If you've seen an internet meme with 9 pop-culture icons categorized on a grid as Lawful-Good to Chaotic-Evil, then you're at least somewhat familiar with the character alignment system. It comes from the classic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game as a way for players to consistently portray their characters' motivations and actions.
Why am I talking about a silly game mechanic here, and why should you care?
Well, first of all, it can be fun and lightly enlightening to try mapping famous people or literary characters onto the alignment system grid. or even daily items like foods or tools. You could even end up creating a viral meme of your own this way...
To help you with that, I'll give you a quick rundown of the categories. It's a grid with two scales that cross-index. The first scale is Lawful / Neutral / Chaotic. Lawful characters live by rules or codes and value social hierarchies. Chaotic characters value individualism and personal freedom and live by their passions. Neutral folks see some value in both and don't get overly committed to either. The second scale is Good / Neutral / Evil. Good characters respect life and other beings, often above their own individual selves. Evil characters are totally selfish with little to no respect for life or others. Neutral folks respect the rights and needs of others but tend to prioritize their own. The intersection of these two scales can give you a Robin Hood (Chaotic-Good) or a Star Wars Imperial Officer (Lawful-Evil).
In games, stories, and movies, the heroes are Good, the villains are Evil, and the regular folks are often Neutral. And most of us would say that's really the most important scale to judge people by. But I think it's also important to consider the other scale too, because it says a lot about the type of person you are in society.
And that's where I will pivot to the deeper point of my little talk...
One of the fundamental mistakes of modern Christianity (and, well actually, many ethical philosophies) is mistakenly ranking the ideals of lawful-good above neutral-good. The "Good News" of Jesus was clearly articulated as freedom from living, sinning, and dying under the impossibly strict legal system of the Old Testament. And he regularly criticized and interfered with the strict consequences of that law, offering instead the ideal of living life by a compassionate conscience.
I'm pretty sure the glorification of lawful-good ideals by the church comes from when Christianity was taken up as the official religion of ancient Rome. It suddenly had to back up the whole government and social order of an empire. Which is specifically not what Jesus had in mind for his spiritual reformation, and completely reverses the stated purpose of his self-sacrifice.
For Jesus, being compassionately neutral-good was the pinnacle of goodness rather than the authoritarian lawful-good or the anarchical chaotic-good. And in this I completely agree--
It's a message that I think modern Christians should really remind themselves of (I was raised Christian so I'm talking to my past self here too) and even non-Christians (my current self included) should consider as an excellent piece of social wisdom.
Of course the world needs lawful-good individuals to help us build stable communities, and we need a few roguish chaotic-good rebels to keep us from growing fossilized in our good intentions. But as a whole, a society based on the values of neutral-good would make for such a kinder, gentler world,
the kind of world I certainly want to live in,
and I hope you will join me in that direction--
〜Clearing your space with Reiki〜
I recently decided to add some lighter, more fun, and more utility services to my reiki healing and channeling menu... so I opened up a Patreon-like support shop on "Buy Me a Coffee" (sounds more fun, no?)
I'm starting with 〜Clearing your space with Reiki〜 and I'll soon be adding options like charging personal items with reiki or designing custom bindrune symbols for fun or enchantments...
all these will be available from just $5 to $15 and handled conveniently online at:
〜Clearing your space with Reiki〜
Reiki is a balancing and purifying universal energy that is great for clearing a space. As a reiki master, I will clear the energy in a personal space of your choice: your room, altar, kitchen, entry or hall, garage, car or RV, storage, and yes even the attic or basement...
The cleared space will be infused with a well-balanced energy that can be maintained with some care by yourself, but will eventually be depleted by consistent disuse or unfriendly influences.
Reiki energy works from a distance, so simply describe the space to me and I will perform a clearing ritual with reiki, sage, and a crystal tuner from here in the mountains of Japan within a day (our timezones are probably quite different!).
It's just $10 and can be easily ordered online through my support site below:
Nobody likes the smug
Redefining the root of all evil:
Pride is totally fine.
Mediocrity is actually blissful.
Being smug, everyone hates that.
Go big, or just relax...
You don't have to be the best at everything (or even anything) you do. Do what you want to the level that you want, and enjoy it.
Is reiki OK for Christians?
Though I left the church long ago, I grew up as a very serious Christian so I know just how important this question can be.
