Religion is great, right? You get to learn new stuff. You get to develop a personal practice that works well for your needs. You get the opportunity to develop relationships with the gods. You get the chance to give the gods cool stuff, and sometimes they give cool stuff back. You get to try new things, and many times you get to work on your personal stuff, too. It’s a never-ending trail of “where the hell are we going, again?”
But the truth of the matter is, no matter how much religioning you do, religion can be incredibly boring from time to time.
You know the kind I mean. It’s the kind where you wake up one morning, and you’re preparing your offerings for shrine, and you realize “Wow, I’ve done this same ritual for 6 months now. And I haven’t heard a single peep from the gods in almost the same amount of time. And I think I’ve offered them the same basic offerings for the past two weeks. And wow this is boring- why am I doing this again?” And then once you’ve hit that point, most of us get this rush of fear and anxiety. We begin to wonder if we’re doing it wrong. “Is it okay to not hear from the gods for 6 months? Is it bad to offer the same exact thing day after day? Oh no, maybe they’re not talking to me because I’m doing it wrong!” And so everything rushes down the gutter as the waves of inadequacy wash over you.
But like I said above- religion is sometimes boring. For everyone.
There will always be times when your gods don’t hang around much. There will always be times when you’re not asked or required to do a whole lot in terms of service to the gods. Even the priests in ancient times had breaks in their service. And even when you are being asked to get things done, there will always be times when you still feel pretty bored or inadequate. There will always be lulls in what you’re doing.
I think that the idea of boredom having a place in religion is foreign to us because so much of the media that is out there for us to consume about religion (and paganism specifically) purports this idea that there is always something going on. It’s been stated in many places that people rarely write about when nothing is happening. It’s hard to make posts out of literal nothing, and many of us don’t bother to write about the day to day, more mundane aspects of our practices. This is a great disservice to the wider community, because I think that many newcomers assume that once you start running down the hill into paganism, that you never stop running.
But if you never stopped running, your legs would get awful tired. If you don’t stop going full steam ahead, eventually you will tire out. In that respect, we need some aspect of boredom in our practice. We need to have times where nothing major is going on, so that we can recuperate and gather up our energy for other things.
For a comparison, think of your daily life. Do you ever take time to rest or wish that you had time to rest? Do you have a job that is non-stop go go go go go go GO GO GO? And if your job is like that, do you ever wish that there was a brief point in time where you could just sit at your desk and simply be for a few minutes? If your religion ran you ragged, you’d feel the same way. Even in our current society (speaking for the US), you are legally entitled to two breaks per day, because it’s well known that rested workers work better.
If we apply those same concepts to religion, I think that it would make sense that the gods would step back from time to time to allow us room to breath. If we are constantly running all the time, we will burn out. We need time to go through the basic motions without anything additional thrown onto the pile. And in turn, it’s very likely that the gods need their own time, too. Even if a deity only has about 50 devotees- imagine how much time must be spent giving daily attention to each and every individual, on top of whatever the deity is already working on. The gods have a lot going on that isn’t centered on us or our shrine and offering habits. It makes sense that they won’t always be around.
Okay, so boredom is normal, and sometimes necessary. What do I do about it?
If you google “relationship boredom” you will find that there are thousands of hits talking about nearly every aspect of relationships and how people react when they become normal (read: boring). Out of all of the angles that could be covered about relationships and their normalcy, you’ll find the most common topic is “how to make your relationship exciting again”. There are posts that are similar to that in the religious community, too. If you read through the KRT topic on Fallow Time, you’ll see that many people give some suggestions for how to break out of a fallow period and restart your religious practice again. However, being bored isn’t quite the same as fallow time. Fallow time usually involves a complete breakdown or degradation of your religious practice. Boredom is usually a sign that things are becoming normal or stable.
Speaking as someone who has been in a relationship with the same person for about ten years now, I can assure everyone who is reading that boredom is part of every solid relationship. There are some days that my SO and I don’t hardly talk at all because there is so little to talk about. We sit at our respective computers and work on our personal endeavors. We get up and spend a little time together, and then go back to doing our own thing. This isn’t a sign that we’re dysfunctional as much as it is a sign that we’re comfortable.
You can’t expect each day to have new and exciting stuff. When you live a relatively repetitive life (which most of us do), you’re going to have days when nothing exciting is going on. This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s simply a part of life. By trying to fight this regularity, you’re creating unnecessary stress for yourself that needn’t be there. Don’t be afraid of consistency or the boredom you may initially feel when you realize things have become somewhat wrote. You’re not doing anything wrong. Surely the priests in antiquity got bored with the same daily rituals that would be performed day after day after day. And when that boredom struck, I’m fairly certain the temple didn’t up and decide to spice things up by changing the structure of the shrine rituals. I’m fairly confident that the gods are used to the daily grind of consistent rites and offerings because that’s how it was done “back in the day”. If anything, its we modern practitioners that need to learn to become more okay with consistency and repetition.
So instead of telling you how to make your practice more exciting again, I’m going to recommend something very different. I’m going to suggest that you learn to become okay with the feeling. Remind yourself that this is part of the process of something new becoming something normal, and that the rites and offerings in antiquity rarely changed, so it shouldn’t be a huge deal if you do the same rites and give the same offerings day after day after day. When the first wave of “oh no, I’m messing up” hits you, take a step back and tell yourself that it’s okay. Push through the feelings as best as you can and keep performing your rites as you normally would and see how the feeling shifts or changes over time. Odds are you’ll find that everything becomes more okay as you continue your practice.
Have you ever felt bored with your religious practice? How did you handle these feelings? Any advice for anyone experiencing boredom in their religious pursuits?
February 17, 2016 at 6:22 pm
I have a problem with boredom and roteness. They bug me. I don’t want my practice to become rote; I want the words I say to matter every time. But I still occasionally catch myself just automatically saying stuff. Usually when this happens, I quit doing Daily Rite for a few days (sometimes without giving it much conscious thought) and when I return, I can feel it more. I know eventually I should just learn to live with the boredom, but for now, this works for me.