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Looking For (Textual) Help In Establishing Regular Spiritual Practice


Guest rigantona
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First things first, a little bit of background about my history in matters esoteric.

 

I grew up a mythology nerd. I'm culturally Catholic, but my parents both renounced the religious tradition in which they were raised. As a result, I didn't grow up within any organised religion. We spent part of our time in Northern France (we are of Franco-Celtic ancestry) and in the wilds of Sweden, and, perhaps for that reason, the myths of those places always resonated with me much more than anything Biblical.

 

I first became interested in neopaganism in my teens. I started out with Wicca, reading Scott Cunningham, Vivianne Crowley, Rae Beth, Laurie Cabot (the latter I remember as a lot of fluff, but with some passages I found inspiring at the time); also Silver Ravenwolf and authors of a similar ilk, just to get an idea of what was out there.

 

I celebrated some of the eight sabbats, alone or with others, but my daily life occurred in an environment that did not foster spirituality or communion with nature, so I was never really able to take it further.

 

I grew disappointed with Wicca upon discovering how much of its tenets were rooted in lazy or plain fabricated anthropology, its rituals a hotchpotch of that and (as a user elsewhere on this forum observed) "ceremonial magic lite".

 

In adult life, I developed a less deliberate, more occasional and passive approach to spirituality, even as my beliefs solidified. I had taken away from my earlier forays into paganism my self-identifying as a witch, a rekindled interest in mythology and ancient texts and the spiritual insights (about the vagaries of fate, and so forth) gained from that.

 

My intuitive abilities improved in the peace of solitude, and through a general greater sensory openness, I have experienced occasional deeply-spiritual encounters and events. An example: though I've owned tarot decks throughout the years, reading regularly never quite worked for me. But for several years, I would regularly found playing cards on the streets, and their corresponding tarot meanings always provided needed advice.

 

Deliberate attempts, at intervals, to seek spiritual community or expand my practice in a group setting (ie a course in shamanism) have always fallen flat. I have not been able to find a setting that worked for me, although I have many individuals in my life (scattered in various places; unfortunately, none of them in my city) whose beliefs and approach are similar to mine.

 

I'm not a novice in terms of knowledge, but I haven't yet been able to establish a regular, active spiritual life.

 

However, I'm now at the point where I would like to foster a more deliberate sense of communion with the universe, and build up a solid, sustained spiritual practice. I am wondering how to go about this, and, perhaps, looking for some kind of guiding light along the way. Ideally, a handbook? I'm the kind of person who has difficulty following handbooks and mapped-out approaches to things, but I do feel it would be good to have some kind of guideline in establishing pace and regularity.

 

Does anyone have any recommendations for something not fluffy, not overly prescriptive, but that does provide solid, practical help, exercises, etc.?

 

Thank you for reading!

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If I were starting from scratch, I would still begin where I began my life as a Christian mystic. Begin with silence.

 

I began in a silent retreat, one weekend in a charming retreat house belonging to the Essex Diocese in the Church of England. It's in a village where you can stand on the high street of a Saturday and see all of - oh - 6 cars go past in the course of 2 hours. If that.

 

If you can, I would recommend seeking somewhere like that, that runs silent retreats, and attending one. You do not have to attend the services, though I always attended matins, evensong and especially compline, for the sheer beauty of the poetry of the BCP services. Meals were silent and it meant, from after supper on Friday until after after teatime on Sunday, about 25 people spent time in the sme exquisite house and grounds, and village, not speaking to each other. That creates a powerful spiritual atmosphere that is not replicated by going away by yourself. No one bothers you; you do what you want for the 48 hours.

 

I found I entered into another world that I've been aware of every since, and know I can step into if I work to put myself in the right mindset.

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It's a difficult one to answer because (a) most of the "step by step" guides tend to be based around Wicca and (b ) because trying to find a book, a single one, that will cover everything you're looking for in a way that addresses your particular "brand" of spirituality is impossible.

 

I wonder if, then, it would be better to consider a suite of books rather than a one-size-fits-all? I get inspiration for my spirituality and path in all manner of books which have become my own particular "Bibles", each fitting a different requirement of my path. Not just "Pagan" books, but gardening books, cookbooks, novels, history books etc. Each of them fulfills what I need from them and consolidates my path and provides inspiration and food for thought.

