No Pressure

by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle

As I was congratulating a newly ordained minister and saying how I looked forward to all the great things he would do, he jokingly responded, “No pressure.” And while his response was sort of a joke, I understood the sentiment.

We have expectations of ourselves, expectations of each other, and expectations around other people’s expectations. It can feel like quite the pressure. Yet there is no expectation to the true magician; there is just will and the result of applied will.

While I do look forward to the great things that he—and many other community leaders, volunteers, and students—will do, I can’t have personal expectation around exactly what those things will be. Nor can I project any expectation onto another or accept such projections from others. Reasonable expectation can occur when you discuss plans and ask for support. I have expectations that a teacher who agrees to teach a class will teach that class as we schedule and take registration for it, and if that is not possible due to illness or conflicts, will reasonably inform me. I can have expectations for joint projects, shared resources, and agreed-upon plans, but I can’t have expectations for a ministry, path, or life of an individual. I can have excitement, wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm for another Witch, but no vision unless we make an agreement to that pattern and work together. Any pressure and expectation must be within the parameters of what has been expressed.

I remember dining with a group of very dedicated British Traditional Wiccans, including one of their founding elders. She asked a High Priestess about her thoughts regarding a student who has completed the third degree and was answered with “I hope he will go off and do the tradition proud by forming his own coven in our line.” She was gently turned around, being told that as an HPS, she had to have no expectations on what a newly initiated HP/S might do.

In that tradition, there are independent and autonomous ideals within the body of the collective priesthood. Likewise, we must have clarity of our own purpose, but not place our hopes and dreams on another. Unfortunately, we do that with children. We do it with friends and spouses, and we certainly do it with students. I deeply remember that particular teaching and have tried to both follow and instill the ethos in our collective cooperative community. It’s difficult. We are creatures of expectation, and we tell ourselves stories about ourselves and others all the time, even though such stories often have no basis in what has been expressed.

Choices and consequences run both ways. This is not a mandate of total freedom with no responsibility for the newly elevated. I can hold enthusiasm and excitement for someone without attachment to a specific manifestation; that doesn’t create a never-ending open-door policy. When someone graduates into peership, they must act, in their own way, as a peer or find other peer groups. When you earn the mantle of the minister, there is peership between those who do such work, the same as with authors, musicians, and any other deeply called vocation. If you don’t do that work on a similar level, you lose that peership.

Some wish to graduate these trainings in order to be in the “inner circle” (whatever that is), but when they get there, they soon realize it’s a tremendous amount of work. You can implement your own visions in cooperation with others, but it takes effort. You aren’t required to do anything, but you can’t expect to gain and maintain that level of peership when you do nothing. Many like the perception of power that comes from being in a leadership position, but are unwilling to do the actual work. They nonetheless expect a favored status in their community. In a tradition where the virtue is expressed by the actions you take, such an attitude never succeeds in the long run.

The student-teacher dynamic, which has different agreements than peer-to-peer relationships, creates its own complexities. As a teacher, I can’t spend a lot of time and energy on someone who holds no community responsibilities once they are no longer a student. If they don’t contribute to the greater good, then we don’t have a reciprocal relationship. I would end up drained. Sometimes graduates try to turn the student-teacher relationship into a friendship without actually changing anything. This is also not reciprocal. A teacher cannot be good friends with every student who graduates, so the process of peership cultivates those who can maintain a reciprocal relationship and distances those who can’t or won’t. Those slipping away—or worse yet, those who find clearer boundaries being expressed—can have hurt feelings, perceiving themselves as rejected personally. This is why newly minted HP/S cannot have expectations or place pressure on other leaders and peers for their relationship. One must simply do the work and let it unfold organically. Respect and peership will grow or diminish in the way you carry yourself, with your continued involvement, and with the dignity and service you manifest.

So truly, even when we feel pressure, there is no pressure. We are here to do our work in the world, not another’s. Sometimes our work can be karmic, of our initiatory lineage, but it’s work we have to accept on a soul level and choose to manifest on a personal level. We use the pressure and tension of our will in a dynamic and self-directed way while also realizing that the magick happens when we enter into a zone of effortless effort. We accept burden and carry virtue as a part of the calling of priesthood in the Craft, but we don’t accept the burden of expectation from anyone or anything that conflicts with our true will and soul’s purpose.

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