by Maryam Webster, M.Ed.
(written in 2003)
- The Pagan Community in Recovery From Burnout Part 1: Symptoms of a National Epidemic
- Pagan Leaders in Burnout Part 2: Working Towards Solutions
- A Prescription for an Ailing Pagan Community
- Cultivating Integrity
- Harvesting the Rewards of Professionalism – Part 1
- Harvesting the Rewards of Professionalism – Part 2: The New Pagan Professional
- The Pagan Leader’s “Dynamic Duo”: Communication and Self-Work
LifeCoaching provides ongoing support for individuals to manifest their true excellence. In coaching’s powerful, collaborative relationship, one achieves extraordinary results during a process of discovery and meaningful action, coupled with extreme self-care and spiritual life enrichment. This is very akin to the relationships and work of a Priest/ess. It is in that vein that this column is written, providing advanced coaching for those in the Pagan community who rarely receive it – Pagan leaders.
About the Author: Maryam Webster has been a shaman-priestess for the past twenty-five years and is a psychologist and LifeCoach of nineteen years standing. Much of her therapy practice has been spent working with Pagan Priests and Priestesses, shamanic practitioners and community group facilitators. She is a recovered survivor of long-term burnout herself. You can learn more here:
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Memo from Metis: Coaching for Pagan Leadership. Since Coaching isn’t yet well-known as a profession, a definition is in order. LifeCoaching is a professional service that began in the mid-1980’s, and takes up where psychotherapy leaves off, in providing ongoing support for the individual to manifest their dreams. Centered exclusively around what you decide to work on, coaching elicits your true excellence through a powerful, collaborative relationship. This enables you to achieve extraordinary results through a process of discovery, goal setting, and meaningful action, coupled with extreme self-care and spiritual life enrichment. Coaching focuses on creating demonstrable results in your personal and professional life by building self-awareness and supporting you to take positive action through a deepened understanding of which choices and possibilities are right for you. Unlike psychotherapy, you, not the coach, make those decisions – the coach is there to support whatever you decide. The work of a LifeCoach is very akin to the work of the Priestess, albeit much more tightly focused and goal oriented. It is from that viewpoint that this column is written.
There is a silent epidemic ravaging Pagan circles, covens, kindreds and larger organizations and communities throughout the United States. It causes circles to go under, major organizations to falter, friends to fall out and some newly minted clergy to fail their own and other’s expectations within their first three years of ordination. The cause? Burnout. Burnout is a term coined in 1974 by psychologist Herbert Freudenberg to describe complete emotional, physical and spiritual exhaustion. This debilitating situation results when we ignore the clues to our own discomfort, which arise from unhealthy situations we are in.
The symptoms of burnout hit creative, hard-working and committed people at their busiest and most productive. With a buildup of symptoms mirroring depression, burnout eventually saps the heart and soul out of leading, teaching and interpersonal relationships. The burnt-out community leader comes to the often upsetting place of desperately needing to give up the draining coven, the tiresome community organization, the magickal partnership, only to find it nearly impossible to do so. As a community leader’s own sense of identity is tied up in these relationships, they increasingly neglect their own needs and continue driving themselves to succeed, ignoring the desperate cries of body, mind and soul. If the person does not remove herself from these draining situations, breakdown will occur. This breakdown occurs in five stages: (1) the intense compulsion to prove yourself equal to the tasks you are set; (2) denial, pulling away from those close to you and observable changes in your behavior; (3) a sense of depression and emptiness; (4) depersonalization culminating in automaton-like behavior; and finally, (5) total exhaustion.
Burnout encompasses the classic symptoms of depression: apathy, lethargy, sleeping too much or too little, inattention, forgetfulness, feeling of running on vapor, and anger – with relationships and work life suffering. In addition to these, here are some cardinal signs and symptoms to look at for members of the Pagan Leadership community:
- You realize that your job in the organization or small group you serve as HP/s or other leader is causing you global pain or suffering. This suffering can include mild to severe depression, crying jags, deep feelings of worthlessness and unworthiness and a general feeling of despair. Pain is an inevitable part of living and is a healthy reminder to ease up when we push ourselves too far. Suffering is unnatural and entirely optional.
- The people in your coven, circle or large organization drain your time, energy, and desire to continue on in your job as Community Facilitator, HP/s or organizational representative. When you find yourself being drained by those you associate with, it is a sign that your boundaries are either too fluid or entirely non-existent. Do you stand up for yourself when others ask too much of you? Examine the boundary where you leave off and others begin. Can others intrude into your space and take advantage of you to get what they want of your time and energy? If so, bone up on your psychic self defense and consider enlarging your personal boundaries three times as much as you think necessary, to regain control over your space.
- You are consistently late, you over-promise and under-deliver or just barely deliver the workshop, the ritual, the initiation, the committee research time and again. When you find yourself constantly rushing without a moment to spare, you might be a member of one of the largest legal drug clubs world-wide: an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline is just as addictive as the hardest street drugs and is easy to obtain – our bodies manufacture it in response to stress and its persistent presence further damages organs and systems. When we become addicted to adrenaline, the highs it can give us, and the lows we experience coming off of it cause us to create situations that manufacture more adrenaline in the body. If you find yourself speeding in your car, feeling like the entire world is going slower than you, doing things at the very last minute, drinking a lot of caffeine or engaging in risky behavior, you’re probably dealing with an adrenaline addiction. To find out, go here: http://www.topten.org/public/BF/BF2.html
- You give too much, get very little in return, and feel pushed both by yourself or others to give beyond your limits. Leadership rarely toots its own horn unless dysfunctional and needy. Most work that Pagan community facilitators do is under-appreciated to often entirely un-appreciated, often because it is done so well. For those who have never run a coven or struggled bravely on week after week running a large, diverse community organization, the hard work that facilitators do can often seem invisible and effortless. Often the only time people speak to you about your role is to criticize. If you feel under appreciated, your choices are to lower your expectations, demand and accept no less than the support you deserve, or to move on to greener pastures. If you feel compelled to keep going when there’s nothing but fumes left in your tank, there’s something awry. Work on saying the word “no” and relieve yourself of the overburden folks try to place on you. Delegation is one of the sublime privileges of leadership – learn to use it.
