Daily Archives: January 19, 2011

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

“Though we speak with the tongues of men and angels and give our bodies to be burned, if we are irritable or hard to live with, it all accounts for nothing,” wrote Margaret Widdemer.

Wouldn’t it be a blessing to ourselves and to others if we could be as gentle and considerate in temper as we expect others to be? It is not a good thing to keep pent up then emotions that rules us so continually, but neither is it good to be too quick and too constantly blowing off steam.

It may serve as a tension reliever to us, but it can soon ruin our relationships with others. And without our realizing it, we can soon become chronic complainers.

Worry, physical ailments and weariness can cause a short temper that we think others should understand. And most have a way of knowing if that is the case, but prolonged impositions on other people will wear that tolerance very thin. It takes two to have an argument, but it takes only one to start it.

The need to forgive and to be forgiven should never be overlooked. To pass over a disagreement quickly without thought to the damage we’ve done can take the shine off any friendship. There can be no merit in forgetting if we cannot first forgive.

There are two voices in this world that will be forever unpopular. One is the voice of self-pity, the other is the voice that yells all the time. One declares itself to be the victim of great injustices, the other yells to demand justice.

Those who believe themselves to be the victim of injustice – those who believe they are meant to suffer – will always find conditions to prove they are right.

And those who yell, “Look what I’ve sacrificed,” and always with the theme, “What I’ve tried to do for you,” have slowed another’s progress and stopped their own.

True victims of circumstance are easily recognized, and do not care to be noticed as such. And those who yell their merits have received their rewards, so there aren’t any others.

Both have their attentions turned inward, but to the sorrow of most…. Their voices are not.

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Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 19

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 19

“Heal yourself-your physical and spiritual bodies. Regenerate yourself with light, and then help those who have poverty of the soul. Return to the inner spirit, which we have abandoned while looking elsewhere for happiness.”

–Willaru Huayta, QUECHUA NATION, PERU

It is difficult to look inside ourselves, especially when we see conflict or confusion. During times of conflict we need to realize that we are talking to ourselves about our thoughts. This conversation is printing in our subconscious and forming our beliefs. During times of conflict we need to ask the spirit to control our self-talk. Only thorough finding that inner place and going there during troubled times will we ever find happiness.

Great Spirit, You are my peace and you dwell within me. Let me look for You within myself.

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January 19 – Daily Feast

January 19 – Daily Feast

We have to actively resist the suggestion that something is going to make us sick. It is not easy to talk illness and poverty without believing strongly that we may have to deal with them. The easiest way is to cancel negative suggestions and claim what we want. Money, which is a de la in Cherokee, will run for cover if we continually talk friendship – and we know what happens when someone tells us we do not look well. We being to take our pulse and wonder whether we should lie down. Too much sympathy and self-pity destroys our immunity to difficulty. When we shut down on it and begin to talk health and begin to talk about excellent opportunities, then we open the way to be well and prosperous.

~ They came to you under the guise and pretense…..and gained your confidence…..they are enemies of you and your band, instead of friends. ~

KEOKUK, 1832

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

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Great Lady Brid, Goddess of Eire

Great Lady Brid, Goddess of Eire

 

by Darrion

Goddess of smith-craft, gift us with the joyful sound of the hammer and anvil as the craftsman hammers on the metal heated in the forge of Your hearth and heart, warm us in this cold and dark time period with Your love and creative spirit.

Goddess of healing, gift us with Your gentleness, wisdom and love for all who seek Your healing energy, allow us to tap that well of intuition, spirit and knowledge; as we open our hearts to assist others on their healing journeys, guide our hands and hearts.

Goddess of poetry, gift us with Your lightheartedness and playful spirit, grant us with that creative spark, open our vision so we may be aware of and use this energy to tap the wealth of our inner awareness, and allow me the strength to step aside and allow You
to guide my pen.

Goddess of fertility, gift us with the strength of the union of Goddess and God, take the firmness of the God and bury it deeply in the mound of the hill of Tara, fertilizing the earth and preparing her for the planting season to come.

Goddess of inner vision, prophecy and divination, gift us with that inner gaze and awareness, so that we may devote ourselves to unending service in joy and love to serve the Great Mother,
clan and tribe.

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Use Imbolc to Ask for Brighid’s Inspiration

Use Imbolc to Ask for Brighid’s Inspiration

 

by Melanie Fire Salamander

At a Northwest Imbolc, grey days pass under grey skies. The furor of the solstice holidays is over, and cold and rain face us for the next six weeks, or six months. Here, Imbolc lacks even the bracing snow of winter. Nor is it time for flowers and fresh breezes. A few crocuses may poke their heads above ground, but Imbolc, the first pagan holiday of spring, doesn’t speak of spring’s fulfillment, rather of spring’s promise.

