I am lousy at correspondence. I admit it. I don’t mail letters. I despise talking on the phone. Small talk usually bores me to tears. If it’s important and specific I’ll contact someone directly, but for the most part I’m perfectly happy with making and reading blanket informational posts on Facebook.
Unfortunately, the Powers with whom I work have yet to set up Facebook accounts. I actually have to check in with Them individually and regularly. This sucks.
I don’t do the “how are you?” thing with anyone. I don’t feel the need to “check in”. I know damn well They have ways to let me know if I’m needed for something, and I’ve never wanted to be that irritating person who bombards you with random trivia and drivel. I hate that. Why would I inflict that on Them?
So all told, growing into a devotional practice has been an uphill journey in both my daily life and in my head. I was doing rather well when it was just 3 to worry about, but with each Power added to the list it has grown exponentially harder to keep all the balls up in the air.
Every problem begs a solution. This is such a sprawling issue, though, that it required multiple solutions that hit it from multiple areas. More techniques than anything, below are the tips I’ve found most useful in solidifying my personal devotional practice.
1) Trust Them.
Don’t stress “bothering” the Powers by offering greetings, acknowledgement, and respect. I know this seems self-evident, but I struggled quite a bit with it. I was so worried about being “that guy” and irritating the hell out of Them that I didn’t believe Them when I was told daily contact was ok. That it was, in fact, encouraged. I just assumed that I should only contact them in great need, with the predictable result that I didn’t have all the resources possible when I hit walls. I also let my lack of confidence in my own worth block me from learning and sharing and growing with Them. I’m thankful my Lady was patient enough to literally beat this idea into me – it helped. I recommend skipping the beating, personally, and simply doing what needs doing before breaking out the frustration and bruises. Just a thought!
2) Schedule it.
I am very routine-based. If I can make it a part of my normal day I can remember to do it. I forced myself to get into the habit of doing devotions every morning and every evening. Sometimes I miss one or the other – I oversleep, for instance, or something comes in the evening and I’m exhausted – but having two sessions helps me get at least one in. It’s essentially a “hi, how is Everyone?” group thing, takes about 10 minutes per session, and it works fairly well for daily stuff.
The scheduling idea goes beyond day-to-day work, though, and modern technology is fabulous for it. I want to spend time with each Power individually as well as in a group, and I’m frankly working with too many to have that kind of time and attention on a daily basis. So I worked out a rotation, put it on a Google calendar, and synced it to my phone. Days dedicated to each Power (like 12/12 for my Lady) are noted. Each Power I’m working with also wanted specific times set aside each week for Them, and I’ve got those times scheduled too. In advance. With reminders emailed to me. And chimes a bit beforehand. So while there may be excuses for having to reschedule, there’s never an excuse to totally space it.
3) Make Them a part of daily life.
Just as the living room is not the only place you can entertain, devotions do not require an altar. Consider field trips! I got some surprising responses when I asked Them for suggestions. Now lots of the stuff I do is done with Them as company.
Examples? One wants to keep me company when I do chores, so on days devoted to cooking and cleaning I offer Her some red wine and invite Her to hang out. Another likes going on walks with me, so I schedule those and invite Them along. Yet another loves swimming, so whenever I get that opportunity She’s with me. It’s easier and simpler – and more meaningful, I think – to share my whole life with Them, and not limit interactions to what happens at the altar. It also simplifies my scheduling, since I get to multitask a bit.
4) Don’t hide your altar or your practice.
I’ve historically been incredibly reticent when it comes to my relationships with Them (a major reason for this blog, I’m sure). Speaking of it felt disrespectful somehow, so I didn’t. It hasn’t been just speaking, either. I’ve hidden my altars in out-of-the-way nooks or closets so people couldn’t see them, and consistently done my devotional work privately. It’s odd for me – I regularly have sex in public and think nothing of it – but my relationships with the Powers are so much more intimate than anything else that I treat them differently.
The closest I can come to describing it is that feeling most people (meaning not me! *laugh*) have when talking about underwear and sexual proclivities in crowded restaurants. It’s Just Not Done.
This had some unintended consequences. It was much easier for me to forget to do altar work when the altar was hidden away. I wouldn’t go near the altar unless I had altar work to do, and I got so distracted that I spaced that kind of work completely. And by not doing my devotional work with other people around I was basically stating that my corporeal guests rated more hospitality than my non-corporeal guests, which was insulting and degrading – the opposite of how I felt about the matter.
Obviously that whole mode of thought had to be handled. The first step was to haul my altar out of the closet. Not content with that, it was moved to a prominent location. Now it dominates my living space. It’s not just visible, it’s unavoidable. Its very presence is a reminder for me to Do the Work.
The next step was to prioritize devotional work over whatever else was happening at the time. This has been much harder – asking guests to sit quietly while I do my devotions feels like I’m violating hospitality AND showing off or something – so I’ve developed strategies for this too. If I get some advanced warning I’ll reschedule my devotions. If I don’t get notice, or it’s a long-term visit, I’ll just explain what’s going on and then go ahead. That latter is particularly challenging, but any guest in my home has to respect the other obligations I have and act accordingly. *shrug* I’ve got to draw lines somewhere.
5) Scripts are incredibly helpful.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and back in the day I would dither so much over making sure what I said during a devotion was absolutely right that I wouldn’t say anything at all. So I started using scripts. I’ve gone through several versions (including a handmade Book of Hours with tons of personal prayers), but now I’m using the simplest script I think I’ve ever had. It’s really effective! To make it even easier I made a strand of prayer beads to go with it, to help me remember where I am in the cycle. Now the words are taken care of, and they’re so routine at this point that I focus on the intent BEHIND the words as I speak. I’ve even written in listening periods, which remind me to shut the hell up and give Them time to speak too.
6) Plan for contingencies.
I adore travel. I will go damn near anywhere with little to no notice, especially if there are few people in attendance wherever I go. Doing devotions while on the road presented special challenge to me. Being routine-based, having both my schedule and my space changed made this much harder. So I found alternatives. Schedule is flexible when travelling, but location? I’m good to go anywhere I have my prayer beads. In a way they kind of work as an altar I can wear around my neck or tuck into a pocket. They help maintain the routine regardless of location, and I find that the energy they’re imbued with is particularly calming. Each bead is a visible step in my devotional routine, and holding it grounds me out even when everything around me is chaotic (meaning “not in line with my ideas of How Things Are”).
My devotional practice is constantly growing and changing. I add or subtract aspects as needed to suit growth and change in me, my relationships, and my circumstances. Hopefully the above helps other people trying to do the same thing.