Tag Archives: daily practice

Daily Rituals and Personal Daily Practices

Daily practices form the foundation of any nature-based spiritual or neopagan path. Daily practices give us a chance to dedicate regular time to our spirituality, to slow down and connect with nature, to protect ourselves from the daily energetic onslaught that is the 21st century, and to practice reverence and gratitude.  Each person’s daily practices are likely to be different, and as you walk the path of nature-based spirituality, the practices may also grow and shift as you deepen your work. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts about developing and maintaining a daily spiritual practice—different options, goals, and opportunities.

Daily Practices: Core Elements

There’s a pretty wide range of things you can accomplish with daily practices. I would argue that a good set of daily practices should, at minimum, help you do the following:

  • Offer energetic protection for daily life
  • Practice connection with nature / yourself / spirit / deity
  • Practice energetic cleansing
  • Practice gratitude, offering, and reverence

Additional things you might want to include are:

  • Engage in daily creative practices
  • Practice various kinds of energy balancing
  • Practice stillness and focus
  • Offer daily grounding and centering
  • Divination practices

I would argue that daily practices are the gateway and foundation to everything else. If you build the foundation of your connection, balance, and focus through daily practices, then you will be able to accomplish many other goals in your spiritual life.

Also, one carefully designed practice may be able to accomplish many points above. That is, if you do daily energetic working, it can provide protection, grounding, and energy balancing.  If you go out in nature, even for 5-10 minutes, you can practice gratitude, stillness, focus,  mediation, and do some cleansing.  So first, start figuring out what you really need to accomplish each day and then consider how you might get there.

Daily Ritual Practices

The AODA's Sphere of Protection in a Tree

The AODA’s Sphere of Protection in a Tree

Many spiritual traditions have some kind of ceremonial or ritual practice that is done daily. Given the challenges we are facing today, I would suggest to always doing a practice that offers grounding and protection at the bare minimum–this will help you in so many ways as you go about daily life.

If you belong to a druid order or other organization that has a set of core practices, you may already have one or more practices that fit this. The Ancient Order of Druids in America suggests daily meditation, a daily Sphere of Protection, and regular time in nature. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids use the LIght Body exercise (this is energizing but not protective, so OBOD druids should practice something else for protection).

I use the AODA’s Sphere of Protection (SOP) as one of my primarily daily practice for grounding, balancing, and protection. The Sphere of Protection works with a seven-element system (Earth-Air-Fire-Water-Above-Below-Within). It invokes the four elements in their positive form and banishes the four elements in their negative form and also protects you.  What I like about the SOP is that it not only offers me a powerful protection that takes about 5 minutes a day, it also provides an elemental balancing, which helps me maintain my stability in today’s chaos.  Further, I use it to protect not only myself but our homestead and our animals each day.

The other ritual practice I use daily–at the end of the day–is a smoke cleansing practice combined with meditation. These two practices help me “bookend” my day–I’ll share more about that approach below.

Meditation

Meditation is a critical part of any spiritual path and can provide a wide range of benefits that are mental, physical, and spiritual.  Most forms of meditation include breathwork and focusing the mind (which could be empty mind, focusing on something like a candle, discursive meditation). Meditation can also be movement-based (like walking meditation) or even more in-depth, like spirit journeying. You can see more details about different forms of meditation in my Druid’s Meditation Primer.

If you want to hear the spirits of nature, connect deeply with the spirit world, connect to your own creativity, have more effective rituals, and accomplish many other things–committing to a daily meditation practice is the necessary path to getting there.  Meditation helps your mind become a powerful tool for any other work you want to do and is the foundation for everything else. Without meditation, you will continue to struggle to accomplish the basics because you have not trained your mind–think of this as a marathon.  Do you want to run a marathon? Better practice every day and build up to it.  Mediation is daily training for your mind.  I really can’t stress this point enough.

