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Sinful Meditation

Hello sinners! While I’m working on part 2 of my meditation…with a bit of Satan series, I thought I’d share with you my own meditation practice. Over the years I’ve tried various practices, but these are the ones that I come back to time and time again. Spoiler – they’re not really very sinful!

Scandalous Statue Meditation

This is the practice I’ve been doing longest. I learned this from ‘The Mind Illuminated’ and Buddhist nuns in the Thai Forest Tradition. The concept of statue meditation is that you commit to sitting for a period of time without moving. Then, depending on your goals for that session, you do a series of mental exercises.

If you like the sound of statue meditation then I highly recommend reading The Mind Illuminated. It describes the exercises in huge detail. It also goes into the types of practices to do at each level of expertise (the simple exercises need to be mastered before more advanced ones are possible).

My practice


Preparation for meditation is helpful. It can be a ritual in itself. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll go straight into the sit, but I like to prepare if possible.

I clean my teeth and wash my face.

I choose a location and posture. This is usually either a meditation block, a kneeling chair or the sofa if I’m feeling tired. Sometimes I sit, sometimes I lie. It needs to be somewhere I can comfortably remain for the duration of my practice.

I take off my glasses, my watch and set up my phone with a timer. I place them all neatly beside me. During this set up I make a conscious effort to move gently, lovingly and mindfully. All these steps help prepare my mind, allowing me to focus more quickly, easily and joyfully.

The 6 steps of scandalous set up

I then go through 6 points in my mind. This helps focus me on what I’m doing and why. It also helps prevent some problems with distraction, boredom and expectation.

  1. Motivation: what is my motivation for this specific session? Often it’s the desire to have a clearer, more focussed mind. This helps provide drive if I start to feel bored or restless.
  2. Goals: what goals will help me today? (example: ‘I want to work on maintaining awareness while focussing on my breath’).
  3. Expectations: What expectations do I have and can I let go of them? If I can’t let go of them, then it still helps to remain aware.
  4. Diligence: I commit to diligently practicing for the duration of the meditation. This part reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer. This Lucifer is a being of pure will, intent on meeting his goals. Meditation can be difficult, but the mental gains are immense. Combining will with motivation in this way feels very Luciferian to me.
  5. Distractions: I review potential distractions (e.g. pain, mental activity, noises, hunger etc). Note – I don’t try to remove distractions, just be aware that they exist.
  6. Posture: I make sure I’m as comfortable as possible and unlikely to get pins and needles. Some practitioners will tell you to sit through pins and needles. I’m dubious about this – it feels very unsafe to me. I try and get as comfy as possible, then if I need to move in the middle of my meditation I do. I’ve seen people literally leave meditation retreats because it was too hard for them to sit. This feels like such a tragedy to me. I don’t think beginner meditators should ever worry about doing a meditation ‘wrong’. Meditation is self-improvement – as long as you’re helping yourself, you’re doing great!

Reprehensible relaxation

When I first started meditating, I took it very seriously, paying particular attention to focus and attention. This was helpful up to a point, but eventually my practice plateaued. I discovered that I was missing was self-love and joy. Now, I pay much more attention to those things when I practice.

  1. First, I relax all the muscles in my face. I pay particular focus to my eyes, forehead and cheeks. I breathe, relaxing my face until it’s in a gentle smile.
  2. Then I do a body scan, focusing on each part of my body individually, noticing what it feels like and seeing if I can relax it.

Fiendish focus

After I’ve done the ‘self-care’ process of relaxation I start working on focus.

My 4 step process to bring my focus to my breath.

  • Step 1: Coming to the present. I don’t worry about what I’m focusing on at first, as long as it’s the current moment (so not memory, worry, planning, imagination etc). Usually my mind will flit between sensory awareness and mental activity.
  • Step 2: Limit my focus to the sensations related to my body. At this point anything I hear would count as a ‘distraction’. If I notice my attention moving to it, I gently refocus on my body.
  • Step 3: I move my focus to just sensations related to my breath.
  • Step 4: I focus on my breath in a particular part of my body (usually either my nose or abdomen).

Ungodly goals

My exercises depend on my goals for that session and the state my mind is in. Sometimes clarity is easy, sometimes it’s tough. If my mind is active then I’ll do simpler exercises that day. It’s also worth noting that for some meditations, getting to this point would take almost the entire time. For others I have an extended period of time focusing on the breath.

Here are some common exercises I do:

  • Counting my breaths. I focus my attention on the whole cycle of breath and then count up to 10 breaths (I don’t go any higher than 10. If I can do 10, then I either repeat the exercise, requiring sharper focus of myself, or I move onto something else). If I lose focus on the breath then I begin again.
  • Noticing all the sensations related to breath at the nose (e.g. temperature change between the air coming in and air going out, any tightness, other sensations located around the nose etc) and comparing them to each other. I may also compare them to my state of mind (e.g. if I notice strong emotion is there also tightness in my breath? Are my breaths long or short, deep or shallow? How does that relate to my mind?).
  • Working on maintaining good posture whilst focusing on the breath. I often find I notice a tightness at the back of my nose and throat when I start to slouch, which acts as an alert for me.
  • Working on maintaining awareness of my senses (usually hearing because I have my eyes closed) whilst also focussing on the breath.
  • Working on maintaining awareness of my mind whilst focusing on the breath (introspective awareness).
  • Noticing what different mental activity feels like. What does planning feel like? Memory? Imagination? Narrative voice? Drowsiness? What am I feeling? Are there emotions present? What do they feel like?
  • Working on bringing myself out of drowsiness and ‘dullness’ (that pleasant, warm, sleepy feeling).

