Thoughts on a Personal Approach to Daily Practice (aka The Ramen Way)

Well, I am a Pagan. I am a Polytheist. I am a member of a Druid order. All of that is a part of who I am, how I approach my daily routine and the manner in which I find a connection with the wider world around me. I am not here to rebuild or reconstruct ANYTHING. Nor am I here to slam anyone who does use that approach for their own Pagan practices. In fact, I would like to applaud them for finding that works for them. And as much as I would love for some of them to stop slamming others for not following their approach, I am going to try my dead-level best not to do so. Why? Well, let’s explore that a bit, shall we?

RamenEvery so often, it seems to pop up in my news feed…how we need to do ritual this way in order to be “authentic”. We need to follow what the research of others has shown us as the “proper” way to do our rites. Otherwise, we are doing it wrong, and we have no right to call ourselves “[insert whatever descriptive you need here]”. Usually, the constant re-cycle and re-hash of this manifest in a three-to-four year cycle. Twelve to fifteen years ago, I would roll up my sleeves, adjust my personal Bulletin Board armor, lower my lance, and charge right at that windmill. Or ferocious Giant. I forget which. Anyway, I would charge right in, ready to argue the merits against the concept of such “standards” within Pagan belief systems. I would receive a response a day or two later, and off we went dancing our dance. Well, the internet makes such communications much faster. And the days of the old Bulletin Board systems were shouldered out of the way by the Twitters, Facebooks and various blogging platforms of today.

The “right” way. Sounds familiar, eh? Yeah, fundamentalist perspectives. Especially when dealing with concepts such as the Divine, the Sacred, the literal essence of our Spirituality. How do we appease the Gods? How do we contact Them? How do we curry favor with Them? Well, we should use what is tried and true, eh? What our ancestors did. We should handle our daily rites in the same fashion. using the same methods, the same words, the same phrasing, the same approaches. I completely understand the need for all of this for folks who utilize this and find usefulness from it. There is not one thing wrong with that. For them.

I have talked about this before throughout this blog, my approach is far more eclectic, and to some degree more utilitarian. Off-the-cuff ritual formulas are not uncommon for me. While I am unlikely to call the North while facing West, it *could* happen. I am not ready to rule that out, changing the correspondences of the cardinal directions. What feels “right” at that moment, I am willing to use (short of harming people, animals, plants, etc etc). I have my limits, those places where it becomes a bridge too far. But I am willing to step up, place my toes at the very edge and stare down into the abyss. Reconstructionist, I am not. Nor would I consider myself a fundamentalist. My rules are a little more malleable and flexible than those of others.

See, I look back at what those that have come before have done. I see their efforts as a framework to start with, a place of inspiration. An initial step on the Path, if you will. But this time is now, not then. The times have evolved. The Gods have evolved as well. We have evolved. Our understanding of the connectivity with the world around us is different than it was during the time of our ancestors. Nine Hells, our understanding is different than it was a year ago, five years ago, a decade…we are ever-evolving. My rites are moments of devotion, awe-inspired clarity, a celebration of our connection with the Gods and/or Goddesses that call us.

I am not sure about you, but the same old thing every single rite; the same gestures, the same words, the same timing, the same…everything….that gets rather rote, boring and stale after a while. Sort of like my younger, far more broke days of eating Ramen noodles every night for dinner. You just cannot beat five packs for a dollar, in terms of frugality, especially in those tights of paycheck to paycheck living. No offense to the reconstructionists and the fundamentalists out there, but I am not ready to turn my rites, daily or otherwise, into five packs for a dollar Ramen meal. Sure, it worked way back before, and to be honest, I can spice that same Ramen pack up with some added fresh vegetables, a little bit of meat, and some spices. The basic ingredient is still there, that little rectangular brick of noodles – all screaming for hot water and release. But look at all the extra stuff that got added: vegetables, spices, protein…and what if, every once in a while, we left out the Ramen?