Druids Anchor Spot: Time in Nature

A place to come to meditate daily–the druid’s anchor spot and a nature mandala made in gratitude

The third part of my own daily triad is regular time spent in nature. My philosophy about this is tied to something I call a Druid’s Anchor Spot (a similar practice that the bushcraft and wilderness awareness communities call a “sit spot”).  An Anchor Spot is a place that you go to that is extremely easy to access (e.g. right outside your door, a 5 minute walk away) that you can visit ideally on a daily or very regular basis.

The Druids Anchor Spot practice can be as simple or as layered as you want it to be.  On the most basic level, you go to your Anchor spot and spend a little time there.  I like to spend time observing with all of my senses: attending to my sight, hearing, sense of smell, touch, and even taste (you might catch me nibbling on some Eastern hemlock needles, for example).  I also like to take a moment to check in with the genius loci, the spirit of the land, as well as other land spirits I am in contact with.  We might converse, do a short ritual, etc.  Sometimes I walk around the space and other times I simply sit.  I also like to set shared intentions with the space (e.g. what do we want to accomplish in the coming season?) and also do regular ritual work there. Even if I only have five minutes or there is a storm, I still make a point to visit for a few moments each day.

The other thing I do here daily is to offer some gratitude.  I have a hand-grown and harvested offering blend; I share a bit of this and offer my gratitude to the living earth and the spirits.  I have also built a shrine for making offerings and doing ritual work.  The space continues to evolve over time–this is also a central part of my land healing practices, so in addition to simply being present in the spot, I am working to physically heal the space.

Integration into Daily Life

As described above, you can see I essentially have a triad of practices–one that happens at the beginning of the day (SOP), one after I am done with work (Anchor Spot), and one that happens before I go to sleep (smoke cleansing and meditation).  These practices took a while to develop and a while to integrate into my life.  I’ve had many false starts and changes along the way, so I also wanted to share some ideas for how to get to the point where you have a regular, daily practice.

Calling up the sunrise with the Sphere of Protection in early spring with the geese

Calling up the sunrise with the Sphere of Protection last fall

One of the questions people often ask is–how do I actually build this into my day? My response is–how did you learn to brush your teeth? The principle is actually really similar: the goal is to create a habituated practice. This is one that you almost automatically do, and you are so used to doing it that you simply do it.  That’s the end goal.

To get there, you want to think about a few things.  First, consider how your overall day is structured and where it would be more seamless to build in those small moments.  A daily practice doesn’t have to take a lot of time–it can take as little as 5-10 minutes and you can always build from there. Find places that you might already have habituated or required practices and see if you can add a spiritual practice where you already have that time set aside. Also think about what would make the most sense for you in terms of practices based on the structure of your day.

Another thing that I have found very helpful is to really think about the transition points of the day–what does your beginning of the day look like? What might you build in there that helps launch you into the day?  Do you have or need a transition point after a certain point in the day?   What about your end of the day? Do you have a place to ‘wrap up’ for the day and transition to a good Dreamtime? If you can find those key transition points, and really work them to your advantage, then that is one way of making this all happen.

Finally, I think it’s important to understand your own nature.  Some people are very schedule driven and developing a daily routine is fairly straightforward. Other people are more whimsical and find it really hard to have a routine or even resist routines (I happen to be one of these people).  So you really have to work with yourself and show yourself some grace as you are working to establish daily practices.

Dana’s Example

To show you how this all first together, I’ll share my daily practice.  As I mentioned, these have undergone a lot of evolution and if I had a different lifestyle, I know they would look very different.  I also make allowances for myself–if I’m sick, traveling, etc, some of these would obviously be adapted. But I still try to make sure I do something every day.

Beginning of the Day and Sphere of Protection Ritual. Becuase I live on a 5-acre homestead, every day, I have animal care and farm chores in the morning. Since I have this thing I literally do every day, I always do my Sphere of Protection at the end of my homestead chores.  After the physical work of feeding, watering and tending the animals, I let the animals out and then I perform my SOP. It also allows me to offer energetic protection to the land and the animals–and it allows them to participate as well.

