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NYPL-stacks

I want “everything”! To do, to know, to learn, to be adept at everything! Some might call this a type “A” personality, but it goes much further than this. It is not a need to keep busy, but rather a hunger to take it all in. This has always been my nature and that hunger served me well in my youth, but has become cumbersome and limiting as I embrace my latter fifties. The reality is that there is just not enough time in a day, a year or a lifetime to make that an achievable or even productive goal. And, the old adage of being a “Jack of all trades and master of none” looms heavy and large as to what can potentially be the outcome.

Over the years deep conversations, a few physical challenges and the resultant inner dialogue of why I am so driven have helped to reign in this compulsive need to extend myself much further than I should. Having great determination of will to keep pushing regardless have at times made it difficult to focus on how and where my energies are should be distributed.

This behavior colors all aspects of my life, but most notably the dynamics of my spiritual path have raised questions around the efficacy of this need to achieve to a place front and center. I wrote the past two weeks about quality versus quantity and this seems an appropriate follow up to those.

We get so caught up in the process of continual movement that we no longer see that we are not truly moving forward, but simply spinning our wheels, caught in the illusion of the moment. The desire to be a proverbial fount of knowledge and experience is always held in the background of spiritual pursuit. The dynamics and intensity of what that includes vary from individual to individual, but the raw desire remains the same. This is after all the catalyst that inspires us to continue on the path of self evolvement and what keeps us on the path in the first place. That fountain may flow with slow and steady drip, arch up filled with push or swell and overflow in what you feed into it; but it is decidedly the source from which we drink.

To keep these impulses in check I use the months of the harvest as a check in point with myself to assess what I have accomplished. I try to pay closer attention to how much I am extending myself, how much I am trying to learn and experience and when I am reaching that non-productive place of over expansion. I set the intent that most of what I have gained up to this point, I will allow to flow outward in teaching, writing and sharing as an act of harvesting the fruits of my efforts. I set the intent that I will keep the seeds of those experiences and new lessons so they may be replanted when there is adequate space for their growth. I set the intent to enter this time in reflection, celebration and joy in what I have achieved and the inroads I have made.

So, ready, set, and act with intent! Slow the pace and really savor the bounty of the journey along the way. What fruits of harvest and intent does your check in show?

Excerpted in Part:
A Weekly Reflection. Musings for the Year (Week 23). R.Fennelly 2012
More information about book at: http://www.robinfennelly.com

Image Credit: A sectional view of the New York Public Library. 1911. Original Source: From Scientific American. (New York : Munn Co., 1845-). From NYPL’s Digital Gallery

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Fractals2

Last week’s post focused on the axiom of “Quality vs. Quantity” and the emphasis on quality in spiritual studies, workings and practice.  This week I would like to take a look at the quantity side of the coin and the imminent interaction the two have upon one another.

Quantity- Def. of:
a : an indefinite amount or number
b : a determinate or estimated amount
c : total amount or number

If we look at the definitions above there is implied a principle of abundance and having many of something. If we think about quantity as it relates to our spiritual practice this often translates as having lots of books and resource material, many teachers and hosts of workshops, festivals and rituals attended. The goal being to fill ourselves with as much knowledge and experience as possible in hopes of propelling ourselves forward on our chosen path in the little time allotted as physical beings.

Now, I am not saying that these things are not much needed tools, but being indiscriminate in how we use our time, financial resources and energy could be likened to falling prey to the “more is better” syndrome. Workshop junkies who go from one blissful workshop to another without giving time for the information to integrate or verifying the validity of content taken in learn little that is substantive in quality and often burn out prematurely from overload at the point when longevity is most needed. Reading is a wonderful staple of practice and learning, but the quantity of material we can actually process and then put to use is meager compared to the quantity of what is retained if the discernment of quality of content is missing. And, attending ritual after ritual that is devoid of clear intent and understanding of what has been ritualized on your part and quality and power of execution on the part of priest and priestess will leave you thirsting for more satisfying and clearer streams at best, and disconnected, ungrounded and uprooted at worst.

As I noted last week in using the example of refining my skill as a dancer by seeking out actions that were repetitive and determinate in the quantity of hours spent in class and rehearsal, I eventually reached my goal of refinement and quality of movement. This quality came incrementally and was the child that was birthed from the union of maximum effort and selective exercise.  The important factor is that the number of hours spent and practice were all filled with the quality of intent in creating something beautiful and perfect in execution and form that could be added to the quantity of these individual steps that were being accumulated. This effort in and of itself was using a mindset of quality in choosing to select quantity in the  amount of effort put forth.  Each of these individual steps that had been tempered in the quantity of practice  and brought to a place of quality could then be used to create a quality piece of choreography that held both states as its place of inception.