I think you can see why fundamentalist anything does not appeal to me. And its fairly clear that a reconstructionist’s territory is somewhere I do not belong. And there is still nothing wrong with either side of that. So long, as we agree that there is no one, singular way to approach our individual approach to the Gods. Or even to how we perceive the Gods. The fundamentalist and reconstructionist approaches do not work for me. I can speak of the hows and the whys that neither appeal to me. I can even provide a narrative, as I have here, about why my approach is better. For me. I have the answers for me. But the honest truth is that the only person who has the truth for you is you. You know what speaks to you, what gets you excited about being under the moonlight (this serious moonlight), participating in the rites to your God(s) and/or Goddess(es). If the reconstructionist path or the fundamental path work for you…awesome. For me…let’s sway, under the moonlight. This serious moonlight. And if you say run, I’ll run with you. And if you say hide, we’ll hide. Probably somewhere in the cabinet. Behind the packs of Ramen.  –T /|\

There is Just Life

“There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ life. There is just ‘life’.”

This quote is in a favorite movie of mine, as well as one of my favorite TV shows of all-time. The movie is “Tombstone” with a dying Doc Holliday reminding his friend Wyatt Earp that life is something you grab by the lapels. The TV show is Babylon 5, where Michael Garibaldi is lamenting to his wife that he merely wants a “normal” life, and this quote is her retort that she throws back in his face. Both are continually reminders about how life should be lived, as I see it.

Turn on the television, flip to a news channel, pick one, and all you will get is a steady stream of bad this or bad that. Because misery and fear sell. Ask any network security specialist and they will give you the basic 411. To sell a product, you don’t need to sell what it precisely does. Rather you need to sell the fear of what MIGHT happen if you do not have their product or services. Once you have the customer fearful, you have them ready to buy into what you are trying to get them to throw their money at.

Why do the networks continue to pander to the bad things that are happening? Mostly because it really what is happening. Granted, there are good things that happen throughout the world. However, the continually harping on the bad stuff locks in viewers. They want the fear. They want to hear about the bad. And in our current environment, they want to get into that anger, that despair, that disillusionment. Let’s face it, negative emotions are extremely powerful and very easy to access.

There are lots of Polytheists that have felt and heard the clarion call of the Gods concerning the rising Storm. I have been there too. Both Coyote and Crow have made a small focus on being there for others, and being steadfast and true in my daily Path. But the focus is not a giant spotlight. My role is not for the front line of all the issues that are there. My role is more of a support function, trying to help others not focus on the negative at all times. And yet, I continually hear that lament for that elusive “normal” life.

Yes, the Storm is here. Watch the news. You’ll see. If you are perceptive to magickal energies, you will likely feel the unease that permeates the environment around us. I can, and I am not particularly perceptive in that fashion. Just because all that negativity is so readily available does not mean that we have to bathe in it in every moment. I would submit that we need to find those positive moments in our daily lives, seize those energies, and try to focus that into our own lives. Truly, not an easy task, to be sure.

So, how to go about helping yourself to reach that positive side? First things first, turn off the damned news. Pick a particular time, say about an hour or so, on one or two days of the week, and watch the news then. Trust me, its all going to be there when you turn on the device. None of it is going to go away. Second, and probably far more important, grounding and centering should be a primary practice in your life. I am not one for providing be-all, end-all mandates in other folks’ spiritual lives, but on this, I come pretty close.

I have heard and practiced many ways of grounding and centering. I have a few techniques that I use, but my favorite is an OBOD Tree Meditation that I ran across on YouTube. For me, it is simple, easy to utilize, easy to visualize (even if you have no trees nearby), and super effective. You can find the video located here.

My job can become a hot mess very, very quickly. Lots of competing demands and changing priorities can knock me off my balance quite easily. When I lose that balance, I know that I need to find some time to center and ground myself. The tree meditation that I have linked above can be easily done at my desk. I don’t need to move my arms in the manner that the video depicts, nor do I need to stand. I merely need to visualize things in my mind until I find that balance I am seeking to achieve. When things are particularly difficult, and I cannot find that balance easily, I can take a quick break and head outside of the building to any location where benches are located. Most of these locations have trees there, and I find it quite relaxing to just sit for a few minutes and focus on the sound of the breeze filtering through the leaves.

