Practical Spirituality

by Steve Hounsome

It was recently stated to me that Druidry takes its teaching not from human wisdom, but from Nature. Such a statement reflects a great depth and timelessness in the teaching and inherent wisdom of Druidry and opens for us great vistas of learning from all ages of not only humanity's history but beyond.

Nature contains and gives freely all that we need, if only we would allow Her the chance to do so, by working in partnership and co-operation with Her. This is of course, well known to many on the Druid path. As the various multinational companies of industry further plunder what Nature offers us, so it may be that we, as a race, continue to miss out on some of the treasures of teaching and wisdom that accompany the gift Mother Earth bestows. What is needed here is a realisation that we are part of the Nature that we are plundering and using greedily. This has the effect of restricting each and every one of us on the planet at this time, slowing both ours, and the Earth's, evolution. When we take this principle to the level of consciousness, it means that as a race, there is only so far we can go, until we reach the point of critical mass that changes the collective consciousness, or awareness, of humanity as a whole. When we reach this 'hundredth monkey' point, humanity is able to proceed with a new freedom on its evolution and unfoldment toward unity with the Divine once more.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The way that we achieve this point of release is, of course, to seek to change as many hearts and minds as possible, to embrace the truth that we are a part of Nature and that all living things are connected by the same energy, or life force, that runs through it. This is done not by evangelism and conversion (or coercion!) but is best achieved by example.

We can of course use esoteric means, through ritual and meditation work, building a vital force of power and focussing this to those open to receive it, to help the process along, but this must be backed up by action.

Such action begins with ourselves and so it is we who need to look to the way we live our own lives and address our spiritual needs, before we are able to show others the way. As Druids, or people on any kind of sacred or spiritual path, we perhaps have a particular responsibility to live lives of minimal impact on the Earth, fuelled by our deep and instinctive awareness of this connection between all living things and the Earth Herself.

Chief amongst this work can be campaigns such as the 'Campaign for Individual Ecological Responsibility', in which we are all involved, whether we are aware of this or not. However, it is my feeling that we must do more than this, if we are to truly live a sacred and spiritual life. Such a life seems to be a by-product, or side-effect, of the realisation of the connectedness of all life and the Earth, and indeed the wider Universe. When we begin to open ourselves to this awareness, there is a gradual and welcome infiltration to every act we make, every thought we have, every emotion we feel and every principle we live by. We need to see our spiritual lives as a complete thing, not limited only to the days or nights when we celebrate the Festivals, or in the weekly meditation group and so on.

This brings us to another problem, that of blending the spiritual with the practical. Many people I have encountered have professed a wish to leave the '9 to 5' behind and start their career as an aromatherapist, tarot reader etc, or in something more fulfilling to them. The feeling here is often that when we are involved in some kind of spiritual activity as our means of income, we have cracked it. We are able to feel spiritual because we are doing something positive that enables us to tell ourselves that we are living a sacred life.

This popular misconception has in my experience, been the source of misery and downfall. As a teacher of meditation, tarot consultant and so on, I have come across many people fitting the above description, each struggling against what they see as an evil in their lives. For many of us, we are stuck in jobs that we would rather not do, but have to as we have mortgages/rent and so on to pay. Before you put pen to paper to complain that it is okay for me as a meditation teacher, I would also like to say that I am employed as an Office Manager for four days a week, in order to bring in the necessary income to support this other work. Again, each needs to bring themselves to the point of realisation that their life is sacred, since they are alive. This needs to be an inner realisation to take effect. When we look at our life as a sacred principle, we come to the point where we begin to see something of that sacred, or Divine, in all that we do. As such, we can be as much a Shaman, Witch, Druid or whatever when we are sitting behind our desk at work as we are when we are seated in our ceremonial circle.

There are three principles behind such an attitude. For the first we can turn to the Native Americans and their principle of the Giveaway, when possessions would be freely and gladly given to a member of a tribe in need, to maintain the well-being of the tribe as a whole. We can view our employment as our Giveaway, enabling us to live the way we choose for the remainder of the time. This may be seen as unbalanced exchange, given the hours we are required to work, but when we have a sacred attitude to our lives as a whole, we find that we utilise our time much more effectively, than allowing evenings to slip away, seated in front of the TV due to lack of motivation to do anything else.

The second principle in reclaiming the sacredness in our everyday lives is to examine the work we are actually doing. Many people do jobs because they have to, while yearning and longing for something more fulfilling. Such longings are the stuff of tragedy, for one day we find that a large part of our lives has slipped away and quietly died, leaving us forlorn and regretful, with neither the energy nor commitment to dig ourselves out of the hole that we find ourselves in. If we are able to chase our dreams, of finding the work (or relationship etc.) that is right for us, we can at least rest in the knowledge that we tried. This may be something of a cliché, but clichés are so because they are invariably true.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This brings us to the third principle. We need to examine what we need from our employment- or how we spend the majority of our time - are. Does this activity fulfil us, or does it leave us wanting something else? Many of us think that 'if only' we had this, that, or the other, we would be fulfilled and happy, but it is often in these 'if onlys' that we find the clues to our fulfilment. By examining everything you receive from your job and asking yourself if you can achieve and are worth more, we can point ourselves to a better and ultimately more sacred attitude to our work. We may also need to consider if we really need to work the hours we do, or if we really need all the income we receive. The practice of 'downshifting' is becoming more widespread, as there is a gradual and welcome move away from the race to climb the corporate ladder and accumulate possessions. It may be, in any case, that you work less hours, but have something that occupies your heart in which you spend the extra time generated. By such practices the focus of our work and lives changes, to embrace what is sacred to us at its centre.

It is from such a still and calm centre that all things flow and we are empowered to begin living a life of true practical spirituality. To achieve this fully, we also need to examine our needs on the mental and emotional levels, in order to find the wholeness that the sacred life demands.

This returns us to looking to Nature for our teaching. In the evolution of the seasons of the year we find all that we need. The year is split into elemental sections for us, during which we can find many parallels. The flowing waters of autumn lead us to our emotional needs, the cold, bare earth of Winter to our bodies, the fresh air of Spring to open our minds and the fire and heat of Summer to fuel our spirits.

Our needs at each of these levels are many and varied, but each plays an equal part in the sacredness of our life. To live a truly holistic and sacred life, we can look to our needs as the wheel of the year turns. By so doing, we find that we become increasingly aware of our links to our Mother Earth. Our awareness of who we are grows and develops as the spiral of life unfolds, not around us, but within and without us.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        By reclaiming the sacredness of life in turn, examining our needs on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels of life, we become aware again that life itself is a sacred thing and that our lives are spiritual whatever we are doing. We may find it necessary to make adjustments to the structure of our lives to account for our new found principles, but all this can be seen as a part of an adjustment to the new focus of the Aquarian Age, on a wider level. By focussing our own lives on what is sacred to us, we find fulfilment for ourselves, (re) establish our connection to the natural world and to Mother Earth, thus helping us to play a part in the Universal shift into the Aquarian Age.