Imbolc is the pregnancy of spring, the first stirring of seeds sown in autumn. One derivation of the holiday’s name, which is taken from the Irish, is “in the belly,” according to R.J. Stewart in Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses. Animal life also begins to stir. Around Imbolc, ewes begin to lactate, a time important to hungry traditional peoples. This association is reflected in medieval European writings. Cormac’s Glossary, composed around year 900, derives “Imbolc” from “sheep’s milk,” Ronald Hutton writes in The Stations of the Sun. In the tenth- or eleventh-century Irish tale “The Wooing of Emer,” this holiday is called “Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring’s beginning.”

At Imbolc, early Europeans also rendered fat for candles, having saved the fat from meat eaten through the winter. Hence the holiday’s alternate name Candlemas, from the Christianized version of the day. Christian Europe observes Candlemas with candlelight processions, parades that may hark back to ancient torchlight ceremonies for purifying and reviving the fields at spring sowing, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. The February ceremonies of the pagan Romans were also rites of cleansing and preparation for the coming year. Likewise, February 2 is the Aztec New Year, observed with early-spring agricultural rites and renewed fires. After other purifications, covens at Imbolc traditionally initiate new witches.

Around the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc is a time of beginnings, of hopes for success in the coming year. But hope is double-edged; the ancient Greeks put it into Pandora’s box with other human ills, a lying daemon. In this grey weather, it’s easy to see hope as a lie. Of all holidays, Imbolc is the most based on faith. If you don’t feel faith, if you lack inspiration, Imbolc is a good time to seek it.

Brighid’s Day

Imbolc comes strongly associated with a Celtic goddess who oversees inspiration. The Irish, Scots and Manx considered this holiday to belong to Brighid or Bride (pronounced breed), a patroness of smithcraft, healing and poetic inspiration whose name can be derived from the Gaelic “breo-aigit” or “fiery arrow.”

Brighid’s attributes are many. She was known as a smith and fighter, patroness of the armies of Irish Leinster. As a healer, she rules wells and streams. Worshippers in medieval times walked around her holy wells deosil (sunwise) on hands and knees and left valuable pins or buttons in the water, or hung rags in the trees nearby, asking for relief.

An Irish celebration of Brighid’s day reflects another healing aspect. In this observance, Hutton writes, a family would hold a formal supper, during which they would place food, usually cake or bread and butter, on the windowsill as a gift for Brighid. The family might also leave a cloth, garment or ribbon on the sill overnight, asking Brighid to bless it. Family members would wear it later in the year to prevent headaches.

Brighid also oversees childbirth. In the west Scottish Highlands as late as 100 years ago, midwives would bless newborns with fire and water in Brighid’s name, Caitlin Matthews reports in The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Fire and water come together also in Brighid’s water, which you make by plunging a burning coal into water while asking for the goddess’s blessing. The water, used to anoint and purify, combines Brighid’s natures of smith and healer.

Brighid’s midwife aspect perhaps conceals an earlier goddess of fertility, a corn-mother, as shown in the tradition of Bride’s bed. To create this bed, Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year has you decorate a grain maiden made at the autumn equinox or from the last harvest’s wheat or corn. You dress the maiden in white, lay her in a basket and set across her a priapic wand — an acorn-tipped wand of oak — twined with ribbon, so that wand and bride form an X. You then place lit candles to either side and hail the maiden with a chant, or incorporate her into a ritual saluting the fertility of the coming spring. After the ritual, you undress the maiden and at sunrise place her on your dwelling’s front door. There she forms an amulet of prosperity, fertility and protection, which can remain till the next Samhain.

The Celtic traditions behind this pagan practice are many and varied. In the Isle of Man, according to Hutton, followers of Brighid left her an empty bed in a corner of the house or barn, beside it bread, cheese, ale and a lighted candle. In the Scottish islands of the Hebrides, where householders made a figure of Bride from oats, families would leave her abed overnight and look for an impression of her wand in the hearth ashes the next morning. A mark meant a good crop and a prosperous year, and a footstep was held marvelous, but if nothing appeared the family took it as a bad omen. To avert misfortune, members would bury a cock at the junction of three streams or burn incense on their hearth fire.

Elsewhere in Ireland, people plaited a criosog Bridghe, St. Brighid’s cross, of rushes or straw, hanging it on Brighid’s Eve over a door or window or in the rafters to welcome her. Others set their crosses in stables to ask for blessings on the animals. The Irish left their criosogs up through the year, replacing them the next Brighid’s Eve.

