“Spiritual practices help us move from identifying with the ego to identifying with the soul. Old age does that for you too. It spiritualizes people naturally. Then for those who don’t get it, death does it for them.” Ram Dass
If Ram Dass is right and spiritual practices help in this process of shifting from a limited consciousness (which he calls the ego) to a broader, deeper one (the soul), then a good question to ask ourselves is “What spiritual practices are best for me?” The alternative, suggested by our quote, is to simply wait for old age or death for this process to occur. But I think most of us don’t want to wait. Even when we’re old, we sense that the process is enhanced if we actively co-operate with it, and many spiritual teachings suggest that the journey of death is easier and potentially more rewarding if we have worked during our lifetime to make this shift from egoic to soul consciousness.
So if we want to do this, each of us needs to find those practices which best suit us, and part of the journey of any seeker is to explore different techniques to gradually ‘home in’ on those practices which seem the most effective. Over time our needs and tastes may change, and the circumstances of our life may alter, but somehow, for whatever reasons and through whatever routes we have taken, many of us reading this article now find ourselves having chosen to follow Druidry as a spiritual path.
What practices, then, should we use? As a tradition it is so rich: the OBOD course, websites and books on Druidism are so full of ideas, suggestions, techniques, exercises and ceremonies, that such a simple question can seem hard to answer.
I’d like to suggest that one way to approach an answer to this is to broaden our understanding of spiritual practices, to see them as being components of something bigger which, confusingly, is described with almost exactly the same words: ‘Spiritual Practice’. To appreciate the difference between ‘spiritual practices’ and ‘Spiritual Practice’ try asking yourself: ‘How can I build a Spiritual Practice?’ Rather than referring to just one method, we can see that in this way of using the term we are describing a set of methods that we have learned or developed that are particularly suited to our needs and which collectively become our ‘practice’.
Used in this way within Druidry, Spiritual Practice is made up of two components: an Inner Way and an Outer Way. The Inner Way involves meditation, the Outer Way ritual.
To start building your own practice, you need to find that method of meditation, of finding inner calm, of voyaging in the inner world, that best suits you. Some will find visualisation techniques work best for them, others sound or music, others working with body sensations and awareness of energy flows. The Light Body exercise, for example, works with both visualisation and body awareness, but some will work with it almost exclusively in visualisation, others in sensation – in feeling.
As you work with the OBOD course, various different ways of meditating will be offered, so that you can gradually become familiar with different ways of developing this inner practice.
But Druidry is not an approach that advocates only inner work. The Druid philosophy is one which says we have a body for a reason, and that we live in an embodied world for a reason, and so moving and working in that world in a conscious, magical way is as important as working in the inner world. And so we have ritual as a form of devotion, celebration, magic, and moving prayer. And beyond formalised ritual we can extend our understanding of the Outer Way of Practice into the way we act in the world – the way we ‘walk our talk’.
If this interests you, you might like to take a while to think about how you can build your practice. You could think about how long you would like it to be, how often and so on. Imagine your ideal first, then tailor this to your circumstances: a dawn meditation and ritual for an hour each day may in reality have to become a shorter attunement and simple ceremony before you take the children to school, but by working from your ideal first, the inspiring quality and direction of your ideal will still be present in your briefer practice.
Many blessings to you at this time of Alban Elfed – the Autumn Equinox!