Some days, it’s all we can do not to break.
Yesterday felt like one of those days.
I’ve done well to keep my focus on matters of spiritual growth since returning from my Pagan pilgrimage. I’ve kept my daily practice, and I’ve delighted in the conversations we’ve had here on the blog about leadership, purpose and the wants and needs of the Pagan community. I’ve approximated the feeling of being swept up in the fervor of rituals, workshops and sacred dancing, as best I could. But yesterday felt like a cold bucket of water got dropped on my sacred fire.
Discussions of finance, budgets, work prospects and work shortages don’t feel all that mystical. If there was a moment when the perceived difference between the magickal and the mundane was clearly evident, it happened yesterday as I sat at my dining room table, papers spread out in front of me, forehead to palm. Mundane is not strong enough a word to describe how un-enchanted the whole process felt.
I don’t suspect that I’m alone in this experience. How many of us feel weighed down by the practical matters of our life? The last days of the month, the first days of the month, the middle of the month — these are moment where we are called to focus on what it really takes to power our laptops, pay for our sage smudges and keep us connected to our real and virtual communities through sites like this. In truth, my transformative experience at PantheaCon was only made possible by charging a hotel room, a plane ticket and registration costs to my credit card.
I’m paying interest on my transcendental weekend. Chew on that for a second.
Judge if you will, but anyone with student loan bills understands what this feels like. We borrow money in order to have the experience we wish to have. It’s how it works for most of us, right? As I think about returning to college to become better educated in religious studies, the very real question of “How am I going to pay for this?” is on repeat in my mind, and I don’t know the answer right now.
(He feels his palm drifting back to his forehead.)
I took a Money Magick class once, and I loved it. The teacher, who has since become a friend, talked about money being magickal. She encouraged us to use paper money, and to think of each bill as a talisman. She taught us how to charge our cash-money with our intentions, how and why to keep it well-organized in our wallets, and she emphasized the value in only spending the money you have. She kept saying that money, a source of so much stress, should be thought of in spiritual terms. It isn’t mundane; it’s magick.
Now, on the morning after my stress-binge, I feel the need to consider, either out of a desperate desire to reclaim my lost PantheaCon-bliss or a less-selfish, more compulsive need to understand a universal truth, that there is no mundane reality; it’s all spiritual.
I’ve heard this idea suggested before. T. Thorn Coyle is campaigning across the Pagan world to eliminate the word from our vocabulary, and she’s not alone. It came up in several venues at PantheaCon. People want to ditch the idea of mundane, and I wonder if this is possible. More importantly, I wonder if that would really benefit us.
I know that when I do ritual, as many of us do, I envision the space being made sacred, either through some sort of visualization or through a physical act. If there is no mundane reality, and all is spiritual or holy, then is my act of sanctifying the space more about me than it is the space? I value my rites of sanctification. Whether or not they serve some essential, spiritual purpose, they are psychologically effective. I wonder, though, if that’s all they are.
How do you reconcile this difference between spiritual and mundane? Is there one, from your perspective? Could you conceive of the mundane as a kind of forgetfulness? A lack of remembrance about the true, spiritual nature of reality? If you’ve ever found yourself sitting at your dining room table, bills and forms staring back at you, did the experience feel particularly spiritual to you? Could you find a way to perceive it as such?
I’d love to know what you think about this subject. Sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comment section might provide me, or another reader of Bishop in the Grove, with some very valuable, very useful insights.
Teo, I find that often the blogs at Patheos line up with the same message.
You wrote,”Could you conceive of the mundane as a kind of forgetfulness?”
Today I wrote about the Wind in the Willows at the Staff of Asclepius. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/2012/03/the-wind-in-the-willows/ There is a chapter where Rat and Mole experience the glories of life and the divine presence of Pan. The spare them the suffering of returning to daily life with after seeing the world in all it’s true glory, he removes the memory. It becomes a vague notion that something nice happened.
It reminds me of why rituals need to have a beginning and and end. It’s not that we are creating sacred space, we are creating the right mind set. There can be an urge to hang on to the good feeling after a powerful ritual or convention. Yes, this is what life is about!
I’ve found that truth lies in perspective. Where are we looking? What is our attention on? We are meant to experience the micro (mortality) and the macro (spirituality) in cycles. I strive to be the calm observer but that isn’t always possible.
I love the way you pair up the words micro/mortality and macro/spirituality. I’ve never heard it described quite like that, and I think it’s an interesting way of looking at it. And I agree with you — the truth lies in perspective.
Thank you for your comment, Tara. I love hearing from you, and I’m not surprised at all that our blogs lined up. That does seem to happen now and then, doesn’t it?