Meditations do not need to be difficult things. You are not going to become an ultra-yogi-guru-shaman-type overnight. In fact, you might never reach that level ever in this lifetime. And that’s really “ok”. You just need to be what you need at that moment. Seriously, if you are undertaking your own Spiritual Path so that you could become exactly like some other person, you might be on your Path for the wrong reasons. Just be you. It really can be just that simple.

I have seen the meme that says that “normal” is a setting on the dryer. I cannot agree more. “Normal” is such an ambiguous term. The meaning of what is “normal” is usually different from one person to another. Even a single person can have different aspects of “normal” depending on settings, situations, and other not readily observable variables. So why do we always wish for a “normal” life when the life we have is exactly what it is? I do not need my life to be like anyone else’s. I need my life to be mine. Lived in a fashion that works for me, adheres to my own morals and principles, and is not projected as a default for anyone else. Times are rough enough as it is without me trying to shape my life into some cookie cutter image of perfection that I do not readily believe in, in the first place. There is no such thing as a normal life.

Let’s End Rabbit Season on the Newbies

I truly dislike writing about topics like this. However, as often as it keeps cropping up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the last year, I realize that is a very timely discussion to have. So what is this all about? Well, it has to do with what I consider to be “bad leadership” within the Pagan community. The newest post concerning all of this came through my Twitter feed and pointed me back to Asa West’s blog post over on Witches & Pagans. In terms of length and discussion, Asa is concise and straight to her point concerning the power dynamics that play out publicly and privately, as well as providing some links to recent examples of this taking place within the Pagan community.

Gizmo hiding…sort of

Abusive individuals within the Pagan community is certainly nothing new. Back in 1986, when I started on my Pagan journey, I heard the stories about individuals in authoritative positions withholding promised magickal training for sexual favors. I have watched people that I had understood to be ethical and appropriate visages of leadership crumble into unethical and criminal activity when money entered the equation. There are others who have utilized their positions of community derived authority to enforce their way of approaching and communing with certain Gods and Goddesses as the “only way” to do so. And the stories and examples can literally go on and on and on and on…

I think that one of the issues here is the ease at which people hand the mantle of leadership and authority to others without blinking even once. I remember starting on this Path, how difficult it was to find any Pagans in the open after the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I also remember how cautious the coven I eventually decided to work with handled me. They were in Plano, Texas. I was on the other side of the metroplex at Carswell Air Force Base in west Fort Worth. A trip to visit with them was a one hour trip in one direction for me, and that was when the traffic was favorable. Until I was trusted, everything was on a first name basis only. I was even told to not completely trust what I was being taught. “Trust your instincts when dealing with magic” I was told. That was a piece of advice I have maintained since that day, and even applied it to dealing with others.

Look, I have my bad days. There are times I let my emotions get the best of me in any conversation. I expect anyone else has the same issues in their own life. In one of the examples that are linked from Asa’s post is a moment where a person in a position of authority allegedly slapped someone who had deferred that aspect of authority to the individual. Publicly. Now, I do not know the details of the entire exchange nor do I really want to. However, I will supply this: unless an agreement has been made between myself and the other individual that such an exchange – publicly or privately – was agreed upon – that single moment would be the only time that person would have. The same would hold true with someone that would degrade me in a verbal or emotional exchange. For me, the moment that this happened would be the end of any agreement, magickal or otherwise, that we had. This is my methodology for handling situations like this.

