Our journeys should be like wilderness paths where sometimes the walk is fairly easy and sometimes we are walking uphill, or through tough terrain, we must occasionally find ourselves at cross-roads and make a choice of which way to go, we sometimes must acknowledge that this was not the best path and soldier on and sometimes we must back-track and try again, otherwise we are simply standing still.
Hello Dear Friends and Pagani!
So, this last week my dear friend Fey has been writing in her blog and facebook about her recent wrestling matches with some of her own personal demons, those painful memories and terrible experiences that are a part of so many of our lives. On her podcast SpiritsCast she even had a guest host discussing the issue of having personal demons and how one can deal with them.
I have been leaving comments on her blog and facebook sharing some of my own recently learned/encountered lessons about being compassionate with oneself in the spiritual journey and how it is perfectly natural for past issues to come lurking to the surface and that the important think is to keep moving forward on ones spiritual journey and with ones spiritual practice. I applaud her courage in not only facing these painful parts of her past and being ready to acknowledge and wrestle with and accept them as parts of her self, she is truly on the journey towards what T. Thorn Coyle calls Self-Possession. I also must applaud her willingness to be so open with this struggle, but it’s not that surprising given her nature as not only a spiritual practitioner but a teacher.
It is a strange dance we who are on a spiritual journey sometimes end up doing…
There is our work and career life, what we are doing to feed the body and keep it clothed and sheltered and such.
There is also the everyday life, household chores and fun things with friends and hobbies we engage in for fun and to feed our spirits a bit.
Then there is the Work, either discussed as the Great Work of Magic, the journey towards Self-Possession, seeking conversation of ones Holy Guardian Angel, or as the Spiritual Practices and/or Religious Observances that lift and sustain us in our spiritual journey.
The Great Work of Magic (or Magick for those that prefer…) is about a LOT more than mere spells, or even about ritual or magic. It is about work with and deep awareness and acceptance of every aspect of our selves and lives. It is about ethics and attitude and outlook, it is about mind and body and soul, it is as much about our physical and mundane lives as it is the spiritual and magical.
Yet in engaging in the Work as we begin to progress and move forward we will find all of our old issues and all of our history coming back up for us to actually accept them and deal with them, rather than trying to sweep them aside or bury them or run away from them. This is usually the point where we start finding excuses as to why we can’t possibly continue with this set of spiritual practices, we get uncomfortable with some of the emotions and ideas and realizations and memories that may arise.
“Generally Speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors — people who have a certain hunger to know what is true– feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messages that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” – Pema Chodron in the essay This Very Moment is the Perfect Teacher from her book of essays When Things Fall Apart
I know in my own journey there has been a lot of running around playing shadow tag with my self and my past over the years. Yet as I really begin to engage, once more, in my spiritual journey I also find myself finding a lot more of the me I used to be years ago. Happiness and humor and courage and strength and some small measure of hard-won wisdom. I had let a lot of these things lay dormant and dusty like a neglected altar in my soul.
Fey’s recent postings, and my own recent experiences and readings, have high-lighted something that I realize is extraordinarily important to remember, especially for us Contemporary Pagans.
The spiritual journey, and the experience of living our religions and paths, and our experience of spiritual and religious communities, should be many things; welcoming, safe, nurturing, enlivening and invigorating. They should not always, or perhaps never, be entirely comfortable or easy!
Living ones faith or spirituality, truly trying to live up to your values and ideals and principles, really engaging in a committed and ongoing spirituality and spiritual practice should challenge us!
We should occasionally have to accept a wrestling match with our own personal demons. Demons of our pasts, whether of terrible experiences from our pasts or of our own past failings and mistakes; they are there in each of our lives and we must be willing to actually look at and explore and deal with them. There will be times where in living our goals and ideals and principles where we must wrestle with those times where our guiding values conflict with what is going on around us; sometimes the best and truest way of living our values is to do the more difficult thing. Our journeys should be like wilderness paths where sometimes the walk is fairly easy and sometimes we are walking uphill, or through tough terrain, we must occasionally find ourselves at cross-roads and make a choice of which way to go, we sometimes must acknowledge that this was not the best path and soldier on and sometimes we must back-track and try again, otherwise we are simply standing still.
Having said that, I will also say that all of this courage and wrestling must also be balanced with humor and compassion for ourselves! Courage in our spiritual journeys means also having the courage to say “Not Today…” or “I’m not ready yet…” or to ask ourselves “Why am I so NOT wanting to deal with ______ right now?!”.
Some days, despite our deep and purposeful commitment to healthy eating (for example) we want that dark chocolate and a glass of sweet dark red wine. Some days we just do NOT want to go for our daily walk or to the gym. Somedays we are just Not feeling as much like Ritual (or Circle, or Ritual, or Blot, or Church, or what-have-you) as we are in just having some me-time. As long as we can look at these times and honestly say to ourselves that it is because in that exact moment that is what we need…. a little nurturing, a little comfort food, a little rest, or a little time for ourselves to just be, then that too is a very important part of our spiritual journeys!