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The Practices of Meditation

meditation1

Meditation plays an important role in the life of any spiritualist, no matter what their path may be.  Meditation enables us to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind, allowing us to plant a suggestion, or gain enlightenment.  Meditation is the waking dream.

There are many different methods of meditation, but all follow a similar structure that I have categorized into five stages:  respiration, relaxation, induction, revelation and reassociation.  To begin the process of meditation, the individual starts with deep breathing and relaxes the entire body; one of the several methods of inducing trance are used, and during this trance, some type of revelation takes place.  After a period of time, the individual reattunes their consciousness to the “real” world.  Let’s examine each of these steps in more detail.

Proper breathing in itself will produce a trance state, but it is without direction or purpose.  In eastern cultures, you will find entire spiritualist movements that are centered around breathing techniques.  Breathing exercises used during natural childbirth create a trance state in the mother during delivery.  Breathing used in meditation is slow, deep and even.  It is not just the initial phase of a process; this type of breathing should continue throughout the meditative session.

A period of relaxation follows.  In older schools, this is nothing more than a process of focusing on and relaxing each part of the body.  More recent methods often involve the visualization of stepping into a pool of warm water until it covers the head.  This type of visualization is sometimes used prior to hypnotism.  As a general rule, most meditative forms of relaxation begin at the toes and end at the top of the head.

I have termed the third phase “induction”, because it is at this point that steps are taken to engage the alpha state, the state in which our brainwaves vibrate during daydreams, meditation or magickal workings.  Here again, the methods of inducing trance are numerous.  Some prefer to use passive methods, while others prefer forms that are more active and kinetic.  “Active meditation” sounds rather paradoxical, but as we all know, the truth often lies within the paradox!  A modern example of this type of meditation can be seen in the practices of the exercise fanaticist.  The key is in the repetitive movement. As one walks, jogs or performs a series of repetitive exercises, the conscious mind is kept busy on “auto-pilot”, while the subconscious mind is allowed to flow freely without interference from the ego.  Dancing, yoga, weaving, knitting or playing an instrument are also types of repetitive movements through which we can achieve inner stillness.

One more form of induction that I consider to be “active” is chanting.  Chanting is a very effective tool for achieving the alpha state; it aids in relaxation and ties in with respiration.  The use of chanting is interwoven with many aspects of meditation and magickal workings because  it employs the science of sound and the use of affirmations to cause change to occur on various levels.

“Passive” forms of meditation usually involve some type of external or internal visualization; it is this focus that occupies the conscious mind and allows the subconscious the ability to flow without encumbrance.  The most common external focal points are mandalas.  These complex visual images provide an excellent external focus to induce internal stillness.  Simple objects, such as a fruit, flower or an egg, are also good focal points for meditation.  For some people, the use of a mandala would be the better choice, because the mind will often become bored with a simple object, while something more intricate will trap the attention for a longer period of time.

Internal visualizations can be as simple or as complex as desired.  It is often easier to begin with the visualization of a single object, but, over time, one can visualize an entire journey as part of the inductive process.  The visualization of numbers is often used to induce the alpha state as well.  Most of us are familiar with the practice of counting (sheep) to help us fall asleep, and the same methods can also be used to aid in meditation.  For the purpose of attaining alpha, the counting is usually backwards, from ten to one.  You will also see the use of this type of counting during hypnosis, for the hypnotic state is the trance state occurring at a deeper level.

Induction can also be assisted by the visualization of color.  Most practitioners will recommend visualizing all the colors of the spectrum in turn, starting with red, and ending with violet.  Violet is believed to be the color of our highest consciousness; the color of the Universal Sun, or Godhead.  Once you become familiar with meditative techniques, you may choose the image of this lavender light as your singular meditative focus.

Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and dis-ease, increase focus and energy,  and expand our capacity for love and understanding.  With so many methods to choose from and so many benefits to be gained, why not start incorporating this practice into your life today? :-)

The Wise Warrior

lion with stars

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

This quote has been attributed to Plato, Philo of Alexandria, Ian MacLaren and John Watson among others. The source of the quote is not as important as its message.

Yet, there is another phrase which Spirit places before me when I meditated upon this concept, and that is: “Choose your battles wisely.”