You may have heard that reiki is a universal energy and its use is non-religious and non-denominational. While this is basically true of modern Westernized reiki practices which are primarily focused on physical healing and relaxation, the deeper truth is that reiki originated as a way to reach Enlightenment in the Buddhist sense. So it is still inherently spiritual. Furthermore, the higher levels of all reiki practices still use symbols borrowed from Buddhist texts. And although as a reiki master I do consider its energy to be from the universal source, I realize this concept itself can be problematic in the basic Christian worldview.
What this means for you is that:
If you are a pretty liberal Christian who basically believes in God and thinks the compassionate teachings of Jesus are something we all should be following, but you don't necessarily attend church regularly, and maybe you do yoga, listen to Enya, and have a few crystals lying around the house, then I think you would probably be fine to receive reiki treatments. And especially if you feel like God is a universal source that might be accessible through other ways and faiths, you could perhaps even become a first-level practitioner. The important thing is to check in with your personal connection to God and follow the answers from your heart...
On the other hand, if you are, or have recently become, a fairly strict Christian and regular churchgoer who tends to interpret the scriptures literally, I think the Buddhist origins of reiki are probably going to cause you a lot of internal conflict sooner or later and I wouldn't recommend that you receive or practice reiki at all.
Either way, while you really shouldn't worry if a well-meaning acquaintance tries sending you reiki without you asking for it, if you have intentionally received reiki treatments or practitioner attunements and now have regrets, please talk with your pastor about it or feel free to contact me directly for some free advice in line with biblical teachings to help you out of such a situation. Your spiritual peace of mind is so invaluable to your overall wellbeing--
Facing the spider on the windshield...
It is possible to adapt our fears so that they serve us rather than dominate us.
Today on the drive to one of the schools where I teach English, I rolled down my window to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Unfortunately, I also startled a giant huntsman spider (literally the size of the palm of my hand) who proceeded to scurry from the window column just behind me and scamper back and forth across the inside of the front windshield looking for a way out of his predicament...
Luckily for both of us I've spent the last several years building up an immunity to giant huntsman spiders, so I was able to calmly find a wide turnout on this narrow, winding mountain road and stop safely. He was totally flipping out, looking desperately for a place to hide and finding none on the wide expanse of the front glass. Fortunately I was able to reach across the car to open the passenger door just as he started to drop down, and he jumped right out.
Unfortunately, because I had stopped on the opposite side of the road, this put him right on the edge of the roadway, and because I prefer not to drop off passengers directly into danger, I got out to find a way to coax him into the bushes on the shoulder rather than crossing the street and getting run over... Well, he wasn't willing to climb onto my boot (understandably I suppose) for a walkover, so I looked around and found some random bamboo branch to scoop/chase him in the right direction. In the end, my stowaway and I were both saved from high-impact deaths and I happily arrived just in time for my first class.
If you detect a whiff of affection for my unwitting passenger, you wouldn't be wrong. I do actually admire and respect these gentle but impressive giant spiders that share my environment and home. But it definitely wasn't always the case. In fact, I used to be terrified of all spiders as a child and young adult, and killed them on sight, without mercy and no questions asked.
So what changed? How did I trade such a common spider phobia for my current calmness in the face of giant arachnids? Well, there were certainly stages to the process...
First of all, there was an odd but practical decision to be made. I went through a pretty serious goth phase during which I thought authentic spiderwebs made for excellent room decor. And of course, having authentic spiderwebs decorating ones house means that there must be some real live spiders dwelling there at least part-time. So I made an uneasy alliance with the smaller spiders that as long as they stayed (and decorated) in the corners, they could stay. If they ventured out into the living spaces I frequented, they would be killed immediately. I also began carefully researching which spiders might actually be safe so that I could sort out the truly dangerous ones and continue killing them with extreme prejudice.
Along the way, through research and simple observation I learned some things about their lives and habits and the fact that, like my predatory pet cat with mice, they kept the local fly population down. Slowly, I began to get used to them and got lazy about enforcing my territorial death sentencing. Around this time I also became a vegetarian and eventually began thinking that if I was changing my diet to avoid killing cows, I should also probably start applying that same logic to the smaller creatures in my environment...
