I've heard it said that, when it comes to the craft, you should never consider yourself learned. I think that's it's probably the same for any set of traditions, or beliefs, or religions. We should never consider ourselves "learned". You can not possibly know everything there is to know simply because that's not the way lifestyles work.
I consider the craft to be a lifestyle. I consider naturalist paganism to be a lifestyle. I think they go beyond religion. But, I could never consider myself learned, in either.
I've been pretty silent since my post on coupons. And, that post was a ruse. It was a what I call a "dummy post". I had nothing to post because I was too involved in the big vat of poo I got myself into with this shadow work....thingy. The post was valid only in the sense that I really do stockpile, although I don't call it that, I really do coupon and I really do consider both of those things fundamentals of paganism. But, that was an unplanned post, but I just figured I needed to post something.
The truth is, the shadow work got the best of me. I bit off a fair bit more than I could chew at any one time. In fact, more than I should have been attempting to chew in probably two consecutive dark half cycles. I jumped in the deep end with both feet and I didn't look to see if there was a yawning chasm waiting to swallow me whole before I did it, too. What happened was that the work started to lead itself. I was no longer in control of where it was going, and I'm not sure that's normal and I'm also not sure I want to repeat it.
I started having nightmares on a pretty regular basis starting by about the end of September and I had only been dealing with it at that point for about a week and half. If you look back at every single post I had from equinox until today, you should notice that they're pretty "off". Not only that, but they're very angsty. Even more angsty than is normal for me. By the time I wrote my Thanksgiving post, I was completely engulfed in.....I don't even know what. I like that post and it's surprisingly well written considering where my head was at during that post.
Nightmares were just the beginning my problems. I also started eating. Not eating like, "Wow, I'm hungry, I'm gonna go get me a sammich!", but, "Let's see how much fun it would be to eat this entire chocolate pie!". We are talking destructive eating, here. Destructive to the point where I gained 30 lbs. since Equinox. I can't really explain why, either. I haven't eaten sugar as a normal part of my diet since 2009! But, since I was facing food phobias, I went off the deep end. As I said, the work was no longer under my control, it was controlling me!
On top of that, if I wasn't having nightmares, I was having migraines. I've had a couple serious migraine attacks since equinox. I get these when my stress level spikes. During those attacks and during my nightmares, repressed memories of emotional abuse from my childhood came to the forefront. This is what I wanted to happen, and that's good, but the amount of it was staggering! I don't think I was quite prepared for the sheer amount of emotional muck I'd be dragging from the depths of whatever pit of hell my memory had flung them into.
I think at this point, I should just admit that this season's shadow work got the best of me and since I really had no idea how to handle it, I stopped early. I'm not doing anymore right now. I'm meditating on the problems that resulted from it, and some of the things I learned during it, but I'm not focusing on any more of my "shadows" at the moment. I wouldn't have stopped until Midwinter (Imbolc for wiccans), but there was no way I was going to make it through another month. I'm already going to have a lot of clean up to do as a result of whatever the hell just happened.
I've been involved in paganism for almost 19 years. In that amount of time, I've seen some really dark things. But, there is nothing that I've seen that just flat scared me. But, this has and maybe that's what was supposed to happen. Maybe any other time shadow work has been done by me, I've been doing it wrong. Either way, I'm convinced that I need a new strategy for controlling my work. Because it was just eating me alive.
My path has had many twists and forks and turns.....and now scares. I'm in it for the long haul, I'm not going anywhere. I love being pagan it makes me feel more alive than any other lifestyle ever could, of that I have no doubt.