Lately, I have been experiencing a lot of transitions in my life. In addition to the general chaos that this world has been experiencing for quite some time now, I find myself experiencing changes and loss on a level that is unusual for me.
I have family members who are dealing with some critical health issues. My son is getting ready to go into the military and I will be an empty nester for the first time. I have lost several loved ones over the past two years and my own underlying health conditions make this current pandemic a bit scary.
I am also pondering opportunities for myself that would result in my future looking different than it does now. Normally I adapt well to change but faced with this much uncertainty hitting me all at once from a variety of angles has left me feeling untethered and has put my anxiety into overdrive.
I am what you would call a “high functioning” person with anxiety. Unless you really know me well, you likely won’t see any symptoms of my anxiety nor does my anxiety interfere with my ability to carry out my day-to-day responsibilities. It does, however, make ironically for exhaustion on the weekends and many sleepless nights.
A friend of mine suggested that I get back to a more formal daily practice. I almost brushed off the suggestion until she pointed out that having something consistent in my life right now could really help. As she put it, I might need a reliable anchor that I can look forward to every day that can ground me in the midst of all of this uncertainty.
In pondering this suggestion, I realized that while I read, write, and think about my spiritual beliefs on a daily basis, I have been lacking in any formal spiritual practice for quite some time and this undoubtedly has had somewhat of an impact on my outlook as well. I was reminded of a pilgrimage I did in Glastonbury in 2017. Every day was filled with some sort of spiritual activity, be it meditation, ritual, divination or traveling to sacred sites. I recall one moment in particular as I was sitting in the Cross Bath waters in Bath, England, participating in a guided visualization.
At some point in the meditation it dawned on me that rather than experiencing daily low energy due to a rare medical condition I have, I had been much more energetic and had felt greater vitality throughout this trip. The major difference between the way I spent my day on this trip as opposed to my usual daily routine was that the majority of my time was spent connecting to spirit in some way, shape or form. Just participating in daily spiritual practice helped me to feel an improved level of stamina as well as feeling more relaxed and grounded. The reality, of course, is that most of us don’t have the luxury of spending the majority of our day engrossed in a spiritual practice.
At times, I am a perfectionist and I can have an all or nothing mentality. I therefore had to manage my expectations and change my perspective to accept that even a simple, brief formal spiritual practice can have a powerful impact in helping me to feel more anchored and less anxious given my current circumstances. I started out by simply sitting in front of my altar and communing with one of my favorite goddesses, Rhiannon. I sat at the altar and shared some of my frustrations and then I simply listened. While I was only there for 5-10 minutes, I immediately felt a sense of calm and steadiness that had eluded me just moments before.
I would like to get back to spending more time on longer activities such as formal ritual. Yet, in the midst of the chaos that is my life right now, I have come to understand that having a “tool kit” of formal daily spiritual practices that take no more than 10 minutes may be the lifejacket I need to keep myself and my mental health afloat.
Below are what I like to call my 7 “fun size” daily spiritual practice anchors. Having a variety to choose from each day helps to ensure that I don’t get in a rut and that I can choose an activity to fit my current timeframe and location. While 10 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, the simple act of sacrificing and dedicating a small amount of your time in this way can be quite impactful.
Altar or Shrine Visitation
This one is pretty simple and is the first practice I started with. I may light candles and incense to set my intention and then I simply sit at my altar or shrine and be still. If I am working with a particular deity, I may reach out to that deity for guidance or just to re-establish my relationship with them. Like any mundane relationship, spending more intentional time together can help you get to know your deity better and strengthen the bond. You might also spend this time meditating or doing a guided visualization to an inner temple or other sacred place. While it’s not necessary, I do try to leave time for writing about the experience in my journal.
There is something about chanting that I find very peaceful. In fact, studies have shown that chanting can decrease stress and anxiety, uplift one’s mood, improve focus, and relax the parasympathetic nervous system (Fallon, Chanting is an ancient practice with mental health effects that might apply to our busy lives). There are many ways to chant, running the spectrum from repetition of words or phrases to repetitively singing songs relevant to your spiritual path and/or the deities you worship. Alternatively, if chanting isn’t your thing you might try simple drumming or toning as these activities can have similar effects.
Small Acts of Service
We have ravens that live in the forest behind our house. They are a lively bunch, and it’s not uncommon to see them carousing in our front yard or playing in one of our bird baths. About four years ago, as part of some work I was doing with the Morrigan, I decided to start leaving shelled peanuts out for the ravens. Each morning, I would take about 5 minutes to leave peanuts out in certain spots on my property and then I would just stand in an outdoor sacred space for a moment of stillness and to express my gratitude to the land and its inhabitants.
