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Posts Tagged ‘mental discipline’

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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Most of my meditation this week was of the “just breathe” variety. Things at work are fairly stressful, and I had a major screwup that caused one of my coworkers to have to cover for me, and it’s sent my anxiety through the roof. My job itself is not in jeopardy, it’s just not the best working environment right now.

So I’m leaning on my meditation practice to be a little safe haven to help think about something, concentrate on my breath, and let things go.

Sunday, however, I did a fairly extended meditation to have conversations with my Disir for Mother’s Day (after celebrating with my living mom on Saturday). I want to honor my Disir, and the group of women I’m calling my Prairie Godmothers (who are like Fairy Godmothers, only with wooden spoons instead of magic wands). These are my American ancestral mothers; the women who held their families together with grit and resourcefulness, who left their homes and came and made a new life for themselves and their families here (some on the east coast, some here in Texas). Some of them are from my own family, some from my husband’s, but I’d like to honor them and learn from them regardless. I made an offering of food (chocolate cake) and incense, and just sat in meditation/light trance to try to communicate with them. I didn’t hear anything definite, but I think it was worthwhile anyway.

Somehow I find it easier to connect to the women who came here to North America than I do to women who would have actually practiced something like Norse paganism. I guess I’ll just have to work my way back to them.

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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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A challenging week, but a good one for meditation and prayer. I spent a lot of time at my altar this week, lighting candles and incense. It was trying, especially being so far away from things that are happening, and having no real recourse but to watch and wait (in horror).

As much as I appreciate our ability to know so much about the world we live in, I’m still not sure that 24-hour instant by instant news is really good for us as humans. We’re not wired to experience that kind of anxiety and stress, especially about things we have no ability to impact. It’s certainly not good for my sanity, even with the extra grounding and prayer.

I also had a pretty substantial conversation with a friend this week about the DP, and it was challenging in a good way. Not challenging as in “hard”, but challenging as in “made me think”. Especially about where I’m going and what I intend to do as I travel this Druid path. I think I will probably be re-incorporating some elements of witchcraft back into my path eventually, since there are things I really miss that don’t conflict with ADF and that I think are good skills for me to continue to have as a magic worker.

I still have this lingering feeling that I don’t know really where I’m headed, and that’s a bit unnerving. I certainly have the goal to complete the DP – but I don’t really know if that goal is in order to truly transform myself into a practicing Druid (which I’d argue I probably already am), or just as something I’m doing to learn as much as I can from and then move on to something else. My friend (hi Yngvi!) argues that this is an element of the virtue of Vision, and I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s a question both of “what path am I actually on right now” and “where do I want to be going”? I may revisit that essay as I work on this, but the answer to both questions right now is “I don’t know”.

Maybe I need to focus my meditations on THAT this week, now that crisis management mode is dwindling down.

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I didn’t make my goal of sitting meditation every day this week. Distraction, thy name is Druid. Still, I am working towards the state of emptiness and focus that will help me enter trance states more easily, without being distracted by too many thoughts (I’m not trying NOT to think, only not to be attached to my thoughts, or allow them to break my focus.) I’ve been focusing on my breath most of the time, but I’ve also done some tree meditations that I like.

I picked up a copy of The Book of Nine Moons this week, since its been recommended on various lists. I was delighted to find that it’s designed to go with the Initiates Path, since that’s where I am considering focusing after I finish the DP. I was really encouraged by the first few chapters, as its exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. I don’t think I’ll start early on it, since I do want to finish my DP first, but I am definitely going to tailor my meditation practice towards the eventual IP work. I figure the more I plan ahead, the easier it’ll be and the more I will get out of it.

My devotions this week consisted of sharing incense (and wine) with Freyr and starting to introduce myself to Freya. I am also, as mentioned, working on building an ancestor practice focused on my Disir. I’m encouraged by my early work, which consisted of doing some kitchen work with them in mind, and charging my hearth candle to them specifically. I got a ton of resources to work with from Heather over at Loki’s Bruid that I am working my way through. I really think this will be a big part of my practice, and I’m excited to begin real devotional work. I’m planning one meditation specifically focused on connecting with them this week.

