The season is changing. So are you and so am I. Let’s pay creative attention to the changes by imagining them and then shaping clear intentions for how we will move in the flow of time. Planning how your intentions will manifest in time is a spiritual practice.
I’ve been slowly(over the last 18 months) developing a rhythm of conscious seasonal planning (90-day plans). This effort works to bring my will into the right relationship with time. This requires me to imagine wisely so that my imagination is in the right relationship to my will forces.
The seasonal/90day attention really allows for significant imaginations to manifest. Yearly imaginations can feel overwhelming and monthly, weekly, or daily imaginations can feel to small to matter. If we look at the cosmos and nature to see creative cycles for living, for shaping life, we can see the seasonal cycle offers the most meaningful and purposeful possibilities.
I also am finding it clarifying to distinguish my imaginations and intentions around my will and my time in three realms: the spiritual, the practical, and the moral. Initially, this was challenging, but the more I struggled with this threefold relationship to time, the richer and more satisfying my life has become.
One thing that deepens the meaning of this planning, is recognizing that in choosing only 1-3 intentions or goals you are sacrificing many others. In designing your will life, you must face the finitude of your time and your will… timeout and burnout! When we don’t work with the reality of the finite, we will suffer chronic existential overwhelm, frustration, and despair.
Thinking and imagining are without limitations of any sort. I can think about spending time doing amazing things that I would love to do but when it comes to my time and my will forces (and often my finances) they are not doable. I can imagine the undoable.
Every season, month, week, day, or hour I must choose what I will give my limited will and time to and what I will sacrifice to the no time/undone realm of my soul. And I need to honor my impossible possibilities with grieving. Every timeframe needs a time for grieving. We need a grieving notebook. What is grief and how does one grieve? Why?!
Likewise, we need a forgiveness notebook for all the errors and mistakes, all the neglect and abandonment, all the denials and excesses. What is forgiveness? How does one forgive? Why?!
Finally, we need a completion notebook. I have completion blindness and fail to see what I have finished. No way to resonate with “Well done! Good job!” I have completion-numbness as my feelings go flat and I only feel the urgency to get on with the next job, challenge, or mountain. I always feel guilty when I rest as I see it as avoidance and laziness. Did I finish a task, complete a project, or accomplish a goal? Did I take a single step or did I climb that mountain? The celebration should not vary or discriminate. Wildly celebrate both the tiny details and the grand finales.
How do I notice, appreciate, and celebrate my completions? I am just learning to celebrate. Maybe I just need to write it down in the completion notebook and then smile for a few seconds. Do I have a completion friend who will witness me celebrating?
If as a child, I had been taught to grieve consciously, forgive compassionately, and celebrate my completions, my adulthood would have, might have had more clear spiritual, moral, and practical joy, development, confidence, and serenity.
Note: Cosmos vs. Calendar
Do I begin my season based on the sun or on the calendar? I do both.
Spiritually, this means I am paying attention to the Solstices & Equinoxes the cosmic gesture of the Seasons.
Practically, I work with the calendar in four 3-month rhythms.
And morally, I work with the needs of my soul to be at one with the mystery of life, others, and myself. Morally, time is of the moment rather than the minute. I find moral attention is reflection as much as intention.
Each week has 168 hours. If we take away the hours we spend sleeping (avg 7/night or 49 hours in a week) we have 119 hours for our will to be active. If you work for someone else or for yourself, block out those obligated hours. And then block out any regularly committed hours for eating, bathing, exercise, house-cleaning, etc. Play with your week of waking hours and learn how you use your time. Then you know how much free time you have each week for playtime and deeptime.
Deeptime is for your inner development: finding, knowing, and becoming yourself. This is the time you seek wisdom, know love, and become free. It is angel talk time. Mysterytime. The time you spend with whatever you call the Source, Spirit, or God. It is selftime, sacred and essential. And it doesn’t need to be a lot of minutes but it does need a lot of devotion. Devotion is the will to love yourself unselfishly, to fill your soul with freedom beyond prescribed practices, and to find wisdom that surprises and inspires.
The Three Seasons of the Soul
I have written a number of drafts for each of these seasons, the spiritual, the practical, and the moral. With each draft, I learned more about each season and myself. I just had a painful but profoundly liberating insight as Rudolf Steiner said “Wisdom is crystalized suffering.” I realized that I don’t think or feel I deserve a successful practical life. I see the chronic chaos of my dramatic childhood left me no sense of practical order or purpose. I will probably write about this self-wisdom in another post.
I want to suggest that you look at your sense of success in designing your spiritual, practical, and moral lives. Do you feel you deserve the good life? Do you feel that your goodness, spiritually, practically, and morally, is unfolding over time because you deserve it? Because you are worthy? Do you imagine fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in each?
Imagining The Spiritual Season
There are three spiritual goals: freedom, wisdom, and love. There are a number of spiritual “projects or practices” that support you reaching those three spiritual goals. There are passive practices like meditation and prayer, religious worship, or gazing at a great work of art or an aspect of nature. I find these all bring a calm peace and a spiritual presence, but they don’t always empower my inner experience of freedom and love, nor do they bring deep wisdom. But they do open the door in your soul, your relationship to the spiritual.
I work with active projects that strengthen my higher cognitions of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. And they all begin with knowing my many selves in order to find the many ways to the Inner Divine within my own soul through my own thoughtfully designed efforts. It is a matter of the self finding the Self by myself.
A valuable guide for each spiritual season is Rudolf Steiner’s seasonal admonitions. For each week of the season build imaginations around a question related to the admonition. Just determining the twelve questions is a beautiful and challenging spiritual project.
