What is a daily practice?
Daily Practice is basically what it sounds like: a set of practices that you perform every day to help you develop some aspect of your spirituality. These practices can take many forms and accomplish many things. It may give you time to offer devotion to a deity and develop your spiritual relationships, practice energy work, meditate, pray, journal, or even focus on inner, emotional work . I have seen many models of potential daily practices: lighting candles and incense, saying certain prayers, performing certain ritual or symbolic actions, engaging in some kind of spiritual cleansing, etc, etc. While the models and the steps that people include in their own daily practices can easily be found in many places, I haven’t come across an article that offers practical advice on how not just to do a daily practice, but how to realistically maintain one. I have been keeping a daily practice pretty consistently since I first started formally studying Anderson Feri in mid 2012, and am going to share some of the methods that have given me the most success towards staying focused and motivated.
I was first introduced to a structure for Daily Practice by my first Feri teacher: the esteemed Jenya T. Beachy: mother of the Shapeshifter Line. At that point in my life, I had been very interested in Anderson Feri for a while, and I was hungry for it. That hunger and desire to learn was what kicked off my path of self-examination and focused devotion that is still serving me and transforming me to this day. While some of my personal practices may be Feri specific, the methods of maintaining a practice can work for anyone in any tradition.
1. Have a designated space
In my many years of maintaining daily practices, one of the most important keys for my success has been choosing one place to do my practice in every time, at least in the beginning. Why is that?
When you’re starting out with a daily practice, you’re trying to build a habit, and you may find yourself in a battle with your own monkey mind. Nobody is forcing you to do this practice, you’re not going to make any money from it, and the only person holding you accountable is yourself. You are most likely taking on a daily practice in order to improve your spiritual life/wellbeing, but this goal can seem so abstract at times that it may be easy for your brain to convince you that the extra 30 minutes in the morning on Youtube is more important that getting up out of the warm bed to go sit in front of a candle instead (I have so been there!)
Having a specific place you go to every day will help you to build a rhythm and a habit, so even when you don’t “feel like it”, your body can still go through the motions to get you there in front of that candle.
The very first space I started using for my daily practice was at a tiny, wooden altar I had set up in a small closet. It was far from a Hermetic Temple, but having a small space that was mine helped to give me focus. Since I first started that practice, I’ve lived in six different houses, and in each one I picked a modest, comfortable space for myself that over the course of time would turn into one of my favorite places in the house to visit. The size of a space doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s realistic, reachable, and a space you have autonomy in. Even a nightstand next to your bed can become a sacred space for you with the right intention.
If you plan to do your daily practice in the morning (like I prefer to), I also recommend choosing a place that isn’t too far away from your bed. My current temple alcove is one room away from where my bed is, and in the past it’s been even closer. This is simply because I know myself, and I know that I will be far less enthused to do my practice first thing in the morning if it means I have to go outside in the cold or go up and down flights of stairs to get there. That might work for a month, but if I planned to do this every morning I knew that I’d have to make my space more accessible. There’s no reason to beat yourself up for not being able to act like you’re living in a monastery, lighting candles and chanting bright and early at 5 AM if that’s not realistic for you. Doing prayers at 5 AM or 10 AM doesn’t make you more or less spiritual: be honest with your limits and don’t set yourself up for failure for no reason!
2. Make your space somewhere you like to be
One of the ways that I have found successful to get me in front of my altar every morning, is to make sure that my altar is somewhere I like to go. There are many ways to achieve that, and money doesn’t have to be a prerequisite.
I’m lucky enough to have a small, finished eave that I’ve been able to transform into my meditation/prayer corner. I’ve collected items over the years that I’ve used to transform it into a space that I love to be in: I have a meditation cushion I sit on, a small wooden altar (the same one from the closet!) that I put my candles, statues, Kala cup, and incense on, a corkboard to pin up prayers, meditations, and spells to and a storage box for spiritual books I’m working through. I’ve decorated the walls with paper stars, prayer flags, string lights, and artwork: things that make me happy and remind me why I’m there. Sometimes I add new things, and sometimes I change things just to mix it up.
