Do not stop your devotions

Over and over again, I see the same pattern being described on the blogs of various pagans – something bad (or even something good!) happens in their lives, and they let go of most or all of their spiritual practices. They lose a job, get married, fall sick, or just get busy, and the first things to suffer are their devotional relationships and religious obligations. They even see this happening, but often as not they excuse it (rather than trying to fight it) – after all, who could blame them if these big life changes kept them distracted?

Now, the first problem with this is that it is evidence of a certain internal prioritization that I find sadly common amongst even supposedly super-committed pagans – religion is separated from “life” and not valued as highly as “life stuff” like relationships, career, etc. Of course, when “life stuff” gets in the way, religion is going to take a backseat, right? But it doesn’t have to be like that. One can choose to make religion a priority, just as important or more so than any of life’s ups and downs.

But the more practical problem with this is the direct consequences of shelving one’s spiritual practice. Because in almost every single case, after the statement about how their practices slipped or ceased, there is a follow-up complaint that they no longer feel very connected to their gods, their faith is suffering, etc. Do you think there might be a connection?

Sure, it might seem understandable that when feeling overwhelmed or in crisis, one might let go of a part of one’s life that doesn’t seem immediately urgent – the gods are always there, after all, and will be when the crisis is over. But not only is it extremely rude to neglect Them when it becomes difficult to do your practices (and less likely that They’ll come through with assistance if you’re not maintaining reciprocity), it is almost guaranteed to dig you even deeper into the pit you’re already in, emotionally and spiritually speaking. Because having that kind of powerful connection to the divine requires consistent work. Like muscles that atrophy without exercise, your sense of closeness with the gods will weaken the longer you starve it. And then it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle – you feel bad or guilty or empty so you shy away from approaching Them, and that absence (you from Them, not Them from you) only serves to make the bad feelings worse as time goes on.

This pattern can be amazingly insidious, too, even if you think you are on guard against it. Let me share an example from my own life. Recently, I have experienced some fairly major transitions in my life, including at least one of the categories of common “life stuff” as I put it. I have struggled throughout to not let this distract me from my purpose – not to ignore the changes, not to compartmentalize them as outside of my spiritual life (because nothing is outside of my spiritual life), but to integrate them fully and keep taking all the powerful emotions they engender and turning those over to my gods and spirits, again and again. This is a long and difficult process, and I’m certainly not perfect at it, but I’m trying. I thought I was doing pretty well.

But, something else happened at the same time.  I had initially put a hold on a few specific practices because, as things were transitioning for me spiritually, I was unsure if those practices were still relevant. I was getting some messages that I needed to shift my focus, and I always try to heed those. But I went too far, because I didn’t pay enough attention to the process of evaluating and possibly altering or even replacing those practices – I just put them on hold and let myself get a bit distracted. And I felt it. I’ve spent the past couple weeks pretty depressed. Now, there were a lot of factors involved in this, including the fact that I usually suffer in some way for much of January – for myriad reasons it is a difficult month for me. But one of the contributing factors was most definitely that I had given myself too many easy excuses to just drop these things and not try at all. Not surprisingly, as I sunk deeper, I felt more disconnected, less interested in even trying, certain I would just fail, etc.

Yesterday, I got my ass to the woods finally to experiment a little. There weren’t any fireworks, it wasn’t some deep intense ritual. I just took the very first steps in trying to figure out the new direction a certain practice would be taking. But it made a huge difference. I immediately felt not only more connected and overall emotionally in better spirits, but I felt more capable of taking the next step, and the next. And this is how one climbs out of the pit.

We’re a pretty new (in a way) set of religions here, and we haven’t had centuries to talk about things like the “dark night of the soul” that most Christians know about. So here’s my little contribution. When crisis – or even celebration – hits your life, DO NOT STOP YOUR DEVOTIONS. In fact, if possible, double up on them, because it will help you more than anything, and because the gods deserve our attention and love all the time, not just when we have nothing else occupying our minds.

~ by Dver on January 25, 2013.

39 Responses to “Do not stop your devotions”

  1. Your advice is sage wisdom. Even when you don’t feel the Gods/Goddesses you are devoted do, they are there. In most beliefs, the dark night of the soul” comes calling.
    Do not give up. This is the human thing to do, or try something else. Sometimes in the darkness, true growth is going on. Press on!

  2. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve recently had to adapt some of my practices, due to time restrictions, but if anything it’s made me give them more focus and attention. I’ve made the conscious decision to get up half an hour earlier and to devote that time to my practice. Doesn’t always work, because the Witchlets sometimes get up too, but mostly it does.

  3. I must say this is an excellent post and you’ve hit the nail on the head by saying for many religion is separated from ‘life’ and ‘life stuff’. Unfortunately, even if people see them separated, they’re actually not. Both complement each other and come together as one. Much of the ‘life stuff’ that happens can be directly linked back to the ‘religious stuff’ and vice versa. I can give numerous examples of people doing (or not doing something) for their spiritual practice which reverberated in their life in a certain way, they themselves wondering what could have happened and then letting themselves distracted away from the spiritual side of things.

