One of the things I think we pagan folk don’t discuss enough is knowing when enough is enough. And with that, knowing your limits and what you truly can and can’t handle or take on.
Let me illustrate an example.
This year when I went to renew my Sukeikai membership, I didn’t get a new ofuda. For those who don’t know what an ofuda is, it’s something that goes inside of the kamidana. It’s more or less the Shinto version of an open statue. The Kami alight on top of it, or from it. They use it as a door to visit you, your house, this realm, etc. Because of this, you need to treat it like an open statue and take care of it daily. This is part of what makes Jinja Shinto Jinja Shinto. And, well- I’ve been really bad about doing this lately.
In fact, I’ve been bad about all of my daily ritual stuff lately. Why? Because I just don’t have the time or spoons for it. When you’re busy tracking down astral crack for 5 hours after you get home from working your full time job- things like putting out some salt and water for the Kami at 5am just stop being appealing (Jinja Shinto has you place offerings out in the morning, and take them in in the evening). I don’t even do my stuff daily for Netjer anymore. And while I’ve been able to strike a deal with them (part of my astral crack is their doing- so in trade of physical offerings, I work on their crack every day instead- and they’re okay with that), I don’t have the ability to do that with Kami- we just don’t talk like that.
And so, in knowing that I was unable to uphold my responsibility of having an ofuda in my house- I decided against getting a new one this year. I knew myself, my limits- and I knew that it was time to take a break for now.
Many people seem to lack this ability – the ability to say no, or to drop something that is important to them. However, its my firm belief that all of us really need to sit down, look at ourselves in the mirror and learn what our limits are, and the effect that sticking our head in the sand could be having on the gods and ourselves. How not saying no can be of detriment to the things we really care about. To use the example from above, most people I have seen would tell themselves that they could make it work somehow. They’d continue trying to figure out a means to go in front of the kamidana and try and do offerings, or half-ass the offerings, or keep it up a few days out of the month- etc etc. Basically, they’d stick their heads in the sand and try to make it work somehow- all while slowly eating up their spoons and becoming more and more disheartened with their progress (which leads to self loathing and other fun stuff).
And in the end, who does it benefit?
The kami would not be properly cared for (in this case). The follower slowly begins to associate their faith/religion/practice with negativity, its a chore, it’s something you have to do, or you avoid doing because of the shame you feel from it. It takes something that is supposed to be empowering and cripples it.
Sometimes, we need to understand when to say no. When to say enough is enough.
Now this isn’t necessarily about quitting at the first sign of problems, struggle, or strife. Oh no. And I’m not saying that there won’t be days when you half-ass your rites or duties, because that will happen from time to time- we all have fallow periods. I’m talking about honestly being able to examine your practice, what you’re doing, and being able to look at it and realize if it’s actually creating something useful and good long term (such as pushing through a fallow period or going through painful shadow work that a deity has handed you), or if it’s only going to be a detriment to yourself or the gods. In the case of the ofuda, it seems highly disrespectful to bring a living being into the house, only to ignore it. It’s like buying your kids a puppy- with no intention of properly caring for it. That makes you irresponsible. This is no different. Sure, it’s a bit of a dent in my pride. I can’t maintain this anymore. I don’t have the capacity to, and that really sucks. But as it has been said here- it’s not always about us. It’s about them. It’s about something larger than us, and I have to be able to swallow my pride and look at myself and the Kami and say “Hey, I can’t really do this right now, and to pretend like I can is not only disrespecting you, its disrespecting myself.”
Sometimes, we need to learn when to walk away from something. Sometimes, we need to realize that it’s okay to walk away from something. And sometimes, it really does us (and the gods) more good to let go of something than to try to hold onto it out of fear, shame or pride.
The only way you’ll ever know the difference is to take an honest look at yourself, and learn your needs and limits. Perhaps as this new year sets out and we’re busy creating ‘to do lists’ for the coming year, we should all take some time to get to know ourselves a bit better.