- You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ and can’t muster interest in the aspects of your leadership job that you formerly enjoyed and were interested in. Are you sticking to the same boring routine day in and day out with your grove, circle or large organization? If you’re just “doing it by the book”, then step out of the box, off the page and make the position interesting for yourself again by exploring new facets. Find ways to expand your scope of learning and wisdom, and reach out to others for help.
- You begin to feel angry, depressed and/or sad, and may conjure up or engage in existing conflicts with others. Anger turned inward against the self manifests as depression. Public anger can often be an attempt to punish people whom we perceive as taking advantage of us. Ask yourself whom if anyone you are trying to punish, and why. Any of the situations listed above are enough to bring down the most stalwart of community pillars. Double or treble that for any combination of the above. Anger is common as you find your boundaries trodden upon, as is a sad wistfulness for the beautiful time when things were working well and you felt golden. Don’t suffer; take the appropriate steps to get out of the situation.
- The problems inherent in your job as a community leader begin to leak out into, and harm your personal life and relationships. When you find yourself yelling at your students, fighting with your partner or being rude to friends during or after thinking about a contentious situation, you are allowing it to effect you far too much. When you can’t sleep or eat for thinking about what someone said to you, or have nightmares about disasters lurking behind every ritual, you’re in burnout-land. Be mindful of what you are thinking as you interact with others and take steps to preserve your health and sanity.
- Large portions of your time go unaccounted for, or are whiled away staring at a wall, the television or reading the same written passage over and over, without comprehension. When the stress of your responsibilities weighs heavily upon you, your brain can “take a vacation” and lose track of time as it struggles to adjust. Anywhere from a few minutes to several hours can vanish into the ethers without your being able to recollect exactly what happened. While not a true fugue or blackout state, be very concerned if such gaps in time, or needless repetition of simple tasks manifest regularly.
- You have lost your connection to the Spirits and the Gods. While scared and sad, you may deny this publicly and try to hide the fact that you can no longer trance, do reliable divination, Draw Down or other facets of your spiritual practice. Faking it can become your normal mode of operation. Extreme stress can easily sever spiritual as well as emotional circuits. You know it’s bad when you’ve lost your connection to the Divine and can no longer perform as clergy – a severe, late stage symptom of burnout. This is not the time to go into hiding or denial, but to ‘fess up and step back…WAY back. You owe it to your community not to practice as clergy while in dysfunction, and you doubly owe it to yourself.
- You become ill with an immune system disorder or have an “accident” that forces you to take time off your leadership duties. Burnt-out people develop illnesses from sublimating accumulated stress and its noxious hormones to the degree that bodily systems begin to break down. Look to burnout as the precipitating culprit for disorders of the immune system such as colds, flu and more serious diseases. Often people will subconsciously cause themselves to fall, have symptoms such as heart palpitations or much more serious internal disorders due to the body’s desperate desire to rid itself of accumulated stress. If you have two or more of the previous symptoms, you could be in the midst of, or shortly to confront serious burnout. While this article covers only a handful of the symptoms of burnout, there are many others.
Check resources online such as www.depression.org for a comprehensive listing and tune in to the Beltane issue of PNN for Part Two of this article, which will address global solutions to burnout for the Pagan community and for Pagan leadership as individuals.
In the last issue, we discussed the symptoms of burnout as they pertained to Pagan leaders. Briefly, burnout encompasses the classic symptoms of depression: apathy, lethargy, irritability, sleeping too much or too little, inattention, forgetfulness, feeling of running on vapor, and anger, with relationships and work life suffering. In addition, Pagan leaders in particular can suffer disconnection from Deity and the spiritual side of their lives, resulting in a gradual breakdown in their ability to care for their normal coven, circle or other spiritual community tasks. This breakdown occurs in stages which include denial, depression, a growing feeling of emptiness or purposelessness and complete exhaustion of body, mind and spirit. Within intentional communities there are two solutions to the problem of leader burnout. Leaders need to take responsibility for their own health and welfare. Community members in turn need to take responsibility for the demands that they place upon their leadership and, additionally, how they as lay individuals use and support the community. We will address solutions leaders themselves can take first. A program of routine, extreme self-care and carefully considered life planning can prevent burnout, aid in regaining your sense of centeredness, help you put your leadership duties in perspective and enable you to live life as you like it. In addition, you help teach your community how to more appropriately relate to their leaders, and themselves.
Radical self-care and life planning will specifically ensure that you:
- Regain control of your time, emotions and energy
- Re-connect with the Wise Self who alone knows what’s best for you
- Get back on track in life and do only that which is enjoyable to you
- Clarify and refocus your own unique vision, mission and true values in life
- Support your needs in a safe, designed environment with your nurturance in mind
- Teaches others to treat you – and themselves – with respect and dignity. So cared for and nourished, you will have more energy than you need for yourself, your family, friends, organization and community.
Here are twelve ways Pagan leaders can recover from burnout and have a more perfect life.
