Building a daily practice

A frequent question that comes up in relation to Brigid, but indeed with many other deities, is how to build a daily practice or what does a daily practice look like. It can be confusing at first, particularly for those of us coming from either a secular background or a very formulaic spiritual background. I mean as a Catholic, the Catechism tell us (or used to anyway!) that we should pray “every morning, and every night, and in all dangers, temptations and afflictions”.  Interestingly, I found this story, from www.duchas.ie outlining how often this phrase is used: One day a priest went in to a school and asked a little girl when should she pray? The little girl did not know. Then he said, “When does your mother milk the cow?” She said, “every morning, and every night, and in all dangers, temptations, and afflictions.” (From School: Tuaim Gréine, Lúbán Díge Location: Tomgraney, Co. Clare Teacher: Pádraig Ó Cadhla)

In fact that phrase is a catch all answer in Ireland for when something should be done in general – although dying out now as the Catechism is no longer rote learned. Although there are signs it might be returning, I hope not!

But back to a daily practice. First things first – start small. While it’s grand to imagine a wonderful daily ritual with all sorts of bells and whistles, chances are, you won’t keep that up for long. I don’t care if you feel you have 5 free hours in the day, trust me, as soon as you put something long and arduous into place, it’s easy to find things to fill that space. So, start small. In a recent chat I had with Lora O’Brien over at the Irish Pagan School (the chat’s on youtube, so have a look for it) she mentions a time in her life when her daily practice was 3 deep breaths. Because that was the time she had to deal with with three kids needing attention. So, when I say “start small” I really mean small. Three deep breaths is as good a way as any to start really. But make them intentional. Three random breaths probably won’t have the effect you want. But a conscious thought of “right, I’m going to take my three deep breaths now, here we go” will make all the difference.

Now with Brigid, she’s never adverse to a candle being lit or a fire being lit. This might be a wax candle or an LED candle, it’s up to you. The point is to light it with intention. (I know, here we go with intention again!) These days, I work from home about half the week. When I’m working at home, I light a candle to start off the working day, as a way to both demarcate between “home” and “work” and also to get some help with the broadband. But it’s an intention that I’m about to start work and since I’m an engineer, that’s part of my daily practice. But more generally, lighting a candle is an act, a physical act, to take the time to breath, maybe do a bit of meditation or prayer, acknowledge the existence of herself.

A daily practice of meditation is a good habit to get into (she says, as someone who needs to get back into regular meditation after a few weeks hiatus!) It’s good for mind and spirituality, in my opinion. Now the physical and mental benefits of meditation are well documented at this point. Go have a look at Google Scholar or something similar if you want to read up on it. But it’s also allowing time and space to let Brigid in, creating room for her to get in touch or at least make her aware you’re paying attention. In most of my courses, I have a meditation element involved because of this. They are useful. And because I, myself, prefer a visualisation element to my meditation, I use those meditations regularly. And building up that habit is like building a muscle – it becomes easier over time.

For me as well, I use my daily movement practice as part of my devotion – cos frankly, otherwise I’d never feckin move! I’m generally not a fan. But by making it a devotional act to help my body working as best it can for as long as it can, I’m taking care of her tools. It’s important to me to do this. You may find cooking, baking for your family is a devotional practice. You may find knitting or sewing something for yourself or a loved one or a complete stranger is a devotional practice. You may find lots of things you can do that might be part of a daily practice. And look, some days my movement might be 5 mins so I can technically say I moved. That’s ok too. Sometimes even just going through the motions is enough. Not every practice will involve deep inspiration or divine contact. But going through the motions is just as important.

Alongside this I will mention offerings. This is not something I usually feel called to do, because she has a lot of other things for me to do. However, I do know people like the idea of leaving offerings out for Brigid. And this can be part of your daily practice. Make her a nice cuppa in the morning when you’re making your own. Give her the first or the best bits of meals. If you bake a loaf of bread, trust me, she’d love a bit of it, warm from the oven, covered in butter. Or, y’know, whatever you want. As to how long to leave things out, that’s up to your own personal circumstances. Liquids can usually be left out for a few hours or overnight, unless you have animals or kids that might get their hands on them. I mean, Brigid is a mother too, she knows what kids are like, but make an effort to make sure they don’t get hold of it. Won’t do them any harm, but it’s my belief that some essence of the food is gone once we offer it to deity. And dispose of the food carefully as well. We’re lucky to have a compost heap on which most waste things food related get chucked. But putting them in the bin is just as alright, if you can’t throw them out for animals etc. Also, if you are throwing things out for animals, just be careful you won’t poison said animals with the food you’re throwing out. I’ll not give any advice here, since you’ll know your local area better than I will.

My work, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions before, is part of my devotion to her. Part of that is to be a visible female engineer, to allow myself be used as a role model and sometimes, an example of what not to do… But it is part of my work with Brigid. Not everyone can say their career is an act of devotion and frankly, you might not want to! But you might do things on a regular if not daily basis that might be acts of devotion. You might create poetry or prayers for her. You might help out in a soup kitchen. You might be active in community groups, be a mentor, be there for a friend in need. There are all sorts of things that can add up as part of a regular, if not daily, practice. To me, ultimately, the best daily practice we can have, is to live lives as ethically and morally as we can. Note I didn’t outline what either “ethical” or “moral” mean. That’s up for each person to figure out. But once you do, living up to your own standards is the way to go. Live a congruous life – in harmony with your beliefs and values. It’s easier that working in a role that directly opposes what your core beliefs are (Trust me – personal experience!) Be a force for good in this world. Support the community in which you live. Support the communities of which you’re a part. Ultimately that’s the best place to end up

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