Practice: Starting Out

Stepping deliberately into our practice is a helpful way to cue ourselves that something special is going on.  Over

Sign: "Begin One Way"
Photo by Andy Arthur (

time, when we do this the same way each day, this will make the practice more effective by helping our conscious and unconscious minds know what’s about to happen.

I tend to do this simply: I light a candle and say a short prayer.  I often also light a stick of incense; I only use a few kinds and tend to use one for several weeks at a time.  I find scent especially evocative, and thus particularly useful in this context.

If you have even less time, you can use going into the space where you practice as the delineation: approaching the altar or, if you’re really pressed for time, closing the door of the bathroom for a couple of minutes!  For practices that aren’t explicitly magical, you can look for some action or prayer that feels a useful way to begin.  I use my laptop for many things, but have a special program I use to do my writing practice that’s different from what I use for professional work.

If you have a very formal practice involving circle casting or other ritual ways of setting space, this is where they fit.  If you don’t, a space blessing is a lovely alternative.  You can do this with intention alone or intention and words, or you can add a physical element like sprinkling salt water or burning incense.  I often do both, which involves earth, air, fire, and water, and therefore appeals to my inner completist.

Aside from formal practice, rituals of transition can be useful all kinds of places.  Parents are probably used to using them with kids, warning them that it will be time to go in ten minutes, then five, two, one.  At my job, my ritual is to spend the last half-hour of my day sorting out my task lists and following up on open questions so that I know what to start with the next morning.  At bedtime, I warm up my hot pack for my bed, put lotion on my hands, read few pages, and then snuggle down.  Engaging these transitions with intention means that I fully move from one thing to the next and avoid switching activities but leaving half my attention behind!

Next up: honoring connections.  But until then, tell me about how you like to start!

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