- Don’t Let Your Well Go Dry: Say “Yes” to yourself on a consistent basis. Be the first one you give to, so that you can have enough to give to others. Like religions who give a certain part of their income in tithing to the church, so spiritual leaders need to give the first part of their energies, time and resources to themselves – so they have something to give when others come asking. A delicious resource and role model for saying an unconditional “yes” to yourself is Jennifer Louden’s website: http://www.comfortqueen.com Many in leadership are, or find themselves becoming, super sensitive people. Your self-care becomes even more important to maintaining equilibrium. Here are the “Top 10 Ways A Very Sensitive Person Can Practice Good Self Care.” http://www.topten.org/public/BF/BF21.html
- Say “No” More Often: Don’t allow yourself to become consumed by other’s agendas. Remember the saying: “Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” You can only be responsible ultimately to and for yourself. Give up being responsible for others and reclaim freedom, time and energy you didn’t even know you’d lost. Here is a guide to figuring out the amount of quality you have in your life. Use it to know where you need to say “no” more often. http://www.thomasleonard.com/karla/formsCD/209qualityoflife.pdf
- Zap the Drains: What situations, people or conditions drain your energy? Figure it out and bust any rackets (yours or others) that support the channeling of your resources away from you. Dump needy, desperate people who suck your energy (time, money, resources) away from you. Pick five energy drains and schedule time to handle them, this week. A great worksheet on finding and eliminating the drains in your life is available here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/zapthedrains.html
- Set Firm Boundaries: You have the right to say if and when you will or won’t do things or allow others to do them to you. Explanations are not always necessary. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You are not indispensable – your inner harmony, however, is. When setting boundaries, include mental space, time, resources and anything else that you don’t want people running roughshod over. You have the responsibility for choosing and enforcing where you are comfortable having others intersect your life. Help on defining boundaries and making them stick is here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/catalyst/catalyst7.html
- Track Your Energy: The better handle you have on where your energy is going, the better you can manage its distribution, especially around those who are still struggling with their spiritual journeys. Leave the neophyte work to your second in command at regular intervals. Set it up with them that you don’t get stuck working with the difficult ones more than twice in a row. Have respite care, know when your energy is getting low and take proactive steps to prevent further loss. Find out where you get healthy sources of energy and get more here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/fillyourself.html
- Determine Your Needs & Values and Get them Met: Get your needs met consistently while living and working from a place that reinforces and upholds your most cherished values. This creates flow in your life that opens the doors for the most powerful magick you can do. This helpful coaching program can teach you where your needs are, and help set up systems to get them met, consistently.
http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/needlessprogram.pdf Additionally, determine what deep and abiding interests and convictions drive you, what you could not do without in your life and would feel out of integrity if you went against. These are your Values. When you live, love, work and play from your Values on a consistent basis, you are fulfilled and far less likely to allow yourself to be the victim of circumstances.
- Know What Resources Are Available: Both in your community as well as within yourself. Utilize the resources to hand shrewdly to take pressure off of yourself. When you know who in your community can do what, it becomes much easier to delegate, share responsibility and know where you can go yourself for help. To take an inventory of the resources in major areas of your life, go here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/cleansweep.html
- Create Daily Rituals and a Path that Supports You: Generously fund sustainability in your journey by routines and both mundane and spiritual rituals that nourish your life. Pamper yourself on a regular basis, invoking strongly the Spirit within you to shine forth and sustain your effort. You probably already have a set of daily rituals that are your guiding helpers. If it’s been awhile since you’ve practiced these, revive them or create new ones. A helping hand on what areas are good to work with can be found here:
- Set up a Support Network: Create supportive relationships with those trusted family, friends and professionals dedicated to absolute excellence in your life that are self-sustaining and mutually beneficial. Most leaders find a mastermind group or research and development team a necessary adjunct to their leadership practice. Gather closely around you those who you know have your best interests at heart and will competently advise you. Keep in close contact with them and use this panel as a sounding board – also use them to check you if it seems you are heading towards burnout-city. Savvy friends, your significant other/s, a personal coach and other leaders in similar situations will be of great help to you here. For an inventory to help you construct the perfect community Dream Team that can support you, go here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/dreamteam.html
- Eliminate Sloppy or Non-existent Scheduling Practices: Take advantage of all the modern time organization tools at your disposal to plan your schedule at least one or two months in advance. Whether software or paper datebook, buy a scheduling aid and use it. Get in the habit of checking your daily schedule the night before and your weekly schedule every morning. Set alarms when projects should be a quarter of the way accomplished, halfway, three-quarters and at least a week before the ideal completion date. Amend these dates as necessary and set reminders to keep those who are depending upon your efforts current as to their state of completion. This will have the additional effect of keeping you accountable.
- Change Your View & Reconnect: Burnout almost always betokens a severing of ties to Spirit. Step out of the box, off the page and make where you’re at interesting for yourself again by exploring new facets of your role, your place in the community. If after your exploration you find you don’t really want to continue being a functionary, create an exit strategy that supports both your needs and the group’s. Re-adjust your spiritual practices. Do something entirely different than you have before, reach back in time to those wonderful discoveries you made when you were first starting out and revive an old practice you used to do. There is power in the wonder of personal discovery – let it bathe you in luxury.
- Love Yourself: And all those around you. A daily practice in both projecting love and positive emotions outward as well as inward helps balance, nourish and strengthen you and your environment. It also helps you attract exactly what you desire into your life.
Now that the leaders are looked after, let’s talk about a prescription for an ailing Pagan Community. We Pagans, like others, tend to want to preserve the status quo and let those who do certain things really well continue doing them. And we have a tendency to rely on them until burnout is inevitable. We’ve discussed how leaders can help themselves, and it’s a darned good regimen for each individual in the community to adopt in addition. But communities can also do their share to prevent leaders from burning out. Below are some more ways the Pagan community as a whole can come up to the plate to preserve their leaders’ boundaries, the community’s integrity, and prevent burnout on all sides.
- Do it Yourself: All too often people run to the teacher or elder who’s known to have a specialty they desire help in, without first searching themselves and other resources for an answer. Quell this tendency in yourself if you call upon the same one or two people all the time, and resolve to research the answer on your own.
- Revise your Expectations: When I wrote the “Pagan Student and Teacher’s Bill of Rights” (http://www.wyrdweavers.org/files/bor.html) I made the point: “You do not have the right to expect your teacher to be a Super Priest/ess who will fulfill your every need, want and desire.” If you have constant problems that have you calling upon your priesthood several times a week, take this invitation now to back off – way off. While obviously, large amounts of support are given students and other community members, using your Elders and Priest/esses as a constant source of problem-solving is abusive of their time and energy. Get your problems dealt with in therapy, a doctor’s office or with others besides community leaders. Learn to rely on yourself much more, and them less. Respect your community leadership’s personal boundaries.
