Reframing Your Spiritual Practice

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Whenever Jow and I have a moment of time, we like to pretend that we will always have the luxury of time and immediately set about reorganizing our lives, both together and as individuals.  Sometimes it sticks (like we’ve been cooking more together), sometimes less so (See: Mount St. Laundry in the bedroom).  Inevitably, the conversation will cycle around to how we suck at having a spiritual practice.  We sometimes slap together a pooja to do together, we make offerings of water, light and incense to our goddesses, spirits and ancestors, I make offerings to my Ladies, he meditates sometimes, we do half asleep japa, once in a while we will “whale spout” (a mediation from an old book, I forget the actual name) but it’s all v. ad hoc which is v. unsatisfying to Jow.  He wants to treat this like it’s the first time he’s ever gone on a diet.  Hardcore!  Constant effort!  No excuses!  Other fitspiration here!

Me: That’s not going to work.

He: Yes, it will.

Me: Has it worked to date?

He: I can’t hear you.

Me: Maybe if you made time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when you don’t have class, you could then work on your practice in the mornings.  Three times a week is much more regular than zero times a week.

He: I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

Me: . . .like, I just got paid to write a book about getting your shit together?

Him: *stony silence*

Me: PEOPLE COME TO ME FOR SPIRITUAL ADVICE.  I AM PAID TO GIVE IT.

Him: I want to hear how this will work this time!

Me: It’s not gonna work, boo.  You need an actual achievable goal and then work really, really hard to stick the landing on it.  That’s it.

Him: Why can’t you just tell me what I want to hear?

Me: I am not about that life.

 

I’ve thinking about it though.  Maybe it’s not just about goals and charts and working at your personal practice even when you really don’t want to and all that drudgery.  Maybe your spiritual practice shouldn’t be focused on tedium.  That doesn’t seem like an awesome way to move forward in becoming better connected with your goddesses, spirits and ancestors.  Pretty soon you’re all just avoiding each other because who wants to be met with grim faces of determination but obviously wishing that you were doing something, anything else but this?  Your best friend/mother/significant other would not like it, I highly doubt the goddesses, spirits and ancestors are going to be all, oh hooray!  Here’s ant 1032294848747347 again making that same damn face about trying to hang out together.  It’s okay, ant 1032294848747347!  I’m just happy you showed up.

At least . . .that hasn’t been my experience.  I mean, yeah yeah if your faith has a lot of suffering in it, it can sort of be mashed together to work but mostly I think no one really likes being treated like an obligation.

Here’s a thought: Instead of constantly throwing yourself at that glass window of whatever you consider is A Serious Practice, how about you reframe it with things you actually enjoy doing?  So much of how we present ourselves to ourselves and others is based on how we frame things in our heads.  Which isn’t depressing: (a) I’m a sexy zaftig person who can drop it like it’s hot or (b) I’m so fat, I’m so hideous and I’m inherently unlovable to others because of it?  So if your head is filled with more than b it’s much easier to go about your daily business.  Maybe you will never, ever have two hours a day to meditate.  Why?  Because you hate it.  Who wants to do anything for two hours a day that they hate?  No one.  You can keep banging your head against That Thing in Your Practice You Hate Doing for, like, enlightenment or whatever (which is a valid choice if that’s something super important to you but it’s not all that important to me personally) ooooooooooor you can reframe

For example, I was recently at a Pagan Pride.  The “obvious” spiritual choice for me would be for me to participate in the main public rituals.  Except, I hate outdoor public rituals.  I can never hear anything, I’m never sure what’s going on because it’s usually not my tradition and I don’t want to drink out of a cup with like twenty to fifty strangers.  Pass.  I feel like getting my ass up at 5:30am before the sun even got his ass out of bed should count for something.  I feel like paying my table fee to support Pride should count for something.  I feel like putting in all of that time and effort to make my shop look magical and pretty only to take it down in ten hours should count for something.  I feel like lugging all my wares across a trolley track should count for something.  I feel like smiling and being kind to whoever enters my shop even when I am tired of interacting, should count for something.  I feel like taking the shop down and going home after the sun went to sleeps, should count for something.  Because let’s be really real here, Charmers: no one makes a fortune just by selling handmade goods at local events and Etsy.  Trufax!  At this point, I go almost more for arranging flowers at the farmer’s market to take home, the food trucks, the friends I’ve made, getting dressed up, the mushrooms from the farmer’s market and to leave the house than I do for the cash.  The cash is good, I like getting it but it is not so impressive that it is worth doing all this in and of itself for.

