Had a lovely chat today w/ a dear friend and one of the points I was making was that “discernment” is too seldom practiced in the Pagan community. Christians often talk about discernment, by which they mean that they spend time in prayerful contemplation in order to “discern” their god’s will for them in a given situation. As Pagans, we’re less likely to believe that our Goddesses/Gods have some specific plan for our lives and are more likely to invest ourselves with greater agency. But that doesn’t mean that we, too, don’t need discernment.

Watching (from a distance) a recent dust-up in the local Pagan community, I’ve been struck by the complete lack of discernment exercised by way too many participants, including some Big Name Pagans from way out of town who inserted themselves into the issue over, and over, and over again. This is only the most recent in a series of events where various Pagans have had issues with some group and have chosen to deal with the issues/group in the most public, confrontational manner possible. Sometimes, that’s necessary. Sometimes, that’s a good thing.

But just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to express it. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to express it RIGHT NOW. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that you need to show up on every single Facebook page, blog, and other form of social media and express your opinion OVER AND OVER again.

I’d love to see Pagan groups make the practice of discernment a regular part of their spiritual disciplines. Meditation, trance, divination, listening to you landbase, and talking to a friend in person are all good ways to get in touch with the Universe, your Goddesses/Gods, your Higher Self and determine whether you need to jump in or to exercise the better part of valor.

How do you practice discernment? What has it helped you to do or to not do? Do you regret following it?

Picture found here.

5 responses to “Discernment

  1. Oh, you are so right. Of course,before we can have discernment, we must have explored our values, and established what we think is right and wrong, in balance, out of balance, what is worth fighting for, what is worth dying for, and most importantly, what is worth living for. We need to know what to discern.
    And I think this is where we frequently fail; we do not spend enough time — or ask our students to spend enough time — considering what our core values and beliefs are. Until those values have been explored and internalized, we will react, instead of act. Once we have fully internalized our core values, we will act in the moment in line with those values, instead of floundering around, trying to figure out what to do, and throwing up defenses.

  2. I agree, absolutely. Just getting quiet or being alone, doing or not doing something, helps me to get in touch with my Inner Voice. Sometimes, I sit in my sacred area, or a special garden spot, or lie on the bed reading a favorite book. The answers come. They have been inside me all along. I just need to get quiet to hear them.
    Thanks for a great post, as always.

  3. When I first learned how to cook, I had to learn to practice not doing with some things. If I wanted the bread to rise well, I had to leave it alone and covered and warm. That is what I thought about when I first read the Tao Te Ching. And again I realized how difficult it was to not do. At that time my appreciation for parents grew 10 fold. To not pick up your child every time he or she falls has to be such a hard thing to do but it is necessary.

    I teach and in a society where silly phrases like “failure is not an option” are honored it is very tricky thing to let a student make poor time management decisions. However, if I prevent failure at every turn, the students will never have the opportunity to learn to prevent it themselves. That skill is not a valued one by society as it is not tested formally, but it is, of course, a critically important skill.

    In the discernment period there are ideas and opportunities that emerge that can salve a wounded heart, give opportunities to do alternative assignments, shoot, some possibilities only emerge when a body stops poking. To me this is why it is good to take breaks and come back to things with fresh eyes. Sure, the direction may change due to discernment in whatever doings are about, but that change can make the best of differences.

    The only time I have regretted stepping out for discernment is when others in power do not do so and make protocols too early that will invariably need to be changed. In those instances, I wish I would have made my voice louder and asked that we all take a break from the issue and observe more first before we make policy decisions based only on what we think we know in a moment. Of course this doesn’t apply to all circumstances as some things require immediate attention. However, I think it is easier to discern which things do require immediate attention if the practice of discernment is already habitual.

  4. All the Eastern traditions, and some in the West, see some form of meditation to be at the heart of their practice; and of course they all involve a practice, which while it may be based on a belief system does not involve sitting around talking about how superior one’s belief
    system is compared to some other belief system. It seems to me that many of us who’ve been raised in one belief system and who have become Pagans of one sort or another have continued to be influenced by the notion that having the belief is more important than having a practice. Groupthink seems to be rampant in the Pagan community and I think we would all benefit if we spent more time in whatever form of meditation works for us and much less time opinionating on blogs and community web sites. Of course, that’s only my opinion 🙂
    I should say that I always find hecate’s opinions to be useful and I thank her for today’s.

  5. Very interesting. I am one of those Christian spiritual directors who specializes in discernment–helping people in the midst of discernment. However, the more I study process theology the less I am inclined to think that God’s will needs to be found, discovered or that it is a concrete path. More that it is the wisdom of God within us we need to tap into and listen to. Of course there are many, many Christians who seek “the perfect will of God” but more and more we are opening to a variety of options. Thanks for posting about discernment. I guess the pagan community is just as conflicted at times as other traditions (like mine!).

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