- Observe the Common Courtesies: In the aforementioned Bill of Rights, I wrote about the value of observing punctuality, a respectful attitude, good sportsmanship and diligence when working with leaders and in community. Community members who are habitually late, who don’t show at all, who give no explanation or lame explanations, who do not keep their word and who shirk their responsibilities, are taking advantage of the community. They also make the life of a leader very, very difficult. Smarten up your act, and give your leadership every bit of professional behavior you see coming from them.
- Be a Team Player: Being in a coven or spiritual community is like being part of a team. As a member of any community, spiritual or not, your question shouldn’t be, “So, what can you do for me?” but rather, “As I’m learning and growing with you, what can I do to help further the community, and take the burden off of leadership?” Learn to be a team player. If you don’t know how to do that or where to begin, ask your leaders what you can do to help. Show up consistently willing to pitch in. If you don’t have money and are graciously being allowed into a paid event anyway, don’t shirk your responsibility – go straight to the volunteer coordinator and ask how best you can serve. Volunteerism is the shortest path to getting into the Pagan community’s inner circles.
When leaders learn to put themselves first, take care of their own needs and set appropriate boundaries, they automatically grow both themselves and their communities. Good leaders fill their own cup first before they fill the cups of others. Healthy community members do likewise, and look first to themselves as resources to draw upon before asking for help from leadership. Healthy community members also pitch in, help where needed and look for places to help unasked to aid community growth. With these two components in place at both leadership and individual level, happier, healthier, more balanced and abundant communities result.
In the last two issues of this column we covered burnout and how to prevent it. One of the symptoms of burnout as noted can be a regression in your own personal integrity. As people become desperate and needy, what they are willing to do to ensure outcomes can run outside of or contrary to conventional ethics and their own values. In the Pagan sense, being out of integrity as a community leader might include pretending knowledge where you are only guessing, faking a channeling of Deity, untruthfully embellishing otherworldly experiences, feeding off of the energy of the circle or misusing your circlemates. In the personal sense, this can manifest as allowing yourself to do things you would not ordinarily, under calmer circumstances, begin to contemplate. This can range from turning a blind eye to the truth of a situation, to allowing yourself to be overworked to the detriment of your health. In extreme cases of loss of integrity, Pagan leaders can even be seen manipulating those they purport to lead. Never, you say? As a community leader, have you ever once been tempted to give in to the power of people validating you because of your rank or position? Did it ever feel deliciously, chocolatey good … to have the young and bright-eyed hanging on your every word and eager to please you, whatever the cost? All those vowing “Nay” may continue on to the next article, you’re already perfect. The rest of us will muddle along to the end together and try to learn how to maintain our personal integrity enough to function responsibly – with ourselves and with those we serve.
What is integrity? In the coaching sense, it means adhering to whatever values you deeply feel you must adhere to to preserve your own internal sense of morality and quality of life. In the pan-Pagan sense this further means having a set of values that harm none and are geared towards furthering your own knowledge and growth. Integrity is first defining, then adhering to your own principles and values. Integrity is knowing exactly where your boundaries are, and enforcing them. Integrity is refusing to allow any other individual or organization to assert their own programming over you. Integrity is personal responsibility to the nth degree. Integrity is also responsibility for others, for community, for family both by blood and choice, for this world in which we live. It is an awareness of all of this and the interrelation of all of the different worlds that comprise our lives. Integrity is easy to define, but hard to maintain. The generation and maintenance of integrity is the goal of every religion, the hub of every mystery, the sacred task of every Priest/ess, and can be the salvation of all, without discrimination.
First step: What does integrity mean to you? Take a few lines and jot it down.
Now, think real hard about what principles you would die for, or certainly vigorously defend. Your highest and best parameters. Now think about what they have to do with your sense of personal integrity. Jot a note here to yourself on that nexus:
To illustrate the negative effects of integrity loss, give a thought to the present day mundane work world. Say one of your integrity items was never working for the government and you took the only job going when you were downsized and now work for a government agency. You hate it there and are marking time against the day when you can leave. Having said that, you acknowledge to yourself that you are in for a long haul, grit your teeth and try to bear it with grace. In time you may develop reactions to being out of integrity such as stress headaches, repeated minor injuries or, after several years in the agency and steadily worsening conditions, you could develop a severe immune disorder. Such a progression occurs when you violate your own values, live outside of integrity and repeatedly ignore warning signs your body gives you. “Out of integrity” warnings usually show up in several predictable places. By consistently monitoring these, you can catch yourself and remedy a non-integrous situation before it goes sour on you.
First, you will find warnings all over your body: the rank feeling in the pit of your stomach, tension in your shoulders, back and gut when in the situation, or when thinking about it. Other symptoms can include tension in the neck, headaches, sleep disruptions and a high percentage of minor “accidents,” including car accidents and those where only you are injured. You might experience feelings of dread prior to entering situations or after leaving, and uncharacteristically avoid such situations which try to force you out of integrity. What recognizable physical and/or emotional messages does your body give you when you are out of integrity? List yours here:
Why don’t you get out, speak up or change your situation sooner when you feel the first twinges of integrity loss? Two reasons: fear and complacency. Fear, and its milder form, complacency are the two most insidious destroyers of dreams ever to fly out of Pandora’s Box. Sometimes it takes removing yourself from the situation until you’re ready to stand up for your values, no matter what; in others, you must stand your ground and staunchly adhere to what you know is right. In the end, standing up for what you most deeply believe is truly the only way to maintain your personal integrity. But how does one actually begin to do that? to maintain personal integrity? Here are some time-tested guidelines:
Know who you are and what you’re doing in life. Develop a personal mission statement that guides what you do in life, and the ways in which you are and are not prepared to operate. Your mission statement will be different than anyone else’s and that’s okay. For help go here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/visionmission.pdf This statement is couched in terms of a business vision and mission, but can equally be applied to a personal, life vision and mission.
