How do you balance your personal life with your spiritual life?
It is an interesting question, and typically not one I receive from Pagan-type folk. Mostly, I hear this a lot from people who have recently found out that I am a Pagan, Polytheist, a Druid, or even a Priest of Crow. My short, flippant answer is that I try my very best to not compartmentalize my life. The truth of the matter is that I do not always succeed at that process, but I do try my best. Perhaps, and I am just guessing here, a lot of this comes from a disconnect between the way that I live my life and the manner in which I suppose the average Christian lives theirs. So I figured this would be an interesting moment of exploration, so let us see where this deer trod may lead us.
Before I get started too far down this line, let me caution you a bit. I am about to make some generalizations about some aspects of what I believe is the typical Christian adherent. This is not to say that every single Christian is this way, merely what I have observed as both a former practitioner of the Catholic and Southern Baptist sects, as well as that of a sometimes interested outside observer. My intention is not to find any manner to insult people of this faith, but to draw some contrasts between how I approach my own personal Spirituality and how I have perceived the Christian faith being approached. Now with that bit of business out of the way…
There are three areas that I have managed to denote some differences – utilizing compartmentalization, approaching the God(s), and finding interconnectivity. I am sure, if I tried really hard, I could find a metric ton of other aspects to compare and contrast. But I am not trying to write a book here. Merely trying to bring up some discussion points or food for thought.
So, I will start with my original statement. I try my very best to not compartmentalize my life. What this means, is that I try my very best to not separate aspects of my life from each aspect. My Druidry, my belief in the Gods as individual distinct Beings, my professional life, my personal life, my strong belief in Animism – all of that combines together to form who I am today. An easy form of defense is to ensure that none of these flows too deeply into another by separating each element into its own aspect. I see a lot of this in both Pagan and Christian practices. In fact, I used to practice this quite deeply. I would not talk about my professional life with Pagans, and not talk about Spiritual beliefs with those I worked with. What I wound up with was two very different versions of me, which I had trouble reconciling in my own mind. In Christian practice, I see a lot of this put into practice. People would live their own lives in their own way, and suddenly slip on the Spiritual personae when they came to church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. They would save their very best clothes for when they came to church and practice manners and compassion solely on those days. As if their beliefs were something that can be turned on and off by a switch on the wall. And in a manner of speaking, this was how I was living my life. Once I removed this and started to live my Spiritual life “out loud”, I started to find how other things started to fall into place. I will get to this in a bit more detail in the section on interconnectivity.
Approaching the God(s)
Most of my work with my Gods comes through meditation and dream-work. I spend time out in my backyard stone circle praying nearly every day. Many times, I have had Christian folks shocked by that admission. Prayer belongs to the Christian faith, right? Wrong. I use prayer to ask for guidance from Crow, Coyote, and several others when it comes to my daily life. The final choices of how I proceed are still mine. My Gods do not force me down a Path because of some destined fate, but regardless I do seek Their counsel from time to time. In a manner of speaking, this differs from what I have managed to observe of some of the Christian adherents. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all apparently a set of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where a personal need is prayed for. I need this. I want this. I have been faithful to you, please provide me with this. but to be fair, I have also observed some of the Christian faith utilizing prayer to seek guidance from their God or His chosen Savior. No need for a set of shiny prizes to drop from the slot because a faith-coin was deposited in the slot and the handle cranked. Just simple desire to have some form of guidance for their lives. Granted, there is still a measure of one’s personal destiny to be followed, slavishly in some instances like the “Hero’s Journey” in the writings of Joseph Campbell. First, this happens, followed by this, and resulting in this. Step by step instructions, if you will. I am sure that there are some things that my Gods guide me towards, as my hands are the tools necessary to accomplish something on this plane of existence. But the only destiny I have, the only journey I walk, follows the choices I make as to which Path I see as correct in my life at that moment. Sometimes, those are bad choices….and I learn from that. Which, for me, is the essence of life – to keep learning and experiencing.
I make no secret about what I do for a living. I work as an Institutional Researcher for a small two-year college. In short, I handle the statistics generated by the students’ activities within the college. I report this information to the US federal government and the state of Texas’ Departments of Education. This usually gets most people to cross their eyes trying to understand the concept, so I tend to fall back to a more generic explanation – I am a Data Science Researcher. My job requires an ability to converse with database systems, as well as utilize statistical programs that parse data into information. When I finally stopped setting my life in small containers (compartmentalizing) and really allowed the conceptual aspects of my Druidry to help inform my daily life, my analysis of that information started to be altered. See, Druidry is about connections for me.
A few years back, I took a year-long study course with Cat Treadwell, and the lessons contained within that program really showcased the ideas of connection for me. Where does my food come from? How can I see the changes in the season by the world around me? Well, every day I drive a small county rod to work, which brings me between two pastures. On either side of the road, I got to see new calves shortly after their birth as well as their growth over the course of the year. I watched the fields change as the cycle of the year wore on. And my eyes were opened to some smaller measures of connectivity I had not noticed before.
In my work, over the last two years, I have watched a similar cycle of growth, change, and connectivity. New students come to the college and start their education. Through my statistics, I can mark groups of students for further study, and see the cycle of their lives. Some students blaze through their programs, some have the number of classes wax and wane through the semesters – obviously trying to balance their personal life with the desire to advance their education. Some struggle with mathematics classes. And eventually, they transfer to a four-year institution, graduate with a degree or certificate, or stop their educational advancement altogether. As I have watched and studied group after group after group, I have seen trends which I want to analyze a bit deeper, as I see potential areas of connectivity. I attribute this to my Druidry, which helps me visualize so many of the strands taking place in the data before me. My Druidry also informs me that every single number is a student – a person – whose story is unfolding before my very eyes.
Certainly, I am not trying to tell anyone how to live their life nor how to approach their own concepts and understanding of Spirituality. What I write here is the result of nearly thirty-two years of being a Pagan. There were plenty of missteps, lots of wrong turns, and a countless number of holes in the Path that turned my ankle. if your desire is to find a belief system that provides step-by-step instructions on how to become grounded within your own faith….good luck with that. One thing I have learned in traveling from the Catholic faith to the Southern Baptist faith into Paganism (in its many different aspects that I have tried) is that there is no set of written instructions. Much like taking a walk through woods to enjoy the outdoors, there is no set way to find your own Spiritual Path. If your focus is on the sounds of the birds in the trees, or wanting to listen to the sound of the breeze pushing through the branches of the trees, or wanting to revel in the warmth of the Sun on your skin, or marvel at the wondrous landscapes in front of you-you will find what you are wanting if you have some patience. The same holds true for one’s Spiritually, at least in my experience.
And the Gods? Or God? Or Holy Trinity? Or what have you? Not that long ago, I thought that the Morrigan was calling me to Her battle line. It was not Her. And it was for a far different reason. But when I questioned what She would want with me – a good friend told me: “The Gods call who They call.” Just try your very best not to turn Them into some kind of ATM that spits out presents and gifts based on the greed of your capitalist heart. Not only do the Gods deserve more respect than that, so do you.
And balancing your life between your Druidry (or what have you) and your mundane life? Let the two intersect as deeply as you are able to. You will find yourself having a far richer life when you are not trying to serve two different versions of yourself. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage will likely vary to one degree or another.