Besides giving health and agricultural fertility, Brighid lends clear sight into the future and creative fertility. According to Matthews, she presided over a special type of Irish augury called a “frith,” performed on the first Monday after a cross-quarter day, such as Imbolc, to predict what the year’s next quarter would bring. Brighid was said also to inspire poetry, and many Irish poems hail her. Cormac’s Glossary calls her “a poetess… the female sage, woman of wisdom, or Brighid the goddess whom poets venerated because very great and famous for her protecting care.” Matthews attributes to her the “nine gifts of the cauldron” mentioned in the Irish poet Amergin’s “Song of the Three Cauldrons”: reflection, lore, research, great knowledge, intelligence, understanding, wisdom, meditation and poetry. If inspiration is what you seek at this grey Northwest Imbolc, Brighid is a good goddess to turn to.

A Ritual to Seek Inspiration

This ritual is to find hope and inspiration in a project or your life as a whole. Before you start the working, I’ll ask you to spend some time in journal work and meditation. For these and the magickal rite, give yourself at least one undisturbed hour (two is better). Turn off the phone, and put your pets in another room.

A good time for this ritual is first thing Imbolc morning. If that doesn’t work, try the night before, or during a waxing moon. It’s best done in spring, but don’t let the season prevent you from doing the ritual if you want.

Have on hand:

  • A white or pastel candle to meditate by, and a candleholder for it.
  • Paper and pen to create a journal entry and for use during meditation. (You can create the initial journal entry using a computer, but you’ll definitely want the old-fashioned tools later.)
  • A cauldron or earth-filled bowl large enough to contain a burning piece of paper safely.
  • Anointing oil or Brighid’s water.
  • A candle of a color that says inspiration to you, possibly rainbow-colored, silver, gold, lavender or
    green — use your own personal associations.
  • A candleholder for this inspiration candle.

Journal Work

First, create a journal entry looking at what you’re thinking and feeling. Whether or not you keep an ongoing journal, writing about your thoughts and emotions helps clear your head before a ritual and make sure that unconscious ambivalence doesn’t color your work. Even if you already know what’s in your head, getting your feelings out on paper may reveal new information or connections. And the simple act of formally acknowledging a thought or emotion by writing it down can help that energy move.

So ask yourself: How do I feel? Why?

Next, ask yourself: What do I want out of this ritual? Write the answer on a separate page as a single, formal statement; this will be the statement of your working.

Then ask yourself: What within me stands in my way? What benefits do I get from not succeeding here?

This ritual assumes you are already dealing with any practical roadblocks preventing your success. For me, it’s rarely the outer blockages that most hinder me — it’s the inner ones.

So look at the inner urges that block your desires. As they come up, don’t judge them, if you can avoid it. These shadows all exist for a reason. If you can honor these urges, understand them, talk to them, promise they will be met in some way other than preventing your success, you will clear the way for inspiration.

On a separate piece of paper, write out a list of your inner blockages for use in meditation, following.

Meditation

To meditate, start with relaxation. Light your white or pastel candle, and sitting in front of it relax your whole body. If this doesn’t come easily, try tensing each body part, then releasing it. (For more meditative techniques, see other articles in this issue.) Looking at the candle flame — if you don’t want spots before your eyes, look at the base of the wick — take 20 deep breaths, breathing into your belly, saying to yourself that each breath relaxes you further. Count each breath.

Once relaxed, ground and center. Make your grounding cord strong and deeply rooted, and center yourself in the middle of your head — your third eye, a neutral space. Neutrality is a good tool when looking at inner blocks. Next, create a protective energetic circle around yourself in whatever way you prefer.

For the following step, give yourself some latitude. Don’t force yourself to do work you’re not ready for; doing so will enforce rather than clear obstructions.

From your list of inner blocks, choose one. Let it be personified in a way that you can be neutral about — not a monster, simply a presence. Then ask the block in meditation: What do you want?

For me, the answers to this question always surprise me and usually simplify matters. What your blockage will usually want, first, is acknowledgement. Then it might have some specific request. Nine times out of ten, at least for me, such requests can be dealt with in ways that allow me to move forward with my desired goal.

On a separate piece of paper, write down what the block wants. If you can, promise to fulfill that need, but at very least write it down for your knowledge.

Thank the block, bless it and let it go.

Then choose the next block on your list (unless you have only one), and repeat the process, collecting all the blocks’ requests on one sheet.

When you’re done figuring out what your blockages want, briefly decide how to address the requests. Often the action required is something simple, such as recognizing and honoring a formerly hidden emotion. Sometimes addressing the blockages’ needs will take further practical or ritual work. The answer isn’t to do the work right now, but to make an honest commitment to do it over time. If you don’t feel you can do what your blocks request, at the very least promise to keep thinking about the issues raised till solutions can be found. However works best for you, make a commitment to do the work to satisfy and thus release these blocks.

Write that commitment down on the page with the blocks’ requests, fold the paper and, when you can, set it in some place you will see daily, such as on your altar.

Now ground and center once more. Connect with the energies of earth and sky, and from the sky draw down cleansing, healing energy. Let it meet healing earth energy within you, and fill yourself completely with healing and comfort. Wash any pain or negative emotion down your grounding into the earth. Take time to do this slowly and fully and come back to equilibrium.