But let’s be a little realistic for a few moments. Let’s affix our little fluffy bunny tails to the seat of our pants, and place our fluffy bunny ears on our heads – and take a short trip back to the beginning when we were full of saccharine, covered in glitter, and crapped magickal rainbows. A person that is currently on a Pagan path for the first time may have gone to some really drastic lengths to find that teacher. Unfortunately, they found an abuser. Would they not be willing to let a lot of things go by the wayside? After all, sex magick is just another part of magick, right? And if we don’t reach into our darker parts of who we are, we won’t be ready for some the less pleasant things, right? Yeah. Welcome to the manipulative mannerisms of the abuser. Yes, sex magick is a part of magickal workings. But it is not a moment of getting laid, and in my mind, it is not a road to go down with a novice. AT ALL. As for the darker side of magick, it certainly is there. But making you feel like you are ten inches tall through a barrage of verbal abuse… ::sigh:: And these are just two of the many, many manipulative things that abusers do within our Pagan community. And no, beyond this single sentence, I am not traveling down the pedophile trail – it is there, it does happen, and I will beat the ever-loving shit out of any abuser I find doing this.

All right. ::deep breath, Tommy::

My advice for anyone who finds themselves being abused like this…get out. However, you have to – short of taking someone’s life. Find help. Read up on the signs of abuse. Read up on what leadership SHOULD look like. Shauna Aura Knight has two excellent books on this topic:  Pagan Leadership Anthology, which contains several excellent essays from various folks on leadership. And her book The Leader Within: Articles on Community Building, Leadership & Personal Growth. Furthermore, if you have aspirations to be a leader within your community, know this stuff inside-out, be prepared to step between an abuser and the individual they are abusing. Remember, before you do something, know what you are getting into.

Me? Well, I am a solo Pagan, for a lot of reasons. One of these is so that I am not tempted to abuse whatever authority is handed to me by someone else. Seriously. I am always willing to show folks where my starting points in Paganism were, but I am also cautious to remind them that (a) that was back in 1986, a really long time ago, and (b) just because that worked for me, does not mean it will for them. That old starting point; however, might give them a hint where things might work for them as a starting point. I am no master theologian, top-notch Priest or craft Magician. And anyone suggesting just that about me will make me very, very nervous. Now, a Leader?? Maybe. I have been told that I have leadership qualities and traits in nearly every facet of my life. Usually, I lean to Edgar Friendly’s perspective from the movie Demolition Man: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to do. Sometimes, people come with me.”

Remember, trust your instincts. If it does not feel right, in all likelihood, it would be better to remove yourself from it. if a teacher or a leader asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with – you have every right to say no. You have every right to leave. If they threaten to withhold knowledge or teachings from you – leave. You can get that training or knowledge from somewhere else or someone else with a better set of ethics. There is not a single person on this planet that has sole custody of any truth, except where that applies to themselves alone. One of these days, I hope someone comes up with something similar to a Seeker’s Bill of Rights. Because our wider Pagan community could certainly put something like to good use, particularly for those fluffy bunnies just coming on to the scene. It certainly never should be Rabbit Season…



Unpacking My “Hippie-ness”

I am not a fan of labels, particularly when applied to people as a “broad-brush”, “paint-by-numbers” descriptive. However, those same labels tend to help cut to the chase when trying to provide explanations for one’s own perspective – provided that everyone agrees on the wider definitions applied to those terms. When I get asked to describe myself to a group of strangers (or even people who only know me in one contextual aspect), I have a tendency to fall back to those labeling adjectives of “Pagan”, “Druid”, “Coder”, and “Hippie.” All, when utilized under the definitions I apply to those terms, are very accurate depictions of who I am. But not everyone uses the same definitions applied to the same symbolic terminology set. And therein lies the rub of it all.

27858032_10155057913836751_1589891266989413670_nPagans, Druids and Coders tend to provide some of the similar aspects of modernist symbology. Pagans are tree-hugging, over-reaching environmentalists trekking through suburban environments in their sandals screaming about saving the environment while waving their Starbucks coffee in their gesturing hand with their iPhone firmly grasped in the other. Druids are those guys that dress all in white, let their beards grow down to their nether regions, and meditate under the small sapling that the city planted on the urban street environment. Coders tend to sleep during the day, wear clothes that haven’t seen an iron since Romeo Muller won a Peabody award for “The Hobbit”, and walk around the hallways of their work environment in search of caffeine while muttering about WHILE loops and broken hierarchical tree structures. Am I right?? Accurate depictions?? Of course not, but all are somewhat accurate (if not comical) depictions of who I am to one degree or another.

