The Work of Introspection

The past week or so has been rough for me again.  But part of it is at my own choosing.

A couple months ago I realized that there were some behaviors and beliefs I had that were bothering me, so I set out on some psychological and introspective work to figure out why I had them and how I could change them.   Now I feel like I’m a little over half way through that process for these specific behaviors, and it’s getting to the part where it becomes tedious as the process has me focus on deeper and deeper issues.  On most days when I do the work, I get very tired.  At worst, on those days I feel like I’ve been run over by a big, emotional truck.  Do this on top of a normal work day and you can see how many people would consider stopping because of the complexity.

But I still continue.  Because I know I will be a much better person on the other side of this process, not just for me, but for my spiritual community.

I have been told by several people that I do more work on myself from a spiritual and mental level than the average person.  In many ways I feel like I’ve had to; I had a lot to recover from over the years and doing this work was the only real way to allow me to become authentic to my true self.  But because I held true to the belief that I could do this work, and pushed myself through it over the years, not only have I become more true to myself, I have also raised my energy levels to the point where I can now be of more service to others.

Introspective psychological work is very important and it is a key part of spiritual work.  However, especially because of the significant conflict I see in the pagan community, I wonder if there is a lack of this introspective work being done today.  My belief of this stems from the myriad of posts from people willing to tell others how their thoughts are wrong; or how we are moving in a wrong direction, very rare are the posts that discuss any compromise or any discussion or offer understanding as to why there is such polarization.  We are too quick to sprout facts for or against issues, but never take the time to understand why someone else believes differently.  So instead of building bridges by reaching understanding, we become even more polarized; much like how politics has become.

Perhaps this lack of introspective work in the Pagan community isn’t on purpose.  Many people in today’s pagan communities find the internet or a book as their first teacher.  That isn’t a bad thing – the very nature of paganism offers significantly different beliefs and systems, and I believe everyone has a place under this umbrella of belief.  But how many ‘how to’ books speak about how shortcomings and outdated beliefs could affect your magical work?  Sure, many speak about discipline of the body through proper diet and exercise as well as discipline of the mind through meditation; those are very important things to know when following a spiritual path.  But knowing why we have those shortcomings, those bad habits and why we carry the issues we do are just as important.

Many spiritual teachers that I’ve discussed this subject with over the years have told me how they do incorporate some sort of psychological work into their student’s magical studies.  It only makes sense to do so.  We need to know ourselves before we can take possession of the energies of the world and wield it to that which we desire.  And by not doing that work to truly know yourself and yet progressing with more advanced studies and spell work, you leave yourself open to unintended consequences.  And those consequences won’t be just for you, but for those around you and the community as well.

Although psychological work is a huge benefit from a metaphysical perspective, it is also beneficial in other ways.  The understanding you receive about yourself from introspective work moves throughout every aspect of your life.  You become a more solid person, not only in magical understanding, but in your career, in your relationships, in your family and in the community.

At the very least, doing psychological work will allow you to better tolerate those that intentionally try to carve up the pagan community , as that type of work provides tools for yourself when dealing with those that intentionally divide.  But depending on how deep you decide to go with this work you might find the other, deeper benefits that come from it.  For example, thanks to the significant amount of work I have done over the years, I can now understand better where some of the negative beliefs that people have come from.  This allows me to respond with empathy and put up firm boundaries with those that wish to bring the challenge to a more of a personal attack.  At the very worst, I am protected, but what may also happen is that my empathic response could deescalate the situation.

An even bigger benefit that I feel I have achieved through my own psychological work is being able to see what specific energies are at play in different conversations and situations.  Perhaps it is simply the Lokian perspective to which I subscribe, but I feel like because I was willing to look into those things that were destructive in me and learn to work with and through them, I can now see that energy better in the world around me.  I have a deeper understanding of the creative and destructive energies around me; how they move, how they react to stimuli and how they balance themselves out.  This understanding has given me a bit of comfort in this polarized world, and I am very grateful for it.

So back to the grindstone of the introspective work I go.  And I don’t plan on stopping this particular work until I am at my goal of at least understanding where these particular issues came from and why I still carry them.  Yes, it’s hard.  But good things never come easy.  And there are too many benefits to me, the energies around me and for my community to even consider stopping.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

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Author: Karlesha

I am a martial artist, historical fencer, yogi, runner, intuitive / empath and pagan. My passion is learning about myself, where I fit in the world and where I can do the most good. I am dedicated to Loki and Odin.