Anchor spot and unstructured time in nature. Then, I will go about my day.  When I finish my work for the day, I have found that I need a good transition point for whatever comes next, and that’s where the Druid’s Anchor Spot comes in. After working, I like to just unwind a bit by walking our land, walking meditation, observing, and then spending time in my anchor spot.  The time in nature is much less structured than my other daily practices.  I might find myself wandering, wondering, and simply creating the time to be present with the living earth.  There’s a lot of value in unstructured spiritual time.

Evening cleansing and meditation. After my time in nature, I will again go about my evening.  At least 4-5 days a week, that will include spending an hour or more in my art studio or doing some writing, dedicating time to my creative practices. Then, before bed (and before I get too tired!) I will do my end-of-day meditation and smoke cleansing. I like to do the smoke cleansing at the end of the day so that I’m not dragging any difficulty from the day into my dreaming (and I do practice sacred and intentional dreaming so that matters). Thus, I very intentionally clear any stress, problems, etc, that I’ve built up through the day with the smoke cleansing (I cleanse with my own herbal sticks that I make). Then will do some meditation before winding down for the evening.

Building Up

I think in the hustle and bustle of daily life, developing these practices is really critical.  Its so easy to get lost in the quagmire of modern living and all of the insanity that it brings. Like an anchor dropped on stormy seas, daily practices help you weather the storm, build your resilience and focus, and provide you with tools that can help you strengthen your own spiritual practice for years to come.

I would also say, allow yourself to shift and grow as you deepen your practice.  Find something that works for you right now, in this moment.  If your life changes or you have a new awareness or need something new, then by all means, change your practice to something that fits.  Just keep in mind the larger goals of what you want to accomplish.  For example, frequently, I also do daily divination, but right now as I’m the early stages of creating a new divination deck,  I’m staying away from other divination systems and simply allowing that new deck to come through!  Once the deck is a little further along, I’ll probably return to daily divination.

As we wrap up for today, I would love to hear examples of other ways that individuals have built daily practices into their lives. Please share so we can learn from your wisdom.

Cycles of Nature, Cycles of our Lives: Allowing for Fallow and Abundance in Spiritual Studies

Preamble: Now that I’m the Grand Archdruid of AODA, starting in 2020, I will be doing one AODA Druidry-based post a month. A lot of my posts are already tied with AODA practices as it is my core spiritual practice, but I wasn’t always as explicit about it as I will be now! 🙂  All of these posts, while framed in the context of AODA druidry, will be applicable to many different kinds of nature-based spiritualities and druidries.

 

A beautiful cardinal flower in late summer

The Wheel of the Seasons offers us many lessons and one of the core principles in AODA is the principle of the Cycle and Season. In Western Pennsylvania, where I live, we have a growing season that runs from May to late October. That us, from Beltane to Samhain, during the light half of the year, we can grow vegetables, forage berries, and be in an abundant and lush landscape. Then, the first hard frost hits in late October. In less than a day, the land withers and the annual plants die. The leaves drop from the trees and grow bare. The landscape literally changes overnight and we steadily move into winter. As I write this, its late January and we have a snowstorm coming through. The withered husks of last year’s plants still line the fields and forests. The sun hangs low in the sky, seeming not to have enough energy to rise. Other than the conifers, the land looks completely dead. But deep within the soil, the roots rest. Within the trunks of the maples, birches, hickories, and walnuts, the sap starts to run. The seeds that were scattered in the fall lay dormant, waiting for the warmth to burst forth. But I know that spring will return—it is just a matter of time. Without this fallow period, the plants here would not be healthy and grow. The land needs its rest so it can return to abundance once more.

