Life is full of pitfalls. It’s riddled with traps and terrors. This world is a dangerous place, where bad things can happen at any moment.
But that’s just the external: the perils presented to us by the world outside.
What of the traps we set for ourselves? Those are often just as bad, if not worse, than whatever the universe has wrought.
I am keenly aware of these inner problems: the failures caused by a lack of willpower and self-discipline. Also the fact that we can take the negativities dwelling within us and project them onto and into the outside world, like placing a garden rake in front of oneself for one to step on.
Many of us engage in a spiritual practice of some sort, what one might call a sadhana. Many of us also fail to fully engage in that sadhana on a regular basis.
I am one of those people (deeply, deeply so), and—believe me—I curse myself for being that way.
I began attempting a daily practice sometime around 2012 or 2013. At the time I was dorming for a semester in college, and was first becoming intimately attracted to Buddhism.
On the floor, next to the bed in my dorm, I set up a small altar of sorts, with a number of implements placed on the top of an ottoman.
These implements included a statuette of the Buddha, a prism, a small mirror, and, if I remember correctly, a singing bowl. There or may not have been several other items included as well.
My intention was to meditate daily in front of this altar, as well as to chant. At the time, as I said, I was becoming deeply interested in Buddhism, to the point that I effectively considered myself a Buddhist, and so my chants consisted of Buddhist mantras.
As far as the meditation went, I tried to pull off zazen on a daily basis. Zazen, to clarify, is a type of sitting meditation practiced by Zen Buddhists, consisting of a basic posture akin to asana (yogic posture) and mindfulness of natural breathing. (Anapanasati.)
Well, ultimately, there was little to no regularity to my meditation and ritual schedule: I tried to force myself into committing to a daily spiritual regimen, but fell flat on my face.
Fast-forward a number of years and not much has changed: I’m still trying to meditate and perform various rituals on a daily basis, and have had no success.
My magical diary, one which I started a few months ago, has very long breaks and days upon days with entries of “Nothing” jotted down. (A magical diary is a diary used to document one’s magical practices, although more broadly it can include any spiritual work and general self-development. It, along with the magick it’s meant to document, was greatly advocated by Aleister Crowley, and I’m a fan of his work, to say the least.)
Where does one find the fire, the passion necessary to form a daily practice? It’s as if the fortitude, self-discipline, and sheer willpower necessary to forge ahead with daily meditation and ritual is always just out of reach.
I don’t want to make excuses, but I will say that, knowing myself pretty well after living with this super-distractable mind for nearly 30 years now, I think I have somewhat of a sense of why, at least in large part, I am this way:
The truth is that my inability to form a regular spiritual practice is really symptomatic of my inability to form routines at all. I’ve never been able to stick to anything, and this is mainly because I have dealt with severe ADHD for most of my life.
If you want evidence of my inability to commit to even my self-professed “passions,” those things I supposedly enjoy, just take a look at the vast spaces of time between the posts on my blogs/sites The Grand Tangent, The Drunken Llama (there I last posted six months ago), and this one. It feels as if it takes a mountain of willpower to even accomplish small tasks when I become so easily distracted.
People ask me, “Do you have any hobbies?” And the truth is, not really. Even things I think I’m sort of passionate about I can’t bring myself to focus on and related tasks are very difficult to bring to completion.
It’s been this way for essentially as long as I can remember, and I’m nearly 30 now.
I get random little bursts of zeal for various projects, but they’re just that: bursts. I can’t sustain interest in anything for long, before my mind goes wandering off. Hence why, when I first became interested in Thelema and magick, I was performing banishing rituals nearly every day for a week straight before my enthusiasm finally broke. (A week might not sound like a lot, but for me it absolutely is.)
Now I haven’t practiced any magick in several months.
I once had a regimen planned, full of magical material to practice throughout the day: rising in the morning and making an affirmation before performing a solar adoration known as Liber Resh, then meditating, later another round of Resh and meditation, performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram followed by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram followed by the Middle Pillar Ritual, more meditation with perhaps a particular asana, then two more rounds of Resh and meditation, interspersed with saying Will (similar to the Christian practice of saying grace) before meals.
Granted that may seem like a lot, and I have been accused of trying to run before I can walk before, but even when I try to slow things down it’s to no avail: I can’t seem to even get myself to meditate for 10 minutes in a day!