Know exactly what you stand for, how much you will take from others and what you are absolutely not willing to tolerate. Develop these preferences into a set of operating parameters which allow you to be comfortable in your life while harming none.
Vigorously defend your chosen operating parameters, however they may be denigrated by others. Steadfastly refuse to allow yourself to be poked, prodded, press-ganged or chivvied into abandoning your principles. They might tell you you’re being selfish – that’s fine. This kind of selfishness is not only okay, it’s downright essential to maintaining personal integrity. Remember the instructions on the plane: your oxygen mask first, then your child’s. Taking care of yourself first keeps you strong enough to be there fully and responsibly for others. This treatise on Becoming Incredibly Selfish goes much further in explaining the value of this principle in a balanced life that attracts only what you most deeply desire: http://www.attractionuniversity.com/28/1.html
Never need anyone’s approval except your own for how you live your life. You are the Priest/ess of the ritual that is your life. You get to decide how you want to play it.
In line with being healthily selfish and running your own life, it is necessary to keep your primary motivations in life focused internally, not externally. Base your motivation on your true values, vision and mission in life. Allow your motivations to rise naturally from within and shun those that attempt to impose themselves from without. Know your boundaries, draw them where you need to and reinforce those that have become weakened. Tell others to back off where needed, and refuse to allow their emergencies, needs and contrary agendas to drive yours. Much like a daily practice of psychic self defense, acknowledging and giving energy to where you end and other people begin is essential to maintaining your integrity.
Attract what you want by becoming that thing utterly. If you want your life to be positive, cultivate a consistently positive attitude. If you want good friends, be a good friend. If you want a coven that takes responsibility for itself, take responsibility for yourself and refuse to allow others to offload their responsibilities onto you. Create the funnel of irresistible attraction that will draw towards you those things and only those things that would be perfect for your life. This list of the 28 characteristics of Extreme Attraction will help you:
http://www.thomasleonard.com/karla/formsCD/120attractionprinciples28.pdf In keeping with attracting only what you most deeply desire, surround yourself only with people who are in integrity themselves, grounded, centered in their own vision and purpose and successful at living their lives. This will become your support group for getting and staying in integrity. Your available pool of social contacts may temporarily dwindle when taking this step, but you will weed out those who have the potential to bring you down. And as you become more the thing you want to be, so you will attract other like minds to you. Together as well as individually, engage in continual evolution both in yourself and with your community. Keep evolution as part of your personal operating principles and a standard you live by. Create environments which evolve you consistently. Complacency cannot exist when you are in a state of constant evolution. A guide to the 21 Principles of Personal Evolution is here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/personalevolution21.html Be able to honestly but gently assess your life and learn from your mistakes and experiences. Personal responsibility is the hallmark of a strong leader as is evolution based on knowledge gained through mistakes we make.
Make joy, relaxation and personal fulfillment a habitual part of your life. Do whatever it takes to cultivate these states and enjoy them daily.
Always stay in the present. When you live in the present, the past has no way to hook you and the future has no way to create fear within you.
An excellent resource to educate yourself about staying present is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Truly a mage’s choice in reading, these powerful principles of presence will inspire your personal and community magick for the rest of your life…
Staying in integrity is a lot like keeping your balance while aboard a boat. The water swells and rocks the boat beneath you, but your body finds natural ways of bending, bracing and compensating for the pitch and yaw of the vessel. In life as well as in our community leadership activities, we need to constantly adjust and re-adjust to the prevailing situations around us in order to maintain our center. Now you have clarity on your values, some of the warning signs that you’re moving off-center, and time-tested strategies to stay in integrity. Taking decisive steps towards maintaining your integrity might at first seem awkward as you enforce your boundaries and pull away from those that bring you down. The rewards however are immeasurably beneficial for you, your family and those in the communities you lead.
In this season of Harvest it is a joy to cherish the rewards of seeds we have planted, both inside our communities as well as without. For the Pagan leader, nowhere are the rewards more global than when reaping the harvest of their actions as a religious professional. Professionalism in the Pagan milieu may seem anathema to some in the community, but as the years of this youthful movement have passed, the need has increasingly been felt for improved professionalism among Pagan clergy and leaders, from small coven-sized groups to international organization mavens. In the summer 2002 issue of PanGaia, Cairril Adaire, organizer of the 2001 Pagan Summit offers sage commentary: “In today’s terms, professionalism means how our leaders lead, how our organizations are structured, how we set standards and hold people accountable for them, and how we present ourselves to the mainstream. Greater professionalism in these areas yields better services for our people; ethical operation of worship and membership groups; broader leadership structures; more effective group dynamics; personal, professional, and spiritual growth; legal and financial accountability; and greater relevance to the mainstream culture. Professionalism makes it more difficult for ‘gurus’ to exploit seekers, by giving greater transparency and accountability to groups of all sizes. Lastly, professionalism helps us build sustainable institutions….”
Sustainability is what leadership in the Pagan community is all about and what will ensure healthy communities into the future. What creates sustainable communities is also what creates professionalism in their leaders:
Stability and Balance
If an organization or group has been in place long enough to have attained a reputation for solidity and staying power, it can be said to be stable. This is no fly-by-night affair, but a community that people have put hard work into maintaining both now and with an eye towards long-term planning for sustainable usage many years into the future. This is balanced with problem solving, maintenance and growth mechanisms geared towards serving the populace in the present. Future planning without present maintenance is doomed to failure, and vice versa. The balanced community includes both. A balanced community shares power across a wider range and structure of positions of authority, encouraging decision by committee and charrette rather than the rule of one or few. The blandishments of ego and adoring fandom are dispersed as much as possible when power is shared in such a fashion, rendering member exploitation unlikely.