 

This lesson is a critical one for our own lives. Here in the US, there is an “always-on” culture such that people have to work constantly, even when they are sick, when there is a snowstorm, or when we have national holidays. People themselves perpetuate this culture by the glorification of busyness. If you aren’t busy and overwhelmed, you are somehow lazy or unproductive. In a culture that is defined by its productivity and continual growth, this is a price that must be paid. The problem is, this is not sustainable, healthy, or reasonable for any of us. Our culture operates like it is always in high summer, requiring us to constantly be productive. But this is how a landscape grows exhausted, how fields fail to produce yields. And just like an over-farmed field, most people you see are beyond exhausted, balancing too many things and doing none of them well.

 

When people start working on a degree in a druid order, such as the first degree in AODA, the always-on culture can have a detrimental effect. Some people go full steam ahead, eventually burning themselves out. Others find it difficult to make progress because there is no room in their lives for these practices. Still others make good progress, then have something with life get in the way, and then can’t get back on track. When any of these things happen, the guilt sets in. I have heard many newer druids describe their own shortcomings and shame for not finishing a course in a particular amount of time. I think a lot of this guilt and such comes from the “always-on” culture that makes us think, even for our own spiritual practices, that we need to always be moving forward. But as John Michael Greer has said on multiple occasions, “Growth at all costs is the ideology of a cancer cell.”

 

The reason I started this piece with the wheel of the seasons is that it provides us an alternative way to think about our own path of spiritual development. Spiritual development works a lot more like the wheel of the seasons than a straight linear path of productivity (like we may have experienced in our formal education). Depending on what is going on in our lives, our spiritual practices may need to respond in different ways. Fallow periods are as necessary to us and our development as periods of high growth and harvest. As an example from my own life: I’ve been a druid for almost 15 years. I’ve completed the courses of both OBOD and AODA in that time and have studied and grown through other projects and practices. I regularly take fallow periods where I allow myself not to do anything and just fall into the basic nature-based spiritual practices—being out in nature, doing some light meditation, and allowing myself to regenerate. This fallow time, this unstructured time is not when I’m checking items to do off my list, but rather, where I’m simply allowing my spirit and body some rest. This fallow time often leads to very rich understandings and a deeper sense of self. Because just like in nature, the fallow periods have function and purpose—they allow our subconscious to work. When the land goes into slumber, the roots grow deeper. When the human body fasts, within 24 hours, the body is making tremendous amounts of cell repair and regeneration. When we go fallow for a time, our spirits do that same kind of work.

 

Sometimes fallow periods in our spiritual life come because we choose not to plant anything in the soil. But sometimes they come because life sends us a curveball, something painful or wonderful that we did not expect but that takes up a good amount of our energy. Our attention, for a time, may be diverted from our own spiritual development. I think anyone who has been on this path for a period of time has had a fallow period—or several—happen And for those who haven’t yet or those who are going through this now—to you I say—it’s ok. It may be a necessary part of your path. Given time, this fallow period will end and you will find yourself once again in the place of high summer. At the same time, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between a fallow period that is temporary and is healthy vs. never accomplishing what you set out to do. That’s a different kind of problem, almost like a multi-year drought.

 

Summer sun

The other thing that happens to well-meaning people is thinking that there is some kind of “gold standard” of spiritual practice and trying to measure up to that standard. Again, our own cycles and seasons vary, and these practices thus need to be adapted to each of us. Meditation is a really great example of a practice that is quite varied and one in which many people struggle to establish. For example, a common suggestion in AODA is to meditate while sitting on a straight-backed wooden chair. For most people, this is an excellent suggestion as it keeps them focused and not too comfortable. But, I have a fairly sensitive body and some back issues, and after trying and failing to use multiple chairs comfortably for almost two years, I gave up and started meditating laying down on a yoga mat. What a difference that made! After making the change not only was I more inclined to want to meditate (as opposed to forcing myself), but my meditations also became much longer, more rich, and more focused. As another example, some members of AODA with ADHD have found it impossible to sit still long enough to meditate in any stationary position, and thus, have made walking meditation their core meditative practice. The key here is that while meditation is a core practice of AODA, how you fit this into your own life and make it a workable and regular practice for you may vary. This is *particularly* true in a flexible and self-directed order like AODA, where we encourage you to take the basic practices and adapt them to your ecosystem, local culture, and individual lives.

