Archive for the ‘meditation’ Category

My most recent post about ahimsa and Druidism sparked some conversation with prophet_maid on Live Journal.  We talked about vegetarianism, eating meat, the food chain, and the hierarchy implied by Jainist ahimsa.  It helped me sort through my thoughts better and I realize that that isn’t the best way for me to express my reasons for what I do.  Many of the ideas surrounding ahimsa still resonate with me.  I am very inspired by Gandhi’s application of it

A hierarchy naturally implies that I feel I am better and more privileged than other creatures.  As I’ve expressed to others before, I really don’t think that.  I don’t believe that humans are any better or worse than the other Nature Spirits.  I believe we all have natural talents and that some of us are better at certain things.  Framed by human-centric values and aspirations, I can say that we are more creative and innovative than other creatures (sometimes for better or worse), but there is a bit of hubris to that.  I am proud to call myself creative and artistic, but I am not close-minded to the possibility that some other creatures have a different definition of art and think of themselves as more capable in that area than us.  Who really knows?

In the end, I have made a spiritual decision about what I will and will not eat.  It almost seems like a hierarchy in that I am choosing to eat some things and not others, but I feel no true superiority over the plants I eat.  I have a great respect for plants.  I talk to them, ask permission before I harvest, leave offerings, sing to them, and thank them frequently.  I hug trees and am not ashamed to admit that.  I do not feel as closely related to plants as I do those in the animal kingdom, but I fill a kinship nonetheless.

In talking more about it to prophet_maid, I compared myself to herbivores like rabbits and deer.  I explained that I didn’t feel removed from the natural cycles of life or somehow less human because I was denying myself participation in a common human act.  I said that I was just as connected to the cycles of life as a deer.  I don’t see it as the denial of basic human needs; I see it as another way of experiencing humanity – a way just as valid as eating sustainable meat.  Thinking of it this way in combination with the end of my previous post, in which I discuss spiritual prohibition and life lessons, it makes so much more sense to me.  I am feeling more comfortable simply saying that it is a spiritual choice I have made connected to the lessons I must learn at this time in this life.  Perhaps there will come a time when I am meant to learn the lessons of eating meat again.  Who really knows?

Comparing myself to a deer, though, opened up a new door – one that has been slowly opening for years.  I’ve had different spiritual experiences with deer.  I could say it started as a child as I delighted at seeing the deer outside my home, but what child wouldn’t feel that way?  Truly, the first time I felt spiritually tuned in to this creature was when I started college.  I was in a rough place emotionally.  Although I was experimenting with Wicca before a breakup, it was after that I really became a practicing Pagan.  It was then that I started to work harder and develop my skills.   I went into the woods to meditate.  One day, after meditating, I opened my eyes and was surrounding by a herd of deer.  It seemed like a buck and a harem of does.  I looked at the buck and I remember that I wasn’t afraid.  I was in awe as he stared me down.  I remember saying to him in my mind, “I’m not here to hurt anyone.”  He made a noise – the first time I ever heard a deer speak in anyway – and stamped a hoof.  The herd moved away, dissolving into the woods.  I felt such a rush and instinctively felt like, after so many years of playing in the woods as a child, I was finally formally allowed there.  Was the spirit of the Horned God in that deer?  I’ve never been sure, exactly, but it was one of the most spiritually important events in my life.

The second time I brushed with the spirit of deer came during meditation.  I met with a spirit of the forest – a fair woman who called herself a lady of the deer.  I was then obsessed, for a short time, with Flidais.  I tried to research her and seek advice from others.  There is little on her, and some people seemed dismissive of it.  Yet I felt so drawn.  I still do…  I let that fall by the wayside because I didn’t want to seem too “New Agey” to Celtic Reconstructionists and scholarly folk who seemed to think she was just a literary character in the tales and little more.  I wasn’t as driven or emotionally strong then.

Most recently, I was in the woods making offerings.  I called to the spirits of the forest and asked for their teachings.  In that moment, a deer ran through in the distance, vanishing into the darkness.  I wanted to follow it, but was also frightened for some reason…

I don’t think of myself as the sort to attach oracular significance to every natural event I witness.  Most of the time, if I see a raven, fox, or such, I just hail it as a passing nature spirit.  There might be a lesson, but most of the time it is simply a blessing to see them.  I feel lucky for that alone.  The deer though…  I cannot shake the significance of those times.  I feel that this is something I should really work through and explore more.  Perhaps I have another spirit guide I should be working with in addition to Breeze the Lynx?  Perhaps I should start walking into that darkness and facing the fears.

The doll above, “Flidais,” was made by the extremely talented Forest Rogers.  
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Night Walks

My cough seems to be improving, although I am still hacking every now and then, and I think my coughs sound like barks.  They aren’t occurring at the same frequency, which is nice.  Still…  I am worried about why they haven’t gone…  Perhaps that is the nature of allergies?  Or perhaps it’s something worse?

