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Author Topic: Help please? (Fitting religious practice into a busy life)  (Read 3044 times)
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« Topic Start: April 06, 2010, 05:02:06 pm »

Hi all,
I'm new to the board and relatively new to paganism though I have been reading about it for about 12 years. I've recently decided that I want to practice properly and am especially interested in Wicca. I'm having some trouble fitting regular practice into my life though.

Just to give you some background information, I am a single parent with a very wonderful and precocious three year old daughter. I work part time and also go to evening classes where I am working towards a law degree. I feel like so much of my time is used up with the mundane and it leaves very little space for ritual etc. When I do find the time I am often very tired and am concerned that it may be a little disrespectful to deity to frequently be yawning through rituals.

I also try to meditate but find it very difficult to both quiet my mind and stay awake lol. I'm sure that there are other people out there who have experienced similar problems - are there any tips you could share with me to find a better balance? Any advice would be gratefully received in love and light
« Last Edit: April 07, 2010, 07:05:00 am by Star, Reason: Making subject line more specific » Logged

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« Reply #1: April 06, 2010, 05:03:34 pm »

Hi all,
I'm new to the board and relatively new to paganism though I have been reading about it for about 12 years.

Welcome to TC!
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« Reply #2: April 06, 2010, 05:53:29 pm »


Welcome to the TC!

My advice is to either find a way to shorten things that would normally take a while (as maintaining focus on ANYTHING with a 3 year old is about impossible) or find a way to incorporate your child in ritual. I have no experience with that, so I don't know how well it will work out. Good luck!
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« Reply #3: April 06, 2010, 08:04:50 pm »

Just to give you some background information, I am a single parent with a very wonderful and precocious three year old daughter. I work part time and also go to evening classes where I am working towards a law degree. I feel like so much of my time is used up with the mundane and it leaves very little space for ritual etc. When I do find the time I am often very tired and am concerned that it may be a little disrespectful to deity to frequently be yawning through rituals.

This is one of the places where I think the wide breadth of the word Wicca is especially perniciously dangerous, for reasons you've just highlighted: detailed and specific ritual by yourself is not a good fit with significant personal obligations (whether that's a small child needing your attention, a demanding school schedule, or whatever else.) And it can be frustrating and tiring to feel like you *should* be doing more, even though a logical bit of your brain knows that there are some good reasons why.

Bear with me for a minute while I lay out some of the problem, both in case that helps you, but also so the more useful practical suggestions at the end might make more sense. (And I have a personal bit below, because parts of this, though for different reasons, have been a big thing on my mind recently. )

For someone working in a coven setting, these days, most covens wouldn't take you unless at least one of the things in your situation was no longer a huge demand - whether that would mean that you had regular and reliable childcare for the times you were meeting with the coven, or you were out of school, or your child was old enough to be left in an upstairs room most of the time during ritual work with you keeping an ear out in case of something urgent, or whatever. (Childcare doesn't need to mean 'spouse' - it could mean 'trusted friend/family member/babysitter' just as easily, as long as it was reliable enough you could plan for it.)  So, for one thing, you'd have some time when you could focus on this when you were likely to be in decent shape to do so.

Second, in a traditional Wiccan setting, you would not be doing all of this yourself. The thing about significantly structured or longer ritual - as beautiful and moving as it is and can be - is that it's infinitely easier to keep moving and keep focus together if you have other people to work with. Both because there's this sense of 'not letting the side down', but also simply because there are other people to help keep things in motion, bounce off of. And there are people to share the practical (and sometimes very tiring) work of set-up, clean-up, and even "What *are* we going to do for that?" planning?

And in particular, in group work, you have a lot of support when you're learning *lots* of new things, and you can let others go for a bit. You don't need to be the one to decide what to do for ritual, or exactly what needs to be on the altar today: you can focus on your own bit of learning the best ways to prepare for ritual work, centering or grounding, moving energy, and participating. As those get easier, you'd take on new bits, and so on - but you'd have a lot of experience watching many of the more complex ones like "What are we going to do for ritual this moon?" long before you ever had to make decisions about them.

