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What daily practices does Paganism promote for well-being? - Elf M. Sternberg
What daily practices does Paganism promote for well-being?
The older meaning of philosophy, "love of wisdom," was meant to encourage the followers of any one given school of wisdom to put that wisdom into daily use. Cynicism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism, and Neoplatonism all started with premises, but ultimately pushed their students to express the consequences of those premises in their daily lives. The word "ethics" originally meant the study and development of excellence in one's character. Ultimately, all of these things come down to one idea: daily practice.

There is daily practice in most successful philosophies. Buddhism's includes daily meditation, mindfulness in each act, the the mantras of no ego and no permanence. Islam has the adhan. Christiantiy has daily prayer, as well as The Contemplation of the Christ in all its stations. Stoicism, the longest-surviving of all the non-theistic (or perhaps pantheistic) philosophies, has its own, and I'm most familiar with those: the morning contemplation of one's place in the world and its affirmation of fate willing, I will accomplish the work the world has brought me; the evening contemplation of one's work, three times and contra fate, and how closely it aligned with your morning affirmation, the regular assessments of impermanence, value, mindfulness, and self-discipline. Stoicism, especially, has a tradtion of psychological self-care that I find both demanding and valuable.

Christianity, Buddhism, and Stoicism might seem wildly different, but underneath, at the personal level, they have their similarities, especially the counter-tribal varieties that most people find admirable. All three have comprehensive daily regimes that assist you in maintaining your mental health in the full face of the truly despairing state of human existence.

I have yet to see a book at a Pagan bookstore or hear of daily practice at a Pagan gathering that imposes the same sorts of self-discipline and self-care on pagan practitioners. Do Pagans have these sorts of teachings? Or are they attached, willy-nilly, from other philosophical bases?

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acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 6th, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, there's a goodly amount of discussion, at least informally, about such things, but there isn't any one practice that everyone agrees "should" be done. (Of course, if you have two Pagans in a room, you have at least five opinions.) Since there's no received doctrine (except within certain branches of Wicca), no scripture, no canon, each individual is free to choose how to express zir own spirituality. I think that's one of the best things about Paganism in general. "Religion is like bread - it's tastier and better for you when it's homemade."
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acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 8th, 2013 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Many of us, including me, are very pragmatic. If something works, we'll do it, no matter how weird or silly or irrelevant it might appear to be. (And if something doesn't work, why bother?)
kenshardik From: kenshardik Date: May 6th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I cannot speak for all Pagans - nor would I try to - especially since I am Wiccan. I have had many discussions about morality and consequence and acting intentionally with the head of my tradition. We both have issues with what are considered by many the cornerstones of Wiccan traditions: the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law.

The Wiccan Rede is usually written/spoken as, "An it harm none, do what ye will." The basic idea is that as long as your actions harm no one, do what you want to do. But there are a number of problems with this. What exactly is "harm"? What exactly is "none"? You can come up with simplistic counterarguments ("What if someone was about to kill people with a gun and I had a gun?") and append statements to the Rede to try and make it more precise ("An it harm none, do what ye will; an it cause harm, do as ye must"), but at the end of the day the Rede tries to cover too much moral ground. Many have come to the conclusion that what the Rede really means is that you have freedom of action but must take responsibility for your actions. So why doesn't it say that?

Many Wiccans (and other Pagans) believe in the Threefold Law: "Whatever you do to others comes back to you threefold". One of my problems with many forms of Christianity is the idea that if you do bad things (i.e. sin) then you will pay for it when you die (damnation). The religion basically threatens you to be good or else you'll pay for it. I don't see the Threefold Law as any different than threatening someone with suffering if they do bad things. Why can't you simply do good things because it's a good way to live? Why must there be a penalty to force you to be good?

I expect some Wiccans (and other Pagans) use the "willy-nilly" approach. I know many Pagans who meditate. I have done several rituals where there was guided meditation as part of the "work" of the ritual. I think in general that people who are drawn to Wicca are unhappy with traditional religion and being told what to do. They are looking for a direct connection to the divine and, through initial readings of the Rede and the Threefold Law, will hopefully develop an understanding that they are responsible for their actions and their outcomes.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: May 6th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Like kenshardik, I am Pagan and Wiccan (by analogy with "Christian/Lutheran"). The main devotional practice I was taught is to simply live mindfully, in the Buddhist sense, with specific attention to one's place within the natural world. This looks just like being ecologically aware - conserving energy and resources, recycling, using environmentally friendly products, etc., - but it's done with an underlying spiritual intent. (And, of course, everyone does it differently, depending on their own personal circumstances.)

One very particular practice I picked up somewhere along the way is to always greet the Moon whenever you see Her in the sky. While I think the original form was to "kiss one's hand to the Moon", I tend to just say softly and worshipfully, "Hello, Beautiful!"

Edited at 2013-05-06 09:02 pm (UTC)
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