Embodied Spirituality: Compassion
Spirituality – embodied or otherwise – is merely narcissism and self-indulgence when it doesn’t involve compassion – literally, feeling with others. We cannot really expect others to be convinced that we are “Mystical” or “Spiritual” unless we put compassion into practice by helping others. The two aspects of religion go hand-in-hand: without a sense of connection there is no basis for compassion, and without the expression of compassion in the form of caring, the life of a mystic can be barren and unproductive. In a Pagan context, we might view the theological underpinnings of compassion as our view that divinity is immanent in the world, and everything carries a spark of divinity within it. My theological basis for compassion is a religious basis, but it is also a naturalistic basis. Beyond the practical aspects of compassion lies the recognition of kinship, of looking into the face of another and seeing ourselves. The ancient virtues of hospitality and reciprocity are core values for many Pagans, and these are, in many ways, related to compassion. Compassion is not only fellow-feeling for other humans, but also for animals and birds: all our relations. The Charter for Compassion would benefit from a “Green clause” to emphasise caring for the Earth and our fellow creatures. Although there is a section on their website about treating the Earth with compassion, it hits a discordant note for me, as we need to recognise that we are part of the Earth, not regard it as a separate system from ourselves.
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Capitalism and Self-Care
As a person who struggles with anxiety, one of the ways I’ve shamed myself is when I believe I haven’t been productive enough. Dad would epilogue his stories with, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps so I could give my children the life I didn’t have.” The message is clear: work hard and I can achieve anything. Has anyone noticed that being productive never includes self-care? As a person who struggles with anxiety, as a person who has several loved ones who have mental health struggles, and as a person who works in the mental health field- I see so many people be hard on themselves for not producing enough, especially if their reason for not doing so involves mental health issues. Because we are told we aren’t good enough to justify taking time away from productivity to practice self-care. “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~Audre Lorde. If we collectively practice self-care by taking time away from being productive, what would the world look like? What would happen? “I’m a failure for not doing the thing.” -> transforms to -> “Taking care of myself does not make me a failure.” I ask myself whether I’m practicing self-care because I need to or because I shamed myself to. Asking myself what I would say to a friend/loved one going through a similar situationthen turning those words back to myself. Telling myself it’s okay not to be productive because I am important.
No, Capitalism Is Not Ruining Your Christmas Market
Glowing Christmas lights fill the cold streets of medieval European cities with little wooden booths selling steaming hot wine and cinnamon biscuits. First off: Christmas markets are, at least in Europe, a billion euro industry. In a more detailed analysis on Christmas markets in the UK, researchers found that in the example of the city of Manchester, an average stall at a Christmas market generated £3,500 per day. Christmas markets in Brussels, Belgium, and Strasbourg, France count between 1.5 and 2 million visitors. Your local Christmas market is a money-making machine regardless of it selling candles or car insurance. The Christmas spirit is supposed to advocate for empathy and compassion, as the biblical stories describe Jesus, a poor man, who preached charity despite receiving very little of it in return. They fail to be the ones who are actually celebrated around Christmas for providing these essential opportunities to people. When there is a large company selling their products on a traditional Christmas market, many see a greedy company ruining the flair of the Christmas spirit. All it takes to see this is to think of the millions of people oppressed by socialism, like those in Venezuela, who will, this year, spend among the worst Christmas Eves they have ever witnessed. Next time you see a large coffee machine retailer or a booth advertising cleaning products at your local Christmas market, think of the people whose lives were made better through these companies.