However, when someone is picking up and learning to work by themselves - as you describe yourself here - you end up with a bunch of different tasks and ideas pulling you often in very different directions.
- Figuring out what you might like to do

- Hammering that into some sort of practical goal (but without a lot of experience or help figuring that out - there's a lot of little stuff that can make a big difference between a draining experience and one that you remember for decades, even when the basic idea is the same, and almost all of it needs to be learned from someone else or through poking at the pieces with people with experience, though there are a number of books that give some good places to start.)

- Doing all the separate bits of ritual (because doing that all yourself is generally more tiring and focus-conflicting than sharing the parts out with other people.)

- Doing all the parts, which includes doing the parts you aren't as sure of, so you spend a fair bit of your available energy trying to make sure they go right. Good in theory, but it can lead to uneven results in practice.

- Having to clean-up after, which also means handling all your aftercare by yourself: that means if you find yourself needing grounding, or you find yourself totally exhausted, or any number of other options, you have only yourself to fix it. On one hand, that's nicely self-reliant. On the other hand, especially when you're new to a bunch of things at once, sometimes getting help from someone else makes that go a lot faster and more pleasantly.

Once you have a base-line level of knowledge, experience, skill competence (at the relevant skills), it's a lot easier to build in the more lengthy, involved, or planning-requiring rituals, because the other parts are taking you proportionately less time/energy.

(And this is why, in coven work, going *back* to school after you've gotten through your initial training is generally much less of an issue: you've got the skills and background for the group work and ritual making-happen, so they take up less direct energy. I know whereof I speak: dedicant training ate all my spare time and brainpower the year I did it other than work and a pretty basic social life: while working toward my 3rd degree a few years later, I was working full time, going to grad school part time, helping a friend after her partner's death, and doing about 10 hours of group-related work a week - and still had a fair personal practice, because even though the group work was taking a number of hours, it was mostly stuff that I didn't need to do a lot of preparation for or that was vastly new and different.)

So, different approach may be called for
Instead of trying for formal rituals right now, you might be better off to take several steps back, and look at simpler ways to achieve what you're looking for.

Look at building small daily or near-daily practices into your life: things that can be done in 10 or 15 minutes, or that can even take place while you're doing other things. Overall, I'd highly recommend Dianne Sylvan's book _The Circle Within_ as a starting place, because she's got some great ideas and practical advice. Meditative dance, singing a chant, drawing a divination card/rune/whatever of the day are all things that go quickly, or can be easily adapted to your existing energy level, while still connecting you with something outside of yourself.

Look at longer-term seasonal changes. These might be including or avoiding certain foods (using the ones in season, avoiding the ones that aren't), spending time outside in a special place each day and watching the changing seasons.

http://www.proteuscoven.org/proteus/Season-0.htm is a nice look at activities and ideas to build into your life in each season - and many of them are things that we should all be doing a bit more of, regardless of religion. http://www.churchofasphodel.org/articles/feast_and_fast.html has some interesting ideas on feast and fast cycles that work with the Wheel of the Year.

Look at stuff you can do while doing something else.
My classic is playlists. I have a wide range of them in iTunes with music that evokes a particular mode for me. I have them for Sabbats, I have them for the elements, I have them for specific goals. I have those on in general, while I'm doing other things - whether that's prepping for ritual or surfing the 'Net - a lot, and they're a touchpoint I always come back to.

Build slowly:
In terms of moving towards something more detailed and elaborate: try breaking down a circle into different pieces. Many of these pieces can be done somewhat independently of each other, giving you a chance to get familiar with each piece before you have the additional focus and concentration requirements of putting them together.

The order I'd suggest is something like this, moving to a new item when you feel ready. With regular practice (a couple of times a week) that would probably be something like monthly for most of these steps. If you get swamped with other things, and can't put in the time for a few weeks, keep working on it until you feel ready to move on.

- Cleanse space: Spend time cleaning at least one space in your home (ideally the one you will later want to use for regular ritual work) as thoroughly as you can physically (decluttering to making things shine). Learn about different methods for cleaning a space energetically - salt, sound, energy movement. Try each of them out. See how they feel, and which ones resonate with you. Find a table or shelf, and put at least one item on it that speaks to your spiritually. (Don't worry about The Perfect Altar. One item. More is ok, but this is actually a situation where less is probably more: add things slowly if you do.)

