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Posts Tagged ‘Study Programs’

I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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It’s been quite a week, but I’ve been meaning to write a more substantial update here for some time.  I figure I should finish and publish this as I move into another week and a new lunar cycle.  Much of this entry has been hanging out in my draft folder for several days.  Why the delay?  My Grove has been saddened by the loss of a grovemate and friend, so we’ve been coming to terms with that. I will write more on our friend and the transition another day. Northern Rivers Grove will honor him during our Spring Equinox celebration. It’s bound to be one of the hardest rituals I’ve ever lead, but it’s important to mark this passage.  My thoughts have been dwelling on death, rebirth, and how to best support my grovemates.

Today I want to share some of the other work I’ve been doing to deepen my Druidry. I’ve continued my slow progress through Trance-Portation by Paxson.  I’ve forced myself to take time on the initial exercises.  I think it’s important to revisit the basics once in awhile, and I know there’s much I could improve.  Shielding, grounding, centering, and visualizing are foundational, and I think I’ve really strengthened these areas since January.  Sometimes I falter, and emotional upsets crack the shell I wrap myself in each morning, but on a whole, it always makes me feel confident and strong.

My new oak leaf and Herkimer diamond pendant from Stellar Creations.

For the last few weeks, my work within Trance 1 and Magic 2 of ADF’s study programs has heavily revolved around creating talismans. It just happened that way, and it’s helped me jump back into the practice after stumbling in my routines around December. One talisman was for a friend.   The other, a custom-made oak leaf pendant with Herkimer diamond, is for myself. It was lovingly crafted by the local artist of Stellar Creations.  I highly recommend her work, and she put a lot of love and meditation into it.  I could definitely feel the energy upon receiving the pendant.

I had been meaning to consecrate a creativity talisman for some time – ever since I started Trance 1 and Magic 2, actually.  It seemed like the perfect working given my many talents and hobbies.  In addition to sewing and crochet, I recently delved back into creative writing.  Since November, I’ve been working on a novel, something I haven’t done since I was in high school.  It’s still a work in progress, but I’m having so much fun.*  And no, I’m not ready to discuss the plot!

I’m a big believer in mental keys.  The smell of incense relaxes my nerves and tells me that it’s time to meditate or ritualize.  Yoga poses signal my body to relax and heal.  Certain pieces of clothing and jewelry can also help us to access parts of our brain, inner realms, or spirit allies.  Ideally, we can grow beyond the need of such talismans, but they are extremely useful to me as a harried mother who works full-time outside of the home…  Sometimes I feel too mired in the demands of this realm, so these tools help me relax, let go, and, in the case of my oak leaf charm, focus on my creativity.

 

*Someday, I will write about how writing has become a form of trance for me…

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I didn’t wear the right footwear to trek into the woods behind my parents’ home, but I didn’t let that stop me. The house was chaotic and our schedule today is packed. I needed a moment, so I locked myself in my childhood room as I did as a teenager. The weather was springlike today. I found myself wondering why I brought my wool coat. I let the breeze waft over me as I faced the woods. I studied the gray branches of maple trees etched against a cloudless, cerulean sky. 

I easily found myself transported to my inner grove. I walked the familiar trail to a mighty oak. On the right, a fire pit circled by smooth stones. The flame magically stays a manageable height. At the left is a semi-circle stone wall built into the river. Water seeps through openings, creating a small wading pool; not a well, by it’s what my mind has constructed in its place. I walk in and let my the energy of water and sun meet me in the center. 

Just like that, all was well within and without. Even though I couldn’t easily go into the forest and my day was packed, I made the most looking through a window. 

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Ugh.  Sometime in December, my discipline and focus crumbled.  I really fell off the trance train…

I’ve been working to reestablish my discipline over the last couple weeks.  I started to reread Paxson’s “Trance-Portations” and am going through the exercises.  I’m not rushing it. I really want to spend time on the foundational skills.  I’ve been more mindful about my grounding, shielding, and visualization.  I continue to do my Druid Egg shielding on mornings, but sometimes it’s difficult to visualize when I’m exhausted.  (I haven’t been sleeping well lately… )

I started to participate in Sassafras Grove’s Brighid-Along to help me prepare for Imbolc.  This has given me additional inspiration for my inner work.  I did a very quick meditation on day one.  Finding quiet time for meditation and trance has been challenging.  My daughter’s sleep schedule has been really off lately, so by the time she falls asleep, I’m usually exhausted.  I’ve decided that I won’t allow myself to wallow in the challenges and what I don’t feel able to accomplish.  Rather, I’m going to adapt.  If I can only meditate for a short time, I’m going to make that meaningful and really focus!

Last night, I meditated on Brighid during, and ended up walking into my inner grove where one of my spirit guide was waiting.  (I’m starting to look for other words to describe them…I’ve seen fetch used by several people focused on European traditions, but I need to do more research.)  We talked a little, reconnecting.  I had felt him reaching out to me a lot over the week, so I knew he was waiting.