Sure, we’re all struggling and fighting one thing or another, but is this fight, this battle, really necessary? We are so often caught up in the principle of the matter that we lose sight of our true priorities and the matter’s real importance and effect on us.

To find clarity on the matter, you can try asking yourself these questions:

  • Is this really my battle to fight?
  • Is this a distraction?
  • Is it truly that important?

“Is this really my battle?” you ask yourself.  Sometimes we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in external emotional stimuli in our environment that we find ourselves beating our breasts passionately over something we ultimately care nothing about;  other times we fight the battle to help another person.  Realize that when we fight another’s battles, we might be limiting their own personal growth, soul evolution and karmic balancing.

“Is this a distraction?” You know, it may well be.  There are times at which we champion the cause because it is easier to do so than to examine painful inner conflicts that might be begging for our attention.  Ego/conscious mind does not want us to do anything that could disrupt its control, but our subconscious has a delightful way of bringing matters to the surface, including projecting them onto our outer world.

“Is it truly that important?”  Probably not.  We can spend our entire lives putting out small fires, only to find ourselves consumed by the raging inferno caused by things left unattended on the ‘back burner’.  It is important we examine our priorities and ask – “Can this wait? Will this negatively affect my life in a day, week, month, etc. if I leave it unchecked?”  You’d be amazed at the number of things that actually don’t matter, they simply wear a mask of urgency and self-importance.

If asking these questions does not result in enlightenment or solution, step outside the matter.  View this matter as though it were occurring to someone else – what advice would you give them?  You can also try running it all by a trusted friend, counselor or anyone who is willing to lend an ear! (angels appear in many forms :) )

When you tire of chewing on all these mental bones, another alternative exists:  hand it over to the universe, “give it to God”:

“I release this burden into the hands of the Universe – if this is truly the right battle to fight, if this is truly a just cause and part of my soul path, my destiny and spiritual mission, then place it back in front of me and give me the strength, clarity and focus needed to succeed.”

A little wordy, yes, but certainly conveys the right message and you can alter the phrasing as you see fit.

Remember, ultimately, reality is a mirror which reflects our own inner workings, conflicts and attitudes – if you feel drawn to outer conflict, you might simply need to look within to find resolution.

May all your victories be bright, joyous and fulfilling!

 

 

 

 

Blessed Beltane!

BELTANE
Falling on May 1, this holiday is the last of the fertility festivals in the wheel of the year, and celebrates the union of spring and summer, male and female. I like to view this season as the time of courtship between the God and Goddess.

In Druidic society, Beltane marked the time of the year when the cattle were driven out to pasture. These cattle were first driven through purificatory fires to rid them of disease and illness. Fire plays an important part in the rites of Beltane. Sacrifices by fire were performed in ancient times; in modern times, a person is chosen to jump over the sacred fire while others clap and sing.

Oatcakes are traditional to the season, as well as the dance of the maypole. The intertwining ribbons on the pole represent the union of the male and female principle, while the pole contains an obvious phallic symbolism. Beltane is also known as Walpurgisnacht, made famous in the tale of Faust.

Followed by the Summer Solstice, the wheel of the year continues to turn, and the “holiday” series of my blog concludes – hope you enjoyed your year long lesson of Sabbat histories from ancient times :)

Happy Spring!!!

SPRING EQUINOX

Some call this. Sabbat “Ostara”, a name which echoes in the origins of Christianity’s Easter. No matter the title, the symbolism is essentially the same, for this is the first day of spring.

This is the fertility festival of vegetation – everything is once again green with new life, and swelling with unopened blooms and the promise that is to come. Babylonians recognize it as the new year; Greeks held the Festival of Dionysus at this time, and the Romans had their Lupercalia. The Christians’ “last fling” of Shrove Tuesday is Paganism’s “first fling”, celebrating the “light” half of the year.

The Sabbat of the Spring Equinox is used to honor the Maiden Goddess aspect, and the Young King who feels First Love. It is a good time to plant seeds, symbolic of new beginnings. It is also a good time to start working on any long-term goals that you may have. Milk, flowers, honey cakes and decorated eggs are offered to the God and Goddess on this day.