- Cleansing yourself: Experiment with different ways to set aside the hurry and fluster of the rest of life, and just be. This might include a bath with sea salts, visualisation or breathing exercises to release tension and unwanted energies that cling to you, and work on centering and grounding yourself. Spend a minute or two at the space you've set aside every day just breathing and taking it in, or singing a short chant, or just saying whatever comes to mind to your Gods. Nothing formal, nothing big. You might even give yourself a time limit.

- Add to the space (blessing). Again, try out different things that feel good in the space. This might be anything from baking cookies to trying out different kinds of incense, to saying your wishes for your home out loud, visualisation, etc. This might be a good time to add a couple of other items to the altar space

- A daily blessing: Sylvan's book is a good place for this, but there are plenty of others: at around this point, you probably have an idea of what's working especially well for you. Do more of that, but keep trying the stuff that's harder too in manageable doses: challenge is where we often grow and learn most. 

- Ways to declare that you are now in sacred space: Think about putting on different clothing, different jewelry, wearing your hair down if it's normally up, whatever. Try those out, see how you feel. Try very simple methods of declaring sacred space: a chant, a short poem, whatever. Also important: try out different ways of stepping out of sacred space mode and returning to daily life mode. (Center, ground excess energy, take off the special jewelry, do something that reminds your body and brain that you're in a different setting again.)

- Now, try combining all of these: at least once a week, try cleansing your space and your self in some form, creating sacred space, and then taking a few minutes for some sort of self-blessing, regular practice (divination readings work well here!), simple meditation, maybe some sort of simple food and drink. When done, go on to stepping back out of the sacred space.

- At this point, you can now more easily try out specific things: exploring learning more about specific deities, spending a month or two learning about each element in turn, etc. The group I trained with had a process for deity work I really liked: each month, we had a different deity to learn about (all deities who were either important in our shared group work, or to people in the group, or who just come up a lot.) We'd be asked to read about that deity and wrtie up a short summary - but then also to come up with some kind of creative project related to them. People have done everything from mixing essential oils to drawing to painting to growing a small garden to writing poetry or music. This might be a particularly fun thing to explore a bit with your daughter, in terms of learning about mythology in general.  But you have a structure to put that into that you understand.

- And when you've got some ideas for *that*, the basic stuff should be enough under your belt that you can explore more structured forms of ritual that will support deeper/more intense work more easily, without feeling overwhelmed or perpetually exhausted.

Seasonal celebrations? Look at seasonal foods, and take time outside with your daughter picking up leaves/looking at tree buds/in a local park/whatever observing the season. Make a special meal and eat it with intention, or asking from blessings from the Gods and Goddesses you feel close to.

As you have time - for example, if a Sabbat falls over a break from school - try something a little more elaborate, maybe a simple creation of sacred space followed by some sort of seasonally-linked magical or meditative work,

Moon rituals: Try something other than a traditional circle here too: spending a few minutes outside looking at the moon, charging water under the moonlight and drinking it, taking time for a long bath and self-blessing might all be ideas. (And should all work after your daughter's in bed.)

Quote
I also try to meditate but find it very difficult to both quiet my mind and stay awake lol. I'm sure that there are other people out there who have experienced similar problems - are there any tips you could share with me to find a better balance? Any advice would be gratefully received in love and light

It's flat out hard if you're exhausted all the time (and even worse if you have lots of stuff going through your head most of the time, as folks in school + other tasks tend to!) Best guide I can suggest is Diana Paxson's _Trance-Portation_ book, as she does a good job of talking about other methods of meditation besides the 'sit there and quiet your mind'. Exploring dance or walking meditation might also be a good option.

Ok. I promised the 'why this has been on my mind' - I've spent the better part of the last four months really not able to function well due to medical reasons that caused extreme exhaustion and a bunch of cognitive issues that made me go "So not doing detail-involved ritual right now'. I'm a 3rd degree priestess in my tradition, but I've got just me and a student right now, so there's been no one to help out in ritual, planning, etc.

What worked for me was recognising that this was not the point in my life to consider Major New Plans - that the thing I needed to focus on was recovering first, and then putting some patterns in play that should hopefully help in future. (Both things are responding to medication, but there are other things I can do that will help that.) This part may also be true for you - you might be better off waiting on significant new religious learning progress until something else clears off your schedule somehow. 

