A new year is almost upon us, and with it the great making of lists, setting of intentions, and planning of goals for the coming year. Normally I prefer to set my goals and intentions with a positive, present-tense format, but sometimes you need to name something so that you can identify and work with it. Whether you set your goals magickally by the calendar New Year like most of America or on astrological Imbolc like the WISE tradition, or anywhere else on the Wheel, here are some things to consider as you head into your next annual “incarnation.”
1. Stop comparing your path to others.
Everybody has their own path to walk in this life, and their own unique connection to Deity. Even within a single tradition there are going to be differences in the way individual covens and witches practice. The only real benchmark you need for comparison when evaluating your path is YOU. Is your quality of life improving as you walk your path? Are you finding peace, contentment, and fufillment on your path? Are you a better person now than you used to be? If you can answer yes, then you are probably on the right path and walking it “properly.”
2. Stop treating your spiritual practice as a checklist.
While I hear there are traditions out there where all you have to do is check off the boxes, so to speak, to earn your title or degree, mine has never been that way. We look for growth and change, and the ability to actually function as a leader or teacher. There is no end goal in spirituality, no finish line, no real certificate of completion. You never arrive at a spiritual destination (except, perhaps, when you die). Slow down, enjoy the process, and don’t approach it with perfectionism.
3. Stop worrying about what others think.
Your connection with Deity is between you and Deity. Unless you are going out and recruiting others to walk your path, or using your religion to interfere in others’ lives, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about your path, your practice, and your magick. Nobody else has the right to validate your path, and you don’t need them to. Are you recreating an ancient religion while working as a priest of those gods as you believe the ancients would have done? Fantastic! Are you an eclectic pagan, borrowing from many traditions to build your own unique practice that speaks to your heart? Keep going! Are you working with deities and practices that your blood ancestors never knew? More power to you; the gods will be the ones to judge your sincerity.
The obvious exception to this one is those in leadership positions, but to an extent it still applies. Keep your nose clean, live and practice and lead ethically and openly, and do your best to set a good example for your community; all leaders should be doing these things anyway. But after that, still…stop worrying so much about what others are saying behind your back. You cannot please anybody, and that might be even more true in the pagan community than in other groups. Let your actions speak for you, and stop reacting to or engaging with gossip and unhelpful criticism.
4. Stop being afraid of change.
Somebody may take something you’ve taught or shared and change it, turn it into something slightly different and new. That’s ok. That’s how spirituality and culture grow and evolve over time, through little changes here and there. Don’t be afraid of the changes others make…and don’t be afraid to make a few yourself! Remember what I said about comparing your path to others? Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean it always must. Experiment, stretch your boundaries, shake up your daily practice. Even if you come right back to where you began, at least you’ll have explored a little and have a better understanding of why that works for you.
5. Stop arguing on social media.
I hate to break it to you, but that person on Facebook isn’t going to change their mind no matter how many times you patiently explain or how often you call them a fucking idiot. Just stop. Stop justifying your own practice, stop criticizing the practices of others, stop assuming people’s motivations, stop namecalling, stop responding to all of these when they come from others…just stop! Like anything else, stepping away from a discussion becomes easier with practice, and the better you get, the more peace you will find in your life.
So there you have it. This might be shadow work for some of us, and that’s okay, too. Just some things to think about.
Happy New Year!