Final Course for CTP 2: Discipline 2
1) Describe your discipline practice as an ADF Priest. Explain what you have learned from this practice, describe how your connection with the Court of the Sky has grown and changed over the time you have worked with them, and reflect on your journals and omens over the period. (min. 600 words)
What I’ve learned from this practice:
Though I’ve had some significant life changes happen since ordination, I would say one of the biggest things I’ve learned is more of a reaffirmation one of the take-aways I wrote about in Discipline 1. That is, in order for my spiritual practice to work, it has to be a part of my life, not apart from my life. Most of the regular devotional work I do now is extremely concise. It is a part of my day, and wiggles its way into the small things that I do.
I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s useful to strip your practice down to the bare bones and see what you miss and still find value in, and then work on adding it back in. It helps things stay fresh and meaningful. An example of this is that as my work situation has changed, I’ve moved away from sunrise devotionals, and I’ve found that I miss it. That is something that I’d like to start incorporating back in soon.
Another thing I’ve noticed since ordination is that I have to consciously make time for my own practice, whereas before it came much easier. I think this is in large part because there is only so much time I can be doing spiritual stuff, so I’m having to split, in some fashion, the amount of time spent on me in order to focus on others. I knew that there would be demands on my time and my spiritual skill set, but I’ve had to work on making sure that while I’m providing for others, that I also explicitly make time for my own devotions to foster my personal connections. This is reflected in the first statement in my Code of Ethics: “I will pray with the Good Fire.” If my own flame isn’t kept bright, then I won’t be able to help others kindle theirs. Part of how I’ve been able to manage this is through doing the Clergy Order Work at the Mound and beyond, which is a time focused on my spiritual growth and needs, and my interactions with the spirits.
How my connection with the Court of the Sky has grown and changed:
The most interesting thing about the Court of the Sky, and my growing relationship with them, is that I interacted with at least some of them before ordination, during my Initiation and the intervening time. One of the spirits I’ve formed a particular strong relationship, enough that I consider him to be one of my spirit allies, is the Fire Slug. My first interaction with him was during Initiation, though I didn’t know it at the time, when the stars all fell from the sky and rained down upon the Mound. He was one of those stars who fell, then caught fire and raced around the edge of the Mound forming a burning ring.
I have found this class of spirits to have an interesting, to say the least, take on the world. They are part of it, but also really not, and it shows in the way they perceive and interact with us. Most of the ones I’ve met, either in passing, or to work with in any capacity have been related to the stars in some way, as opposed to the Moon or other celestial bodies. The Fire Slug fell from the stars, and I would probably still consider him at least partially meteorite. I’ve met some who dance atop the standing stones I’ve found elsewhere in the meadow area who appear to be streaks of light, alien and merry. The ones I’ve met have a focus on prophecy, divination, or “knowing” in some manner, or they have a focus on strange bargains and how that interacts with magic. I’ve been enjoying working with them, and look forward to continuing that work.
Reflection on my journals and omens:
Regarding my omens, I’ve found that I’ve gone back to the method I find more meaningful to me, which is taking omens for specific purposes and questions, during full rituals, and about one additional reading a month. Daily, or even weekly, omens don’t seem to give me added clarity or perspective, but rather seem to get bogged down in the immediate present. I find I get more use out of the spaced out divination. I have also started keeping track of my omens in a 5-year diary. I think it will be interesting to see how they cycle through the years. As before, I’ve decided to take a look at my omens over the past two years as a whole.
If I were to read and interpret the most commonly pulled symbols, I’d say that “it has been a lot of work to maintain my Clergy Oath and the Work that entails, but that it is following the directive I’ve received from the folk and the spirits, and that it is a noble undertaking.” All in all, this bodes well for the work I have done, and the work I will continue to do. It speaks to keeping my oath and doing the Work of clergy. Some other things to note is that Mu was pulled far more often than Iota, speaking to the vast amount of internal work and changes I’ve undergone, as opposed to the external work and external changes I may have made. Also high on the frequency list are Xi and Gamma. They are a reminder to tend the seeds I plant in order to reap the rewards that the Earth Mother provides.
In general, I’ve found my divination set to be a combination of encouraging me on my path and gentle in its warnings or hard times ahead. It has also at times seemed to be comforting on recent events of the past, as opposed either looking ahead or being overly critical.
Regarding my reflections and journals, one of the things that has continued to help me be self-reflective about my practice is my method of journaling the things that have surprised me. I have a quick list that I’ve titled “Things No One Told You About Being a Priest,” that touches on some of the things that I’ve reflected on. Below are some of the most notable things, or at least some of the things I keep coming back to.
Probably the single item I come back to again and again is how lonely the path of Clergy is, especially as an extrovert. I have found my personality shifting, becoming more withdrawn. I think this may happen with any form of leadership (real or perceived) in that I am more aware of the places where a wall has grown up around me, and more aware of the way people react differently to me. I’ve been able to note this particularly in my grove. I have been able to watch the way long-time members shift in the way they interact with me, and watch the way new members, who’ve never known me as a non-priest, interact with me.
One of the other things I’ve noticed is that I am able to stay engaged and fulfilled when I remember the real Work. Love the Earth. Serve the Folk. Honor the Gods. Following that drive and passion and vocation helps me renew my drive, my passion, and my vocation. For me, the most fulfilling part of Priesting is the work I do one-on-one with the Folk. It’s allowed me to see myself in them, and see where they can grow into various roles they enjoy and fulfill them. One of my primary vocations that seems to be continuing to grow as I continue on this path is mentoring.
Another big thing I’ve noticed is how much I’ve had to step up my game regarding setting boundaries. I note in my journaled reflections that there are “hundreds of small sacrifices of family and friend time” and “how the responsibilities eat their way in with small, but noticeable ways.” This has been a thing I’ve had to keep an eye on and be aware of in order to maintain a balance in my personal and professional life.
And finally, one of the last major points (that I also noted above in what I’ve learned in this work) that I’ve reflected on in my journal and strived to remember throughout this journey thus far is that it is our own practice that lets us keep our center and be able to do the hard stuff. “Keep your own flame bright, or you cannot show others its light.”