While finding/creating your sacred space can be a fun part of building your practice, I would also encourage you to allow the elements to grow gradually and naturally, and to resist the temptation to use daily practice as an excuse to jump into an expensive decoration project. Once the excitement of the new wears off, you may find that your enthusiasm for your practice wears off too.
Start simple: add elements to your space that you find beautiful and inspiring, even if they’re small. Try burning incense you enjoy the smell of, or listening to music in your space that puts you in a good mood to do your work. You’re helping your subconscious mind (your good ‘ol Fetch) to associate your daily practice with good feelings, rather than feelings of stress, pressure, or guilt.
3. Build a Skeleton
As I already mentioned, consistency is going to be your friend in the beginning (they say it takes 60 days to successfully create a habit). When you first start a daily practice, it’s a good idea to pick a few small practices that you will do in the same order every day, and this will form the “skeleton” of any future practice. My skeleton looks something like:
– Holy Mother Prayer/Light candle
– Light incense/smudging/Devotional songs
– Anoint hands, head, and heart with oil/Divine will prayer
– Soul Alignment/Ha prayer
– Kala Rite
– Run the Iron Pentacle
These are my bare minimum practices, and altogether they take me about 15 minutes. This skeleton is important because it’s going to give you the structure to eventually be able to keep up on your daily practice no matter where you are or what the conditions are. It’s going to be a structure you can rely on when you’re feeling rushed, feeling uninspired, or just aren’t that sure what to work on that day. As long as I’ve done my bare minimum for the day, I know that I’ve done something of value, which brings me to my next key…
4. Choose practices that actually matter to you
There are so many exercises, prayers, and devotional practices that you could potentially add to a daily practice. A daily practice can be focused around the worship of a single or many deities, meditation, self-improvement, psychic self-defense and cleansing: anything you want or need. The most important thing to ensure that your practice remains consistent, is that every piece of your daily practice actually matters to you and reflects your own priorities. If you read a list of exercises that a teacher or author tells you are important to do every day, but after trying them you aren’t getting anything out of it or feeling any benefit in your life from doing them, you aren’t going to remain consistent. When constructing your skeleton, think of what it is you’d like to accomplish with your practice every day. Assess what your practices do, how they make you feel, and what you’ve gained from them or want to gain from them.
The exercises in my practice became a part of my morning out of a desire to learn Feri, but remained a part of my practice because of the positive results I’ve observed in my life from doing them daily. They’ve become old friends that I can rely on to help me keep my s*** together when I’m flailing, or to help me start my mornings with mindfulness and devotion. Each piece serves a purpose that does something different for me:
– Holy Mother Prayer: Helps me to focus on the divine and is my cue to enter into work-mode
– Grounding: This helps to seat my consciousness in the present, and helps me to connect to the spirit of the land I live in.
– Incense: I use incense as a way to do a spiritual cleansing every morning, and as an opportunity to sing devotional songs to specific deities or all the deities/spirits I work with.
– Anoint with oil: This serves as a blessing after cleansing, and makes me grateful/mindful of the work my 3 souls do for me. Sometimes I’ll use the same oil for a while, and sometimes I’ll mix it up with condition oils if I’m working towards some specific piece of magic at the time.
– Soul Alignment: This practice is similar to centering, and is a practice that helps me to keep all three souls aligned. In my experience, when the three souls are talking to each other on a daily basis, they are much better at working together to help manifest and achieve goals.
– Kala Rite: This is another layer of cleansing, where I have the opportunity to help to cleanse and transform negative emotions, or just to replenish my mana/hamingja/life-force.
– Iron Pentacle: This exercise helps me to keep my power circulating, helps me to work through inner complexes/blockages, and helps to keep me mindful of aspects of my life that I’m trying to strengthen.
