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Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

I’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ (wonderful) book The Cloister Walk, about monastic spirituality, as a sort of side piece to all of the work I’ve been doing and to kind of keep me sane as I prepare for ordination and all the rest of the hoopla that is my religious life right now. And one of the things she talks about is the idea that, at least for Benedictine spirituality, formation is endless – the conversion of the self is a process that takes a lifetime.

So I sat down and looked at a typical formation process for someone in the Catholic faith vs what I’ve done, and realized there are some similarities. With apologies for generalizing, as each community really does have its own rules, and because what I’ve done is nowhere NEAR as dedicated as true monastic life, it still struck me that there were things that I could relate to.

My dedicant year was the equivalent of basic religious education – it gave me the tools to get started on the path, and set me up with a spirituality that I could practice satisfactorily for the rest of my life. This only took me a year, but for others it is the work of a lifetime, and that’s more than okay.

The 2 years I spent working CTP-Prelim were my postulancy – where I figured out whether this whole priesting thing was really going to be for me. It was a longer process, but like all processes – like all formation – it takes however long it takes. I did a lot of work, internally and externally, between August 2014 and August 2016, and I don’t want to shy away from that. It involved a lot of confirmation that what I was doing was really the right thing, and set me up with a lot of the spirit relationships that have continued to nourish me through to today.

From August 2016 to March 2018, I was a novice – not yet having taken any formal vows, but having applied and been accepted to my community of faith and living as best I could the life and spirituality of a priest in my community. I did the clergy student discipline, I spoke with mentors who assisted with my formation and my growth. I studied hard, got handed a few massive life-lessons in the process. I served my community in such a way that they could see my building ministry and vocation, and they allowed me to learn and grow.

And now I sit in the liminal space before taking my oaths as a priest – before being vested with the stola of a priest (which is given to me by the folk). I will step into the role of a junior professed, whose path is renewed every year through continuing education. I wonder what this life will look like in a year, or two, or five. Or twenty. I’ve been “in formation” since 2012. In five-odd years, I’ve come an awful long way, but yet there’s still so much that I don’t know. I’m still so new at this.

What will my life-long formation as a polytheist priest look like?

Because I am not done. If anything, the wheels of change in my life are spinning at a rate that is almost dizzying. New doors are opening up for me, with new opportunities to study and practice my spirituality. This is a watershed moment that I am preparing for, yes, but it is only the beginning.

To coin a phrase, this isn’t even my final form.

I wonder what that will look like.

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Last year I pondered the relevance of Earth Day at all, and the importance of Unless. I think those thoughts are relevant again this year, though with a slightly different slant.

This year I opted to participate in Three Cranes Grove’s “Earth Along” – From Saturday to Tuesday, I did something in honor of the Earth Mother as a devotional practice in celebration of Earth Day.

And maybe that’s not the same spirit that most of America approaches Earth Day with. It’s certainly not how I’ve ever celebrated in the past. In the past, Earth day has been about hard questions but token gestures, or reading The Lorax but taking home tiny potted trees that will surely die in the quickly approaching summer heat. (It’s 85F today.) In that light, Earth Day seems futile in the face of climate change, peak oil, fracking, pollution, and all the myriad ways that humans are exploiting the planet’s supply of non-renewable resources.

If nothing else, today really is a good day to reread The Lorax – it seems increasingly relevant in our increasingly consumer oriented culture.

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows,
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows,
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows,
Is the street of the Lifted Lorax.

(Do you need a thneed?) But I digress.

Earth Day as a religious observance seemed to make sense to me this year, so I squeezed in tiny devotions all weekend (while redecorating half my house). It was a very different experience – much less about token environmentalism and much more about devotion to one of the beings I honor as part of my religious and spiritual expression. (I did not honor Nerthus, choosing instead to honor the generic Earth Mother with no name. I can’t say exactly why I did my rituals this way, but it felt right so I went with it.)

I’m also feeling called to make this a regular part of my practice. I am not sure when I will fit in an additional offering, but perhaps I can just make watering my (newly planted) front beds a devotional practice in and of itself. Not having a garden this spring means I’m feeling out of touch with my bit of earth, and that’s never a good feeling for a Druid.

I hope you find meaning in today’s celebration of the Earth, however you honor her. The prayer below is from the Earth Along, which I liked and I hope you like as well.

earth

And may your Earth day, and all your days walking on the Earth, be blessed.

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(Catching up on the Pagan Blog Project – it’s been a rough two weeks in the Swamp, so I’m a bit behind. I’ll be trying to get caught up to the G’s this week, so you’ll be seeing several posts, hopefully!)

Fertility is one of the virtues of ADF, and you can read my original essay on the subject here. It’s something I am directly trying to increase in my life (not in the “making babies” way but in the “fertility of mind and spirit” way), especially in my career.