Now, this act of service has become so ingrained in my family that other members of my family will automatically feed the ravens (and the blue jays and squirrels who have jumped on the bandwagon) if for some reason I am unable to. It is not at all uncommon for us to hear the ravens and blue jays squawking at us if we do not feed them according to our usual schedule.
Not only has this small act of kindness helped me to be in service and connect spiritually, I have enjoyed getting to know the ravens as they are more trusting and more likely to allow me to observe their shenanigans from a not too far distance. Your act of service can be anything that inspires you and it doesn’t have to be big. Simply picking up trash when you see it and throwing it away or leaving water out for wildlife when temperatures are high. If you are unsure what service you might want to do, look into the causes associated with the deity or deities you work with as a starting point.
One of the benefits of feeding the ravens each day is that I get a chance to be out in nature. Simply being in nature seems to ground me and make me feel more spiritually connected. Your immersion in nature could mean sitting outside for a few minutes, going barefoot in your front yard, spending a few minutes gardening, taking a walk in the park, or hugging a tree. Just a few minutes spent intentionally in nature can have a big impact on our energy and feelings of connection.
Honor the Divine Within
Aphrodite has made Herself known at various times in my life and recently I have found the call to work with Her again to be very compelling. One thing I have realized as a result of working with Her is that while I have loved and honored the divine in the form of various gods and goddesses, I have not put nearly as much time and intention to loving and honoring the divine that exists within me. I feel that our spiritual work is most beneficial if it is focused not just on honoring the gods and goddesses but also on honoring ourselves. I have found some simple ways to do this that don’t take much time and, oddly, I have found that the more I focus my spiritual efforts inwardly, the more powerful and satisfying my external devotion becomes.
Dedicating yourself to learning what makes you feel good and using all of our senses in that experience can be a great start. This might be making time to soak in a bath, taking a nap, going for a walk outside, curling up with a cup of tea and a good book, or wearing something that makes you feel good. My go-tos include sitting outside in the sun, curling up with a weighted blanket, and stretching. Of course, if you have more time and the resources something physically pleasing such as a massage or a favorite meal are also excellent endeavors.
It can be easy to neglect ourselves and our own needs amidst the chaos and demands of our lives. To make sure that I focus on my needs and worship the goddess within, I make a game out of it by putting an inexpensive clear marble/glass disk inside a clear jar with the intent of filling the jar to the top with marbles in a timely manner. This keeps me motivated and acts as a visual reminder. The more I honor the divine within, the more spiritually connected I feel.
Learn Something New
Taking a few minutes each day to deepen your knowledge of your path and practice is a wonderful way to develop a stronger spiritual connection. This can be done in a variety of ways including reading, listening to a podcast, and/or watching a Youtube video. I have found learning about the culture of the pantheon I work with to be extremely enlightening and this has brought me closer to the deities I work with. In addition, it’s a great way to identify additional methods for structuring an altar or shrine, providing offerings, and techniques for more intense work within my path. Reading myths related to deities has always helped me to deepen my understanding and establish stronger spiritual connections.
While the element I am most strongly connected to is water, I have to admit I love a good fire. I remember reading an article years ago that stated that while fire had a place in our ancestors’ daily lives due to the need for heat and warmth, it also had other psychological and physical benefits. Many studies have shown that gazing at fire can lower blood pressure and help us enter into a meditative state.
Fire can connect us to our spiritual and biological ancestors in many ways. The hearth or campfire was a focal point in many societies for not just basic survival but also for socialization. The relaxing effects of fire are also quite powerful. If you are someone who wants to have a more regular meditation but, like me, have major “monkey mind” and find it difficult to sit still, gazing at a fire can be a great way to meditation as the flames give us a focal point.
I personally have found scrying with fire to be very insightful and I have received beneficial wisdom and clarity as a result of this practice. While tending to a campfire takes more than a few minutes, you can accomplish the same results and benefits by lighting a candle and gazing into the flames. This is an easy way to implement a spiritual practice that takes very little time and resources.
These are all activities that have worked for me to help me get back in the groove of a daily spiritual practice and to feel more centered and able to navigate the transitions occurring in my life. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however; I would love to hear what activities have worked for you!
Be sure to read my book, Persephone: Practicing the Art of Personal Power, available now!