The Rite Itself

Now that you’ve done your personal work in journal and meditation and cleansed yourself, it’s time to ask for inspiration from the goddess.

Connect again with your grounding, center yourself and renew the circle around you, this time so as to work magick. Call the elements, directions, fey or all three to your circle as you usually do.

Now call to your circle the Celtic goddess Brighid. Do so in a speech inspired in the moment; call to her from your heart. The description earlier should give you a feeling for her attributes and nature. Call her strongly; let her fill your circle.

Besides your original journal entry and the page listing your blocks’ requests and your commitment, you should have two slips of paper: the list of the blocks themselves and your formal statement of ritual intent. From that statement, read aloud what you want this ritual to do. Feel free to amend your statement based on what you learned from journal work and meditation.

Now take up the list of things obstructing you. Say aloud the following, or something like it:

“To do (my project), I have committed to satisfy these blocks. Having made that commitment, I release them.”

Focusing on letting go your inner blocks, fold the page and light it in the flame of your meditation candle. Let the flame burn up everything that stands in your way. Drop the burning page in your cauldron or earth-filled bowl, and watch till it flares out.

Now pick up the anointing oil or Brighid’s water. Hold it above your head, and call out the following or something similar:

“I dedicate this (oil or water) to the Goddess Brighid and her brilliant inspiration!”

With the dedicated oil or water, anoint the candle you’ve chosen to represent inspiration. Holding the candle above your head, stand and raise the energy of inspiration either by toning wordlessly or by chanting:

“As this candle flames and fires,

Let me be renewed, inspired.”

Pour energy into the candle, imagining yourself filled with inspiration and hope. Imagine too the goddess lending you her aid.

When you have sent the power you raised into the candle, touch the surface below you and ground out any excess energy. Set the candle in its holder, ready for use. Then thank and release the goddess and other entities (directions, elements, fey), and take down your circle.

Light the candle whenever you work on the project you created it for, or whenever you’re in need of inspiration or hope.

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How a Suburban Mom Meditates

How a Suburban Mom Meditates

by L. Lisa Harris

The style in which I was taught to meditate or journey recommends that I find a “quiet place outdoors, facing east, and to perform the journey barefoot if possible.” The teacher who recommends this method obviously isn’t a mother living in the suburbs of Puyallup, Washington. When it isn’t raining, snowing or just plain cold, anyone trying to mediate in my backyard is likely to sit on a slug, which is not conducive to achieving a meditative state. If the weather is nice, the neighbors are out. I can tell you that listening to the CD player next door blasting the Back Street Boys at full volume and the obsessive-compulsive, gasoline-powered weed whacking emanating from the yard on the other side does nothing to relax me. Factor into the equation barking dogs, footballs flying over the fence, the neighbor kids asking, “Chelsea, what’s your Mom doing in the back yard? It looks weird” and the car alarm across the street going off, and it becomes painfully obvious that a quiet place outdoors exists somewhere far from my home.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I move my meditations inside the house, where I can look out the window and see the trees, berry vines and ferns in the woods out back and listen to the soothing sounds of my little stone fountain. The question is, “Where in the house?” Forget the family room, where my almost teenage daughter is listening to pop radio. The living room doesn’t work either, as my dear (and slightly deaf) hubby is watching reruns of Friends at full volume. The girl’s room is too messy and still smells like the hamster she had when she was 10. The office/guest room is out of the question, as hubby runs in and out to check on the music he’s downloading on our painfully slow 28.8 modem and occasionally howls, “Damn them, they terminated the connection.” I’ve tried our bedroom, but whenever I’m in there, hubby can’t resist coming in to “be with me.”

Finally, one night, in an exasperated attempt to find privacy in a small rambler with painfully thin walls, I sought the only refuge mothers have: the bathtub. I had visions of candlelight, incense and the pulsating rhythms of one of my drumming CDs blending with the steam rising from the warm water containing herbs, essential oils and sea salt, as I relaxed in the tub and drifted off into a trance state and had profound visions in my own little sacred cocoon. I was sure this was a brilliant idea.

The first challenge was to get the girl to “go now, or hold her peace.” The only bathroom we have with a bathtub in it is in the hallway, and if the girl uses the one in our room, it echoes through the pipes and heater vents (did I mention the thin walls?). Once my darling daughter spent 30 minutes doing whatever it is adolescent girls do in the bathroom, I started gathering my supplies. The first trick was getting my CD player back, “But Mom, I can’t do the dishes without music,” she whined, as I walked out of the kitchen with it. The next challenge, which took about 15 minutes, was finding my drumming CD, which had mysteriously disappeared from the player and had been replaced by some annoying girl-band album. I found an aromatherapy candle and scrounged up the last of the season’s mugwort to add to my lavender essential oil and sea salt. As soon as my surly adolescent saw me heading into the bathroom with my jar of mugwort, she gave me a look and said, “You’re not going to leave a bunch of green crap in my bathtub again, are you?”