What I have come to learn from this constant flip flop from a place of drawing in everything and then whittling down to the space of refinement and clarity is that any work of self-improvement and self-knowledge takes a great deal of work. It is a work in progress that spans years of concentrated effort and practice and more practice of the skill sets you wish to develop and to maintain. There will be many teachers, both formal and informal, you will engage with and the quality derived from the teachings will be proportionate with the quantity of those interactions. We are, afterall, part of the greater whole which is inclusive of billions of life forms, so to cloister ourselves away, interacting with only a “select” few is counter-intuitive to experiencing the lesson of an incarnate life.  And, it is in the weeding and wading through all of that great mass that we call living  to our highest potential that we can find the balance point of what we personally resonate with as quality that is extracted from what deeply informs and what is discarded.

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1368184872_509055390_1-Pictures-of--Fancy-Chickens-fertile-eggs-buyer

I will begin by saying up front that this and next week’s posts are going to be filled with contradiction.  The rebellious and inquisitive nature in me often likes to pull apart what is the accepted belief, test it and then decide what my own opinion will be.  The issue of quality vs. quantity has always been one in which I easily see both the pitfalls and the benefits.  I attribute some of this to my years of classical training as a dancer and the need for both quality ( beauty and grace of movement)  and quantity (practice, practice, practice) to maintain my level of expertise.  I often flipped the energy to quantity vs. quality simply because I needed to push the physical boundaries and limitations to build a certain level of endurance and then draw it finely back into quality of the movement I was making.  This approach has never left my sphere of use and its application has proved beneficial in mundane and spiritual matters.

We are continually reminded that selection of quality is the preferred method of progress rather than the quantity of whatever tools of use that endeavor may include. When it is applied to our magickal and spiritual pursuits this philosophy can serve to make us more discriminating or render us more dogmatic and exclusive in what our beliefs are and how they are expressed.  I would like to think that I am choosing quality over quantity in the selection of my books, teachers and overall community and that preference has served to better inform and move me along at a quicker pace of self growth, but the reality is that I have often overlooked things that may have served me better. Take a look at the definition of the word “quality ” below:

Quality- Def. of:
a : degree of excellence : grade
b : superiority in kind

Who is to be the determiner of what is quality? And, how do we measure the quality of their declaration? Is it not a purely subjective matter? Even, if we have a consensus of opinion could it be that everyone just happens to be resonating in the same way? Or is something more going on?

When we make a judgement call of what is excellence, we have to have something to measure it against.  Here we have polarity at its finest. Quite frankly, if we haven’t experienced a fair share of crap, how do we know what excellence is? That takes me back to the point made a few paragraphs above about overlooking things that would have served me better.  Sometimes wading through the muck is the only ay to get to the pastures of fertile green life.  Holding out for the perfect route could become an exercise in waiting eternally for what is an unrealistic expectation at the time.  Now this is not to say that I am suggesting you allow yourself to get stuck in mediocrity; the key here being that you continue to forge ahead until you hit ground that feels and resonates productively with your expectations.

Since a spiritual practice is highly personal, what moves me to a state of excellence and what moves another could be and often are very distant in their similarities. We are after all talking about teachings that are vibrational in nature, accessing teachers who have presumably done the work to refine their own energies and are able to impart the subtleties of practice in a subtle and profound manner and exercises of practice that have been proven to be effective.  And, given the over abundance of information, resources, teachings and more weeding through and finding the space of quality can seem like the proverbial needle in the haystack.

One of the ways in which I try to sort it out is to strive for the goal of achieving a point of balance.  This requires bringing the lessons of what was less than quality in experience and the pure energy of that perceived place of excellence to a mid point.  It requires looking at all aspects of each tool I add to my magickal and spiritual practice.  It requires weighing the measure of what I feel I can extract from the experience with what I intuit the productive outcome to be.  And, then combining the best aspects of each, neither in over abundance or lack and each re-informing and engaging the other.  The result is often something that is the best of both and the opportunity to foster a new generation of excellence for others to act upon.

Next week’s post will focus on Quantity and the interaction of the two together.

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