Devilish distractions

Sometimes I get distracted by a child who absolutely needs me to find Optimus Prime’s arm. Or I worry that I didn’t start my timer and will be left in this statue position for eternity. When this happens I’m usually frustrated, but I work on letting go of the frustration and going back to meditation. I count this as part of my practice. I usually do a quick version of the 4 step process to return to the breath.


The practice ends when my chime goes (on my meditation timer). I open my eyes slowly and gently. I try and maintain the mindfulness and calm for as long as I can as I go about my day. When I first started meditating, mindfulness didn’t last long after the end of a session. Now, I’m finding it lasts a little longer and is also easier to return to during the day.

Resources for statue meditation and presence

The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, PhD – complete meditation guide

Stop Missing Your Life by Cory Muscara – a lovely book which describes how to be truly present and happy. The author spent 6 months in silence, living as a Monk in Myanmar.

Relaxing the face

This is the same exercise that I described in the statue meditation. I focus on relaxing every muscle in my face. It’s an exercise that I learned from the zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I do it several times a day.

I love this exercise because it’s an act of self-care. Sometimes as I do it, I use it as an opportunity to be grateful for my eyes and the work they do allowing me to see. It’s a useful grounding exercise and I find it dramatically improves my mood.

Corrupt consumption (a.k.a. ‘mindful eating’)

In Thailand I spent time with Buddhist nuns, living in the Thai jungle. We followed their daily routine – doing what they would do on a normal day.

Nuns eat twice a day – at 8am and 11.30 (they’re forbidden to eat after noon). When we ate with them we would take our bowls to the food, collect what we wanted and then come and sit back on our mats. After chanting and expressing gratitude for the food, we would eat.

Meals were taken in silence, so all attention could be focussed on eating. To eat mindfully, we would pick up our spoon, take a mouthful and then set the spoon back down. We’d chew slowly, focusing on the taste and experience of eating. We wouldn’t pick up our spoon again until there was no food in our mouth. The idea was that you shouldn’t be thinking about the next mouthful until you’ve finished the first.

After the meal, we would quietly leave the eating area, wash our bowls and spoons, and leave them out to dry. It was pleasant to only have these two items to deal with and to have a routine of washing them as soon as we’d finished. For nuns, those bowls and spoons are the only things they own outside their clothes. Looking at a sink full of washing up, the idea of going back to a single bowl and spoon seems pretty enticing.

I don’t always eat like this (it’s slow and I get impatient!). But it’s a useful exercise. Sometimes I do it for something simple, like eating a piece of fruit. I also find it useful as a way of slowing down during a stressful day.

If you’d like to try it, set your fork down between mouthfuls. Notice what it feels like to chew and swallow all your food before moving onto the next mouthful. Does your food taste different? Are you getting impatient? Are you enjoying it?

Sinful swimming

There’s a Buddhist meditation practice called ‘meditating on the Dhamma’. It involves taking a piece of scripture or a concept in Buddhist philosophy and focussing on it during your meditation. I like to do this whilst swimming.

I decide on my object of focus before I start and make sure I’ve learned it well enough that I won’t need to go back to it. Then I swim back and forth, making my exercise as regular and rhythmic as possible.

I start by grounding myself and noticing the sensations I feel in my body. I notice my muscles, and how the water feels on my skin. Then, when I’m mentally calm, I focus on my subject.

I don’t time the swimming meditations in the same way as the statue ones. I do try to be diligent about it, though, otherwise I’ll lose myself to the sensation of swimming. I make sure I focus on pushing my mind and looking at the concept from all angles before I stop. If I get distracted, I bring my mind gently back to the topic (in the same way I would refocus on the breath during a statue meditation). I try to evoke a mindset of ‘curiosity and care’ whilst contemplating my subject, as if I’m a small child and it’s something new and exciting. This keeps my mind open and flexible.

Courageous compassion (The “Loving kindness” meditation)

This is the only guided meditation I do regularly. It involves first directing love to yourself, then to your loved ones, casual friends, people you don’t know and finally people you don’t like (although not all versions of this practice do the last step).

This can be a really tough meditation; I ended up in tears the first time I tried and ended the meditation after only a few minutes. There are many aspects that people find difficult initially, but it’s been shown to improve overall levels of happiness in those who practice regularly.

Personally, I’ve found it’s helped me be more open to accepting love for myself. I’ve also found it’s improved my empathy and compassion for others, even those who’ve harmed me. That last one’s taken quite a lot of practice to get to though!

Loving kindness meditation from the University of California Berkeley Institute

Those are my main practices. I hope it’s been useful to you to read about them. If you’re beginning your own mindfulness practice then remember – there’s no wrong way to do it. Mindfulness is about you and your goals. Decide what you want to achieve and find a practice that will help you do that.