Doesn’t being in service to your local spiritual community count as part of one’s practice?  Jow thinks no because there’s more shlepping and less incense, but I think yes.  All of that work should count for something.

What about in service to your neighborhood?  There was a little girl on our block who liked to look at the Buddha who lives under our bushes and liked to look at the bird seed blocks.  I finally had a moment to breathe and I decided it would be a good thing to create something for the sake of creating which would recharge my batteries and is an offering to my goddesses and spirits because I am creating glamour/beauty for the sake of creating it instead of trying to live off of it.  So I spent an hour and a half at Michaels to find all the goods I needed to create a tiny fairyland for about $20.  I then built it, as pictured and put it under the shrubs, slashing away at thorn bushes.  It’s an offering to our local land spirits and our local tiny people who have squealed a lot while passing.  And I think that’s worth something too.

 

 

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  

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3 Responses

  1. Some thoughts:
    1) “You need an actual achievable goal and then work really, really hard to stick the landing on it. That’s it.”
    Damn right.

    2) “I think no one really likes being treated like an obligation.”
    No kidding! And I can’t overstate that one enough!

    3) “Doesn’t being in service to your local spiritual community count as part of one’s practice? Jow thinks no because there’s more shlepping and less incense, but I think yes.”
    Tell Jow he’s dead wrong. See: Pretty-much any clergy worth their salt.

    My wife talks a lot about Good Witching. And, yeah, we’re both hearth-witches, which is about as far away from incense and meditation-for-meditation’s-sake as you’re going to get. But basically what Good Witching boils down to is that all the visualization, dribbly candles, and daily prayers in the world aren’t going to do much if you don’t let people crash on your couch, feed them a good meal, and generally look out for your community.
    And I’m right in her corner on this one.
    When I chop hundreds of tomatoes (er… as I did this afternoon, ’cause it’s that time of year) to make gallons of tomato preserves? I can get very meditative and go into trance (happens more frequently with apples, actually, but ymmv). Tending and harvesting my garden – you know, the bodies of some of my goddesses – is part of my religious practice. And I’m lacadaisical as fuck about it, when I can be. But I do it because food, and because care, and because honour, and all the rest of it. Cooking and preserving food from my own micro-bioregion (I continue to forage, in spite of the back-yard garden. See: 2 litres of neighbourhood-harvested chokecherry purree in my freezer + a couple of litres of neighbourhood-harvested crab apple jelly in my cupboard)… ditto. It’s part of Getting To Know The Neighbours. But here’s the thing. When I teach other people – in a workshop, like the one I’m (in theory…) doing two weeks from now), or on the street, while I’m picking serviceberries – that there is food available for free in the neighbourhood, if you know how to prepare it? That’s *also* part of my religious practice. When I hand over a suitcase of tomato sauce and apple butter and frozen greens to someone who needs groceries, or even just pass along a jar or two of rhubarbicue sauce to a friend who can’t eat nightshades anymore, that’s *also* part of my religious practice.
    Doing a tarot reading for someone – in my living room, or via the anti-oppressive-witchy-woo facebook group – is part of my religious practice. But so is offering someone coffee cake or a sandwich or a hot cup of tea, and giving them space to talk about why they wanted the reading in the first place.

    Look. I did all of half a degree in religious studies. But everyone who made it through Rel101 as an elective in grade 11 knows that the word “religion” comes from “re-ligio”, meaning re-link. Re-ligious practice is ABOUT building and maintaining connections, yes with your deities, but also with the human and non-human people around you!
    I’m going to get really soap-boxy here for a second, but if your religious practice doesn’t include connecting with and helping out your community, what on earth do you even doing here?

    Okay. I’m going to stir my tomato sauce and check on my kombucha. Thanks for writing this.
    Onwards!
    Meliad recently posted..The Tower – What Are You Willing to Let Burn in Order to Get Free?My Profile

  2. This post might have changed my life. What a revelation and release of guilt. My skills (and magical relationships) are good enough to pull down the Big Magick when I really need it, which is not that often.There are always skills I can improve on, but the fact is that I am 55 years old, and I have never made a daily routine of anything, and I suppose I ain’t never gonna.

    But what I *can* do is exactly I love to do, and do well, and offer that up to God/ess/es. So I love information; hyperlinking is the technology of my dreams, and I can pull random facts out of my ass at precisely the time such facts are needed, because I came across that nut of information 12 years ago on a now-defunct website and hoarded it in my neuronic squirrel’s-nest all this time. Surely Thoth is more pleased with that than with a chime candle.

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