In terms of my religious practice, I have spent the better part of the past year aimlessly wandering. This may surprise some people (maybe?) as I’m sure that most would consider my conviction in regards to Kemeticism to be pretty rock solid. But the fact of the matter is that sometime in the past year or so, my interest in most things suddenly disappeared without a solid reason, and as a result I have been left with a void where my passion for religion used to live. This has caused me to spend a lot of my time questioning what this means and what I should do about it.
I have seen people suggest that having periods of questioning (or perhaps better referred to as “crisis of faith”) is somehow bad, as though you’re personally offending the gods by examining your place within your religion or relationship with them. However, I personally think that there comes a time in everyone’s practice where they run into a period of being lost or unsure; where they aren’t sure why they’re doing something or whether they should continue to do it. Like many topics that are considered “bad”, I find the lack of resources for sorting such a situation out to be unhelpful, not to mention that the semi-taboo nature of the topic doesn’t allow for people to openly search for answers. This is a problem.
Over on Tumblr, I will regularly get questions about how to handle situations where a god isn’t responding, where a practice is no longer fulfilling, where a person is unsure how to move forward, and each time that I receive such questions, I often tell people to self-reflect to see if they can better ascertain an answer for themselves. My logic behind this has always been a case of “how can you know what to do if you don’t know how you got here?” If the religion used to fulfill you, what happened that caused it to become unfulfilling? Examining where you started and comparing it to where you are can often times be enlightening.
That being said, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection this past year as I’ve looked for answers to my suddenly disappearing enthusiasm.
When I first noticed that I suddenly gave zero cares about Kemeticism, my gut response was to freak out. I think any of us would initially become concerned if something we used to be passionate about was suddenly of no interest to us, and I was no exception. It’s not something that usually happens overnight, but for me it felt like it did. As though one week I was interested in doing the things I had been doing for years, and the next week I suddenly no longer cared about any of it.
On the other hand, I wanted to ignore that I noticed a shift in things. I wanted to believe that it was a temporary issue that would resolve itself over the course of a few weeks. This is not uncommon for me, as I often burn out on a lot of what I do on a regular basis. However, as the weeks dragged on and nothing changed, I realized that something was definitely up. I now knew that I needed to shift gears to figure out what was causing these issues.
For me, there is a process that is involved with picking apart problems:
- First is to notice that there is something that is off or different.
- The next thing is to stay calm about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the issue (as I had) as much as it means not running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Remember that these issues can happen to anyone for any number of reasons, and nothing says that the current feeling or situation is permanent or necessarily indicative of a problem. It’s easier to troubleshoot something if you’re calm.
- From here, I recommend a potential period of observation to make sure that what you are feeling or perceiving isn’t a momentary sort of thing. Things you could think about include: What do you notice about what you’re feeling? Does it come and go with your mental health, mood, or stress levels? Or is it consistent? I always find its best to wait and make sure that it’s a long term “thing” and not a spur of the moment misunderstanding.
- Once you’ve ascertained that the issue is not going away, then you move into the questioning phase.
It’s also worth noting that I will often switch between periods of intense introspection/questioning and observing/waiting. I don’t think it’s mandatory to do everything in one go, and I think it’s very likely that most of us won’t find all of our solutions in a singular round of questioning. Being able to pick up your “problem” and inspect it from a bunch of angles, and then set it back down for a while before coming back to inspect it again allows you to process and consider other angles you didn’t think of earlier. Just like any sort of shadow work, none of this needs to be absolutely linear; I’m just trying to give some general guidelines for those who are new to this method of working.
When it comes to reflection on a particular topic, problem or situation, I don’t think that there is necessarily a right or wrong way to go about it. You can sit and mull on all of these questions at once, or you could mull on them one at a time. You could try writing down answers to these questions or simply go through the answers in your head. You could even pose these questions to a sort of divination deck to see if you’re overlooking something about the topic in regards to the situation.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what could be asked, but is simply a place to get started on mulling your way to a possible answer or solution to any particular situation you’re in. I have organized the questions based off of general topic, and as such, some of these questions are redundant. However, I find it easier to mull when I’m not trying to parse apart several questions that have been stacked into one.
Questioning a deity relationship:
- What first attracted you to this particular deity?
- What about the relationship did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?
- Has anything changed recently in your life or in the relationship that may be causing a shift in feelings?
- How often do you reach out to this god? When was the last time you attempted to communicate with them? What was that communication like?
- What is considered a normal level of communication with the deity? Has this changed recently, if ever?
- Has the deity expressed any signs that would signal that there were any issues present? If so, what were they and did you ever ask for further information from the god when it happened?
- What sorts of things are you looking for in a relationship with a god? What are you hoping to achieve by developing a relationship with a deity? If currently in a relationship, what of these things are not being met, if any?
- What does your deity expect of you, if anything? How does this make you feel? Are the expectations realistic or feasible?
- What feelings do you get when you think about said deity? Are these feelings different from when you first started out, or when you felt the relationship was stable (if applicable)?
- If you could tell your deity anything about your current feelings/status with them, what would it be? Why would you wish to convey these emotions/thoughts to them?
- If your deity could clarify anything for you about your relationship, what would it be and why would it be helpful?
- When you think of no longer having a relationship with your god (or when you think of changing the nature of the relationship with your god), how does it make you feel? What could that indicate?
Questioning your place in a religion:
- What first brought you to your religion?
- What do you enjoy about your religion–whether the religious practice, community, or structure, etc.? What don’t you enjoy about it?
- When did your feelings about your religion change? Was anything going on at the time that could have caused the shift in feelings?
- What do you hope to get out of your religious practice? Is your current practice meeting your needs? If not, what could be done to help your needs be met?
- Are there any external factors that could be causing a shift in feelings about your religious practice?
- Have you talked to the gods about your shift in feelings? What have they said about it?
- What makes you hesitant to leave or join [insert particular religion]? Why?
As I had stated above, this list of questions isn’t exhaustive, and they may not cover exactly what each person who reads this is looking for. However, I feel that they indicate the nature of the questions I typically ask when I’m trying to figure a situation out, and as such, can be used to formulate other questions of a similar nature for other situations.
I’ve answers some questions… what now?
This is the hard part, in my opinion. Its easy (sometimes) to sit around and mull on some questions, but figuring out what to do with the information you uncover is a different story. Generally speaking, I like to ask questions so that I can get a feel for my thoughts on a situation, and then use that information to make an informed decision on what to do in said situation. However, it can sometimes take several rounds of questioning and mulling before I actually arrive at a decision that I’m comfortable with. Remember that none of this has to happen all at once, and sometimes you may ask yourself a question and find that you don’t have an answer to it. The whole point of the questioning is to really get to the heart of the matter to better inform yourself on what you really think or feel about a particular situation. And then to use that information to make a better decision.
Do you find that questioning helps you arrive at a decision in a difficult situation? If so, what sorts of questions do you typically ask yourself?