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Posts Tagged ‘meditation journal’

My first missed meditation journal entry since last October! Not a bad record, if I do say so myself. I did several longer meditations this weekend, including one focused on renewing the contact I’d previously had with Freyr. Controlling my anxiety levels has gone a long way toward making these meditations more comfortable, helping me to settle in and really focus. I know that every meditation is different, and that even when I’m highly anxious, sitting down to meditate is better than doing nothing (and in fact, can help a lot), but it’s nice to feel that my practice is “working” again.

A commenter mentioned in one of my journals recently that “judging” meditations is completely counter to the way that Eastern thought approaches meditation, and I think that’s definitely true.

It’s very hard to keep an objective journal of meditation and mental discipline progress without applying some sort of judgment to your meditations though. The goal of the DP is 5 months of journaling condensed into an essay that describes your progress and what you got out of it – a fairly critical difference from the Eastern thought that you shouldn’t be judging meditation at all.

I think there’s a balance to be reached between non-judging and carefully collecting and applying yourself to a practice with the intent of learning a skill. I think Druidry is placing a different goal before its DP students, one where the practice of meditation and the ability to enter trance states is considered a skill worth developing. Progress toward that goal requires at least some analysis of what is or isn’t working (so long as you give things enough of a try to get that data).

Still, I think it’s important to keep in touch with the idea of non-judging as well – you might be thinking critically about your meditation, but you can do so without making it “wrong” or “bad” meditation – just things that work better than others, or mind states that affect your practice differently. In a class-based situation like the DP, some measurements are necessary, but going forward, I think I need to be more kind with myself, and less judgmental towards the “bad days” that inevitably happen.

Hopefully that will help both with anxiety levels and with my not wanting to meditate for fear that I’ll have a bad day and it won’t feel “productive”. Any meditation time is better than no meditation time, and distracted, anxious meditation is better than no meditation at all. It all works toward the goal of training the mind, even if it sometimes feels like a step backwards.

I also think that support for Druids who continue to meditate AFTER completing the DP would do well to remember the non-judging side of meditation practice. That it can easily just be a practice for its own sake, and that it has value as such.

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“An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period (800 words min).”

I began my meditation journal at the beginning of November, 2012 and am continuing to journal as of mid-April, 2013, covering my five months of systematic meditation. I was already a regular practitioner of sitting (or breath-oriented) meditation before I began journaling, so this process was one that I used as a set of experiments to see what I could add to my existing practice that would deepen and enrich it. As well, I am intending to do continuing work in ADF, and I wish to have a solid foundation from which to build.

My first meditation journaling was just a record of the meditations I was already practicing, on average several times per week. (I do breath-centering daily, several times a day, but for this exercise I only counted intentional meditation lasting more than 5 minutes.) Though my mid-week meditations are not done on specific days, I made sure to meditate at least 15 to 20 minutes on weekend days each week. Frequently I would use a 9 breath counted exercise, doing nine repetitions of nine counted breaths. I usually do this practice sitting or lying on the floor in the room where I have my altar, often after having done my daily devotions of lighting incense and short prayers. I have done some meditations outside, either in my yard or in the park, but I am plagued by lawnmowers – I have yet to find a time to do meditation outdoors where someone in my neighborhood is not operating heavy machinery within earshot. This is, I suppose, a side effect of living in a development. My meditations at the local park, which stretches out onto Armand Bayou, have been more successful, especially when I can go out onto the boardwalk and sit undisturbed.

I have found, through my practice, that I am able to more easily enter trance while lying down as opposed to sitting or standing. I think this is due to the “ease” of lying, as well as my yoga practice and finding a common thread in corpse pose. I can frequently maintain better concentration while lying down than sitting upright (though I continue to use both postures). The only point where this did not work as well was during the Two Powers meditation, where I found it much more powerful and successful to be upright in some fashion as I connected to the Sky power.

