Can I make a difference?

There’s been a number of things happening in the world recently that have left me feeling overwhelmed and helpless.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be alone in those feelings. I’ve asked in a Facebook group what I can do to balance staying informed and feeling overwhelmed and wanting to hide.  I’ve asked what I can realistically do to help with some of these situations.  The advice I’ve had has been geared towards staying informed and speaking up.

Does it really make a difference for me to say I do not support racism?  Does it make a difference for me to say I support equality of genders, sexuality, ages? I’m just one woman, can I really make a difference?

And I pause…

I look at my words written clearly on this screen and begin to wonder when and how I came to doubt myself so much.  I wonder at when and how I came to doubt that each a single voice matters.

And I think…

On Saturday I went to my first PRIDE march.  I was one of thousands there.  Did my being there really make a difference?  I remind myself that yes, I really did make a difference.  I helped a group from the Scottish Pagan Federation take part in Glasgow PRIDE for the first time.  I also helped my parents take part in the march on a bus run by LBGT Age. I made a difference. Just me.

SPF at Glasgpw PRIDE 2017
Scottish Pagan Federation at Glasgow PRIDE 2017

Recently, I have been finding it very difficult to know when and where I can truly make a difference.  I’ve been feeling confused and helpless.  Writing this post is reminding me that I can make a difference sometimes.

One person really can make a difference. I can make a difference.  I do make a difference!

(Try say that last paragraph aloud and mean it.)

I know live a sheltered and pretty privileged life compared to many.  I don’t usually witness direct racism or homophobia or anything like that in my life except though the media. Sometimes there are media stories that I find so horrible that I want to shut them out, ignore them.  I must not do that! I do not want to bury my head in the sand when others are suffering.  I may not be able to do much to help or to support but I can keep trying to do what I can. Even if only stating clearly where I stand on many of these issues.  Making it clear to my family, my friends and any random individual that happens to read this page that:

I stand with millions of individuals and many organisations in condemning racism and all forms of racial abuse.

I stand with millions of individuals and many organisations in condemning all forms of hatred and abuse based on someone’s sexuality.

I stand with millions of individuals and many organisations in condemning all forms of hatred and abuse based on someone’s gender.

I stand with millions of individuals and many organisations in condemning all forms of hatred and abuse based on someone’s disability.

I stand with millions of individuals and many organisations in condemning all forms of hatred and abuse based on someone’s age.

I will do my best to challenge any abusive behaviours I personally witness and recognise in all areas of my life.

One person really can make a difference. I can make a difference.  I do make a difference!

Ethics of spiritual types of healing

Recently I’ve been led to do more spiritual style healing than I have done before and this has led me to start thinking a bit more about the ethics involved in such work.

If I was to go to a herbalist or a conventional doctor I would expect that individual to have considerable training and an ethical stance that means they would strive not to do anything that could cause further harm to the patient. I’d also expect them to keep my details confidential apart from possibly consulting with colleagues as to the best way to proceed with my treatment.

Spiritual style healing doesn’t necessarily have this.  Many such healers do study methods such as Reiki or undergo training with the Spiritualist church but such things are not as standardised as conventional medicine or the training of medical herbalists.

I have had training in spiritual style healing in a development group and I’ve also have Reiki training some years ago now.  There were some discussions during those sessions regarding ethical aspects but not a huge amount and more focussed on face to face healing work than distance healing.  For the face to face elements from memory the discussions were more about ensuring your patient wasn’t uncomfortable if you were going to physically touch them and ensuring you explained what any treatment would involve.

My recent decisions on my ethical stance for spiritual healing work are as follows:

1) I will discuss with any potential client or patient the limits of what I feel I am able to offer them in advance.  This includes stressing that they should continue with any conventional medical treatment they are undergoing. What I can offer is an addition to other forms of medical care and not a replacement.

2) Before I begin to work with and for them I will want their explicit informed permission to use the methods I can draw on in my “toolbox”. These include reiki/spiritual style healing, petitioning deities where appropriate, crafting talismans and shamanic style journeying on their behalf. I may not use all of these but these are the tools I can draw on at this time.

3) In the case of someone unable to give me explicit permission due to their situation I will need to be convinced that if they could they would.  In other words I’d need to know that they are likely to welcome this type of healing or that their parent/carer/guardian gives informed permission.

4) I will make clear in advance any requirement of them I may have in order that I work with them.  At the least this will be the acknowledgement that I can make no guarentees that what I offer will be successful but I will do my best.  It may include a committment from them to work in a spiritual manner on their own behalf as well.  It is highly unlikely to include financial payment as at this time I am not likely to have many people I will work with in this way and I’m not doing this in order to make a living.

5) My work with any client/patient will be confidential in details but I may consult with others in order to provide the best service I can. When I consult with others I will do so in such a manner as to protect the identity of the individual concerned.

At the core of all I do is the aim to help and support those I work with to the best of my ability.

Peace – part 2

Recently I started thinking more about peace and wrote in Peace – part 1 about the reading I had done into peace and some of its meanings.

I ended with a couple of questions:

“And what about inner peace and feeling peaceful? What did those things really mean to me?”

I’ve been continuing to think about these questions and I feel now that I am close enough to an understanding of what these things are to me to write about them here.

The first sentence on the Wikipedia article on Peace is:

“Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence.”

Peace as a state of harmony is something I have been thinking about since I read that.  Harmony is something that I tend to link to music and musically harmony is the simultaneous use of different notes.  I think many will think of harmonious music as being music that sounds pleasing to us, the use of different pitches and instruments blending together to form something we enjoy. So does that mean that peace is a state where different actions take place simultaneously that are pleasing to us? I think this is much closer to what I feel peace is.

