The first thing you have to do is show up.
I have an illness that makes me depressed.** Part of “depressed” is an inability to do things – either an inability to start because I am too tired/too sad/don’t care, or an inability to repeatedly do things because I’m too tired/too sad/why bother. For people like me, showing up is not only vitally important, it’s often damn near impossible. A lot of things in my life, from getting my car inspected to doing the dishes, become far more than day to day adulting tasks. They become a mess of inertia and paralyzation, with all the guilt and embarrassment that come from looking “lazy.”
(I am also lazy. But that’s beside the point.)
What do I mean by showing up? I mean doing the thing. Not just reading ten books on spiritual practice and writing down in your planner “do the thing,” but DOING THE THING.
You see, not actually showing up for my practice is part of how it all fell apart in the first place. All the good intentions in the world do you zero good if your actions don’t line up with them. Like I tell people who insist that someone who acts like a complete asshole is “a good person underneath it all,” who the hell cares what they are underneath? A “good person” who is okay with treating people badly and also being a giant hypocrite is not, in my view, much of a person. Our actions are what affect others. That is the mark we leave on the world, and no “good person” wants that mark to be a bruise. Or, to misquote my grandmother, have good intentions in one hand and shit in the other, see which hand fills up first.
Don’t get me wrong: Intention is important, because it’s the first spark that leads you to action. Remembering why you’re doing something can keep you invested, and reminds you that there is a greater purpose to what may at times be a less than thrilling routine. However, in and of itself intention doesn’t get you very far in terms of actual real-world results or, hell, even astral results. You have to do the pathworking. Cast the spell. Do the meditation. Do the yoga. Chant the mantra. And more importantly you have to keep doing it.
Just writing all those verbs is exhausting.
The aggravating truth is that one great ritual a month can’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the transformative power of fifteen minutes of spiritual practice done every day for a full month.
Sure, that one ritual may blow the roof off your chakras, but then you have four weeks of ordinary time, during which mundane life gets in the way and that ritual’s power dims little by little. By the time you reach the next Full Moon you’re running on empty again. If, however, you do a little every day, those smaller effects build up – but they also stay with you, because there’s less time between for you to forget what you’ve learned.
Even better, those everyday acts of reverence that slowly build your practice make the Big Time Rituals even more effective because you’re already primed for them. If you live your spirituality every day, you’ll be on the lookout for inspiration and ready to receive it. You’ll be able to absorb those states of grace more fully than if you were just hit with them once in a while with nothing in between.
Trust me, this is something I know about, even if it’s been years since I fully lived it, and to be totally honest I’m not there again yet. I’m working my way toward the kind of practice I once had, but after so much life and so many experiences that practice does not look like it did back then, nor would I want it to. Your spiritual practice should grow like a living thing and adapt to who you evolve into.
Remember this, because it’s very important: The way you show up for yourself and Spirit now will not be the way you showed up ten years ago or even six months ago. You have to let go of the image of who you were the last time you had a spiritual life or belief system. You have to release that version of you, because she’s done her job, and so did her practice.
It’s time to let now be now. Again, this is a painful thing I’ve learned: The path I was on once, the Circles I was part of, the work I did then, is over with. I have work to do now, terrain to wander, and it’s different. It’s okay that it’s different. The world is different, my life is different, my needs are different. Some of the same themes will come up, some of the same people are still with me (thank Goddess!), some have come, some have gone. I’m older and fatter and tireder and sadder and smarter and have less patience with shitty people and more patience with myself. The spiritual work I did ten years ago worked for me, then it didn’t. That’s okay too. I can take what worked back then and come up with versions and variations that work for me now.
You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater but you do have to acknowledge that the baby’s a sullen teenager now and has her own set of needs and desires.
So show up as you and no one else. Deity knows what you look like naked. Show up as nerdy and damaged and clay-footed as you are right at this moment and don’t be afraid. Show up confused and uncertain or brave and ready. Whatever you bring to the altar is okay as long as it’s real.
Bathwater tossed? Lunch packed? Loins girded? All right!
On to Step Two.
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