Patreon Topic 31: On Burnout

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From Kate comes this topic:

“I’m very new to following my current path, and was interested on ways to prevent burnout and becoming overwhelmed while opening up to what the Gods are teaching me.”

The first thing to keep is boundaries. Remember, the Gods do not necessarily have our perspective/experience in mind when They give us things to do. Because our relationships are a two-way street we need to be clear about what our boundaries are. Some Gods, such as Óðinn, might push you hard on moving your boundaries back. My advice, earned through no small amount of doing this, is to not do that. You still need to be able to live well in this world. In my case Óðinn pushed me to the breaking point before I finally exercised my right to enforce my boundaries. He did not do this out of callousness, but to teach me, especially because a vaettr with an agenda might take advantage of that zeal.

Boundaries, such as right relationship with a God, Goddess, Ancestors, and/or vaettir may be personally as well as communally negotiated. Our various sources of information, such as myths and archaeology, can help us to see where the boundaries used to lie between the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and Their worshipers at one time. Having this as an idea of where to start can help. Again, “the past gets a vote, not a veto.” In the end, we are the living carriers of these religions and it is our relationships that we are engaging in with the Ginnreginn. Right relationship with our communities is something we each need to decide on what that looks like.

The second thing to keep are the things that bring us contentment, joy, and relaxation. Rituals to and with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir should be things we enjoy. They do not need to be overly complex or too simplistic unless such is a requirement from Them. Likewise, how we live our lives needs to involve periods where we can take care of our obligations, ourselves, and those we love. Schedule them if you need to.

The third thing to keep is mindfulness. Since we are largely reviving our religions, I will share a quote I love from Ocean Keltoi: “The past gets a vote not a veto.” We can take inspiration, quite a bit from our religions’ forebears, but this path now is ours to live. Mindfulness keeps us connected with our worldview, and from there how we relate to everything in the Worlds. Mindfulness may involve meditation, simply observing our thoughts on a thing we are going to do and correcting or affirming it, or just taking a step back from a situation. Mindfulness helps to prevent burnout because it helps us to recognize when we are becoming overwhelmed or burnt out. It helps us to keep our boundaries, or to let us know when they’re being too rigidly enforced. Sometimes the boundaries we make can turn into prisons with enough worry or strictures around how we think. Without boundaries we have no structure into which our relationships and spiritual experiences go, and so they can lose meaning or any anchoring in our lives. So, questioning boundaries or being willing to let them move or tighten up can be helpful.

The fourth thing to keep is community. Whether online or off, a good community can help to keep us grounded, evaluate information, and develop discernment. In the case of this topic suggestion, just asking the question and the responses I give here has the potential to help someone, and so not only are you potentially helping yourself, you may also be helping other folks you will never personally meet. The boundaries advice was first, though, because sometimes communities can be unhelpful, whether they are misled, toxic, or just not communicating well. So, keeping your boundaries, your contentment, joy, and relaxation, and your mindfulness helps when interfacing with communities so you have the grounds on which to judge whether a given community can or will be helpful to you. A community that asks too much or gives too little back will definitely contribute to stress, burnout, and overwhelm. Likewise, a community that has a good balance with you and one another can contribute to each member facing these things.

It is totally acceptable and good to just have a simple devotional relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. There is no race, no competition, no need to go any faster or slower than what your needs require. You are just beginning your journey, and it may take a short while or as long as  years to find if you have a niche, and if you do have one, what that niche is. So, how to apply all of this?

Developing a daily practice is an excellent boundary to keep, both because it allows for a period of our lives to be given over to our religious obligations and because it gives us space to be able to enjoy contact with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Daily practice can start quite small, say five minutes a day. The kicker here is to do it regularly. This discipline can help quite a bit in giving us a place to have contact with our Ginnreginn (Mighty/Holy Powers) in an ordered space that allows us to shed every other thing except the time we give over to be with Them. Keeping this boundary, both with myself and others, has allowed me no small amount of peace, contentment, and joy. It has allowed me to bring mindfulness into my everyday life in a lot of profound ways, and it has deepened my involvement with community, both through platforms like these and through the work I am ble to do because my bases are covered, and my baseline obligations are taken care of.

Intentionally setting aside time to engage in things that make you happy, that bring on contenment, joy, and relaxation, helps us not only handle our everyday stress, it also helps us in our spiritual pursuits too. By providing that down-time we won’t be as tempted to eat into the time we give to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It also allows us to unwind and if we are in a places where we can, to reflect on our experiences and find ways to integrate them into our lives. Whether it is reading, listening to music, playing video games, socializing, whatever gets you there, we make the choice to not divorce our spirituality from the rest of our lives. We are able to bring our religions right into what we enjoy there too. Folks, myself included, have made playlists to Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that include songs we deeply enjoy that tie those bond with Them tighter through sharing more of our lives with Them. By going beyond some boundaries, eg a strict separation of religion from the rest of one’s life, we can encourage a more integrated and deeper bond with our Ginnreginn that spans our lives. Sometimes, though, we do need to have clear boundaries on our time and to just do things for ourselves.

There are a lot of resources on how to develop mindfulness. One of the best tools for me is a series of questions I still use: “What does it do? How well does it do it?” This can be applied to tools as to devotional work, eg making offerings. It can also be applied to whether some activity is me keeping myself busy vs something that actually allows me to relax. Being mindful takes practice, and as your skill in it grows it can be applied to more things in your life. How you shop and what you shop for can be informed by mindful consideration, eg “Does this thing comport with the values of my worldview? If yes, how well? If no, do I still need this or want this bad enough that I can justify it to my worldview? Is there another way to get this thing/result?” How you enjoy certain things for relaxation may change over time as well, eg “This music used to be soothing but since using it in ritual I have this association now and need to find new music.” Your boundaries and tastes and so much more can change over time, so adaptability paired with mindfulness can help things to flow to some useful, powerful places.

Recognize that there are going to be times in your life where you need to drop back in some of your practices, take stock of where you are, and do the minimum so you can keep on keeping on. This does not make you a failure or a bad Pagan. Everyone has times in their life that will make them take a huge step back from whatever they are used to or think that they have to do, and parse your priorities, needs, obligations, and what you can do right now.

It is my hope that this helps you and that I have given you some good starting points.

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