I also experimented with movement based meditation, through walking meditation and use of the “Embracing the Tiger, Return to the Mountain” movement from Tai Chi. While walking meditation was somewhat successful, ultimately it proved difficult to maintain any sort of focus, as I was too worried about getting hit by cars or running into things or tripping on uneven sidewalk. The Embracing the Tiger, Return to the Mountain meditation, which consists of a series of movements repeated several times, was more successful. At it’s very basic, it’s two full, slow breaths – Reach up, reach down, pull in, push away.

  • Standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent, inhale and bring your arms up in front of you, moving your hands along your midline until they reach up over your head. As you do this, straighten your knees.
  • When your hands are fully above your head (but elbows are still soft), exhale and swing your arms out to the sides and down, rotating your palms to face down once they reach shoulder level and bending your knees again. At the bottom, cross your hands at the wrists, left hand in front, so your palms are facing your body.
  • Now inhale, uncrossing your arms, and pulling your elbows back at your sides, drawing your hands to your waist, palms face up, straightening your knees.
  • Then exhale and push away from you, keeping your elbows close to your sides and your palms rotating around so they are facing away from you, knees bending again.

I usually did 9 repetitions if I was seeking a short, but very calming meditation, or (if I had more time and was looking for a deeper meditation) would allow myself to continue the practice for a certain amount of time. I find this exercise to be extremely good at creating mental balance (as well as physical balance).

I made heavy use of the iPhone app “Meditator” – which tracks meditation through use of unobtrusive sounds. Over time, I increased the space between the “reminder” sounds as well as increasing the overall time of my meditations. I usually meditate for about 20 minutes now, sometimes continuing after my timer has marked 20 minutes. I also use incense as a measure of time, meditating until the stick of incense burns out (25-30 minutes usually).

As a continuing part of my spiritual discipline, I began over time to add object focused meditation to my sitting meditation time, concentrating not only on my breath, but on deepening my understanding of the Kindreds and the cosmology of ADF. As part of this discipline, I endeavored to create a “mental grove” – a place where I could go as part of trance meditations whenever I needed to center myself. This was perhaps one of the most fruitful exercises of my meditation journey, as I now have a visualization I can turn to whenever I need to center myself and enter a light trance state. This mental grove has a fire, a well, and a tree, and while I am there I am often visited by various members of the Kindreds, especially nature spirits. I have, through this practice, deepened my relationships with several nature spirits, including Rabbit, Toad, Owl, and Stag. This is also the mental state where I had my first encounter with a spiritual being that I have come to associate with Freyr, which was extremely exciting and also a bit disorienting.

I fully intend to continue to work from my mental grove and to add more trance journeying to that work. So far I have found that spirits are willing to visit me there, but I would like to place more work on visiting them – especially because as I currently practice, I am dependent on whomever would like to visit. I would like to be able to go, via trance, and speak with specific spirits when I need them (if, of course, they are open to the idea), so more work with journeying is needed.

I also plan to continue my meditation journaling on my blog, through the completion of the Dedicant Path and forwards into more study with ADF. I’ve found the exercise of weekly journaling to be very beneficial. It helps me to keep track of what I’m doing, and serves as a reminder to stick to my practice. I write my journal entries every Sunday night, and that means I have always meditated at least once during the week, since I sit down at a specific time to write about them. It’s been a good practice of accountability, as well as one that I’ve found spiritually enriching.

Overall, in the last five months, I feel like I’ve deepened an existing meditation practice from something I did “fairly regularly” to a crucial part of my mental and spiritual life. The basic trance state of my mental grove has become a very important discipline for me, and I use basic meditation throughout my day as a way to increase focus (and decrease anxiety, something I struggle with a great deal). While I certainly can’t sustain focus for the entire duration of a 20 minute meditation, I am definitely better at not letting distractions get to me too much, and I’ve become more skilled at returning to my point of focus without much fuss. I’m also better at detecting distractions early, as opposed to following them mentally until I suddenly realize I’m no longer focused. I’m pleased with my progress and glad I had the discipline to stick with this requirement.

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I’ve finished 20 weeks of documented meditation! Yay!

I went back to check though, and my first documentation was on November 5, and I don’t want to lose credit for this because I did “20 weeks” instead of “5 calendar months”, so I’m going to do another two weeks just to make sure. Since I’m doing a lot of meditation right now, that’s not too hard, I just have to remember to write it all down every Monday.

