Toxic Traditions

I am far from a traditionalist. In fact, I am the first person to walk away from “traditions.”

Besides my eclectic personality which makes it almost impossible to fit into any traditions, one thing that makes me avoid traditions is the toxicity of many.

When I was 19, after 6 years of studying Wicca and Paganism alone, I decided I wanted to find a coven or group to study with or at the very least, celebrate holidays with. It was my first experience with toxic traditionalists. I met with a woman in a local pub in Brookline, MA. At first she seemed very open-minded–then came the point where she asked me what “tradition” I follow. I am eclectic. No tradition. That was when she went on a 15 minute “rant” about how her tradition which was Alexandrian based with “Celtic” roots (traditional Alexanderian??? I think not!), and that any other Wiccan tradition was wrong and/or copying the foundations of her traditional practice. Needless to say, I didn’t join her group.

Then came Belly Dance–where tradition police are everywhere! Again, I defined myself as fusion dancer–incorporating “traditional” belly dance movements with different types of music. I will never forget my first forray, when I was told that what I was doing was not belly dance–and the only “true” belly dance is “Egyptian.” It took a lot of personal work and years to not care what the tradition police thought nor what defined my style in the world of belly dance.

And now…..Reiki. I am Reiki 1 and 2 certified. Naturally, because I am a teacher by nature, I wanted to elevate to the next level and get my Reiki Master. When we moved to Flagstaff, I was no longer able to study with my Reiki Master in Boston, so I began looking into Reiki masters here. And it didnt take long to start running into the tradition police.

“XYZ’s reiki is not the traditional reiki,” or “I studied and got certified by someone who actually studied in Japan,” or my favorite, “incorporating Shamanic practices into your reiki is not traditional.”

It bugged the shit out of me! How could something as pure and special as Reiki, which is 1. non religious 2. non dogmatic and 3. pure energy—-be assaulted the same way????

I am not against traditions–so long as those following remain open-minded to the fact that there are others out there–that may or may not incorporate their beliefs. Or, that in order for things to survive in the modern world–sometimes traditions need to be woven into new ones. It’s not a bad thing.

And there is nothing wrong with going against the grain either! I learned that no matter how bad I may want to learn something, or be a part of something, if someone has to toss around that their tradition is the only true one–then, well, I would rather look elsewhere.

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Grieving Identity

For 10 years I was someone else. My stage presence and personality was who I was; what defined me. I was the Belly Dancer, Snake Charmer, the Artistic Director…..I was a personality. It was all I knew. If I wasn’t dancing, teaching or organizing an event-I was lost. Being a “character” was all I knew. I had a hard time integrating my stage self into my real every day self. Somehow, my real every day self was not as awesome as I thought she should be. For all purposes, I was my stage self–every day and always.
Then changes happened. I was performing, and my fondness of dance wasn’t there. I felt no passion. It was just another show. Going through the motions and the smiles, but no longer feeling that enthusiasm. I thought maybe it was just a bad night. I just wasn’t in the mood. But the more performances I did, the more I felt exhausted by each one. My stage presence was diminishing-which meant so wasn’t my identity.

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When I moved from Boston to Flagstaff I went through a serious conflict. Here I was, in a new place, and my identity was wavering. I had to teach, I had to perform. I had to let people know who I was…I was a dancer with 10 years of professional experience. I did amazing things! I needed to regain control of my life by regaining control of my dance life–my career–my everything. There was a problem:

I wasn’t that person anymore.

Try as hard as I could, I could not bring myself to have that passion that I did years ago. But then…who the hell was a now???

And after months of attempting to force myself to be that person…I finally accepted I was not. I entered a downward spiral of self discovery–without my main focus of dance–without people knowing me as “Zehara The Belly Dancer,” who was I? I felt like a shadow. I literally had to learn to love me again. Not me, the glittery non stop professional. Just me. And it was hard. I didn’t think it would be so hard; but after the costumes were sold and my dance things went to other owners, I was left with just myself.  I am FINALLY reaching the point where I no longer need to “pretend” to be someone else…I am no longer lost as a character.

I will be teaching again, but not dance. I will be  focusing on my wellness business. I realize now what I didn’t before. Its ok to be someone else as long as you don’t lose yourself.  I think of it as a death of my old self; with death comes grieving and time to let go. I can’t force myself to be anything other than what I am right now. I don’t need to be what anyone expects, what I think I should be, or what I wish I was.

And just breathe.