Hail yourself!

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Meditation…with a bit of Satan

Image of demon brain, eyes closed with a half smile

Meditation’s become a popular subject in the last few years, with teachers, groups, influencers, stars and more jumping on the mindfulness train. With it has come modern takes on traditional approaches. Universities have scientifically verified versions of meditation practices. There are modern practitioners who fuse older traditions with modern science to create something fresh and new. I’ve been meditating for several years now. Recently I read ‘The Satanic Narratives’ which explains The United Aspects of Satan‘s version of Satanic mythology. It struck me that there was a huge amount in common with Buddhism and Satanism. Both are very individualistic religions where the individual is responsible for their own development. I thought I’d explore this further.

The importance of goals in meditation

The single most important thing in meditation is that its goal focussed. One misconception I hear is that it’s just ‘counting your breaths’ or ‘trying not to think’. I’ve never heard of a meditation practice where you try not to think. I would guess this idea comes from hearing about Nirvana, or other states where your mind is calm. But that’s generally a very long way off for those of us beginning to meditate. Accepting where you’re currently at is a large component of mindfulness and meditation. Most of us are nowhere near the stage where our minds are calm. We have swirling seas of thoughts, emotions and other mental activity. Meditation practice in this context generally consists of choosing a specific mental goal and finding the most helpful practice for it. Counting breaths is one tool, but it’s most helpful when done with a specific goal in mind.

Common meditation goals

Depending on the tradition you’re working in there will be different goals. Actually, when you get deeply into meditation, many of the paths converge. If you start out working on focus and attention, at some point tranquility will develop. If you begin by working on tranquility, eventually concentration improves.

Many common meditation goals and relate to different aspects of Satanism. I’ll go through some here.

Lucifer sigil

Goal: Developing attention and awareness, leading to insight – “Lucifer”

The character of Lucifer in mythology is the lightbringer, associated with science, reason and enlightenment. One aspect of Lucifer I admire is that Lucifer didn’t reject God mindlessly. He knew God intimately and chose to reject him. In the ‘timeline’ of the Satan mythos, Lucifer is our first example of Satanic action. This action is a conscious choice that comes from clarity and knowledge. I relate to this as it’s important to me to make knowledge based choices. I believe knowledge is essential to mental freedom. The more unknowns there are in my head, the more likely I am to be unconsciously influenced by them. By developing attention and awareness, I can ‘see clearly’ what’s going on in my head. This gives me the freedom to make more informed choices.

Within meditation practice, there are some common classifications around attention and awareness that it’s worth knowing:

Common classifications of attention and awareness for meditation

  • Single pointed focus

This is where you’re focussed on one thing. It’s actually an intermediate to advanced meditation goal because it’s quite difficult to achieve without falling into stress and tunnel vision. The goal here is to have focus, but with a light and joyful mind. Often, when people start meditating they try to focus strongly on one thing (the breath, a body part, a candle, a meditation object), but end up feeling stressed and tense. To fix this, you work up to single pointed focus by practicing other forms of focus that aren’t so ‘narrow’ and building up your other positive mental qualities as you go.  

  • Introspective awareness

Introspective awareness is awareness of the mind. When you go about your daily life, you’re aware of many things happening around you. Introspective awareness is similar to this but focussed on the mind.

Initially it involves just being aware of what your mind’s doing. Is it thinking or planning? Is it lost in a train of thought? Is it focussed on something? Is there a narrative happening? Is there a memory? Are emotions present?

Once you start to recognise what different types of mental activity feel like to you, you can start going into more detail. Ok, so you know strong emotions are present. Can you label them? How does your body feel when they arise? Do they stay the same or change? Are there other emotions ‘hidden’ behind them? (Fear hiding behind anger is a common one for me). A word of caution here – be prepared that you may find things that are difficult to cope with. If you think this might be the case I recommend doing these practices with a teacher or medical professional involved.

Once I was doing an exercise called ‘sitting with your emotions’. This exercise involves recognising when a strong emotion is present and just sitting with it. Allowing it without judging. At first I recognised that I was angry. So I began by just sitting with my anger, allowing it to be. I noticed how I felt, what my body was doing and some of the memories and thoughts that went along with the anger. Soon, though, I noticed that my anger didn’t feel ‘normal’ to me; I’m used to recognising anger and this didn’t feel like it. I searched around my mind and found that there was another emotion ‘behind’ the anger. At this point I was fairly calm and curious. I invited it to come out. Turned out it was fear. As soon as I invited it out, it became overwhelming. I wasn’t prepared at all. I’d had experience with anger, but always squashed, ignored or repressed fear. I literally didn’t have any basis for how to deal with it. Very quickly I found myself falling into a full on panic attack. Thankfully, a small part of my mind was able to recognise that the way to cope was to allow it. Slightly breathless, I willed myself to stop fighting the fear and let it be. There was still an alarm in my mind, screaming at me that this was dangerous. It felt like it would get worse and worse until my mind shut down. But it didn’t. And eventually it settled. Now, I make a point of sitting with fear often, confident in the knowledge that I’ll be ok. But I tell you this story just as a small reminder that if you take this seriously then it won’t always be comfortable. There are teachers and guides out there – if you think you need them I highly recommend seeking them out. I really don’t recommend accidentally sending yourself into a panic attack and passing out in your bedroom!

