November 23, 2015

How to Begin

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely.

But how? is what I hear many people new to paganism, to polytheism, to magic, and more, asking. How do I begin? Where is the beginning?

There are so many books out there that purport to, or at least imply that they do, have the One True Way. All of these things to read, all of them telling readers How It Must Be Done. It's ridiculous, and overwhelming, and it scares people off.

  1. Begin now. Don't wait for things to be perfect, because they will never be perfect. If you wait to begin praying until you have all these fancy tools and altars and statues and ritual garb, you won't begin, because there will never be enough of it. There's always something else to have, forever. If you wait for it to be perfectly silent before you meditate, you will never meditate, because unless you have an anechoic chamber handy, there is no perfect silence. Pick something, anything, to do, and do it. Do it again, and again, and again. Keep doing it until it's habitual to do it. That's a regular practice. Ready for more? Pick something else to do, and do that, too.
  2. Begin where you are. There is literally no place else you can begin. Very few people can meditate for more than a minute or two at a time to start. Very few people can get every visualization on the first try. It's ok if you're not one of the very few. You are where you are, you can do only as much as you can do. So today, do what you can do today. Do that again tomorrow, and the next day. After a while, the amount that you can do today will feel easy. That's when you stretch it. Meditate for two minutes instead of one. Keep beating your drum for an extra four-count. Whatever it is, try for a little more. But don't get mad at yourself for not being able to do it every time. That's useless. It will stop you from doing anything.
  3. Begin simply. Whatever you pick to begin with, let it be simple. One kind of meditation, one prayer, one offering, one deck of tarot cards. Don't needlessly multiply things. There are so many cool things out there that it's tempting to jump in to as much as possible as fast as possible. But this way lies burnout. There is time and time and time, and you can study anything you want, because there is time. But for now, begin with just one thing.
  4. Begin with what makes sense. This is brand new to you. A lot of it won't make sense. You have plenty of time to learn, to come to understand. For now, start with the things that already make some sense to you. There's depth beneath them, more than you realize, and you'll learn about that in time, too. But the best way to learn it is by doing it. So don't put off doing while you read more and more books, trying to understand everything before you begin. Begin now, where you are, with something simple, that makes sense at a basic level. And then go from there.

    Unlike the White Rabbit's verses, there is no end to stop at. There is time to get to it all, eventually. If you practice, you will gain skill and confidence, understanding. You'll gain it at your own rate, not anyone else's. You have your whole life to learn it, your whole life to get there. Be as patient with yourself as you can be.