Yet, it is the simple term “hippie” that gets most “mainstream” people (I tend to call them “squares”) bent out of shape, if you will. Thanks to some rather repugnant campaigns to malign and impugn the hippie counter-culture of the late 1960s, the usage of the term immediately shoots the image of the drug-addled, unkempt individual just sitting in the middle of wherever, focused on nothing at all. In fact, the hippie is generally viewed as an individual who has “turned-on and dropped-out” of regular society. The comedic overtones of this rather cartoon-ish image has been quite pervasive. Coupled with the accuracy of some aspects of this perspective, the wide brushed painting has completed the immediate coloring of an individual identifying with the hippie perspective as being just that – someone who is more in-tune with smoking weed, and not wanting the harshness of reality impinging on those emotions and feelings that are induced by whatever high is available.

However, while the drug culture is a big part of the conversation concerning the hippie, it is certainly not all of that conversation. In fact, it is small enough that the drug aspect is not even the truest aspect of what a hippie seeks within existence. That would really be the perspective of “freedom” which immediately begs the question – what does it mean to be free?

The answer to this, in my mind’s eye, depends on the person. However, I believe it can be boiled down to an essential element that a person is allowed to do as they see fit, within the bounds and limits of societal concepts, as well as limits placed on us by law. Now, the right-ness or wrong-ness of those laws can be debated to one degree or another, but that is a discussion for another blog post. But a hippie, from my own personal understanding, just merely wants the freedom to do as they see fit – and be left alone to do those actions. That doesn’t mean that every hippie is just waiting for people to leave them alone at their campfire in the woods, so that they can blaze up a fat one. Not every hippie wants or needs drugs. However, they should be free to do so, provided they do no harm to others when doing so. Essentially, a ‘live and let live’ theory to life, if you will.

In his book “Hippies and American Values”, Timothy Miller stated the hippie ethos, in terms of a religious movement, was meant to move beyond the limitations that were experienced within the mainstream religious institutions. In this, I would agree – this is what the reference towards being a hippie is about for me. Hippies, for the most part, were unafraid to try something new, to move outside the barriers created by monolithic institutions and binary thought. Miller also denoted that “…like many dissenting religions, the hippies were enormously hostile to the religious institutions of the dominant culture, and the tried to find new and adequate ways to do the tasks the dominant religions failed to perform.” That one quote really embodies what I believe is a dominant theme within the Pagan systems that have grown since those emotional moments in the late 1960s. There is no “war” to speak of, merely an abandonment of religious practices that no longer held any formative meaning for those wanting and needing more from their Spiritual lives and practices.

When I am asked how I feel that I am like the hippies of those difficult times of the 1960s, this is the area that I have staked out as my own reasoning. I was raised as a Protestant, sent to all-boys Catholic schools so that my experience of the Christian faith would be widened and deepened, as my father relayed to me about three years prior to his passing beyond the veil. My parents were not devout religionists of any flavor. We never attended church services. I was not encouraged to look beyond what was offered, because it was mainstream and acceptable – exactly what my parents wanted of my life. I wanted something different. I wanted freedom. I wanted something where I belonged. Where I felt like I was who I am. Where I could believe what I believed in my heart.

So I am a hippie. I am not ashamed of that label or title. But what it means to me, freedom, is far different than the ramshackle image of a cartoon-ish, drug-addled, munchie-driven Maynard G. Krebs that society has attached to the term. Rather than being driven away from the term….or cringe when squares flash a “v for victory” sign at me with their fingers and murmur the stereo-typical “peace, man” slogan…I am reminded of the meaning it holds for me – the Seeker. The individual driven by the need to find ways of connecting with the world around me in ways that have meaning and depth for who I am.