Finally, I got everything I needed together and ran myself a bath. As soon as I settled in and started to become aware of my breathing, I heard something shaking and saw two black paws reaching under the door. As tempting as it was, I knew that telling Bad Kitty to get lost would not only be useless but would violate two major rules of our household that are strictly enforced: There is to be no magick, meditation or energy working in the house without direct supervision by the kitty, and humans are never allowed into a bathroom unescorted by the kitty. I got up out of the tub, dripping all over everything in sight and opened the door to let her in. While I stood shivering, she just sat and looked at me as if to say, “You know better.” Finally, when she was darn good and ready and I was sufficiently cold, she sauntered in and flicked the end of her tail at me as if to say, “That will teach you.”

I eased myself back into the bath, and kitty took her place on the side of the tub, face resting against mine, and fluffy tail dangling in the water. I began to establish the portals to start my journey in earnest. I was startled out of my almost meditative state by a loud knock and a whiny adolescent voice saying, “Mom.” I tried ignoring her, but she just kept at it.

“What are the rules about when I’m in the tub?” I snarled through the door.

“Don’t bug you unless I’m bleeding or something’s on fire,” she answered sullenly. “Can I get on the Internet to do homework?” she added quickly.

“Fine, but no loud music, I’m trying to meditate.” As I found the place in my mediation where I had been disrupted, I drifted back to the portals, reconnecting and resuming my journey. Not long after I stepped through the portal, I heard a sound that made me almost jump out of my skin. I think it originated from our paper shredder and a large object.

“What in the hell are you doing in there?” I shouted through the wall to the next room.

“Um, nothing,” she replied.

“Well, go do it in another room and quietly,” I ordered.

About that time, my dear husband came home from work and proceeded to fire up the computer in the next room. After listening to the Microsoft Windows introduction music at full volume, I asked him though our incredibly thin walls to wear earphones if he was going to play music files. He agreed and then proceeded to type with what have got to be the loudest keystrokes on Earth. He doesn’t do it on purpose; that’s just the way he types. I tried sticking my head under water, but all that did was get water up my nose. Eventually, he finished whatever he was doing, made some noise in the other bathroom for a while and headed out to the living room. “Finally,” I thought to myself, “peace and quiet.”

I drifted back to the land of faery and went to meet up with my animal guide. Raven had come to me that night and was circling my head playfully and swooping down to wrap me in a feathery embrace. This time I was jolted out of my meditation to find Bad Kitty attacking the shower curtain just above my head. I got her furry butt and wet tail out of my face and scolded her. Launching herself off of my shoulder, she took one more leap at the curtain, bound and determined to teach whatever she had seen there a serious lesson. I untangled her from the curtain and unceremoniously dropped her on the bathroom floor. She glared at me as only a cat can, very hurt and frustrated that I didn’t appreciate her attempt to save me from the intruder. I deposited the indignant kitty outside of the bathroom door and turned up the drumming CD to drown out the shaking of the door and her yowling.

As I walked back to the tub shivering, I slipped on the now very wet floor and cracked my shin against the toilet. I limped the rest of the way to the tub and found that my water had become cold. “I am not going to give up,” I told myself, and after running more hot water and settling back in, I counted my breath, backtracked and soon picked up where I had left off. I proceeded to follow my animal guide to the cave, where I anticipated a meeting with another guide. I could feel the gentle breezes, smell the green grass and flowers and hear my husband and daughter in the other room engaging in what sounded like a fight to the death over the remote control.

I proceeded to march out into the living room, draped in a towel, tracking water everywhere. My husband, who normally takes issue with anything dripping on the white carpet, took one look at the expression on my face and the crazed look in my eyes and stopped dead in his tracks. In the calmest, steadiest voice I could muster, I said, “Is it too much to ask to have a few moments of peace in the bathtub once in a while?”

He shook his head and answered, “No, honey.” The girl and the cat sat beside him on the couch, all of them trying not to make any sudden moves that might trigger a predatory response from the tall, wet, angry, redheaded woman, who at that moment resembled her warrior ancestors cloaked in a double-looped cotton towel. Satisfied that my point had been made, I returned to the bathroom, where now no one knocked, meowed or did strange things to the paper shredder in the next room.

I emptied the last of the hot water into the tub, refreshed the herbs and oils and finished my journey. As usual, I received answers to the questions I didn’t ask — and cryptic ones at that. But the answers, and perhaps even the journey itself, weren’t the most important thing I found that night. I found the “holy grail” of motherhood in the suburbs, 20 uninterrupted minutes of peace and quiet in the bathtub.

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Meditation Every Day? We Thought Not!

Meditation Every Day? We Thought Not!

