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Melissa Portan LMSW, MEd

Writer & Sexologist

Melissa is a 5th generation spiritual guide who specializes in helping others find their own spiritual path. She is also a sex and relationship therapist practicing in NYC.


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Challenges to Expect When Beginning on Your Path

The moment you decide to leave what you know and explore the undercurrents of your beliefs, you encounter many challenges. There are personal difficulties that you will have to overcome if you are leaving your religion, but there are external difficulties that will try you in many ways. Whether you are leaving a mainstream religion, or acquiring a spiritual path/religion, or completely new to this and exploring, things will change for you.

If you are reading my blog it is probably because you are exploring the spiritual side of life. And this blog is what I learned and continue to learn as I move along my path. We will not have the same beliefs and opinions, but we will probably encounter very similar problems. So here is a short list of the challenges you will most likely encounter as you go.


The most common thing you will encounter as you begin to become comfortable with your beliefs and as you begin to express them, is disrespect. If you are polytheistic, like me, people will laugh at you. They will laugh in your face. I do not hide my beliefs, but I also don’t go around telling people about them. However, if someone asks me what I believe in, I will not hide or mask over my beliefs. I have had people laugh at me when I tell them that I believe in the Greek Gods. It is not until they see that I am not laughing, that they pull back and  say something like, “Well, I guess you can believe whatever you want. Everyone has different beliefs. But for me there is only one god and I go to church.” At that point, I tune out because what they are really doing is just trying to avoid being corrected for their disrespect. I have even had people try to get me to go to church, telling me that Jesus is the way, that church is good, and all sort of things. It is disrespectful, offensive, and dismissive of my beliefs, but I do not let it bother me, at least, not for long.

See, it does not matter if you are polytheistic, or wiccan, or whatever else, people will disregard your beliefs because they believe their beliefs are the proper way. I often repeat myself throughout my posts saying that there are many ways to reach the highest point of existence, but this is not the mainstream belief. The churches of the world have indoctrinated society to believe that their ways are they only ways. And so, people are raised believing there is only one possibility, one path. Whenever you encounter someone who disrespects your beliefs, just let it go. It is not worth your time, effort, and energy. Nothing you say will change that person’s mind, nor should you be trying to force someone to see things your way.

Your Gods will be disrespected. Your beliefs will be disregarded. Your perception of God will be disrespected. It will happen, not only by religious people, but also by skeptics and atheists. Whoever it is that disrespects you, just remember that they don’t really know. They don’t know all of your beliefs and they don’t know your experiences. They don’t know. Remember that.

Usually when starting a practice, the person gets excited and wants to share the great things he or she is learning. And it is then that the person becomes open, vulnerable to criticism that may be painful and even inhibit his or her spiritual advance. What I recommend for anyone who is just starting to explore is to follow the law of silence. Just don’t say anything. Do not share your beliefs with anyone you do not fully trust. Keep your explorations to yourself until you do not feel the need to prove the validity of your path and until you feel grounded in your beliefs. Keeping to yourself allows you to develop your individual path, your own body of knowledge, without the influence of anyone. It is at the beginning when someone is most vulnerable and prone to falling prey to false teachings. Again, this does not mean deny your beliefs, it just means being reserved to a point. In any case, just be aware that you are in the minority and most will not understand your ideas, beliefs, and experiences. Keep an open and compassionate mind.

The Exceptions

There are two religions to which people tend to be more receptive to: Buddhism and Hinduism. If you go around telling your friends and family that you are becoming a Buddhist, sure some will scoff, but eventually, when your actions prove your dedication, they will leave you alone and even respect you. The same goes for Hinduism. Why is that? Buddhism and Hinduism are two very large and ancient religions that have survived the reign of Christianity. These two religions/paths are well established, with millions of followers, and so they are more present in the mainstream consciousness.


Unfortunately, and I speak from my experience here in the United States, specifically New York, if a person does not look like a Buddhist or a Hindu, he or she will get weird and scrutinizing looks. The racial stereotypes associated with these religions still exist and still exercise their limitations in the minds of many. Say you are a blond female and you decide to start wearing hindi garments, jewelry, and the bindi. People will look at you twice, some will even come up to you and ask questions. Say you are African-American and you decide to wear Buddhist clothing, or something similar, or you decide to wear a sari, people will take a second look at you. Whether you are a man or a woman, if you start to dress in a manner that is evocative of your path, people will take note. When someone steps out of his or her culture, his or her society immediately takes note.

If anybody comes to you with racist remarks or questions, consider it stupidity. For how advanced society considers itself, racism should not exist. But it does. Racism is inexcusable and those who act based on it, are stupid. It is possible for someone to be brilliant in some facet of life, yet hold racist ideas/beliefs. This is to say that in the moment someone is saying something racist, asking something racist, being racist, he or she is being stupid, simple, and small-minded. Again, just walk over it and move on.


This is most common for those of you who practice Wicca, but it applies for everyone else too. You will be accused of witchcraft and/or voodoo. You might even be accused of worshipping the Devil. The use of herbs and incense is often associated, in people’s minds, with the occult and dark arts. Divination is also regarded as something forbidden and dark.

It is ignorance that causes people to fear the tools many use in their spiritual practices. When ignorance and fear combine accusations are born. It can be quite horrible and painful when someone accuses you of worshipping the Devil when in fact you are worshipping the Goddess of the Moon or any other deity. But people don’t know and they are afraid of what they do not know. The seriousness of these types of accusations can vary from serious and dangerous to a passing joke. However it happens, however these accusations come to you, if they ever do, try to act from your center. It is important not to lose your center or your connection to the good you have unearthed because of someone else’s ignorance. In the case that the accusations become real threats to your life I think it best to remove yourself from that environment, if possible. It is unfortunate and unbelievable that people still get persecuted for their beliefs, but that is what many around the world experience.

Here in the United States we are fortunate enough to have freedom of and even from religion. However, there are social persecutions that can deeply impact an individual’s well-being. In certain communities of the country, usually in small communities, a person with alternate beliefs may be ostracized.


Continuing on, a change in your beliefs may cause you to lose some friends. Friends and family are a person’s support system, but sometimes part of the warm support falters. Friends might take notice of changes in how you behave, on how you interact with others, and changes in who you are. One of the goals of a spiritual practice is to bring your true self forward, and for some friends and family members, that may be too much. They might claim you are a different person or that you are not being yourself.

Losing someone because of religious/spiritual beliefs is always hard. Once you fully embody who you are, these losses won’t feel so painful because you will be comfortable in who you are, you will have strength and independence, and you will understand.

These are all dark or heavy aspects of changing or acquiring beliefs. You might not experience any of the things listed above. And you must not let the fact the there might be challenges attached to your practice dissuade you from following your path. These things should not be taken into consideration when starting a spiritual path (unless there is a serious threat to your life) and you should follow your heart wherever it leads. Follow your curiosity. Follow your intuition. Little by little you will come to realize that you are on the right path for yourself and that that is what really matters.



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