Marking Spiritual Growth and Your Personal Year

Episode 13 – Marking Spiritual Growth and Your Personal Year Cycle The Waxing Soul


Episode Transcript:

I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality.
It's January 21, 2021, and on today's episode we'll be discussing how we can track our spiritual maturity, what spiritual growth looks like from year to year, and how to find our footing in whatever stage of life we're in.
Are you ready to grow your soul?

Episode thirteen. Being a new podcaster, I’m still kind of figuring out the sweet spot for where I’m taking this endeavor and what things I talk about that land best, that really resonate with you all, because my whole thing here isn’t just to hear myself talk. And I was doing some thinking, some visioning recently, and I realized the list of topics I’ve got, the ideas that pop up, can basically be divided into three categories: philosophy, theory, and methodology.

Today we’re going to do more of a methodology piece, maybe it’s theory, but it’s definitely in that realm with some of the other episodes like the numerology one, the power mood one, the simplifying your practice one, and I know that’s something a lot of people want most of. Personally, I can get really into the philosophy and theory bits, ramble on about things like the nature of humanity and our place in the universe and the nature of truth itself, and I’m totally one for embracing a mix of methodologies, even innovating and creating your own, so sometimes I hesitate to flat out teach a skill.

But one thing I realized recently thinking about the pagan group I’ve spoken about before is that what a lot of people are after more than anything is that methodology piece. Where do I start? How do I do this? How do I learn a new thing? Am I doing this thing right? Can I do this differently? And as much as I love talking about theory, practical application is super important.

In fact, all the theory and philosophy in the world makes no difference if you never do anything with it.

So here we are, and I’m going to try to strike a really good balance moving forward of practical and philosophical, and if you follow me on any of my social media profiles, or if you go to the podcast page you can leave an audio message. I always welcome suggestions of topics or feedback on which episodes really resonated with you so I can do more of that.

Now, if you’ve not listened to some of my older episodes, I did one about calendar years and numerology and how that cycle plays out for people, how you can use your year number to find focus and footing in each year. And that’s actually part of a theory I have that everyone has three basic year cycles they go through. One is the calendar year. One is the spiritual year, which we haven’t talked about yet but we will in a few weeks. And one is your personal year. That’s from birthday to birthday. It’s a mark of the passing years in your personal history, your personal development. How you grow as a person, develop as an individual.

All three of the cycles are important in different ways. We talked about calendar years and this idea that we exist in a universal context, a social context, a historical context and the things around us that happen are not something we control as much as respond and react and adapt to. So recognizing how your life is shaped by these larger cycles, these external cycles, and both looking forward and backward because part of that cycle is anticipating what’s on the horizon, getting your mindset and energy aligned with those cycles to help you shape your evolution.

Your personal cycle, on the other hand, is not about breaking down what’s about to happen, it’s about looking at the journey so far and making sure you’re headed in, for lack of a better term, headed in the right direction. It’s about your pattern of growth. Something we can mark and observe like marking a child’s height on a doorframe.

And if you think about it, most of us do this naturally to some extent. We talk about how things were when we were in our twenties versus our thirties versus our forties, etc, wherever you’re at age wise. Those of us who like celebrating our birthdays definitely make a holiday out of that turning of the wheel, the transition point of the cycle, maybe reflect on what happened in the year before and make good wishes for the next year, probably in a little bit different way than we do for the New Year. It’s about what we want for ourselves more than what we hope to be able to do better.

There’s a sense that as we get older, in general, certain things about us are supposed to change, to mature, whatever. But this particular approach, recognizing this cycle as a part of your spiritual machinery, it does go beyond just thinking about what we’re expected to do or how we’re expected to change and mature as time goes on or as we get older. It’s how we mature spiritually and evolve spiritually, the lessons we learn about ourselves, about the universe, and emotionally how we grow and adapt. So this really is the cycle that’s all about our personal evolution.

I said in the episode on numerology and year cycles that we can’t always change what’s going on around us, but we can change how those things change us, and this is how we mark and recognize that process. Life changes us, time ages us, we build up a cumulative set of experiences and bits of knowledge and wisdom whether we work to shape those things or not, so from year to year we are different versions of ourselves.