My plan is to start posting on my blog again to keep myself accountable.

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Our Winter Solstice altar – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I’m finally enjoying a somewhat lazy day today.  I slept in and have very little to do besides clean and work on some personal projects.  I did take advantage of my freedom and caught up on some grove business.  It gave me some time to reflect on what Northern Rivers Grove accomplished by offering our Winter Solstice ritual online rather than cancel due to threat of poor weather.    I would have preferred to enjoy a more physical gathering complete with our annual gift exchange and usual, delicious potluck, but doing this enabled us to keep with Isaac Bonewits’ vision of offering public rituals, even broadcasting them.  You can read more about the experience in the link above.  It was amazing to connect with a couple people, including a distance member, from other states.  We’re discussing the possibility of streaming more of our rituals.  Considering that older, more experienced groves (like Three Cranes) are doing it, it makes me really proud of what we are able to accomplish.

As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development.  I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced.  My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year.  I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing.  I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental.  It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination.  Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.

My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip.  I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part.  I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part.  I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills.  I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less.  Why?  Some of it has been laziness.  Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook?  Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently.  I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years.  Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.

I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice.  Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order?  I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with.  I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more.  All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.

Be it so!

 

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Trance 1: A Lull

We experienced a very beautiful full moon recently.  Several people commented that they felt an intense amount of energy related to it.  Normally I feel very energetic around full moons, but this month found me exhausted, drained, and even a little ill feeling.  To be sure, November has been a stressful month for many of us.

My trance practice has been very minimal the last few weeks.  I’m not proud of that, but I’ve been feeling out of it.  Work has me exhausted.  The news has me exhausted.  My daughter has been ill which has me exhausted.  Today, at a grove business meeting, I opened by pouring a few random objects out for people to view.  I asked everyone to choose an object that represents where they are in their study programs, Druidism, or even just their involvement with the group.  I chose the wine cork because I felt like I was just staying buoyant.  I wasn’t really progressing anywhere, but I was maintaining my spiritual practice to the best of my ability.

I suppose I should look on the bright side and celebrate that I haven’t just completely stopped maintaining my relationships with spirit allies, but I am disgruntled that I haven’t done more to finish the study programs I’m working on.  I’m annoyed with myself for not doing more towards my trance studies in particular.

I’ve continued to visualize my Druid egg around me in the mornings as a way to shield.  Some days I can see and feel it really clearly; others I’m barely awake and feel like I’m going through the motions.  I’ve continued to try and do my yoga on the weekends.  Last week I had a much-needed massage.  I feel like that cleared away some of the cobwebs.  Today felt particularly good as I mindfully went into my yoga, focusing on each of the Three Realms as I moved from the ground, through tree, and reached to the sky.  Perhaps, as the moon wanes, the ennui will decrease and I can meditate on what intentions to set for the new moon.

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I’ve been very busy since I last shared an update.  Some of what has occupied me deserves its own post.  For example, my protogrove is now officially Northern Rivers Grove!  Also, we once more participated in the Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown.  All very good things, but also very exhausting.  I’ve made sure to keep up my hearth practice as best as I can, though.  I’m finding that it’s important to stay grounded in my personal spirituality and numinous relationships while also reaching out to support my Grove and local Pagan community.

Sometimes, simply breathing and grounding before going to work or running errands is exactly what I need.  A difficult situation in the first week of October found me retreating to the bathroom at work to shield myself.  In the quiet of the restroom, I called upon the powers of the three realms, pooled them within myself, and built my “Druid Egg” in my usual fashion, strongly visualizing black to banish negativity.  I saw my egg glossed with reflective silver, and sent all the daggers back to their origin.  I then let the powers flow back to the land, sea, and sky.  I left feeling so empowered and energized; I felt and envisioned the proud weight of antlers upon my head, something I find myself doing when I feel strong like one of my spirit allies.

Later, at home, at the quiet of my altar, I turned to my inner grove to speak with my spirit allies.  Simply going inward can be very healing after dealing with difficult, yet ultimately minor, altercations.

Today I came downstairs before anyone else was up, before all the extra electronics were on.  To the sound of rain, facing the forest,  I once more engaged in my Three Realms yoga practice.  It refreshed me.  I’ve found that doing it twice satisfies my need for corporeal symmetry and thus a sense of balance.  Child’s pose connects me to the Earth and the Underworld.  I focus on what that means to me at that time.  I moved through serpent, into cow, into dog – feeling the Nature Spirits as I move upwards into a tree pose.  I stare ahead to the birch trees.  Then, arms upward, I salute the sun and feel the sky energy, today flowing with life-giving water.  This is still a work in progress, and I wish I could do it every morning, but I think making it part of my weekend practice will suffice, though!

Whatever you are working through, whether it’s the Dedicant Path, the Initiate Path, the Clergy Path, or other studies related to your Druidism – persevere and find a way!

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