(Note: this entry was actually published on September 8, 2013. I’m placing it here for purposes of searchability)
I’ve always been a fast learner. In public school, I didn’t have to study very hard to do well on tests, and I grasped concepts more quickly than a lot of my classmates. I spent a lot of class time doodling in my notebook and writing notes and stories–but I got straight A’s.
College was a lot harder of course. I did actually have to study, though I didn’t try as hard as my friends. I still did all right–but I didn’t get as much out of college as I should have, academically speaking. There’s a difference between really learning the material, and cramming right before a test so you can pass. I did way too much of the latter in college, and though I made decent grades, I regret not learning more.
The character flaw I had in college is one I’ve carried with me ever since. It isn’t laziness–it’s impatience.
Because I usually understand things easily, I’m not used to having to work hard for understanding. I get the gist of most things right away, so I never really experienced what it was like to practice something over time until I developed a deep understanding and true mastery. Instead, I would start off with a bang, energized by the praise of my teachers, and then when my progress slowed and I would have to work for the next steps, I would lose patience and move on to something new.
I’ve been like that with my spirituality too. Getting the general idea of paganism, I’d want to be an expert, write a book, lead a circle, save the world with magic, all within the first year. Trouble is, I never put in the time to practice the basic skills. I was impatient; I wanted more information, more experiences, more excitement. I wanted to be able to run a marathon as soon as I learned how to stand.
The first esoteric practice that I actually devoted time and practice to was energy healing. My reiki master taught me not only reiki, but many elements of other types of energy work. More importantly, she taught me how to listen to the voice of spirit, to receive helpful information from my guides and allies. I also found friends who wanted to practice energy work together, and for a few years I spent a lot of hours every week giving and receiving energy work. For the first time I really dedicated myself to learning and practice, and I was astonished at how much I learned–and how much more I still had to learn.
But I didn’t apply that level of dedication to the rest of my spiritual practice. Over the past 14 years, I’ve done a lot of free-wheeling, unstructured, somewhat maverick ritual and magic–often with surprising results. Surprise results in magic are always memorable. And they are definitely learning experiences–but wow, the lessons hurt sometimes.
In the monts of upheaval last fall, I felt totally and completely lost (as I’ve mentioned repeatedly on this blog). I was ungrounded, I felt raw and exposed. Worst of all, I doubted my spiritual experiences and wondered if it was all a bunch of lies I’d told myself.
Over time I came to see how I was being guided, even though the path I had to take was beyond rough and beset by trauma. Nothing was easy, but I was provided for every step of the way, almost in spite of myself.
One thing I realized as a result of that dark time was how, in my impatience, I had failed to do the daily work. I had failed to do the kind of practice that creates a stable center and deep roots. I’d spent a lot of time flitting around like a butterfly sampling nectar from a lot of different flowers. But what’s good for the butterfly isn’t so great for the woman. I didn’t have a solid foundation to sustain me during times of upheaval.
My impatience really bit me in the ass.
It occurred to me not long ago that I might have to go back to the beginning–to start with pagan basics and do the work this time. The sometimes less-than-exciting, repetitive work of practicing simple grounding techniques, or basic shielding techniques, or basic visualization. That perhaps I would benefit from actually taking time to meditate more than every once in a while. That it might do me some good to develop a relationship with deity that was ongoing and steady. I picked up some beginners titles–one on Druidry and one on Wicca–and started reading and doing the exercises. I’m still picking my way through the lessons, and taking my time for a change.
I thought it would be boring, but it’s actually kind of exciting. It’s giving me a chance to revisit all the things I’ve learned and come to understand how they are relevent for me, personally–and how they might fit into day to day life. And oh, yeah, it’s helping me to be better at things like grounding and shielding and visualization.
It’s also a chance to engage with ritual and magic in a way that might be a little less unpredictable. A good solid grounding, careful shielding, clear visualization and focused intent for ceremony and spells will hopefully help me avoid some of the unsettling side effects I experienced in my “basics are for babies” days.