Winter – Know Thyself. This is the spiritual season to go inward and focus on goals for your inner development. Sink into the life-bearing richness of the roots of your destiny. Just make a list of question about the what, how, why and who of your life so far.
Spring – Receive the Light. Just like the tree sap rising to the sun, Spring is the season for rising up to new life. Let it be new as if the light in your soul is shining from a different direction revealing the emergence of tender new imaginations. Work with 12 different sources of light and the 12 ways you resist receiving the light.
Summer – Look into the World. Revel in your senses. What are you perceiving that you want to celebrate? The World is good. It is your earthly home. Find 12 different ways to use when you look into the world of earthly delights, dilemmas and dramas.
Autumn – Be Aware of Evil. It is not beware of evil, but be aware! Awareness supports discernment and courage. Fear inhibits awareness. This is a big challenge but begin with 12 ways to be accountable for evil, to forgive harm, to witness objectively, and with equanimity.
Each month you might focus on a single question that fits into the seasonal admonition. It is wonderful to experience what working with a single question for four weeks can awaken and reveal. My Inner Christmas discipline of choosing a theme and writing about it in 12 different ways during the Holy Nights has done more to develop my soul life than anything. Choose just one question and let the soul alchemy happen.
Many people write morning pages. With the spiritual season focus, you can write angel pages…at least once a week write to your angel about your spiritual focus for 10 minutes or more. Open up your heart and let your thoughts flow onto the paper.
This spiritual work disciplines and enriches my thinking and my attention. I measure in the qualities of truth, beauty, and goodness. I strive for inner freedom and outer love. I commit to wondering and opening to surprising wisdom.
Imagining The Practical Season
Designing my practical season, I am focusing on my will and my intention, I work with 90 days/3 months. So this week I am planning October 1 to December 31. I look at and plan goals, projects, and tasks that will bring me greater fulfillment in my ambitions and my responsibilities. My goals are measurable in quantities, not qualities, which grounds them. Our ideals need to be grounded! My projects are about beginning, executing, and completing the work of accomplishing my goals…the big steps. My tasks are about all the little steps to complete a project and get checked off. I use measurements to determine how fully my will has succeeded and persevered. I limit myself to three goals and I am learning to acknowledge my completions and small wins.
As a practical being interacting with work, home, body, finances, health, etc. I consider the impact my conscious will has on life, my life, and the life of others. I want to be organized, structured, focused, and effective. But I am a creative and find myself wandering from my intentions. My practical season is a balance between my longing for structure and my natural spontaneity. I also have a sense that I don’t deserve structure because of a very traumatic childhood filled with abandonment and disruption. This is painful.
In my practical life, the seasons don’t vary much. I live alone. I am a solopreneur, so I work alone. My intentions each season are about writing and connecting with my clients and my followers and the well-being and dynamic balance of my life.
Working for an organization, your work life will benefit from reviewing your job demands from this threefold perspective. For so many hours a week, your will and your time belong to your employer and the job description, but your thoughts and feelings are yours to be aware of and develop. If you are self-employed, it can help to write your own job description.
If you live with others, especially with children, the practical season can feel chaotic, demanding, and maddening. Keep your imagining simple and doable. May one simple practical goal that is just about you!
Imagining The Moral Season
The Moral Season is complex. It’s the season of meaningful decisions and purposeful choices and the selfish and unselfish motives behind them. We look for what will be “right” and “virtuous” and “developmental.”
This is the season that gets measured in the way of the Eightfold Path and the rightness of life. What feels like the right path for you? Choose one of Buddha’s paths for your moral intention this season. Each evening or once a week, ask yourself how you have evolved on this path. You can also look for how you have seen it in others (including characters in a book or the show you watched on Netflix.)
This is the season of virtues. Each season or each month, what is the virtue you want to develop? Generosity, forgiveness, tolerance, moderation, enthusiasm, gratitude? Aristotle referred to this as eudaemonia or the virtuous life. And, it is essential to know that this moral season is as much about how you feel about yourself, as how you feel about others, the planet, and the future.
The Moral Season is also about how you enrich your soul through active metamorphosis. Every season, month, week or day make a difficult choice that requires creativity and courage. Choose to grow elegantly. Choose an exquisites risk. Welcome disruption, difficulty, and despair. Work with your shadows, your sufferings, and your sorrows. Learn to recognize when your will is at the level of instinct, impulse, or desire and then question if it is “right.” Do something different and uncomfortable every week or everyday.
No Perfection Needed
Celebrate messes, incompletions and failures. Don’t feel shame or guilt! You are learning, growing, and evolving!
Please don’t think that because I write all this “wisdom,” I am good at practicing any of it. My attempts are some times feeble, often forgotten, and rarely, wildly surprising. One practice I am very good at is maintaining the mood of wonder and asking contemplative questions. And another support for me is accountability. If somebody else will benefit from or need my efforts, I will do it! So knowing you will be reading this helps me write it.
Take Time to Design Your Time Consciously
If one day in the next week, you sit with your journal and contemplate what you intend to do, what you will focus your will on so that the season begins with a bit of spiritual, practical, and moral clarity…what a wonderful step. And have a seasonal conversation with your partner or your best friend. Or me in a sacred conversation with me.
And let me know what insights, imaginations, and intentions enter your soul. Email me at [email protected]
And here is a link to a post I wrote in 2012 on Imagining Your Inner Autumn Manifesto that offers another approach to imagining our lives.