It’s not about us

Just read an interesting post (which is a continuation of an earlier post) by Galina Krasskova over at Patheos. Now, I don’t always agree with everything she has to say, I even had some quibbles with a few things in this essay, but overall I’m on board with the whole service-to-the-gods focus, and I especially resonated with this:

“In some ways it involves a radical paradigm shift: it’s not about us. There’s something about all our communities that has taught us to approach spiritual work from the perspective that it’s all about our growth, our enlightenment; and while that might be part of it, yes, a byproduct as I mention above, it’s not the biggest part. Rather it’s about service and right relationship with the dead, with the Gods, with the land. This benefits us but it’s not about us.”

Absolutely. It always throws me a bit when a pagan is talking about their spirituality and I start realizing that their concept of such is entirely self-centered – what will make them a better person, what will heal their old wounds, spells that will help them, rituals done only for fun or self-interest rather than actual worship. Rarely in any aspect of life does one receive something without giving something, yet these people seem to think that spirituality is the exception. The gods, if they are acknowledged at all, are just there to provide blessings on demand, without any strings attached.

Of course, not all pagans are of this sort, but even in circles of more serious-minded and traditional polytheist folks, one sometimes sees an aversion to the idea of service for the sake of service, of turning over one’s life to the gods and spirits, of making choices based on what is asked of us, what is the right path, even if it might be inconvenient or painful.

And yes, I agree with Krasskova, there is a right path. Or rather, many of them, depending on who you are, who your gods are, what your job (spiritually speaking) is, etc. So while my right path may not be yours, may even be in opposition to yours and still be correct and approved by divine powers, it is still important to distinguish from those paths that might seem merely appealing to me, or easier (or even harder, since I’m somewhat of a masochist). Not all paths lead up the same mountain, and not all paths lead anywhere at all, or not anywhere good.

How to discern the right path? Give it over to the gods and spirits. Let Them show you what direction to move in, and then (1) actually listen to Them rather than to your own desires and (2) actually do it! Don’t ask for guidance and then ignore what’s offered. And don’t be afraid to do something scary, something different, something unplanned and unexpected, if it’s clearly being asked of you. Those are often the things that lead to the best parts. Maybe not even for you personally, but for others, or the gods themselves, or the land you live on… because it’s not always about us.

When you live in “right relationship” (I like that term) with the gods and spirits and the things They hold dear, it requires certain sacrifices and bestows many gifts (different in quantity and quality with each person), but the best gift is the service itself. These divine entities, that have inspired majestic temples, stunning works of art, festivals attended by thousands, moving hymns – that inhabit the inner workings of the very world itself, the sky and earth and rain and trees, sex and death and creation and entropy – that fill our world with magic, our bodies with ecstasy, our minds with visions… what could be a better use of our lives than to serve Them?

~ by Dver on January 6, 2011.

11 Responses to “It’s not about us”

  1. Wonderful post.

    The second to last paragraph really hit home for me. I’m guilty of having asked for guidance and then ignoring what was offered! Just because I felt like it didn’t fit. Recently I have realized and like you said, that I need to hand my path over to the gods and spirits – it isn’t always about what I want.

    • Most of the instructional stuff I write like that is based heavily on my own experiences, mistakes and even ongoing struggles. So, in other words, I’ve been there too! I work very hard on hearing Them correctly and following Them over my own urges, but am certainly not perfect at it yet. Probably never will be.

  2. I agree about the attitude, beautiful post..but on the other hand…though it definitely rings true for some people others are simply a bit thick skulled. We don’t really get something means anything until it’s all over already. So at least I end up going with the ” but does this make me a better person?” thing a lot. Not because I don’t want to hear what they have to say but quite simply because I’m rather hard hearing. I’d love to be able to actually decipher what a deity wants but well, mostly I am not. Though I do experience deity it is a very blurry watercolour painting rather than a clear pencil sketch. And though most pagans would love believe every pagan has a direct connection to the divine, some of what I’ve seen suggests I’m not the only one with only a few moments of clearity. But then again I could be completely wrong, I’m rather much of a newbie still!

    • I think everyone experiences that – not knowing what the message was until you can see it clearly in retrospect. And so of course, sometimes you need to fall back on other approaches. It’s not always clear communication, even for those of us who pretty much do this full time. Though I think my statements are more imperative for those who *have* committed their lives to the gods in a vocational way, and yet still resist doing what they are called to do if it conflicts with what they want to do.

  3. Great post as always Dver!

    I have a hard time hearing the gods, like Birdonwing says. I want to strengthen that connection and work hard on hearing and listening. I want to know more of what they want from me so I can serve them as they so desire. Your posts always hit me on the head at the right time for how I’m feeling. I love checking your blog and getting a piece of wisdom to think on for the day. It has helped me so much the past few months. Thank you!!

    • Aw, thank you, I’m so glad that you’re getting something out of my writing! As for hearing the gods, honestly a good portion of it is just practice, like anything else. Especially if you’re talking about it in a day-to-day manner, rather than working on special trance states and things like that. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and I am still working on it.

  4. I agree with you on the self centered relationship some have in their spiritual lives. I came to terms with this a couple years ago and made sure that my circle and I always have a nice offering and invite the gods and goddesses to participate and ask that they….. We are also working on a larger thankful ritual for the gods and goddesses for blessing us in the past year. We are making things as offerings including food and art as thank yous for what we have received. Love your thoughts in this post.

  5. […] that are inspiring and re-inspiring me (including They Hold Our Hands,  from Aquila ka Hecate, and It’s not about us also from Dver, and Gods, Goods and shadows… from CredenceDawg) as I seek to write of my […]

  6. […] such as prayer, offerings and sacrifice. For one thing, it is a constant reminder that “it’s not about us,” which is important in order to keep the ego in check. And giving to the gods connects us to […]

  7. “Let Them show you what direction to move in, and then (1) actually listen to Them rather than to your own desires and (2) actually do it! Don’t ask for guidance and then ignore what’s offered. And don’t be afraid to do something scary, something different, something unplanned and unexpected, if it’s clearly being asked of you.”

    This really hit home for me, I’ve been ignoring some synchronicities in my life this past year because they’ve been asking for something truly scary, different, and unplanned. How do you know that it’s the right decision if it is going to majorly impact and even hurt other people you love? Something I have been really struggling with is when to decide something for me, and when to decide something in consideration for those around me, like my children. It’s something I don’t really see discussed anywhere.

    I really enjoy reading your blog posts, thank you for sharing them.

    • How do you know that it’s the right decision if it is going to majorly impact and even hurt other people you love?

      That is a really difficult situation. Definitely one that calls for some outside assistance – if looking for omens or other obvious confirmations isn’t working, I’d suggest requesting the help of a skilled diviner or oracle. You need someone objective, unattached to you. Don’t give them too much information and just see what the gods have to say directly.

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