Meditation is still hard to do.  It seems the more I sit and focus on my breathing, the more I’ll cough.  I’m able to do brief breathing exercises, such as a Tree of Life/Two Powers visualization.  It’s short but sweet.  It can both calm and reconnect me to the cosmos.

I’ve been enjoying a form of semi-active meditation recently – going outside after midnight to stand, watch, and listen.  I say semi-active because it involves a little bit of walking and occasionally changing positions. There is definitely something meditative and Otherworldly about being outside, alone, at night.  Night is full of paradoxes, it seems.  Everything seems still and yet the Nature Spirits are very active.  There is a hush and yet the world is abuzz.  I find some sort of peace at night.

Yesterday evening (or rather…early this morning…) I observed several toads, listened to the chorus of crickets and frogs, and watched a bat dance loops in the air.  It felt somewhat meditative to be there, still and observing something other than myself.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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My cough hasn’t completely gone away, meaning I haven’t been able to meditate again.  I made up for it ten-fold by going into the forest for a long time by myself.  Something about the experience feels meditative in some way – very peaceful and clarifying.  There’s also an exhilaration born from excitement, personal triumph, and fear of the unknown.

I made offerings to the genius loci, talked to the plants and animals, and sat for a long time basking in the glow of the sun with a dragonfly.  I also found more fly agaric which I admired.

My purpose for going into the woods today, aside from the desire to commune with nature, was to find a suitable branch for a staff.  I found such a branch and, judging by the trees I found it near, it looks to be from a red or silver maple.  I need to make further observations before I’m sure which.  All the same, I think it will be a fine staff for practical and magical purposes.  I’ve already started to remove the bark.  I’m not sure what I’ll carve into it yet.  It’s something I’ll have to meditate on.

When I can meditate again.  :S

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Lughnasadh started yesterday for me.  Weretoad had to work but I still wanted and needed to attend Muin Mound Grove.  I had committed myself to make the main offering – a doll of Tailtiu, Lugh’s foster mother.  It is because of her that we celebrate Lughnasadh.  The story goes that she cleared the fields for agriculture and, after that, died*.  Lugh declared Lughnasadh as a feast day in her honor.  It was a day when the tribes gathered, judgements were made, and games played.

Because Weretoad worked, I drove all by myself to East Syracuse.  I’d never done that alone before.  It was a harrowing experience for me.  I even managed to get lost and called my husband, sobbing out of fear.  Pathetic, I know.  Worry not!  I reached my destination alive and well**!  I made it to the business meeting (where I was officially elected to be the new secretary) and played some games with the other ladies***.  I won the contest of strength but that’s only because I was able to hold a yoga pose for a long time.  Candee was the ultimate champion, however, because she was able to accurately answer the most riddles and toss a nice, if modified, caber.

The ritual went well.  It felt faster than usual, but that was probably because we had such a small turnout.     Tailtiu was placed in the sacred fire and we all grew quiet as she burned.  It’s always very moving to watch as a piece of art is willingly given to the Gods, but this is the first time that I sacrificed a piece of my really elaborate art.  I put a lot of work into her and everyone thought she was lovely, for which I was grateful.  I’m really proud of how she came out.

I had to leave shortly after the ritual to make it to Watertown in time to fetch Weretoad, so no yummy potluck.  Hubby and I came home pretty late and crashed into bed.

Today was very relaxing.  To celebrate Lughnasadh, we had a picnic lunch under a couple trees followed by a short nature walk.  We studied the local plants and observed some lovely insects.  I later went out by myself and took a short trek in the forest.  I left an offering for the local spirits, gathered some small pine cones, a few rocks, and some sticks to practice carving.  I also found this lovely specimen.  It looks like a variety of fly agaric, perhaps amanita formosa or amanita guessowii.  I have always wanted to find fly agaric in the wild, and to find it when my interest has been most intense and on a high day was truly a blessing.  I felt little guilt taking this one as it was half-eaten and unlikely to reach maturity as a result.  I wanted to bring it in, properly identify it, and sketch it in my journal.  I’m pretty certain it is fly agaric, but being that I have next to no experience in mycology, and have not done enough research on using it in trance, I only sketched it before putting it back outside as an offering.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to see a fresh fly agaric in person.  I’ve been able to look at some dry specimens before, but this was a real treat.  After I dug it up, I left a small offering to its spirit and built a little dolmen in the area where I found it.  There are likely to be more and I would love to take a photo of a fully formed mushroom (if it isn’t devoured by the slugs first…)

So I think I had a very blessed Lughnasadh indeed!  I hope all of my readers had a lovely, fruitful day.

 *As much as a deity dies, of course. 😉

** The experienced must have really upset me, though, because shortly after getting there, I had a coughing attack.  

*** Strangely, no men came to the ritual.  Skip was away at a meeting, so it was just us hens!  There was something strangely witchy and gratifying about an all female ritual…  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Sometimes the best meditation is observing nature.  I found myself doing that a lot today at various points along the St. Lawrence River here in Northern NY.  I stood in the refreshing water and just was.  I watched the waves roll in.  I followed ducks along a dock.  I wondered at the thrill felt by a seagull wheeling over the misty water.

