Tag Archives: spiritual path

Following a spiritual path

When I started out as a Druid, around twenty years ago, it was all about self improvement. I wanted to learn, and study and grow and be a better and wiser sort of person. I wanted to serve and be useful and for a while I had aspirations to lead and teach. 

When you start out on a path, there is of course a lot to learn. That learning process is going to give a person a lot of feelings. Once you’ve got the basics, there are questions about where to go next, how to dig deeper, or whether you move on to some other path in search of new insights and excitement. You go round the wheel of the year again, and again and the learning becomes less dramatic.

Increasingly for me, the idea of following a path is just about ambling around having experiences. I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere, and I’m fine with that. I might be wiser than twenty something me was, but not as bold in many ways. I was more on fire back then and I can’t work out whether this is a middle aged issue or something else. I miss being on fire. 

The trouble with being an important Druid is that it doesn’t leave you time for being a Druid. I stuck a toe in the water with that and I did not stay ambitious for very long. The person who leads and teaches and does media work and runs a big Druid order and all of that is at risk if being a full time performer and having very little quiet time for their own spiritual life. Leading a ritual is very different from being in ritual, and I’m not at all sure that’s for me. I also don’t think I’m the only person coming to this conclusion – I see Druid friends adopting parts of the job, but there aren’t any emerging leaders in the way that there used to be, and I suspect that’s a really good thing.

I may be on a journey, but I have no idea where I’m going, and I’m fine with that. I’m sharing things I think are important, but what anyone else does with that is up to them. I’m not claiming any special authority here.

Yesterday it was grey and misty in the hills. Today the sun is out. I show up. I am not called to do anything in particular, and I’m fine with that. I’m here to bring whatever joy, beauty, hope and humour I can, but that’s a considered position, not something I’m claiming divine inspiration for. It is gentler, just being my own small self and not trying to achieve anything specifically.

Making time for Druidry

In many ways, the aim of Druidry is not to have some floaty, robe wearing alternative existence that takes you away from real life, but to bring Druidry into your day to day existence. The spiritual life has the potential to transform what may otherwise seem banal and mundane, into activity rich with meaning. It also helps us weed out the things that waste our time and crush our spirits. However, bringing Druidry into life does not mean doing the same old things and saying ‘I am doing this as a Druid’. There are shifts of consciousness and practice, some of them subtle, that are necessary to move from a normal way of being to making Druidry your normal way of being. What that means is that initially, and along the way, you need to make time that is specifically for the Druidry.

Now, ‘doing Druidry’ does not mean you have to be in ritual or meditating, although both are good. For me, walking has long been a big part of my ‘Druid time’ because it engages me with landscapes, nature, the weather and my own body in some very intense ways. Going out there and bringing something back is good work and well worth doing. Druidry in part comes from inside you, but if your life is not inherently nourishing, you’re going to have a lot of trouble with that internal sourcing.

Think about what inspires you. What fills you with wonder, gives you a sense of awe, possibility, magic? That’s the thing you most need to be giving time to. It could be gardening, or running. It could be listening to live music or going to art galleries. What it is, really doesn’t matter compared to the importance of finding it, and exposing yourself to it. Druidry is a path of inspiration, so find that which inspires you and give time to it. Be that going out to gaze at the moon, or listening to bird song, or walking barefoot in the mud.

Try and give time to your inspiration every day. Stop and let yourself be a Druid, by letting yourself be nourished by the things that feed your soul. Let the peace and joy these sources of inspiration give you, fill you up, and then try to bring them back to everything else you are doing, and make it more, and deeper, better and richer than it would otherwise have been. Druidry is a constant process of reaching out for inspiration and then using that inspiration to do something meaningful. You have to both give, and receive.

One of the things I’m trying to do is get back into singing. I used to sing a lot, but got out of the habit. I need to find new songs that resonate more with how I’m feeling now and who I’m becoming. I also know that me singing inspires my bloke, so that works in a number of ways, except that I’ve got out of the habit. I need to make time and space for it, and treat it like something that matters. I’ve got back into crafting recently, that too I find nourishing, the act of making with hands is good for feeding my imagination.

Find a thing. Do it. Enjoy it.

The mystery of brains

Most of the time, parenting isn’t excessively difficult. Children progress in coherent, predictable ways from one day to the next as skills evolve, understanding grows, bodies adapt and so forth. Every so often there’s a sudden leap, and the impossible becomes easy, the unthinkable becomes the thought. These are always startling and tend to come without any kind of warning.

A lot of it has to do with how the human brain develops when we’re young. My grasp of the technicals isn’t superb but the gist is that the brain has physical structures, and the way in which paths are formed between brain cells shapes how we are able to think. Child development psychology flags up that there are some things young children just aren’t capable of thinking about. Then the brain changes, and *ping* you’re on a new level. It can be startling to watch. Some of the manifestations are simple – going from sky as blue line across the top of a picture to a sense of how objects exist in relation to each other is one of those transitions, but not a challenging one.

