I’ve got many more blog posts to catch-up on for the Pagan Blog Project, but there’s so much more to be said about stepping into intimacy in our spiritual practices – far beyond what I can muster in a few words.
I think fear of intimacy is at the crux of a lot of our concerns in the Western world. Racism, sexism, homo / transphobia (and all the others) all shine an eery light on ways in which we’re afraid of engaging not only with others, but with parts of ourselves that we’ve exiled, our ancestors exiled, and that we’re so used to exiling that we’ve long forgotten how vital they are to our personal and collective well-being.
We don’t live in a culture that encourages intimacy with ourselves or anyone else. Intimacy gets in the way of productivity, we’re told. It stifles our constant yang-yang-yang expression and, of course, were we to really stop and be present with our wounds, our deeper desires, and the real longing in our hearts, well – we may get hurt. We may be rejected. We may find ourselves abandoned.
Of course, so sayeth our false selves in an effort to keep us from going deeper, being with what’s coming up, and healing old stories that hold us back from experiencing something new.
Choosing intimacy is like building a muscle – it’s a practice that we cultivate by returning to it again and again in our daily lives. For me, its the glue between my spiritual life and my mundane life, helping me rid myself of even that false dichotomy that sets them apart from one another. That being said, here are a few more ideas that may help deepen the connection between you and your spirits:
- Be spontaneous. Conversations with my spirits happen at their altars – but also while I’m on the subway. Impromptu libations may be poured outside of a bar and pennies may be left at a crossroads during my commute. When we weave our spirits into our everyday lives and are candid about our everyday lives with our spirits, we’re that much more supported, connected, in-tune, and clear about what is needed for transformation.
- Ask the deeper questions. Many of us study how to ask helping spirits to help us achieve a task or bring something into our lives – but what is our capacity to listen and enter into deep relationship with them beyond give-and-take? How do our spirits view us and our responsibilities in our process – not just in terms of mundane efforts (e.g. – making sure you’re job searching while doing magick to find a job) but in terms of personal narratives that might be standing in the way of our success. In addition to petitioning your spirits for help, ask them to show you how to get out of your own way and ask them what questions they really think you should be asking them.
- Say what you’re afraid to say. Growing up in a monotheistic culture, we’ve been taught to relate with the spiritworld in a way that is small and fearful. No matter how long we’ve been practicing animists, this is something embedded in our culture – how TV, entertainment, and advertisements show us as humans relating to “God” / the Divine – and it’s something to keep mindful of as we tread old waters into a new story. This is not to say that devotion isn’t a healthy part of any relationship, but that you here for a reason. You’re a big part of the Big Scheme of Things. So say what you’re afraid to say. Empty your heart out. “Show me why I never get an answer from you. Show me a clear sign in the next three days.” Real intimacy involves push-and-pull, tensions between receiving, not receiving, doubt, frustration, and bliss. If we’re willing to be in the thick of all of these stages with our helping spirits, we’ll find our intimacy deepened – just like a relationship with a lover that might sometimes be on the rocks or feel more questionable than gratifying. Sometimes healthy devotion is paired with a healthy amount of profanity. Throw yourself at them. Tell them you’re doing all you can. When you’re in the thick of it and it seems like your helping spirits aren’t doing their share of supporting you, demand answers. Demand clarity. Give them some offerings and then rail at them. And then, maybe listen, do what they say, and see what happens.
- Give offerings often. When I give offerings to spirits, I generally tend to imagine them as multiplied a billion times over (something I learned from Jason Miller) and I do find that it makes a difference – there’s something more “full” about it. A practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, Miller is well-versed in the art of giving offerings as, in his tradition, offerings are made constantly to a pretty serious retinue of spirits – both those friendly and familial and those considered hostile to keep them pleased. “If you make regular offerings, sometimes you will not need directed magic at all. The world just returns the favor. Thanks world.” Let’s take a cue from this great sorcerer and give. And keep giving. Don’t have much? That’s ok. A pinch of that sandwich you’re eating is a beautiful sacrifice. Giving doesn’t have to be about money. It’s about willingness to offer. It’s about forging bonds, empowering your helpers to help you, and inviting the help you need in.
- Get out of your own head. This is a big one, especially in a culture obsessed with empirical evidence, “reason,” and head-based logic. Anyone who’s ever done any type of dream interpretation knows that the spiritworld often speaks to us in a sort of crazy logic that bypasses our logical, reasoning mind and goes right to the heart of things using symbolic language. One of my mentors often comments that the False Self – that part of ourselves so easily fortified in our culture that we see glimpses of in our self-sabotaging habits, inner criticisms, self-limiting thoughts and behaviors, etc. – is as smart as we are and has access to all of the tools that we do. This is one reason why spontaneous acts from the heart are so powerful – they throw the fear and limit-based False Self off its guard so we can really engage beyond the borders it so neatly has us regularly operating within. Hence, sing. Dance. Drum. Do. Something. Different. So often its our false dichotomies and over-analyzing that leave us standing in our own way, unable to hear what our spirits are really saying to us about our next best steps forward.
More on intimacy from our good friend, the musician Robert Een: