Paganism and Study Intentions
As a Pagan, study is something that I see as a lifelong devotion. The study of self, study of community, society and cultural evolution is a necessity to someone who wishes to understand the self and self-aspects in a social world. So, you'd think that being in university and having to study in that structure would be relatively easy! Think again, my friends.
With Paganism, we let our instincts and spiritual passion guide our study, no matter how strict our need for evidence and citation, as individuals. With academic study, there is very little about the structure that is within our control. In my personal experience, I’ve found that passion brought me back to academia but the study itself has completely changed where my passion was focused, as it opened me up to new thoughts and avenues of study I’d never considered before.
One similarity between the two is one that I feel my faith has adequately prepared me for, and those of other faith groups may agree; which is intention.
Within Paganism, particularly those paths centred around witchcraft, intention is the basis for all work. Our passion fuels us but our intentions drive us. None of us would be students today if we didn't share these two things; a passion for a subject and an intention to further our understanding in order to use that passion in one way or another. Whether it's a career change, a promotion or just an interest in a subject, we're all intentionally making plans to expand our understandings in a powerful way!
Intentions and the Spring Equinox
The Spring Equinox is an ideal time to discuss this. While it’s traditionally a time for new beginnings (ideal for anyone beginning their studies for the first-time last month), it is also a time for intention reflection, for looking at our lives and planning how the near future is going to be manifested.
Taking the time to ritually ready yourself, whether spiritually or just emotionally and cognitively, for your studies is, in my experience, immensely helpful in focusing me on my goals which are, in this case, to take in new information, to engage with my studies and to write kickass assignments that will wow my tutors! Ok, that last one is a long shot, getting a pass is usually my only actual intention but the Equinox is also a wonderful time to dream and fantasise in a way that can fuel your intentions.
Intentions and neurodiversity
I'm sure I’m not alone in procrastinating by fantasising about the glorious work I’ll do out in the world once I have my qualifications. This may seem like you're not focusing but it's directed procrastination so it's better than nothing, especially for my ADHD brain!
It's unreasonable, from a neurological and cognitive perspective, to expect you to just sit down and assume your brain can focus on this single thing for the period of time that you need to, in order to succeed in academia.
Recent studies, like this one by Kelley and Whaton (2013), have highlighted that short bursts of study are far more effective than sitting and cramming for hours at a time, in terms of converting new input into long term, actionable memory. Taking some time to focus yourself in the moment, remind yourself of your intention, including both short term (such as an upcoming assignment) and long term (like new career opportunities) goals is a way to bring your mind away from everything around you and direct it to the work immediately in front of you.
If you've never engaged with mindfulness before, this may seem a bit daft or daunting to you, depending on your personal beliefs, but this is a technique not only used in the spiritual community but also in many types of therapy and other areas.
You can find a spring equinox mindfulness exercise for engaging in your studies here.
The spring equinox and study
The Equinox is one of the times to remember the cycle that all life takes. A time to focus on the renewal of energy, of passion and of life.
As a student, you have these cycles within you. The cycle that happens from one assignment to another, the one that goes from one module to another and even the one that goes from one qualification to another, for those of you engaged in post-grad work.
Think of this time as a checkpoint! It's very easy to get lost in the stress of studying, particularly during the often-scary times we currently live in, but it's part of your life. You're not studying in order to begin a life but as part of your journey in life and noticing the change within you as a person as you study, taking stock of your expanding understanding, your growing achievements (from TMA scores to actually congratulating yourself on figuring out something that you were struggling with) and your life a student is just as important as the end goal.
I hope that this rambling attempt to highlight a time of year that can bring the opportunity for clarity of focus has engaged you in some way.
As always, stay safe out there and remember; we are active agents in our own learning. This is your narrative, your story.
Empower yourself to take control!
Debi Gregory is Founder and Chair of the OU Neurodiversity Club, a member of the OU Students Association Senate Reference Group and Central Committee Representative on the Psychology and Counselling Board of Studies. She is also the Founder and former Chair of the OU Interfaith Club.
She enjoys books, pie and looking out of the window and pretending she loves nature, but is secretly glad the bugs stay outside where they belong.