Building a Daily Practice, by Stephanie Woodfield
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
A good number of Pagan books, including my own, recommend building a meaningful daily practice of some kind. You can find more about creating daily practices and connecting with deity in my book Dedicant, Devotee, Priest: A Pagan Guide to Divine Relationships. Perhaps, its frequent mention is in part because it is a practice that spans traditions. No matter what kind of Witchcraft, Paganism, or Occultism of which you are a part, "practice" is a key part of finding it meaningful or being an adept at what you do. Witchcraft, after all, is a "craft," and no artisan ever became good at their trade by not honing their skills. The problem is that while creating a daily practice is mentioned so often, it is also one of the hardest things to do.
Why do so many folks find daily practice so difficult? We have other routines that we do every day that aren't necessarily fun or exciting. Yet, I have also found myself struggling with this, too. Some days it just felt impossible to carve out five minutes to do something magical, something spiritual. Part of the problem is how we approach daily practices. Although I was not exposed to mainstream organized religion until I had already started practicing Witchcraft, the things I framed my daily practices around still came out of that over-culture of religious thought. I made a set of Pagan prayer beads and tried using them as my daily practice. What I found was that I really wasn't getting much out of it. I dutifully sat with the beads, said words I thought I should say, and eventually it became a boring chore. The more it became a chore, just something I had to do, not something I was getting anything out of, the less I did it, unless I just stopped completely. Ironically, I do use prayer beads as part of my practices now, but at the time I just couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. The thing was that I was just going through the motions. I didn’t know why I was doing the action. I didn't really have a plan, either; I didn't sit down and decide what I wanted to get out of the practice, or even who or what I was supposed to be connecting to. I had made something very cookie-cutter: it had the shape of what I had seen others do, but that was it. It had nothing personal in it for me. If you don't know why you are saying or doing something, then it is going to hold no meaning for you. Also, if you don't understand the mechanics and meaning behind what you are doing, you'll never be able to build your own and tailor what you are doing to your own needs. The why behind what we are doing matters.
It took me a long time to figure out a daily practice that worked for me. In the end, there were things I had to craft in a meaningful way for myself. I can give you examples of what works well for me, but if you don't change it to fit your own needs chances are you won't keep up with the practice. In the end, I find the practices we create for ourselves are the ones that we get the most out of and the ones we will use consistently. Below you will find a few key things to consider when creating your own daily practice. You could start from scratch, or you could modify one from something that you like.
It Has to Be Something You'll Actually Do
This seems obvious, but I've found I was attracted to do long and complex magical maneuvers when I first started out. I thought meaningful meant that it was to be complicated—it doesn't. There are many deceptively simple practices that can hold a great deal of meaning. I am also not a morning person, so the idea that I was going to get up early and doing something complex to prove my dedication to my spirituality sounded great at one in the afternoon, but at five in the morning you better believe I hit the snooze button more often than not. Be realistic about what you are willing to do on a daily basis. What amount of time can you practically allot for your practice? When should it be? Are you a night owl? A morning person, or something in-between? What fits best with your current schedule? Maybe it's that five minutes after you get the kids on the bus and the house is quiet before you head out for the day. Maybe it's during the time you set aside for your morning coffee. Or maybe it's right before bed. You may want to map out your daily routine. List out all the things you normally do in a day and see where your practice might fit in.
Why Does It Have Meaning to You?
This one is important. If it has no real meaning to you, you won't get anything out of it. A daily practice should be something that you look forward to and enjoy. You should be getting something out of it. Think about words or imagery that have meaning to you. Perhaps there is a certain myth, phrase, or piece of a ritual from your tradition that holds special meaning to you. Think about how you can incorporate that into a less-than-five-minute practice. Also think about what has meaning to you in your ritual set up, cosmology, etc. Should you face a certain way while doing your practice? Are there astrological aspects that should be considered? Do you work with the elements or call on certain spirits in your other magical practices? Should those beings be represented or acknowledged in some way in your daily work? Are there certain hand gestures or movements that have meaning to you? What inspired you? What makes you feel centered and connected to spirit? Whatever those things are think about how you can include them in a very simple, bare-bones way.
What Do You Want to Achieve?
This is the question I really needed to ask myself when I first started my practice. The thing is, not everyone needs the same things. As an empath, I really need to ground, center, and cleanse every day. I also need to feel a connection to my Gods. Otherwise, I feel like a flag blowing aimlessly in the wind. Think about specific things you need. What will make you feel connected and in touch with your spirituality? Maybe you're a healer and need to focus more on cleansing and release. Maybe you are very energy-sensitive and need to focus on grounding. Maybe your goal is solely to connect to a specific deity, your ancestors, or another kind of being. Maybe you want to ask for blessings or aid for the day, or to help you get in the right headspace. Maybe you have trouble shielding and want to ask a deity you feel connected to for helping to do that. The list is endless. Think about what your goals and needs are. They aren't going to be the same as those of other people, and that's perfectly ok. This is your daily practice, not someone else's.
Daily Practice Doesn't Equal Doing the Same Thing All the Time
This one also took me a long time to figure out. Just because I did something daily didn't mean I did the same thing each day. I have a several different practices that I use; some are even for particular times of the year, or when I have a specific goal toward which I am working. Even the best practices can get stagnant, and it is ok to change things up when you need it. The point of a daily practice is for you to connect to the divine, to your magical nature, and to help you in whatever way you need. Needs change. So, our daily practices should shift and change depending on what is going on in our lives, too. Don't be afraid to change things or experiment when what you have been doing doesn’t feel fulfilling anymore.
Daily Is the Goal
I used to feel like I wasn't a good Witch if I skipped doing my daily practices. Don't be hard on yourself. Life is busy and sometimes there are going to be days where you forget, are too busy, or have an emergency. It happens, and it's normal. Daily is the goal, but doesn't always happen. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do your practice daily. Just accept that if something happened and you didn't have time in the day, it's ok. It happens to all of us. Your daily practice should feed you, it should uplift you, it should be something we look forward to doing as part of our day. But life is messy, and sometimes it has its own plans for us. So, don't feel bad, or like you are doing something wrong if things get away from you sometimes. The important part is that you keep you with your practice, and change things if you need to. The practice is for you, after all; the only one holding you accountable, or who can look down on you, is yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, and remember you are doing this for yourself.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2021. All rights reserved.