8 thoughts on “The Work of Introspection”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I said only a matter of minutes ago to my Deities how tired I am of all the psychological and spiritual rubbish I’ve had to face up to and deal with these last few weeks. Reading your post has given me that encouragement to keep going. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you raise a very valid question – how many are practicing without really taking the time to do introspective work? How many know how to combine their practice with their understanding of themselves? As individuals, we are complex, and we bring so much to the table to every relationship we engage in, whether that relationship is with another person or with a god.

    How many of those who are telling the rest of us what the right/wrong ways to practice are bringing emotional baggage from the mental frameworks of a past they haven’t yet learned to restructure? It is, perhaps, far easier to acknowledge a potential right/wrong way to practice than it is to stare unflinchingly at the thousands of ways others practice and say, “Yes, those are all valid. Even though I don’t practice that way myself, I see the value in that path for you.” That’s not an easy mindset to get to – it takes years of introspection and mental restructuring because we live in a culture that values a right-wrong dichotomy.

    To know the gods we must know ourselves first. That ancient maxim, “Know thyself,” has an incredible amount of relevance in every walk of life, and it is complexly central to polytheism and to the practice of any sort of magic. Yet, there are plenty who walk around content to ad-lib the rituals and spells they find in books and never step outside a structure imposed on them from the outside, never questioning. Which is ironic, in a way, considering how curious those who come to Paganism and/or Polytheism generally are – there’s a thirst for knowledge that is extrinsic and not intrinsic.

    Because, at first, the idea of either or both are exotic, fascinating, and intriguing. We need to know everything… so we read everything. And then we start to settle into the ideas that other people hold, settle into patterns other people have created. And we stop creating our own. We stop exploring our own ideas because we’ve found our answers, so why do we need to explore any further?

    To many people, finding a Pagan tradition is often equated to coming home. Finding a place you’ve always belonged but didn’t know it. And that, like homes in general, creates a lazy type of comfort. We’re home, so why do we need to do any more work? We did the hard part, now we get to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor – the search for home. Home improvements (i.e. introspection) doesn’t even occur to some people because it was so hard finding home in the first place. Maybe. That’s at least a theory. I don’t know if it’s a good one, but it does explain (at least to me) why there are so many Pagans who don’t practice. Who stop when they declare themselves Pagan…the ones that decide that’s the final step and nothing more is needed.

    That naturally creates a divide…those who see the need for home improvements and those who are satisfied with the shack they found in the middle of the woods that feels like home because it’s not a tent in the middle of a Christian revival festival. They’ve found shelter. What else do they need? Then there are those of us who are like “Oh, cool, a shack. Now we need to patch the roof, fix the walls, install plumbing…etc.” Those are very different mindsets.

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    1. Thanks for reading my post and sharing. I really like the book Dark Moon Mysteries by Timothy Roderick for beginning shadow work. It’s a good blend of metaphysical work and practical work. Something this book does well is to provide tools to help you cope with the shadow along with meditations to learn how to deal with some of the issues from a metaphysical standpoint.

      From the non-metaphysical standpoint, I like books by Judith Orloff, an empath and psychiatrist who focuses on getting to the root of negative emotions and transforming them. I also believe a good counselor can be a wonderful help. If counseling is something that you want to consider but are concerned that the introspective work you want to get into is something that might start to paralize you from being able to move and work in the physical world (let’s face it, sometimes this stuff can be deep and scary), there is a book called “The Tools” by Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels that provides great exercises that can be done to alleviate stress and keep you rooted while you are doing the shadow work.

      I wish the absolute best to you in your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you very much. Shadow work is something that crept up on me, rather than me seeking it, so I’ve not known how to actually work with it to bring about healing. It’s been rather overwhelming, so thank you for the recommendations.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are very welcome. One note (at least in my own perception…), Shadow work ALWAYS creeps up on you, so you aren’t alone in that feeling. – LOL Also, on a more serious note, it almost always feels at least somewhat overwhelming too. But that is it’s nature. Just realize you aren’t alone in dealing with it. Hang in there.

        Liked by 1 person

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