May the seeds you plant this season flourish and bear wonderful fruits! :)

Happy Imbolc!

IMBOLC


The first holiday of the Celtic year, Imbolc falls on February 1. Some practitioners prefer to celebrate on February 2, or Candlemas, but I prefer February 1 as the Sabbat day as well. If you will notice, all the other cross-quarter Sabbats fall on the first day of the month, or the eve before; this is because the Celtic days were counted from sunset to sunset, instead of sunrise to sunrise. I feel that rituals should be held on the eve of the Sabbat, and that a public festival should be held on the Sabbat day.

Imbolc is the first fertility festival of the year and is symbolic of the time when the ewes come into milk.  Cattle usually give birth at the end of the winter season, and goats always seem to have their kids on the coldest night of the year.  This holiday represents the union of winter and spring – the first stirrings of consciousness in a cold and slumbering world. This is the time when we sweep out the old, so that new may enter. In Europe, one way Imbolc was celebrated was with a torchlight procession; this flame magickally purified and fertilized the fields before the seed-planting season.

The birth of the Young King occurs right after the Winter Solstice, and by the time of Imbolc he is a young lad. This holiday is when the Young King is to be named and armed. The role of the Goddess is still ambiguous: some choose to honor her in the aspect of the Mother of the Young King, others honor her as the Crone Goddess of Winter.

Ste. Bride (Brigit, Briid, Brede, Bridget) is the most commonly worshiped goddess on this holiday.  She is lady of the home and hearth, and candles are kept burning all night in her honor.  Another European custom is that of Brigit’s bed. Before retiring on Imbolc Eve, a corn dolly is made and placed upon a small bed.  The dolly is covered with a handkerchief, and an invitation is made to the goddess Brigit to come and spend the night.  Modern rituals often include the wearing of a crown of candles, and the ceremonial “sweeping out” of the circle.

Enjoy, we’re halfway through winter! :)

A Festive Yule to You!

WINTER SOLSTICE (YULE)
In seasonal myth, the Winter Solstice is the time when the Old King is dead, and the Young King has not yet been born; for this reason, some religions will place the seasonal emphasis upon the God aspect. Once again, I must stress that it takes two to create, and therefore I feel that a Goddess aspect must be recognized as well. The Druids realized this need, and paid homage to the Crone at this time.

The Crone is a fitting aspect for the Goddess in the winter season. During Yule, we pray for the rebirth of the sun (son), and who better to assist with the birth than the aspect of the Midwife? The Crone is the patroness of the winter season – remember, she is Goddess of death and rebirth – her recognition during the dark of the moon is but a reflection of this fact.

Yule is also the season that forces us to look within our selves, due to the cold weather and long nights; this is something for which we should give thanks. We are never given enough time in our lives to examine our minds, our thoughts and feelings and to appreciate ourselves for who we really are as people, Nature gives us an entire season in which to do this.

There are several ways to celebrate Yule, it simply depends on which aspect of the season you wish to place your emphasis. If you wish to bring back the sun from its winter hiding place, burn a single, consecrated log overnight and give the sun your energies. Because winter is such a social season, you may want to do something-that is a little more involved and festive, like a seasonal reenactment or mystery play.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a wondrous New Year!!! :)

Happy Hallowe’en! :)

SAMHAIN

This holiday is known in modern times as All Hallow’s Eve, or Hallowe’en. This is probably the most festive of the Witches’ Sabbats, because the time of Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. This Sabbat is yet another fire festival. It marks the time when the cattle are driven in from pasture and are once again run through sacred fires to purify them before bringing them home. These holy bonfires were also kindled to keep evil spirits of the night at bay, for this is known as the time when the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest. Divinations are best performed on this holiday- in histories of Samhain, these divinations were usually employed to foretell future love.

