Friday, June 28, 2013

Rethinking Cycles

Every one of us has countless cycles in our lives.  We have the sun, going through a daily and yearly cycle.  The moon has a nightly and monthly cycle.  We have a seasonal cycle, the weekly cycle, our life cycle.

But we also have cycles that many of us go through and don't really think of, and especially don't think of magically.  We have our daily routine, revolving around our job or responsibilities.  This routine is modified by our weekly routine.  We may have days we are busy (work/week days) and days where we have more restful activities.  We may have social obligations on a regular basis (getting together with friends on a Friday night or taking the kids to sports every Wednesday).  If we have children we often have a yearly routine that is molded by summer's off and holidays.

Being a stay at home mom, I tend to think of my days as being somewhat wide open.  Sure I have things to do, but I get to pick when I do them...don't I?  Apparently I'm not that quick on the uptake, because it hit me last night that as much as I do adapt to my ever changing schedule, I've not really embraced it and I definitely haven't worked magically with it.

My son is in middle school, so he is reaching an age of independence.  He gets himself up and off to school.  He sometimes stays after school and doesn't get home until dinner time.  He makes his own breakfast. 

My husband has a very crazy work schedule.  He works 12 hour shifts about three days a week (depending on overtime)...but every 6 weeks he swaps from being on days to working nights.

So what does all this have to do with my personal practice?  Up until yesterday, I didn't really think about it.  I just adjusted things.  Dinner times were moved about depending on when everyone was home.  Even my own sleep schedule differs depending on my husband's work times. 

Each cycle has it's ups and downs.  I know that I benefit from both the busy times and the alone times.  When my husband is on days, I tend to have alone time during the mornings when he works..and almost none on days he is off.  When he is on nights, I get my alone time after my son has gone to bed, and then in the mornings when my husband is sleeping.  During the school year, these times are greater because my son is also gone (or sleeping), but during the summer or extended breaks, my alone times are vastly reduced.

Many times I have tried to build a regular daily practice.  Not that I don't have a daily practice...but the kind of daily practice that a lot of authors and public figures talk about.  Specific times during the day when particular actions are taken.  And every time I try to get into this type of schedule, it fails.  And this is because, for my life and it's cycles, I can't have one set schedule.

It is forcing me to rethink my days.  And I realized that the 6 week day/night flop reflects in some ways the Sabbat cycle.  ((I really can't believe I never made the 6 week connection before))  I kind of like the idea of thinking about this part of my life in a sun/moon focus instead of day/night.  I know that I think and create better when I can be up (and alone) at night.  But I also know that if I need to get things done, especially anything that involves the outside world, that the earlier in the day I can get going, the better (which is doubly frustrating because I am so NOT a morning person...and hardly anything in our town is open before 10am, so early starts don't work so well).

I think that our everyday cycles are just as important as the natural and mystical ones.  If our hearts and souls need to dance within the cycles of the moon and the earth, I think in some ways our bodies need to dance within our mundane cycles.  If we can't get them all to work in harmony, we end up stressed and frazzled.  It is a complex thing, trying to get all of the aspects of our life to work a watch with a million tiny gears.  And trying to assemble a working watch with our own individual parts, by looking at other people's watches just doesn't work.  We have to look at our own pieces, at how they interact, and sort out how to bring them together so the gears don't grind.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Modern Paganism: Still life or interpretive dance?

There is a pretty big precedent in the Pagan community to put a heavy emphasis on the historical authenticity and accuracy of practices.  It often seems like the theory is that if we can keep the line unbroken, if we can practice in the same way as our ancestors, that our practice will somehow be more successful. 

But we aren't our ancestors.  We live in different times, and we have vastly different everyday realities.  Things that were commonplace in years past are not always relevant.  Trying to recreate an ancient practice can lead to frustration and the feeling that you will never get it right, and that until you do get it right, you can't have a working practice.

Let me say this now though:  I don't have any problem with anyone who finds value in recreating ancient practices.  I think that examining the way things were done in the past can bring great value, and if it calls to you to bring those methods into your personal practice, then more power to you.  However, it doesn't work for me, and I don't agree with the idea that just because something is older that it is more valid. 

For me, my personal practice needs to be a living, breathing thing.  It changes, not only as I learn more and expand my horizons, but also it changes as I do, so that it can meet needs that I have developed as I have grown into myself.  It doesn't always step me away from my daily life, but sometimes steps me more deeply into it.

I love the duality of my faith and practices.  It can simultaneously support bring more mystery and wonder into my life, helping me to see the fantastical aspects of the things around me and to take time for that child part of myself, for sacred play and for ecstatic creation.  But it can also help me ground my daily life in spirituality, to focus on the here and now, and protect myself from the stresses and strains of modern life.

I think there is a big gap in a lot of modern Pagan practice.  While there is a lot of information out there on basic areas that are definitely still a part of our lives (love, family, health, personal growth), there is a whole lot that is rarely discussed.  Things like keeping our cars running, protecting our computers from viruses and keeping our identities safe.  We have tools as part of our daily lives that our ancestors didn' that can be incorporated into our spiritual like in the same manner that they incorporated their tools.  If we can use a blade, cup and incense in our practice, why not a blender, coffee pot and air freshener? 

I believe we are at a turning point.  Paganism has been gaining ground and acceptance.  There are still holdouts for sure, people who can't see beyond the blinders of the past and don't understand that our beliefs are just as valid (and life-affirming) as theirs, but we are seeing Paganism depicted in social culture in a positive light more and more often.  I feel we have uncovered so much of the past that it is starting to blend together.  We don't need more 101 books that explain how things are traditionally done...those books are out there for those who are starting out and want the basics.

The question is:  where do we go from here?  Do we continue to look to the past and try to paint all those tiny details in?  Or do we take everything we know about Paganism, everything we know about ourselves, everything we know about our world in this moment....toss it into the air and see what patterns form all around us?  I believe the way forward is through exploring where our religion takes us today going forward into tomorrow.  I am excited to see how it will evolve and what it might become.  My faith isn't static, my religion isn't static and I think that is what makes it wonderful.