Pattern Recognition

The concept of cyclical patterns is integral to most Pagan religions. This is externally exemplified by the observance of lunar and seasonal cycles by many of these groups. Worship and personal spiritual work is based on the mystical concepts that these cycles portray. In this way, the very process of personal growth and spiritual development takes on a cyclical progression. Such patterns make the transformative process easier on us, since we naturally gravitate towards patterned thought and behavior.

An often-overlooked benefit of cyclical observances in religion practice, however, is the sensitizing effects that it can have. By consciously focusing on a cyclical pattern in our spiritual practices, we become sensitized to patterns in general. This sensitivity that is strengthened through ritual practice eventually makes us aware of patterns in our own thoughts, emotions, and behavior. This awareness enables us to examine these patterns, address any of them that might be unhealthy for us, and work to adjust them accordingly.

Let me give a concrete example of this principle from my own life. When I converted to Paganism, I was an emotional mess and borderline self-destructive. This was primarily caused by the fact that I had a strict idea of who I was supposed to be. Since this idea was based on a detailed and impossible standard of perfection, I was never able to meet my personal expectations. In my mind, my inability to meet this standard made me worthless. The effects of this attitude were abysmal.

Over the course of a couple years, I began to redefine who I should be. I altered my standard for myself. While I kept many of the characteristics from the old standard, I made sure to leave plenty of room for mistakes and flaws this time. I also kept this new standard flexible so that I could adjust it as needed. As I did this, my sense of self-worth returned.

Three years after I began this process, I discovered the same pattern in another area of my life. As I began to consider my goals one morning, I realized that I had defined them too narrowly and stringently. They were so specific and difficult that I was becoming frustrated with my inability to meet them.

There was the same pattern in my life: setting impossible standards only to be upset when I failed to meet them. Once again, it was time to redefine and broaden such standards.

Much of personal growth relies on the ability to recognize recurring patterns and address them. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to explore such patterns to discover the root force which drives them. Failure to address them inevitably dooms one to repeat such patterns in infinitely varying forms.