This is a very fertile time of year, even here in the Swamp, where things are starting to heat up and it’s now too late to plant vegetables that aren’t okra or hot peppers. I didn’t put in a garden this year (I ran out of time to get the bed prepared), but I am working on fertility in other parts of my life. Career wise, I am looking for new opportunities for growth and change, as what I’m currently doing for my job isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life. In ADF, I’m trying to turn more attention to fertility of mind, as I work on leading my study group and progressing on the IP. (Right now it is a very scattered effort; I have one or two questions answered in several different courses, since I haven’t had time to really prepare well for any one course all at once.)

These two things are, of course, related – both are ways I’m trying to bring the energy of fertility and rebirth into my life, whether it be as a spiritual practice or as a part of my mundane job.

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I just got done reading about an “unscripted” but still COoR ritual over at Ozark Pagan Mamma. It really hit home for me – even though I like the poetry of highly scripted rituals that are put together well. Maybe I’ll try something like this for the Fall Equinox (I did my Lammas ritual this weekend, you’ll get the write up later this week). I think something like this could work really well as a solitary Druid, simply because I wouldn’t need a lot of the “ritual theatrics” that are mostly there to help keep a group ritual flowing together.

Of course, part of me really LIKES those ritual theatrics, but then that’s why I always do my rituals in an empty house – that way nobody but the cats has to listen to me!

Anyway, if you’re looking for a good middle ground in ritual, something that’s still following the COoR but not quite as scripted as the published ADF rituals (like the Solitary Self Blessing Rite, which I love), check out that post from Ozark Pagan Mamma. It cuts a really nice balance between having just an “observed” holiday (without a ritual) and having a full blown ritual High Day.

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Where is the Ground?.

Another excellent post from Sarenth Odinsson about the future, which seems to me a nice tie in to yesterdays post about the bees.

We are coming to what seems like a turning point in the environment – whether that’s the loss of pollinators, the eventual running out of oil, the eventual burning out of the land we live on, the detriments of monocultured crops, the catastrophically changing climate, the droughts, the fresh water shortages and waste, the pollution of air and waterways, the mountains and mountains of trash… the list goes on and on.

I found this especially poignant:

How do we abandon the outdated models of life and living so that we may, once we have found it, embrace the ground on which we are to build the future?

While each person must find their own solution, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:

  • Each of us must find a way to live in better concert with our local ecosystems.
  • Each of us must consume less, grow more, and reuse everything to its capacity.
  • What we consume must have some kind of long-term use.
  • Land, both the sustainable preservation of and growth on arable land, and the preservation of wild places must be at the top of the priority list.  No viable environment, and it will not matter what kind of future we try to make.
  • Our communities need to bring its fundamental functions back down to a local level wherever possible.
  • Our communities must support its local workers.
  • Our communities must, in every way possible, learn to live with LESS: Less Energy Stimulation Stuff.

None of this is easy, but that said, neither is waiting for Peak Oil to take full effect and you, as well as your neighbors, loved ones, friends, and so on, are left scrambling with no real plan to tackle the challenge at hand.  Far better to get through the theories and on to practical application while there is still some time left.  There is also the thought of ‘do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good’.  Do I do all of the above?  No.  I do not own the land I live on, nor do I have a lot of control as to what comes into or out of the home, but I do what I can, where I can.  Even raising awareness of Peak Oil is doing something, though the hard work, as mentioned earlier, will still need to get done sooner or later.

I talk a lot about being the Druid of This Place – that our Druidry needs to take care of the local land as much as it does the whole Earth. Do I always succeed at being a good steward of that land? Absolutely no. My garden is small (only 10ft by 12ft, on a very large lot) in a large yard, and my corporate job means I spend less time caring for it than I probably should. I won’t grow more than enough food to be tasty and occasional for a short period in May/June, not enough even to store for the rest of the year.

As a druid, this often bothers me. I feel like with the resources at my disposal, I should be doing more.

But the thing about all of this?

It’s hard.

It’s really fucking hard.

It’s hard to change how you eat, what you eat, how you purchase things, how you spend your spare time, how you live on your land – especially if you live in an apartment. It’s HARD. This isn’t “replace some lightbulbs” this is “fundamentally rethink your lifestyle”.

As much as I try to do, I still drive 35 miles each way to my job every day, I still play video games in the evenings, and I still purchase things I don’t truly “need” (though I try to buy them from small artisans when possible, they’re still not necessary purchases). I don’t cook all of my meals from locally sourced produce, and I don’t even buy organic 100% of the time.

I’m trying to get better at it, but I still fall short of a lot of what I could do to make my “footprint” smaller. I still have lots of skills to learn that would help me be more self-sufficient. Those skills take time though – time that I don’t have a lot of, not least because I spend 2.5 hours a day in traffic.