 

I am also a great believer that actually getting outside and paying attention on a regular basis helps you build up a connection and a rhythm that can become almost ritual-like by the repetition. Books are fantastic and they feed the mind and expand it and challenge it, but I'd always consider them a complement to nature rather than the instruction manual for Paganism :)

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I think for many of us, it is the lack of handbook or "bible" that is so attractive about the spiritual life of a pagan, whatever the path that is chosen. I second all that Pomona says and if you do not find any one of the labelled paths acceptable, it must be the case that you will need to make your own way, step by step. The more I know about pagan paths and the people who walk them, the more I am convinced that our ways - infinitely varied as they are - are not easy ways. Having come from an evangelical xtian background, however, I can truly say, that my pagan path is infinitely more interesting and rewarding. :)

 

On an aside, I am sad that you have had the experience and reaction you appear to have had, to Wicca. The Wiccan path that I walk is a mystery tradition and, whilst there is much that is published about it, the mysteries can only be known by experience - the path is experiential. I and those who walk with me in this way, do not have the understanding you seem to have gained and I wonder with whom and for how long you experienced Wicca?

 

I am aware that many so-called wiccan (and I use the small "w" advisedly) ways are not worth the effort, but it is a sweeping generalisation to say "much of its [Wicca] tenets were rooted in lazy or plain fabricated anthropology, its rituals a hotchpotch of that and (as a user elsewhere on this forum observed) "ceremonial magic lite". The opinion of one user elsewhere on this forum, is just that, the opinion of one user! As well as being a Gardnerian witch, I am also a ceremonial magician, trained and with some practice and so I can say that the Wicca I know is definitely not "ceremonial magic lite" when compared with the ceremonial magic that I know !!

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Moonhunter, the silent retreat is good advice — more about inner peace, I think, than worship as such, but of course the two are very much linked. A silent retreat is something I've always been meaning to do.

 

Pomona and Naomi, I don't mean a book that outlines a belief system, but rather a buildup of visualisation/meditation/prayer exercises. That might also come from a non-western religious or spiritual tradition.

 

It's all well and good to say read voraciously & be selective & eke out your own path through time, but my point is, goals like "learn to meditate" and "be more attuned" are too abstract for me.

 

I feel like I need some goalposts along the way, somewhere I can "check in" from time to time. I have a copy of Mastering Astral Projection which works in this way (a buildup of practical exercises), but I feel like right now, I need to be doing the opposite: that is, I feel I need to establish methods of being grounded and centered within myself and the universe before addressing my own mutability.

Edited by rigantona
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Pomona and Naomi, I don't mean a book that outlines a belief system, but rather a buildup of visualisation/meditation/prayer exercises. That might also come from a non-western religious or spiritual tradition.

 

OK, then I would suggest two possibilities. One is to try a short course in Buddhist - preferably Zen - meditation. It razes the ground, so to speak. It gets rid of "the chattering monkey" of distraction. From there it is a simple step into the silent darkness of the land behind the waterfall or through the wardrobe, as I've variously described it. Once you can get there (and I found it via silent retreats, years after Buddhist meditation, you can learn to talk to the inhabitants of the Otherhworld. Once you are through to the silent darkness and know how to be there, you learn to carry it inside of yourself and it becomes a stepping stone to opening yourself to talking to wights and gods.

 

Oh, I said two things, didn't I? Hmm... what was the other, I wonder?Oh yes: Starhawk's book. Now I don't generally recommend her, partly because the US/dianic flavour is a bit strong, but also because the fearie trad is not mine and I find it difficult. But the Sprial Dance is good on meditation IIRC.

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I think Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) would be more sympathetic to a Pagan then Zen. Tibetan Buddhism is far more supernatural/magical then Buddhism is typically considered to be; 'Civilized Shamans' by Geoffrey Samual is a good book on the subject of Buddhism in Tibetan societies. A book regarding practice you might be interested in checking out is 'Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light' by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. It's an interesting subject with some interesting techniques though when it comes to matters of ontology Buddhism is anathema to me.

 

I think ultimatly all you can do is cobble together techniques that work for you and set your own pace. Also if you're put of by the bad anthropology and fabrication at Wicca's roots then Paganism in any form probably isn't for you.

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Also if you're put of by the bad anthropology and fabrication at Wicca's roots then Paganism in any form probably isn't for you.

 

I think that's a bit harsh actually! Unless it was meant tongue in cheek.

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What I mean is just about all forms of Paganism would have at some point been subject to bad anthropology, bad archaeology and/or fabrication.

Edited by Yarrow
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Also if you're put of by the bad anthropology and fabrication at Wicca's roots then Paganism in any form probably isn't for you.

 

What I mean is just about all forms of Paganism would have at some point been subject to bad anthropology, bad archaeology and/or fabrication.

 

That doesn't mean that all forms of paganism are closed to anyone with a critical mind. It is simply a matter of negotiating the rocks. so I do not see that the first comment (conclusion) arises logically from the preposition (second comment).

 

I suppose it depends what is meant by "put off". I was put off Wicca because I could not cope with the theology, for similar reasons to those put forward by Rigantona. It suits others, and the theology of my own religion suits me.

