I have spoken before about my love of religion, and of my love of studying/learning.
I had a friend with whom I used to wonder, when you go to the library and/or to the bookstore…and you are looking for books on the Craft, where are the 201 books? It seems that so many of the books available are all for beginners (101 books). Not to mention that these days everything seems to be more geared towards Wiccans.
Bless them on their path, yes, but I am neither a beginner, nor am I Wiccan. I have studied Wicca. I’ve participated in Wiccan rituals. That doesn’t make me Wiccan. Just as I have studied Judaism and participated in Jewish rituals—that doesn’t make me Jewish. Nor Methodist. Nor Episcopalian. Nor Southern Baptist. Nor Nazarene. I can go on and on…because in all of these different religions, I have studied them. I have attended and participated in rituals. I have absorbed what is useful to and for me. I left the rest to the people invested in whatever it is they need.
Back to my main theme, the 201 teachings…those teachings that go beyond the basic books on the shelves.
Funny. It never dawned on me that if I stop looking, I would notice that 1 those books are out there and that 2 I already own quite a few of them. Not to mention that 3 in order to learn more about my own path, in order to go further, in order to go deeper, it is up to ME to open myself up to the teachings that are already before me.
Morning pages really are the first step to any path. It is a way in, a way into your own psyche, your own depths.
I have in the past lamented about writing the same garbage down, over and over, not just day after day, but week after month after year…until I was entirely too sick of writing at all, much less the same thing yet again. Yet, I had to step back and examine WHY I had been writing the same thing over and over—because I wasn’t done processing all of that mess, because I wasn’t certain of what my next step would be, or should be, or even could be…and I was too afraid to let go of what I knew in order to move forward.
And then—what I started to write for morning pages shifted. I started writing something completely different. The whinging stopped. The whining stopped. I started to write out – ideas. I wrote about plans. I wrote about people and places and about things that were happening. I wrote about things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, things I wanted to experience.
That is that shift that I had been waiting for.
That is when the real work began, you see.
In order to progress on my chosen path, in order to reach the next level, I had to allow myself to understand that if I wanted to learn something, I had to teach it to myself. This does not mean there are no books out there. It does mean instead of blindly following the most popular or whatever is on a best of list that I do some work and track down older sources.
History can be an incredible source to explore religion. If you really want your mind blown, start to study art and follow the religious discourse around art and who owns what and why.
Ask yourself why, when painters back in the day painted what they saw on a daily basis, including women breast feeding their babies, why are there only one or two paintings of the Virgin Mary suckling the baby Jesus? Where did all those paintings go? Because they were painted. There is a record of them. There is a record of where many of them ended up, and why. I started my path studying religion, but ended up studying art to learn more about religion because in the ‘Old Days’ art was religion—and without religion there would be no art, or at least not condoned and/or permitted.
Now, back to the subject at hand, going deeper in your religion. It’s funny for me to say as a Pagan that I looked at Christianity for a clue, but that is what I do. I looked to Christianity—because that was the religion into which I was originally baptized (Catholic first, then Baptist, yes) – I looked at Judaism. I looked at the religions where I knew I had friends in that religion so I could go and ask them.
When you want to go deeper into your Christian religion, what do you do? You study the Bible. You go deeper into your study of the Bible. You open yourself in prayer and meditation to the Lord. At least this is what several different ministers from different Christian sects have told me.
Basically, I have learned the same thing from Judaism, from Buddhism, from Hinduism. From my own work in Paganism.
When you want to go deeper, you return to your source, to the book or books of your religion and you dig in to learn more, to absorb more, to see more deeply into the words you thought you knew before.
I am in no way saying that there are not classes, nor groups, nor whatever else out there that you can buy to help you along your journey in whatever your chosen religion/path is. Of course, there are. If you cannot find your own way, there is no harm nor shame in reaching out to someone else to help you along the way.
I have been waiting for someone else to tell me what to do…and there is no need for that. I already have everything I need.
I have found, much like when I first began my Yoga asana practice, that there is something missing from the basic beginner Witchy books that I find out there today. In my Yoga practice originally, it was all about the physical. It took me years to learn that there are eight branches to the tree of Yoga. A lot of what I have read, and what I go back and read from my own personal library is more about this is what X means and this is how you do Y. You should do Z in this manner. You should show up in ABC way. For me, there has been a distinct lack of real connection.
Again, I am not saying this applies to every single book/course/etc etc etc. It has simply been my experience. I can say the same thing about a great many Christian churches I have been in as well. It is not confined to one specific religion or group.
It is quite easy to get caught up in the mechanics, especially when you are new to something. You want to learn the right way to do things, say things, make things, react to things, yada yada. I get that.
I am finally ready to embrace that which I have been missing. Oddly enough, I have found a great many spiritual books, written years ago, written decades ago, have more to offer me on my chosen path than any of these ‘New Age’ books I have seen. Even the books on my shelves, those that remain, many are the mechanics books—the rock is this—this color is this—that symbol means that…sort of thing.
Another source has been psychology, another topic I have loved, embraced and studied since I was younger, as well as psychoanalysis, and history. History has given me such an in-depth look and embrace into religion.
Reading is merely one part. The next part is incorporating what you have read into your own repertoire. Writing. Journaling. Meditation. Prayer. Allowing your subconscious to filter things through and return them back to you—and the best way that I myself have found to retrieving that information is journaling/morning pages. It’s another bit of work that must be done.
The deeper you want to go, the more of the most simple and basic things seem to move you further in…like a simple pen and a piece of paper, a cup of tea, a lit candle. Simple hygge eventually equates into a new level of self to which you did not have access to before then.
That is my path. That is where I am.
What about you? Where are you? What are you looking for in your path, be it religious or any other?
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