I don’t know about you, but for me, pandemic fatigue has been kicking my butt the past few weeks. I’ve been taking a break from email and social media for my mental health. (So if you have reached out to me via the contact form on my blog or through social media, my deepest apologies! I am slowly catching up!) Productivity has been practically non-existent. Everyday tasks seem to take so much more energy than they used to, and I am exhausted. Everything is way harder than it should be, including my spiritual practice.
It’s hard to feel inspired when just getting through the day is difficult. I am an advocate for living, evolving, personal religion. I believe that spirituality should be applicable to modern life, and it should support us and nourish us. When our spiritual practices are no longer relevant to our circumstances, it is time for them to change.
A Different Perspective for a Different Time
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned almost every aspect of our lives upside down. Our daily routines have been severely disrupted. Some people have lost their jobs. Many have lost a loved one to this awful virus. Even just going to the grocery store is now a harrowing experience of mortal risk and crazy politics. Everyone is stressed to the max, and it has been going on since March. We are worn out, beaten down, and exhausted. Who has the energy to cast a circle these days?
If you’re feeling guilt about your spiritual practice (or lack thereof) these days, let me tell you to stop right there. Drop the guilt. Quit shaming yourself for not reading that book or doing that spell. Just making it to tomorrow is a victory. You are doing the best that you can, and YOU ARE ENOUGH.
While holding ourselves in compassion, we can also begin to explore a different perspective on our spirituality. What would it take for our spirituality to nourish us, instead of feeling like an obligation or a chore? What can we do to honor ourselves, as well as the Divine? What would spark joy and wonder? What would be fun? What do we need right now?
Your needs likely look very different these days than they did in the pre-COVID world. And that’s okay. But you can’t expect the exact same spiritual practices that served you pre-pandemic to still meet your needs today. Start an honest conversation with yourself about your spirituality and what is and isn’t working for you.
Expanding Your Definition of Spiritual
One thing that I have constantly been working on since I began my relationship with Aphrodite is to continually expand my definition of spiritual.
Coming from a vaguely Christian background, there were a lot of preconceived notions that I had about religion that needed to change when I started my journey on the Pagan path over fifteen years ago. Some of them were easy (Nature is my church now, check!) and some were more difficult (I should be praying, right? How many times a day? To whom? Or what?). I already knew that Christianity didn’t work for me as a religion, so that made the paradigm shift expected, even if it wasn’t always painless.
I feel like it is much harder to look at a spirituality that you identify with and are passionate about, and to go through a similar process of honest assessment. What has worked for you in the past may not be a good fit now, and something you initially dismissed on your journey of spiritual discovery may be exactly what you need in these new circumstances.
In this challenging time of exhaustion and stress, I encourage you to expand your definition of what you consider “spiritual.” Aphrodite has shown me that anything done consciously and with intention can be spiritual. Ordinary, mundane things like taking a shower, eating a meal, or even watching Netflix, can be spiritual. Necessary chores, like cooking or doing laundry, can be spiritual. Taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep is spiritual.
If you feel like you are stretched too thin, and don’t have time to do anything else, I encourage you to look at what you are already doing (or are required to do), and see how you can approach it as a spiritual act. Thank the elements for washing your dishes in the dishwasher (soap from the Earth, bubbles for Air, heat for Fire, and Water… is pretty self-explanatory). Dedicate the pleasure you take from eating dessert to Aphrodite. Turn your daily walk with your dog into mindful connection with nature.
If you would like some more ideas on how to shift your perspective on your daily activities, or small things you could add to your day, check out my posts on Pagan Practice When You’re Busy, 7 Ways to Bring the Magickal into the Mundane, and 7 More Ways to Bring the Magickal into the Mundane.
Letting Go of What You Don’t Need
In addition to figuring out what does work for your spiritual practice right now, you also need to consider what isn’t working. Letting go of what you don’t need will free up space and energy for you to do what nourishes you more. And just because something isn’t meeting your needs right now, doesn’t mean that it never will again. Circumstances change, and our spiritual practices must adapt.
For me, formal ritual was one of the first things that needed to go out the door. Most of my rituals don’t tend to be formal anyway (I explain why in this blog post), but once the pandemic hit, I had neither the time nor the energy to cast a formal circle except on rare occasions. I don’t spend as much time sitting in sacred space, during meditation or otherwise. My rate of physical offerings has trailed off as well. I’m not energetically shielding as much as I used to (even though I know it would be good for me).
Perhaps most obviously, my number of practices in spiritual community with others has dropped precipitously. My Pagan group is no longer meeting in person, and (partially due to everyone’s exhaustion) our online gatherings are not as frequent as our in-person ones were. Zoom fatigue is real. Some days, staring at a screen is just not the best thing for my mental health, even if I want to see people and I know doing a ritual would be nice. And that is okay. We need to honor and respect where we are.
If the idea of letting go of a particular practice is bothering you, even though you know it isn’t serving you right now, I encourage you to do a ritual to honor that practice. It doesn’t have to be formal or take up a lot of time. Thank that practice for how it has enriched your spirituality, acknowledge why it is difficult or impossible to do right now, and let it go (perhaps with a promise to pick it back up when the pandemic is over, if that feels right to you).
What if the practice that you need to let go of was actually serving you, but circumstances have made it difficult or impossible to do? If this is the case, I encourage you to brainstorm to see if there is an alternative practice that could meet that need better or more easily in this challenging time. Perhaps your once thrice-daily prayers feel impossible right now, but prayer is one of the major ways that you connect to the Divine. Is there a way for you to pray once a day, and have it still meet your needs?
When you are assessing your practices, you need to not only look at the practice itself, but also the frequency and particular way you perform the practice. In my own Pagan practice in the time of COVID, I still do a lot of the same activities, but the frequency and the way that I do the activities has changed. I still make offerings, but they are less frequent and consist of what hasn’t been panic-bought out of the grocery store that week. I’ve found I am actually praying more now, during the pandemic, than I did before. I may not meditate as often as I used to before the plague, but I have made leaps and bounds of progress in journeying that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.
Just because the circumstances of the pandemic are bad doesn’t mean that you need to think of the resulting changes in your spiritual practice as bad, or even just as coping mechanisms. Trying new things and opening up to flexibility may allow your practice to evolve in a way that wasn’t possible before the pandemic. You may find new things that you want to carry on in your practice in the future, or you may find new ways of doing old things that work better, pandemic or not.
At the same time, do not hold yourself to the pressure that your spiritual practice “should” be anything right now. All those posts about how “if you haven’t gained ten skills and read twenty books during quarantine, you’re doing it wrong” are complete and utter bullshit. I’m all for finding silver linings when I can and for capitalizing on opportunities when they are available, but this is a traumatic time for everyone on planet Earth right now. Treat yourself (and your practice) with kindness and compassion. You are doing the best you can. And that is enough.
This is Part One in a series on Adaptive Spiritual Practice for Pagans: A Response to Challenging Times. Read Part Two here!