I need to get back to my practice of tea with the kindreds, though I do a miniature version with my morning devotions every day. I sip tea and say a few prayers, and then try (since I’m at work) to get a good solid chunk of clear breathing and listening.

I am definitely working out a Norse path that will work within the ADF framework for now though. I haven’t felt called to Asatru or Vanatru at all, even while I’m directly trying to work with the Norse Gods and traditions. Hopefully I can make it work as well as other ADF members seem to have done!

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Sitting (or lying down) meditation every day this week again, or almost (I may have missed a weeknight). I do these meditations at varying times of day, though most commonly in the evenings. I light cedar and sandalwood incense, do the two powers meditation standing at my altar, and then lay on the floor for 15-30 minutes and try to focus on breathing. I’m definitely feeling a good response (mentally) to the mindfulness parts of my practice.

I haven’t had any close encounters with Freyr (or Anyone else) since I started having some mental health troubles about three weeks ago. I am pretty sure these are related – though I am frequently talking to him, I don’t have the same mental space that I would usually expect to have for him to really speak up. (Also it’s possible that he just said hi, and is content to let me continue with my daily devotionals for now) Still, I’m working to get back to a more balanced mental state so that I can resume more focused meditations.

I am intending to do some focused meditations and ask to be introduced to the other Vanir at some point, but that needs to happen after I get some of my real life issues straightened out. While I can take some amount of comfort from my spiritual practice, I’m not in a place where I can really do challenging things right now.

As an aside – this post marks 5 months since I began journaling my meditation and mental discipline experiences. (My first journal entry was November 5, 2012, and today is April 8, 2013) I haven’t decided fully, but I think I may continue the practice of weekly mental discipline journaling. It both gives me some structured time to reflect on the practice and reminds me to continually think about what I can be doing to deepen my connections. Since this is both about my meditation practice and my practice of spiritual connection with the Kindreds, I think it’s valuable. I’ll be using these five months to write my mental discipline essay, but I think the journaling practice is a good one for me to continue, especially since I’m currently intending to pursue the Initiates Path after completing the DP, and that will require extensive journaling for the Trance and Divination requirements (at least).

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I did sitting meditation every day this week, as part of a re-set of my mindfulness practice and in an attempt to help with some mental health issues. I did 15-30 minute meditations, usually starting with 10 minutes seated and then moving to lying on my back on the floor. I’ve found I definitely have better luck meditating lying down than I do sitting up, at least when it comes to getting to that state of calm half-awareness.  I think partially this would be alleviated by sitting on a cushion instead of on the floor itself, so we’ll see if that helps this coming week.

I usually end my meditations with the Two Powers, which I’ve found feels very different lying down than it does standing up in ritual. Not sure that one is “better”, but I feel more grounded when I’m lying down for sure.

I continue to light incense to Freyr several times a week, and have started including a short prayer to him in my morning devotionals (beyond just saying “good morning”, as He asked).

I have also continued to see the Crane in my mental grove at night before I go to bed. In that light, I’ve downloaded some of the materials for the Order of the Crane and will be reading through them to see if this path is for me. I’d also like to do some focused meditations with Garanus in mind – he is not a Nature Spirit that I’ve worked with much in the past, though I have worked with and talked to local great blue herons and green herons in my area. The one major conversation I had was about the state of the waterway behind where I live, so it was not a devotional relationship like the Order is.

One noteworthy meditation this week had a little visitor. I was lying on the floor, in a sort of half-trance state, moving between my  breath and my mental grove, when something MOVED on my ARM. I looked down, and there was a tiny green anole lizard on my arm, apparently having let himself in through the open window. (I’m not sure how, there’s a screen) It definitely ended the meditation, as I then chased him around the room for 10 minutes before catching him and putting him outside.

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