“If you want to be something, you have to really want it. You have to be immersed in it every single day. You have to do the hard, sometimes boring, work. You have to do the research, the reading, writing things down, the rituals, the magick workings. You have to understand the theories behind the concepts, try your best to put theory into practice, manage the framework until you know it backwards and forwards. Once you have the basics down, you can work in the world of improvising. But before you try to change, you have to try to live it.”
I am extremely embarrassed to admit that it took me a very, very long time before I realized how important that statement really is. No matter what you are trying to do in your life. I wrote that statement three years ago. That’s right, I was forty-eight years old when I wrote that. I have been on a Pagan Path for close to twenty-seven years at that time. At that time, I had always thought I was living a “deep and fulfilling” life within Paganism. A few smacks to the back of my head later, along with some humiliating moments where I was shown just how shallow my understanding of Pagan practice really was – and Coyote had set me firmly onto looking for a deeper understanding of what I was really trying to do.
Once again, I tried the easy route. I figured that I only needed to dive deeper into the study of what I was working with. At this point, I was looking for ways to incorporate parts of First Nations’ Shamanism into my daily life. Once again, I felt the paw to the back of my head, and the feathery embrace of another Trickster – Crow. Before I started down a path of trying to improvise to my belief structure, I needed to create a framework from which to build on it. And here, I was lost. What could I use as a basis for who I am, that would be a pliable enough framework to build from?
Turns out, I had already started down this road a few years earlier. The work of the Bardic Grade within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids was what I needed. While the ritual aspect was not quite what I wanted to work with, I found that these could be replaced with my own improvised works. Success! I found something that I could utilize to build my own Spiritual understanding upon! Except that I was wrong again. On the right track, just not looking at things the way that I needed to.
See, instead of interchanging things as I learned, I needed to learn the entire framework first. I needed to live my lessons. To be able to utilize the framework and build from it, I needed to learn the framework first. In the same way that musicians learn and live their scales and basic structures first, I needed to do the same thing within my work with the Bardic Grade. This was why I kept starting, stopping and going backwards in the lessons. I wasn’t grasping the lessons, because I was trying to improvise from something where I didn’t even know the basics. I needed to stop once more. And start AGAIN, but this time I needed to immerse myself in what I was learning. I needed to live the lessons I was learning, I needed to dive deeply into what I was learning. Skimming the top wasn’t going to work. So, I did just that seven months ago and I am happy to note that I have spent a lot of time in the lessons re-learning things. But I am also seeing changes in how I approach my own beliefs.
I pull data from databases for a living. I learn SQL code every single day. Every database system has a different language structure. Its similar to other databases, but some of the coding structure is different. That requires me to learn new concepts, and it requires me to use that new coding style every single day. I have to immerse myself in this new language, so that I become proficient. That makes me capable of completing the jobs I need to in order to finish my work.
Spiritual work is no different. I am unlearning aspects of Roman Catholicism every single day – even though I haven’t seen a Catholic mass since I was seventeen (1983 for those needing a year). Prior to all of that, I will have to admit – I was much closer to being an Instant-Pudding Pagan than anything else.
What is an Instant-Pudding Pagan? Well, think about how instant pudding gets made. You open a package of pudding mix, and dump that into a bowl. Then you pour some cold milk into the bowl, pull out the whisk, and mix it together. Once you’re done, you place the bowl and contents into the fridge to let everything set. An Instant-Pudding Pagan takes a little bit o stuff from here and there, places all of that into a container (their brain or whatever), gets out the magickal whisk/wand, stirs it all together, and then lets it set for a period of time. Once it sets, the result is pronounced to be a full-fledged Pudding, and is smacked on the head with the whisk/wand to announce this to the world at hand.
I did a lot of that during my earlier years as a Pagan. I spent a lot of time sampling from place to place – tradition to tradition – looking for something that would work. A spiritual system that I could work and grow within comfortably. As I went from place to place, I gathered ingredients here and there, and started to create my own spiritual beliefs. But I had no base to work from, and that didn’t help me at all. I had nothing in which to cultivate some of these ideas and concepts I had skimmed off from other systems. So, my spirituality didn’t grow well for me. Like I said, it only dawned on me three years ago that I needed to do things differently.
Now, those of you gathering clubs and torches to destroy me over describing your method of Spiritual Belief as “Instant-Pudding” – let’s set all that on the ground and remember something. If that method works for you, and you have grown something in that manner which works for you – I could not be more thrilled for you. In fact, you have no idea how wide my smile is, because I am proud of people who find things that work for them – no matter where or how they find those methods. I use the “Instant Pudding” term as a descriptive that allows a more visual interpretation by some. Its not meant to be demeaning, just a descriptive methodology. So, please don’t freak out over the descriptive. Demeaning someone is not the purpose of this.
I keep hearing the line from the old Rocky Horror Picture Show in my head when I write about this. “Don’t dream it, be it.” For me, I have found most things require hard work. There are things that need to be done and understood before making changes to get things to suit me. And if I am trying to learn it, living it is one of the best learning techniques for me. It might not be the best technique for someone else, but it certainly seems to be providing the results that I had been hoping for – and providing me with a perspective I would never have comprehended before.