  • Open awareness

Open awareness is similar to introspective awareness except that you aren’t limited in your field. It’s essentially awareness of everything around you. The key here is presence. You need to be ‘with’ your current experience. Not thinking about the future, not worrying about the past. Here, now, experiencing your life. Here’s a guided open awareness meditation.

Exercises for developing attention and awareness

Mindfulness of the breath – this is one of the core exercises of many mediators’ practice. There are many facets of this practice – counting breaths, following the whole breath, focussing on the breath at one part of the body (e.g. the breath at the nose). If you’re interested in trying it I recommend one of these guided practices.

Here’s a guided mindfulness of the breath exercise from the Berkley institute

Here’s a 2 minute mindfulness of breathing exercise from a former Buddhist monk

For a more in depth discussion, I recommend ‘The Mind Illuminated‘ by John Yates. The author has a PhD and combines many schools of mediation with current scientific knowledge. It gives a step by step description of how to go from complete beginner to experienced meditator. It’s basically the best meditation resource that I’ve come across so far.

Caution – breathing exercises can be triggering for those with specific traumas. If that’s you, then don’t try it. Remember – the point of meditation is to pick a goal and find the most useful tool to meet it. Breath exercises will be a useful tool for some, but not for others. Some find they can adapt this exercise by focussing on a different part of the body, perhaps a particular muscular sensation. Others don’t like any form of body awareness exercise. Sometimes, working with an external meditation object, like a candle can be more helpful.

Goal: Insight

This goal follows on from attention and awareness. The idea here is that once you see your mind calms and clears, you will think better. You’re essentially giving your mind room to breath. Attention and awareness, especially introspective awareness help you work through mental clutter. Once there’s more room you will find your mind makes connections more quickly and easily. This is where we get the real ‘Luciferian’ side of meditation. These practices help improve our ability to reason clearly and allow us to make clearer, more informed decisions.

Resources for developing insight

In addition to all the resources for attention and awareness, meditating on a subject can be a great way to develop insight. Traditionally you would meditate on a part of the Dhamma (Buddhist literature). For example, meditation on the ‘5 hindrances‘ has been very useful to me. In Buddhism these are 5 mental states that prevent you from developing a healthy mind. But you can meditate on anything. Take a concept that you think has depth and commit to meditating on it for a set amount of time.

I tend to favour seated meditations most of the time, however for meditations on a subject I actually love swimming meditation. There’s something about the motion that helps me concentrate on a subject. Other’s enjoy walking meditation. The key is that you can do something without expending too much mental energy on it – you want most of your mind focussed on your subject. Once you’ve chosen your meditation format, begin by grounding yourself and ensuring you’re present. One grounding exercise is to find one thing for each of the 5 senses. One thing you can see, one you can hear, something you can taste, something you can tough (e.g. the feeling of fabric on your skin) and something you can smell.

Once you’re grounded and present, attend to your subject with an attitude of curiosity and care. Treat it as if it’s completely new and delightful. Look at all aspects of it without judgement if you can. If you find yourself judging, that’s usually a signal that you need to come at it with more playful curiosity. Investigate the source of your judgement, see if there are other ways of looking at it, try and figure out what’s causing the judgement. If you notice you’re confused, try and figure out why. Is there something you don’t know about it? Is there an assumption you’re holding that may be false?

Baphomet sigil

Goal: Balance “Baphomet”

Remember I mentioned that beginner meditators often find that focus can stress them out? Another important point about meditation is that there are many mental qualities to develop. As we work on one, sometimes another can lapse. You work on focus and your joy and peace decrease. You work on joy and your attention ends up wandering. If we want a well rounded practice then we need to stay aware of our mind and work on different aspects of it. I see it a bit like the image below. You have various goals and ideally you want your mind to be balanced. Maintaining all of these positive attributes at once:

Image showing meditation goals of focused attention, joy, peace, relaxation and self love
Meditation goals – the ideal state where all of these positive mental attributes are present at once

In reality, though, our minds tend to be more like this:

Mental state – maybe we have one positive attribute, but by working on that we’ve let others slide

When I began meditation practice I was really upset. I’d just gone through a traumatic, stressful breakup. My worldview was completely shattered. I found meditation just at the point where I was starting to put myself back together. Quickly I latched onto the focus and attention aspects of meditation. It gave me something to do with my mind. Something to work on that distracted me from all the pain. During that time I had a few truly joyful meditation experiences, where it felt like my mind was golden. But I couldn’t get to that point consistently, which was frustrating. It wasn’t until I reread The Mind Illuminated that I spotted all the references to joy. I’d clearly had a blindspot the first time I read the book, focussing more on the ‘serious business’ of attention. Once I started looking for it, joy was everywhere. Every instruction on focus also mentioned light and joyful. I paused my previous practice and started working on bringing joy into everything I did. My practice changed dramatically.