An Expert Offers a Brush-Up on Meditation Basics

 

by Dianus Blackcat

Meditation is the foundation of pagan spiritual practice, and a basic method to improve our mental and physical state in today’s often stressful and chaotic world. For most pagans, the art of meditation is one of the first skills learned in spiritual practice. Yet for many, the value found in daily meditation exercises is sometimes left by the wayside during the course of our busy lives.

Why meditate every day? Because from pressure to complete tasks at work or school, to world politics, we are bombarded with stressful stimuli every day. That stress can negatively affect both our mental and physical health. Simple meditation exercises, practiced routinely, can counter the negative impact of overstimulation on our minds and bodies.

Mental and physical stresses are experienced together, joined like two sides of the same coin. For example, think of something pleasant, such as a loved one or a sunny afternoon. Immediately we experience the pleasant feelings associated with these images. After thinking of something good, we feel good. If we think of something unpleasant, we conversely experience a negative sensation. We grimace at the news. Pressures on the job give us tension headaches. We use this same mind-body connection in ritual when we take an action in the physical plane to activate the astral. By this principle, meditation can be approached as ritual and magick.

Meditation techniques vary from person to person. Often meditation is put into a religious context. It is not necessary to do so to achieve the benefits of reduced stress, but as pagans, we find that a spiritual dimension to life leads to increased happiness and health. Some practitioners burn incense and play New Age music. Others might sit in various yoga positions and fast or otherwise modify their diet as part of their meditation routine. Despite the variations, virtually all meditation practices do have some attributes in common: a state of deep relaxation, a quieting of mental chatter and a keen awareness of either our internal state or external surroundings.

Many people find it challenging to experience all three of these common attributes at the same time. They may try to silence mental chatter with a forceful effort, only to end up negating their attempt to remain relaxed. They may become so relaxed as to fall asleep, countering their attempt to remain aware. Meditation is not always easy, but the methods are quite straightforward and simple. Even if we have mastered the techniques, like any skill, meditation becomes easier and more rewarding with practice.

Stress is experienced in the body as tension. The origin of that tension can be a mental source, such as the memory of an argument, or a physical source, such as bad weather. What many people forget is that the mental-physical link works both directions. That is, just as our body responds to thoughts, our thoughts will respond to our body. Many people become grouchy when hungry or depressed when overtired. When we reduce the physical tension, we experience a relief of mental tension. Knowing this gives us our first step in successful meditation: deep relaxation.

Step 1: Deep Relaxation

Find a quiet place were you can comfortably sit upright and not be disturbed. It is helpful to have a small kitchen timer or other alarm to keep track of the time for you, so that you are not preoccupied with how long you have been meditating. Take a moment to tense up and then release each muscle group in your body, beginning with your feet, then legs, then gradually moving upward. Twist your torso, then lift and stretch your arms. Finish by moving the muscles in your face to make exaggerated facial expressions. Wrinkle your nose; stretch your mouth. Really let go, but do not strain yourself. Remember to continue breathing deeply. When you draw in a breath, push out from your belly to expand your lungs. Doing so will increase the amount of available oxygen in your lungs, aiding your relaxation. Be sure to exhale fully to prevent dizziness.

After you stretch out and relax, you are usually aware of internal thoughts and feelings more than anything else. We might hear a little voice inside our heads or have a constant internal dialogue going on. We rehash old discussions, worry about unpaid bills and criticize our hair or clothes. This is the mental chatter that we need to quiet from time to time, for it is often the most insidious cause of stress in our lives.

We cannot always control the external events that have an impact on us, but we can do something about our reaction to those events. Silencing the mental chatter can give us just the break we need to help us to view external events more objectively. I believe that an underlying motivation for overstimulation in today’s society is the desire to escape relentless self-dialogue. When we process input, we are distracted away from our egos.

Our egos tend to consume a lot of our energy by worrying about superficial, cultural matters. By adjusting our focus away from them, it helps us to connect to that divine part of ourselves that is a great source of spiritual connection and inspiration. Remembering this gives us our second step in successful meditation: silencing the mental chatter.

Step 2: Silencing Mental Chatter

After having stretched, still breathing deeply in a relaxed way, allow your gaze to fall upon some pleasant, yet emotionally neutral, focal point. I recommend you light a candle ahead of time that you can focus on, but anything pleasing to you is fine. It can be a religious object, a flower or some scenic view. Just look at the object. Do not think about it; just watch it. A candle is useful because it will flicker and change, making it easier to observe without boredom because it changes unexpectedly. Do not make mental notes or judgments. As thoughts come into your mind, simply allow them to pass. Do not attempt to force the thoughts out of your head. You are awake and alive, and thoughts will come to you. Rather, continue to pay attention to your focal object. Watch it as if it is about to jump out at you and you don’t want to miss a thing. By focusing your attention on this single object, time will pass and you will realize that the mental chatter has stopped.