Sudden shifts in the way a child is capable of thinking are also very exciting times. As adults we tend to get this less, our brain growth has mostly settled. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t seek it. When allowed to develop naturally, children are voracious in their quest for information. They want to know everything about everything. How we support and teach them inform whether than continues or not. A child who hears ‘because I said so’ and ‘because it just is’ will learn not to bother to ask. The child for whom learning is turned into a miserable chore won’t stay inspired to learn, that natural hunger squashed. And of course children whose hunger for input is fed by television and computer games, who get a steady diet of empty noise and meaningless drivel by way of content, cannot develop much. I recognise that there is educational content out there, but when the aim is to pacify the child and make them easy to look after, the effect is…. Pacification.

From what I can tell by observing my son, and what I remember of the process myself, the sudden brain leaps don’t really register. You forget that you couldn’t think that way before, the new way becomes natural so quickly and there’s not much incentive to question it. Sometimes, you don’t notice how much your own capacity to think has changed. As adults, we’re both less likely to change, and more likely to notice it. Revolution between the ears is a very big deal once you’re physically mature. It is possible, though.

How we think, and the structures we have physically in our brains, develops over time and with use. The person who devotes a lot of time to music does, I gather, have a visibly different brain structure to someone who doesn’t. What we do with our brains shapes what we are able to do, informs what comes easily, determines where we might go next. Anyone who dedicates themselves to a spiritual path, or a path of personal growth, is very precisely working to keep their brain developing.

There are a great many people out there I could wish a mental revolution upon. I wish they could change with the sudden explosion of insight that hits my child every now and then. There are so many people who seem to have stopped thinking, questioning, wondering and growing far too early, settling into the comfort of their own narrow world view and filtering out everything that doesn’t fit. Far too many of them have also taken up careers in politics. But in adults, Road to Damascus moments are few and far between. Grand epiphanies don’t turn up unsought, eureka moments will not come to the person who wasn’t looking for an answer in the first place.

Brains are such fabulous, mysterious, exciting things. I just wish people would notice that more, celebrate the wonder that is us a bit more, think a bit more…

Your superior druid, shrink wrapped

Yesterday there were debates on facebook, a question that perhaps it was not wise to ask in a public place, and a backlash. The details don’t really matter for the purposes of this post. It got me thinking, however, about those oft-recurring issues around authority in druidry. Every time our community, or some bit of it hits a crisis, someone will comment that it would be nice if there was a proper governing body to sort it all out.

This can mean one of two things. Firstly it can mean wanting someone else to shoulder the responsibility and come up with a magic fix. That’s a very simple, human response to difficulty. Sometimes we all want to be children again and to find a parent who will make it all better for us. The more troubling motivation is based on the desire to control the beliefs and behaviour of others.

I’ll freely admit I had a moment yesterday of wanting to be the one who could lay down the law and tell everyone what they ought to think, and do, and believe. I get these bouts of hypothetical megalomania, and if facebook is indicative, so does everyone else. We all know we’ve got it all figured out, we have the right way, the perfect solution, if only everyone else would listen. Except they don’t, and most of the time we’re wrong, and the ’perfect’ solution would not work for everyone.
One of the dangers on any kind of spiritual path is that you start feeling important. You know more than those around you, and this makes you a better sort of person. Being better, wiser and whatnot, you are then, in your own eyes entitled to lead. It’s not a big leap from leading to dictating. I will also admit that when I first came to druidry, many years ago, that desire to be important, special, ahead of the pack, was part of what motivated me. I wanted to matter. Again, I suspect I was pretty normal in those feelings and aspirations. I sought responsibility because I wanted opportunities to shine and impress.

The idea of being, or becoming ‘better’ is inherent in a lot of spiritual traditions. The idea of the chosen few, the special ones, the ones god will save and give the cushy afterlife to. The whole point of some forms of spirituality seems to be betterness. In being better than we were, we are surely becoming better than some of those around us. We can look at their actions for evidence of our own superior wisdom. We have the moral high ground now. It’s not a long walk from there to words like ‘master race’. Spirituality that feeds arrogance and self importance, is not really that spiritual at all, when you stop to think about it.

So I get angry and self important, like everyone else. I am thankful today that I did not say anything yesterday that I have cause to regret. The more I think about it, now that the initial frustration has passed, the clearer I am that I don’t want the responsibility of telling other people how to live their lives. I have no desire to be the person who says who can, and cannot call themselves a druid, or what druidry means, or how to teach it. I’d quite like to be part of the process that is a living and evolving tradition, but nothing more than that.

Does that make me a better sort of person than I was when I came to druidry? Can I now hold this up as proof of my improved state? Ah ha! Betterness is not about getting out front with self important titles. Betterness is all false modesty and sitting back, not getting my hands dirty and being smug at a distance. There are other daft ideas to run around, other ways to feel bigger whilst doing nothing of any great significance. Other ways of deluding the self.

Who measures the betterness? Me? A deity who might or might not exist? The druid community or its leaders, should we appoint them? And what does that betterness achieve? What happens when we make qualitative judgements about the worth of one life compared to another?
If everything has spirit, how can one manifestation of that be better or worse than any other? How can any existence be more or less valuable than another?

And yet, weigh against that the notion of excellence in all things. It is impossible to seek excellence without having some awareness of how what you do compares with what everyone else is doing. We find our goals by looking at each other. We measure ourselves by contrast. So much depends on what we want that excellence for. Do we seek it for the good of our community and the enhancement of the world, or to raise ourselves up above everyone else? That, I think, is the critical difference.