These are elements that I have found important to maintain as a spirit worker/witch/devotee, and this balance has worked for me. As I mentioned above, your practice should reflect your own aims and goals, and you should be able to explain (even if just to yourself!) why your practices are in there and what they are accomplishing. Your goal may be more devotional in nature, and may include wanting to build relationships with deities or spirits. In cases like that, the majority of your work may centralize on prayers to that god, meditation on that god, the use of prayer-beads, giving songs and offerings, or reading sacred stories. As long as your practice remains meaningful to you, there’s no wrong answer here.
5. Mix things up now and then
Once you have your skeleton and are comfortable in your practice, you can start adding new elements as you desire. I have personally found this to be important to my practice, as focusing on new work helps to keep me interested and motivated. Repetition helps to build consistency and discipline, but it can also begin to feel like drudgery to me if I do the exact same thing for too long.
One way that I accomplish this, is to use my practice as an opportunity to work through any books or training that I’m currently interested in. In the past, I’ve worked through an exercise a day (or a week) in magic-related books, read devotional poetry, or taken time to focus on new training material.
Aside from trying new exercises, I’ve also completely shifted the focus of my practice depending on my needs. Recently, I focused a full month of practice on devotional work with Loki, and adjusted the language in my daily practice skeleton to reflect that. Once you have a solid structure, you can treat it flexibly without derailing your routine.
6. Be as consistent with time as you realistically can
Most authors who have written about daily practice suggest that you should choose a time every day in which to perform your practice, and treat it like an appointment you keep. For some of you, that may prove to be helpful advice (especially those who have large families or children that need your attention). For me, having to watch the clock and be in front of my altar at a specific time every day starts to feel stressful, which in turn can make me feel resistant. I tend to loosely set aside time for my practice in the morning. It may not happen at exactly the same time every day, but as long as it happens every day that’s all that matters. If I didn’t have time to get to it first thing in the morning, sometimes I wait until after work to complete it. Committing myself to doing my daily practice at least once a day has given me enough flexibility to be able to stay consistent (I’m sure there are a bunch of A-Type personalities out there who would be driven nuts by my approach, but I know myself well enough to know my limits!).
If you’re the type of person can’t function without a strict schedule, then try your best to stick to that. If strict schedules in your spiritual practice give you more anxiety than guidance, flow with a little more leniency. In either case, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to dedicate a full hour to your practice every day if that isn’t realistic for your responsibilities. 15 minutes a day to center yourself and talk to your gods is still more rewarding than 0 minutes a day.
7. Be willing to forgive yourself
I hope that I’ve successfully demonstrated that I am far from a superhuman just because I’ve been able to effectively train myself to do daily spiritual work. I’m not perfect, and to this day I admit that there are weeks where I’m not on point and miss a day or two. I’m human, and it happens. No matter how enthusiastic you may be about having a practice, this will eventually also happen to you. When it happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. As human beings having to live in the mundane world, take care of families, and make a living, our spiritual practice can easily become the first thing to fall through the cracks. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad devotee. All you can do is tell yourself “I’m going to try again tomorrow”, and then try to stick to it. Punishing yourself or beating yourself up over perceived failures is a sure way to ensure that your practice begins to feel more like a chore you’re being forced to do than something fulfilling that you actually want to do.
Some days your practice might be as simple as sitting in front of your altar for 5 minutes, thanking your gods and spirits for their help in your life, and asking them to help you through the day, and that’s totally fine. Don’t forget: there’s nobody watching you over your shoulder to make sure that you’re being super-witch/pagan/polytheist. This daily practice is meant to benefit you and your life, not to prove your worth.
I hope that that you find these small nuggets of advice helpful. Hopefully, they might even inspire those who have wanted to do a daily practice but found the idea too overwhelming to jump in the deep end and give it a shot anyway. As the self-proclaimed “most disorganized person in the world”, if I can figure out how to do this, anybody can.
I’m including a list of recommended reading and possible resources at the bottom of this article. You will notice that one of these books is by a Christian author. This obviously isn’t because I’m suggesting you do a daily Bible reading (unless of course you want to), but because I have found valuable suggestions towards daily devotional work from Christian writers, and you might find them helpful too.
With that, Hail Loki, and good luck!