By this time I was moving out of the cobwebby-style goth and into more glamorous goth stages and instead of killing the spiders whose spinning services I no longer required, I was catching them in a glass and relocating them outside where they could continue to keep the local environment pest-free and I could feel good about not murdering them unnecessarily. This kind of constant close contact with them helped retrain my physical aversion to them so that I could calmly scoop them up without any fear or loathing. I had befriended the spider.
This process came in very handy when I ended up moving to Japan where lives the giant huntsman spider. These spiders are confrontingly huge and shockingly fast. And they are everywhere. They don't spin webs but just hide out in corners and then suddenly run across the floor or wall or ceiling... I was certainly intimidated. But I had already researched what creatures are dangerous in Japan and these monsters are definitely not on that list. So I knew I just had to reapply my previous training on a larger scale...
Through research and observation I found that they are actually pretty much blind and they run after things that vibrate the floor like bugs, or my feet. So yes, they do sometimes run at my feet aggressively but as soon as they notice that I also happen to carry a big shadow they instantly retreat with equal speed from whence they came. And if I try to move them off with a broom, they rear up and try to look like bid baddies at first, but on the second try they give up, flop over, and pretend to be dead, just big and dead. Oh, and they eat cockroaches, which are also big and everywhere here...
So by the time I moved out here to the mountains of Japan, where relocating each individual spider would be a hugely pointless waste of time, I had made my peace with the giant huntsman spider. Now we coexist in a kind of partnership with them eating the more unpleasant pests of the humid summers and me providing them with plenty of corners to hide in during the cold winters...
So what is the point here? Well, first perhaps something about how a reasonable concern about something as dangerous as black widow spiders needn't prompt us to also kill cute little helpful jumping spiders on sight. And how that can be logically extrapolated up to more intimidating but equally harmless creatures as well (including, umm, the infinite variety of humans).
Second, fear itself. Fear can certainly help keep us safe, but it can also harm us. My old fear of spiders could have just killed me on the road if I hadn't already dealt with it. Yes, that's a rare case of serendipity, but fear can easily push us into poor choices in the mundane situations of daily life, and it can limit us in some of the life-changing opportunities that do sometimes come up.
And finally, adaptation. I adapted to living with spiders (and a lot of other creatures actually) through the practical realities, then research and observation, and then familiarity. It is possible to adapt our fears so that they serve us rather than dominate us. Each fear and each person will have a different process, and some will probably benefit from including therapy of some kind... But if you have some fears that are limiting your life, consider processing them too. It can be so freeing--
After injuring my back in early summer, I finally started running again this morning. It was only about one kilometer, and it was basically three short runs interspersed with three short walks... but it felt great to be breathing hard and sweating a little from physical effort (rather than just sweltering in the summer heat). I followed up with some easy yoga and then a bath with relaxing epsom salts.
If you have also let your exercise fall by the wayside for some reason, now is an excellent time to start it up again... Why? because Fall brings back cool mornings that are refreshing but not too cold to easily get moving. And if you can get out to a park or other natural space, experiencing the change of the season can give you a fresh, motivating feeling. There's just something in the air...
A bit of advice though, don't let that invigorating feeling in the air overstimulate you into jumping right back in where you left off. Autumn also says, "Take it easy..." Start slow and gentle so you don't injure yourself and set yourself back even further. If you do muscle training, maybe start with just your body (pushups, etc.) before doing the heavy weights or machines. If you run, begin with long, slow strides that gently stretch and warm up your muscles, and intersperse your running with periods of long, slow walking. Or try some leisurely cycling... Focus on your breathing, and don't forget to enjoy the air and signs of the changing seasons around you.
Autumn with its colors, smells, foods, and traditions is my favorite season and no matter your favorite season I think we can probably agree that there is a certain magic in the early fall. If you are able, I urge you to get out there and soak up that magic right into your physique with some refreshing, reinvigorating, but also relaxing physical activity--
Toxic positivity is a negative relationship with negativity
The key to true positivity is a grounded, balanced positivity. Neither rejecting negativity outright nor wallowing in it, but respecting its place in this world of duality.
For example, when I used to start feeling depressed I would down a bottle of cabernet, light up the black candles (literally), set Leonard Cohen or Nine Inch Nails on repeat, sleep until noon, and turn my general corner of the neighborhood into a shadow realm of sorrow for days...
