It's funny how often we can let things slide. Time has a way of getting away from us if we aren't watching it, and the next thing you know, it's been a week, a month, a year. Whether it's calling your mother, writing a letter to a friend, or even something as simple as cleaning up around the apartment, if you don't make a regular habit of reminding yourself to do things, suddenly they've piled sky-high. A magickal practice, and the various things that go with it, can fall by the wayside just as easily, but they can also be immensely helpful in combating these tendencies, if proper attention is paid to them.
One of the things Christopher Penczak teaches in The Inner Temple of Witchcraft is that journaling is a very important, and useful practice. It encourages introspection and thoughtfulness; it also allows us to look back at a situation later and see who and where we were as a person at that point in our life. I've started and stopped keeping a journal countless times. As I began this journey again, I decided to continue using a past journal (in no small part because it's a very pretty journal), and before writing my first entry, I looked back at the previous ones there. Between this, and other journals, I have entries from 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and now 2013. In all cases, the days I kept to the practice came in bursts, and were sporadic. Particularly interesting to me, is that as I think back, I know that many of the times where I did not keep a journal were at relatively low points in my mental and emotional state. By extension, once I stopped, I usually didn't pick up the journal again until several months had passed, or a year in some cases (two years, this time), when I decided to "try again" with my magickal practice.
Each new start was marked with an entry talking about how this time would be different than all those other times. This time I would succeed. This time I wasn't going to stop in the middle, forget about my practice, give up, and start again a few months later. Most of the entries fall between November and February, so already, this whole "studying Witchcraft in April" thing is new. In other words, this is the first time it's really been different, and there are a number of factors contributing to it. Chief among them, I live alone now, and am in pretty much every way the sole person responsible for my success or failure on any level. On the one hand, that provides an added layer of stress, but on the other hand, it also gives me a space that is entirely mine to do with as I will. My altar and tools are my own, and I am able to make the space specifically comfortable for my own practice. I have also been dating someone who is directly supportive of my practice, by way of actually doing it along with me. Having someone else who is reading the same materials, doing the same meditations and exercises, and is generally on the same path, is very motivating.
It's also particularly helpful that if I fall behind at all, he doesn't let me berate myself about it, but instead gently encourages me to pick up where I left off. As it turns out, I'm not really built for solitary practice, but with someone else to be guided by, and also to guide, I have a lot more focus. At the same time that he's going through Inner Temple with me, he is also focusing on his own studies of Gipsy lore, and if you have any interest in that, he's started his own blog, here.
So, once again, I find myself coming back to the disciplines that form the foundation of magickal practice: journaling, daily meditation, basic energy work. But another thing that's different is finally realizing that the state of my surroundings has a very direct correlation to the state of my practice, and for that matter, to my emotional state in general. It occurred to me that in all of the stories and fantasy novels I've read about a wizard's apprentice, or a young witch, or a novice of the Aes Sedai, there has been one common thread: they are all required to spend much of their day doing menial tasks around the place of their education. What if, rather than being about the master having far more important things to do, it's actually about making certain the student fully understands how to take care of themselves once they are out on their own? Making certain they can keep their space tidy enough not to clutter their mind with worries about all the things that need to be done.
I've been thoroughly cleaning and re-organizing my apartment, clearing out old papers and files I don't need any more, and generally opening up the space. The less clutter there is, the easier the process becomes, and the less time it takes to do each daily or weekly task. The less overwhelmed I feel with the mundane things I must do every day, the more free I feel to engage in my magickal studies, which as it turns out, are essentially about doing the same things on an inner level that I'm doing on an outer level. I'm beginning to finally understand what Penczak means by, "...if you choose the path of the witch, you may not necessarily be doing spells and rituals all the time, but you will undeniably be doing magick. Magick is a part of each breath we take and every action we make."
If you put yourself in the right mindset, cleaning the house, washing dishes, and doing laundry can be as much an act of magick as a Samhain ritual. Talk about getting back to basics.