    I loved how you said ‘the gods deserve our attention and love all the time, not just when we have nothing else occupying our minds.’
    It’s most definitely true and it warms my heart to see it put into writing for others to see.

    I linked to your post on my Twitter, I hope you don’t mind. I feel more folks should read this.

    Countless blessings!

  4. Wonderful article and so true, thanks for sharing!

  5. Reblogged this on Pagan Devotionals and commented:
    beautifully written!

  6. Reblogged this on Loki's Bruid and commented:
    Sometimes we all need encouragement. I do my daily devotions, even when I feel crap (and I don’t write much about life with primary immune deficiency, but I feel crap often. Maintaining a routine helps me feel more normal. I know that no matter how much or how little I can sense, Loki still appreciates it. That is reason enough for me.

  7. I wish you had a ‘like’ button; there’s not much I can say in response to your post, here, because you’ve basically said it all.

  8. I’m still doing the work. It’s important, as you say. :)

  9. My “life stuff” pretty much IS “religious stuff,” so I do it regardless of what’s going on elsewhere. And when I feel crappy and depressed and uninspired, that’s when it does me the most good, and when it’s more a show of faith and effort than doing things when I feel all is well and it’s easier to get myself motivated. Not that I’m perfect, but being a monastic forced me to learn that there can be no division between sacred and mundane in my daily life, no matter how ordinary things seem.

  10. All of my YES to this post. My life and my spiritual path are too closely intertwined to separate one from the other. I rarely find time for a long drawn out ritual but I try to find little moments whenever I can to say thank you or ask for a bit of a favorable nudge all the time.

  11. This is one of those things I really have to fight against. When I get ill with depression and the like, or buried and stressed about my work; it becomes hard to muster the energy to do ANYTHING. Let alone worship.

    But when I put in that extra activation energy like a chemical reaction that won’t go easily, and sit before my shrines, I always feel better for it. This is what I tell myself every time I get into that mindset. It doesn’t always work, but I’m getting there.

    • I very much know what you mean about depression in particular, which saps one’s energy so badly. It is very difficult, but one just keeps plugging away at it. It helps to remember that you did it before, i.e., this too shall pass.

  12. Oh, I am so guilty of this, mostly when things are going well and I am too “busy” to tend to my spiritual matters. You are completely correct when you say that NOTHING is outside your spiritual life; we have no excuse for neglecting our devotions.

  13. Thank you for writing this. It comes at a time when I really needed it.

  14. Thank you for this post,this is exactly what i was thinking about the other day!

  15. I’ve been reading your blog about a year now sporadically, more seriously the last couple of weeks, and this is such an important thing to understand. I shelved my own ritual devotions in 2008 & suffered a lot because I didn’t understand the why/what/how of what was going on in my life at the time, and again it happened about a year ago. Doing my daily devotions adds a vitality & spark to my day that is unmatchable. So vitally important to really grasp this – great post!

  16. I think this is an important point. Rather than committing time to creating a blog post discussing how one’s devotions have fallen aside due to life situations, it might be better to simply take a short hiatus from blogging so that blogging time can be devoted to the Gods.

    Even if a major life event eats up a lot of time and we might not be able to give devotion to the degree we would like, lighting incense or pouring a libation while reciting a hymn takes only minutes. I’m guilty of letting some practices fall to the side in the past few months, but knowing what I do have time for (and not making excuses — lethargy is no reason not to pray) has been very helpful in blunting the impact.

    • Rather than committing time to creating a blog post discussing how one’s devotions have fallen aside due to life situations, it might be better to simply take a short hiatus from blogging so that blogging time can be devoted to the Gods.

      Good point. I would also add that I’m not sure it’s always helpful to make such blog posts – sure, theoretically it could generate some encouragement, but usually from what I’ve seen, it mostly generates commiseration. Yes, we have all been through this, and yes, it’s understandable, but it’s not exactly “okay” either – I would prefer to see commenters rallying the blogger to action, rather than excusing their neglect.

  17. Thank you for that kick up the backside *gets off internet*

  18. I feel like you’re always reminding me of this, and I am always thankful for the reminder. :)

    Linking this one on my blog.

    • This is one of those things that needs to be said (even if just by oneself, to oneself) over and over again, because it is a difficult and recurring issue. Often I make such posts just as a public way of reminding myself!

  19. Thank you! When things really hit the fan for me in the past few months, that’s exactly what I did. A tradition by any other name is the type of relationship that weathers the storm, not being blown off the pier because of it. How are you supposed to know how tough your relations are without any test?

    Thanks for posting this!

  20. Reblogged this on Welcome to My Lokean Life and commented:
    This is a great piece of advice. Even if you offer a meal or pray to your gods once a day, They will hear you and They will greatly appreciate what you have to give them at that time. I just finished casting a circle and I almost didn’t offer them squat and thought “I’ll just wait until tomorrow and then I can offer them a decent breakfast” then I was like Damn, that’s just plain rude. So I saw some left over chocolate and offered it up with my lemon-lime Gatorade I’ve been drinking and let me tell you They are LOVNG IT right now!! Cheers.

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