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Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. 
Check out last week's episode for a discussion of the impact of dissonance between our spiritual paths and our life paths, how to reconcile our life goals with our spirituality, and how to build a personal spiritual life that is truly authentic. 
And come back next week when we'll talk about the different kinds of truth, what it means for there to be different kinds of truth, and what kinds of truth we can use as a foundation for our spirituality.

I’m pretty sure, actually I’m 100% positive that there are people listening here right now who hate their birthdays and have some weirdness around their age. And probably are like, “What the hell does it matter to my spiritual life?”

And the first thing is that it’s not about numerical age, really. But there is a link, I think, between our attitudes toward our natural process of aging and maturing and learning from our life experiences and our ability to really benefit and mature in a spiritual way. Because either way, it’s a clinging to the past and fear of moving forward, and whatever it’s rooted in, those attitudes are going to seep into your spirituality and other areas of your life.

Whether it’s fearing what’s coming or not wanting to let go of youth, whatever it is, those ideas are spiritual issues as well. Whatever baggage we carry when it comes to everyday stuff, mundane stuff, that baggage is one hundred percent relevant to our spiritual lives as well.

So, what does it really mean to mature? To evolve?

On a very basic level it’s simply a matter of change. The ways in which we are different from one part of our life to the next. It’s not just getting older, it’s the differences between our older selves and our younger selves. It’s finding a way to measure or mark or define that change.

There’s certainly some context for this in spiritual terms. All sorts of traditions have some sort of age-related progression towards elder. There’s the maiden – mother – crone progression. And what is common to all that is that there is a progression of roles we play, right? It’s not just an age thing, it’s not the same as ascending through the ranks of an initiatory tradition. It’s centered on our place in culture, on our place within the larger group, and the different types of responsibility we become suited to carry as we progress.

So that is definitely one of the aspects of this and why this is important. As we develop spiritually, we find roles open to us, we gain the ability and wisdom and confidence to fill certain spaces within our spiritual traditions and as spiritual people that we weren’t able or comfortable enough to fill before. That’s certainly one way to mark and visualize our spiritual development.

I know I mark different phases in my own spiritual path by looking at those times when I realized I was capable of something I wasn’t capable of before. Leading a pagan discussion group. Reading tarot for strangers. Writing a book. Starting a podcast. Even just writing a ritual from scratch. Teaching someone else about something when I wasn’t comfortable embracing that expertise before. Even that point where I was able to articulate to someone what my spiritual beliefs are in a way that felt succinct.

As solitary practitioners, we get to define our own developmental milestones.

Now, for a lot of people, and I can hear this happening already, a lot of people are going to start thinking about growing towards a goal. This “who do I want to be and how do I get there,” and I want to make sure we step back from that and not think of growth that way.

This is about growth, which isn’t about getting to a goal. It’s just about progression.

Let’s get right down to the basics here.

Growth is about life. Marking our growth is celebrating life. And the only thing it’s about is nurturing life. Growth means we are alive.

This is not about reaching a goal. Marking milestones along our path of spiritual growth is about knowing, seeing, feeling that we are spiritually alive. And just like our biological life, we have some finite amount of time to enjoy this spiritual life.

The point isn’t to obsess about that.

But whether we try to nurture our growth or not, we’re going to change over time. We’re going to grow. And as much as we don’t have a goal here, we want to be mindful and conscious of how our growth is going. That it’s happening, that we’re spiritually healthy. We’re like plants, and we can make sure we’re properly pruned and growing and bearing fruit, or we can even be like a bonsai tree or topiary and be really intentional about shaping our growth in a certain way, maybe we’re like weeds that can grow anywhere, maybe we’re like irises that need more nurturing and special care to make sure we don’t spiritually shrivel up. I’m kind of letting the metaphor run away from me, but I think you get the point.

What happens as we grow, as we mature spiritually, is we nurture that spiritual spark in us, and marking our growth, marking our maturity, is our way of celebrating that we are spiritually alive and staying aware and able to shape the spiritual life we’re nurturing.