But for me there is more to peace than actions taking place that are pleasing.  I have to be able to recognise what actions are taking place around me and form a judgement about whether they are pleasing or not.  In order to recognise what actions are taking place about me I have to be in a position to increase my awareness of myself and my surroundings.  I have to become a bit more “mindful” of the present moment.

I’ve recently read a book called “Zen Druidry” by Joanna van der Hoeven.  I’m not familiar with Zen philosophy but one aspect of what Joanna writes has been of particular benefit for me as I think about peace and that is Mindfulness.  She writes:

“The key to integrating Zen and Druidry lies in the path of mindfulness – living with full attention.”

(Chapter 8, page 60)

She goes on to say:

“In Sanskrit, mindfulness is smriti, which also means recollection, the state of being alert and also retention.”

For me I think being mindful in these ways is also key to being able to recognise peace both within myself and around me more often.

Like many others I live a busy life.  There are days where I seem to hardly have a moment in which to think or feel for myself let alone become aware enough to recognise peace.  For me to be able to recognise what is going around me I need things to quieten down a bit.  If I’m surrounded with all sorts of different sensory input, have a mental list of what I need to do next running through my head and children or work colleagues asking me for things that may or may not be on my mental lists of things to do I can feel a bit like a punchbag.
I’ve realised that the places I find peaceful are places where the level of sensory input is reduced, where the demands I and others place on myself are reduced or even removed for a while.  I need space to be able to recognise what’s going on around me, to judge it and to feel “peace”.

If I can develop a better level of mindfulness then I should be able to make those judgments about actions going on around me more readily and assuming they are generally pleasing actions recognise that there is probably more peace in my life than I realise most of the time.

Developing a better level of mindfulness than I have at the moment though is probably going to take me a while but identifying the challenge is the first step in succeeding.

And in the meantime I have formed the intention to take some time on 21st September to look at what is taking place around me and finding some peace for Peace One Day.

Peace – part 1

Inspired by recent discussions on the Druid Network members site I’ve been thinking about peace and what it really means.  I’m still not sure I have found a completely satisfactory answer to the question “what is peace?” but I am a lot closer to understanding some of the meanings and associations of that simple word than I used to be.

While I’ve been thinking about peace I’ve also been doing a bit of following up on links suggested by others and doing a little reading around the topic too.  Sites I’ve visited in my quest to understand more about peace include:

Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Peace Studies Department at the University of Bradford
Foundation For Peace
Peace Pledge Union
Peace One Day
Wikipedia – Peace
Wikipedia – peace and conflict studies
Wikipedia – International Peace Belt
Wikipedia – Johan Galtung

My first somewhat light-hearted definition for peace came to me one morning while getting ready for work.

If war is


could peace be


Effective communication is something easier said than done in many circumstances as it takes a willingness from all parties involved to listen and speak to the other parties involved.

I still wasn’t happy with this though and I think that was because I was doing what a lot of other places seem to do which is defining peace by what is absent (conflict) rather than what it is in itself.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this approach, far from it, just that I was and still am looking for a broader definition of peace.
I am aware I have really only scratched the surface of this topic but nevertheless here are some of the things that I have found the most helpful in my reading.
The conflict triangle – from the information on Wikipedia this is a concept developed by John Galtung that defines three related types of violence and places them in a triangle. These three types of violence are:
  • direct violence – which I understand to be physical violence
  • structural violence – which I understand to be bureaucracy in any organisation or country that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged
  • cultural violence – which I understand to be a society’s perception that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged.
The UK is far from being a country without these aspects of violence at the current time.  For example, the Church of England, like the Catholic church has recently admitted that it has failed in protecting young people from being abused by some priests.  This strikes me as examples of structural violence but linked to that is cultural violence in that for decades wider society did not want to accept that any priest could be capable of such behaviour.  No-one wanted to admit it could happen so many turned a blind eye and ignored those cries for help that did take place.
In the city I live in, Glasgow, there are still aspects of cultural violence that lead to more sectarian violence between some aspects of Protestant and Catholic communities.  There is a minority of vocal individuals on both side of this divide that seem to believe that expressing their opinions on these matters physically is absolutely fine!
Modern media in the form of internet, newspapers, TV programmes, Twitter and other social networking sites abound with examples of cultural violence towards one group of people or another.  While the UK may not be at war on these physical shores it is, according to these definitions, by no means at peace either.  (I’m not sure if our military forces involvement in situations internationally would be classed as at war or involved in conflict resolution as I am not knowledgeable enough on these areas.)
Reading about the idea of the conflict triangle made me think more deeply about violence, conflict and peace in human societies. As a Pagan though I wanted to be able to expand my understanding of peace beyond the human species.  And what about inner peace and feeling peaceful? What did those things really mean to me?

First Principles

The words of another seeker encouraged me to look at what principles are the most important to me. I had to do some thinking to figure this out but essentially there are three things that have guided me for much if not all of my life. These are Love, Truth and Duty.

The most important one of these for me is Love. If I was to use one statement to illustrate what I mean by this I would turn to the new testament of the Bible and borrow the phrase “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.

Truth is something I seek and try to live by. I do not mean just telling the truth as I see it but walking my talk – or at least trying to – in all I do. To me Truth can be a multi faceted gem, we see maybe one or two faces of it clearly but some is obscured and some reflected. My truth is not necessarily the complete truth or the only truth but in seeking to walk in truth I hope to learn more of others and for others to learn more of me.

Duty is another difficult thing to explain. By duty I do not mean to do my duty as others see it but to do my duty as I see it. To serve to the best of my ability those that I have chosen to serve. To balance my duty to myself with the duties I have chosen to take on for others. Duty and service are closely entwined for me.

These are the principles that I believe have guided me all my life and are likely to continue to guide me in the future.