April 10, 2017

There was a question posed in the Facebook ADF study group about people’s favorite way to meditate.  The original poster had said his favorite way to meditate was deep breathing in the woods.  I thought this was a pretty typical response.  When you say the word “meditate” the picture that comes to mind is most often the person sitting criss-cross, eyes closed, Ohm style.  That’s never been me.  I’ve always had a tough time shutting the voice off in my head for meditation time.  Not that I can’t sit quietly.  I LOVE sitting quietly…with my thoughts.  And it’s not even that I CAN’T get the voice to shut up to meditate that way.  For me, I find that an inefficient use of my time.  It simply takes too long for me to shut the voice off.  So when I responded to this person’s question, I shared a little bit about my own style of meditation and it got me thinking about the entire PURPOSE of this journal as a record of my journey in mindfulness and such as it refers to the ADF requirements.

When I meditate, 99% of the time it includes headphone with music involved.  A long, long, long time ago I was training to play NCAA soccer.  When I’d run, I’d have to have headphones on for “motivation.”  I spent a lot of time putting together mix tapes to run to.  Carefully timing when each song would come on and where I’d be on my run (i.e. “You Can Make it if You Try” by Sly and the Family Stone when I came to the big hill on Comm. Ave by Boston University? Hell yeah!)  This is something I might call “moving meditation.”  While it’s true I was listening to music to motivate me to run.  It is ALSO true that knowing my trail and knowing my mix tape, allowed my thoughts to wander.  Then one day something made me very angry.  I don’t remember what it was, but I remember strapping on my sneakers and heading out the door WITHOUT my beloved headphones!  To my shock, I discovered that my legs DO in fact work whether there’s music or not!  And even more interestingly, I discovered that my run was more satisfying without them!  Why?  Because running through the streets of Boston just listening to the pit-pat of my feet and the in-out of my rhythmic breathing, was enough!  It was an amazing discovery.

Later, when I was training to run a marathon for charity, I began using headphones with music to help me visualize myself crossing the finish line (in all my grand dramatic fashion!  but hey, it was MY fantasy!)  Sometimes I still ran with headphones, sometimes not.  But that was the beginning of this visualization type meditation that I would continue to use.

After college I moved to NYC and FINALLY had a place to myself.  Here I began meditating in the bathtub with my headphones on.  I think it was particularly successful to meditate in the tub because I could make it so nice and dark and the water so nice and warm, it was almost like sensory deprivation, other than the music.  I began each session by envisioning the same thing, modified from an exercise for past life regression maybe?  I don’t remember now.  The original exercise involved walking down stairs and opening a door (all of which you’re supposed to describe…what kind of door, how many stairs).  Designed, I imagine, to help you “descend” into your subconscious?  I modified the idea a little and rather than walking downstairs, I always imagine myself walking through greenery.  Tangled bushes and/or trees, deeper and deeper into the mysterious forest.  I allow myself to wander this way for a bit, until I’m met, usually by a female goddess type, or goddess representative, I’d hardly consider myself worthy of ACTUALLY cavorting with the gods.  Then she and I walk together as she guides me to “somewhere.”  That’s usually the point where my mind lets go and I see whatever I see.  I’ve had some REALLY powerful meditations this way, including the time I wandered so long in the tangled woods I started to shout out, “Hello?” into the nothing…only to be grabbed by the arm by a male figure, the green man, perhaps…where his hand encircled my wrist his fingers grew out like roots and wrapped around my arm.  His face was close to my face and then he said something like, “It is not your turn.”  Which would make sense if I told you, this was during a period where my family (years have now passed since my being single and free in NYC, now I am married with two children) was searching for direction, and my specifically, my part in how we would move forward.  This particular meditation was SO powerful, that when I was done, I launched from the tub and still dripping wet, hastened to write it all down.  I still have that piece of paper.

Now that I have a husband and two boys though, it’s nearly impossible for me to find the time…the QUIET time to soak in a tub.  I can’t even think of how desperate I must have been to force that kind of thing into my schedule.

Meditation time is different now.  I haven’t gotten a good tub soak in years.  Most recently meditation takes the form of “moving meditation” again, as it’s most often done while I’m working out on the farm.  If I’m out there early, I won’t wear headphones because I love the sound of the birds in the morning.  Or the sound of a gentle rain.  If I’m out there for a while though, I’ll put my headphones on to keep me company while I’m weeding our 100 foot beds.  I put on some Pandora, on my Loreena McKennit station and let my mind wander.

That’s during the summer though.  Right now, during the school year, I’m sitting behind a desk with an 8th grader working furiously trying to finish a science assessment from last quarter.  We still have snow on the ground and there’s no work in the field yet.  The closest thing to meditation I get nowadays is in the car on the way to work in the morning.  Fifteen minutes of alone time that my kids think is SO unfair because I make them ride the bus to the same building I’m driving to.  Tough luck, kids!  I put on my music, Riverdance is a favorite, and let my mind wander.  Believe it or not, I’ve had inspiration for liturgy during that time.  I think the thing for me is, if you look at all these different types of meditations I’ve practiced, they all involve music.  So at this point I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  The minute I hear the strain of some Irish music…my mind is wandering off into la-la land.

