The Balm in Gilead – Refuge

Safe space

The question posed to us for this article was regarding the concept of shelter. What did we see as a place of refuge, of safety, of security – a constant in a sea of change.

Pangaea Revisited – Refuge on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

This is an amazing time to live, a tumultuous time, a scary time even, but an amazing one. As a female in our society, if I weren’t living in THIS country, during THESE times, I couldn’t be who I am right now. I couldn’t be an “out of the broom closet” Pagan female, let alone a Priestess and leader in my spiritual community. In fact, even in this same country at this same time, I couldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for constant and scary change – change both in our country and populace, AND change in myself.

I freely admit, I have not suffered the hardships many in our country have had. I have always had a home to live in, clothes, food. I have always been relatively physically healthy, and have always had a job good enough to help support my family and sometimes even my friends. I have been lucky. Some might even say I’ve had it easy, but NO ONE makes it through this life unscathed. I have suffered bodily harm at the hands of others, more than once. I have suffered bodily harm by my own hand. I have been betrayed. I have been heartbroken. I have had property loss, financial loss. I have lost people I loved dearly and would have given my own life to save, if I could have. But there is no unit of measure for pain. It’s completely subjective. What one person might brush aside as minor breaks another’s spirit. It is the same with stress and change.

So if we all process pain differently, experience stress differently, it follows that there can’t really be one place of refuge either, no one shelter that will work for us all. In fact, I don’t even have one shelter for myself. What I find comfort in for one issue may do absolutely nothing for me in a different situation.  For example: when I recently realized that many of my bodily ailments had to do with developed food intolerances to VERY common foods, my shelter became my love of research, knowledge and experimentation. I am coping with the stress of having to restrict my diet (which turned shopping & cooking for a family of 4 into a nightmare) by reading everything I can find on the issue, testing theories, researching new foods, logging, charting, you name it.

However what research and reading would have given me refuge when my father died? There is no such animal. For that I relied on friends who had also lost a beloved parent, people who knew the pain personally, didn’t just sympathize. I found shelter in shared pain, in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone, and by seeing that these people were where I was, I found balance as I waded through it.

When I was betrayed by the people closest to me, my shelter was a group of friends out of state who were not only separate from the situation, they weren’t affected by it, and thus only cared about ME, and what I needed. They were literally my refuge, the place I ran to to get away, to give me time to breath and think. They were the people who didn’t look at me with pity, or rage with anger, or judge me on my actions and reactions at all. They were just there, just for ME.

So as I’ve shown, different stressors have always required me to find different forms of solace. However that said, I do think that there are some constants in how I find my own peace. I found mantras to remind myself of them when I need something quick to “grasp onto” and so I present them here as places of refuge that might help you too:

#1. “This too shall pass.”  My spirituality is one that wholly embraces change. Pagans revere the cycles of nature and you cannot have the reaping without the fallowtide. The Wheel of Life ever turns.  So even when times are low, I know they will rise again eventually, but only if I embrace what I’m given and not fight against it.

#2. “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are, for what we could become.” By my very “Aries” nature I prefer abrupt and explosive change. Give me The Tower in Tarot, Hagalaz in Runes, Gevurah in Kabbalah. My patroness is a battle goddess whose totems are ravens & crows. These are carrion birds, those who rid the world of that which is no longer needed.  I truly know that sometimes radical change, complete destruction, the sacrifice of what is outworn or outmoded is necessary to accomplish the greater good. We humans rarely grow through positivity and happiness.

#3. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I am the sum of all that has ever happened to and around me. I can look back at even the most horrible things that have happened and see what roads were formed from them. I can see where it all has led to the now, even if I wished some had never been. By the changes I have had to endure, I have been more effective at helping others cope, which in turn continues to allow me to cope.

And besides, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

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