Living a Pagan Life : I'm Chopping, I'm Chopping
Article ID: 4876
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,274
Times Read: 6,500
Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 15th. 2002
Times Viewed: 6,500
As with any belief system, my Paganism effects my daily life only when I put it into practice: "Putting my money where my mouth is, " as Mother is wont to say. Sometimes that comes reflexively, and sometimes it has to be a conscious effort. To be frank, when some nimnoid cuts me off in traffic, my first instinct is to get mad and get even; it takes a conscious effort to remember that the Universe and the Law of the Returning Tide will take care of that individual. Its not my job to "set things straight" by giving her or him the one-finger salute. When my dogs are misbehaving (read: being dogs), I usually have to stop and remind myself - before I yell at them - that they are children of the Goddess too, and are just doing what dogs do.
But its easy to "feel Pagan" when I step out into the crisp Autumn morning, see the Full Moon riding high among the wild clouds at night or feel the hairs rise on my neck when the Goddess and God make Their presence known in Circle.
Yet, I think this is a phenomenon common to most contemporary Americans who are dedicated to a religious or spiritual path. Few of us are "on" all the time, and even fewer of us are "masters of the Path." As in sitting meditation, most of us find ourselves wandering at any given moment. What is important is to become aware of that wandering, and bring ourselves gently back to the moment and our purpose, as we do in meditation.
Recently, my wife took a week off to spend with her mother, leaving me to "bach it, " and I made use of the empty house to catch up on the dishes, which are always lagging behind. At one point, with a physical shock, I realized that I was using WAY too much water, and that I had a responsibility, as a Pagan, to be more conservative. That may sound cheesy, but that's exactly the thought that came to me. I finished the dishes, but I made sure I used only as much water as I needed to do the job.
And that illustrates my point about "wandering." There I was, merrily washing away, when I suddenly realized that my physical actions were not in congruence with my spiritual principles. I wasn't doing anything "wrong, " and I certainly wasn't consciously and maliciously squandering Mother Earth's resources. I had simply lapsed into non-awareness once again. Upon my realization of that lapse, I didn't lay any kind of guilt trip on myself; I simply brought my thoughts and actions back into congruence with my principles. Going back to the analogy of sitting meditation, I have been told again and again that to "wander" is perfectly human, eminently natural, and impossible to avoid. It happens to everyone, all the time, even to "masters of the Path." There is no shame in it, and it isn't "wrong" or "bad." It is simply wandering. It isn't important that we wander or how many times we wander. What is important is that we realize, at some point, that we are wandering and bring ourselves back to the moment. And so it is with being a modern suburban Pagan in a fast-paced, high-stress, consumption-oriented society. The fact that I wander is not surprising. What is noteworthy is that I realize it, at some point, and bring myself back.
I honestly don't set out in the morning with the thought that I'm going to be Super-Pagan that day. I usually set out with the thought that I want to be the best "me" I can be, and that I trust in the Lady and the Lord to help me in that effort, as long as I let Them. My spiritual principles, which are heavily informed by my Pagan religion, are part of the "me" that I want to be, but I must be diligent in my practice of those principles. The 12th Step in the 12 Step programs says, in part: "we tried to carry this message... and to practice these principles in all our affairs." That pretty much sums up how I approach living each day as a Pagan. I don't beat the drum and proclaim: "I'm a Pagan! This is how I live my life and how you should live yours!" That's not what "carry this message" means. I carry the message by trying to practice these principles in all my affairs, and when I am successful, the message transmits itself through the example of my life. The 12 Step programs also refer to "progress, not perfection, " and I have to keep that in mind when I realize that I am NOT practicing the principles. A temporary incongruence between my principles and my actions does not mean that I have "failed" as a Pagan, and I am not permitted the easy-out of throwing up my hands and saying "Well, that's it! I'm just not good enough to be a Pagan anymore!" For me, the Path of the Lady and the Lord is not that easy. Rather, when I become aware of a lapse, I am obligated to make amends, whether those amends be physical, emotional or spiritual. Who am I obligated to? There is no "Universal Pagan Church" to which I must account for my actions, no holy writ that sets forth what constitutes a lapse and what is required of me to atone for it. In the end, I am not even obligated to the Lady and the Lord. If I pour oil down a storm drain, or don't recycle for a month, the Goddess may shed a tear at the abuse of the Earth, but She's not going to "get me for it." The only entity I am obligated to is that "me" that I want to become. And it is that obligation to my "higher self" that impels me to make amends when I do not live in accordance with my principles.
The Norse sum all of this up in the concept of Right Action, and 12 Step programs often refer to "doing the next right thing." To me, this is simply congruence of principle and action. My personal experience has been that, when reasonably healthy of body, mind and spirit, I intuitively know what the next Right Action is. That doesn't mean that I always do it, mind you. The next right thing can be very inconvenient, uncomfortable, scary, expensive or whatever. It may simply be that the next right thing has nothing to do with me getting what I want, whether that is physical comfort, material satisfaction or emotional security. Again, the Path of the Lady and the Lord is not always easy. Nor do lightening bolts strike when I don't do the next right thing. Regardless of what I think from time to time, the Universe is seldom knocked off kilter by my actions one way or the other. But sooner or later, I am. This, I believe, is the true manifestation of the Law of the Returning Tide in my life: when I choose to do what my spirit knows is wrong, sooner or later I suffer the backlash of that choice. It may be physical injury, monetary loss, emotional retaliation, or a host of other consequences. But most often, it is simply my own personal dissatisfaction with what I chose to do or not do.
I strive to respond to any situation according to my principles, which are drawn from many forms of contemporary Paganism, the 12 Steps, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism and, heck, even the Christianity of my youth. Thus, my response is not "Pagan, " per se, but rather my own unique response. That it is flavored by the principles of my Pagan religion is my earnest hope, and yet another blessing of the Lady and the Lord.
In Their Service,
Location: Reston, Virginia
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