When I was a Freshman in college, one of my professors also happened to be a Rabbi. She rarely preached, but she did however try and instill some of her opinions. The most frequently exclaimed of hers was to find a faith that, "makes you work." Having a strict code of conduct, and a template for spiritual growth was essential for a good life in her opinion. I struggled with this concept from the beginning. As a Gaelic Polytheist, I never thought of my practice as difficult. I made offerings, daily prayers and celebrated the holidays. As long as I respected the world and spirits around me, and those who came before me, I felt that I was living my life as a "good" Pagan. So, I was conflicted.
Two years later, during my Junior year, I went through my first real break up. We had been together for years, and I was left in a bad financial and emotional state. I had always found comfort in my spirituality, but it didn't seem proactive enough. I started a Pagan group off campus, I amped up my research, and I tried to fill my life with my path. I do feel that these were good distractions, but I realized that's how I was using them, as distractions. I began to look beyond my path when a good friend turned me on to Stoicism. With its techniques of negative visualization, mindfulness and tranquility, I was enthralled. I felt like I was finally evaluating my thoughts, not just pouring them into a personal world view. This however left me more conflicted. What did it say about my spirituality that I needed to look elsewhere? Was I not finding enough depth in my practice? Was this appropriation?
It took me sometime to realize a fact of my life. My path is not all encompassing, its my center. As my personal outlook, that I do share with thousands, it is one among many more millions. Appropriation is a constant concern as we hope to respect others traditions and practices, but I disagree that the way we do that is to quarantine our ways of doing things. As long as I don't conflate different ideals and practices, or let myself create a false narrative about how they fit together, I feel comfortable understanding and using many different ways of connection. In my opinion, going beyond your path to learn a new outlook doesn't reflect badly on your path, but reflects well on yourself as a traveler and student. Today I feel that making yourself work hard is in fact important. Your justification for why you work hard though is irrelevant, as long as you have your center.
P.S. This post is VERY late because the first draft was lost when my browser crashed. I'm still writing everyday, don't worry.