Annual Planning 2009

I decided to wait a bit this year before attempting my annual planning. I needed time for the lessons of late fall and early winter to soak into my bones. That new blood coursing through my veins contains the accumulated wisdom from my winter ordeal, which will hopefully enrich and deepen my annual planning.

My mission is still very much alive for me. So my first realization was that several of my long term goals were actually subsets of a larger, more expansive goal. Spending time with loved ones, being financial independent, building my business and having a welcoming home are actually part and parcel of maintaining a sustainable, passionate and creative life.

I also needed to reword the remaining goals to capture the essence of how they felt in my physical and energetic self. As I word crafted them, I felt a strong urge to get up and dance which is always a good sign. (And you gotta know I succumbed to that urge in a really delicious way!)

So my current long term goals are

At this moment, these work for me at so many levels. I may need to make them a little more specific later, but here is where I begin.

Like last year, I will try to share and explore my process out loud right here in my blog. I encourage you to join me in this process. What are your long term goals? And do they make you wanna get up and dance?

Because right now I need to get up and shimmy a little more before proceeding to the next phase -- crafting annual goals.

Focus & Depth

Back in late February I shared my current long-term goals. I had promised to share my progress toward these goals like I did last year. But life took a turn, as life is wont to do, and here it is July and I have not shed any light into this year’s process.

The reason I am finally writing about my goals four months past when I intended is complex and at some level still a mystery even to me. But the last few blogs on balance are an output of my process, so it makes sense (at least to me) to share more of what is happening to produce these latest musings.

The long-term goals I shared were deepen my spiritual journey, nurture the sustainable, passionate and creative fabric of my life, and share my message. This is a much shorter list when compared with last year's, which reflects the narrowing of my focus along with a deepening of my vision. Each of these goal statements needed further definition, so I have spent the last several months clarifying my priorities and I think I can share some of what each of these mean to me at this juncture.

My plan is to write about each of these goals over the next several weeks. I may still intersperse this series with some of my regular rants -- continuing recent threads or maybe even begin some new ones.

Deepen My Spiritual Journey

This goal has three components; study, practice and my tradition. I will cover the first two today, and discuss my spiritual tradition in a subsequent post.

Study: Specifically, my focus is to study wisdom traditions. I started the year with my reading of Sufi, Yoga, and Buddhist texts. I am slowly working my way through Evelyn Underhill’s books on mysticism while simultaneously studying advanced dreamwork. And this fall, I will begin the certification program for archetypal pattern analysis with the Assisi Institute.

I realized a couple of years ago that my reading had almost dropped to a trickle when I began wearing bifocals. So I purchased a pair of reading glasses so I could stop the incessant head bobbing associated with getting my head in the right position to read below the invisible line. But until I started to focus on reading this year, I had not realized how much I have been starving for intellectual nourishment.

I use to inhale books. My reading speed has dropped significantly from the more than 2,500 words per minute of my pre-glasses stage. So this goal includes me making time in my life for some serious reading. I had started to pick up speed before the prednisone slowed me down again. I figure this will work itself out in time, as long as I continue to make time for reading.

With the exception of old-school science fiction and some recent graphic novels, I tend to primarily read non-fiction. And I have been collecting a ton of books over the years that I have not had the time to read. Who knows, with this goal, I might finally make a dent in that pile.

Spiritual Practice: My spiritual practice has multiple components. The first is canonical prayers. I have been slowly adopting canonical hours for a couple of years. Well this year saw the debut of my canonical prayers; I have six prayers throughout the day along with a mid afternoon astrological mediation.

The prayers are offered at waking, 9 am(Air), noon(Fire), 3 pm, 6 pm(Water), 9 pm(Earth) and bedtime. Each prayer has an elemental component, a patron diety component or both. The 3 pm meditation is based on the correlation of days of the week with the seven elder planets, i.e Sunday/Sun, Monday/Moon, Tuesday/Mars, Wednesday/Mercury, Thursday/Jupiter, Friday/Venus, and Saturday/Saturn. So each day at 3 pm, I meditate on the planet of the day in its current astrological sign using the element and modality of the sign as my jumping off point.

