Foundations of Practice

Foundations of Practice April 14, 2015

River Devora has a monthly meeting for discussion among polytheists at her house. Those of us far away can attend online, which I did the first month, and will do again. Yesterday’s gathering was all about practice. I wasn’t able to attend (virtually or otherwise) as I was singing my heart out at the third and final choir performance of Dvorak’s Mass in D and Fauré’s Requiem. I was, however, able to see the list of questions that were discussed and I’d like to use it for blog fodder. The topic was practice, what we do and why.

This post will cover what my basic practice looks like, and why. Future posts will talk about preparations, language and definitions, and spirit work.

What is it that I actually do?

At the core of my practice is breath and listening. All else blooms from that core.

Several of my practices are so integrated into my being that they happen without “timing” or sometimes without my noticing. I ground and align my souls several times through out the day, and always before a formal working or extended practice. Grounding and aligning looks like me pausing: mentally, physically, energetically pausing (though I may be in motion – driving or walking, swaying or nursing). I notice what’s going on with my souls, breathe into them, and bring them all back together into one cohesive being – like arranging colored stackable blocks!

My main shrine and altar.
My main shrine and altar.

Other than breathing and aligning there is no one thing that I do every single day. I have set aside days of the week for different gods I am in relationship with. Tuesdays involve Kali Puja, though some Tuesdays are more formal and some are less, depending on need, urge, and circumstance. However, the basic daily minimum involves getting before my shrine, bowing, making an offering of something, even if it’s just a ramekin of water, taking some breaths, and saying a prayer. More involved devotionals involve incense, lighting candles, chanting, saying longer and more elaborate prayers, both written and spontaneous, and longer sitting meditation. Offerings are usually incense and something else depending on whom is being honored (flowers, water, coffee, either bean or brewed, tea, chocolate, fruit, wine, rum, whiskey, beans, rice, turmeric, etc).

Having a basic “formula” means that I feel comfortable doing something every day. I can make it as simple or as complicated as time, energy, need, and family life dictate.

Another daily piece of practice for me is yoga. This mostly looks like stretching in my pajamas every morning as the kids play nearby. Yoga serves me on multiple levels. On the most basic level, it wakes me up physically, helps keep me limber and strong, and just plain feels good. However, I once had a much more robust and in-depth yoga practice; it was instrumental to my spiritual unfolding. Doing even a gentle practice is a touchstone to the deeper work I once did, the deeper work to which I will return.

At the end of the day, when I begin cooking dinner, I light a candle before my icon of the Theotokos. I say the Holy Mother prayer and a modified Hail Mary. I ask for blessings upon the house and all who dwell in it, for the Land and all who live among it, for the Land from which the food we are about to eat comes and for the hands that helped bring it to our table.

The Kitchen Shrine
The Kitchen Shrine

These are the rhythms of my life. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but always there, like the tides.

For what purpose?

What is the aim of all this sitting and breathing and incense?

A Zen quote I first heard from Thorn Coyle, but apparently has no attribution goes like this: “Enlightenment is an accident; spiritual practice makes us accident prone.”

I practice because I aim for integration and enlightenment, because I aim for embodied wisdom, because I aim for power, compassion, and increased capacity for relationship. All of the above practices further these things. I want to honor the spirits of the Land, the gods with whom I am in relationship with, my Ancestors and my Descendants. I set aside time to practice skills sets, to give praise and devotion, to be in relationship with gods and spirits, to ask for assistance, and sometimes just to be. Sometimes having a set aside time and place to feel my feelings, unpack the contents of my head, or merely sit in silence is all that is necessary – and ever more so since becoming a parent.

But wait, folks, there’s more!

Everything discussed so far is the bedrock of my daily life. There are other holidays and observances through out the year. Some of these are general social holidays: birthdays, Christmas, the 4th of July, the Procession of the Species. Some are religious and/or Craft based: Beltaine, Samhain, Navratri, Kala Ashtami, etc. Some things occur at the full or dark moons. Some things I do because my Faery teacher tells me to do it. Some things I do because circumstances necessitate it. Or for fun. Or because I learn something new and I’m trying it out. Or because I meet a new person or entity. Very little in my life is not related to my spiritual practice!

Ultimately the whole of our lives is our spiritual practice. There is no magic that cannot also be mundane, and vice versa. There is no secret ingredient.

The Allen Iverson video below is because I can.


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