In an individual sense a stable, balanced leader appears as one who has been serving the community a fair number of years – not necessarily without incident, but with overall praiseworthy action. Past muck-ups with good recovery and excellence in current service indicate a leader who has slipped, grown and profited from their mistakes. This is a leader worth supporting, as they in turn will support you. But not to extremes. A stable leader pitches in and does their share but also knows how to delegate duties while making those delegated-to feel useful, needed and having the best use made of their talents. A stable leader is one whose life is in balance and who knows where to go for assistance when in need – both inside themselves as well as without. When such a leader enters into a period of instability such as relationship trouble, job loss, family death or serious illness, they know when and how to release and delegate their duties entirely to the most worthy person/s, and teach this lesson graciously to those so honored. This is a sign of extreme professionalism and personal grace. A stable leader also knows when it is time to pick up the mantle of community service again and does so with little fanfare, in balance and with good cheer.
Accountability and Responsibility
A community or organization that is accountable and responsible to its membership, makes full use of disclosure on every facet of the organization. The responsible organization usually makes a full report of all affairs concerning the membership and has an open book policy financially. Every member of the organization has the right to know where their money is being spent and how. The Board of Directors of any such organization holds frank, open and honest appraisals of itself and invites the membership into dialogue about their needs and those of the organization as a whole. The group will provide a reasonable standard of ethics, both member and officiant guidelines, a failsafe method for member grievances to be aired and a tribunal or other justice system for serious grievances to be adjudicated within the organization. Being accountable to the membership includes the officers of any such group taking the full legal responsibility for the actions of the organization. No one person is left in the position of holding the bag should the group be investigated – all share in the accountability and responsibility. Again to quote Adaire on the subject: “Just because our religion is personal and sometimes casual doesn’t mean our organizations and businesses can be. Here we are held to the same standards as mainstream society (which in some cases are legal standards). In order to reach them, we need to establish clear ground rules for our organizations.”
An environment where leaders and community members alike can and do hold themselves accountable for their own actions contributes greatly to the stability and longevity of a community while enrobing all in a mantle of extreme professionalism. Members expect their leadership to do what they say they will. Leaders expect this of themselves, and also of the membership, who replies in kind. This self-policing behavior includes a system of regular checks and balances where leaders can become informed on the quality of their leadership, and members can be informed about how to advance themselves further. Each can take steps to correct mistakes before they go badly awry plus work actively on their own spiritual advancement – often in mutual support. Such a system might include regular reviews of a coven leader’s abilities by his or her elders as well as by their coveners, or an organizational leader’s behavior reviewed by their Board of Directors, as well as the membership. This ensures that both the points of view of office and experience along with the experiences of consumers of their services are heard and honored.
A sign of professionalism in a leader is doing what they say they will and knowing enough not to overextend themselves. When in error, the responsible leader will accept the criticisms given and work on their skills or other area of need with good humor and without complaint. Elizabeth Barrette comments succinctly: “They say what they think, neither speaking with unnecessary cruelty nor hiding what needs disclosure; and they speak honestly without distorting the truth. Likewise they listen when others speak, and take that speech to heart if merited. They can accept suggestions for improvement without snarling at the messenger for criticizing them.”
When the shadows grow long and the bitter winds blow, there is nothing like knowing you have the bounties of Harvest stored away against the time of need, sufficient until spring blossoms show their heads again. Both at home and in the community, Pagan Leaders need to give attention to storing up the rewards and sustenance of professional conduct both in right relation to the Pagan community, and when they may have real and pressing need to rely upon their good name and professional stature in the outer, non-Pagan community. The acculturation of professionalism by the modern Pagan Leader calls for a holistic point of view. We have a far greater ability to see how lines of power connect and influence groups and individuals, we have arcane tools and an ability to see in ways others may not consider. We have eldritch insight in addition to business know-how and are learning how to marry the two with input from science, physics and every other area we can possibly gain knowledge about. Pagan Leaders are educated to different standards, have different life and spiritual experiences but have one thing in common: paid or not, we are spiritual professionals and, increasingly, are being called upon to act like it. Steve Leibowitz says in his work on The New Professionalism: “We operate in a world of interpretations of reality, not reality itself. We act as if our beliefs and interpretations were reality. When we act as if something is impossible, it is impossible, whether it really is or not. Believing makes it so … New professionals understand the power of belief and meta cognition, and use them with their clients and themselves.” Now if this isn’t a description of magic at work, I don’t know what is. And it is the very foundation of a sound New Professional ethic.
The goal of the New Professional, as Leibowitz puts it, is empowerment for self and others, which fits very nicely into the generic Pagan worldview. Pagan Leaders have a leg up on others in learning this “new” professional mode of interacting. Those new bottles hold an ancient vintage with which most of us are intimately familiar – empowerment of others; melding science and spiritual technology; utilizing community networks; specific, shared language; sharing power as the dominant paradigm. It’s very, very easy for Pagan Leaders to plug into being their own natural selves. Being the genuine article is what Professionalism all about. You cannot be credible if you lack genuine personal integrity. If you lose your credibility, you lose everything as a leader. The Litha 2003 issue of this column amply covered integrity and is available at the PNN website (go here: http://www.paganet.org/pnn/v10/i4/memo_from_metis.php). Another great resource to check your personal integrity is here: http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/integritykeys.pdf
Plug Into Power, Professionally.
The most important facet of professional behavior for Pagan Leaders in their own home communities is shared power. Sometimes it is difficult to share power with others and still maintain a professional edge. When you are a person’s spiritual advisor, you are in a position of perceived authority over them, like it or not. Be careful what you ask of those you teach and advise and be always mindful of the power gradient between you. Share power by asking your people to step up to where you are or take on a piece of your usual duties on a regular basis. Share power by actively seeking to learn from them as well. Balance the give and take by making the other members of your organization right more of the time. Cairril Adaire, speaking of her experience in the Pagan Educational Network, calls this “a generous spirit that seeks to foster community, not division.” To help, here’s an exercise: a) How many unobtrusive ways can you find to build your organization members’ confidence and strength? b) Create several replacements for yourself, nurture and mentor others freely and encourage them to do the same. The ability to both wield as well as share power is a cardinal sign of the true Professional.
