Thursday, January 28, 2010

Applying the Principles of Dedication

Last year, at Imbolg, also known as Candlemas, or to the more secular, Groundhog Day, I blogged about our little family ritual:

This holiday is called by many names, including Rite of Dedication. For me, this is exactly what it is. If the New Year is a baby born at the winter solstice, then this is the time of year when the baby opens his eyes and receives a name.

To me this is the time of year that I re-dedicate myself to my purpose. My purpose is my true will, as in, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” But “true will” is not just an impulse or a whim. In this context, it takes on a new meaning. In my opinion, my true will is the way Divinity moves through me. No one, not clergy, authority figures, ancient texts or television personalities can dictate my true will. No one can tell anyone this. It doesn’t reveal itself easily. It’s teased out in meditation, with open awareness and in the application of life experiences to spiritual ideals.

The challenge is not only to apply this to my life, but to find a way to make it available to my children. I take these concepts into myself, process them, and find a way to illustrate and share them. I hope I can create opportunities and availability without making it a heavy-handed imposition.

One of my goals is to teach that time and the cycles of life are precious gifts. We may choose to squander them, or we may choose to use them with intention.

Many people see the annual Rite of Dedication as a time to re-dedicate themselves to their spiritual path. I agree with this idea, but I like to broaden it beyond a spiritual focus into something more balanced and whole. We’ve all known people who focused on their spirituality to the detriment of their professional and financial lives, and people who focused on their careers to the detriment of their relationships. I believe that balance is a key to a spiritual life.

The exercise I plan to use for setting intentions involves dividing personal growth priorities into categories. Here they are off the top of my head, not in any particular order:

Academic or intellectual
Emotional, social or relationships
Ethical or personal values development

An individual might find that there are categories missing from this list and will have different growing edges in each of their categories. The trick is to articulate one or two achievable goals in each of the categories, and then devise an action plan for achieving them.

In order to provide extra “oomph” to the plan, we seek assistance from the elements. I’m not referring to the periodic table of the elements, but the five classical elements.

For a more concrete thinker, one could describe this as taking qualities that we believe exist in the physical universe and using them for inspiration. The elements are earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Specific qualities are attributed to these elements. We possess these qualities inside ourselves and simply draw upon them to achieve our goals, using the elements as symbols of the qualities we seek. For example, qualities of earth include growth and stability. Qualities of air include communication and intellect. Qualities of fire include passion and creativity. Qualities of water include healing and intuition.

To help anchor this personal dedication, I am considering implementing an idea called the 100 Day Challenge. It’s simply a personal chart with 100 boxes on it. Next to the rows of boxes is a list of daily tasks. In my version of the exercise, each task will be small and achievable and will relate to growth and improvement. When the list is completed each day, a checkmark is placed in a box. When all of the boxes have been marked, the challenge is finished. After 100 days, perhaps a few new good habits will be developed.

However, dedication is for the year, not just for the next 100 days. Using the model of the agricultural year, which is also an important focus for my spirituality, one could say that this is the first planting.

Where we live, the celestial event of Imbolg/Dedication/Candlemas will take place on February 3, at 2:30 p.m.

If the 100 day challenge commences on February 3, the last day of the challenge will be on Thursday, May 13. If we stick with the challenge, by the end of the exercise we’ll be ready to reevaluate the goals and reflect on our growth. I think that whenever we enter into an agreement with our Higher Selves, we are well served when we follow through.