I see the balance of Baphomet in this aspect of meditation. In Baphomet we find opposites – male/female, animal/human, darkness and light etc. Between the opposites are grey areas. The Buddhist concept of the ‘middle way’ is similar. In the images above, each mental state is essentially a ‘middle way’ between two extremes. This is how I visualise them in my own practice – working on a particular mental state is about finding the balance between two extremes. As I work on one, another may fall, but eventually all of them will get closer to the centre.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the obvious difference, though. In Buddhism the middle way is prized at all times – generally Buddhists would not want the highs and lows of desire, scattered attention, ego etc. In my experience of Satanism, though, balance is generally found through embracing those highs and lows as well as the middle path. Personally I find this more fulfilling. When I created this diagram the idea of euphoria being unhelpful did leave me sad. Now, I don’t worry about tracking the middle way so religiously. I certainly haven’t got to the stage of ‘experienced meditator’ yet. If I do, perhaps I’ll feel differently. But for now, I’m going to enjoy riding the waves.

Resources for developing balance

If I was writing this from a Buddhist perspective I’d recommend the 40 meditation objects. These are objects of focus for meditation and the idea is that they are tools to work on particular mental states. Each is intended to develop your mind in different ways.

From a Satanic perspective, though, I wonder if we could have a little more fun with it. I suggest taking the basic concept of a meditation object and finding your own way to balance. Satanists certainly love symbols and we can chose from a whole range of mythology. Try a meditation with the lucifer sigil as an object of focus. Or maybe if you’re feeling daring pick something from the range of Christian superstition – bread and wine perhaps? Or one of those creepy Virgin Mary effigies. I think most Satanists would find those far more repulsive than Buddhism’s skeleton (the 10th ‘object of repulsion’)

It’s also worth trying activity. Meditation doesn’t have to be just hanging out doing lotus position. If you’re feeling depressed or cooped up, go for a walk. While you’re walking pick something to meditate on for the whole time. Maybe you need something intellectually stimulating. Maybe you need something fun and silly. Try to discover what will bring you balance and do it in as holistic a way as possible. Engage the senses and the mind.

Goal: Empowered peace and self love “Belial”

When I was thinking about peace and relaxation from a Satanic perspective, the association didn’t come immediately. Lucifer is a fairly obvious connection to attention and awareness, Baphomet’s always associated with balance, but peace…my natural association for peace was God. Blergh.

Thing is, although I was told as a Christian that God brings peace, I never actually felt it. I distinctly remember the moment I realised that I was an atheist and how calm my mind felt. Honestly, that was one of the first moments I truly understood what peace was – when I gave up all the Christian superstition. Thinking was easier and more natural when I stopped fighting against my own mind to maintain contradictory beliefs.

Satanists certainly don’t value the kind of soppy, harp playing peace that you find in Jesus. I’m dubious about whether it even exists – I don’t see many peaceful Christians around. But I think that there’s a peace that comes with strong self worth, self love and a clear mind. It brings steadiness, conviction and trust in yourself. It’s a much more empowered peace than the Christian version. It also takes work to get to. Meditation is not easy – you can’t ignore all your issues and just trust in some invisible man in the sky. You gotta do it yourself. Do the difficult work of knowing yourself. It’s in this sense that I see the strong individualism of Belial; in a Satanist’s empowered peace.

Resources for developing relaxation and peace

Thich Nhat Hanh

I recommend anything by the zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I particularly like his ‘How to…’ books. How to fight, how to love, how to eat etc. One of his exercises is to try to relax every muscle in the face. How often do you find yourself tensing your forehead, or frowning? Try for one minute each day, to see if you can relax your face as much as possible. I do this almost every day.

Body scan

The idea behind the ‘Body scan‘ is to calm the mind by relaxing the body. Did you know that 80%-90% of the Vagus nerve signals are actually body to brain, not the other way round? (source – psychology today) For years, Buddhists have known that relaxing the body can relax the mind. The anapanasati sutta (the Buddhist text on mindful breathing) contains 16 steps, the first 4 of which are all to do with mindfulness of the body. Now, the science seems to be catching up. There’s a whole body of psychology that uses somatic methods to heal or prevent psychological trauma. Deb Dana’s work on the Polyvagal theory and Peter Levine’s work on somatic healing are both excellent resources for this.


The idea of ritual as a scientifically verifiable source of self-help is becoming more widely recognised. Ritual – ‘The Devil’s Tome‘ by Shiva Honey contains descriptions of the benefits to ritual, as well as self love rituals you can perform. For scientific study on ritual, you can look at Harvard Professor Francesca Gino’s work.

Part 2 coming soon: Developing Joy, Equanimity and Presence

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Why I don’t like forgiveness

Image of Kintsugi bowl

When I was around 5 I was attacked by a member of my family. This became the single most influential event in my young life. It was devastating to my mental health. For most of my childhood I suffered from nightmares, I had trouble focusing, maladaptive daydreaming, insomnia, social problems, anger and shame (I never told anyone about it until years later). The event wasn’t the only cause of my problems – my homelife was pretty awful – but this experience was the center of the vortex in my mind. I really needed a way to heal from it.

