The start of the 2001 Chickamauga Chase – I’m in there somewhere. I finished the 15 kilometers in 1:14:45. I may never run again, but I can get a lot healthier than I am now.

When Life / the Universe / the Goddess is kind enough to send you an omen, you should pay attention. When you get three messages on the same theme in 24 hours, you’d better get your butt in gear.

Those of you who know me in the real world or who have read some of my more personal blog entries know the past year or so has been hectic, to say the least. There were some major changes at work – some new senior managers did some things that were smart from a strategic standpoint but poorly executed from a tactical standpoint. As a mid-level manager who does more working than leading, much of the cleanup fell on me. From April of last year through January of this year, I worked more hours and more hard, stressful hours than I have since I left my “job from hell” in Indiana in 1997.

None of us has infinite capacity. When my job began consuming more and more of my time and (especially) my energy, I started cutting back in other areas and compensating in other ways. When you’re stressed, when life is challenging, you do what you have to do to get by. But if you’re not careful, things that are legitimate coping mechanisms can turn into permanent unhelpful (and unhealthy) habits.

Somewhere around the end of January things finally started to settle down. I haven’t put in a 50-hour week all year, and I’ve only worked one weekend. People have stopped yelling (mostly – salesmen tend to yell any time the least little thing isn’t exactly how they want), and I’m usually getting home at a decent hour and in a decent frame of mind. Things are much much better.

I’ve maintained my nightly prayers, but my meditation has been hit and miss (mostly miss). I’ve been stuck on “two to go” with my OBOD Druid lessons for over three month. I’ve done a bit of reading, but not nearly as much as I used to. Physically, my exercise quantity and quality is way down, and my eating habits are somewhere just this side of abysmal.

This has become the new “normal.” And that’s not good. Enter the omens.

1. I had an e-mail exchange with someone who frequently comments on the DMN Religion Blog. He’s a Biblical inerrantist, so we don’t see eye to eye on very much. But we agreed on one thing: he quoted statistics that said the vast majority of Evangelical converts don’t stick with it. My response was “I’m not surprised. Spiritual growth and development is hard work, no matter which version you’re practicing.”

Yep, it’s hard work… hard work I haven’t been doing much of lately.

2. One of my duties as DUUF Congregational President is introducing the offering in the Sunday services. I think that falls to the President because nobody else wants to do it – there are only so many ways you can say “the offering is the sacrament of the free church.” Looking for some semi-relevant quote to use, I came across this from St. Thomas More: “O Lord, that which we pray for, grant us the grace to labour for.”

I’ve been doing a lot of praying lately. Haven’t been doing nearly as much labouring. That was understandable when I was working 60 hour weeks. Now, not so much.

3. I read this blog entry from Wiccan Priestess and author Thorn Coyle. In it, she talks about the need for more discipline in her physical training. She says “I’ve got to be healthy to strengthen my will and must strengthen my will to become yet more healthy.”

I know what she’s talking about. I need to be healthy – truly healthy, not just not-sick – in order to be who and what I’ve been called to be. Paganism celebrates our physical existence – this is usually thought of in terms of our sexuality, but it’s also about being healthy and strong. I remember what it’s like to finish a 12 mile run and know I could have gone farther.

I met Thorn at last year’s Druid Gorsedd. Based on physical appearances, I guessed she was 10 to 12 years younger than me. When I read this blog entry, I told myself I was too old to get back into serious physical training. But if her Wikipedia page is correct, she’s all of three years younger than me. Age is no excuse.

Here’s another quote: “Can we take one further step toward freedom this week? Can we support each other’s practice and desire? Can we not coddle our own weaknesses, but lend each other strength?”

She’s right. We (all of us, but Pagans especially) frequently coddle each others weaknesses, when we should be challenging each other to learn and grow and be everything we’ve been called to be.

It’s time to reboot. Time to get back to meditation every day. Time to finish my Druid coursework. Time to get back to study and contemplation several times a week. Time to get back to regular exercise six days a week. And perhaps most importantly, time to start eating mindfully instead of grabbing whatever high-fat, high-sugar, over-processed food or drink catches my eye.

Regular spiritual activities are called “practice” for a reason. I’ve fallen out of practice, for reasons that were understandable: no guilt and no second-guessing. But those reasons are mostly gone. It’s time to reboot my spiritual practice.

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