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Pomona and Naomi, I don't mean a book that outlines a belief system, but rather a buildup of visualisation/meditation/prayer exercises. That might also come from a non-western religious or spiritual tradition.

 

 

 

Are you able to find a group or a "teacher" who will give you some practical experience of pathworking (outside of the established religions such as Buddhism)? As Yarrow suggests, ultimately, there is no other way but to test and find out for yourself - taking that much or what you read, are taught and learn, which suits you - this is paganism!

 

I think I am safe in saying that no-one here in The Valley would tell you that they follow their path and it is all set down in some way - by book or teacher - so that they do not have to search and struggle to work it all out for themselves.

 

There are other historical threads here, on meditation and how to do it or, indeed, how individuals do it - if you use the "Search" facility at the top of the page .......

 

@ Drei - OBOD do a course over a year and offer a tutor or guide (or at least they did when I first encountered them some years back) but the course costs around £200 and is mostly long-distance learning.

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I'm doing the OBOD bardic course now. While belonging to an OBOD grove has been an amazing, invaluable experience, I'm not sure that the course itself is worth the money - if only because similar material exists out there in books, for a lot less money. But the course does take you through it step-by-step really well, and I expect that would be very helpful for people without experience of things like meditation, visualisation, working with myth etc. Not cheap to find out if it suits you, though!

 

I started by reading the Christian mystics too. That, and Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist philosophy all have lots to offer in terms of meditation and contemplation. There are lots of spiritual traditions that do.

Edited by Sophia Catherine
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Yeah the ADF dedicant handbook isn't that expensive you do have to buy or borrow your own reading materials though. Problem is that it is very specific in focus, it's more what you go for after you have explored all the possibilities and decided it was the one for you. The OBOD course might be the same thing.

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It is, and difficult to work out before you start if it's for you, because you don't get access to much in the taster pack. (Which has been an issue for me.) It's good material though.

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That's something I'd like to see change with ADF, put more of what we do on the public area of the website, I had to start a FB page for the Artisans Guild just so non members could see the art we made! I think you can now just buy the handbook through Lulu without paying the membership fee or actually joining but I can't see why a person would, it be nice if it could be checked out of the library! Hmmmm I should see if I can score some for the Chicago public libraries! :)

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I'm considering ADF and would be keen on seeing more sample material - although they're pretty good with how much they have online already, IMO. (Sorry for tangent!)

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There's good advice up there. I'm new to this so take what I say with a pinch of salt. Here is my method.

 

A few years ago I wasn't very well and the NHS gave me a CD on meditation. Maybe I wasn't ready bat the time but I couldn't do it. I bought a book and CD on Practical Meditation With Buddhist Principals. (From a remainders shop - I'm a cheapskate)! It was very good at explaining why my attempt a meditation was going wrong and I found that with a bit of practice I could do it. But it wasn't for me. I realised that I had been doing what worked for years whithout thinking it through.

 

I live in the countryside and within about 5 minutes you can walk to where you can be sure that no one else will be. I've had dogs for about 30 years and country walks were just a means of excercising the dog. Then the change of veiwpoint. The walks became just me and the dog and nature; no sounds except the wind in the trees. You become intensely aware of the environment and what it all means. It's particularly spiritual walking across fields at night. (Hint; do the walk in daylight first, take a torch and an illuminated dog collar if going off lead). Things look very different at night and there was one particular tree that dog number one was fine with in daylight but wouldn't walk past at night, who knows why. You get very aware of the passing of the seasons and the significance of the wheel of the year. I'd divided my year into four and eight before I'd even heard of the wheel of the year. Effort needed - about an hour a day.

 

I always take a camera and photograph anything that interests me; memory is cheap. That way when I'm feeling low I can flick through the pictures with the natural changes in them and go to somewhere that I feel good. Anyway good luck in your search.

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I'm considering ADF and would be keen on seeing more sample material - although they're pretty good with how much they have online already, IMO. (Sorry for tangent!)

 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=download&confirm=no_antivirus&id=0Bwom6WFSsOCsOWI1MTk1OTQtZWNlYy00ODkwLTkwZDQtMTczNGI4MWYyYmFi

 

That link should hopefully take you to my copy of the dedicant manual PDF that I have in Google drive, if you want a copy :)

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I'm considering ADF and would be keen on seeing more sample material - although they're pretty good with how much they have online already, IMO. (Sorry for tangent!)
That link should hopefully take you to my copy of the dedicant manual PDF that I have in Google drive, if you want a copy :)

 

That's so kind of you - thank you! I'll let you know what I decide. I'm going to make a decision when I finish the OBOD bardic grade.

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