Forgiveness in Christianity

I grew up Christian, and learned about forgiveness in Church. They presented lack of forgiveness as a poison that would damage only you. As a young Christian I understood very well that what was going on in my head wasn’t good for me. I felt like crap and my relationships were all suffering. My relationship with the attacker was almost non-existent. The only escape I knew of at the time was forgiveness – I believed that forgiveness would help me move on.

The trouble was, there was no real education around how to forgive. It was about ‘letting go’ but how do you do that? I cried myself to sleep night after night. I wanted to forgive, but didn’t know how and felt worse and worse because I couldn’t move on.

A Poison Tree, by William Blake

As a late teen I read William Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’:

I was angry with my friend; 
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe: 
I told it not, my wrath did grow. 

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears: 
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles. 

And it grew both day and night. 
Till it bore an apple bright. 
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine. 

And into my garden stole, 
When the night had veild the pole; 
In the morning glad I see; 
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
–William Blake

There was something wonderful about this poem, and the schadenfreude when his anger ends up killing his foe. I knew it was inaccurate to some degree (I had, after all, learned that the ‘poison’ would only affect the non-forgiver). Yet, after years of being unsatisfied by forgiveness and the Church’s teachings around it, this alternative take was cathartic. I didn’t think more on it that that.

Forgiveness in popular culture

Cycle forward around 15 years, where I’m an adult taking a speaking course. Part of the course involved ‘forgiving yourself’. This part didn’t work well for me. I liked Buddhist and meditation based approaches centering on acceptance and self-knowledge. I mentioned that I didn’t like the concept, but I did suggest that maybe I’d ‘got forgiveness wrong’. Others confirmed that, yes, I hadn’t quite got forgiveness right – that forgiveness was about acceptance rather than ‘letting go’. I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable. I felt like there was something ‘wrong’ with me because the concept of forgiveness didn’t work for me. The well meaning, but sanctimonious responses of the other participants didn’t help.

Forgiveness can be triggering

Go forward another year or so, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with Satanists from The Satanic Temple. We were talking about forgiveness. And in that very inclusive, non-judgemental, atheist space I finally felt safe enough to say what I really felt ‘you know what, I just don’t like the concept of forgiveness – I think it triggers me’. Turns out, others agreed. Some thought it was quite a Christian concept, and an unhelpful one at that. Even those for whom forgiveness worked could see why I’d feel that way. Hearing my feelings confirmed and validated felt like breathing. Finally.

Forgiveness is so woven into our culture that we accept it without question; it’s a ‘good’ thing that healthy people do, even in secular spaces.

I think it’s important to remember that it’s just a concept. One of many in the field of self-healing. Christians often don’t treat it that way, though. They treat it as if ‘forgiveness’ has some objective reality. As if there’s a definition of forgiveness that you can either get ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

There is no objective definition of forgiveness

Since discovering Buddhism I’ve done a lot less judging things as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and looking a lot more at effects and the complexity of human existence and psychology. Culture and experience affect what forgiveness means before it even gets to us. Then when it does get to us, how we engage with it will depend on our experience. Our understanding of ‘forgiveness’ will vary wildly based on who we are, what our experiences are, how it’s been taught to us and a multitude of other factors.

This means that some will find it a healthy and useful concept to work with. Some, unfortunately, will have negative and even traumatic experiences of it, which will make it less useful to them. That doesn’t mean we’ve ‘got forgiveness wrong’ or need to change anything about ourselves so that we can ‘do forgiveness properly’. We can, if we want. But it’s certainly not necessary – there are plenty of other ways to heal ourselves.

My history with forgiveness is one of trauma. It’s bound up with many unhealthy teachings and experiences from my Christian upbringing. And it’s been completely useless to me in helping me move forward.


Image of a broken bowl, repaired using the art of Kintsugi.

In Japanese culture there’s a practice called ‘Kintsugi’, which is where a broken pot is repaired, using precious metals. It’s become a very popular image in trauma therapy, especially for people with PTSD or C-PTSD. As soon as I saw it I immediately related. This image was about me. Not about my attacker (as all the forgiveness teaching had been). It helped me view myself as a person in need of healing, and for whom healing was possible.

Embracing experience rather than letting it go

I’ve never done well with ‘letting go’. I’m not even sure it’s possible or desirable for me. This was one of the things I didn’t ever understand as a child – you can’t forget painful experiences, so how can you ‘let them go’? As an adult, I know that trauma, past relationships and other experience has all left it’s mark. It’s my experience, whether I like it or not.

Power, control, utility, future, wholeness

When I started thinking about myself and how to heal I ended up with 5 areas to work with: Power, control, unity, future, wholeness.


We don’t really like power as a society. It has some connotations of undue influence. But actually we all need power. It’s one of our basic needs. If humans don’t feel they have enough power they try all sorts of harmful ways to get it, whether or not they realise it.

In terms of trauma healing, power, for me is seeing clearly what power I do and don’t have. When I was attacked, I didn’t have power. That was a combination of many things, age being the main one. Now I’m an adult, there are still some times I don’t have power, but others where I do. And every time I heal or work on myself I develop my own personal power more. And that’s a good thing. Powerful, happy people can do a lot of good in the world.


