Consistent practice is by far one of the most attempted and most failed at enterprises of all time. From pre-initiates to initiates to people who fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions-something about the commitment seems to set us up to fail. Here are a few ideas to help with developing practices that serve you, your spirits, and your world.
What’s Your Motivation?
What purpose are your practices supposed to serve?
If you are a part of a group or tradition that partakes in a common practice, say The Kala Rite of the Feri or The LBRP of some magicians, these serve the ritualistic purpose (cleansing, alignment, protection etc.) but they also serve to remind you that you are part of a tradition, a community. In addition, they can serve to help you go further in your chosen tradition.
If you aren’t part of a group, or do a personal set of practices in addition to the group ones- what are they supposed to help you achieve?
Chanting can align you with a specific energy, prayer can allow you to speak with your Gods, offerings can connect you to your ancestors, dance can allow you to tap your inner consciousness and release stress. Instead of following what’s given to you (Meditate 20 Minutes a Day, Pray in the Morning, Noon and Evening, Keep a Journal) ~ discover what you want from your practices- a sense of freedom, connection to the higher self, a sense of peace and comfort- and find out how these are created for you personally.
Sanctify Your Day
Creating *spiritual* practices from what we already do each day is an easy way to fit them in, without restructuring our life to get them in. When you bathe, add a few carefully selected essential oils, cleansing visualizations, or body-positive meditations and you’ve added a magical dimension to a common task relatively easily.
For the busiest among us, the dream time can allow for more spiritual interaction than we have time for daily. Simply taking a few moments before your head hits the pillow to speak your intentions to connect with a deity, solve an issue, or merely have an adventure can bump sleep time into a full blown practice in itself, called “oneiromancy”.
You can chant while cooking with magically charged herbs, keeping a special plate in the cupboard so that making offerings is easy. You can listen to dharma talks or kirtan on your commute, you can dedicate your exercise routine to the Divine within. There are really endless applications to sanctifying practices we already have in place.
To Everything, a Season
When, for how long, and to what end do your chosen practices need to be done?
Some things come with standard times~ Lent and mantras are practiced for 40 days, in some schools of yoga you move on to a set of different poses after your teacher feels you’re ready. Others don’t~ an amateur pianist may play 20 minutes a day and a professional 6 hours.
Every practice isn’t a commitment for life. During a divorce you may take to writing “unsent letters” to your soon to be ex husband, seeing a therapist, or just listening to Tori Amos nonstop while bathing by candlelight (trufax!). None of these is a healthy lifetime practice, just something you’re doing to deal with your current situation.
And some are: The practice of parenting, if not life-long, is at least long-term. Ditto the practice of sobriety for some addicts. Do what feels right for you and makes your life function better.
I love gardening as a way to get in touch with all sorts of energies; solar, lunar, beauty, Freyr, Gerd, pollinators, bliss…gardening is, however a cyclical thing, and I don’t do much in Winter. As a beekeeper, I must know when not to open a hive- while it is part of who I am, and part of my spiritual practices- many times of the year I don’t actually get to “beekeep”.
Sometimes it’s out of your hands. I give Oshun honey, water and pollen daily-but with the bees dying at this rate, I may not have access to these for the remainder of my life. In addition, my daily baths have had to adjust to the fact that I live in a state suffering from drought, and now I shower more often than I bathe (tragic!).
I used to worry that I was somehow disengaged from those energies and spirits when it was not logical to engage in the practices I came to connect with them. This is untrue. I connect with them differently when there is snow on the ground; and I have the past to remind me of when we were “closer” (for lack of a better word~possibly more interactive is a better choice) as well as Pinterest, honey, indoor plants and seed catalogs to tide me over.
Find alternative ways to get where you’re going.
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Build in a Failsafe
After looking at what you are absolutely capable of, commit to a little less.Life is full of surprises, delays, insomnia, and mistakes. Embrace it. When you commit to journaling daily, keep in mind that on days when you have a migraine~ one sentence or even one word is acceptable. If you don’t get home, and that’s where the journal is~ write that word on your hand.
If you say you’ll light a candle in honor of the Gods each day, carry a birthday candle and a lighter, create a travel altar. Last week, I did puja outside of the tent! You never know where life will take you.
I said I would send money to a couple animal sanctuaries “as long as I could afford to” and I said I married my first husband “for as long as our love shall live”. Luckily, the animals keep getting their money, and when that love died, I suffered no guilt for breaking a vow.
“Is This Thing On?”
Know when something doesn’t work for you at all, or even anymore. If it’s something that your tradition or Guru expects of you, inform them that it isn’t sparking with you and ask for advice. If that chakra alignment stops rocking your world, release it. If Ecstatic Dance becomes your church and your meditation, it’s okay to stop sitting still for an hour before going to Catholic Mass.
I have a friend who knits for the Gods. She makes sacred garments, carefully choosing the material, pattern, origin of those materials, etc. She meditates on the deity while she knits. It’s a beautiful devotional practice from the idea to the yarn store to completion, and I’m glad I’ve gotten to watch her create and express her love for the Gods in this way.
When I tried to knit, it was hard and boring, and expensive. Plus, I could find a dress the Goddess LOVED which I could (sometimes) afford. My mantra became “Here now, pretty now”, and I accept that’s how I get my sacred garments.
One practice does not fit all, and that’s perfect.
In the End
Love yourself, be kind to yourself. If you try a novena and despite your alarms, and calendar reminders- screw up on day 8 it’s not because you’re a loser, it’s because you’re a flawed human (and will always be). It’s fine. Take a breath, make apologies, ponder if you are in fact a “Novena Person” and give it another go if you are.
I admit for some, this “see what happens” approach may not work, I may appear frivolous and non-commital~ that’s fine with me. As always your mileage may vary. Do what works for you, your path, your heart and your Gods.