When we calm down the voice of our ego by focusing our attention, we suddenly become aware of a great deal of information that we were missing due to our focus on internal dialogue. For many, that internal dialogue is of a criticizing nature. With that internal critic out of the way, it becomes much easier to face the challenges we may have been suppressing. Facing any hidden or suppressed emotions is the best way to release them from our lives and improve our mental and physical health. Knowing this gives us our third step in successful meditation: keen awareness of either our internal state or external surroundings.

Step 3: Keen Awareness

When observing the focal object of your meditation, allow yourself to also notice your surroundings. Notice the temperature of the air around you. If you are outside, is it calm or windy? Is it hot or cold? Listen for any sounds. Is there traffic on the road outside? Is there a bird singing somewhere? Do you hear some people having a conversation somewhere else in the house? Allow yourself to simply be the observer. You may begin to feel a deep connection with the world around you. You may also have sudden flashes of images from previous or current challenges in your life. Allow yourself to view any memories as if you were watching the events of a fictional character in a movie. Simply observe. The detachment from these images may be difficult at first, but concentrate on remaining relaxed and remembering to breathe deeply.

Meditation is a skill that improves with practice. Regular meditation practice will reduce stress and lead to a happier and healthier outlook on life. For positive results, meditation should be performed every day for at least 15 minutes. Each of us can afford to take 15 minutes out of our day to do something good for ourselves. After a while, you may find that troubles in the news and in life, although still troubling, can be dealt with. When we are relaxed and energized through these exercises, we are more able to face challenges. There may be times when we are particularly upset and might feel that we cannot meditate during a crisis. When we are most upset is precisely the time when we need meditation the most. It will help.

Meditation helps us to understand ourselves because it requires us to carefully pay attention to our inner thoughts as well as the world around us. When we pay attention to the world, we can more fully interact with it. When we can interact with the world, we can change the world and cease to be helpless and fearful. Often we approach the world by talking out our opinions and thoughts, projecting sometimes false ideas on others. Meditation is a way to stop the talking. Simple meditation exercises, when practiced routinely, can counter the negative impact of daily stress on our minds and bodies. When I stopped talking, I listened. When I listened, I heard. Listen, and you will hear a world within and around you, inviting you and loving you, divinely connected.

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Planting Seeds at Imbolc

Planting Seeds at Imbolc

article

By C. Cheek

When I was a student at UW, I walked to class every day from my apartment. Along the way, I’d pass some less-than-beautiful sights; empty lots, alleys, easements, and the crud that gathers near gutters in parking lots. Not to worry, I assured myself, come spring, flowers would grow, filling these ugly spots with bursts of color. But then April came, and May, and June, and the route I walked to school stayed barren. Nature provided the sun, soil and rain, but no one had planted seeds.

Sometimes life just hands us what we need. Sometimes all we have to do is wait. And sometimes we have to do a little helping on our own. An envelope sits in my coat pocket. Inside this envelope are seeds mixed with sand to make them spread farther. Some of the seeds I purchased at stores, some I gathered last summer. Now, whenever I pass a patch of dirt, I’ll sow some of those seeds, and with them, I’ll sow a little hope. Hope is the time between planting a seed and seeing it bloom, or die. Hope is when you hear the phone ring and don’t know yet if it’s your best friend. Hope is the moment between buying a lottery ticket and scratching off that final square. When I was child, my mother often told me that wanting was better than having. It took me many years to find out what she meant. Even if your seeds don’t sprout, even if it’s a telemarketer on the other end of the line, and even if you don’t win the lottery, for a brief moment, possibility shines.

Getting in touch with Imbolc means gathering a kernel of hope. For me, as a writer, this means sending out my manuscripts. I call it “applying for rejection letters.” I read the editor’s requirements, check over my story for loose commas, type up a query letter, double check the spelling of the editor’s name, put the pages in an envelope with an extra SASE, and wait. Query letters have a germination period of about three months. At the end of three months, I’ll usually get a tiny slip of paper, not much bigger than a cookie’s fortune, which reads “Thank you for your submission, but it does not suit our current needs.” These little slips of paper cut me, they wound me, they callously toss aside what I’ve spent months writing. So, I find another name, and send it out again. Why? Why do I keep sending the stories out again and again? Because for three months, I can imagine how great it will feel to get an acceptance letter. In my fantasies, an acceptance letter turns into a three-book contract. My daydreams take root, and soon I’m the next J. K. Rowling, with legions of adoring fans, and respect of fellow authors, and book tours in Europe and then… and then…

And then, most likely, I’ll get a slip of paper, or maybe even a letter written just for me, telling me “No thank you.” But for those three months, the daydreams flourish, as sweet as the bite of chocolate you imagine just before tearing off the foil and wrapper, when the bar of candy lies unopened, waiting in your hand. Hope is rich soil, seeded with maybes. Providence will decide if I happen to write the right letter to the right editor, and if she’s in the mood to read my work. Nature decides if the wildflower seeds I scratched into the mud will grow into seedlings. Even if my efforts don’t bear fruit, I’m guaranteed a period of hope, while waiting to see what happens as the months pass.

