Last year, I did a course called Spiritual Nomad designed to help me better define my particular brand of eclectic spirituality, which is very eclectic indeed. I never quite finished it, so I was happy to hear that the creator of the course was offering it again this year, and at a reduced price for those who had done it before so that they could revisit it and interact with other participants. The parts that I did complete were immensely fulfilling and I wanted to see them with fresh eyes, as well as try to finish the bits that were left incomplete. As with last year, I’m about two weeks behind, this time because I caught a stomach virus during the first week (that was fun). So I’m playing catch-up.
I’ve already done the first task, which is to create a “path of faith”: basically create a timeline of my life marked by its important events, spiritual and otherwise, in an effort to see how I’ve gotten to where I am now. It was an interesting exercise, one that I’m trying not to judge myself on (I’m always judging myself, to my great detriment) since my timeline wound up with a great many events on it. Then again, my life has been pockmarked by a great many significant events that left a mark, so there’s nothing wrong with putting them all down, even if it made a timeline that took up an entire 11’x14′ piece of paper and was done in about five different colors.
I also did the second task last year, which was to strip all of my altars and shrines bare. That was a very interesting exercise, one that clarified the spiritual energy in the house a great deal. I got rid of a lot of things, and virtually ever flat surface in the house was rearranged in some manner. I still have a few things that don’t have a home that need to either go to Goodwill (or a friend), or be put out in the garage for storage so they’re not just sitting around gathering dust and taking up space. I didn’t do much with them after that, though, so this year I’ll make sure they’re all nice and clean and that everything that’s there, needs to be there. I’m not sure if I’m up to the task of stripping all of my altars and shrines bare again, though, or that it’s necessary after what I did last year.
One thing I did not do was to sit and do my breathing exercises in front of my main shrine (shrines are spaces devoted to deities; altars are shrines where votive offerings are left in honor of said deity), so that is something I’m going to focus on, since meditation in general is a huge goal of mine this year.
There are questions at the end of each module, and I answered at least a few of them, so here are my answers to the first set, edited to reflect my attitude changed since then.
1. On the whole, has your experience with spiritual exploration been positive or negative? It is has been mostly negative, what drives you to continue?
For the first 17 years, it was mostly absent, but about half negative when not. Mom dabbled in metaphysical things like the Tarot and Ouija boards (she even made her own), which I liked, but she also got into pentecostal evangelism and had us going to churches where we spoke in tongues. Thankfully that phase passed relatively quickly and she ratcheted it back to nice, mild Methodism. Nice singing and Christmas Eve services. The metaphysical influence led me to Wicca and paganism: I got my first set of Tarot cards at 17, and I still have them. They’re quite infused with energy by now. Luckily that was a positive direction so I continued to delve more deeply into spiritual matters. I might not have otherwise. Which is not to say I haven’t had my periods of agnosticism or outright atheism.
2. Were the negative experiences you had the result of religious institutions you disagreed with, individuals or group personality conflicts, problems with the religion’s doctrine, or something else? What did you learn about your own spiritual needs from those experiences?
The shift from no spiritual life at home to saying grace at every meal, going to church twice a week, and going to those particular kind of churches was a gross aberration to my world. I got up one morning to find my mother burning her Tarot cards in the fireplace, saving The Devil for last. *rolls eyes* She made me hold a Bible when she thought something might be threatening my soul. We went to Lakewood Church in Houston, home of the Osteen family which now owns an indoor arena for their massive congregations (which is fucking funny to me, given how many heavy metal shows I saw there). It was all really fucking creepy. I’m so glad all that lasted less than a year, though I learned that I do not like religious forms that involve brainwashing and suppression. I’m not sure why anyone would, though apparently many do. My general disenfranchisement with the society I live in began about then.
3. If you had to choose one thing to call God, whether a name or a title, what would you choose, and why?
God/Creator/The One Thing From Which Everything Springs is beyond true names or titles, in my opinion. We can name aspects of God, very much like Catholicism has saints that represent very niche needs, or the thousands of variations of the Hindu deities. But to grasp the whole and put a solid label on it? Not possible, I feel. However, I occasionally make these cute little Facebook posts in which the Divine has conversations with me, typically starting by addressing me by name, and it’s always Buddha speaking to me.
4. How have you experienced Deity most often in your life: as a discrete entity/entities, as a transcendent impersonal force, as a feeling of divine love, something else, all of the above?
The only time I have truly heard God, ironically, is in the absolute stillness of secluded Nature (hey, there’s a label right there). In that sense I probably connect most closely to aboriginal and native traditions that are very close to, or one with, the environment. I see God reclining upon the earth in mountains and hills. I hear God’s voice in the wind, in the rustling of leaves, in the tiny tinkle of snowflakes.
5. What is the least you need as an altar to supplement your practice? What would be your ideal?
At bare minimum? Probably a candle and some incense along with something to hold it. Ideally, really nice representations of the classic elements and icons of my chosen deities along with any pertinent sacred objects, all set in my usual lush decor I like to put into altars and other important places.