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I tore it down.

I tore it all down.

I looked at my space, my little corner room, which is both an office and the home to my small shrine, and I realized that there was something wrong. There was something stale. It did not feel like a sacred space, like an active creative space. It was just a repository for stuff.

Worst of all, the outside was beginning to feel like a reflection of the inside.

It needed to change.

Both needed to change.

So, I tore it down.

I took the books off the bookshelves and stacked them into small piles in the center of the room. Next to the books I placed old journals, notepads, and spiral notebooks — 100, 150 of them, maybe — dating back some twenty years. They all went into the middle of the room, all of these archives of my inner work.

Out came the drawers from the garage sale dresser, along with the incense, tapestries, cigar boxes filled with birthday cards. They were moved out of my little corner room, and the destruction began spilling out into the hallway.

From the walls I removed the Brighid’s triskel I made at Pantheacon, the burlap calendar from 1979 (the year of my birth), and all of the other bits of beauty I’d used to decorate my space. It all came down. The walls were stripped bare.

Within an hour, there was a landfill of papers, books, and long-forgotten mementos in the center of the floor. These things I keep, this paper trail of my hopes, my desires, my questions, my doubts — it all lay there in a heap.

I danced around my memories, leaping from clear spot to clear spot, cleaning off old surfaces and repositioning bookcases. I turned the entire room on its head, and turned my head into a much more spacious room.

Once the furniture was repositioned, the journals went back on the shelves. I placed them closest to my desk, on the two highest shelves, so that I could see clearly the evidence of my life whenever I felt devoid of history. I could reach out and grab hold of fourteen, of twenty-four, of yesterday. I could look at the ways in which I’ve used creativity to cope with confusion, to liberate anger, to reinvent my identity. It’s all there, ink on paper…

Fragments of a full life.

It took a while to clear the floor of my life. Hours. Not everything stayed. Some things were discarded altogether. But when it was done, I stood back and looked at my little corner room and felt calm again.

I remembered myself. I remembered what I do, and where I’ve been.

I remembered my name.

I tore it all down, and then put things back together again. It was a fitting way to start out the waning of the moon.

Our religious spaces can become static. Our creative spaces, too, can begin to feel like the piling up of old things, forgotten tools. These spaces — inner and outer — need to be kept alive and filled with movement. Interestingly, I find that by shaking up the physical, by rearranging the furniture and reconnecting with the archives of my life, I am better able to engage with stillness.

This place, after all, is where I practice my religion. It isn’t where I do it perfectly, or where I am an expert. It’s where I practice my practice.

I wonder —

What’s your relationship like with your space? Do you keep record of your spiritual life, and if so, do you ever look back on where you’ve been? Can you trace how you got to this point?

Is it important to you to have a place for contemplation, meditation, or ritual in your home? If so, what have you done to make that space open, useable, alive?

How do you engage with the fragments of your full life?

[All photos by Martin Kilmas]

Should I let go of my stuff?

Should I have a metaphysical yard sale, in which I sell my Cunningham books, my surplus of pewter jewelry, and my…

…ahem…

…crystals?

GET your hand off that… It’s priceless.

Should I rid my closet of the long, green, hooded robe I’ve worn twice, my Guatemalan patchwork jacket I scored for $7 bucks, or my black ceremonial duds? How about my malas, my God and Goddess candle holders (don’t you just love P. Borda?), or my copper OM chalice?

When I look at the shelf above my desk, I read the titles:

  • A Book of Pagan Prayer
  • A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book
  • The Book of Common Prayer (i.e. Episcopal Church)
  • A Canticle For Leibowitz (thank you, Themon, for the recommendation)
  • Sacred Fire, Holy Well
  • Creation Spirituality
  • The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life
and
  • Pagans & Christians

Is that too diverse?

What about my entire shelf of Bibles? I’ve got the Green, the NIV, the Aramaic translation, the King James, the Revised Standard, the Edicion Pastoral, the Good News Bible, and the New International Version.

I also have a Humanist Bible, which is a whole ‘nother story.

I like stuff. Most of us do, to some degree. But I wonder if this surplus of metaphysical stuff I’ve accumulated throughout the years gets in my way.

How much of this stuff do I actually use?

Not much.

You’d think I was a Witch or somethin’.

These thoughts occur to me as I continue with my ADF Dedicant Path studies. I feel like I’m studying to be one thing, but the stuff around me suggests that I’m something quite different. I’m studying to be an ADF Druid working within a Pan-Celtic hearth, as it were, but my stuff indicates that I’m really quite eclectic.

This isn’t a crisis by any means, but it is something to consider. What does our stuff say about us? And, how much stuff do we need in order to do our religion?

Is an excess of spiritual stuff an indication that you don’t have enough religion?

Should religion curb your consumption? And when it doesn’t — when your spiritual/religious work winds you up with tupperwares full of serapes, tapestries, and unused statuary — is it really nature spirituality that you’re practicing, or stuff spirituality?

It may sound like I’m romanticizing asceticism, but I’m not. Like I said, I like stuff.

I’m just beginning to question why I have so much of it.

This post is not designed to preach what is the right relationship to stuff. I’m just hoping to inspire some classic Bishop In The Grove dialogue about stuff.

I want to know about your stuff. 

Take a look around you. Look at the stuff on your shelves, on your windowsills, and in your dresser drawers, paying close attention to all of the stuff that’s connected to your spiritual path or religious work (whichever term you prefer).

