On several occasions I’ve mentioned the need for a contemplative season in modern Pagan religion. By the solar calendar this should be the season between Samhain and Yule. But our mainstream culture makes this period so overwhelmingly busy that it’s virtually impossible to maintain a quiet introspective outlook for more than a few days.
But now “the holidays” are over. For me, today is the last of eleven days off from work – tomorrow 2012 begins in earnest. The magical “vacation time” is ended and “ordinary time” begins again. But in my industry (as with many), January and February are slow months – work is typically not too hectic. Away from work, the sun has been reborn, but the days are still short and the weather is entering its coldest phase – those of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be spending most of our time indoors.
In this world, the time between the secular New Year and Imbolc is the ideal time for a contemplative season.
If this is a season of contemplation, what should we contemplate? Start with your gods and goddesses, your ancestors, and the spirits of Nature. Talk to them. Make offerings to them. Most importantly, listen to them. Contemplate your families and communities – how can you better serve them this year? Contemplate your life and your calling – are you fulfilling your True Will?
How should we go about this contemplation?
First, emphasize your daily spiritual practice. Whatever you try to do every day, do it every day. For this season – not forever, not all year, but for these few weeks – let nothing short of a certifiable emergency keep you from daily meditation, prayer, reading, visualization and other spiritual practices. Don’t try to start something new and special, just give a heightened importance to the things you’re already doing.
Second, emphasize depth over breadth. If you usually spend ten minutes in meditation, spend fifteen. If you pray once a day, pray three times. If you do devotional reading, read and then meditate on what you’ve read and then write about how it applies to you and your practice. This isn’t the time to sample from the spiritual smorgasbord – it’s the time to go deeper into the path to which you’ve been called.
Third, minimize distractions. Mojo of “The Wigglian Way” podcast recently talked about selling his PlayStation to devote more time to guitar practice. Maybe you don’t need to go to that extent – but maybe you do. I have to limit my internet time. It’s too easy for me to read the news and check Facebook and read an article someone posted and follow a link or three and all of a sudden it’s time for bed. Whatever it is that sucks up your time and distracts you from spiritual practice, minimize it. Set firm limits and stick to them – not forever, but for this season.
Should we fast or give up something, like the Muslim Ramadan or the Christian Lent? There is historical precedent for a restricted diet in this season. Winter is just beginning and you have no way of knowing if Spring will be early or late… and even when Spring comes, it will still be many weeks before food crops can begin to be harvested. For our agrarian ancestors, this was a time to conserve food. For me (and, I imagine, for many people) changes in eating habits are their own very large challenge, a challenge that could turn into a distraction. If this strikes you as something you should do, then do it. I’m just going to focus on simplicity and avoiding extravagance.
How long should this season run? I’m starting tomorrow and ending with our celebration of Imbolc on January 28. If some of the in-depth practices become habits and carry over into the next season, great. If not, then I’ll pick them up again next year. That’s one of the benefits of observing the Wheel of the Year – different seasons have different emphases and different activities, so you don’t get bored or burned out on any of them.
In our ordinary world there is no better time than now for a season of contemplation. Will you join me?