Monday, January 26, 2015

Druidic Meditation Techniques (Part 1):

Sometimes inspiration comes from funny places.  I’ve had epiphanies driving in the car and powerful spiritual experiences while folding laundry.  Kids have taught me many lessons.   One of the techniques I’ve learned in attempting to change my state of consciousness is that you have to start where you are rather than where you would like to be.

I first observed this reality when I was a young mother trying to put irritable children to sleep.  I noticed that if I matched my breathing pattern to their breathing pattern I could then slowly adjust their breathing pattern with my own.  The breath that I would create was shallow and quick, barely inflating my lungs.  After a minute of that sort of breathing I would gradually and incrementally slow my breathing watching to make sure theirs was slowing as well. By linking our breathing patterns at a faster rate I found that they would follow my lead and slowly calm their own breathing pattern.  Eventually as they calmed they would drop right off to sleep.  I noticed in my own self that there inevitably came a moment a few minutes before they totally fell asleep where I would feel an intense sleepiness in my own body.  The connection went both ways!

That experience taught me many things.  First, that people can create a powerful connection through matching breath.  Second that creating calmness works much better by first matching intensity.  This second part is incredibly useful for meditative practice.

Many meditative practices focus on ways to still the mind. 
I believe that there is a much broader range of outcomes that can be created.   


Sometimes you need to bring your energy up as well as down.  Calm and peaceful isn’t the right state of mind before an interview for a job.  Enthusiastic and on your toes might be a better option.   For a peaceful evening after a difficult day, you would need a different tool. These are different states of mind. I tend to think of it as energy states, rather like an electron.  Electrons are constantly in motion around the nucleus of an atom.  We never know exactly where one is and they are notoriously hard to pin down. However we do know that they move in specific patterns, and when energy is added to a system they can jump from a pattern that is closer to the nucleus to one that is farther away from the nucleus.  This is called an excitable state. We also have excitable states, of many different sorts, both positive and negative. The joy of a party of friends, or the stress of a hard job can create an excited state. Sometimes the goal needs to be to calm down.


Exercise one:  Moving from a higher energy state to a lower energy state. 

Sit or stand with good posture, both feet placed on the floor shoulders back and imagine a string from the top of your head pulling your spine straight upward through your head. Don’t stick out your butt and let your belly relax.   Then take a deep breath and push out the air with all your force. This is the important part. You really need to shove that air out.  Keep breathing like that for a few repetitions, maybe 5-7 times.  You will most likely find that the out-breath is longer than the in-breath. Slowly push the air out less hard, making the length of the in-breath and the out-breath more equal in length.  Finally breath a few times where the intensity of both the in-breath and the out-breath match and are gentle and calm in manner.

Meditative techniques can create different results for different people and experience is the best teacher.  I suggest noting how you feel and what you are thinking both before and after trying a meditative state.  It’s important to know how the exercise affects you personally.  Generalizations are great, and certainly human brains are all fairly alike.  However we each have our own personal biochemistry and experiences and it’s important to listen to your body’s wisdom as well as the wisdom of the ancients.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Meditating on Genderqueer and Tools for Healing

Transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, intersex, non-gendered, third gendered, gender-fluid.


Read those words again.  Let yourself feel how you react to them.  Are they comfortable words or words that challenge you?   Each tells a different but related story.  All too often these words tell stories of pain and misunderstanding.  Words have power and these words are powerful indeed.  They have the power to kill, and the power to change a life for the better.

I have known a number of people who had a gender identity that was not either male or female, or that changed their identity in their lives.  One thing I have seen, again and again is that these people are truly expressing who they are in a world that has no place for them.

To identify as genderqueer is to be excluded, silenced, hidden, hated.  It is to be killed in the dark alone.  It is to be unable to find a place to fit at work. Never mind the challenges of attempting to be honest about who one is and how one fits in the world when the honest answer is something that is so unacceptable to the average human.

I am not genderqueer or intersexed, but I have family and friends who are.  One thing they’ve all had in common was pain and hurt from the misunderstanding and cruelty of their fellow man.  Often from their parents and those who should have been closest to them.  I was talking with my Joanna one day and I wanted to share what I had learned in my decades of studying mysticism and spirituality.  I wanted to teach her the skills that I had learned because I saw how badly she needed them.  I have used meditation, trancework, and devotional practices in my own life and shared them with many others.  Even though I am not genderqueer I am a priestess and I can teach those skills to those in need.