Lately the pattern is that I remember to do the earlier practices, i.e. morning, air and fire prayers. But I sometimes forget to do the water and earth prayers, and the bedtime prayer has been missed consistently for weeks. By the time my head hits the pillow, I am so exhausted that the idea of prayer completely fades. I have been meditating on this quandary and I am beginning to think it is related to my sleeping problems as of late.

The reason I am so exhausted at night is because I have been waking up at earlier and earlier each day – often between 3:30 and 6 am. Sometimes I can coax myself back to sleep but that leaves me with a drugged out feeling the rest of the day. So now if I cannot go back to sleep within 30 minutes, I just get up, which leads to extremely long days. Once I realized how my sleep problems were impacting my prayers, I stopped ignoring it and began working on a solution. I also stopped beating myself up for basically being sleepy as all get out. (Oddly this is preferable to the sleep two hours, get up and pee, repeat cycle of the prednisone induced sleep. So I am not going back on a night time dosage just yet.)

The other components have to do with ritual, meditation, incorporating spiritual components to some of my existing routines and other practices whose aim is deepening my journey. I already had prayers and mantras inside my yoga practice. So now I am adding even more intention to my planning, routines and day-to-day activities. This is a work-in-progress.

Next up, The Order of the Elemental Mysteries.

Build My Tradition

This is the second of my series on my new long-term goals. Go here to read the first in this series. Last time I covered the first goals under Deepen my Spiritual Journey -- study and practice. This time I will cover the third goal -- build my tradition.

I finally introduced my spiritual tradition in my last post. My goals in this area involve a newfound focus. Prior to this year, my focus had been on building Reflections Mystery School, Connect DC and Dark Flame Coven. But in January, I attended a spiritual retreat that blew my mind and dissolved the blinders I had been wearing. I realized how in every way that mattered, I was focused on the branches and disregarding the tree. So when I returned, I did some frankly painful truth telling and turned my entire world upside down. Since then I have been focused on building the Order of the Elemental Mysteries. I had already turned over the administration of Reflections to Angela Raincatcher. But in January, I also took a very painful step and resigned as Dark Flame’s High Priestess.

This was huge for me, but necessary! So I began this year with some pretty major upheavals. This meant that I had to re-look at everything all over again, which ultimately produced these new long-term goals.

Most new traditions are revealed only after a group has been working together for a while and at some point discover the unique tapestry they have woven together. While others begin as hives from more established traditions. And here I was deciding to build a tradition from scratch, the sheer arrogance of it all paralyzed me initially, which is why I was so focused on the school, ritual group and my beloved coven. Now I was forced to face my trepidations and begin the work of building the tradition separate from the school and ritual group.

My goals in this area include our incorporation as a church, the manifestation of our motherhouse and temple, and extending Connect DC to cover all eight Sabbaths. All are moving forward except extending our public ritual observances. With me starting school this fall, I have decided to hold off adding the three remaining rituals all at once. We may add Beltane in 2011, with Lamas & Imbolc held off until maybe 2012.

At present, the plan is to continue subdividing the work amongst the core group. I hope to be able to make some exciting announcements in early 2010.

This change in focus has been challenging. I have had to face some of my personal demons concerning inclusiveness versus singular vision, directed versus open processes, and perfectionism versus real world limits. I am learning what is truly important and what is illusion. I hope to keep folks updated as to our progress.

Nurturing My Life

This is the third post in my series on my new long-term goals. Go here to see the first post in the series. So far I have discussed deepening my spiritual journey. In this post, I begin discussion of my second overriding goal, the nurturing of the fabric of my life.

