Coming back to a full-time spiritual practice (and training) following mundane grad school is proving to be challenging in ways I wouldn’t have expected. Here’s what’s working me over.
- Raising my educational level (and arguably, life experience level) has lowered my tolerance for shoddy scholarship and shady claims. I already had a sensitive BS-o-Meter, and now it’s more so. I also have a hard time with ignorance of larger systems (i.e. oppression, ecological and on and on).
- I have a lot of baggage preventing me from returning to my most recent tradition, some related to point one, but most related to boundaries and community dynamics and tradition foundations and experiences I had between 2004 and 2011. Even if I worked through this baggage (and I desperately need to, likely with some assistance), I don’t think I can or will return to that tradition. There are too many things surrounding the pieces I like (namely ritual style and commitment to the Earth).
- I don’t experience the gods as psychological constructs or thoughtforms or facets of one (or two) divine force(s). I experience them as distinct, part of a larger cultural context (including other gods) and accompanied by ancestors, nature spirits and other beings.
- I see value in melding scholarship (i.e. knowing your gods and their culture and their historical contexts) with form with ecstatic ritual AND formalized, structured, accessible training programs (that use some great spiritual leadership components rather than sage-on-the-stage models) – and I don’t see this happening. Anywhere. Certainly not in a place accessible to me.
- Speaking of ecstatic ritual, I also have experienced growth and emotional breakthrough as a result of participating in ritual theater – not as an actor, mind you, but as a witness. The ecstatic ritual community often seems to view this as an either/or proposition, and I feel it is both/and. So add ritual theater to the above list of things I value. It’s a new addition, but one I’m glad I’m shifting on. (The ritual theater community tends to be intensely uncomfortable trusting themselves without a script. I’ve been there, and I get it, but I’ve seen magic happen via improv – which is what I think ecstatic ritual feels like to them – too.)
Thinking about this for the past several weeks, I thought again about how I often find myself in liminal places. In fact, I often seek these liminal places out – I even live in one, a place where land, sea, sky and river meets, working at a place where people stop to gather resources to continue with their path, or forge a new one. I crave that mist-shrouded space, but I find myself most often alone there. I never quite feel like I fit completely into one space. I’m always straddling the line. And I NEVER intentionally “drink the kool-aid” – that’s just anathema to me. Sometimes that makes me unpopular.
I am missing a person to talk to regularly about this stuff when it comes up. Hoping to find a person to fit that space soon. In the meantime, I’ll just keep walking here at the edge and doing the work.