Thinking about all these different meditations I’ve had also serves as a strong reminder that I’m NOT currently experiencing that much meditation at this time.  My schedule is so tight, my body so tired, there just doesn’t seem any way to squeeze some more me-time into my day.  But just like the kids and my refusing to drive them to school with me, I can do it, if I try.  I used to make a point of soaking in the tub once a week like that.  Who’s to say, that just, every once in a while, I couldn’t go figure out SOME way?  It’s so hard when, unless my kids are sleeping, part of me is always listening for them.  Even if Daddy is home minding them and I’m in the tub…it’s not the same.  I could put my music on while I fall asleep, but that’s the only time I get to watch my internet news (the direct OPPOSITE of meditation).  That’s probably the best time though.  The kids are sleeping.  The husband is usually sleeping.  And all I need is the first note or two…and off I go.

It appears that my problem with meditation isn’t with the meditation itself.  It’s with the motivation and commitment to doing it.  Reminds of that time at Martial Arts Warrior Camp, when I was sitting in the front row at a lecture from one of the masters.  He had asked the crowd who WOULDN’T want to meditate for 20 minutes a day? And I answered honestly, by raising my hand.  I was the only one, of course.  The Master smiled and spent much of the rest of the lecture speaking to me.  My own SaBuNim (Korean Martial Arts Master), Master Herbert seemed to have really enjoyed it, as it was reported to me by fellow students.  I’m honest, if nothing else 😉

March 30, 2017

One of the greatest things that has happened recently is that I not only discovered, but was invited to join, a secret Facebook group regarding DP studies.  It’s been a breath of fresh air to read along as other people make their way through the work.  One of the things they were talking about was what might qualify as “mindfulness” work and that reminded me of the altar on my kitchen windowsill.

After writing the first couple entries regarding the placement of the altar and the idea that I needed to begin a morning prayer ritual there…absolutely nothing happened. No, that’s not true, I LOOKED at the altar the next morning and acknowledged that I was indeed, NOT partaking in any morning ritual or prayer.

So, finally, this morning while making breakfast for the kids I remembered that I had wanted to begin a morning ritual, and so lit some incense.  I stood there for a moment watching as the smoke seeped out of the burner and across the bowl of water representing the sacred well.  I don’t know how long I stood there, but shortly after I lit the incense my husband arrived in the kitchen with a smile and asked why I had lit incense.  I updated him on my plan to begin a morning ritual as I once had when we lived in Dorchester with our beautiful altar.

I stood there watching the smoke and thought to myself, “Now what?” as I no longer have a “go to” way of doing things.  It was so easy in Dorchester with that big ol’ altar right there and it just made sense to kneel before it and pray.  This experience is different in that it’s on a windowsill and you can’t kneel before it.  In the end, it won’t be that different (minus the kneeling).  But now it’s been so long I can barely remember whatever it was I used to SAY.  I may spend some time today looking up a good morning ritual prayer. Even without it though, just the act of lighting the incense and standing there inhaling with purpose made a difference in the way I felt as I set out to start my day.

March 22, 2017 – Journal

I’ll have to check the rules, but I’m fairly certain that I’m supposed to be writing a WEEKLY journal entry? And if that’s so, well, I’m failing so far.  I’m failing because I haven’t had the time to consider spiritual matters much due to my sons’ wrestling schedule which seems like a pretty lame thing to say, but it actually brings me to the thing I want to talk about today.

Since re-dedicating to the DP work I have successfully set up our family altar, albeit a far smaller and less grand version of what it once was…it’s there.  That doesn’t sound like much, except that it took over 2 years to get that done.  I put it on the windowsill of our kitchen’s bay window.  I chose this location for a number of reasons, but one of them was that it’s a window we ALL look through first thing in the morning.  Sure, I may SEE through the window in our bedroom, but am I really LOOKING?  Once downstairs, I head to the kitchen to take care of my caffeine intake…and there I find myself standing at our beautiful kitchen counter, coffee in hand, looking out that big bay window.  I don’t normally light incense in the kitchen because normally if I’m IN the kitchen, it’s because I’m cooking and I don’t want the smell of the incense to interfere with the delicious aroma of my food!  But that’s not true in the morning!  I’m only in there for coffee and frankly, I think a little incense to start the day may be JUST the thing.

Yesterday afternoon I found a total of 5 minutes of free time which I used to find the little statues of a bunny and a bird that I had once used on my altar to celebrate Spring.  They’re these little garden statue things with big gaudy plastic gems on their sides in happy Spring colors, and I love them.  Being able to interact with my altar like that is something I haven’t done in a while.  It kind of brings me to the point of this journal entry, and that is, in our busy everyday lives, it can be very difficult if not entirely impossible to find time to focus on our spiritual selves.  To interact with the world on a spiritual level or to acknowledge the gods (much less to communicate with them in full!).  While I feel as though I walk through the world constantly in touch with the gods, how much interaction IS there on a daily basis?  And how can I go about changing that?  So far, the greatest interaction I have on a daily basis is the 15 minute commute to work (and 15 mins home) where I listen to my Irish music and have visions of dancing pagans in my mind as I daydream about what our grove could look like someday.  But that’s it.  And that’s not much.