Lemonade & Chaos Theory.
As Liebowitz notes, the New Professional is comfortable with uncertainty … which in a Pagan magical context, means a certain amount of constant chaos. (A basic primer on chaos theory in magic is here: http://www.barbelith.com/cgi-bin/articles/00000004.shtml.) The more you become comfortable with this natural, fluid state of the universe to move out of its seemingly well-defined grooves and take flight in what might seem to be odd, unpredictable directions, the more you will be able to both see AND leverage opportunities. The more opportunities you leverage, the more you will be in control of your end of the power paradigm and the more ultimately professional you will appear. The pros can and do roll with the punches – they expect them, and are ready for them when they come. They don’t place blame upon others because life throws them an uppercut, they pick up the pieces and make something entirely new, useful and beneficial to themselves and others – lemons to lemonade style. A certain facility as a Chaos Mage is another hallmark of a competent Pagan Professional.
Do What Comes Naturally.
When liaising with the external community, you don’t have to be anything more than you already are. Be yourself, act naturally and speak to others from your passion about what you do as a Pagan Leader. To aid others’ favorable first impressions, wear business clothing, keeping occult jewelry and official insignia to a tasteful minimum. In the overculture, anything too outside the mainstream is ignored. Galloping eccentricity cannot be indulged by those wishing to create, sustain and maintain professional business relationships in the non-Pagan community. Let them get to know and love you in your three piece suit, then spring your best Elvira/Greenman on them at the Halloween mixer if you absolutely must.
The Five C’s of Trust In A Leader
(or anyone else):
1) Character Integrity & Honesty
2) Competence Knowledge & Ability
3) Confidence Conviction & Belief
4) Credibility History & Experience
5) Congruence Consistency & Harmony
By Kurt Mortensen
From: The One-Minute Millionaire Newsletter 8/6/03
A Model for the Community Leader.
Professional role models for Pagan folk are thin on the ground as few of us have risen to national awareness and of those, many still struggle to define their professional demeanor. If you know and like a local business person, study and emulate their habits with customers, with other business owners and in common social interactions, spicing them with elements of your own personality. A good model for the Pagan Leader to study is the aristocratic Dr. Maya Angelou (http://www.mayaangelou.com/). Her calm, poised, well-spoken personality is well known and beloved by many as a national treasure. Dr. Angelou is honorable but not prudish. She is classy, but knows how (and when) to sling her slang. She would never indulge in a public catfight, bitter put-down, political manipulation or game of one-upmanship. She once said her self-worth would not permit such actions – neither should yours. Dr. Angelou leads very simply by her words and the sterling example of her inherent and unshakable self-dignity. Cultivate that within you that is respectful, self-aware, classy, dignified and grounded in bedrock, and you will have all the professional demeanor you will ever need.
Mabon is about sacrifice. Similarly the path of the Pagan leader is about sacrifice in different ways. You sacrifice your time, so to speak, for the community. You sacrifice no small amount of your own cash, sweat and toil. Tears too, and some heartache. But look what you get: spiritual fulfillment, a ton of good times, a community of like-minded brothers and sisters who will support you through good times and bad, and get your back in a pinch. But what about the bad times, when no one will help, when you’re in over your head, when tempers flare and ugliness ensues? This happens most often when miscommunication occurs, upsetting the balance between community responsibility and able leadership. Or when a leader hasn’t done their own self-work. For this last in the PNN Metis series, we’ll examine health in Leadership and the smooth working of your community through excellence in communication and the Number-One-Thing-You-Must-Do-No-Matter-What: Taking Care of Your Own Needs First.
First Principles of Leadership
Running a coven, circle or large Pagan organization is rather like running a small company. You have a president or co-presidents (Priest and/or Priestess), a board of directors (or inner circle), department heads (co-clergy, teachers and ritual leaders) and workers (the general membership). All departments must get along after a fashion if the group is to work long term. The reason most groups fall apart after some time or become prone to divisiveness and politics lies in the formative structures that underpin all else about the group. The first of these is:
How you communicate with others shapes and defines what kind of response you get. To shape that response to be most compatible with your own and your group’s goals, most of us have a little brushing up to do in the area of how we communicate. From my alma mater, CoachU, comes “The Certified Communicator Program.” Please go print and fill out this program now before you read any more. It’s here: http://www.wyrdweavers.org/files/metis/plsc/certifiedcommunicatorpgm.pdf
So, how did you do on the Certified Communicator? Did you find some areas to brush up on? Are you relating as well as you could to those you lead? Make sure your leadership and communication with others is as pristine as it can be. One of the first things to do in any situation where two or more are collaborating, such as in a circle or larger organization is to:
LAY DOWN GROUNDRULES FOR COMMUNICATION
That’s so important that I put it in big bold letters. Here’s what you have to know about each other BEFORE YOU SET DOWN ANY OTHER RULES AND REGS for your organization:
- What are approved methods of communication between us? Example: “Our circle/organization deems contact by phone, email and our internet newsgroup to be ‘official communication’ between group members”.
- What are the agreed-upon parameters of communication between parties? What do we do if those agreements are broken? Example: “Respect must be shown other members at all times. We deplore and prohibit flaming, arguing and personal attacks. We have systems in place to deal with such things as they arise.” An example of such a system is a “three strikes rule” where an attacking party is given a warning by any other member of the group who perceives a flame, argument or personal attack in progress. If the attacking party continues in their arguments, they are given a second warning, from the Council/Board or Presiding Clergy level. The member is summarily dismissed from the group should there be a third incident of flaming, personal remarks or attack. This is a typical way in which such things are handled in groups where it is presumed all are adults and will behave in a responsible fashion.
