It Can Go No Further…For Now: Thoughts on Extemporaneous Spiritual Practices

There is always that moment of frustration. When you are trying to work in a particularly interesting aspect of magickal working into your own practice, and it just does not seem to fit. For me, that is the usual clue that it should not be added, not even in some heavily modified form. I am not one of those folks that really deals with complicated components to my Spirituality. I like simplicity — the feel of smooth, clean, unadorned aspects of magickal working or ritual. No extra steps. No numerous days of meditation leading up to the rite. Just a simple technique of getting myself as close to the mood and mode of doing – and then just doing. I am constantly looking for magickal techniques to try and even adapt, to my own personal practice. However, sometimes what I try just does not really work.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I cannot fit an elephant into a thimble. Nor can I turn a cat into an aardvark. Some magickal techniques or pieces of ritual framework just do not fit – no matter how much I want it to. For me, this little reminder is a way to keep my practice under control. Perhaps, what I am trying to change is a technique I might need to work with a little more before I start changing out parts. Perhaps what I am trying to add just complicates the mix too much – adds too many moving parts and alters the “taste” of what I am doing?

In a manner of speaking, much of what I do in ritual and magick and prayer is similar to cooking food. I did not learn how to boil eggs after my first try. I tried different techniques that I got from discussions with other folks, tv cooking shows, and even recipe books. I utilized each technique until I found one I was comfortable with. Only after a few dozen tries did I try altering pieces of it to try and “perfect” the methodology of boiling eggs. I really was not trying to “perfect” anything though. I was trying to find little minute details in the recipe’s direction – the process – that would create subtle differences in the boiled eggs that I produced.

I use the same technique for working magick. I find a technique that works, and continue to use it over and over. I write down the results of what I do, and when I find a pattern of magick that works – only then do I try to alter little pieces to see where it can go for me. Now, considering how little I use magick techniques – these types of changes can literally take forever. At least for me. But for ritual techniques – that’s a different story altogether.

I am constantly making changes to my ritual format. I add one particular component here, and remove another over there. My preferred method of ritual is completely impromptu. Absolutely off the cuff. And to be completely honest, I do not recommend this to anyone out there. Going completely impromptu in your ritual practice can be quite a jarring experience, particularly if you are part of a group. Most people like a firm, solid basis to work from. Working impromptu does not always provide that. Now, for me, that means working with some disparate, and sometimes unpredictable, energies. if you have ever talked with me face-to-face, you are aware that I tend to have three-to-five thoughts running concurrently in my head, along with the conversation we are having. For me, its a very similar experience to working impromptu ritual. If you can handle calling a single quarter and than shouting out “SQUIRREL!” as another shiny catches your eye, and then picking back up where you were….impromptu ritual formats might be something to investigate.

So what do I do with all the apparent detritus from all this experimentation? Well, being the pack-rat I am, I save it. Usually in written form in one of my many notebooks. I never know when I might come back to a technique or format and utilize it. And sometimes, the stuff is fun to look back on, roll my eyes, and think – did I *really* try that? Believe me, a sense of humor is always a handy thing to have, particularly when you take a few steps back and peek at what was.

There are detractors to the idea of impromptu ritual as well. Typically, it comes people who are far more attuned to the practice of group ritual. And that dissent makes sense if you spend a few moments thinking about its typical area of genesis. Most group ritual is a journey for the members not in control of the calling of the quarters or of the leading of ritual. The focus is usually on taking everyone else on a sensory journey. Extemporaneous ritual would potentially confuse those in the ritual, and would be quite the unbalanced handful of moments. So, those that are typically in favor of group ritual would prefer the calmer waters of scripted ritual. In my eye’s mind, it makes absolute perfect sense.

The same would hold true when it comes to impromptu spiritual practice. A sporadic energy could bring group practice to its literal knees. And it could potentially be a fatal moment for a new group that was trying to find its collective footing. For me, as a solo Pagan, impromptu spiritual practice takes me into corners of my own personal beliefs that I would likely have never visited. That momentary jump from place to place can feel much akin to a hyperactive kitten chasing toys in seven different places throughout the house…all at the same time. But that breathless jump from point to point can spark some really mad fires of Awen. Again, I cannot emphasize how much one needs to be grounded in the basics of their Spiritual Path prior to undertaking these choppy waters.

Working through an extemporaneous or impromptu practice of one’s Spiritual Path can be quite the jarring experience. At times, you can land square on your ass on the concrete and walk away rubbing both cheeks. And for some that can be the stopping point. I cannot count the number of falls and tumbles I have had in using this style of practice. Likewise, I cannot count the number of times that I stood up, dusted myself off, and muttered about how that did not go the way that I had expected. Nor can I count the number of times where I realized I was trying to squeeze that fourth leg of the elephant into the thimble. I am always willing to try again. I am also willing to admit when that fourth leg is not going to make it into the thimble. Extemporaneous Spiritual Practice is not just about exploring your limits and pushing boundaries…it is also realizing when you have reached the limits and conceding that this is far as this can go….for now.

One thought on “It Can Go No Further…For Now: Thoughts on Extemporaneous Spiritual Practices

  1. For group ritual, I can totally recommend having enough frame to hold everyone together and making space inside that for the off the cuff stuff. For example, agree to call the quarters, but then do the calling in the moment. It works. You’ve got to have a bit of framework to hold a group ritual, but you can find your words in the moment, and a group can go with the flow – it may be chaos sometimes, but i think it’s worth it.

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