All posts by John Vaughan

John Vaughan (ndp) has been a member of the Pagan Community for 16 years, and has written various books and articles on subjects related to Paganism. He is Managing Editor for PaganNews.com and has a day job. Sometimes.

Ten Ways to make your world better in 2016

2015 has come and gone, and it has not been pretty for many people.  The world seems to have gotten scarier, harder and less secure.

There are many reasons for this, and we are not going to list them all here. What is clear, though is that a large portion of the population feels overwhelmed and less in control of their destiny, and does not like the path we are on.

According to Realclearpolitics.com , recent polls suggest that, in the US, 2/3rds of the country now feels we are heading in the wrong direction. Although there is undoubtedly a lot of disagreement about what the right direction should be, it is clear that as a country, there is a sense that we have lost our way.

It isn’t just the US. Similar results can be found in the UK, and could be found in Canada prior to the last election.

I have yet to find a person that thinks we are leaving the world a better place for our children than the world our parents left for us. Inequality, over consumption and disregard for the small blue and green bubble we call Home places the future of all life in doubt.

Finding hope and love when all around you is fear and despair may seem an uphill battle, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, the governments are made up of individuals, and as individuals we still have the ability to change how we see the world, how we enter the world, and to lead by example.

There are things we can do, as individuals, that don’t involve overthrowing the government, shedding each other’s blood, or trying to force a Utopian ideal on a world that is not listening.

These things are simple. Yet the more people that do them, the more we change the world. Here then, is our list of ten ways you, personally, can make the world a better place, and it’s easier than you think!

1. Fast once a week

I know, perish the thought right? Don’t worry it doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you do it from Sundown to Sundown. Adjust for your medical needs and check with your doctor, but there are significant health and world benefits to do this.

You will feel better

A lot of the reasons that people feel tired all the time is because the calories we put into our body are used for more than just movement. They are also used for healing, and digestion. The more you eat, and the more processed the food you eat, the harder your body has to work to actually digest your food, and consequently, a lot of the calories you are eating to give you energy, end up being used to digest the food you just consumed. Allowing your stomach to rest once a week for 24 hours gives your body time to burn some of the stored energy it has to heal.

You will lose weight.

It takes 3500 calories to add a pound of fat. Assuming you average 2000 calories a day, you have the potential to lose around 30 lbs in 2016 if you avoid binging either side of the fast.

You will help the planet

According to the World Bank, the US consumes 200 billion calories each year more than it needs. We consume as much energy as 6 Mexicans or 370 Ethiopians. If only a third of the country fasted for a day each week, we would eliminate that number, reduce the depletion of Earth’s resources and have more available for everyone else.

2. Turn off the “News”

This may be hard to hear, but there is nothing meaningful in news programming that you cannot learn from other sources, with less spin, less hysteria, and less fear.

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What appears in the news is designed to keep you watching, so you buy the products sold during the commercial breaks. Whatever the original noble purpose it served in the 1950s is long gone.

It encourages fear and consumerism. Both of which are very bad for the planet. If anything truly bad happens that you need to know about, trust me, you’ll know.

3. Eliminate Hate from your Social Media feeds.

Whatever people would have you believe, assholes and sociopaths are not defined by, or limited to, their alleged religious or political beliefs.

If you see hate or finger pointing in your social media feed, aimed at a specific demographic, turn it off.  Turn off the notifications, unfollow, unfriend or block, depending on your preference.

The less hate you see in the world, the less hate there is in the world. Hate can only survive when people respond to it.

4. Go for a walk

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Every day. Your body will thank you. Your doctor will thank you. Your dog will thank you too. Around the block at least, but 2 miles a day has an amazingly healthy effect on the body, and your outlook on the world. Just being outside in the (reasonably) fresh air can make a difference to your attitude.

5. Help someone, every week

There’s a great site called Volunteer Match if you want to get really serious about it, but even if it is helping a friend move, taking in the neighbor’s newspaper, giving someone $5 to buy gas, anything that you do to help someone else helps your spirit and their life. Ask them to pay it forward. Help one person a week and you help 52 in a year. Imagine if we all did that?

6. Cut down on Meat

Yes, yes I I know. If you’re going to wear the leather jacket you might as well eat the bacon sandwich. But hear me out for a minute. The typical human needs about 46 grams of protein per day. You can get that from meat or from vegetables. Meat is harder for your body to digest, especially red meat, and over consumption can lead to a lot of health problems later in life.  Take one day (not your fast day, smarty-pants) a week to not eat meat, and switch to a vegetable based protein instead. Rice and Beans, for example. It’s cheaper, and better for the planet. Remember, before you can eat the meat, the meat has to eat the plants. So eat the plants yourself and cut out the middle cow.

Maybe in the future, we can move to a meatless society, and that would be beneficial for all Life on the planet. Before we can get there however, we have to move the needle a little. This is one of those Lead by Example things we talked about earlier.

7. Buy Less ‘Stuff’

Economists love us to consume. They believe that is what keeps an economy going – the continual buying of crap that goes obsolete or breaks so quickly that we have to buy more.

You don’t need the newest anything. Take care of what you have, be grateful you have it and make it last longer.

Avoid large chain stores – and stay away from the mall! They are designed in every way to nurture impulse spending and they survive by keeping almost everyone in the supply chain working for near poverty (or in some cases actual poverty) wages.

Instead, save your money,  or give to a reputable charity, or buy second hand.  Consumption is out of control in the developed world. We are strip-mining the planet and mortgaging our children’s future just so that when we die they have to get rid of a houseful of useless crap they don’t want. True Story.

