This has become a big problem for me. I don't find any enjoyment in my path anymore. I actually just feel totally unmotivated and lost. I haven't kept up practice, I just feel so completely guilty that I haven't done anything. And I think now that this feeling of guilt is actually keeping me from practicing, because I've begun to associate negative feelings of guilt, stress and pressure with spirituality.
I'm just going to chuck my feelings out here right now, so I can get my head straight. Originally, I was very dedicated to my path. I disliked making my offerings a chore, but I found that as it was a responsibility I needed to do it, and my enjoyment shouldn't be a factor. However, as I continued my practice, making offerings and praying even when my heart wasn't in it or I didn't feel anything to give (i.e. in prayer), I made myself do it. This made me feel just empty, and sick of it in the end. I hated that I was forcing myself to do it, even though I love and respect those I was doing it for. It just felt like a chore, which killed all emotion I had. This also led to a feeling of powerlessness - I was doing it, but I didn't feel like I was, if that makes sense. My path, though mine, felt out of my control.
I then began to feel guilty for NOT doing it, which I felt every time I thought about my practice. This put me off practicing because, as I kept things up, I just felt worse. Now I just avoid it, part subconsciously I think, because I associate it with those negative feelings.
Because my practice has drifted and faded, and my attempts to take the reins in my practices has failed, I feel just lethargic. All I loved in it has gone, and I just want that beautiful feeling back; the feeling of empowerment, connectivity, and PRIDE in my work. A feeling of loving my practice.
I started doing bits of practice. Feeding birds for a deity, playing music for a deity, singing as prayer. These things I love, but there's still that horrible weight on my chest, something I feel like I just can't escape.
I should note, although everyone has work and responsibilities, I am a hard-working student active in my community, and so I have little free time. I'm constantly stressed - not considering the added pressures of my spirituality. I could never get a break, because I used to dedicate so much time to my practice, something I no longer feel that I can physically bring myself to do because of the weight it is on me - this time is now spent trying to deal with the stress that's building inside of me, and trying to get myself to practice at times.
I think another important matter is my perfectionism. I wonder sometimes if this is obsessive behaviour, or just sensitivity to the energy I am working with, but it can be exhausting. I spend probably as much time in preparation for prayer and ritual as I do in the actual acts themselves. This isn't an issue, but it IS very exhausting sometimes.
I came to this path for freedom. I came to it for happiness and to find a way to heighten my connection with and love for nature. I sought this path out originally just because I love nature, and wanted to build on that in my spiritual life. Now, I feel just tied down, and with so many expectations on myself I can hardly face my own spiritual life.
Sorry. I needed to ramble. I guess there's not much to be done here beyond me making the choice to get off my lazy behind, or give up. But it just really, really sucks.
As I see it, you gave your answer yourself. You came to this path for freedom but you are trapped in activieties you don't want to perform. Be free. You don't really need to set up a big altar and prepare things for hours to make an offering. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes you will feel that you need to do it that way.
If you decided to follow this path to feel free don't tie yourself dogmatically to prayer and rituals if they don't feel right for you. Try different things. Read about different paths, different ways to honor the gods and different ways to pratice.
Follow your intuition and do what makes you happy. The gods and godesses won't get offended if you don't feel like praying to them, on the contrary i don't think they will like seeing that you force yourself to do it. If you don't enjoy your practice it probably means that you need to find a new way to practice.
I can't emphasize this enough: follow your inuition, carve your own path, and enjoy your practice.
if i could give you a hug right now i would. i know how you feel, i went through the same thing in college. it resulted in me stopping practicing. i didn't leave the path, i still called myself Wiccan, but the spark was gone, so excluding the occasional 'my friends are coming over for Samhain [or Yule] ' i didn't really do anything. i would go 'oh, yesterday was Imbolc, eh, i'll do the next one' only for Ostara to come and go and i realize Beltaine was around the corner. i would feel worse and worse and psych myself up to do a ritual on the next full moon, but then i would be too tired and blah, blah, blah.
anyway, one day i was at my friends bookstore [she worked there, she didn't own it] and she asked me to read a book she just got in [and i kept eyeing on the shelf] it was Deborah Blakes The Goddess is in the Details and i loved it [rereading it right now as a matter of fact] it was the 'next step' book i wanted, and it spoke about combining magickal and mundane. that's what helped me. i'm still far from perfect, and some days i'm not in the mood to give an offering, or pray before a meal [most of the time i take a bite then say a blessing lol] but it's little things i've found to inspire me. [SoM has become somewhat of a key roll in my path to be honest]
but, after high school and a bit after college, i did next to nothing. [about 3 years] i got into a routine and my spirituality was pushed to the side, whenever i thought of that fact, i would feel worse about myself. if i were you, i would explain your feelings to your deities and take a step back from your faith for a while. only doing what you feel inspired to do. you might go a month focusing on your studies then hear a bird outside your window and feel that joy you felt when you fed birds in honour of your deity. slowly build it back up. i would still keep a permanent altar [if you have one] so when you feel like lighting a candle or saying a prayer there's a sacred space.
another option i've heard some people throw around is you might be bored of the same old path, so you might need to spice it up by studying something new. i never did that and i feel sometimes we push too much and need a rest, but perhaps if there's a subject you have always thought is cool but didn't look into for whatever reason, perhaps try reading a few articles and see if that brings a spark back.
don't feel bad, your deities love you, and they want whats best for you. i'm sure they would understand if you explain.
I think you're spot on about the perfection aspect and that you may feel hollow because you're placing more importance on what you feel things should be rather than the actual act of practicing whatever you're practicing.
The first thing I want to respond in all of this is that not having time for your practice is not something to feel guilty for that and so, so many practitioners go through this and never talk about that people don't really realize that it's a very common thing.
What helps me is integrating my practices into my daily life in small ways. Some of my practices are good for this and others I do need to set up time for, but for those, I make sure things are set in a way that it's easier for me to flow into and the pre-built sctructure helps make it all run smoothly.
Some examples I feel may help you as they help me:
Spending time outside when you can. Feel the air and the ground and take pleasure in those when you can help me a lot.
Make your shower/bath routine a cleansing as well as cleaning venture.
Pay attention your actions in your everyday life. They don't necessarily have to change, but you can honor any spirits or deities with them.
Set aside small bits of time every now and then to just spend time with your tools and get to know their ins and outs.
Set aside ten minutes a day (doesn't need to be everyday) to read and more when you have the time and feel up for it. It may not sound like a lot, but it's consistent and more than a lot of people do, to be honest (like me. I binge study and have hiatuses).
I'm in the same place! I feel you. And I'm glad you brought this up, because I'm definitely going to be taking some of these suggestions. I think the most important thing is to cut yourself some slack. God understands how these things go, and isn't mad at us.