Holy Week: What I’ve Learned

It’s Holy Week. The last week of my working, which ends on Sunday night.

It’s interesting to look at this working from (almost) the other side. I was kind of nervous about doing it, really, since I hadn’t really done something quite like this before, but I know now that I didn’t need to be nervous about it. Going through it was definitely work and I learned a lot.

From Hecate I learned to let go of people and things that I couldn’t do much about (and about curbing the obsession I can get sometimes with wanting to know everything about people). I also was reminded that I can’t stay in death working mode all the time, and that unless I’m needed in that capacity, that I should save it for Samhain.

From the Dagda I learned why it’s important to ask for help because it’s hard and draining to do it all yourself. (I did improve my cooking skills, though.) I also learned a lot about self care from Him, too, including treating my body with care. What I remember most is that on a bad body image day, He said to me: “If I, as a god, can have a big belly, so can you!” I also realized after His part of the working that it’s best for me to get up a couple of hours early, before I start writing, to have breakfast and do my meditation, or else the brain doesn’t wake up enough.

From Jesus I’ve been learning more about what His role in my life is. He’s more about my public priesting. In other words, His is the ministry that I emulate in public: doing my best to help those who need it, praying, and doing my best to heal in the areas that I minister in. I’m also learning more about my monastic nature at the moment, figuring out how I want to do my monasticism, and how regular ritual can be comforting and grounding.

Overall, I’ve learned just how important daily practice is for me, even on the days where I don’t feel like it. Especially on those days. I have much more confidence in my spiritual work and spiritual connections. A friend of mine mentioned a few weeks ago that we didn’t really learn what it meant to be a contemplative in seminary. I agree. I really wish we had learned more about being contemplative and religious life. It definitely provides a wrapper for my days that helps me be more on focus (especially with my writing) and on task. The other really good side benefit is that my mental health is vastly improved. My anxiety is way way down, and I haven’t had any lengthy depression (some small bouts, but those were more hours than days). Also, minimal interaction on Facebook has also been a big plus for me. (YMMV, but for me, this has been really good.)

I’m going to keep doing the morning and evening meditations, although, I’m not sure exactly how the evening meditation is going to manifest. I’m liking the Compline prayers, since reading from a paper and following instructions is easier at the end of the day when you’re tired. There are a few things I want to add to my altar, too, to tie things all together.

But, I’m at the end, and it’s been quite the experience.

4th Week of Lent: An Appreciation for Getting Things Done

Reflecting on the 4th week of Lent where I’m still in the Dagda part of my working, I realize I’ve done quite a bit. I’ve “normalized” my work day and have gotten more written on my book this week than I have in several months. I cooked a lot, and have a lovely visit with my friend River and her little one on Thursday. I created a booklet of the prayers I need for the next phase of my working and shared that with those who I thought would be interested. I called the gardener and had them come sort out our yard (before the rain started). I got a new phone and set up our fancy new lights that we can control with our devices!

In other words, it’s been a busy week.

I keep wanting to write about some of the interesting conversations and thoughts I’ve been having about the state of clergy in paganism, but it seems like I need to think about the more before I write on it. I keep starting and deleting, so…

One thing, though, is that my social media need is way down. More often than not I’m just checking Facebook to see if there’s anything specific I need to address, and then I move on. Same with Tumblr. The further I get into this working the less I really want to deal with social media. If it wasn’t good for the podcast or the way I communicate with a lot of the east coast, I’d just jump ship from Facebook all together. As it is, not being on Facebook a lot has done a some real good for my mental health.

A definite thing to come from this working is that the twice daily meditation is doing a lot for my anxiety and depression issues. I know it’s one aspect of this working that I’ll definitely keep up with afterwards. Even the wife has noticed a real difference in my mood because of it.

This is just a short update since, apparently, the other stuff I want to write about is going to be saved for a later date…

1st Week of Lent: Religious Life (or I want to be a Monk!)