- When a communication has been vended by one of us, what do we agree upon as reasonable time lapse between such communication and its response? Example: “Response to the content of an email, phone request or newsgroup item posted must take place within 24 hours. If respondent is too busy to provide a full response in 24 hours, respondent must signal intent to re-initiate contact within a pre-defined amount of time, before 24 hours has elapsed.” That last means vending a response the like of: “Hey guys, all hell is breaking loose here and I’ve got no time right now, I’ll get back with you before noon on Friday concerning this issue.”
- What are consequences for lack of communication (and hence, lack of taking personal responsibility within the organization) during one time period/for one issue, and continued lack of communication? Example: “If a response from the party or parties addressed is not sent within said 24 hour time period, party or parties will forfeit their right to input on the project in question. If a party refuses to respond (or is consistently late in their response) three such times, said party will be considered on suspension from the organization” (this from usual such corporate rules – your organization may wish to be more liberal).
- What do we do when one or more persons abuse their position in our organization? Example: “Any person in the organization may call all members to a council to discuss behaviors of presiding members that are not fitting with organizational parameters. All attempts including mediation will be made to help the member both to understand and deal with their behavioral difficulty. The ruling council will have final say on the disposition of a member deemed abusive of their position.” Why is this included in a list of communication parameters? Because most of the dysfunctional behavior in organizations arises from faulty communications, deliberately misconstrued communications, egregious lack of communication … you get the picture. By allowing the membership to provide checks and balances on the ruling council you are empowering them to take responsibility for how the organization is led. A good thing all around.
This is but a shortlist sampling of potential communication clauses your organization may wish to incorporate into their bylaws and are the very first things that need to be decided upon. Think these sound draconian and restrictive? Try the chaos of an organization that is not communicating cleanly between all members!
Pointers to Develop a Strong Community
Nothing worth doing is worth doing alone. Given that, it helps to have a strong personal network and spiritual community; people you can share your love, life, dreams and concerns with to a level of intimacy once reserved only for family. Here is an excerpt from the Personal Foundation Program (see below) on how to develop such a strong community. Surprise – it starts with being well developed yourself!
When a person has a strong community they:
# Are well-rounded, well-connected, have a reserve in case of trouble
# Expand their personal and professional horizons
# Moves in new, more rewarding directions
What happens if one doesn’t have a community:
# Relies excessively on family members to meet needs.
# Misses out on opportunities for personal/professional growth.
The 10 steps to developing a community:
# I have a best friend.
# I have a soul mate.
# I have at least 10 social friends who I enjoy.
# I have a successful professional network of at least 25 folks.
# I contribute daily (in some way) to people in my community.
# I am loved by people in my community.
# My friends are happy and healthy; they don’t “need” me.
# I feel good enough about myself to be part of a community.
# I actively seek out people whose company I enjoy.
# I can and do say “no” to people who want to be a part of my community, but with whom I do not feel comfortable.
Footnotes & Resources
If you have beliefs, experiences or wounds that days or even many years later cause you to react in a way that is off your center, out of your value structure and could be considered antagonistic or not in the group’s best interest, you need to get them taken care of. People who have been cheated, for instance, always see others as potentially out to cheat them and take action based on that belief. This leads to a lack of trust between parties and a breakdown in communication almost from the start. The best way to handle these limiting beliefs, experiences and wounds is to know exactly what yours are. Know this before you start to form your community, circle or organization. When you start clean of undue past influence, you start strong. To get started, educate yourself thoroughly and know how to get past what blocks you. The resources here will help. Give them a try!
- Basic Coaching Programs & Tools To Help You and Your Circle Grow The CleanSweep Program – http://www.wyrdweavers.org/files/metis/plsc/staffexcellence.pdf How To Create An Action Plan – http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/actionplan.html Quality of Life – http://www.thomasleonard.com/karla/formsCD/209qualityoflife.pdf Connect To Your Dream Team – http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/dreamteam.html
- Find what is draining your energy and eliminate it. Once you plug energy drains you’ll find not only more energy to do what you have to but decreased illness, increased optimism, good cheer and focus.
- Get your own neediness dealt with so that you won’t play out the same dramas with your coveners that you did with your birth family. You can find out what your core needs are and how to get them met permanently in the NeedLess Program:
- How do you Fill Your Cup? Find out here:
http://www.maryamwebster.com/files/coaching/fillyourself.html and get more juice in your tank on a consistent basis.
- Uncover who runs the programs in your head with the TruValues Program. Once you know what your real values are you can work in situations which support and uphold them.
- If you have addictions, go here for help on first steps:
- The panacea of them all is The Personal Foundation Program – Identifies strengths and weaknesses, helps point up areas in need of refurbishment and gives advice on where to start.
- Want to stop witchwars forever? Be willing to become very, very attractive. For Advanced Mages Only (and those who want to be): The Irresistible Attraction Program.
- Your coven, circle or larger organization in essence contains management and staff. You as a Leader are Management. Here is a great program that will give you solid pointers on how to manage your staff well and promote harmony within your organization.
- CoachVille – free and if you sign up (no cost) they will give you access to programs, files and self-help tips you can use to help yourself and your congregants – http://www.coachville.com.
About the Author: Maryam Webster has just published a book and 2-CD set on Energy Therapies that you can find at her website: http://maryamwebster.com and also runs a certification program for Energy Coaches: http://certifiedenergycoach.com. She will continue to publish articles of a Pagan nature both at her blog: http://maryamwebster.blogs.com and at http://wyrdweavers.org.
About the Author: Maryam Webster has been a shaman-priestess for the past twenty-five years and is a psychologist and LifeCoach of nineteen years standing. Much of her therapy practice has been spent working with Pagan Priests and Priestesses, shamanic practitioners and community group facilitators. She is a recovered survivor of long-term burnout herself. Maryam Webster has just published a book and 2-CD set on Energy Therapies that you can find at her website: Http://maryamwebster.com and also runs a certification program for Energy Coaches: http://certifiedenergycoach.com. She will continue to publish articles of a Pagan nature both at her blog: http://maryamwebster.blogs.com and at http://wyrdweavers.org.