Depression certainly also takes a toll. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), or dysthymia, when I was 12 or 13, later than when I was given the diagnosis of ADHD. And that has also been a struggle, alongside—I’ll admit—generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
I’m medicated, for sure, but that doesn’t help much. I’ve been on dozens of different psychiatric medications since the age of 12, and few if any have helped with my two primary problems: my anxiety and my inability to concentrate.
My failure to find any spiritual completion, aggravated by distractability and anxiety, inevitably aggravates my depression. And then I fall into using drugs to counteract that depression, as well as the anxiety.
I’ve never been one to go hard on anything “hard,” but kratom, tianeptine, and alcohol have been allies for a while now.
Unfortunately my attachment to these substances landed me twice in a DDIOP (dual-diagnosis intensive outpatient program), both of which I flunked out of because I was unable to stop drinking or taking kratom. The truth is, without any spiritual fulfillment, the only thing worth looking forward to each day has been those substances…
And to make matters worse, right before I flunked out the second time, the psychiatrist seeing me for my DDIOP suggested he would put me on a stimulant I hadn’t tried in many years to see if that would help with my inability to concentrate, which he said may have been the source of much of my anxiety.
Yet I blew the option of seeing him on my scheduled appointment when I was kicked out of the program.
Now, the only option to get back to that psychiatrist is to go to rehab, which, if I do it, would be after Christmas this year.
I sleep poorly all the time. My room is a constant mess. I can’t concentrate on anything. I’m tossed around by anxiety and depression. And yet I continue to act as if I can reasonably pursue the A∴A∴, a spiritual organization to which I applied and in which I am in the student or preliminary phase [of one of its current incarnations].
“Good luck,” I say to myself all the time. Yet realistically I don’t see much changing if I’m simply unable to concentrate on anything. My life will probably just continue to go on as it largely has, with no discernible whim or reason or routine to speak of.
That all being said, I still manage to find a little light to look towards. I’m not about to give up all hope of at least some form of attainment. Not now, not when I can still live and act. I have the rest of life before me, and many twists and turns can be taken. The unexpected can happen, and with that being a reality, I know for a fact that I can craft certain situations to best fit my will, should my wit and strength prove powerful enough.
That’s the job of a magician anyway, right?
I.N.R.I. Igne Natura Renovatur Integra. “By fire nature is restored whole,” as an esoteric interpretation of this abbreviation goes. This can be interpreted in the sense that by the “fire” of truth and love humankind is revived in a spiritual sense, but in another sense it may mean that by the difficulty of passing through fire a thing is restored to or given a certain glory. I am reminded of the forging of a sword by iron and flame, taking a base metal and turning it into something tangibly stronger, sharper, more useful for a certain purpose, something bettered.
I’m not one to rely on the works of self-proclaimed “world teacher” or supposed next Thelemic prophet J. Daniel Gunther, as I disagree with him in certain serious matters—though of course I’m sure he, being an exempt adept (I assume, based on the imprimatur of his 2009 work Initiation in the Aeon of the Child) of the A∴A∴, would question where I, a drug-addled dilettante and mere half-assed student of the order, get the information necessary to dispute someone at his “level”—but I do like, and find pertinent, something he wrote in the aforementioned Initiation in the Aeon of the Child: The Inward Journey:
“Should you remain a Neophyte for the rest of your life, it must make no difference. Work without lust for result. If the practice drives you mad, then you will just have to go mad, but the practice will continue in the asylum. If the Devil himself tells you that God wants to speak to you face to face, you must shrug it off and tell him you’re not interested, you have a practice to do. And if that damns you to hell for eternity, then you must be willing to go to hell without giving a damn yourself. This cannot be a feigned indifference, for that would only be putting a top hat on a pig. It must be real indifference, and only continued effort will achieve it. Then, when the veil does finally lift, the dark cloud is seen to have been an illusion all the while; Kephra will have borne you through Midnight to the Dawn.”
I’m still two steps away from being a neophyte, and yet this makes sense enough, no matter where you stand in life.
Should I remain absolutely no-one my whole life, chained to a couch or bed by my lack of willpower, my lack of motivation and focus, my anxiety and trepidation, my sadness and grief, it must make no difference. I will continue to try, in my own little way, even if that means having the strength to meditate only once a goddamn year. Even that will mean something, and I will remember that fact with joy and ardor before I am cast into Hell.