It always astonishes me and frightens me when I see and hear people talk about their spiritual practice remaining the same always and forever and ever. Perhaps it’s because of who I am or Who I work for and relate to, but stasis in spirituality and religious practice doesn’t seem that desirable to me. If it’s not growing and changing, I am not growing and changing. I know if I have been doing the same thing for too long, I am on my way to getting stuck, if I am not already there, and that my stasis is quickly going to turn to stagnation and complacency. I have found that stagnation and particularly complacency is the road to ruin for me and I get tossed on my ass the hardest when I am content with the idea that I know exactly how things are, should be, and should remain. Bad stuff when you work with divinities Who roll with creative destruction and liminal spaces.
With all that being said, I knew before I moved that it was time to re-evaluate my spiritual and religious practices. I held off doing anything new in the old place, since my unhappiness in being there was practically dripping off the walls. As I have pretty much finished settling in to my new place, it’s been time to sit down and figure out what has been working and what hasn’t been working.
2013 was an awful year in many arenas and my personal practice definitely reflected that. Since I was dancing on the brink of a complete stress-induced breakdown more often than not, my practices pretty much boiled down to ‘here’s Your stuff, please for the love of all that is holy don’t throw anything else at me’. I did the minimum to meet my obligations plus whatever new stuff They were leaving on my desk and hid out in the rest of my life in the ridiculous hope that They wouldn’t see me.
In case it isn’t clear, that doesn’t really work. There were times where They let me be, but that doesn’t mean that They didn’t know exactly what I was doing or that I was getting left off the hook(s) that were mine to hang from.
However, 2013 is blessedly over and done with and it’s closing in on the halfway mark of 2014. I’ve been noting what I’ve been changing both slowly and rapidly in my daily and weekly practice and looking at how that is affecting me in the larger scale. The changes involve both new things and old things that I used to do that have made a comeback.
More meditation. Meditation, in some form or another, has been a central part of my spiritual practice for years. Before I became a polytheist, I was flirting with Buddhism on a pretty serious level and did daily or weekly sits at local sanghas or in my home. When the divinities showed up and crashed the party of my life, establishing a regular meditation practice was the first lesson from my first teacher and it is the one that has stuck with me through thick and thin. I’m doing a daily sit of about 30 minutes right now, preceded by formal and informal prayer. My hope is to work up to an hour daily split between morning and evening [which, for me, means a half hour when I get home from work in the morning and a half hour before I go to work in the evening]. It is a powerful part of my practice that I’ll write more about another time.
More prayer. I have started to really intentionally pray. I informally talk with/talk at my divinities fairly regularly, but the discipline of prayer has stuck out as something I have been missing. While it feed my divinities, the practice of prayer is largely for my benefit as I am speaking my heart aloud and forming my gratitude into words. I’m working on writing formal prayers down and have at least two sets of prayer beads planned out. Most of my formal praying is done prior to meditation, but it also happens on the fly. Eleggua often gets most of His prayers while I’m driving or walking in the city.
More writing. I have done an incredible amount of private writing in the last few months and that’s been surprising. I used to primarily journal into a word processing document and save it in a folder on my hard drive, but on a calculated whim, I picked up a spiral bound notebook and started writing there. I wasn’t prepared for the explosion of words that would follow, but it’s there and it feels very, very different from typing. The way my writing comes out via my hand feels way more organic and way more accessible. It is much easier to move a pen across a blank sheet of paper than it is to stare at a cursor. I write more freely and more often, it’s more productive, and much easier to access [flipping pages versus opening individual files]. I’ve even started staging some of the outlines for some of my book projects on paper.
More opening. The result of increasing my meditation, conscious prayer, and changing how I journal has led to me opening more both to my life in general and to my divinities. The result of that is that I find it much easier to let go of preconceived notions, cede control in areas where it is best that I acquiesce, and just generally be the water in the stream instead of the rocks. This has led to profoundly meaningful interactions with my divinities and, in one arena, has completely undone the discomfort, tension, and awkwardness that has hung in the middle of our relationship. In the Buddhist parlance of my unhappy early adulthood, it’s been a sort of softening of my heart.
More dreaming. I used to be an occasional dreamer and would maybe have a dream or two a week, but now I am a person who is dreaming each and every night and usually twice a night at that. This has been both intentional and unintentional—I do work to remember my dreams, but I do not control how many dreams I have. My dreams have turned incredibly vivid and vibrant and I’m starting to cross the line from dreaming to lucid dreaming, which has also been both intentional and unintentional. Sometimes I go to bed with a dreaming agenda, as I do client work via dreams at times, and sometimes I go to bed knowing that at some point I’m going to roll over and scribble something down that I will try and decipher when I am fully awake.
More art. Since I have moved, I have been painting and drawing almost every day. Art is a hugely spiritual practice for me, as it both belongs to my divinities and provides a sort of moving meditation for me. Meditation, prayer, and art are the few times when I truly feel still. I’ve realized that I have a ginormous issue with actually FINISHING pieces [a quick glance around my space finds at least eight unfinished pieces that I am simultaneously working on], but that’s a blog entry in itself.
More talking. I realized the other day that I am having deep discussions with more people on a regular basis than I have ever before. They hear me, I hear them, and I am discovering that we have a lot in common in ways that I had not considered previously. This is a hugely awesome blessing for me, as working a skeleton graveyard shift leaves me with little outside-of-work contact with others on a regular basis.
More evaluating of words and how I use them. All of my divinities value language and how it is employed. They use specific words and concepts for specific reasons and are precise in what They say, so it stands to reason that I should be as precise with my words, as much as I am able. My favorite example of this was a conversation I had recently with a friend about ‘working with’ divinities. For me, that’s an inaccurate description of what it is that I do and implies a type of egalitarianism that I don’t believe exists within relationships [of any sort] with the divinities. I love, work for, serve, offer worship, libate, celebrate, learn from, and am inspired by divinities. I don’t work with Them, really—I work with my brushes and paints and pencils and other tools, and They are not in my toolbox or on my palette. The closest I might get to ‘work with’ is my relationship with my Father, Eleggua, and that’s really us working together or working in conjunction on something that one or both of us thinks is a good idea. My friend thinks that the idea of ‘working with’ divinities is drawn from the sometimes-idea in the pagan community that the divinities are archetypes or thoughtforms. You work with archetypes and thoughtforms because they are of human creation and can serve the needs of humanity. Regardless, that’s been kind of my process with words and language—really breaking down what it is that is meant by a phrase or word, making sure I am being as precise as I can be, and being mindful of what comes out of my mouth.
All of this has resulted in pure awesomeness, honestly. I can see distinct changes in the past few months that I’m really excited about and they just keep building. The maxim of ‘do the right thing and the next right thing will happen’ seems to be at play here.
I’m also finding myself to be more and more busy out in the world. I am booked to go somewhere, do something, and see people every weekend this month and at least two weekends a month through the summer…and I’m thrilled, honestly. I like being at home, but I have also missed doing things and seeing people while being extra sick in the last few months. I don’t think I’m going to stop being sick, but having a whole mess of plans to look forward to makes the sick and the pain much more tolerable.
And there you have it—that’s what my practice has been shaping up as lately!