8. Grow Something

Whether you plant a tree or set up an indoor herb farm, you are helping to reconnect yourself with the cycle of life. You also reduce the amount of CO2 and toxins in the atmosphere.

Gardening teaches us about responsibility, care for the environment, nurturing life,  and is a wonderful thing to do together as a family.

olive

Growing your own food also wrests control of our food supply from the corporations and puts it back into the hands of individuals and communities. This of course means that at some point, someone will try and make it illegal.

9. Find the Good in all

This is hard to do, I know. But just as Hate breeds Hate and Fear breeds Fear, so does Love breed Love.

Start by making a list of people that just make your blood boil. It may be those you had to un-follow from Step 3 above! You already know the reasons you dislike them, so instead, next to their names, write down something you have in common with them.

Don’t pretend you have nothing in common – regardless of who it is, you do, at least at the genetic level. Start there.

When you can find what you have in common with people, your perspective changes. You may find that you have to forgive yourself along the way to forgiving them for whatever sins you believe they have committed, but that too is a worthy exercise.

10. Be Grateful

Be grateful for the food you eat. Take a moment, however brief to thank your higher power for placing it before you.

Be thankful for what you have – there are so many who have so much less.

Be grateful for the challenges you face, for from them comes growth.

Remember to take a minute every day to breathe, look around and realize that you are alive, on an incredible planet, and are part of an amazing adventure!

You are responsible for how you feel about the world, and you are responsible for changing your perception if it no longer serves you.

Be grateful you have that power. Most of all, be grateful for the love you have in your life, and love as much as you can. Remember – Love breeds Love.

I wish all of you a happy and hopeful 2016!

Why the world needs Pagans this holiday season

As many of you may have noticed, the world has gotten a bit crazier than normal in recent years. A trend that started after 9/11 of increased fear, war mongering and general xenophobia has reached such epic proportions that if Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann were running in the 2016 election they would seem like the sane, moderate choice.

ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is gaining ground throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and continually launching attacks in Europe, and now the US, scaring the crap out the American public in the process.

This last, is of course, what Daesh wants. They have started using Donald Trump’s speeches as recruiting material. They love the xenophobia, and the hysterical rhetoric, because they know that when we turn against people in our community, or who wish to be part of our community, they will have to find somewhere to be accepted. And ISIS is waiting with outstretched arms and a suicide vest.

This fear, however, is not universal. Yes, most of the world, including most muslims, are angry and disgusted by ISIS. Many are in favor of the US reducing it’s nuclear arsenal one missile at a time.  But the fear is not universal, nor should it be.

You are about 4000 times more likely to kill yourself than to be killed by a terrorist, if you live in the US., and suicide is only the 10th highest annual killer (according to the CDC). In fact, your odds of being killed by a terrorist in the US are about 1 in 20 million.

While many in the US support screening out all muslims (presumably by getting them to say ‘Shibboleth’) most Europeans do not. There are many complicated reasons for this, but there is one big factor: Recent History.

Growing up in Europe in the seventies, we were subject to ongoing terror campaigns from the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, ETA and the Red Brigade to name a few.  We grew up angry and disgusted with their attacks – but not fearful. We were not fearful because our parents were not fearful, and our parents were not fearful, because, in comparison to the world war that had ripped their lives apart growing up, these attacks were small potatoes in comparison.

Leaving aside the occasional sociopath like Timothy McVey, the US has not had many major attacks since pearl harbor, and even then, there were no attacks on the continental US during World War II.

Consequently, the events of 9/11 burned a scar deeply into the minds of every man, woman and child and that scar has shaped US foreign and domestic policy ever since.

More than that, with the addition of Russia and NATO into the middle eastern mix, we are shaping up for a self fulfilling prophecy of the Christian and Muslim end times. This is also, what Daesh wants, and unfortunately, it appears to be what many in the evangelical community are hoping for as well, because then, they believe, their savior will return.

Regardless of my personal thoughts about the likelihood of this happening, they believe it, and many seem willing to throw away their basic morality in pursuit of this goal.

As pagans, we are used to being vilified, accused, excluded and laughed at.  But as my old history teacher used to say, the bad things that happen to us build character, and it is the character of people that will decide what happens next.

Pagans have a love of the earth, and of all life. Even the meat eaters among us are conscious of the sacred nature of the life we have taken that we may live, and many choose to honor that in their own way.

This season, we need calm reason, not mindless rhetoric. We need love, not fear; we need hope, not desperation.

Mid winter was traditionally a time when wars stopped, and people huddled together to last out the cold winter and share what they had with each other, healing old wounds in the process.

Use the gifts that you have nurtured to spread love and acceptance as the old year ends. Don’t engage in petty bickering, name calling or setting yourself up in opposition to those whose only crime is being a different creed than you. Most Muslims hate what is being done by sociopaths in the name of Islam, and despite what you read, many are speaking out, just as we would, if it happened to us.

Lead by example. Show those in your community that you are not afraid. Anger is a useful tool sometimes, but hate is always self defeating, and Fear is almost always useless. Use common sense. Be cautious if you must, but be cautious based on reason.

Turn off the 24 hour news cycle and watch something beautiful instead. Spend time with friends and family, go outside and experience the beauty of the Rhythm of Life.

Help those who need help. Feed those who are hungry, nurture those who are lonely, and give voice to those who have none.

Organize, help, share, and most importantly, Love.

May you live in peace this holiday season, and help others to do the same.

earthlove