Quess i have a typical male logical mind . To my way of thinking there will always be a divide , somethings will always be mundane , others will always be magical . Where i made a big change quite a few years ago is how i deal w/ the worrisome mundane stuff.We all have that stuff in our lives , at least for me , i found a better way to deal with it . Many years ago when i got married the first time i allowed that stuff , bills, responcibilities , etc really get to me , made me sick physicaly, from stress. After almost getting an ulcer, i changed my out look , realised i was doing my best , and always will …….did a sorta cross between the wisdom prayer and que serra , serra if you will .That along with the warriors concept of not wasting energy on usless persuits helped me deal with such things alot better for me , my sanity and health.And btw , dating myself , i do mean that old Doris Day song. Between that outlook and daily devotionals and meditation i don’t get that stressed anymore .And i also try to keep my gods , ancestors , and beliefs close to the vest these days . I try to live within the Celtic /Gael mindset as a Sinnsreachd Warrior, thinking and living in this lifestyle helps me deal w/ our insane modern world w/all it’s challenges and nonsence. If you remember i am also a member of ADF, this philosophy fits well within ADF druidry. Kilm
It sounds as thought you’ve found a way of living with the “mundane” that works for you, Kilm. That’s very important. I hope that you continue to find the strength of the Sinnsreachd Warrior, and enjoy all aspects of your life.
Blessings to you.
If we are truly and totally aligned with our highest values then there is no “mundane” and no “spiritual.” There is only Life, joyously lived in service
to the Divine and the Greater Good.
I’m not there yet. And nothing will bring me down and pull me away from my devotion to the Divine faster than the cold hard immediate stress of unexpected expenses and a budget I can’t balance. This reflects my fear of loss (and of “missing out” because I can’t afford something) as well as the challenges of living in a materialist, consumerist society.
The Buddhists have it right – chop wood, carry water. I can’t see the spirituality in paying bills, fixing cars, and figuring out how to pay for the education and experiences I think I need. They’re simply things that must be done. When I do them well (through skill and effort, through good fortune, or through a combination of the two) I enable my spiritual practices. When I do them poorly, I try to figure out why and do them better next time.
There is the idea that a truly “spiritual” person can transcend “mundane” problems: that we have the magic to make them go away, or we’re ascetics with no need for material things, or we’re so blissed out that nothing bothers us.
These are unhelpful ideas with little basis in reality. We’re Pagans – we’re not here to escape the world, we’re here to enjoy it and learn from it. I’m better than I used to be about understanding and accepting the lessons in the hard work and unpleasant experiences, but I’m still a long way from seeing mundane problems as anything other than mundane problems.
Chop wood, carry water.
Exactly! If we are not here to escape the world, but to enjoy and learn from it, then isn’t everything spiritual and magical, as well as earthly and manifest? Why contrast “sacred” and “mundane” as so many Pagans do if we know, deeply, that immanent divinity is with us?
Just because the holy is ever with us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel hard sometimes, it just means we may need to try a little harder to recognize it’s face.
Beautiful comment, John. Thank you for this. I think you are spot on here.
Perhaps the difference between the magical and the mundane is the energy with which we imbue those moments. Mundane as forgetfulness – yes perhaps. We go through the motions, like doing the forms of Tai Chi, yet we do it without presence, without intent, without the energising “oomph” that characterises those things we feel most passionate about.
I recall once someone mentioning ” Do you live to work or work to live?” For me, I will chose the second. I participate in the mundane to give me the ability to plunge myself neck-deep in the magickal, take a deep breath, and dive further down. It is in the immersion into the magickal that the mundane is itself forgotten for the intensity of that moment in the Light
Yours in the Way,
Thank you, Drum, for being a part of this conversation. So glad to read your words here.
Your last few sentences really hit home for me. My father used to tell me that it is best to “work to live,” and I’ve watched him struggle to do that for most of his life. Now, I struggle with it; perhaps less so than he, but still. The struggle is lessened when the thing I work to live for is something which provides me with spiritual nourishment. I don’t work to live for frivolous things, and I think that give the work a different context.
Again, thank you for commenting, Drum.
Excellent blog. Finding the balance of spiritual and material wealth is always a challenge. I like to think that as the soul expands and grows in knowledge and wealth, it is only natural that your financial wealth will grown and expand too.
Thank you for your comment, W.M., and thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the blog resonated with you, and I appreciate you offering your perspective on this.
Some thoughts over at http://www.treehenge.org/Themon/Themons_Musings/Blog/Entries/2012/3/1_Retreats_and_Advances.html
The timing on this is hysterical for me. I just finished paying the mortgage and student loan bills, followed by cleaning the catbox. While I was paying the bills, I was thinking about the magic of the electronic transfer that keeps my home mine, and keeps the bill collectors at bay. While cleaning the sandbox, I was being grateful that all 3 cats are healthy enough to fill it up, and smart enough to come get me when it’s too dirty for them. The love and head-butts of appreciation that followed my cleaning efforts was really quite touching (honest, I cleaned it last night before bed, but there ARE 3 of them), and I was thanking the gods for their four-footed agents who remind me to stay a little humble, think of someone outside myself, and take a few minutes to relax and enjoy love.