This week I did several sitting meditations (some were very short, so I’m not sure how to count the little 3-5 minute ones, versus the usual 15-30 minute ones). I included one meditation that included the Two Powers, and combined that with Embrace the Tiger, Return to the Mountain moving meditation – I really do wonder if they serve the same purpose. I’ll definitely be writing about that practice as part of my Two Powers/Grounding and Centering essay, since it helps me so much to balance the powers around me, and involves drawing in energy and balancing it within my body.  (I’ve also discovered that there’s enough room in the larger bathroom stall to do this moving meditation at work, which is useful, since I am both very stressed and extremely visible at work. I share a cubicle with three other people, and it opens across from the break room, so it’s a high traffic area.)

I’ve returned to a focus on my mindfulness practice, since I’m struggling with some mental health cycling, so I’m trying to do at least 15 minutes of sitting meditation daily. This, when combined with more trance-like visualization meditation (like the Two Powers, or visiting my Mental Grove) has been really powerful for me, and will probably be the one practice that I continue doing with solid regularity after I finish my “requirement” for the DP.

This week also included my Ostara celebration, and the devotional aspects of that ritual went very well. I’ll have a full write-up tomorrow.

Also, of note this week, when I was sitting in my Mental Grove, I was visited by the Crane. I’m not sure if this is “just” because I’ve been reading about the Order of the Crane (and considering joining it), or because there are bigger subconscious forces at work. I’ll be seeing if I can nurture that relationship. Usually in my Mental Grove I see animals and spirits that I have relationships with, or who are symbolic of the Gods, so this would fit into that pattern if the Crane is seeking me out as well as I am seeking to see if that path will be right for me.

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Three sitting meditations this week, between 15 and 25 minutes each time. I also did a small ritual to share the bottle of raspberry mead that I promised in my Connections post. I poured out a good glass for me and one for him, and his got poured out over the garden while I sipped my own.

I did not do an official Tea with the Kindreds this week, but I got a lot out of my sharing of mead, so I guess that kind of counts. It was a little different in format, but still serves to strengthen my ties to the Kindreds.

Also, for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure the God I’m talking to in my meditations is Freyr. This is supported both by the interactions I’ve had and the reading I’ve done, and the more I read, the more drawn to him I feel. I’ll be making a special note of this in my equinox ritual this week.

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I’m feeling a little bit of a slow down in my meditation practice, here at the halfway point of my mental discipline requirement (5 months = 20 weeks, more or less). I did a walking meditation early in the week, which didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. On Friday, though, I was sent a link to Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk about meditation and mindfulness that inspired me to get back to my 10 minute sitting meditation practice.

I recommend it highly, as a good introduction to the benefits of meditation. You can see it here.

While this is mindfulness meditation (as opposed to trance meditation or visualization meditation, both of which are more directly related to the practice of Druidry), I got a lot out of renewing the practice as a way to combat stress and difficult mental states, and the mental training is useful for other types of meditation. The ability to focus on the present moment, without distraction, feeds into being able to focus on a visualization or magical intent without distraction as well. Since I frequently deal with difficult mental states, which are (among other things) hindrances to focus and causes of distraction, I really like and benefit from the practice of mindfulness, even in little 10 minute chunks.

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Very little meditation got done this week. I did one 10 minute meditation on Thursday, and other than a few moments of mental reflection, or exploring my mental grove as part of my getting ready for bed routine, I didn’t do anything else. (I suppose that probably all counts, but I really do try to get formal meditations in more often).

With the holidays (and lots of traveling), it was hard to fit anything else in. I’m glad that the requirement is only to meditate weekly, or I’d be sunk.

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This week’s meditations included my winter solstice ritual, where I felt hurried to get through the Two Powers meditation. Fortunately I was able to slow myself down and take some extra breaths, so I didn’t feel hurried through the rest of the ritual.

Also I did a bit of mental grove work, which is quickly becoming my favorite meditation. The combination of visual with a still mind seems to really work for me. Some of this week was spent away from home, so it’s nice to be able to take a hallows with me wherever I end up.

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