If you have a question, comment, or a suggestion for future show topics, you can submit them by hitting me up on any of my social media accounts:

  

So I want to circle back a bit to this whole idea of annual cycles in our lives. Because where there are cycles, there’s the obvious thing of choosing a start point and using that to mark the passing of each cycle. So we do this at New Year’s, marking the passing of one year into the next, like I talked about a few episodes back, and if you do it in a way that’s nurturing to your spirit and your growth it’s a time for assessment. Looking at what has changed, what you hope for, realign your vision, your perspective, all of that.

And I think most of us, whether we really are intentional about it or not, we do that around our birthdays. Either in a sense of, “OMG I’m another year older, another year closer to the next decade mark, I don’t want to acknowledge that age,” that kind of energy. Or in the sense of really embracing the birthday experience, celebrating yourself, gathering people together to celebrate you and the person you have become.

But I’m not sure that as we get to be adults we still think very deeply about our growth, our changes, really looking at them in that same way as when we mark a kid’s growth on a door frame. Even in the sense of small goals, I think especially as adults we all get caught up in where we’re headed, what’s next, and we forget to stop and look around at where we are.

Little story really quick – it’s like when I made my last big life career move and I had this vision of the life I wanted to build. I wanted to live my passion, I wanted the freedom of being in control of my work, my schedule, I wanted to work from home and be my own boss, I wanted to have the space and time to devote to my spiritual life, my writing, my creating, all of that. And if you’ve ever done that you know it’s a tough road. It’s a lot of uncertainty, it takes a lot of focus in a way that working for someone else generally doesn’t. And there were lots of times when I was really frustrated, overworked, overwhelmed, and I had my focus on certain goals, next steps, what the next project could be to move towards the next goal. And at some point, I really had to step back and look around and get centered and realize that that goal I had was not far away. I was already living it. I worked from home on my own terms, my bills were paid, I was working on stuff I cared about, I was writing and doing my alchemy stuff and planning things like this podcast, I was involved in things I was passionate about.

I had hit my goal, but if I hadn’t stopped to actually take a breath and really look at where I was, where I’d come from, I would have kept pushing and feeling like I still wasn’t there yet.

And I know that happens all the time for all of us. We get so wrapped up in the struggle or the journey that we don’t even notice when we get the thing we were aiming for. And if we’re bad at it when we’re dealing with a journey with a goal, we’re that much worse at it when we’re just dealing with our growth, our development, who we are and have become.

So we’re at the how portion. How do we mark this progress?

Like I said, we can’t just back up to the door frame and mark our spiritual growth with little lines and dates on the wall. And celebrating our birthdays isn’t really the way per se. I’m all for marking that transition, I’m totally a fan of celebrating each passing year of our lives, I love birthdays. The celebration itself is an observation but we have to be intentional if we’re going to recognize our personal growth along our personal timeline.

So, I’m one of those people who uses a physical day planner, and the one I use has a section every month of questions to assess how the month went, what was good, what you could improve on. And it’s a really great model for what we’re talking about here. Taking that time – not just on our birthdays, any time, really – but taking that time to think back and take stock.

But here’s the difference: Marking growth, like I said before, is about recognizing change. Documenting change. So the big question is not about what have you learned, what did you do well this year, what did you not do so well. The big question is how have I grown? How am I different? How have I transformed or evolved?

So I’ve got a download for you, and it’s a journal page. You can use it every year, every quarter, every month, whatever. More frequent is fine, but definitely every year it will help you focus on that question of how have I grown since last month, last year, ten years ago, several different time spans. Because real perspective on this really does mean looking back at different points, being aware of consistent change, long term transformation.

It’s a chance to sit with your memories, even just intuitively look back if your memories aren’t super clear on some things, which is fine. But recognizing that, “hey, a year ago, I was still hesitating to do a ritual by myself but last month I led a whole group,” or, “in the last month I finally developed a strong connection to a specific goddess and that’s been really beneficial.” That’s what’s important.

It’s all about seeing for yourself, finding the markers, the milestones that show you that you are growing, you are developing spiritually, that you really are spiritually alive.

Thank you so much for listening.
Look for a new episode of Waxing Soul every Thursday.

All materials and resources except the music are © Bridget Owens.
Music is Dream Catcher by Kevin MacLeod
https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4650-dream-catcher
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily.
None of this happens in a bubble.
Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.

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