We are spiritual beings in a physical manifestation, everything we do is spiritual whether we think about it or not. Money is as important as food in our modern society to feed us, house us, clothe us, and otherwise keep us healthy, so why wouldn’t we include it in our magical works and spiritual philosophy?
Great question, Teo. I think this fundamentally a matter of “mindset.” In other words, it’s all in how we approach it. We tend to view certain categories of things as sacred or spiritual (ritual, meditation, awe inspiring vistas in Nature, etc.) and other categories as mundane (paying bills, driving to work, cleaning the kitchen, etc). I think that drawing this distinction (even unintentionally as most of us do) is what causes us to feel “un-spiritual.” What is it that makes ritual more sacred than paying bills? In ritual we are focusing our attention and emotion on fostering a connection with Source, we allow ourselves (as embodied beings) to feel the sacredness of our lives deep in our bones. Our focus and attention is on what we consider to be sacred – our connection to Nature and the Gods. I wonder if we could maintain this connection outside of what we might consider to be “sacred” activities.
This reminds me of the Zen concept of “living in the moment.” Most people think of Zen in regards to meditation – one sits serenely in the lotus position and maintains perfect awareness in the moment; however, Zen masters tell us that Zen is a state of mine we can cultivate ALL the time. There are book on the Zen of Archery, the Zen of Motorcycle riding. Alan Watt’s talks about Zen when washing the dishes – one makes the task the entire and complete focus of the moment. They literally pour their soul into washing the dishes; it becomes a matter of how we approach our activities – our mindset. I suggest that the same thing can be said of approaching the sacred in Contemporary Paganism.
Paying the bills doesn’t FEEL sacred because we have presupposed that sacred implies a distinction from the mundane. You can’t have sacred if there is not the mundane from which to distinguish it. Teo, you said, “If there is no mundane reality, and all is spiritual or holy, then is my act of sanctifying the space more about me than it is the space?” I don’t cast a circle because it has never made sense to me to “create” sacred space out of sacred space. This is one of the reasons ADF does not utilize circle casting in its rituals. I would suggest that you are correct in you assumption that we sanctify the space for our own benefit. That doesn’t make it wrong or unnecessary – we just realize that it is sometimes easier for us to enter into a singular contact with Source if by using props, theatre, and sanctification. I love all three and find that they greatly enhance my ritual.
If, as T Thorne Coyle and others suggest, we drop the distinction between mundane and sacred, everything becomes sacred. How do we this? We attempt to connect to Source and relate that connection to everything we do. We maintain our Zen focus on that connection. When we are writing checks and paying bills, we stop for a moment and thank the Gods for what we DO have. We take a moment to realize our blessings (or the necessary lessons in our pain) and honor that process. If we are looking into school and wondering how to pay for it, we commit ourselves to that goal as part of our life’s purpose, which is assuredly sacred. We pray and sacrifice to the Gods for health, wealth, and happiness in ALL that we do. Sacrality is a mindset – we simply have to adopt it.
“Sacrality is a mindset…”
I love that.
This is a wonderful comment, Ben. Thank you for being a part of the dialogue here. I’ll spend some time with the ideas you’ve laid out here.
Bright blessings to you.
I do , my friend ………i found the Warriors path first , which envolves living by a Honor/Conduct code . I have always been been a Celtic Pagan based on my ancestry , while doing research i stumbled upon Sinncreachd, which is Celtic Pagan tribal based, semi CR.This path , Sunnsreachd Warrior basicaly just put a name to what i was already doing , so was a good fit for me , personaly. Anyone interested can look at Sinnsreachd. org Kilm aka Dennis
Sinnsreachd , sorry
As you may know, I’ve written about something similar recently on my most recent “Queer I Stand” column here at Patheos. Seems to be in the air…
I think the biggest barrier to making what is often classed as “mundane” into what we would like to experience as spiritual or sacred is that there’s an almost Manichean dualism behind the creation of those experiences. Let’s assume that everyone who would like to have a spiritual life, almost no matter what their tradition is, is being motivated by the divinity within themselves and the divinities that they serve to bring a certain level of presence, insight, and bliss to their experiences, right? And what is the motivation of most of the “powers” that are the cause of student loan bills, gas prices, what foods are available at the local stores, and what is on television? $$$! And, unfortunately, though those powers do worship $$$, they don’t see it as sacred–for them it is (often, but not always) “easy come, easy go.” To the powers who make all of those things possible, this is a world of things to be manipulated in entirely mechanistic and instrumental manners. Thinking anything is or can be sacred is pretty much to throw the biggest possible monkeywrench into that system as can be imagined, because it would mean dealing with other humans as if they matter, and dealing with things like natural resources and material goods as if they weren’t “just things” that can be bought, sold, destroyed, and discarded without a second thought.