I don’t really know how to put the two together. How do I continue to live my suburban lifestyle in a way that I can sustain while sustaining the future of the Earth?

It’s a tough question.

I guess I just have to keep working at it, and letting my spirituality help influence my intellectual decisions.

 

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Meditations are slowly creeping along this week. Beyond the meditation I did in my Beltane/Maitag ritual, I did a few other sitting meditations, but I ended up cutting most of them short, either due to frustration or anxiety. This is probably the opposite of how I should respond (instead I should sit and meditate longer) but there are days when it’s just … ugh. So I give myself credit for making the effort this week, and we’ll move on from there.

I’ve had what I can only call an agnostic sort of week, spiritually. It’s not that I doubt my own experiences (which I always have done, and will probably always do), it’s more than I’m doubting what my motivations are for even seeking out the Gods in the first place. I do my devotions and I did my Beltane ritual, and that all is going well enough. But I just keep getting this nagging feeling that none of it really makes any actual difference regardless. That if something bad happens, nothing – not my relationship with the Gods, not my prayers, not my working to change it – will fix it. It’s half “why am I bothering” and half “do They even care anyway.”

This is probably a symptom of some of the bigger mental health issues I’ve had recently, but it’s made it hard to stay motivated about the DP. I have another virtue essay finished, so that’s a good step, but my next essays are to start working on the Three Kindreds and Personal Religion requirements, and I’m just finding that I don’t have any gas in the tank to tackle them right now.

I am hoping that I can do some focused visualization to reconnect with the experiential side of Druidry and see if that helps out some.

For anyone out there with a better experience of spiritual guidance, I’m open to suggestions. I know Rev. MJD says that belief follows action, so I’m still doing the actions. I’m just a bit discouraged about it all I guess.

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Since I’ve been thinking about where I fit into ADF, and what my future paths will be and how those are or aren’t affected by ADF, I thought I’d try doing a more introspective sort of Rune drawing. Normally I use a set of cedar runes that I got from The Magical Druid, but I had the inspiration while I was away from home, so I tried a drawing with the app Runes, by Netistry.

I thought for awhile on how to phrase a question. What I want is insight into where I am on this path, and where I’m supposed to be going. So I ended up doing just that – asking the runes for insight into my spiritual path. It’s not the most specific of questions, but I couldn’t find anything more focused that still had the same feeling to it. I guess I wanted to leave the question a bit open ended and see what happened.

These are the runes that I drew:

  • Jera – Year, the harvest, hard work – Each is given their proper due in full measure, good or ill. The golden crop, sown in the past, has come to fruition and is now the full harvest; the results of earlier efforts are realized. Natural cycles will always spin, and the year will always turn again, but for now all is well. The order of the cosmos is maintained, and everyone reaps the benefits of hard work and has a chance to build a new harvest for next year.
  • Ehwaz – The horse, transportation, an easy journey – Mind your connection to animal spirits as helpers and partners. Successful partnerships require care and respect – neglect your allies at your peril. Keep a level head and do not be reckless – gradual change and continued progress is at hand, and will lead you to your goals. Remember that you travel with help, and those allies can make the journey easy for you.
  • Sowilo – The sun – Energy, clarity, and satisfaction. In the absence of obstacles and distractions, realize that your sustained, focused efforts have resulted in success. In the light of the sun, you can see to the horizon. The Sun’s power is available to you to make changes that will lead to renewed life and victory. Wholeness; all is right with the world.

I’ll be honest, getting such an unabashedly positive reading startled me at this point. I’ve been floundering a little with regards to what path I should take and where I should go, and I’ve not had hugely positive readings when I’ve asked similar questions over the last year or so. I try not to do this reading too often, so I don’t get weird results, but every few months or so I’m trying to check in and see what I’m missing, or need to be paying attention to, or how I’m doing. This is the first time I’ve drawn an entirely positive spread for this, which hopefully means that things are looking up, and I’ll be able to get some clarity and sense of feeling settled in.

If I apply a “past, present, future” template to this reading, it actually makes a lot of sense.

You did a lot of spiritual work in the past, it was very good, and it has allowed you to move on into a new “harvest” for the future. Use your allies and those around you to help you and guide you on this path, and all of your efforts will be successful in the end.

Of course, there’s no definite answer to what success actually IS in this situation, being that I asked a really open ended question, but for now I’m content with the idea that I’m moving in the right direction, and that the work I’m doing isn’t going unnoticed. I can’t say for sure that this reading is ADF specific, since I didn’t ask the question that way, but I think it suggests good things to come, and that I’m doing the right thing (for now) in studying and working on this path.

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