This is part of the Pagan Experience prompts. If you are interested in a blogging project, I recommend it!
The New Year marks the end of Reunion, and, just as it is secularly, this is an excellent time to make resolutions or changes in your life. Being tied to the birth of Dawn as well, this time is especially auspicious.
Resolutions can cause us problems, as we often aim too high and become discouraged. This has happened to me a number of times when I made writing goals or resolutions. Exercising regularly is a common resolution that many people give up on. As part of the Pagan Experience, I want to discuss some Otherfaith-related resolutions and ways of keeping them.
I’ve written about beginning your devotional life before, and when it comes to making religious commitments I feel much of what I wrote is still pertinent. Before we make a commitment, we need to ask if we have the time and energy for it. It is better to underestimate yourself at first and then add new goals or practices in than have to cull them because you tried to push past your limits. Pushing beyond yourself usually just results in upset and bitterness that ends up stifling your practice. A resolution to offer prayers once a week that you can actually do is better than announcing you will be offering everyday and falling off the wagon.
If you are just beginning to get involved in the devotional side of the faith or wanting to restart, committing to saying the Waking and Sleeping Prayers in a good idea. These are the easiest to remember because they are tied to solid events rather than the more vague Noon and Evening Prayers. I recommend the Waking Prayer, though this can be difficult in the grogginess of morning. If neither prayer seems to work, the Litany of the Four Gods can be a good, quick alternative. It’s simple and can be said at any time. Resolving to saying it once a day, week, or month (I don’t recommend a longer time span than that, as it becomes more likely you will forget) is a good way to get started. The daily prayers can be found here.
You don’t need to have a purpose or deeper prayer in mind to say the Litany. You can use it to calm yourself. Or just to reach out to the gods. You don’t need to speak it aloud. Personally, I find mouthing the words to be effective in some settings in which I don’t wish to pray aloud.
Exercising can be a religious resolution, if you want it to be. Many of the Four + Four Gods are tied to physical strength, ability, or power in some way. This doesn’t mean it is a requirement, but if you feel you want an extra push, exercising with religious motivation can be helpful. I consider physical exercise the domain of the Clarene and Dierne. (Note, of course, that I am talking about exercising, not losing weight. Many people make it their resolution, but I am wary of tying it to religion because of our fat-shaming and diet-obsessed culture.)
Learning a new skill such as sewing, baking, or using makeup can also be tied to the Otherfaith. Figuring out which gods are tied to a skill you wish to learn can deepen your desire to practice it. Learning a new language can also be tied to a god – along with their own spirit languages, the gods speak a variety of human languages and learning a new one can help you better understand them. the Clarene originates from near France and Germany, for example, so learning either of those could help in connecting with her.
Setting up a schedule for when you will work on your resolutions helps many people, but you always need to consider your learning and life style. Don’t implement a schedule if time has shown again and again that you will not use it. Always factor in who you are and what your life is like before making promises to yourself. This isn’t to say that you need to hold yourself back. But be realistic. Don’t resolve to go from no working out to working out five days a week. Don’t decide that you want to go from never praying to saying all of the four daily prayers every day. Start slow, build.
Be prepared for when you slip up. You will. With my writing commitments, I mess up frequently. Instead of berating myself, I simply focus on today’s writing. Acknowledge that you slipped up and move on. If you feel tense or ashamed that you did, work through that. My method is to take a deep breath, hold it, and then exhale, consciously releasing what was troubling me. It doesn’t make it vanish, but it does keep my brain from spinning in circles. You aren’t a failure for messing up, and you don’t need to make it up double. Trying to work extra hard on your resolution because you didn’t do it last time usually ends up exhausting your or hammering the shame deeper. And in the case of exercise, it rarely works in your body’s favor!
I recommend against devoting specific activities to the gods, beyond prayer which is by its nature for the gods and spirits. This is because we put enough pressure on ourselves to succeed. We don’t need the added pressure of godly presence or divine obligation. When we inevitable fail to uphold part of our resolution it will also make the guilt far worse. Remember, this is all about small steps. Once you’ve turned your resolution into a habit, integrated it into your life, then add the devotional aspect.
If you are making resolutions with or alongside others, don’t become discouraged if they are doing ‘better’ than you. Again, find a way to relieve that feeling so you can move forward and get to the actual doing.
That is really the key – doing. We can commit and commit all we want to projects or goals, but when we begin doing and taking action is when our resolutions really bear fruit. If you want to write, write, don’t think about writing. If you want to exercise, exercise. At the same time, don’t shove your life into a corner or contort yourself for your resolutions, even your religious ones. You are allowed to take breaks, to take care of yourself, to sit down and say that you’re not going to meet your commitment today because reasons. Don’t sideline living your life for a resolution. They’re supposed to enrich your life, not stifle it.
I know some people do well with diving headfirst. I thought I was one of those people, and in a way I do very well just going full throttle. Conceptualizing my progress realistically and accepting it has helped immensely. This month has been a teacher in the difference between commitment and re-commitment and actually taking action. If you find yourself, as I often do, thinking about what you want to do more than doing it, pause, find an action you can take, and start. Don’t give yourself excuses, don’t shame yourself for not being able to do more – figure out what you are capable of and go for it.
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.