Everyone handles challenge and difficulty differently (when it comes to religious stuff). For some, religious or devotional work gets pushed to the side. For others, devotional practices are even more important in difficult times. We can offer counsel or advice to others and encourage them to keep up with religious work and devotions, but it is always up to the individual and what they feel capable of doing.
When life begins to feel like it’s falling apart for me, I start cleaning. I throw out every piece of non-useful material in my space and burn incense, and once the entire room is clean I’ll sit down and pray…and pray…and pray. And once that is out of the way I’ll go about fixing whatever in my life is mucked up.
This is partially because I have an obligation to do so, at this point in my life, but also because my religion helps sustain me. Even if the gods don’t ‘talk back’, my prayer and devotional work feeds me and keeps me connected to them. I feel part of a larger life when it is all too easy to feel small and worthless. Rarely do I come out of these days or weeks of near constant prayer (usually punctuated with bouts of writing and rests of reading) feeling as though I am all-important or the next-big-thing. The most common feeling I have when coming out of these ‘retreats’ is stability. I can walk on my own feet and face even the worst punch life will land, and I can plan and control where I’m headed.
Of course, learning how to do that and messing up is a part of growing up, and I’m just turning twenty this year – I have plenty of times to mess up yet again and figure out (all over again) how to walk on my own.
It isn’t that my religious path is always easy and peachy keen – it’s not – but it’s my foundation. If I hadn’t decided to pick up that book, if I hadn’t decided to push through the frustration, if I hadn’t decided to keep on looking, my foundation would probably be an interesting combination of video games and fandom (no less awesome or sacred, but certainly quite different). My foundation is my religion, and I’ll hold onto it with tooth and nail. And because it is my foundation when the world starts to rock and shatter around me (or my perception of it does), I go back to my devotions. I go to the constancy, that support, that love and outpouring of love.
And it’s why I get fiery about it and don’t treat discussions about it like thought experiments.
My religion doesn’t make me better or more spiritual. It just makes me more myself. That’s all I can ask from it. I’m not on a path to be better than other people because that (being better) doesn’t hold any meaning to me. Stability – stable feet and a stable heart – and honesty are what are important to me. But I get to look out into the world and see so many religions and paths and different foundations and goals. It’s incredible – the variety, the diversity, the possibility.
Respite is different for everyone, just as what we seek respite from is different for each of us. Even people working on the same issue (religious or otherwise) will have different limits and responses to the same situations. We each have to find that thing (or two) that keeps us on the ground and from sinking or spiraling (either down or up up up).
My respite is prayer and the smell of incense and the feel of wood beads against my fingers. I rest in books and scribbles of bad poetry and likely worse prayer. My retreat is pouring libations in the morning before I’ve rubbed the sleep from my eyes and offering a voice I don’t trust up to the gods. And when I come back, I’m inevitably quicker on my feet and quicker with my tongue and much, much more myself.