Sometimes I get stuck in a critical loop — talking about what I don’t want, but not moving forward toward what I do want. Part of the reason I started the blog was so you all could call me on it. I appreciate it when you do. In my last post, I went on my annual rant about Unitarianism. It felt good. But it really didn’t move me forward. And one of my commenters called me on it.
Maybe I needed to get it out of my system. But in any case, I do have a plan for moving forward. And I know many of my readers who are tired of hearing me criticize other religious traditions instead of developing my own practice will be relieved.
“What I needed was to develop a devotional religious practice, not toward gods, but toward the world. I needed to embrace the world as my Beloved (there’s that name again), as my waiting lover. The world is that Divine Other I have been seeking who can draw me out of my ego. And I need a religious practice that will affirm, encourage, and sustain this embrace.”
But I don’t really know what that looks like yet. I need some help. And I’m happy to report that I have some ideas where I can find that help.
To begin with, I’ve enrolled in a 16-week online introductory course with Sharanya into the Sha’can tradition, which begins in April. The course promises to help participants create a devotional ritual through which we can approach the Divine Mother Who Embraces All. It’s appropriate since the Kali Puja ritual organized by Chandra Alexandre and Sharanya at Pantheacon was largely responsible for awakening in me the desire to develop a devotional practice with the world at its center. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.
I’ve also enrolled in a 12-week online course with Alison Leigh Lilly called “Keystones of the Sacred Land”. The course is intended to help people connect more deeply with the plants and animals living in their area and use the insights of modern ecology to develop a personalized spiritual practice. (Registration is closed, but Alison will most likely be offering the course again in the future.) I think Alison is the perfect person to teach about cultivating an earth-rooted spiritual practice, and I’m excited about the course.
Putting these two courses together I hope will bring together the devotional and the earth-centered in a fulfilling spiritual practice. And you all get to watch as I try to realize this goal, awkwardly as always, but earnestly nonetheless.
There other threads to this tapestry I am weaving. I’ve been working on developing my ritual creation skills recently, drawing from some of the best ritualists in our community. To that end, I’ve started a 5-part series here, “Five Ritualists I’d Like to Invite to Dinner With”, with the first installment being dedicated to Shauna Aura Knight. The next installment will be coming soon. (Who will it be?) I’ve already put some of what I have learned to practice in my most recent spring equinox ritual with my family.
Along those same lines, I’ve signed up for a two-day seminar called “Susceptible to the Sacred: Jung, Ritual, and the Inner Journey” sponsored by the Jung Institute of Chicago. It brings together my love of all things Jungian with my love of ritual. The seminar is intended to help participants find “strategies for activating the unconscious through ritual”. It includes a discussion of Jungian spiritual practice by an Episcopal priest who also an analyst, a workshop put on by GongLab (“luminous sound produced by ceremonial gongs, bowls, bells, drums and otherworldly vocals carries you deep into the liminal realm”), an introduction to Hindu ritual (“The ancient Hindus believed Nature to be the domain of the Unconscious and created several rituals and practices […] to connect with Nature and invoke the support of the Unconscious.”), and a “Contemplative Eucharist” (“a western ritual in an eastern space”). Sounds awesome! And I’m hoping it gives me some great ideas for spiritual techniques.
And last but not least, I’ve been reading a couple of books which tie in with these themes. I mentioned Trebbe Johnson’s The World is A Waiting Lover earlier, one part love story and one part guidebook for union with the divine. I’m also finishing up Christine Hoff Kraemer’s Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective, which explores the erotic — especially sacred touch — as a manifestation of the divine. I’m going to be writing more about it in the near future, but it is a great book that would appeal to Pagans and non-Pagans, academics and non-academics alike.
So over the next few months I’ll be writing about what I am learning and how I am attempting to weave all this together into a meaningful spiritual practice. Love, Earth, Body, Ritual: these are the threads of my emerging spiritual tapestry.