Whether we’re spiritual beings or no, we eventually find ourselves in this predicament. We fail ourselves, our Gods, our beliefs. While this can be grandiose and terrible — say, committing a murder in a moment of passion — most often, it’s small, insidious. To focus on the spiritual, it is the things we forget or neglect to do: put off devotions for a night reading comic books, forsake our art out of laziness or distraction.
On a personal level, I’ve run into it lately. being so caught up in the mundane round of work, chores and all-around weariness, I haven’t made adequate time for my personal rites and devotion, which consists of journey-work and the creation of music. And finally, I pissed off my ever-patient matron, Brighid. During the monthly vigil (I’m a member of Ord Brighideach and keep a vigil every 20 days), I got a stern message. From my journal:
the vigil candle burns, and Brighid is angry.
the ogham twist in many hands, all bad in answer to the question: what can i do to deepen my devotion to you? i see her mouth in a straight-line; i understand the answer as i pluck Sail.
time, attention. they are important quantities. light the candles and the smudge without the proper attention, and it’s all just random acts. she’s a wife who’s been neglected for the big game, or ball season. patience wears thin.
and i pluck my harp strings, sing “Hearth and Heart” in her honor even as i beg forgiveness. i offer prayers whenever i can and don her silver necklace, not caring for once that the public may think it’s a swastika.
and i wonder, how much of my repentance is born of devotion? how much is sheer fear of pissing off a god?
cthonic ruis/redness, i pluck: shame.
perhaps there’s always that ambiguity when you’re the smaller entity. i do feel love and devotion. life without Brighid would be a life in monochrome: there, with its beauties even, but not in a full spectrum. but yes, when you’re the mortal, there’s always fear involved. the other party, regardless of inclination or desire, has the ability to harm, and that goes only one way.
perhaps, in some ways, that’s how our cats regard us. they may love us, but at the end of the day, we’re ten times their size.
so i sing and bow and scrape, offering the beggar scraps from my heart. i try to ask her nothing for myself, although i offer prayers for my mechanic, who’s been dealing with financial and medical issues, and those i love. “you are not a wish-granting tree,” i say.
but i need to pay attention — to Brighid and the Kindreds, to my husband, to my friends. to music and ritual in my daily life again, not just reserved for weekends. somehow, i’ve a poverty of attention. i’m not sure where i spend it. am i too self-involved? or just in la-la land?
hard questions. ruis indeed.
Falling short can be deliberate — such as choosing to break one’s magical ethics by hexing someone who’s angered you, for example. Most often, though, is based on a lack of mindfulness, distraction, fatigue. Correcting it takes, at its heart, attention.
It’s important to give ourselves slack, and to even view falling short as a human failing, not proof of our personal unworthiness. By submitting to self-hate, you lose the energy and initiative needed to correct the situation. And what’s needed to correct it? Simply: attention. From attention springs all the other solutions: making time, making the effort, fulfilling vows, journeying deep.
The first step is simple attention. Breathe deep and center yourself. Open your eyes and look in the eyes of your beloved, human or non-human, divine or mundane. Share the bright flame of your consciousness; turn it outward, a gift to its object. Don’t judge; don’t dwell on the Other’s usefulness. Simply give the gift of your attention.
That isn’t the entirety of the practice, but it’s the start.