Thus was an idea born, to teach the skills of the mystic to those who live in liminality every day.

And so, starting next month I will be teaching a monthly class at the Pagan Pathways Temple.  I hope to create a safe space for all who are exploring a fluid gender, found a new one, or are just interested in meditation and transformation as an ally and a friend.

I will be running a six week course in Meditation and Trancework for Healing focused specifically on the needs of those in transition, who have transitioned or those who have experienced or are interested in gender fluidity.  

We will be focusing on building fundamental techniques that are proven to create calm and healing.  Each lesson will build on the last and will culminate in a healing ritual designed by the participants.

Participants will learn:

Counted breathing techniques
Anchoring emotional states
Multiple styles of grounding and centering techniques including tree of life and energy wheels.
Introduction into trance visioning
Galdoring and vocal entrancement
Astral body work including healing and protection techniques

Those who participate will be given access to recording of all guided meditations,  copies of ritual work and handouts, and access to a class Facebook support group where at home practices can be shared and learning can continue. Please share this with anyone you believe might be interested in this work.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Whistling in the Dark: Some Ideas Toward a Method of Trancework

Recently I had a interesting conversation with an ADF member about her new friendship with the local river spirit.  She had been getting headaches and was trying to figure out if that was connected to her spirit workings or not.  I hope I gave her a couple good ideas, but the thing that I really carried away from that conversation was Science. 

I have noticed a theme with pagans.  We like science.  We also feel stupid for believing in fairy tales and invisible friends and science all at the same time.  The thing is, Science is not the Theory of Evolution.  (Which is true folks, get over it.) 

Science is a methodology.


That means it's a grouping of tools and a way of thinking logically about the world. This can be applied to anything. Even invisible friends.  So as I continue sharing my thoughts on trancework I will occasionally be pointing out when scientific method might be useful as a way of assessing this nebulous timey wimey world of spirit.

In a previous post I mentioned that I have noticed two main categories of trouble with trance.  In the first category are the people who want to experience all the cool imagery the feeling of the divine watching over you, the synchronicities and seeing what never was and what might yet be.  But they can’t. They get so far and no further.  It all seems hazy and nebulous, like a bad game of lets pretend.  There’s those moments when you close your eyes, see the back of your eyelids and wonder when the fireworks will start. 
           
Then there’s the people who can’t seem to find the off switch to this roller coaster ride.  They space out in the car, in the grocery line, or during boring lectures in school.  They have super realistic daydreams about weird shit that they wouldn’t really choose to imagine if they had the choice.  What do you do when your imaginary friend talks back?

Interestingly, I’ve found that many of the same techniques work for both folks.  It comes down to one word:

Practice.


Yep.  Like learning an instrument,  a science, or a martial art, it takes practice.  This means that if you want to get good at trancework you’re going to have to do it. Frequently.  This goes for the people who are bored by staring at their eyelids as well as the people who can’t get the vision faucet to turn off.  The point in either case is to gain control.

The trick is to keep the practice interesting. 

So. Let’s start by breaking down the skill sets:

I see them as: envisioning, emptying, connecting, maintaining the signal, getting clear signal, knowing the lore, building relationships, and doing the work.

Envisioning: 


This is the daydreamers ability.  It involves being able to make pictures in your head.  When you read a book and imagine what the characters look like, this is envisioning.  It’s a good one to start with and easy to practice anywhere by simply closing your eyes and imagining anything.  Starting with basic shapes is good. Try making a circle, then change the color.  Then make it a sphere.  Turn it into an apple, or a globe, or a tennis ball.  This is a fun game that only has your imagination as the limit.  It’s Minecraft in your brain.

Emptying: 


Welcome to Zen Buddhism, Dorothy, but know that the yellow brick road is an illusion, just like everything else.  This is the “empty mind” and I am aware how annoyingly impossible it is to achieve. It’s like trying to empty a sink while the faucet is running.  But total success isn’t important.  The ability to reach for and find stillness is an incredibly important skill when you’re trying to figure out what in this trance thing is you, and what might be Someone Else trying to chat.  Plus, when you’re trying to consciously fill your mind up with one specific thing, it’s a lot easier when it’s not already filled with your work task list for the next three weeks.