The second thing was building in and continuing to use small daily practices that were still there even when getting out of bed or focusing on a book for more than 5 minutes were problems. Playlists. A shrine that includes items related to my deities and other connections. People to talk to about religious stuff in general, not with any particular agenda or project in mind. Reading books that have some sort of religious connection for me, even if that's somewhat slight - some question of ethics or approach or idea.

And the last one was focusing my (sometimes painfully!) limited energy and focus on the things that truly brought me joy, rather than the things I thought I 'should' be doing. This, among other things, meant I've rediscovered the lovely meditative state of swimming laps in the local Y pool - something that clears my mind and improves my spiritual life, while also being good for my body. (I consider cooking in the same category, though I already liked that one: if I have to eat food anyway, might as well - at least sometimes - eat stuff that connects me to my religious life and cycles deliberately.)
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« Reply #4: April 06, 2010, 11:53:45 pm »

The second thing was building in and continuing to use small daily practices that were still there even when getting out of bed or focusing on a book for more than 5 minutes were problems. Playlists. A shrine that includes items related to my deities and other connections. People to talk to about religious stuff in general, not with any particular agenda or project in mind. Reading books that have some sort of religious connection for me, even if that's somewhat slight - some question of ethics or approach or idea.

Caveats: I'm not Wiccan, so I can't speak to Wiccan practice.  And Jenett has done her usual fantastic job of clearly and comprehensively laying out the various facets of an issue and responding to them.   Cheesy  (Jenett -- In case that came across as snarky, it was not meant that way.  I love reading your posts and never fail to learn from them.)

That said, I just wanted to add my perspective to the bit above.  Like Jenett and many others here, I have major health issues that interfere greatly with the simplest activities.  That has been incredibly frustrating.  However, when started looking into Celtic recon, I finally realized that there doesn't have to be separation between religious/spiritual life and everyday life.  I think, in many cultures, we grow up learning that religion is something that happens at a specified place and time.  Period.  But when you stop and think about it, it's much more satisfying -- and easier, even -- to take a more holistic approach.  At least, it is for me.  YMMV, of course.

Jenett's suggestions above are great, and I've used many of them, as have others here.  Mostly, I just try to stay mindful of my deity's presence in my life in lots of little, persistent ways.  The jewelry, colors, tattoos, etc. that I wear; things I read (when I can read); music I listen to; even thinking about TV cop shows in terms of spiritual values or whatever  Grin are all things that can help me stay mindful.  And that, in turn, leads to small but important acts of devotion throughout the day, in addition to the evening devotional I do each night.

Basically, what I'm saying is that it doesn't always have to be a big ritual.  I understand that those rituals are important and I'm not trying to undervalue them.  I'm just saying that if you look at your daily life, you might find a lot of little corners into which you can tuck a wee bit of spiritual practice.  And when they add up over the day, it can be very satisfying.
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« Reply #5: April 07, 2010, 03:06:44 am »


Hello and welcome to TC!
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« Reply #6: October 14, 2010, 02:38:46 pm »

Hi all,
I'm new to the board and relatively new to paganism though I have been reading about it for about 12 years. I've recently decided that I want to practice properly and am especially interested in Wicca. I'm having some trouble fitting regular practice into my life though.

i have to say i'm in a similar situation, I've been reading anything i can lay my hands on for about 4 years now, and i'd like to be able to "practice" one day but for now i'm at a complete loss.

i'm a full time fine arts/education student which takes up a fair amount of time for me, and this year I've been trying to cope with my inability to draw, something that always helped me find calm and in many cases explore what paganism is to me. I should explain, when i say i cant draw i mean that i developed a problem with my wrist that now stops me from drawing at all, or if i try i end up in a lot of pain. due to all of that, my depression got worse, i never realized drawing was so important to me...

suffice to say that i really wish i could do more, but when i try it always feels strained. i sometimes fleetingly have moments where i feel something like i used to when i drew but they're few and far between.

the only advice i could say is to try gardening, for me it seems to be my only connection now, without it i think i'd be completely lost
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« Reply #7: December 02, 2010, 05:19:45 pm »

Hi all,
I'm new to the board and relatively new to paganism though I have been reading about it for about 12 years. I've recently decided that I want to practice properly and am especially interested in Wicca. I'm having some trouble fitting regular practice into my life though.

