My daily practice isn’t what I’d like it to be these days what with working two jobs, raising three teenagers, and going to grad school. I am clocking about 60 hours of work and school every week, which doesn’t leave very many spare hours for formal ritual, prayer, or meditation.
During previous phases of my life, I’ve had a daily devotional practice that’s taken on many different forms as my spiritual studies deepen. I’ve learned to use new tools, and gone from singing other people’s chants to writing my own and creating my own prayers. As my path unfolded, my practice evolved. But last autumn, life shifted when I went back to school and shifted again a couple of months ago when I added a second job to the mix. My spiritual practice over the last month has been sporadic, random moments stolen from other obligations to say a rushed prayer, a chant sung on the drive to work, or an energy center balancing done in the shower before bed.
Meanwhile, in the back of my mind was the fact that I had committed to attending a 4-day training intensive within the Avalonian Tradition, followed immediately by a 4-day leadership retreat for the Sisterhood of Avalon. A couple of weeks ago, with my daily practice in what felt like utter shambles, I suffered an bout of extreme self-doubt. What was I thinking committing to this training intensive and leadership work when I couldn’t even manage to find 15 minutes every day to engage the practice of my faith? How on earth could I think I was ready for this? Should I even still go?
I’d like to say that what happened next was a vigorous re-commitment to and re-building of my daily practice. Instead, I remembered the words I often share with other Sisters struggling with their own daily practices:
-Stop should-ing on yourself.
-The work is never wasted.
-It’s called practice for a reason.
This world asks the impossible from women every day. Be this. Don’t be that. Be this in this particular way — but not too little. Or too much. Make your life look like this. Make it look easy. Don’t want too much. Give more than you get. And on, and on.
What a woman’s spiritual practice “should” look like is the wrong question. Mary Oliver once wrote, in her beautiful poem, “Wild Geese,” that “You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” Our spiritual practice is just that — OURS. The freedom inherent in my Tradition is the empowerment and encouragement to define that practice for myself. And to honor the fact that it’s just that — practice.
I can mess this up, change this around, re-work it, re-frame it, and try again and again as many times as I want. I can come back home to Goddess over and over again. She will always be there. I can also consider that perhaps the way I am sure to express my love for my children to them before I leave for work every day IS my practice. The way I engage the ritual of opening the library where I work IS my practice. Head bowed over my lecture notes for the semester, I can find Her between the lines with every breath I take. The daily round and the spiritual practice can be iterative, recursive, cyclical, with one informing the other, informing the other.
The ancients didn’t separate the sacred from the mundane. To kindle the hearth, to prepare a meal, to hunt, to work the land was all spiritual practice. That was what the gods expected then. So, what about now? This is what I am exploring in this moment and at my training intensive – which is taking place this weekend. How can I continue to dismantle the illusion of separation between spiritual practice and the practice of life?
The best answer I’ve come up with so far?
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, youth services librarian, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. During 2019, she is mostly focused on earning her MA/LIS from University of Wisconsin – Madison’s iSchool, but she will also be presenting at the SOA’s annual online conference next year at AvaCon 2020. Kate’s spiritual writings are published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.