So, I don’t know if a simple change in vocabulary and our own thinking on this matter is going to be sufficient. Sure, we can try and be happy and detached (though I don’t think the latter is a good strategy at all, personally) when we pay our monthly bills and reckon with our finances, but doing so really doesn’t create any kind of relationship between our sacred sense and the other beings involved–the bank doesn’t care if you’re compassionate, the government doesn’t care if you’re developing a practice of presence.
This is why certain vocabulary matters are all muddled. “Debt” is something we don’t want to have, but which many of us (myself included!) have quite a bit of in the “mundane” world. However, spiritual debt is an entirely other thing: it’s an obligation to another being (often a god, spirit, ancestor, etc., but not always) the existence of which makes the two parties be in a closer relationship, and it’s a very good thing to have those kinds of debts. You’d never want to be totally “paid off” with those, because then the relationship would end, with all the benefits it accrues to both parties. That’s not the experience of debt in secular culture whatsoever–debt is to be avoided, and for some (usually those who are privileged…unless, of course, they live far above their means, whether on an individual or a corporate level), it is derided.
Anyway, lots to think about here…
If you’d be interested in speaking further at some stage about graduate school, I’d be happy to give you some advice on it…but the long and short of it is: unless you’re the particular kind of “insane” that requires letters after your name to feel accomplished, the monetary debt you’ll incur is probably not worth it. My two-year M.A. program almost tripled my debt from my four years of undergraduate college, and only three years of having to fund my own Ph.D. doubled that. I don’t regret having done so, but I do regret having done so while in ignorance of what my actual job prospects would be on the other end of it.
I have letters after my name and I only went to 3 months of trade school. Set me back less than a grand. Just sayin’ 😉
Dave the Human
P.S. Don’t worry though, going back to school will set me up with plenty of debts 😀 What goes around comes around eh?
Indeed, it does depend on which letters one wants to have after one’s name how long it will take to get them and what kind of money it will cost to do so…
A former friend used to sign his muckety-muck signature as _____, B.S., F.U. Those are ones anyone can get, I suppose…!?! 😉
Wonderful to hear you — thank you for being a part of the dialogue here.
I wonder in light of your comment if you feel comfortable with a simple way of defining what is sacred and what is mundane. Could you unpack that?
Utterly seconded. We’re struggling with major debt too, and on top of everything else it’s more than a bit guilt-inducing to have created all of this debt to get those letters after my name which are now not getting me a “real job” with the actual income to match. That magnet on the fridge that says “I have many skills, none of which generate income” isn’t as funny as it used to be! Seriously, though: One of the key things to look for in grad school is finding a program where you will be **guaranteed funding** as a research/teaching assistant for a reasonable amount of time (say, long enough to actually complete the degree). If they make you pay your own way, or if your funding is contingent on someone else’s grant money, I’d advise staying away from that program. Grad school can be really interesting, and academia can be great work if you can get that real job doing it, but it ain’t worth going into massive debt for.
For me spiritual and mundane (or physical if you prefer) are two sides of the same coin. But just because everything is spiritual doesn’t mean that everything is sacred. Not by a long shot. Usually when we think of mundane we think of boring, plain, or ordinary. I’ve felt all of those feelings in a spiritual context but I’ve never felt them in a sacred context.
The key difference between spiritual and sacred? It’s all about being set apart. 😀
Good luck in your future graduate school endeavors and I hope you had a nice weekend.
Dave the Human
All I can say is, OY! This has been one of those seriously mundane weeks when anything spiritual felt miles away. And maybe that’s only because my perspective was clouded. Maybe, like you suggest, everything is magickal, except when our brains perceive it isn’t. Maybe the magickal part comes in when we use our brains or spirits to willingly change our perspective so that what might be considered mundane is transformed. And maybe I don’t know anything! But I hear you, and I’ve sat at my own table with palm to forehead. Thanks, as always, for being honest and asking the tough questions and not falling back on platitudes.
[…] — what is sacred and what is mundane. Pagans frequently say that everything is sacred, but we still struggle with our experience of the mundane, as Teo Bishop’s recent blog post ind…. For me, the experience of connectedness defines the sacred — the connection of mind to […]
[…] author of the blog Druid in the Grove, made the following comment on a post entitled, “The Spiritual, the Mndane, and the Cash Money.” I took a money magick class onece and loved it. The teacher kept talking about money being […]