The other gardening chore for early spring is pruning. Trees don’t have many ways of communication, but they “know” that sharp loppers shearing off branches early in the year means that it’s time to send out buds and shoots. Roses too, lie dormant in the winter and need the snip-snip of a gardener to wake them up. “Wake up,” I tell them, as I trim off last year’s growth. Inside the house, I peer out the window at the bare canes and think of the months of fragrant blooms lying under that frost-touched bark. When the weather warms, they’ll send out furled leaves, reddish then green, and buds will soon follow. As an inexperienced gardener, I didn’t trim the roses. It felt wrong, cruel somehow to cut back a perfectly healthy plant. The roses still bloomed, still grew, but the leaves didn’t get as large, and the flowers weren’t as numerous. I’ve learned my lesson now. My shears are sharp and ready.

Sometimes nature takes its course without our help, and sometimes it needs our assistance. Friendships are like that too. When I was at the store, I purchased a handful of postcards. Who buys these things, except tourists? Who sends postcards, except people who want to brag about how far they’ve gone on vacation? Well, I do. I got out my old address book and started writing down names of friends I hadn’t talked to in a while. It seems so hard to call people out of the blue. I’m always afraid of what they’ll think. She’ll think I need to borrow money, he’ll think I just broke up and am trying to flirt, my cousin will think I want a favor. So I write instead. No one, it seems, minds a postcard.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to write much. “Thinking of you,” seems to cover it. Or maybe, “I saw this postcard with a beagle on it, and remembered your old dog Spot. How are you and Spot doing?” People don’t often write back. Sometimes you have to send them four or five cards before they write you, sometimes they don’t write back at all. Sometimes they’ve moved, and don’t get the postcard. And sometimes, sometimes they’ve missed you too, and wondered why you’ve drifted apart. Sometimes they get out their address book, and pick up the phone, and call to ask you out to coffee. A rectangle of cardstock and a twenty-three cent stamp, and you automatically get a week of hope that you’re about to rekindle an old friendship. And even if that old co-worker doesn’t remember you, or if he’s moved and the postcard arrives at the house of a stranger, you’ve probably brightened someone’s day. That’s worth fifty cents.

Every day we pass people whose names we never learn. That pierced, pink-haired barista that you buy your latte from might have gone to your high school. That old woman who sits on the same spot in the bus might have important lessons to teach you about life. Your study-partner in that night class might be looking for someone to share his theater tickets with. Sure, they’re just strangers, people we don’t know, and don’t need to know. On the other hand, if you see the same person every day, or every week, how do you know that person isn’t meant to be in your life? It’s hard to be outgoing, hard to strike up conversations without an introduction or the comforting venue of a cocktail party. Seeds don’t need much to grow, a bit of warmth, a bit of rain, and nature takes its course. The wind changes, and flocks of birds know it’s time to return home. Maybe all it takes to turn “that girl from the coffee shop” into “Tina, who plays tennis with me on Mondays” is an extra smile, an extra nod, an extra moment of attention. We are each other’s sun, we are each other’s rain. We have the power to turn the barren soil of strangerhood into a small connection between fellow human beings. You don’t have to do it all, in fact, you can’t make a relationship develop by force any more than you can make a turnip grow faster by tugging at its root, but you do have to make an effort. Plant a small seed of possibility.

I’ve got a small stack of postcards on my desk, each one addressed and stamped and ready for the mailman. It took an hour, and half a booklet of stamps. I wrote just a sentence, or just a smiley face and my name. I’m already imagining how fun it would be to throw a party and invite people I haven’t seen for years. On my kitchen windowsill, tomato seeds wait in their peat pots. In my mind the tomatoes (which haven’t yet sprouted) taste like sunlight, miles better than any of the icy slices the guy at the deli puts on my sandwich. At lunch, I smile at the deli guy anyway, and comment on his funny button, and call him “Eddie,” from his nametag. He recognizes me when I come in now, and even though he calls me “No Peppers, Right?” it’s a start. A lottery ticket, unscratched, is stuck to my fridge with a magnet. It could win me ten thousand dollars–or maybe not. It’s fun to wonder, and hope. I’ve got my novel in the hands of an editor too. As February turns into March, and March turns into April, she’ll work her way down the stack to mine. She’ll read it, and she’ll send me a yes, or a no. I’m in no rush to get my SASE back with the answer. For now, I’ll just savor the possibility of what might happen. Few things in this world taste as sweet as hope.

Categories: Daily Posts | Leave a comment

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