Every morning, I make a choice. What’s the first thing I’m going to do after my husband leaves the house? I have solitude and privacy at that time, so it’s the most ideal part of the day to do ritual and meditation.
Most mornings, what I’d prefer to do is grab a cup of coffee and hop on the computer to check my email and social media. Or perhaps go back under the covers and grab another 20-30 minutes of sleep.
Sometimes, that happens.
But usually, I choose instead to sit in front of my altar, no cup of coffee yet, and start my morning with my own spiritual practice. The struggle is there, every single time. I don’t aim for perfection in my practice. I shoot for 5 out of 7 per week, and I’ve learned to feel good if I achieve that.
I keep trying, though, because having this ongoing practice makes my life better. I’ve seen the evidence over the three years I’ve been regularly maintaining it.
When I have my spiritual practice in place, I am more able to handle the things that come my way during the day. I can take a breath and pause rather than getting upset by the long wait in line or in traffic. I’m able to do my readings and work on my business from a place of intuition and flow. I can take the little frustrations of life in stride. And if some big stressor pops up, I’m able to be more present and grounded. I make better decisions. I respond rather than react.
When I don’t do my practice, especially if I have a week or so where I’ve missed a few days, I notice the difference. I feel as if I’m anxiously scurrying from thing to thing. I get irritated with other people more easily. I get frustrated with myself more easily. And when bad things happen, my thoughts turn dark and cynical. What am I doing all this for, anyway? What does it matter? I want to give up. I have trouble finding my motivation, and my joy.
Would I be just fine and functional without my spiritual practice? Sure. But is my life a whole lot better with my practice in place? Yes, that’s the data I have so far.
Sometimes, I fall off the wagon. I go on a trip, and my schedule gets messed up. I wake up a little too late, or a morning appointment is too early, and I miss a few. Instead of beating myself up about it, I try to look at it as information -- missing my daily practice allows me to feel what it’s like to miss it. And I always return.
With Saturn in Sagittarius currently squaring Neptune in Pisces (first exact on Nov. 26, spanning through September 2016), we feel the tension between reality and the world of spirit, between the visible and invisible realms. We might find ourselves questioning our spiritual and philosophical beliefs. We feel the hunger for meaning, and we crave answers in the light of tragic world events.
In my experience, the ability to access what makes life meaningful for me, even in the face of tragedy, is found through creating a discipline (Saturn) of my connection with Spirit (Neptune). With the square between these two planets, more of us might feel that developing a practice is not just enriching to one’s life, but it is important. In the world we live in, we need a quiet place in the center that is free from all the noise, the suffering, and the violence. We need a calm at the center of the storm.
A spiritual practice is different for each of us. For me, it requires about 45 minutes of quiet time in the morning: ritual, prayer, meditation. I burn incense, I pull oracle cards, and I write down a record of what I did. I have books filled with these regular entries: what came to me in meditation, what cards I pulled, what insights I received for my day.
For you, it might be taking a meditative walk in nature. It might be journaling. It might be pulling an oracle (Runes, the Tarot, Animal cards) for the day. It might be sitting in silence and breathing for 10 minutes. But the idea of making it a practice is being willing to do it as close to daily as you can, even when you don’t feel like it (sometimes you won’t), and even when the resistance is there (often it is).
The Saturn-Neptune square highlights the current need to strike a balance between discipline (Saturn) and going with the flow (Neptune). Too much in either direction can cause us to lose our practice. For example, if we just do it out of habit or a strict adherence to dogma (shadow Saturn in Sagittarius) we may miss the gifts of discovery in the practice. If we get too loosey-goosey and unstructured (shadow Neptune in Pisces), we will likely not stick with it, and therefore miss the rewards of committing to something over time (optimal Saturn energy).
Here are some of my tips for building a spiritual practice:
-Set aside the time. A regular practice should be scheduled, at least firmly in your head. Putting it on your calendar at first may help. It will soon become a habit. For example, I know that on the weekdays, I will sit down at my altar sometime between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Choose a time that you know you will be most free of distractions, and that you will have quiet and solitude if at all possible.
-Claim your space. I am fortunate in that I have a small room within our large upstairs attic bedroom. I’ve claimed it as my spiritual practice and creative writing space. In other living situations, I’ve not had this luxury, but I have made do with the corner of a bedroom or a walk-in closet. Choose a space for you that feels private enough that you will be able to feel safe and relaxed. If you don’t have this kind of space in your home, you might consider creating it and setting boundaries around it with your living mates.
-Start simple. If a practice is too complicated, we are not as likely to stick with it. You might begin with just getting centered, clearing and grounding, or breathing for a set amount of time. You might choose to do 20 minutes of journaling in the morning. Or you might pull one tarot card for the day and write down your thoughts and impressions of the card, considering what message it might have for your day. As you get more settled into the practice, you can always add components to it. Don’t overload yourself at first.
-Create reasonable expectations. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking. For example, if you miss your morning practice, and you don’t have time to do the full thing anywhere else in your day, even taking out 10 minutes at a lull in the afternoon is better than nothing. On the weekends, it’s difficult for me to do the morning ritual. So, I’ll try to do a short meditation in the afternoon instead.
-Be open to change. A practice is something that we need to do regularly in order to see and feel the benefits over time. It requires commitment, but not just empty repetition. Allow for flow and change. Check in, perhaps monthly, to ask yourself: Does this practice feel meaningful to me? Am I getting something from it? If not, maybe it’s time to change it up, add or delete something, change the time or the place.
Most importantly, remember that your spiritual practice is for you, not for anyone else. It’s not about doing the Right Thing, nor about meeting any external moral compass. Now more than ever, we need evidence (Saturn) that our spiritual practice (Neptune) is of real benefit. So look for this evidence in your daily life as you grow with your practice. It can be helpful to write down the changes you notice.