Naturally, that didn't feel so great and it took a considerable toll on my health, so I eventually gave it up for some sunny positivity--
Instead, I would put on some upbeat flamenco music, burn a ton of white sage, and blast everything with reiki while chanting some positive affirmations. Well, that certainly seems nicer and healthier, but it was also obsessive, controlling, and based in fear: fear of falling back into that old shadow... and it also wasn't lasting without constant repetition and upkeep, which made it start to feel inauthentic and ineffective...
Now, I'm finally much more (but not perfectly) centered. My general outlook is that positivity is a long-term movement with daily fluctuations, and so I worry less about the transient presence of negativity. When I feel down, I'm more likely to go ahead and honor it by listening to a few songs by Coldplay. Maybe I'll sit down and take a 15 minute break on the couch with some tea and a deep mood. Then I'll eat something sweet and get doing something productive but easy like washing the dishes, organizing my desk, bringing in some firewood,... and I'm back in the long-term movements of positivity.
Of course if something truly terrible happens, I will be broken for a longer period of time and just have to deal with it as best I can. But as an example of daily life, it really can work something like this... even for someone like me who leans towards depression (but without being clinically diagnosed as such).
It's about finding all the small, practical ways to take back some conscious control from our natural negative-bias (which has probably been amplified by our social and lifestyle environments) so we can make more balanced choices and develop more balanced mental habits. And this is not an "always look on the bright side of life" kind of thing... It's a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the functional place of negativity in our lives combined with the rich enjoyment of pleasurable moments and harnessing the motive power of positivity to take actions that can lead to more successes in this challenging world.
For some of you this may be a simple adjustment in lifestyle habits, or it may involve therapy or medications. I even offer a course of my own HERE in which I share my recommended playlist of analytical and practical tools for rebalancing your positivity/negativity index... but whatever you end up doing, I hope you find your path to a more pleasant space for living and breathing in.
World Mental Health Day 2020
World Mental Health Day is here and more important than ever. We need more chances to talk freely together about our mental health because it's the foundation of not only a healthy, happy individual life, but also the health of our families, communities, and societies. And mental health is unfortunately something that is not guaranteed to us... so many of us suffer silently with a wide variety of mental health issues. Not everyone does, but it's hardly unusual. In fact it's actually quite normal to be carrying around underlying mental issues that eventually impact our physical health, lower our quality of life, and damage our relationships.
Even though I have always been pretty high-functioning, I have suffered from anxiety since my earliest childhood memories and depression since mid-elementary school... I don't talk about it a lot (except in my bad poetry...), but I feel no shame in it. And neither should you. Like everyone else, I power through my daily life as best I can, and try to find ways of dealing with it. And thankfully, there ARE ways of dealing with it. a wide variety of ways to help our wide variety of issues and personalities...
If you are currently in the self-medicating stage (as I was with alcohol for many years), this era of social distancing is a great chance to change tactics and start some kind of formal therapy. There are many different options such as medication-based psychiatry, talk-therapy based psychology, group-based counselling, and alternatives like hypnotherapy, etc. For me it ended up being hypnotherapy, but really, just pick one that resonates with your general world-view / personality-type and go for it. Now. Unfortunately, I don't really know anyone who saw life-changing improvements without taking this step, and some of them tried a few different types before seeing those results, but it does seem to create a necessary turning point.
And if you are currently in this formal therapy stage, please do realize that even though it is a necessary step, it probably isn't going to be sufficient or enough to bring you long-term stability. You've got to get some new habits to expand and extend whatever positive results you have gained. And again, this current era of social distancing is actually a prime opportunity to do so. For me it has been a daily 15-minute reiki meditation, making sure I get enough sleep, and trying to schedule some regular light exercise. When I keep these simple habits up fairly regularly (not religiously), I'm pretty golden. When I let them slip for weeks at a time, my mind starts slipping back too. For you this might be medication, a support group, some spiritual practice, a significant hobby, or just a focus on healthy exercise/diet/sleep routines. Again, just find something that resonates with you and actually makes you feel good sustainably and commit yourself to it.
Commit yourself to you. and accept your commitment to you.
You totally deserve it.
How to begin--
Notice synchronicities and let them amaze you.
Recognize unfoldings and let them fill your heart with awe.
like a chance meeting with an old acquaintance,
or this rare water lily tea
--light, sweet, and magical