Since I was a small child, I have suffered bouts of depression. Most of the time I muddle through but a few times it has been crippling: the kind where you spend months in bed, looking down at yourself and thinking, “JUST GET UP. JUST DO IT.” But you don’t. Because you can’t.
I’ve been in remission for a couple of years since my last big black hole, and I have a new medication combo that is working very well. I’m working, I’m up and about. By and large, I’m good, even though this past year has thrown more garbage my way than I care to discuss.
Recently, though, I can feel the Black Dog skulking around the edges of my emotions. Meds are keeping me upright, but I’m not finding a lot of joy lately. It worries me.
Particularly, what worries me is that the very first symptom I notice when things are starting to turn south is that my spiritual life dries up. I don’t notice the daily natural occurences that used to bring me happiness. I don’t take time for ritual observances. My Focus (altar) goes untended.
It’s paradoxical, because ritual would do me a lot of good. But when I start hearing the Authoritative Liar say, “what’s the use?”, more often than not—and like it or not—I listen.
For those of you who don’t suffer from depression/anxiety, btw: be grateful. It is a miserable, chronic condition and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
So what brings me to the keyboard today is to try to problem-solve this. How do you make yourself go through the motions of spiritual practice in order to re-prime the pump and get reconnected?
Any of my fellow sufferers have any ideas?
And for the rest of you: do you ever experience Dusty Altar Syndrome? What do YOU do to reengage your practice?
RitualThis piece is excerpted from the Atheopagan Ritual Primer.
A Focus is what Atheopagans call an altar. We choose a different word because “altar” implies worship—or even sacrifice—and we want to be clear that that isn’t what we are doing.
The Focus is a work of art: a still life assemblage of symbols and meaningful objects. It can be central to the enactment of a ritual, or it may be off to one side. Multiple Foci may be used if desired, designed around different themes. Building a Focus is a fun and creative activity and can itself be done as a ritual, in an intentional, Present and “focused” manner.
Typically, a Focus incorporates multiple elements of ritual technology: candles, incense, symbolic items, art, food items to be shared and/or items to be used during a ritual, etc. The creation of a Focus is a subtle art. A successful one will draw the eye and evoke fascination and curiosity when first viewed.
When building one, be sure to remember that you will need lighting of some kind if the ritual will take place under low lighting conditions: candles or oil lamps are the warmest and most welcoming light.