What’s there? How much of us it being used on a daily basis? Any? All? Some?

Do you save your stuff for the High Holidays? Do you haul out the cooler of candle holders for your coven’s rituals, or has it been collected cobwebs in the corner?

Let’s all take a minute and talk about our stuff.

There is an intrinsic connection between creativity and spirituality, I think. The impuse to create feels very much to me like the impulse to worship, to do ritual, or to pray.

Perhaps this is why my heart sang out so loundly when I first found the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. OBOD asserts that the spirit of creativity and inspiration, the Awen, flows through me and through all things, and by learning to nurture my relationship to the Awen I can develop the foundation for a living, thriving, vibrant spiritual tradition.

I write a lot about religion here on Patheos (understandibly), and I think that in doing so I sometimes forget that it was creativity which first led me to Druidry. To be a Bard, I learned through OBOD, is to be connected to a great, cosmic, creative force, and to be expressive with one’s voice is to be in service to your tribe, your people, your planet. Cultivating creativity allows the Bard to become her own Creator, a maker of enchanting beauty, a living source of inspiration. While I’ve found that the religiosity of ADF Druidism speaks to me, and the voice of the Reconstructionist fascinates me, it continues to be this connection between creativity and spirit that nourishes me.

To sing is to expose the dark richness of the soil (the soul), to turn it over, and expose it to the light. Strip away all of the adorments of our spiritual traditions, remove any of our religious or cultural markers, and we are left with our breath, our song, our creative fire. Stand naked in the forest, breathe in the air of life which permeates this planet, and your voice can become something truly magical.

With that, I make an offering today — a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and a testiment to the power and movement of the Awen — by lifting up my voice in the presence of the living earth, our Great Mother.

Peace be with you on this glorious day.

This morning I woke, picked up the pen and paper on the hotel nightstand, and wrote down these words:

What is it to write from sleeping?

To write without ceasing. To hold back the need to edit, the impulse to correct. The penmanship is awful, but that does not matter. The only impulse is to write. The chance to create from a place of great stillness; the greatest stillness next to eternal sleep.

Write because there is a fire of great color burning in your heart. The heat is your cousin, your lover, your friend. The heat is a birthright, but the heat is disloyal. It vanishes if ignored. It will return, but you must coax it with kindness, and ritual, and sex. You must invite the fire back by making love to the essence of pleasure, pain, fear, and ecstasy.

Call back the fire like a lost child. Scream into the subdivision for your baby. She will come running to you. She will blaze through your manicured lawn and be a beacon of transformation.

Set fire to your heart!

I like the intangible. I try to hold onto it. I like the formless, and I too often try to pin it down. I ask a lot of questions. I always have. I asked about our concept of compassion, and it led to a follow-up piece by fellow Patheos writer, Steven T Abell. I asked questions about the point of our religions, and it led to some of the most amazing comments yet on Bishop in the Grove. These questions I ask of religion and spirituality are useful. Or they can be, at least. The first thought I put to paper this morning was a question: What is it to write from sleeping? I ask questions in order that I might begin to approach an answer. I don’t know the answers, but I can move toward them. This is how my mind works.

I admit that I have experienced the feeling of being sidetracked by my own inquiry. Questions can also be a tool for distraction. They can take the focus away from the doing of my something. In point of fact, after sitting down at my computer today and writing whatever flowed out of my mind for a solid five minutes, I began to deconstruct all of it and try to make it make sense. No longer was I writing; I was thinking about writing. There’s a tremendous difference between those two things…. just ask a Creative Writing major.

I see a parallel here with my practice of religion. I often take myself out of the routine of my spiritual work, whatever that may look like at the time, and start to think about it. Reflection is useful, yes, but dissection can be quite violent. I may pick apart what I’m doing to the point where I’m no longer sure of what’s in front of me. My spirituality looks like a series of disparate paragraphs on the screen, with no cohesion, no order, and certainly no “flow.”

But then there are moments when I exhale, release this obsessive need for understanding, and experience the memory of a time when I did not care much about religion, its purpose, or its relevance. I did not seek out the divisions between us so that I might examine them, or deconstruct them. In that memory-me, I was an imaginative person; a man who was a child who was playful, and who sang melodies that had never been written. I remember the feeling — the location — of that inspiration, and then, all of a sudden, I step into a creative space. My mind is freed up from the inquiry, and something begins to flow through me again.

I like to think of inspiration occurring in a particular “place,” physically and bodily. I try to locate it, or to remember where I’d felt it last, if I feel uninspired. I try to remember where it was inside of me that an idea first showed itself. Was it behind my eyes? In my stomach? Or, did I hold it in my hand? Certainly, our inspirations can come from the physical world. Nature is a generous patron, and we are provided with all that we need to be inspired if we open our eyes wide enough. But, I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about charting a map of your insides, and looking for treasure. I’m talking about inspiration that originates somewhere inside of you, and that even feels like it may have originated from somewhere else altogether.

Have you felt that kind of inspiration?

I ask you – where is the source of your inspiration? Where do you find it? Have you every closed your eyes and been flooded by the imagines of the divine, the sacred, the profane, or the magical? Have you seen, in the stillness of your own being, a clear vision, and then brought that vision into the world?

If you are inclined to answer that you are “not a creative person,” I say hogwash. You are. We all are. We create in every moment of our lives. Put any dismissive thought aside for a moment, cock your head, and listen to the question again, sideways.

Where is the source of your inspiration?