For most of 2013, I struggled with the idea that I was supposed to live an ascetic life. I was never really sure how to do this, seeing how I am married, the Senior Druid of our Grove, and working 25 hours a week. I thought that it was my calling to live like a modern monastic, that it’d somehow make me more spiritual, a better person. That I’d be able to lay aside everything I was worried about if I could put all of my focus into living rightly.
But I wasn’t living rightly. In fact, I wasn’t living at all. I had used the cover of asceticism to create a complicated rule system for myself that only served to make me miserable, and felt like I was even less deserving of the things that I had.
This isn’t any criticism of asceticism as a spiritual practice — quite the opposite: I think it is a very valid path. A very valid path that I tried to cram myself into to gain its benefits, because other people were benefitting from it.
I laugh now, looking back on my long-neglected blog at a post that I made six months prior to this one, where I declare who I am, and I say that I should really follow that calendar of observances I’d been working on. That is correct — the ruleset that I created in conjunction with it, was not.
I would feel guilt when I didn’t act or dress in the way that I believed that I should. That I wasn’t spiritual enough, that I was somehow doing something wrong. And all the words on the internet of people saying to do one’s own thing rang hollow, because my thing couldn’t be the right thing, how could it ever be?
One day I was crying as I explained to Lugaid that there must be something wrong with me because I couldn’t do what I had set out to do, that I must not be disciplined enough, not worthy enough, to follow my rule. I exclaimed that it must work, because asceticism is a valid spiritual path! He looked me in the eye and said, “Yes, asceticism is a valid spiritual path. But it’s not yours.”
And like a flock of birds taking flight, it was lifted from me, and I have not read the rule since.