As I grow a little older, I am increasingly convinced that one of the more difficult challenges of magical work (of any work, really) is pacing. Once we know (or think we know) where we want to go, it’s easy to treat everything between here and there as nothing more than incidental moments, moments that can be elided into a plan of action. Plans of action are all well and good, but realizing them well often demands great patience and attention to the time that falls between steps in the plan.
It is in the interim, in the time between, that we can acquire the intelligence we need to respond to changing realities on the ground. It is in the interim that we can gather the resources that will support the next phase of movement. Some of that intelligence comes by observing the results of what we have set in motion, of discerning more carefully the nature of what we seek by the fruits that it yields.
Move too quickly and where do we end up? Overextended, without the resources to support our work (quick results without staying power). Overcommitted, without the sense of how to adapt (get what you want, discover you don’t quite want it but can’t change it). Entangled in complications, enmeshed in blowback (you get what you want but realize it came with a much higher price).
It sounds easy enough to say all of this and it would be even easier to say that once you appreciate this, you are ready to avoid these pit traps. That’s the lie of most self-help pitches, though. Knowing isn’t half the battle, knowing hasn’t even decamped for battle. The real secret lies elsewhere. If you achieve anything, you will achieve it with some admixture of poor planning, and the challenge will be finding your way back to stable ground.
You need to know what moving too fast looks like, so that you can diagnose having done it and then work methodically to undo the damage done in the rush. You discover the secret of pacing by having to pace yourself (or you fail to pace yourself and make an utter wreck of yourself). Overextension, overcommitment, and entanglement are the teachers, because they force you into an alternate rhythm, their rhythm. It is in the clumsy readjustments that you start to dance.
Because I have been thinking about Tarot, I’ll add that these teachers can speak up in the Sevens. The Seven of Swords speaks up for the realities of entanglement. The Seven of Disks speaks up for the realities of overextension. The Seven of Cups speaks up for the realities of overcommitment. The Seven of Wands is usually an ally in this situation, the passion and drive necessary to recommit to the work and struggle your way the readjustments.