Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon for my third year in a row. I will not make it back this next year, as I will be out of vacation time, and that is a real shame for me. I attend a lot of the presentations and always find thinking points, as well as writing prompts, from the folks who offer these little glimpses into their passions. There are certain folks that I will make the time to be at their presentations. Silence Maestas is one of those folks. Of all the Polytheists that I read and have had the pleasure of discussing things of any nature, Silence is one of the most approachable and passionate individuals I have ever had that pleasure with. When I saw the two sessions concerning Devotional Practice, I knew I had to be at both. While I had copious notes from the “Beginning Devotional Practice” session, it was the “Advancing Devotional Practice” that I did the majority of my participating in. My notes for that session came down to three total lines, all questions.
What happens when our relationship become stagnant?
And what about the “quiet times”?
How can you blog so much and have time for devotional practice?
All three are fairly tough questions to pose to yourself. Honestly, the first two relate to an experience that nearly every Polytheist I have talked with has experienced. That “dry time” where it feels like the Gods have stepped away from you. The third, well, it is a bit judgmental in its very nature, hinting that if you have time for everything else – such as blog writing – that you are taking time away from your devotional practice. My experience has been that the third question, while difficult to really deal with, is not true. You can eat, breathe, play sports, work a mundane job, and have a hobby while still having a devotional practice. Devotional practice doesn’t mean you have to live like a sequestered monk, merely that your expression and devotion to your God(s) finds a place in your mind throughout all of your activities.
Now, there are those that will disagree with me, and that is perfectly fine. Let me say this up front – I know how to deal with devotional practice from my own point of view. Part of what I do and believe might make sense to you. Nin Hells, ALL of it might not make sense to you. Please do not think I am saying that anyone must do what I do. That would be a ludicrous assumption on my part. As I seem to be fond of saying here on the blog, as well as in real life, you do you. You know what works for you. And if something looks like it might work for you, give it a shot. If it does, assimilate it into your daily devotional practice. If it doesn’t – accept the experience, discard the practice, and move forward with what does work. How I handle my daily devotional practice is not the be-all, end-all for anyone – including me.
Stagnation. This happens in any relationship you have, and a devotional practice is a relationship, in my view. Stuff gets old and wrinkled. There is no “zing” to it. Where you received answers from the Gods so easily, there is nothing or maybe just a bare trickle. Many folks call this the “quiet times” in their devotional practice. I live on the very southern edge of the central plains of the United States. In fact, if you look at the history of agricultural practice in the United States, I am on the southern edge of where the Dust Bowl is located. The hot winds of the prairie blow here along the Red River at the Texas/Oklahoma border every summer – and this summer is no different. The same, hot breeze – day in, day out. The monotony does get old after a while. There is not a lot of joy that can be found in the same thing over and over and over. I can definitely grok the concept of the quiet times in a theme like that. Any incoming storm clouds can provide a relief and a welcome change to the overall tedium. But that’s the weather, what about a spiritual practice?
Yeah, I get it. The same practices accomplished in the same manner over and over and over at the same time, in the same way, with the same words…blergh. Sometimes, that tedium can get to you, but is this because you are bored or because the Gods just don’t seem to be there? If the Gods don’t seem to be there, change things up. Keep the fundamentals of your devotional rites, but add something different. Change something up. Alter the wording or phrasing. Change the time you do things. Improvise some of your devotional aspects. Put some theatrics into things. Sing your rite instead of reciting it. Add an offering. Change what is offered. But be sure to keep the fundamental framework. Improvisation is great stuff, but the basic framework still needs to be honored to some degree. After all, you have to have some anchor that keeps things together. Otherwise, you may as well change everything, and that is a lot like starting completely over. That can have its advantages as well, but remember you’re trying to add some spice to what you are doing, not go total anarchy on your practice.
Sometimes, the quiet times are a blessing in disguise. These moments where life is not a rolling sea of issues can provide you the opportunity to get a stronger anchor in what you are doing. Plus, I will be honest, I would prefer things to be somewhat quiet. I do not really have a need or desire for my Spirituality to be an adventure where I must be the hero to every moment. My preference is for my Spirituality to be about building a better, more balanced me. When things are slower, I can work on deepening my own, individual approach to my two Gods. I can find ways to deepen my perspective on the world around me without getting completely caught up in the crisis of the moment. That deepening of my perspective will be useful for when the crisis of the moment does manage to engulf me. I can find my balance far better, and be the helpful, solid point of perspective for others when they have need of me.
My spirituality is one of focus, balance, and perspective. The truly difficult times for me are not the quiet times, but rather the times where the noise of the world and its issues drown out my understanding of where I am in the world. Those moments of noise and chaos are the troubled moments for me, where I have to reach out and find my balance. But I understand the concept of the “quiet times” where the connectivity to one’s Gods in a devotional practice seems to miss the mark rather than making the connection. Everyone reaches these times in their practice. Mix things up when you reach these moments. Experiment a little. Try something offbeat. Alter your perception. But keep the basic framework there as the anchor, so that you have a familiar point to come back to. Above all, don’t panic. Remember, this is your Spirituality you are dealing with. Keep your faith. You are on a quest to better who you are and connect more deeply with your Gods, not find a volcano to throw a ring into.
Consider this, sometimes the quiet times, where the Gods seem to walk away, are there to provide the opportunity for you to grow your faith in Them. The Gods don’t always answer us. They have Their own things to handle and manage. And sometimes, Their silence may be provided to give us the chance to find the answers for ourselves. Surely, the Gods would prefer us to be able to work out many of our issues on our own, using our wits and intelligence (along with our sense of humor and sarcasm). Otherwise, we become nothing more to Them than a herd of sheep that need to be constantly looked after. I, for one, believe that the Gods would not want this from us. And I will be happy to utilize these “quiet” moments to work on myself or whatever issue might be at hand.