Most people know that I’m doing a Lenten working for my deities (Hecate, The Dagda, and Jesus). It ended up being a pretty hardcore (for me) disciplined working that is similar to how the nuns that I stayed with a couple of years ago for my Immersion Course structured their lives and prayer time. Before I talk more about religious life, let me describe what I’m doing in a bit more detail:

Part 1: Hecate

From the February New Moon to the Day before the Full Moon in February will be my time for Hecate. I wake up around 6:30 am (and this is agreed with all the deities for the whole working), do my morning prep (go to the bathroom, feed the cat so she doesn’t meow through my meditations, etc), and then do a (for now) 20 minute meditation. I set my timer (I use Insight Timer on my iPhone because bells!) I light incense for Her and pull a Tarot card for the day. In the evening, before I go to bed, I do another 20 minute meditation, prayers for those who have asked, and light more incense and put away the Tarot card.

So far, the meditations with Hecate have been more in regards to my own inner work and shadow work that I’ve been neglecting. (And learning not to look at the timer when doing the meditation.)

Part 2: The Dagda

From the Full Moon in February to the day before the New Moon in March is the time for the Dagda. For this part of the working, I’m still doing my morning and evening meditations (although, I don’t have to light incense). But because the Dagda is the keeper of the ever full cauldron, I have to cook (really cook, from scratch) breakfast and dinner, preferably not just for me but to feed others. Most of the time it’ll be just my wife who will benefit from this, but there are going to be a few times where I’ll need to cook for others. (Hey Cerridwen folks, this means you don’t need to bring potluck food to our next meeting on the 27th!) I also have to go to bed early (by 10 pm) during this time.

Part 3: Jesus

From the New Moon in March through Easter will be my time for Jesus. I will still be doing the morning meditation (and offering incense), but in the evenings, I need to do my own Compline prayers (the Franciscan version) and prayers for those who need them. I’ll also be going to Good Friday service, keeping a Holy Saturday vigil, and attending Easter service at City of Refuge UCC.

I came up with this working because I was thinking of doing something for Lent, and when I brought it up to my wife, she suggested I do a working with my deities. I thought that was a great idea, so I negotiated with the deities, and this is what come out. I also have a leaning towards a dedicated monastic life, and if I had gone in a different direction in my life, I may have ended up in some sort of monastic order. It got me thinking, though, that we, in the Pagan community anyway, don’t really think about Religious Life on that scale.

There’s usually a disdain towards the idea of Religious Life because when most people think of Religious Life they think Christian monks and nuns, and maybe, if they’re more in the know, Buddhist monks and nuns. Many traditions have had, or do have, dedicated people who pray for others, or do other contemplative practices for their tradition. It also doesn’t necessarily mean cloistered nuns in habits or monks in robes, or celibacy, or being a hermit (unless you want to, that is).

I’m sure some Pagans would argue that they are leading a “Religious Life” because their tradition isn’t separate from their mundane life. However, a dedicated religious life is different level of devotion. You are dedicating your life, and sacrificing parts of your mundane life, to a leveled up form of devotion. It can be in your own home or in a dedicated cloistered type of situation, but it involves some level sacrifice of lifestyle. In my working, I’m giving up good chunks of my time for prayer and meditation. I am reorganizing my mundane life around my devotional work instead of the other way around. (The biggest part for me is getting up really early every day. For those that know me, and know that I’m a huge night owl, you know that that’s a Big Deal.)

It’s not that pagans don’t have people who are doing this type of work (one example that I’ve actually experienced are the Radical Faerie Sanctuaries), but for those who may have considered religious life in other traditions before they converted to one of the myriad of Pagan traditions, that kind of dedicated life may have seemed lost to them. I think, though, we’re big enough as a community to really start thinking about this kind of devoted life, even to the extent of creating Pagan monasteries (even cloistered or semi-cloistered). We don’t have to have the same beliefs as other monastic groups, but we can learn structure and form, which is something that I think some people may just want. In other words, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but having these types of structured options are something that is needed.