This is similar to power as it’s also about accepting when I do and don’t have control. For example, I have no control over the past. I also have no control over my attacker and how they’ve reacted subsequently. I do have control over how I respond to them now, though. How I protect myself and my family in the future. I also have control over my own healing journey. My own ability to develop my power.


One of the things I always hated about forgiveness is that it was so negative about what had happened. So black and white. Something ‘bad’ had happened and the answer was to move on from it. No, no, no. Our experiences make us who we are and that includes our difficult ones. Some of the most warm, empathetic and powerful people I know are those who’ve gone through awful experiences and have used them.

It’s vitally important to use your traumatic experiences. And I use ‘vitally’ in both senses of the word. Because as soon as you make your trauma your own it becomes part of your power. It can’t hurt you as much because you’ve taken it and made it into a source for tremendous good.


Forgiveness was always about the past. Moving on or moving forward is about the future. We have value as humans. Some of us have lots of money (financial value). Some of us have lots of knowledge (wisdom, insight, educational value). Some of us have experiences (experiential value). As much as it hurts, trauma is part of that value. And we can use to make a better future for ourselves and the ones we love.


For most of my life I’ve felt cracked and broken. Like there’s something wrong with me. But I’ve come to realise that that’s the Christian upbringing talking. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just a normal human being who’s been hurt. By embracing and working with my traumas, though, I’m becoming something more than I was before. Christianity says that you have to be innocent and untouched to be whole. I say that’s bollocks. We’re all just human. But if we can heal and move forward then we become humans enriched with lines of gold.

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Ritual for moving on without forgiveness

Fuck Forgiveness ritual A ritual for moving on, without using the concept of 'forgiveness'. What you'll need: - A journal - 5 bowls of milk and some food colouring - A consumable (symbolising the thing you want to move on from) - A receptacle (symbolising forgiveness. Don't worry - we won't use it) Ritual set up Circle with the 5 bowls around the outside, and forgiveness to the side Journaling This journaling exercise is to help focus the mind on the complexity of your experience. Make 3 columns - positive, negative and neutral. Write as many aspects of your experience as you can, for each column. Commit to embracing all aspects of your experience. Ritual steps (to begin, sit or kneel inside the circle) 1. I choose to eat/drink. I embrace my experience and allow it to be part of me. 2. It is part of my power 3. I control how I respond to it 4. I will use it 5. I will move forward with it 6. It is part of me and I am whole 7. It is done

I’ve always had trouble with the Christian concept of forgiveness. You can read more about this in my post about ‘Why I don’t like forgiveness’. When I was growing up, forgiveness is marketed as ‘letting go’. It’s really focused on whoever has harmed you. Well, sometimes that’s just not possible. My personal opinion is that focussing on yourself, and moving forward is far healthier and just more feasible than worrying about forgiveness.

Ritual for moving on instead of forgiving

Forgiveness, for me, holds connotations of trauma, unhealthy teaching, superstition, theism, assumption, expectations and more. That’s a lot of baggage for something that’s supposed to help me.

I created this ritual for myself. It’s a ritual about moving on with life. I used the symbols of personal power, utility, control, future and wholeness, whilst deliberately keeping forgiveness out of my space.


The practice of designing the ritual graphics ended up being cathartic itself. It uses Kintsugi imagery – the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The symbolism of our trauma being a source of strength and beauty made sense in the context of moving on.

Ritual circle: finding the sacred in the mundane

The ritual uses a circle a ‘safe space’ for me to work. Everything to do with the ritual is inside the barrier, and forgiveness is left outside. As an avid reader of fantasy, I’ve come across the concept of ritual circles a number of times. The ones that really stuck with me were from the Dresden files and Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the end of the Lane. In both these works, circles form an invisible barrier.

For years I believed the sacred to be the possession of the church. Something guarded and protected (think Communion – a Christian ritual which must be led by an ordained minister). Being able to create something sacred for myself from a silly fantasy novel was incredibly freeing. Circles of safety resonate very deeply with me. Sometimes our minds’ need that – for us to embrace things that resonate and allow them to be sacred for us.

A ritual circle can be made of anything – string, flower petals, sand etc. You can even just draw a circle on the ground with your hand.

Consuming a symbol of experience

The first part of the ritual involves consuming a symbol of it. Sometimes letting go is impossible; sometimes experience is too strong just ‘forget’ or ‘not think about’. Consumption symbolises allowing experience to be part of us. A bit like Captain Marvel soaking up that raw energy and becoming the most powerful superhero around. For my ritual, I used bread and wine – subverting the Christian ritual of communion. As long as it’s safe to consume, anything can be used.

Choosing the right trauma for ritual release

When I came to perform the ritual, I was planning to use a symbol of one of my traumas. I hoped the ritual would help me move on from it. When it came to it, though, I found that I couldn’t go through with it. I was starting to panic. I felt that I wasn’t ready to ‘move on’ in the way I wanted to and felt that the ritual was ‘rushing me’. My mental techniques weren’t working. Initially, I told myself that I didn’t need to be ‘perfect’ after the ritual – the trauma may still hurt and that was ok. I wouldn’t have ‘failed’ if my mind still returned to it. Although, I knew this was true intellectually I didn’t feel it. I was physically shaking at the idea of performing the ritual for one of those traumas.