Now that the altar is set up, I’m going to try and institute some kind of quick morning prayer/ritual so that I begin my day by formally interacting with the gods.  I always liked morning prayers.  Always felt it helped me get started on a good foot.  Not sure why it’s taken me this long to come back around to creating a new morning ritual (since we moved 2.5 years ago).  But late is better than never.  So let’s give it a go!

Vision

VISION

ADF: The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present and future

Dictionary: thing or person seen in a dream or trance. Supernatural or prophetic apparition, thing or idea perceived vividly in the imagination (romantic visions of youth) imaginative insight, statesmanlike foresight; sagacity in planning.

Finding a good definition of “vision” to work from was a challenge.  It seemed to either focus on the physical act of seeing OR went straight into the imagination realm.  Personally, the challenge to define what I understand vision to be is that I believe vision actually falls somewhere directly between both definitions.  While vision depends upon the eye, it also depends upon the heart.  The saying that we see the world through the lens of our own experience is absolutely true.  Our experience shapes our hearts, and it is our hearts that spawn our hopes and dreams as well as how we see our own part in them.

Some life experience may provide you a lens of statesmanlike foresight through which to see the world.  Others may dirty or crack your lens to the point of having little to no sight at all beyond one’s own nose.  And if you can’t see beyond your own nose, there’s no way you could possibly understand your own, or anyone else’s role in the cosmos.  I suppose our challenge, assuming that nobody has ONLY positive experiences and that we all experience a mixture of both the good and bad that would help shape the lens through which we see the world, is to remove our lenses entirely.

I wonder if the truest way to achieve the broadening of one’s perspective and to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the cosmos is simply to have no lens at all.  For, if I’m seeing the world through my, or any other kind of lens, I can only see so much.  If, however, I simply see…I can see it all.

Mid-Spring Ritual

We met on Sunday afternoon, March 19th at Hearthstone Farm.  My family and I had been gone all day at a wrestling tournament and arrived home just in time to grab some last minute items for dinner when our other grove member, Jeremy showed up.  We were still snowed out of our usual spot at the big bonfire pit out in our field (our current grove spot) which was a little disappointing, but we all agreed to do ritual outside on our driveway.  Ritualing (a new term I just coined, for the act of doing ritual, different than “ritualizing”) on our driveway sounds terribly unromantic and certainly not magical, but that’s not entirely true.  Our driveway is long and our house pretty far back from the street.  It’s dirt, and for one of the first times in Spring, we could finally see and stand on that dirt, rather than ice and snow.  (plus, our driveway has a nice view of the sunset)

We began by simply walking clockwise around our small fire in order to replace our “procession” and we successfully execute the COOR. It was a simple and wonderful experience, which it usually is when we come together last minute and seemingly unprepared. We acknowledged that while we are still buried in ice and snow, that the wheel had turned and the earth was coming alive.  I had planned on using some unprocessed maple sap for our sacred blessing, but with the weather as it’s been, never got a chance to tap any of our trees (will try again for Beltane). I’d also forgotten to grab some Kosher grape juice, which is our standard blessing so we used the last of the melted snow from our Imbolc ritual (having been frozen out of our river, we had no water for our sacred well and melted snow instead).  Though it was a little bit thrown together, our intentions were pure, our energy strong, and ultimately it was a great experience.  We skipped the omen due to the fact that everything regarding the set up and execution of ritual had fallen into place so nicely we declared that the gods were satisfied with our being there and accepted all of our sacrifices.

Jeremy and I had some good chat about things we’d like to grow to include in our ritual as time goes on, including the speaking of Gaelic, the inclusion of music, as well as working on a better way to call for an omen.

February 16, 2017

This is my first journal entry.  I feels weird.  I used to write eloquent blogs all the time.  I even used to keep hand written journals in ADDITION to my online blogs.  And still I’m staring at this empty box wondering what on earth I could write here that would be of any use.  I’ll be honest too, writing a “journal” that I KNOW is going to be read by someone who will then be judging it’s content and either accepting the journal as documentation for a completed DP or rejecting it, makes it a little harder to think of something to write.

For example, do I REALLY want to make note of my judgmental attitude while watching other ADF rituals on youtube?  Have you ever watched Mystery Science Theatre 3000? That’s pretty much how it goes.  And if you haven’t, it’s basically the outline of a puppet making snarky remarks about whatever cheesy sic-fi movie it’s watching.  I don’t feel GOOD about myself while I’m sitting there eye-rolling.  In fact, half of what’s going on is that I’m terrified that I come across equally as cheesy in MY rituals.  And I’m just not OK with that.  Or do I really want to make a permanent record of how much I don’t really LIKE other pagans?

I think I’m going to have to delete this.