After a few client conversations this week, I thought I would bring back an old piece of writing from 2021 about having a spiritual practice when you have mental or physical health struggles or disability.
This was originally inspired by a thread by Berenike (go check out their amazing devotional art work).
For frame of reference, I have permanently damaged my adrenal glands, CFS/ME, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I am immunocompromised. I also have complex trauma and lifelong depression. This all came crashing down on me in my late 20s and I've been struggling to come to terms with it ever since.
I give this disclaimer because I think it’s important to speak from a frame of experience and/or training of some sort.
I don’t believe in gurus, I believe in travel companions on your spiritual walk. I am striving to walk beside you <3
I’ve been in that place where I see people talking about complex daily spiritual practices that start at the crack of dawn, and feel inept.
Could I be spiritual if I could not participate in elaborate, exacting, and daily practices? Would any entity want to be in relation with me?
These questions plagued my mind and heart. Since I was a child I have desired a reverent nun-like practice of disciplined devotion.
But the reality is my body severely limits my ability to have that sort of practice.
Some days I have normal energy levels, low pain, I’ve slept well, and I'm emotionally regulating skillfully.
Other days I haven’t slept, I have extreme mental fog, my ribs/shoulders/etc. subluxate because I laid or sat or coughed wrong, and invasive memories make emotional regulation challenging.
Not only has this made me feel completely unworthy of spiritual relationships, especially compared to others… But it has also made whatever praxis I do feel like it often does not measure up.
I’m sure many of you relate to this.
So how does one overcome this feeling of inadequacy?
SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT
First, know that IT IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT to have a spiritual practice and relationship with the world both seen and unseen, both human and more-than-human.
There are no conditions on this birthright. No clause that qualifies “if you are of average able body and mind you are worthy of being in spiritual relationship and fulfillment”.
When you look back in time outside of institutionalized religion (which tends to make complex rituals and practices) you find that spirituality was not this elaborate thing.
In fact, it was designed to incorporate into the daily life of an individual—WHATEVER that looked like.
You were a blacksmith? Your daily work was in dedication to Hephaestus, the very craft was a spiritual act. Before you start you may say a small prayer, purify yourself (dust hands with an herb or something), and then... get to work. Craft itself was spiritual.
You were a shepherd? You would take extra food to give to the land spirits, take specific routes to avoid sacred spots, and generally just be in good relation with the spirits that you were around each day. Maybe pray to a saint or entity that correlated to this work.
This was not elaborate. Maybe once a month you’d have a large devotional practice on a specific date or moon phase. You used what you had to hand (usually honey, bread, cream, or food you already cooked).
Your spirituality was part of your mundane life.
A big part of this was just being in good relation with the beings around you. It’s not that different from being in relation with humans. They had preferences and ways of being respected, which again, usually were not elaborate.
You find that as time goes on we, humans, make it elaborate.
SIMPLE REALISTIC COMMITMENTS, DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS
I am a folk witch and astrological mage, but I teach my students that theurgy and devotion does not and should not be elaborate. Performing it sometime on the right day is 10000% good enough, even if you can’t hit the precise hour. A tiny altar that’s portable is fine. A tea-light or led candle works.
The most important part is our sincerity and making commitments that we can REALISTICALLY keep. And for each of us that’s different.
Sometimes we miss days. Some weeks we do nothing.
AND OUR GODS/SPIRITS ARE AWARE OF OUR LIMITATIONS.
Which is why it’s important to really look at your life and find how to incorporate spirituality into what you already do.
Prayers while you do the dishes are still prayers.
Tending to a house plant can connect you to its spirit.
Making hobbies spiritual praxis is effective (and honestly one of the oldest most indigenous practices around the globe).
In fact, one of my favorite icons Hildegard Von Bingen pretty much dedicated all of her talents and interests and daily chores to her spirituality. Gardening, herbalism, writing, composing, creating art... these are things we naturally enjoy. She just made them spiritual praxis.
You like taking walks? That can be a moving meditation or an opportunity to commune with the land.
I take pictures in an attempt to capture the spirit of place and spread my love and reverence to others, hoping it encourages them to look a little closer, walk a little slower, and be present with the more-than-human world around them.
You like to dance? Why not dedicate that to one of your patron entities?
To be clear: you don’t have to turn every hobby or every time you do something into a spiritual act (though I argue that we are doing that all the time, regardless of intent).
YOU ARE ENOUGH, THE WORLD AWAITS YOU JOINING IN WITH YOUR UNIQUE ENCHANTMENT
You can take what you already do and have available to you and it is valid and more than enough as a spiritual practice.
It does not matter if it is 15 minutes or 3 hours. It does not matter if you have precise timing.
OUR IDEAS OF PERFECTION ARE HUMAN NONSENSE.
I think of it like spending time with a partner... do you limit time with your loved ones for when it’s the absolute most perfect conditions? OF COURSE NOT.
So why are we doing this to our non-human and spiritual relationships and practice? Showing up imperfect IS STILL GOOD.
THIS IDEA OF PERFECT SPIRITUALITY IS BASICALLY WESTERN MATERIALISM PARADING AS BEING SPIRITUALLY DEEP
You know what’s deep and vulnerable and fucking fierce? Showing up as you are with what you have.
You know what’s loving and respectful? Dedicating something you enjoy or already do, in service to the people and entities you care for. Making it whatever level of habit THAT YOU CAN. And doing it joyfully.
Don’t try to fit your personal spirituality into the Instagram and Yoga Journal box. Most of us can’t do that, able body and minded or not.
YOU AND YOUR LIFE AND WHAT YOU HAVE ARE ENOUGH.
(Shout out to Brea, Daniel, and Whitney for reminding me of this thread from March 2021!)