Back in February, I realized that several of my previous long-term goals were actually subsets of a larger, more expansive goal. Spending time with loved ones, having a spiritual, sustainable and healthy lifestyle, and having a welcoming home were actually part and parcel of nurturing a sustainable, passionate and creative life. The new wording worked for me and it covered one of my most challenging issues, self-nurturance.

But that statement desperately needed more definition. Over time, it expanded into three sub goals: build core strength, open my heart and care for my home. (Am I the only one seeing a trend with three high level goals with so far three sub goals under each? Hmmm …)

Build Core Strength

Strengthening my core has been a focus for several years. It involves primarily physical activities and issues. This includes yoga, walking, and eating nutritious meals. Regular health care counts as well.

I have been walking each week and up till the Flexeril episode, I managed several yoga practices a week. And earlier this year I restarted my fruit and vegetable deliveries, which has helped with my meals. I am hoping to build back up to almost daily yoga and am trying to get back up to two 1 mile walks each week.

My work with the intuitive healer has helped me loosen up some stuck areas all over my body, so that now when I walk I am using both legs pretty evenly at least until I get tired. But thankfully I am no longer limping for the last quarter mile, which is a big improvement.

My yoga practice, when it is regular, enables me to move with confidence all week. If I can get the meds just right, my hope is be able to walk on inclines and steps with a smoother gait. It is the one place where my disability reveals itself even when I am well rested and my joints are warmed up.

The last area I was working on before all hell broke loose was building abdominal strength. Hopefully I can get back to it as a focus before year’s end.

Open My Heart

This past week, my healer pointed out all the rage I carry just below my ribcage. Most of it is due to my continuing issues with my health. My heart opening practice up till now had been focused on my shoulders and spine. She loosened the affected area by manipulating my spine and the connecting muscles – a truly weird sensation. Now when I pull my shoulders back, I can feel more of my chest expanding.

My role in this effort now also includes preserving and reclaiming openness in my schedule, my home and my journey. For example, although technically I had time to teach at Cherry Hill and return to school, it would have left me no buffer in case of illness or an emergency – so I decided to not return to Cherry Hill while I am in school.

I have also made an effort to enjoy the beauty I encounter as travel around the area. Just recently, after that heart opening session with my healer, I visited Sligo Creek Park. Instead of doing my regular walk, I just sought out a friendly boulder to sit and enjoy the beauty of the water and greenery – it was delicious!

So my goal of heart opening operates at multiple levels -- physical, emotional and spiritual.

Next time I will discuss my goal of caring for my home.

Care for My Home

This is the fourth post in my series on my new long-term goals. Go here to see the first post in the series.

As I shared when I announced my diagnosis, my house is a constant reminder of the true cost of my illness. I was recuperating from major surgery when I moved into this house and I have not had a healthy year in the almost twenty years that I have lived here. It is all pretty amazing when you think about it.

There has been movement, my library has moved twice I think. My closet used to be the junk room. And now my old office plus half my new office serves that role. I use to store things in the basement after I stopped renting it out, but that stopped when I turned it into a temple and classroom. So most things are stored upstairs.

In the mean time, all my artwork, at least the ones that survived the floods, lives in my offices, old and new. When I retired after twenty five years, my ton of belongings including a library of technical books and archives was moved in boxes into the old office which was already holding the remnants from previous schools, organizations, churches and homes.

Each year, people would help me clean up for New Years by moving boxes of unopened mail to joined the unexamined boxes from previous years. The funny bit is that my filing cabinet is buried under a ton of boxes, so the paper just piles up waiting for that day when I am full of enough energy to tackle it. And of course that day never comes. People have offered to help but most only want me to throw everything out which freaks me out.

On top of the clutter is the constant fix it litany of any 100-year-old house. My dream of new windows went out the window after the ironically named hurricane and her sis, Rita. That is when I discovered what my insurance does not cover. Subsequent house woes were chronicled in Live Journal, which I will not repeat here except to say – DA-AMN!

