Through this series on devotions we’ve gone from our Center down to talk to the Land Spirits, out to talk to the Ancestors, and up to talk to the Gods. That’s a lot of new voices! But who’s really saying what? To figure that out we return to our Centers and practice discernment.
What is discernment?
Discernment, in this context, is the skill/talent/art of determining what comes from our own psyche and what comes from the Powers. It helps us know, recognize, and understand what the Powers are trying to tell us.
Knowing our Centers becomes invaluable for this process, and the more we understand our Centers the easier discernment becomes. When we know our core self we know the tone and tenor of our inner dialogue. We know our strengths and flaws on an intimate and very aware level. Everything we perceive from the Powers must be weighed against this inner knowledge before we act on it.
This is huge. Most of us, me certainly included, are an internal mess of “I wish I was/I could be/I am/I’m becoming/I’m no longer”, and when something comes to us we have to know if it was created from the primordial soup of weirdness in our own heads or came from outside of ourselves before we can even begin to proceed with it.
Sounds important. How do I do it?
The more we know our Centers the easier this process is. However, I’ve been doing this for two decades and I still kick off my discernment process with two basic questions.
1) Will whatever this is harm me or anyone else?
Here’s where we have to be really honest with ourselves. What the Powers may ask of us may not be comfortable or convenient. Short term things may dredge up issues we’d thought/hoped were buried if we even knew they existed at all. When it comes to the long term I know people who are unable to accept money for services, who have various careers or relationships closed to them, who are told where to live and what they can eat and how they can dress. Sometimes we’re even asked to do things that are explicitly painful, that can cause physical injury.
All of that, frankly, sucks. It’s not happy, it’s not comfortable, and there are times I’ve felt overburdened and overwhelmed.
Here’s the kicker, though – none of that was “harm”.
For me, “harm” means “irrevocably compromised”. Am I being told to do anything that will land me or anyone else in the hospital, break anyone’s brain or heart beyond repair, or go so against anyone’s Center that it’s lost? If ever I perceive something that fails this test it’s my “get out of jail free” card. It’s a hard limit. Anything that compromises my ability to serve the Powers and fulfill my potential, or anyone else’s ability to do the same, is not something I would ever be asked to do. Period. Anything else? That has to pass the next question.
2) Does this – or will this eventually – help me fulfill my Purpose and support my Center?
This one is harder, and takes a leap of faith. This is where those relationships we form with the Powers become key. When we accept that the Powers are distinct and individual entities outside of our own heads, we accept that They have Their own desires and agendas that may not mesh with ours. Think about the Greek mythology many of us studied in school. I read about how Athena turned a woman into a spider, and how Aphrodite’s need to prove She was the prettiest kick-started a war. That kind of thing is certainly not limited to the Greeks, either! The Powers are not all sweetness and light, and the faster we understand that the better off we’ll be.
But that’s Them as a group. I will walk through fire if my Lady asks it of me (although I’ll damn straight double and triple check that I heard it correctly), because She has earned my absolute trust over the years. I have been branded for Her. I do not have that same faith and trust in every Power out there.
And regardless of everything else I’m still responsible for the actions I take, which means I’m responsible for not only figuring out what I’m being asked but whether or not I’m willing to accept all the consequences. “A God told me to” doesn’t hold much water when faced with unamused cops or me sobbing out my despair quietly in a corner.
So here’s how I manage this question.
I’ve worked with my Lady for so long that Her voice is incredibly distinct. I know the tenor of it, even if sometimes what She’s saying is garbled. I usually recognize what’s coming from Her right off and do whatever She asks without question (beyond clarifying what it is She wants, of course).
She has asked me to do some things that have caused me to hold up and question Her, though. Some She’s asked me to trust Her for and told me to do anyway. But some She rescinded once She got my perspective. She’s sees more broadly than I, but sometimes She forgets I’m only human. And to be honest, sometimes I think She asks me for ridiculous things just to see if I’m paying attention and am fully engaging with Her!
For anyone not Her, I think about it. Is what I’m being asked to do going to be bad for me? If so it’s “thanks but no thanks”. If I can see where it could be helpful, and it won’t harm anyone, then why not? I’m always up for trying a new approach, and I appreciate new perspectives. If I can’t tell either way I’ll either go with it for a bit to try it out and make a determination at a later date, ask for clarification, or check in with divination or the like.
All that sounds cool. But I’m not understanding what They want enough to answer these questions!
That happens too. A lot. The shorthand term for understanding what They say when They communicate with us is “signal clarity”. If we’ve got good signal clarity we can hear Them. But sometimes it’s like there’s static on the line – we know we’re talking to Someone, but either what we’re hearing is garbled or we can’t really hear anything at all.
This is when some of the stuff we discussed back in Finding Your Center again shows its value. Journaling. Tracking dreams. Practicing awareness. Meditating. Sometimes those things will clear everything up, and then you’ll know.
If that doesn’t help, or you want clarity a bit faster, use a divination method (Tarot, runes, I Ching, tea leaf reading, whatever) to check in. Don’t know a method you’re comfortable using yet? This is a great time to check out your options and start learning one!
Don’t forget other resources too. If you know someone else who divines, ask them for a reading (and compensate them for their services). Talk it over with a close friend and get their take on it – simply saying it out loud to someone else might help clarify it for you. Ask the other Powers with whom you work if They have any idea about what’s going on – I’ve found that Ancestors can be especially good for this.
Otherwise just be patient. They have ways of letting you know when necessary. As long as you’re trying to understand Them, They’re trying to be understood. And clarity will come in time.
Keep practicing what we’ve gone over so far. If you get overwhelmed anywhere, go back to your Center and make sure it’s steady. Gradually add the Powers back, one by one, until everything is balanced and secure. Once you’ve got that stable, you’ll find that discernment and clarity both become easier as you go – and that they both deepen as your devotional practice grows.