How Spiritual Practice Is Like Melange

Have you read the Dune series?  I grew up with it and still re-visit it every decade or so.

There’s a line in one of the books that, for me, captures the essence of spiritual practice.  In case you’re not familiar with the series, it’s based on a future in which a “spice” —  called melange — which is available only on a desert planet — expands consciousness, allows space travel, and extends longevity.  Taking melange can be a mystical experience or it can kill you. It can extend your life or it can make you mad.  It has changed the DNA of certain species so much that they can calculate hyperspace travel, but it can also affect unborn daughters in ways that no one anticipated.

One of Frank Herbert’s lines that has stayed with me is:  “Some days it’s melange; some days, bitter dust.”  In other words, some days you take the spice and it expands your consciousness, changes your life, gives you untold powers.  And, some days, it’s the bitter dust of a desert planet, leaves you feeling empty, challenges everything that you believe.

One of the things any real Witch (or, in fact, the real adept of almost any religion) will tell you is that you need a daily practice.  For most Witches, this involves some form of grounding and centering, some meditation, some contact with Divinity.  I wake up extra early every morning in order to have some time for my daily practice before I begin the routine of make the bed/clean up from breakfast/pack lunch/feed the cats/get ready for work/put on make-up/get dressed/water the planters, etc.

One of the secrets that fewer religious adepts will mention about daily practice is that, well, just like taking spice, “Some day’s, it’s melange, some days, bitter dirt.”  And, oddly, it’s often those periods when you push through the days of  “bitter dirt” that wind up adding the most to your experience.  Although, not always.  Some days, to paraphrase Freud, bitter dirt is just bitter dirt.  Beyond spiritual practice, I believe that the same thing is often true of athletic practice, sitting down every day to write whether you are inspired or not, continuing to do the work of the Resistance, even when everything seems to be getting worse and worse.

So don’t get discouraged and give up when it all feels like bitter dust.  We’ve all been there.

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2 responses to “How Spiritual Practice Is Like Melange

  1. Pablo del Segundo

    Central Texas brujo here- love your blog AND the Dune series. One bit from one of the later books (Heretics, I believe; maybe Chapterhouse) aligns marvelously with the message of this post goes something like (paraphrasing): Use you anger and hate to push yourself harder (specifically about the decades-long training of the Bene Gesserit). It’s all too easy in our present day to succumb to despair and go numb or worse. Marshall everything you have to resist to the end.
    [Also, it’s the water of life (spice essence, bile of the young worms) that could kill most women and ALL men, minus Paul and Leto. Melange was just addictive and the withdrawal is what could kill, esp the Reverend Mothers who transmuted the water of life. Off my geektastic soapbox now.]

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