This is all a long way of saying that de-cluttering and reorganizing my house has been a goal of mine for over fifteen years. And despite having thrown out a literal ton of stuff over the years, I have at least half of that left that needs organizing. I have had some areas of the house repaired, made some necessary changes and upgraded some elements. But it still feels like a ton of work is needed.

So my goals in this area include cleaning, sorting and organizing (what I call CSO), clutter removal, and setting up some household routines. Of the three, the household routines are mostly in place. On my balance score sheet, I reserve the highest score for de-cluttering and publishing. I am trying to see if this will motivate me. In the past two months, I managed two de-cluttering sessions. On one hand, it is a pretty miserable result. On the other hand, It is two more than I did all last year. This one is definitely a work in progress.

Next up is my last overall goal of sharing my message.

Share My Message

This is the fifth post in my series on my new long-term goals. Go here to see the first post in the series.

This is the one long-term goal that for the most part remains unchanged from last year. Last year it was share my writings, music, art and message with a wider audience. And this year I shortened it to share my message.

And it remains a large part of my work in the world. So much so, that I had to find a way to balance this goal against the long-term goal of nurturing my life. This was the core of my balance pursuit.

And like the earlier ones, this long-term goal also has three sub-goals – write/publish, teach and connect.

Writing/Publishing

This goal includes writing this blog of course, but also publishing books, podcasts, and other media. Once I discovered that my current book was born out of a practice of writing articles on topics that interested me, I realized how important it is to just write about whatever catches my fancy. Most of those articles have never seen the light of day. They will eventually be repurposed into either a book of essays or expanded into books of their own. At least two have been turned into conference workshops and a third was used in my Descent workshop. I am learning so much about writing as practice, and I oh so look forward to the writing that will be required as part of the program at Assisi.

Teach

On average, I plan to teach 5 to 6 one-day classes, 3 sequestered weekends, 5 ritual/classes each year. In previous years, I also taught 3 to 4 six/seven week classes plus one or two conferences, festivals, lectures and sermons scattered throughout the year. I am hoping to add some online/tele-seminar courses plus maybe encourage some invites for a few out of town classes. I also want to debut a new set of what I call Essential classes to replace the Reclaiming courses I no longer teach.

Some, many of my friends and students, would call this overdoing it. But if you ever have taken a class from me, you probably know why I feel such a calling to teach. I just love teaching! I will necessarily hold off on some of my plans because plainly I will need the time since I am now back in school. But … I will have to scratch that teaching itch every so often just to keep the urge under control.

Connect

In my mission statement, I explicitly state that I want to be willing to touch and be touched by the journeys of my loved ones. I was trying to capture my need to make room for authentic loving relationships in my life. This is still true for me. The new insight is that this extends not only to my family and friends but also to my students, colleagues and members of my community. My natural introversion and the nature of my illnesses act as barriers to my participation in many community events. It takes a great deal of planning, assistance from others and time afterwards for recovery for me to just show up for most functions.

But what is funny is that if I am teaching at an event, I can usually pull it off. That is why I could attend select Pagan Pride festivals over the years. Each time, I was asked to present a short class on a topic. The other way that works for me is a focused discussion or a class on a topic I have an interest in presented by a teacher I admire.

Several times this past 12 months, I planned to attend an event then had to cancel due to illness or exhaustion. It is frustrating to say the least.

Now that I have a diagnosis, I am hoping to be more available in some respects. But of course, the next obstacle is my calendar of crazy. This fall, I had only two free weekends from September through December. The first free weekend was Labor Day, and right at the moment, I cannot recall when the next one occurs.

With my weekends full, I focus instead on having more time for folks mid week. I try to meet up with friends for dinner, movies and just hanging out during the week. I also am getting better with setting up times to chat over the phone with long distance friends. As I plan for 2010, I will need to keep this goal in mind.