is, it's, you get to do the things that are going to help you. To feel better and work towards your goals and visions and, and that's, that's okay, right?
Mark: yes. And, I mean, I don't know how you feel about this, Yucca, but I go pretty far with my understanding of what that kind of thing means. I want people to be safe, I want them to make sound decisions for themselves, but sometimes, in order to get where they're going, it involves drug experiences, or periods of promiscuity, or something.
Something, right? Sometimes you have to just kind of break the boundaries of your self definition
Mark: so that you can become the butterfly that you're in the process of becoming,
Yucca: hmm. Mm hmm. I think
Mark: I'm not recommending either of those things. I'm not saying you should go, you should go right out and find some drugs.
That's not what I'm saying, but what I'm saying is the moral constraints. Of the mainstream culture that lives around us, they're not built for your happiness.
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: They're not built for anything other than your obedience.
Mark: don't have to do that.
Yucca: I think for each person, it's going to be a really, really, really individualized path, right? And so for some people, maybe some of like what you were talking about with some sort of substance that might be really helpful, but it may also for someone else, simply the act of, of stepping out of that obedience is a, is just a radical, Act,
Mark: Mm hmm.
Yucca: So I think it's really going to depend on, on each person, but in both of those cases I think it's really important to look at what you need in this situation to make it safe for you, right? So yes, breaking through something on that real emotional level, but also remembering that you are a human being, you are a squishy little breakable animal on the physical side with pretty complex tangled up messy emotions on the inside.
And that you've got to take care of yourself and not damage yourself in that process.
Mark: And that's, that's why I said safety is paramount. And it's, it's tricky, it's paradoxical, because sometimes being a little unsafe is kind of the thing that you need in order to break out of the boundaries of your solid little life. But, but not,
Yucca: your limits, right?
Mark: right, right,
Yucca: That's just to go on a slight tangent with that as a parent, with kids, letting them make Take risks, right? Because they have to learn to be able to do that. They have to learn what the, you know, if they're gonna climb that tree, or they're gonna do that thing, right?
They, they need to be able to figure out where their body's limits are, where they're, all of that. And if you don't take those risks, and you don't get a little bit hurt, then it really stunts you in the process, but at the same time, your job is to make sure they don't die, right? And so, I mean, I think sometimes it's helpful to think about ourselves in the same way that we might want to, we need to parent ourselves sometimes, and that, and recognize that, yeah, we've got to take those risks but we also need to recognize that, okay, if you're going to climb the tree, don't climb it over the sharp, Rocks and the cliff.
Like, choose a different tree, okay? Practice off a different tree than the one that's gonna, like, be a 50 foot drop.
Mark: I think that's really well put yeah, because as I say, it's this. Walking a knife edge between pushing your boundaries, being a little transgressive, and also keeping yourself safe. And that can be really challenging for people, but, I mean, we're talking about edge cases now, but in some cases it's just...
Lighting incense when somebody else is in the house, you know, or playing your ritual music loud enough that your roommate will know that you're doing something witchy in there. And, and getting to the point where it doesn't matter to you anymore, where you're like, yeah, this is something I do. I own this.
It's good for me, and I'm proud of it, and you're welcome to your opinion, but it doesn't have a lot of traction with me.
Mark: Unless you think it's great. I'll let it in if you think it's great.
Yucca: Yeah I really, I really appreciate that. And there was something in there that you said about, you know, we're talking about edge cases. I want to circle back and say that another thing that we tend to do in our culture is to downplay our own experiences and say, oh, you know, I don't have it that bad.
Right? I've, you know, oh, I'm not worthy of this sympathy because, you know, there are, you know, there are children in Africa or whatever, right? And no, what you are going through is what you are going through. You don't have control over other people's experiences, just yours. Right? And whatever you're going through, it's valid.
Mark: It counts.
Yucca: counts. You count. Those experiences count. There's not a, there's not a trauma that's too little or a trauma that's too big. It's, it's you. And you got this.
Mark: Yeah. And, and people that have repeated to you that you don't really have anything to cry about, those were not your friends. They, they were not your allies, they were not, they were not telling you what you really needed to hear. Because,
Yucca: Well, they, they may have been someone who loved you, but was, was deeply wounded themselves as well. Right? That in most cases, people probably weren't trying to hurt you in that, but that, That they also didn't know. That was what had happened to them, and that was how they were dealing with the trauma.
Mark: Right. And it bears saying, you know, to zoom out to the 30, 000 foot level and look down, this whole thing about being, being yourself as an individual, it's been evolving steadily since the 18th century, but it really only took off about 50 years ago.
Mark: And so our generational wounds that we inherit. from the behavior of our parents and our grandparents and all that.
They're very real.
Mark: You know, those, certainly, parents and grandparents of my generation were not taught to grow.
Mark: They were not taught to to have kindness with themselves. And so, to the degree that you have suffering around this kind of issue, it's not your fault. You know, this, a lot of this stuff just rolls downhill, and it's slowly, slowly eroding out because we're getting better.
Yucca: hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Mark: And that's the good news, right? We're getting better. All of us, collectively, we're getting better. And what atheopaganism is about, in part, is getting better.
Yucca: Right. I love it. I'm glad that we're doing this.
Mark: yeah, I need to... Me too. It I feel so much freer in this community, even to stumble and fall down than I have in any other context in my life. And, you know, sometimes I, I'm wrong and I get, I get called out for being wrong, and that's great. There's nothing wrong with it. It's... It's fine. But most of the time, what I hear from this community, and what I see other people hearing in this community, and what I keep saying in this community to other people is, You're great.
You rock. I want you to be, you just keep doing you, because you are cool. And, I mean, that's how I feel about you, Yucca.
Yucca: Likewise, Mark.
Mark: It shouldn't be so damn hard to learn to be happy. But it is, and this is the work before us. Right? So, so let's get to it, you know? Let's... Let's take those walks in nature, and do those rituals, and listen to the music that makes us dance, and do the things that make us happy, and kiss the ones that we love, and
Yucca: And live.
Mark: be those great people in the world, you know? I mean, all of us have met somebody that just shone like a beacon, you know? They just had that glow about them. And if you're truly at peace with yourself, and you truly want the best for others around you, That'll be you,
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: you know. As quiet a person as you may be, or as loud a person as you may be.
It'll still be you.
Yucca: Yeah. And the process of becoming that person is wonderful as well.
Mark: stories, oh my god. Yeah, all the, all the adventures, all the, all the internal transformations, the revelations. I remember once... I must have been 25, something like that, and I had terrible self esteem and a critic's voice that was louder than anything else in my head. It was, I mean, I was just chronically depressed and self destructive and, I mean, I cut myself and I stepped out into traffic suddenly and I smoked cigarettes and I just did all these things. And I suddenly had this brain revelation one day that, If I was really a bad person, it wouldn't matter to me that I'm a bad person.
Mark: I wouldn't care.
Mark: fact that I was so worked up about whether or not I'm a bad person meant that I wasn't one.
Yucca: Mm hmm.
Mark: And everything changed.
Mark: It didn't solve everything, but a big piece of weight fell off of me just in that moment because I'd come to understand the insanity of self hatred.
Mark: Well, listen folks,
Mark: We really care about you, Yucca and I do. We want you to be happy. we want this path to, or whatever path you choose, You know, whether this is just a way station that you're on your way towards moving into something else, that's great too. But we want you not to be cruel to yourself and to be proud of who you are and bring that out into the world because we need so much more of that,
Mark: so much more of that in the world. And we'll see you next week.
Yucca: Take care everyone.