Connecting: 


You know that transcendent thing that people talk about?  That connection to something larger than themselves?  This is what I am talking about here. Psychologists have researched the phenomenon.  There is a specific part of the brain that is triggered.  This is the part of trancework that is about getting out of your own head and into something greater than yourself.  The first two are about getting control of your own brain.  This is where you jump like a fool into the unknown!

Maintaining the Signal:


Do you remember when you started learning to ride a bike?  There’s this moment in the process where for a moment, a beautiful glorious moment, you have it!  Then you fall over. Trancework is like that too.  That balance of focus and openness can be hard to achieve.  Learning how to make it last, how to shut it off when you don’t want it, and how to make it flow well is all part of maintaining the signal.

Getting a Clear Signal: 


We all have doubts, fears, and hopes.  We want things, we desire things.  Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we want. Our shadow selves sneak into our workings and tell a convincing tale.  For trancework to be useful we need to know how accurate it is.  Are we actually reaching anywhere or anyone other than ourselves?  Divination is a big part of this one, as well as are skills that teach us how to discern our own ego from that which is not ourselves. It also leads into the next set of skills.

Studying The Lore:


Because making it all up just isn’t good enough.  Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some amazing, empowering, transformative experiences that had absolutely no grounding in the lore.  At first.   As I delved more deeply into primary sources, reading scholarly articles on Gods and Spirits that ranged from Irish Celtic to Proto-Vedic I’ve become aware of patterns I did not know of before.  I know everyone can’t spend their life researching this stuff, but part of studying the lore is networking with those who can.  Read what you can and at least try to know enough that you can gauge whether an expert has expertise or is just another loudmouth with an agenda.  By knowing the lore, or knowing someone to ask, you can find the context for your work.  I have become increasingly convinced that the ancient knowledge wasn’t compiled by a bunch of idiots and fools.  It’s a resource, and a powerful one.  The Gods and Spirits certainly can and do change, but just like you want to know the history of your boyfriend you want to know the history of your Gods.

Building Relationships:


I work in a paradigm of polytheistic pantheism.  I encounter Spirits everywhere. They have personalities, likes and dislikes.  However, They are not human.  The Wind really doesn’t care about a lot of the things you and I care about.  A tree takes a lot longer to talk than a cat.  Each plant, rock, and bug has a story to share.  Each God and Goddess has many aspects, skills, and desires.  It takes time to build any relationship, and it is worth the time and effort.   So reach out.  If you see an image of a cats eye, leave some catnip on the stoop.  Record your efforts and look for patterns.  Leave offerings.  Pretend it’s all real, even when you doubt it.

Doing the Work:


Once you’ve got all the cool toys, the wands or stones, the spirit friends and impressive list of Godly buddies what do you do?  If you spend all that time to train yourself you will eventually get to the point where you can reliably go into trance. You will find that there are some things you are good at, and some that are harder for you.  Having acquired the skills, then you have to use them.   Will you use them to heal the land or to help the people around you?  Will you use them to create beautiful poetry or make magic?  The answer is dependent on your skills and inclinations, but you’ll only find out if you keep at it.


In the following weeks I will be posting about each of these categories, sharing what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen that’s worked.  I will be pulling on modern psychology, neurological research, and experience to help people find out how to get to the second star to the right and straight on til morning.


Thanks for reading!  If you liked what you read, do me a favor and pick up some of my swag at RedBubble!  Not only will you get neat stuff, but I will make a little money with which I can buy some of the weird ass books I want on Lithuanian culture, pastoral counseling, and women in the ancient world.

Black Lives Matter


I've shared this around the internet, but I wanted to share it here too. We live in a culture of oppression and fear.  We must all take a stand and speak for what we believe in. I believe in this.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In Which I Accidentally find a Shrine to Diana

Sometimes I have to work hard to do spirit work.  I struggle and think and fail. Other times it’s dropped in my lap like a gift.  Plop! Have some spirit work!

I wanted to make sure I spent time with both my daughters this weekend. I played violin with my elder daughter, but my younger daughter wasn’t sure how she wanted to spend our time together. I suggested a number of things, and in the end, we went to visit a nearby cemetery in the hopes that we might find some “treasures” on the way there and give some offerings to those nice dead people.

