Everything begins with a single step.
Everything begins with a single step. A human child has to learn that it has control over its arms and legs before being able to roll over; a joey has to make a long crawl, wiggle by wiggle, to its mother’s pouch before it can feed; a plant has to break forth from its seed before it can breach the soil. Before we can apply algebraic concepts, we need to learn to count, and add, and subtract, and multiply, and divide, and many other things that are small in and of themselves but, put together, create something larger and more profound.
In order to complete the puzzle that is laid out in front of us when we first become aware that we exist, we have to find the pieces, lay them out, and figure out how they go together. Dumping the entire thing on the floor and hoping it will magically knit itself into a whole isn’t realistic…and yet, I see people doing this very thing all the time. The relationship will fix itself if only they wish hard enough; the chore will be done by someone else if ignored long enough; bad things won’t happen if we bury our heads in the sand and wait them out. After all, if we can’t see them, they can’t see us, right? Right?
Little of import can be done without first learning the steps required. This includes religious work, and it perhaps explains why I sometimes get annoyed with people who think they can leap in without any preparation and everything will be fine. In order to get the most out of a religious path, there are steps that must be taken, homework that must be done, and facts that must be learned. This is not to say that every religious path is a highly academic one, and of course there are places for onion hoers (laypeople), but to practice a religion one must do something. I know of no religious path that advocates absorption through osmosis rather than acting.
(If you do, please let me know. I love facts for my mind.)
Religion requires work of one sort or another. This work can be broken down into steps of varying size; an amazing example of how small a set of steps can become is over at But You Don’t Look Sick – The Spoon Theory. While it was written to address the difficulty people with chronic illness sometimes have in dealing with daily tasks, I think it can be applied to a number of other things, including religious work. The steps someone takes are often in direct proportion to what they’re able to do, and that’s okay. The point is to act, not to do ALL THE THINGS at once, and this is why I’m fond of the idea of baby steps.
Baby Steps, when applied to religious work, or self-care, or anything really, are small, simple things that can be done even when one doesn’t have the spoons for a large amount of work. For example, in the case of self-care (which, for FlameKeeping, is religious work), I might have a day where I just don’t feel like I can get out of my pajamas, but I am able to brush my teeth and my hair. Those two small things are Baby Steps – little things I can do while still fulfilling the spirit of caring for myself and, thus, nurturing my Dark Flame. Or, let’s say I go to the pharmacy and use one of the shopping basket to hold the things I want to purchase. When I am finished, I put the basket back in the rack so someone else can use it. It is a small thing, and one most of us do, but it removes any inconvenience from people who come after me and use that basket – it is exactly where it is expected to be, and thus no one has to hunt for it. This Baby Step upholds ma’at (the thing that binds us together as community) and nurtures my Bright Flame.
What is considered to be a Baby Step depends on the needs and wants of the individual, rather than on an outside source. The little things I do each day may seem trivial to you and, considering that your path is different from mine, I’d expect that to happen from time to time. The Baby Steps you take might seem too big to me, and that’s also fine. The point, really, in all of this, is for people to be able to find a level that works for them, and then stick to it whenever possible.
The rest is just so much gravy, really.