Tag Archives: daily practice

Perceiving Time

There are some interesting relationships between how our minds and memories work, and how we experience time. This seems especially pertinent at the moment. I hear from many people that lockdown is causing them to experience days really dragging by in a slow way, and yet somehow this year seems to have gone very quickly.

It’s to do with how we store memories. Our brains only store specific memories of stand-out things – this is why you are more likely to remember the first time you did something than the eleventh time. Once something becomes a generic experience, you won’t remember it as precisely. If you have routines, you’ll remember the generic routine, and only remember specific instances that stood out from it.

Time moves differently for us when we’re paying attention to it. A day with novelty in it, with different activities and experiences – some of which are not overly familiar – is a day that moves quickly and at the same time seems to last longer.

Life in lockdown has proved narrow for many people, and so time drags, but at the same time there are no stand out memories formed through recent months.

It would be fair to say that I’ve not had this experience personally – a great deal has happened for me, and I’ve had enough stand out experiences that March seems rather a long time ago.

What we do impacts dramatically on how we experience time, and that in turn can have a significant impact on quality of life and feelings of satisfaction. I find it interesting that we are encouraged from so many sources to have routines – especially around our spiritual lives.  A daily practice that is too routine will just tend to become a generic memory. A more varied approach may very well leave a person with a richer and more interesting sense of their own spiritual life and self.


Alternative daily practice

When we talk about having a daily practice in Paganism, we tend to mean ritual, prayers and meditation – separately or in combination. That doesn’t work for everyone. However, doing something every day can be affirming and help you stay active in following your path, so here are some things that are worth trying. It’s important to do things you can sustain and that nourish you, and that suit how your mind and body works. Many more options exist.

Communing – just spending time with something else, be that a plant, a stone, a stream. Not doing anything necessarily, not asking anything, just being there, with whatever you’ve chosen to be with.

Getting outside – to walk, or stay still, or move slowly by any other means. To be on the land, and with it in a conscious way. To just let that happen to you and be open to what it does.

Making a deliberate sensory engagement with the world – be that looking, listening, touching or smelling (tasting is risky!) taking the time to connect with some other thing in a conscious way, but not necessarily with any intent beyond that.

Resting – for many of us, stopping is as difficult as it is necessary, but you can make resting a sacred act of honouring your animal body, and you can use it to make time for your animal body, and that can be powerful.

Creativity – creating is good for the soul. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or what anyone else might think of it. Whether you’re singing the half remembered pop songs of your youth, making exquisite ink drawings, learning to cook, dancing with just your hands… making time every day for something creative is a good way to let magic in to your life.

Some of us don’t have the heads or bodies for the kind of formal discipline some paths may suggest. Some of us really can’t do half an hour of meditation and may be panicked by the memes that say in that case we should be doing an hour. Making Paganism an every day thing does not have to mean hurting yourself or struggling, or fitting in to anyone else’s ideas of what a daily practice should even look like.


A shifting daily practice

The idea of having a daily practice is widespread and popular. It’s an obvious difference between being a holidays and high days kind of Pagan, and a series full time Pagan. What does it mean to have a daily practice in the context of a nature based spirituality?

I admit it’s an idea I’ve struggled with. I’ve been consciously Pagan for something like twenty years now. I do something deliberately Pagan most days – some kind of spiritual expression. There are often stretches of doing the same thing daily for a while – that might be prayer, or meditation, it might be a daily divination session to tune in to the cosmos, or deep working with creativity, or walking to commune with some specific thing… But it seldom stays as the same daily practice for long.

The walking gives a case in point. I had a long stretch last year of going out at twilight to commune with the bats, and then the winter came and the bats hibernated. I had a few weeks this spring of going out to commune with young owls, but the owls became adults and went hunting by themselves in early summer. I go up onto the hills to commune with the orchids, but they aren’t there for most of the year. Where I might go and what I might do is inherently seasonal. The day length and temperatures change, and it just doesn’t make sense to do the same things always. Or if I do the same things the consequences will be different. I can’t get up at 7 and celebrate the dawn in the middle of winter.

There’s something in the idea of a fixed daily practice that appeals. It suggests discipline and dedication, and seriousness. In practice, it doesn’t work for me, and I like what I do a good deal better when it’s more responsive, and thus constantly shifting.


Daily Practice

Listening to The Druid Podcast last month, and a very interesting interview with T. Thorn Coyle, she stated that anyone wishing to take their spirituality forward should focus on daily practice. What does this mean? Druidry as shared in ritual at focal festivals through the year is one thing, but we can hardly take the fanfare and faff of ritual into every day, can we? Or can we?

When we gather to celebrate the 8 festivals through the year, we’re focusing on the cycle of the seasons and a set of Celtic-derived dates with their ancestral associations. If you poke about online, you can find a pagan festival for most days in the year. Celebrating all of them would be a full time job, not to mention a disorientating process of hopping from one culture to another. We may find more festivals we want to honour through the year, but as a daily thing, it would be too much for most of us.

We can look at small private rituals honouring the day, the season, the rise of sun and moon, the wheeling of the stars. The passage of seasons is a subtle process that goes one day to the next, so we can make it part of our daily practice to explore what ‘now’ means and respond to it in a spiritual way. That doesn’t have to mean formal ritual. Contemplation, experience, celebration and creative response are also very much part of the Druid path.

Daily practice could mean taking the time to meditate. It might also be about dedicating time in service, to our gods, ancestors, land and communities. We might focus our daily practice on specific skills – herbalism, healing, studying the stars, learning animal lore, gardening, music, poetry, performance art… The Druids of history were not just religious figures, but arbiters of justice, keepers of histories and genealogies, and many more things. Exploring these aspects of the path opens up yet more scope for daily activities.

When it comes down to it, what makes an action ‘druidic’ is primarily that the person undertaking it, sees it that way. A person who goes for a run with their ipod piping music into their ears, and no thought for the land they run on, is not being a Druid. Someone who sets out in full consciousness, to run with the energy of the land and the wind, could well be undertaking their Druidic practice.

In making something an expression of Druidry, we bring our spiritual insights and ethics to it. We imbue the activity with soul and we understand it as meaningful because we have made it an expression of Druidry. Undertaking anything with consciousness of spirit within it, sensitive to the implications of what we do, the relationships intertwined with the action, the flows of inspiration… anything we do in that way can become Druidry. How we cook, how we dance our way across the surface of the earth. How we dream.

Daily practice doesn’t have to mean a formal ritual, or getting the incense out. We might improvise an altar on the side of a road, or pull litter from the hedge. We might walk and listen to the wind, sit with our ancestors in the graveyard, or share inspiration. What matters in the intent and the awareness we hold. Which begs the question, if we can make anything an expression of Druidry, can we push on from there, seeking to make everything we do a conscious expression of Druidry?

Yes.

And that doesn’t mean stepping entirely out of ‘regular’ life, it means bringing our Druidry to all the facets of our lives and trying to see where it fits, and figure out what to do if it doesn’t. That’s not something that can happen overnight. I’ve been pushing at the boundaries of my own experience for years. Where can I be more present, more conscious? Where am I not living in a way that expresses my Druidry? I have a suspicion there is always more to do, further to go, there is no point of arrival, no moment of ‘and now I am as druid as it is possible to be.’ Which is part of the joy of it really.