So off we went, hand in hand, and walked through the iron gate into the land of the dead.  This is an old cemetery.  The patient rain has slowly dissolved the limestone of the oldest graves.  The elms and the cedars towered above us as we walked and tried to do our best to honor the dead.  Some of the headstones have broken over the years.  We flipped one over so the writing showed and carefully placed a decorative finial back on the top of another grave.  Each time we stopped we offered brightly colored sprinkles of the sort you might put on a sundae or a sugar cookie.  We are always looking for interesting graves, and there are a number of statues among the names and dates of death. 


We came upon a lovely girl, forever holding flowers in mourning above her family’s plot, a fir tree with a headstone nestled in its roots, and while we were heading back home we saw another statue.  We got closer and it became apparent it was an image of Mary.  I’ve had a fondness for Mary statues for some years now.   The serenity that comes from some of them is palpable, especially the ones you find on sacred ground. 


This particular day my friend’s son was having some health issues, and as I looked at the age darkened face of this statue I was compelled to pray for him.  I addressed her first as Mary, Mother of God, for that was who she was.  But this particular Mary was standing on the crescent moon.  She had a snake curled at her feet next to an apple.  I know what that iconography meant, but somehow my prayer changed and I was praying to Diana.  It felt right to me and I asked for healing and safety for all involved.  We gave our offering of rainbow colored sprinkles and my daughter insisted that we run all the way back to the iron gate.  It seemed appropriate to run together through the trees.  We dodged graves and for a moment it seemed as if we were running in the company of many women and girls. I did not know if we were the hunter or the hunted but it really didn’t matter.  We ran and that too became an offering to the Goddess of the Hunt. 



This morning as we drove past the cemetery I tried to find her among the headstones, but we were past the place in the blink of an eye.  I thought about her last night and dreamed of leaving candles and round white stones to honor her.

There is a feeling to holy places. There is an aliveness that surrounds me in them.  I remember visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris when I was in my early twenties. I remember the way the stained glass windows looked in the sun, and how the cream and black tile floor drew my eye to the dizzying heights above the altar.   I remember feeling so peaceful in this place and how strange it was that even as a non-Christian I was comforted.   I researched the history of Notre Dame and found that the Pillar of the Boatmen was found underneath the Notre Dame, on the Île de la Cité.  This doesn’t really mean that it was necessarily a sacred site for the ancients,  but I found it interesting to think about how long people had been living and worshiping their gods there.

I do think that a continuity of sacredness means something.  I know many pagans who get all huffy and angry when they think about Christian churches built on ancient pagan sites, but I wonder how many of those churches were built by local people because of the sacredness already inherent in the place.   

The word sacred comes from the Latin word sacrum, which referred to the Gods and anything in their purview.  It also descends from the word sanctum, which means to set apart.  As a pantheist I have often disliked the idea of the sacred as setting something apart.  I feel that the whole world is holy, including the desk I am sitting at, the compost pile outside, and the blue sky above me.  But there is something to these places where religious rites have occurred.  A different feeling where it’s easier to fall into a place of connection.

I looked at a Mary and saw Diana.  Maybe there’s room for both.

If you like my work and you'd like to support what I do, please consider my RedBubble site or my Etsy store for your holiday gift giving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Crazy in a Good Way: The Dissociative state and Trancework

This is about controlling the dissociative state. This is about using our own psychology for our benefit.  About taking what we shove into psychosis and instead trusting in all the threads of experience, research, and the ancient lore woven together like a net under circus performers.  Come with me and let us fly above those who would stand by and watch.

Bee Spirit Meditation
The creative process is a lot like trance work. When I work at my best and most creative I move most deeply into a different consciousness.  There is a certain state of mind that I get into where I am not fully aware of my self as a self.  I can feel larger or smaller than my actual size, outside of myself, or simple unconnected to reality.  I also go into this state of mind when I’m deeply stressed, anxious, or feeling threatened.   It’s something I’ve always done.  I go into trance states easily.  When I was first learning this sort of work my challenge was to come out of the trance states, not to go into them.   I find, in general, two main categories of difficulties when individuals want to practice trance work.  The ones who have a hard time getting it to work at all, and the ones who can’t stop it from happening.  I was the second sort of person, and many years later, I know something about how to help people on both sides of that coin.

