My daily practice (revised): The spiritual practice of going through the motions

(Note: Sorry to everyone who got emailed the incomplete version of this post.  My fingers moved too fast and it posted before it was ready.)

Over at Patheos, Star Foster has written a great post about struggling with daily practice which she entitles “Slacker Paganism”.  I am a big advocate of at least trying to maintain a daily spiritual practice.  Star proposes a solution for the inevitable disappointment we all feel when we fail to live up to our own expectations of what our daily practice should look like.

“What I have done is create an ideal practice consisting of five components: a prayer, meditation, diary, ritual, and another prayer. On an awesome day I will do all five. Maybe even some of them more than once. I will perform these actions mindfully and deeply, gleaning every bit of spiritual mojo from them. I will suck the marrow from the spiritual bone. But let’s face it, life happens. Some days I’ll be lucky to squeeze one or two in, hurriedly and mindlessly. That is ok.”

Star goes on to explain that, even when we only do one out of the five, or when we rush through one of the components, not really feeling it, the practice can still have a positive impact on our lives.  The point isn’t to be perfect or to have an earth-shattering experience each time.  The point of daily practice is … to practice.

Here’s Star’s rules for “Slacker Paganism”:

1.  Pick five simple spiritual things you can perform that don’t require tools, a lot of room, or anything consumable (incense, candles, etc…). Pouring a libation of water or writing in a spiritual journal/diary are as far as you want to require something outside of your own body.

2.  On the first day do all five. Notice which are easiest and which require a little more time and effort.

3.  On good days push yourself to do all five.

4.  On busy days push yourself to do the easiest for the time and circumstances you find yourself in

5.  Half-ass it if you need to. Mumble a prayer/spell/affirmation/etc… as you slurp down coffee and search for your car keys.

6.  DO NOT FEEL BAD FOR HALF-ASSING IT. (This is the most important thing.)

7.  If you find extra time during your day, perform one of your daily practices. You can repeat an easy one if that suits the moment.

8.  Pay attention to how you feel. Notice what has a positive effect on your well-being.

9.  At the end of the day, don’t feel bad about skipping something. Plan to do it in the morning.

10.  After a week notice the changes in your practice, mood and energy level.

I love this.  And I love Star for posting it.

Now, confession time.  Right about now, my wife is reading this and saying, “What?!”  You see, for years I have resisted the “fake it till you make it” theory of spiritual practice.  I thought that, if I wasn’t feeling it, then there was no point in doing it.  Like Star, however, I have discovered that there are myriad levels of “feeling it” and that there is value in doing it even when I’m really not feeling it.  (Yes, honey, you were right.)

What has helped me overcome this obstacle is creating my own daily practice.  When the practice was given to me, by an external religious authority, then practicing it daily was doubly difficult on those days when I wasn’t feeling it.  When I have created the practice myself, though, then I find it much easier to “see the point” on the days when it is harder to practice.

So here’s the five components of my daily spiritual practice:

1.  Morning devotional to the elements: sun, water, breath, and dirt.

2.  Prayer over meals.  (“Eat and carouse with Bacchus, or munch dry bread with Jesus, but don’t sit down without one of the gods.” — D.H. Lawrence)

3.  Nightly prayers with my kids.

4.  Evening devotional to the gods/archetypes.

5.  Blogging: not daily posts, but daily work on posts.  Blogging is a spiritual practice for me.

(I also have a weekly practice that would like to get started, but that’s another subject.)

Some days, I don’t do any of these.  Some days only one or two get done.  But I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it any more.  And I am going to embrace the spiritual practice of “going through the motions”.

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