“Task Force” Has Such a “Gestapo” Feel To It

I normally pay very little attention to the news these days. My usual routine is to pick up the headlines from Google’s news feeds and pop over to the BBC website on a Saturday or Sunday for an hour or two. That usually is enough to sate my weak appetite for all things Trump, as well as catch up on whatever big might have happened outside of his orbit, elsewhere in the world. Back in the 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was a veritable news junkie. I had the local 24×7 news channel dialed in on my car radio. I listened to and from work, at work, and even at home. I rarely ever agreed with what Mark Davis, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity were saying, but it was “interesting” to hear their perspectives. And then one day, my desire to listen to this type of stuff just seemingly turned off. Just like a water spigot.

Much of my distaste for what was happening in the news was the saturation of the 2000 election cycle between Bush and Gore. Adding further was the non-stop kvetching that took place after the election – by both Republicans and Democrats. Since that moment, the constant barrage has been non-stop. Our news cycle has morphed into a 365x24x7 concept, and the news is constantly about what one political side of the fence thinks about this issue or that. So, to keep my own personal brand of sanity, I took to limiting the amount of news that I take in. So far, its worked to one degree or another. I might be a touch behind one some pieces of the news cycle, but at least I am no longer stressing day and night over things.

This weekend is the last stretch of 4×10 work days – what is known as the “Summer Schedule” at work. During this period of work time, I have three days off in a row – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, my usual methodology has been to continue picking up the news on Saturday or Sunday. Until this week. Since I had a handful of chores and spiritual obligations to handle on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to grab some of the news on Friday morning. I ran into two headlines that immediately grabbed my attention.

Jeff Sessions announces a religious liberty task force to combat “dangerous” secularism

New ‘Religious Liberty Task Force’ Highlights Sessions, DOJ Priorities

A “Religious Liberties Task Force” eh? That terminology has a draconian feel for me. Furthermore, taking into consideration that DJT had been consuming most of the headlines with his inane tweets and off-the-wall commentary on other aspects of the news, I quickly realized that the lead for this had been quite effectively buried. So off into reading and information gathering mode, I started to head.

All of this stems from a 2017 memo from Attorney general Jeff Sessions to the members of the Department of Justice, where he provided the broadest interpretation of “religious liberties” be applied in the application to federal laws. For instance, a pastor could not preach politics from the pulpit or canvas a congregation to provide funds to a political campaign. However, in applying the concept of legal protections under the guise of “religious liberties”, issues where this may have occurred, are given a wide berth by the DoJ, according to this particular memo. This new task force takes things a slight step further. I say “slight step” but its a rather large one.

The task force itself only has a written mandate to uphold the 2017 memo from AG Sessions. However, in a speech, AG Sessions took things a touch further, invoking an unspoken war between Christianity and “Secularism” that has overtones quite similar to the days of the Catholic church’s misguided time of the Inquisition.

“We have gotten to the point,” he said, “where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law, where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit, and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a ‘hate group’ on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

As is pointed out in the Vox article, AG Sessions is apparently targeting groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, perhaps even the American Civil Liberties Union, where far-right Christian groups have been branded with the descriptive of being a hate group. And I will add my own personal note here, rightfully so. Furthermore, I question the constitutionality of such a group, particularly when the individual in charge of it – AG Sessions – seemingly has such a narrow perspective of what the group is to enforce, namely the “correctness” of far-right Christianity. According to our founding fathers for this country, we are to establish no laws favoring one belief system over another. I would posit that this “task force” is just that, as well as a necessary step towards fascism within this country.

A step too far, perhaps? I would invite you to take a long hard look at the John Birch Society in American history, as well as our current modern dominionists that have managed to wiggle their way into positions of power and influence here in our government. The John Birch Society and the positions espoused by it are pillars of the modern-day dominionists. Their goal? Well, they do not hide it and are quite open about it. A Christian America, following their principles of Christianity. Their desire is to legislate their beliefs into law, subjecting all to their beliefs. After all, biblical principles state that the “good” Christian preaches the good word to all and converts the flock to what is right. They believe the world is dominated by a single concept of “war” that continues to this day: their Christianity versus the rest of the world. The rest of the world is effectively blinded by Satan, and in most cases is unknowingly participants in this battle.