I’ve always felt a bit on the crazy side. Let’s face it.  When you have hyper real daydreams, don’t feel connected to your own self, have a sense of energy flowing through trees and people, and all the kids in school call you weird, you kind of get the idea that you might be a bit different than the norm. 

You have that moment when you’re like, “Wait.  Everyone doesn’t have dreams of the future? Really? What the hell!”  You think everyone else is weird because they don’t have imaginary friends anymore.   I spent a lot of my adult life running around finding people who did.  It was really helpful. 

Recently I was doing some research and I came across a psychological disorder called Depersonalization-Derealization Syndrome.  Like most official diagnoses it’s hard to know what that actually means. Turns out, it describes a fair amount of the things I experience:

“Common descriptions of symptoms from sufferers include feeling disconnected from one's physicality or body, feeling detached from one's own thoughts or emotions, feeling as if one is disconnected from reality, and a sense of feeling as if one is dreaming or in a dreamlike state. In some cases, a person may feel an inability to accept their reflection as their own, or they may even have out-of-body experiences.[3] “ (Wikipedia)

Wow, just like me!

In reading about the disorder it seemed like the main problem that actually occurred was the anxiety created when people felt like they were going crazy with those symptoms!


My theory is that they aren’t symptoms at all.
They’re skills. 


A talent. Like perfect pitch, or a way with numbers.  But this talent is for connecting with the world on a non-rational level.  A sensitivity to place, people, and space that can aid humans in a number of ways.  A gift for the shamanic, if you know what I mean.

This is the ability to step outside of one’s own perspective, quite literally.  Seeing reality from non-linear non-ordinary points of view has gifted me with an ability to think creatively.  It’s given me hope in this age of decline. I’ve seen how people have been changed and strengthened by developing their own inner narrative through trance work and spirit work.  I believe that this way lies healing.

Also from Wikipedia:

“The core symptom of depersonalization disorder is the subjective experience of "unreality in one's sense of self",[11] and as such there are no clinical signs. People who are diagnosed with depersonalization also experience an almost uncontrollable urge to question and think about the nature of reality and existence as well as other deeply philosophical questions.”

Yeah.
Apparently thinking deep thoughts is now diagnosable.  Damn me and my epistemological quandries!

A study by Dr. Richard J. Castillo indicates that meditation actually is a method of causing dissociative states.  It’s okay when Buddhists do it. But not when average Americans do it.  I get it. We don’t have a context for how to fit that sort of thing into our lives.  We don’t have teachers who can guide us on that path.   We don’t have an infrastructure of culture that can support a time and place for dissociative states.


So I’m learning.  I’ve been studying the occult since I was a teenager in an attempt to understand myself.  I found community and helped build spaces where people could explore this skill set.  I’ve practiced, experimented, and recorded my work so that I could see patterns emerge over months and years.  I am not the only one doing this work.  There are many of us, living normal, productive lives that also include invisible friends and non-ordinary reality.  We are building a culture where we can fit, filled with people who don’t need to be diagnosed at all.



(if you like my work and you'd like to support what I do, please check out my redbubble site. Thank you.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Samhain Coloring Page for the Morrigan

I've been too busy to think, which is pretty normal this time of year. There's costumes to make, coloring pages to draw, candy to buy, and stuffie pumpkins to sew. (It's a thing. Don't judge me.)  I often feel a little torn between the secular aspects of Halloween and the spiritual side of this time of year.  The balance that I've found is that for the month of October I go full swing into modern traditional celebration.  Costumes, fake blood, skulls, you name it we do it! Then there is the sugar rush of trick or treating.

I switch focus after that.  I take the gory stuff down and switch it out for pictures of great-grandparents and beloved dead.  We light candles and give offerings until Thanksgiving, which seems to work for me.  In the middle of that is our grove Samhain celebration. As part of getting ready for our feast for the Ancestors I was working on creating some content for the younger set, including a coloring page.  I thought I'd share this with the internet world, since I've complained often enough that there aren't many really good coloring pages for pagans.  This year our grove is celebrating in a Celtic style, so we are asking the Morrigan to be our gatekeeper.  She's not usually called on as gatekeeper, but it's what people wanted, and honestly, my grove has always been a little idiosyncratic anyway. So without further ado, coloring page goodness.  Enjoy!


LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails