I’ve spent the last few weeks in the midst of cleaning and purging stuff. My desks (home and work) became a shambles during the spring because my brain was so caught up in classes that I didn’t have the energy to just go through my stuff and determine what needed doing and what could be tossed. Combine this with a person who has a tendency to hang on to some things for too long and you have a recipe for messes. I’ve gotten better with this, and whenever it feels like too much, the energy in that place noticeably stagnates and I have to go through and clear it out. In the process I’ve also been purging more possessions, like books, clothes that don’t fit, and even habits. This has also been helping to clear my mind, and I’ve again been reevaluating the general state of my life. What’s been coming to the forefront, in getting rid of all of this “stuff,” is how I pay attention and focus on whatever I am working on in any particular moment.
Generally, I am the kind of person who’s happy having lots of things to do. I can multitask very well. But sometimes this can get in the way when it comes time to focus solely on one activity for a period of time. I find my brain jumping around to other stuff, or that I can be more easily distracted in general. Even as I work on writing this post, I find my attention divided some. Internet is on, email coming in, Livejournal and Facebook to peek at…
Focus is essential in any spiritual practice. Whether it be during a sumbel, meditation, trance work, spell casting, martial arts, ritual, or whatever activities comprise your Work, the point is to have both body and mind present for them and to devote your attention to that thing for some time. If you’re distracted while casting a spell, chances are better that you won’t get the results you’re hoping for. If you’re sitting in your shrine and trying to talk to God(s) and you are already thinking ahead a few hours to the movie you’re going out to see, you may not pick up on any messages that might be sent your way.
The development of focus takes a long time. Maybe it’s more difficult in our society, so filled with distractions and so consumed by the idea of multitasking and being “connected” constantly to some kind of information source. Maybe it’s always been difficult for humans to develop focus to a level where they can do for hours or days in just one task and not let anything outside of it get in their way. (Status update: I’m certainly not as I write this, but I’m coming back to it every time until I at least get the draft done.)
A key to developing focus is priority. Is it important that you put your attention into a particular task? What impedes you from doing this? It is something else important? Is it something fun and meant for you to relax because you’d rather be doing that?
To sidetrack for a moment, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but when you’re doing that activity, FOCUS on relaxing and having fun. Don’t let your mind be occupied with other problems or situations. Sometimes that relaxation is exactly what you need so you can come back to that other task and be able to give more of your attention to it, and even handle it better.
So what’s the purpose here, as I write this and feel like some kind of self-help guru? My point is this: when you’re devoting yourself seriously to a spiritual path, you need to be able to focus on your Work. Inevitably you’re going to have to look at what’s in your life and evaluate it. Is it necessary? Does it bring you joy? Does it feel like just another habit or something you’re “supposed” to do? I’m not saying ignore the needs of life. Gotta keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, and generally be able to support yourself somehow in society. We all have to do these things, and if you’re not taking care of the basic needs you’re not going to be able to devote the time and energy you want to your Work due to worries from that.
My ability to focus isn’t always what I’d want it to be. Stress is usually what gets in the way, and I had a lot of that for three and a half months. Now that I have worked through it all, it’s time to come back to a place where I can give attention to what matters. To give you a real idea of what I’ve been doing to bring that about, here’s a short list:
*Tossing piles of magazines and papers I don’t need anymore
*Getting rid of clothes I don’t wear and little nick knacks that aren’t me and just take up space to be dusted
*Cutting out my daily at-work chocolate snack (habit, I don’t enjoy it as much, and seeing what will happen if I make sugar into a rare treat)
*Seriously considering getting rid of cable. As it is I hardly turn on the tv now, and for a long time I wouldn’t go to sleep without it on. (Since I started writing, cable is staying, but I still choose to rarely have the TV turned on.)
*Worrying less on the length of time I spend meditating and more on the quality
*I had a Request (from some Guy with only one eye) that I make every Wednesday a time to work on my rune studies. Even if it’s just sitting in meditation and contemplating the runes for the month or the one(s) I pulled that day.
I also am getting hit lately with the cosmic clue by four that I need to do more writing and take on something like a writer identity. For so long I’ve denied it, because when I was young I hated doing so. Now I’ve learned how much power my written words have, and I WANT to share the ideas in my head. I submitted two things for publication last month (one is the poem I did in June that is up here, another is a gift for a dear friend), and there are more posts I want to do for this blog as well as other things I want to submit for publication. Since I am not used to such things, it’s been very easy for me to find distractions to keep from sitting down and writing them. By getting rid of what I don’t need or want and being able to devote myself to what I do, I’ve found a lot of time that I didn’t seem to have before. It’s waiting there like a gift wanting to be used. Now to just find the focus to sit down and transcribe thoughts into words.
While not a specifically Heathen post, it is a part of Heathen Mysticism Blogging Month, because what good is a mystic if they cannot focus on the sacred?