I have seen this before in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Historically, we ‘affectionately’ call this the “Satanic Panic.” This movement spawned a ton of Christian books, many of which I have read (during this particular time frame as well). Christian comedian Mike Warnke made claims of being a High Priest of Satan before (and during the first years) of his service in the US Navy. In 1991, Christian magazine Cornerstone debunked his story. His original claim was that he had 15,000 members of his coven. in the years following the Cornerstone investigation and story, he claimed there were only thirteen members of his coven, and laid the majority of the blame of inaccuracies in the story at the feet of his ex-wife. Warnke continues regaling his tale of being a High Priest of Satan, but that’s a full conversation for another time.

We have been through these times before. Lies upon lies upon lies are constantly heaped upon the Pagan community – Nine Hells, ANY community that does not line up with these dominionists. Their followers eat all of this up because they are programmed to believe the worst in everyone else. Their perspective is to see all of us as wanting to destroy everything that they have. When in reality, we are really just trying to make it through each day with our humanity still intact.

A lot of those folks will toss out the notation that Pagans HATE who they are. That Pagans want to destroy them and wipe them from the face of the earth. From my own perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. I am quite sure that in the small town where I live, that there are more than a few of those dominionists. I am more than sure that there are quite a few within my work environment. I have no desire to destroy them or even discredit who they are. If that happens, they will have done it themselves. All I really want is to live my life in the way I wish to and be free to worship the Gods that I follow, and have the freedom to love the people that I love – and for others to have the same choice. That’s not secularism folks, that’s called choice. People like AG Sessions are out to fight a war with Gestapo-style tactics like this, not because others want to destroy what is their (AG Sessions and his ilk) choice. They are utilizing these tactics to scare people into making their (AG Sessions and his ilk) choice because folks are choosing something else instead. “Task Force”, indeed.

Thoughts on the ‘Quiet Times’

Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon for my third year in a row. I will not make it back this next year, as I will be out of vacation time, and that is a real shame for me. I attend a lot of the presentations and always find thinking points, as well as writing prompts, from the folks who offer these little glimpses into their passions. There are certain folks that I will make the time to be at their presentations. Silence Maestas is one of those folks. Of all the Polytheists that I read and have had the pleasure of discussing things of any nature, Silence is one of the most approachable and passionate individuals I have ever had that pleasure with. When I saw the two sessions concerning Devotional Practice, I knew I had to be at both. While I had copious notes from the “Beginning Devotional Practice” session, it was the “Advancing Devotional Practice” that I did the majority of my participating in. My notes for that session came down to three total lines, all questions.

What happens when our relationship become stagnant?
And what about the “quiet times”?
How can you blog so much and have time for devotional practice?

All three are fairly tough questions to pose to yourself.  Honestly, the first two relate to an experience that nearly every Polytheist I have talked with has experienced. That “dry time” where it feels like the Gods have stepped away from you. The third, well, it is a bit judgmental in its very nature, hinting that if you have time for everything else – such as blog writing – that you are taking time away from your devotional practice. My experience has been that the third question, while difficult to really deal with, is not true. You can eat, breathe, play sports, work a mundane job, and have a hobby while still having a devotional practice. Devotional practice doesn’t mean you have to live like a sequestered monk, merely that your expression and devotion to your God(s) finds a place in your mind throughout all of your activities.

Now, there are those that will disagree with me, and that is perfectly fine. Let me say this up front – I know how to deal with devotional practice from my own point of view. Part of what I do and believe might make sense to you. Nin Hells, ALL of it might not make sense to you. Please do not think I am saying that anyone must do what I do. That would be a ludicrous assumption on my part. As I seem to be fond of saying here on the blog, as well as in real life, you do you. You know what works for you. And if something looks like it might work for you, give it a shot. If it does, assimilate it into your daily devotional practice. If it doesn’t – accept the experience, discard the practice, and move forward with what does work. How I handle my daily devotional practice is not the be-all, end-all for anyone – including me.