Samhain is also the time when the dead are honored; in many cultures it is customary to set an extra place at the table on this night. Some people place offerings of food and clothing outside, to feed the ghosts and keep them warm. Hallowe’en is often the first cold night of the season, and it is believed that the spirits roam the earth on this eve, looking for food and shelter. Reflections of this belief can be seen in the custom of “Trick or Treating”. In older times, families would provide for the needs of their dead ancestors, but many see this now as mere superstition and will not take care of their own dead. These spirits, having nowhere else to go, will turn to the psychically sensitive for shelter and attention. In other words, it gets pretty noisy around Samhain for most Witches! :)

The apple is said to be a symbol of the soul. On November 1, I like to go to cemeteries and place apples on graves to feed the spirits who were neglected the night before.

Autumn Equinox

May a Bountiful Harvest be Yours!

This is the second of the harvest festivals, marking the fall point of equal day and night. Because of this equality, both God and Goddess are honored. In many magicks, you will read about the “in-between” times and places – midnight and noon, crossroads and doorways. Places and times that fall exactly halfway are conditions in which the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. This is a good time to work on focus and balance.

 
I would like to point out a few things about the harvest time, In agricultural societies, the harvest season is hardly a time of frivolity. Everyone in the community is involved in the harvest; children do not even begin school until the season has passed. In other words, the cultures to which these harvest festivals are attributed do not have time to be festive during this season. This is not to say that there are no harvest festivals in agricultural society; I just feel that they only recognize one of the three that make up the harvest Sabbats of Witchcraft. Autumn Equinox is sometimes known as the “Witches’ Thanksgiving”.

Here’s wishing you all a wealth of balanced abundance! :)

Lammas/Lughnasadh

Blessed Lammas!


Also known as Lughnasadh, this Sabbat marks the beginning of the harvest festivals, Its name comes from the god Lugh, or Lieu, and is held on August 1. The god Lugh ties in with the fairy race of the Tuatha De Danann and is the father of Chu Chulainn, the warrior-hero. He is a god of many skills and possessor of potent magicks; he is a good wielder of weapons, a wise ruler and a fine teller of tales. Lughnasadh is one of the four “greater” Sabbats which are geared toward seasonal, rather than solar changes.

The name Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon “hlaf-mas”, a celebration honoring grain, the main staple of life. Wheat, oats, rice and corn may all be honored. Grain is the manifestation of the Green Man, also known as the Fool of the Tarot. Grain symbolizes ancestry, and forms a link to the past – the unbroken chain in the cycle of life: a grain from thousands of years ago, when planted, will bear the same fruit that we see today, and vice versa. Modern Witches who are more scientifically oriented feel that the grain is symbolic of DNA.

Lammas is a holiday of transformation. Breads and beer/wine represent the mystery of transformation through the application of fire. In turn, the oven is interpreted as the womb – the life-giving, nurturing element of the female principle. Women once performed their devotions in front of the oven.

Brewing and baking are the best ways to celebrate this holiday.  Cheers! :)

Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

This Sabbat marks the first day of summer, and is dedicated to the Sun King in all his guises. This is the height of the flowering summer-time, when the fruits hang heavy and the buzzings of insects are in the air. Although this is the first day of summer, many refer to this Sabbat as Midsummer. In seasonal myth, this is the time when the Sun God is at his sexual peak; I feel that this Sabbat is symbolic of the consummation of the marriage between the God and Goddess. This time represents the peak of life energies, but life is a cycle, and as it peaks it also begins to wane. The solstices and equinoxes are the yearly waxing and waning of the sun, similar to the lunar cycles that occur monthly. The Young King has reached maturity; he is old enough to be a father. The impregnation of the Maiden transforms her into the aspect of the Mother, and the Young King is on his way to becoming the Old King. To me, this is a holiday of both joy and sadness; simultaneously, I am filled with the exhilaration that is young adulthood and the melancholy that comes with wisdom and loss of childhood.

Today also marks the start of the Zodiacal sign of Cancer, the Moonchild.  I find it interesting that at the height of the Sun’s power, the only sign of the zodiac which is ruled by the Moon makes its entrance!  Again though, look at the beauty of the wheel of the year – as the Godforce gains maturity and wisdom marked by the zenith of the Sun on Summer Solstice, the gentle, intuitive and nurturing sign of Cancer lends its energies to the SunKing to ease his transition.

Fire is the focal point of the holiday. I like to harness the energies of fire on the Summer Solstice with a large party around the barbecue grill – I hope that you’ll be enjoying the same! :)