 

As you are thinking about how to adapt AODA’s practices to the cycle of your own life, some questions you might ask yourself are: Who are you? How do you function? How can these spiritual practices support a better functioning version of yourself? When is your energy the highest? How can you fit these practices into your own cycles of your life? When I look at these questions, I recognize a few things: first, I have a demanding job, and I know at the end of a long day, I can’t to deep spiritual work. Thus, I do most of my deep spiritual work (such as seasonal celebrations or ritual work) on weekends when my energy is highest. Second, because we have a homestead and lots of animals, tending our outdoor flocks in the morning is a regular part of my daily cycle. Thus, I do early morning spiritual practices with our flocks as a movement meditation and I always take about 10 minutes to engage quiet and stillness in our gardens and on our land after I finish tending them. This 10-minute daily practice never fails me because every day, regardless of the weather or my own energy, I have to tend the birds. It is fully built into the cycle of my life. At the end of the day, I perform the Sphere of Protection and use discursive meditation to help focus and quiet my mind before bed. I have found that bookending my day with my spiritual practices has been most beneficial in my life. It took me a while to find this particular approach to my spiritual practice. I also recognize that while this system works for me in my life now, if something radical about my life circumstances were to change, it would likely no longer work and I’d have to find a new routine. At my former job, my cycle was very different. A challenging work environment meant that the first thing I did every day when I went to work was to ground myself, do some deep breathing, and do the sphere of protection. My current work doesn’t require such activity, so I’ve used the SOP in my life for a different purpose. This example, I hope, also teaches another lesson: there are times when adapting our spiritual practices can offer us benefit in our lives. There are also times when we need to adapt part of our lives to our spiritual practice.

 

Tomato Harvest!

The last metaphor of nature’s cycles that I’ll touch on today is the role of a regular period of growth. In our homestead each year, we understand that a yield takes effort.  If we want tomatoes, we have to start the seeds in about March, water them each day, shelter them until they can be planted out, and finally plant them.  As they grow, we make sure they have a healthy and rich soil to grow in, have adequate light and water and are properly supported.  We need to keep an eye on pests and things that would damage the tomatoes and respond appropriately. If we’ve done all this, within 5-6 months, we will get our first yield.  This is a slow process.  It requires us attending to our tomato plants daily, putting a small amount of effort each day so that we can eventually reap bountiful rewards.  This lesson, part of nature’s cycle, is also tied to our own spiritual development.  Spiritual development, like any human development, is a gradual process. People often think that it’s the big events, the big breakthroughs that define us as people. But if you aren’t putting in the work regularly (like watering, weeding, and fertilizing those tomatoes) the big breakthroughs won’t come as readily because you won’t be cultivating that spiritual life.  Regular cultivation of a spiritual practice is the true way in which we grow over time. You can’t have tomatoes without planting them first!

 

To conclude, looking to nature’s cycles can help us understand our own spiritual development and give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we aren’t “progressing” as we think we should. Also, we can use the lesson of nature’s cycles to make the most of our own cycles for spiritual practice—recognizing that we have them and working with them, rather than against them. Look at the cycles of your own life and think about when you have time, energy, and built-in existing activities that may benefit from one or more of AODA’s regular spiritual practices. I think there is much to reflect and meditate on here concerning the principles of cycles and seasons—both those in the broader landscape and the lessons they hold, but also how our own cycles and seasons contribute to our spiritual paths.

 

PS: I am indebted to my fellow Archdruids of AODA, Adam Robersmith and Claire Schosser, for planting the seeds of this conversation and encouraging me to write on this topic.