Stagnation. This happens in any relationship you have, and a devotional practice is a relationship, in my view. Stuff gets old and wrinkled. There is no “zing” to it. Where you received answers from the Gods so easily, there is nothing or maybe just a bare trickle. Many folks call this the “quiet times” in their devotional practice. I live on the very southern edge of the central plains of the United States. In fact, if you look at the history of agricultural practice in the United States, I am on the southern edge of where the Dust Bowl is located. The hot winds of the prairie blow here along the Red River at the Texas/Oklahoma border every summer – and this summer is no different. The same, hot breeze – day in, day out. The monotony does get old after a while. There is not a lot of joy that can be found in the same thing over and over and over. I can definitely grok the concept of the quiet times in a theme like that. Any incoming storm clouds can provide a relief and a welcome change to the overall tedium. But that’s the weather, what about a spiritual practice?

Yeah, I get it. The same practices accomplished in the same manner over and over and over at the same time, in the same way, with the same words…blergh. Sometimes, that tedium can get to you, but is this because you are bored or because the Gods just don’t seem to be there? If the Gods don’t seem to be there, change things up. Keep the fundamentals of your devotional rites, but add something different. Change something up. Alter the wording or phrasing. Change the time you do things. Improvise some of your devotional aspects. Put some theatrics into things. Sing your rite instead of reciting it. Add an offering. Change what is offered. But be sure to keep the fundamental framework. Improvisation is great stuff, but the basic framework still needs to be honored to some degree. After all, you have to have some anchor that keeps things together. Otherwise, you may as well change everything, and that is a lot like starting completely over. That can have its advantages as well, but remember you’re trying to add some spice to what you are doing, not go total anarchy on your practice.

Sometimes, the quiet times are a blessing in disguise. These moments where life is not a rolling sea of issues can provide you the opportunity to get a stronger anchor in what you are doing. Plus, I will be honest, I would prefer things to be somewhat quiet. I do not really have a need or desire for my Spirituality to be an adventure where I must be the hero to every moment. My preference is for my Spirituality to be about building a better, more balanced me. When things are slower, I can work on deepening my own, individual approach to my two Gods. I can find ways to deepen my perspective on the world around me without getting completely caught up in the crisis of the moment. That deepening of my perspective will be useful for when the crisis of the moment does manage to engulf me. I can find my balance far better, and be the helpful, solid point of perspective for others when they have need of me.

My Stone Circle (28Feb2015)
My Stone Circle (28Feb2015)

My spirituality is one of focus, balance, and perspective. The truly difficult times for me are not the quiet times, but rather the times where the noise of the world and its issues drown out my understanding of where I am in the world. Those moments of noise and chaos are the troubled moments for me, where I have to reach out and find my balance. But I understand the concept of the “quiet times” where the connectivity to one’s Gods in a devotional practice seems to miss the mark rather than making the connection. Everyone reaches these times in their practice. Mix things up when you reach these moments. Experiment a little. Try something offbeat. Alter your perception. But keep the basic framework there as the anchor, so that you have a familiar point to come back to. Above all, don’t panic. Remember, this is your Spirituality you are dealing with. Keep your faith. You are on a quest to better who you are and connect more deeply with your Gods, not find a volcano to throw a ring into.

Consider this, sometimes the quiet times, where the Gods seem to walk away, are there to provide the opportunity for you to grow your faith in Them. The Gods don’t always answer us. They have Their own things to handle and manage. And sometimes, Their silence may be provided to give us the chance to find the answers for ourselves. Surely, the Gods would prefer us to be able to work out many of our issues on our own, using our wits and intelligence (along with our sense of humor and sarcasm). Otherwise, we become nothing more to Them than a herd of sheep that need to be constantly looked after. I, for one, believe that the Gods would not want this from us. And I will be happy to utilize these “quiet” moments to work on myself or whatever issue might be at hand.