My annoying cough may make standard meditation impractical, but there are other ways to calm the soul and rekindle our connection to the kindreds.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I strive to meditate daily, at least for five minutes.  Ideally, I would be meditating for 15-30 minutes every day but something invariably causes my schedule to become irregular.  Often it’s fatigue, pure and simple.  I will either begin to fall asleep during my practice, or I will feel too exhausted to even try.  These are always the days that my meditations are a shallow five minutes.  I still do it, but the experience is more akin to a breathing exercise.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to move beyond.  Compared to where I was when I started meditating seven or so years ago, I’m leaps and bounds better, so I’m not entirely unimpressed with myself.

The annoyance of fatigue can be controlled by mental discipline, to a certain extent.  Sure there are days full of activity and obligation – days when overwhelming fatigue is assured – but for the most part, one can make a schedule and stick to it fairly well.  This is something I’m working on now.  But what about those aggravations beyond control?

I seem to have caught something over the weekend.  I wake up with a sore throat and I spend the remainder of my day coughing and feeling somewhat hoarse.  Physical discomfort is very difficult for me to overlook when meditating, especially when they include involuntary reactions.  Just try to breath comfortably and remain still while coughing every few minutes!  Congestion is another annoyance difficult to overcome.  When an exercise depends so heavily on a relaxed breath, congestion is the worst.

I’ve often wondered about Buddhist monks who meditate frequently.  Do they ever feel ill?  Do they still meditate if they do?  Can they overcome their physical ailments through mental focus?  Has meditation increased their immunity to illness, or are most Buddhist monasteries dedicated to meditation situated in very healthful climates?

I recently attended a real, honest-to-goodness yoga class as opposed to my usual exposure to yoga on Wii Fit.  Rather than having to focus on my balance, I was instructed to focus on my breath and that that was the most important part.  It is easier said than done and, of course, balance is still significant, but by not having to fixate on where my center of balance was in a pixilated yellow circle, I was free to attempt turning to my breathing.  As I contorted myself into occasionally uncomfortable positions, I found myself starting to move away from my physical being.  I visually focused on knots in wood paneling or the texture of the ceiling while paying attention to the inhalations and exhalations.  There were some poses I would have liked to spend more time in because I felt I was achieving some subtle peace of mind through them.  

I’m seriously considering more yoga.  While coughing and congestion may always get the best of me, yoga could help me build greater discipline overall.  Who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll be able to transcend my more corporeal annoyances.  If not, I’ll just do a shallow, five minute breathing exercise.  It’s better than nothing, right?

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Hello dear readers! I went away for a few days to visit some of the tribe and travel to the Sterling Renaissance Festival. Hubby and I go every year and always enjoy it immensely. As usual, Weretoad and I dressed up.  It was pirate weekend, but we dressed as …  wealthy merchants?  Lesser nobles?  I dunno.  We wore nice outfits, how about that?  I wore the outfit my mum gave me.  It looked like this but in hunter green.  My husband wore his wedding outfit which looked somewhat like this but with hunter green accents rather than silver and Celtic knot embroidery.  I made us each pouches which I will display at a later date.

I purchased many lovely things.  I always save some money to indulge myself at the Renaissance Festival. I look forward to being more financially secure (if such a thing will be possible in the future) and buying a whole wardrobe or large pieces of home decor one day*.  Even when I cannot afford the luxuries, the numerous talented artisans annually inspire my imagination and encourage me to keep practicing.   

Anyway, I bought a miniature clay bowl for my traveling altar, two bottles of ink (one of green pigment and the other called “wine”), some echinacea root, witch hazel bark, coltsfoot, and rosemary incense.  My husband bought me a rose and an amazing sculpture to hang on our walls (Photo at left.  The sculpture was made by the talented Jason Bakutis).  It’s supposed to be Bast but I don’t get the Egyptian vibe from it.  When I saw it, I fell in love with it as a catsidhe or my personality incarnate**.  Art is all about interpretation, no?  Now I just need to figure out where to hang this beauty…  

We didn’t see as many shows this time, which leads me to believe that we need to go twice next year.  There is just too much to see and do in one day.  I did, however, have an amazing discussion with the Earthcraftyr herbalist and self-proclaimed “ditch witch.”  We talked about trance, flying ointments, different plants,  and connecting with nature.  I was so grateful that she took some time to share her wisdom with me.  I would love to take a class from her in the future.  

* “I wanna be a billionaire so freaking bad…”

**  All the same, I used to be devoted to Bast in my eclectic Wiccan days.  She helped me through some rough times and started me on the road to being a strong woman.  I’ll always be grateful to her for that.  We grew apart eventually; I guess she had taught me all I needed and I was sent promptly to the Gods of Ireland.  

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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