I decided in the end to do the ritual using Christianity. Although I have some anger related to Christianity, I have mostly come to terms with it and am able to use it for something positive in my life. In some ways I felt that I wasn’t pushing myself enough. I wanted to use the ritual to help heal, but it didn’t go that way. This ritual ended up being more of an ’emotional marker’ for me. Most of the healing came from creating it, not doing it.

I want to talk more with people who have more experience of ritual than I do. I’ll be honest, it was a little bit of a head-fuck for me. There’s a line between using ritual to mark a point of healing and using it to actually facilitate healing. I haven’t got my head around exactly what that means yet. Something to explore.

Anyhoo, onwards. Christianity was probably about the right level of trauma for this ritual. Still some anger there, but nothing that would send me over the edge.


When I first created the ritual I expected to go straight into the circle and begin. However, I hadn’t anticipated how complex and ingrained trauma is into our experience. It felt…big. Too much to tackle. Journaling is popular in other rituals, and I could suddenly see the sense in it. I took my journal and created three columns – positive, negative and neutral. Then I wrote down everything I could think of about Christianity. It helped calm me and get my head around the complexity of my experience. Including the positive also helped me get into the mindset of ‘moving on’ vs ‘letting go’.

Beginning the ritual

Once I was ready, I stepped into the circle. At this point, I left the circle partially open – my ‘safe space’ wasn’t closed yet. I placed the forgiveness receptacle outside my area, with a certain satisfaction and then closed the circle, using silver thread. I had milk and 5 bowls with me – I poured milk into each bowl, placing them in position and saying their representative word; power, control, utility, future, wholeness. Then, saying the ritual words ‘I choose to eat and drink. I embrace Christianity and allow it to be part of me’, I consumed bread and wine as a symbol of my Christian experience.


It wasn’t an accident that the first words of my ritual were ‘I choose’. Because often this choice was the thing that was taken away from me as a Christian. So much of Christianity is about bondage to an arbitrary authority or the ideas that go with that. Everyone knows about the barriers to particular action, but there are mental impediments too. You try and think through something logically but you have to factor in what the Bible says, what ‘Christianity’ says, what ‘God wants’ or even that God must exist. It’s exhausting. For me, atheism represents freedom – freedom to follow logic and reason, to live and think the way I want without arbitrary barriers.

Sin as a stain on innocence

When I was a child, my Church loved using visual metaphors for the various dogma they wanted to instill. Many of these centered around the idea of sin being like a stain on the innocent human (sex before marriage was also visualised like this). I watched clergy and other speakers drip ink into liquid, pour paint onto white sheets, stain the white t shirts of fellow parishioners.

I’m a hugely visual person, so this imagery did what no amount of second rate dialectic could – it got into my brain and stuck there. When I first had sex before marriage I felt dirty. I literally imagined myself as one of those white sheets, now with an irremovable blotch.

Stripping the superstition

As this had been such a powerful image for me it felt right to use it for my own purposes. I took food colouring and dripped it into each of the 5 bowls, saying the ritual words at each stage. Subverting this Christian image in a visual, experiential way and for my own purposes was incredibly powerful. It’s empowering to use Christian symbols that I’ve grown up with but without the superstition.

To me, the act of dripping food colour into milk symbolised that we’re not supposed to remain pure and untouched. We’re human and need to live. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong – our experiences make us colourful and interesting. By the end of the ritual I had 5 white bowls, with splashes of colour in each. I took a moment too look at the different shapes and patterns I’d create, and appreciate how fun and different each one was.

It is done

It’s important to end rituals properly. With ritual we’re working with the mind. As an atheist, I don’t believe in anything supernatural or superstitious. But I do believe in the entirely scientific field of psychology. And psychologically, the format, gravitas and attitude to a ritual all add to the experience and make it more powerful. I chose to close my ritual with the very commonly used words ‘it is done’ and at the same time ‘broke’ my ritual circle. Time to move on.

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Evil Microbe and the Pastor #stayhome

Comic showing evil microbe dressed as Jesus telling a pastor that churches have to remain open. He says ‘a message from a Jesus! Praise the Lord’. Then you see a church full of people and evil microbes. The final panel shows god the father and Jesus having a conversation. Jesus says ‘what are they doing’ and God replies ‘God knows’.

Just been reading the news and today it was a triple whammy:

  1. Idiot President Trump has just deemed places of worship as ‘essential
  2. One American pastor refused to follow lockdown and insisted on keeping his church open. Now, there are a few of these but this guy is different because he’s just died of coronavirus.
  3. Another American pastor is in legal trouble after refusing to abide by social distancing guidelines. One of his congregation has just died and the lawyer representing him has just been hospitalised with Covid-19.

What’s an illustrator to do except express her ire, disgust and annoyance in a satirical comic.

Image of Gel Mel shrugging

I wish it goes without saying, but apparently it still has to said – please, please, please stay home. And when you have to go out, wear a mask.
If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend Tomas Pueyo’s articles on medium – this one is specifically about how wearing masks helps. Stay safe.