Just to give you some background information, I am a single parent with a very wonderful and precocious three year old daughter. I work part time and also go to evening classes where I am working towards a law degree. I feel like so much of my time is used up with the mundane and it leaves very little space for ritual etc. When I do find the time I am often very tired and am concerned that it may be a little disrespectful to deity to frequently be yawning through rituals.

I also try to meditate but find it very difficult to both quiet my mind and stay awake lol. I'm sure that there are other people out there who have experienced similar problems - are there any tips you could share with me to find a better balance? Any advice would be gratefully received in love and light

In the way I walk anything can be a prayer, Ceremony, or meditation. Even though I do not have a child, my llife was so compacted with school, work, and helping my freinds that I had difficulty fitting in the spiritual as well. I worked 12 hour shifts at a correctional facility. I started doing what I call stealth spirituality. I would carry a pinch of cornmeal in my pocket and do a stealth protection ceremony while walking through the gates. At  school I would use my pencil or pen as a wand to do quick workings to help me remember the lecture better. You have to develop methods that work for you with this. Also if you are having problems clearing your mind for meditation use a focal point to get your attention such as music, bell, drumming, a candle, incense, a plant, picture, activity,your breathing, a stone or other object you can hold. You don't have to meditate for long at first, just a few minutes, and it will slowly build. There is another meditation where you sit quietly and acknowledge your existance. I use this one as a kind of premeditation. You get in a relaxing position and just pay attention to yourself even your thoughts. The trick is to acknowledge your thoughts but not follow them or dwell on them. The rest has pretty much been covered in previous postes, I just wanted to share how I got through it.
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« Reply #8: December 06, 2010, 04:29:09 am »

I feel like so much of my time is used up with the mundane and it leaves very little space for ritual etc. When I do find the time I am often very tired and am concerned that it may be a little disrespectful to deity to frequently be yawning through rituals.



I had a really hard time with this too when I started and my daughter was still little. My solution was a sort of compromise between religion and spiritual practice. I really wanted the structure of rituals and daily practices, but trying to meditate while being pelted with legos or putting laundry in turned out to be pretty fruitless for me.

So I tried to make more of the things that I did every day more deliberate, and more deliberately spiritual. I cooked with LOVE.. I mean actually thinking about how much I loved the people I was cooking for, how I hoped and wished that the food would help them be healthy and warm and full. I pushed energy and intent into that mac and cheese and spaghetti every day. I know it sounds a bit silly, but I made every meal a prayer and a spell for the well being of my family and friends.

I didn't do housework, I CLEANSED my house every lysol wipe cleared negativity from my life, and I swept clutter and messy emotions into tidy piles. The laundry at the end of the day got washed and came out of the dryer clean and sweet smelling and without all the negativity of the day.
etc.

It wasn't  exactly what I wanted, but it helped me to grow and learn. (patience among other things) Your situation is different, but I hope this helps at least a bit.
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« Reply #9: December 15, 2010, 04:16:21 pm »



So I tried to make more of the things that I did every day more deliberate, and more deliberately spiritual. I cooked with LOVE.. I mean actually thinking about how much I loved the people I was cooking for, how I hoped and wished that the food would help them be healthy and warm and full. I pushed energy and intent into that mac and cheese and spaghetti every day. I know it sounds a bit silly, but I made every meal a prayer and a spell for the well being of my family and friends.

I didn't do housework, I CLEANSED my house every lysol wipe cleared negativity from my life


It doesn't sound silly at all. I quite often focus on the food I cook for my daughter helping her to be healthy and strong. Since I originally made the post in April I have started to bring that attitude to my housework as well. I add essential oils and herbs to the water I clean with and my vacuum etc and it helps me to feel refreshed as well as the house. I've gotten my daughter involved in small ways, going for nature walks and tending our plants together, letting her help me to cook and telling her about where our food comes from. These are obviously all small things but they do help me to feel more connected than I did before.

I still struggle to find the energy and time for ritual and meditation is still tough but I'm working on it and I'm sure that I'll get there when the time is right.

Thank you all so much for your responses. It helps to know that others have been there too and all of your suggestions have been really helpful.

In love and light
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