Mental Discipline essay

Meditating. Image from TBYH on Flickr (CC 2.0)

Meditating. Image from TBYH on Flickr (CC 2.0)

The meditation/mental discipline challenge was one that I had dreaded at the start of the Dedicant Path, as I have a very active mind, and am also not very good at sticking to a structured routine. All told, this was easily the most difficult challenge in the Path so far. Five months of meditation practice felt, at times, to be a long sentence!

Starting in March this year, I tried to make time in the mornings for a short 5-10 minute meditation at my home shrine. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for longer than that, no matter how much I might want to be like some mountaintop  monk in perfect stillness for hours at a time.

While I have not managed to keep up the “daily” part of this practice every day, I have managed to keep to at least 2-3 sessions a week, so have not had to restart at any point (the DP manual states that if you have a 7-day period of no meditation, you need to re-start the 26 weeks all over again).

Dangler writes that the mental discipline requirement cam be fulfilled in a number of ways, including regular seated “passive” meditation, moving meditation, mantras, oracular meditation and daily devotions.

I began with a simple breathing meditation at my home shrine. I lit a candle, and counted the rhythm of my breaths in a “4-2-4-2” pattern (breathe in for 4 beats, hold for 2, breathe out for 4, hold for 2) as suggested by Dangler. I found counting to be distracting, so after a few weeks I moved to trying to be aware of my breathing, its pattern and flow, how it feels in my body. When thoughts emerge, I noticed them and then tried to shift my awareness back to my breathing.

I found this form of meditation to be quite difficult to work with, as my mind just wouldn’t stay still. I realised that I needed a focus for my thoughts, rather than trying to silence them completely. So, with the help of Dangler’s A Crane Breviary and Guide Book, I began to do daily devotionals at my shrine, with a silent meditation in the middle.  This worked a lot better, as the short ritual format gave me a focus and structure that I didn’t have before. I also drew an Ogham stave to give me a “thought for the day” to focus on throughout the day.

After learning the Two Powers meditation, I began to incorporate that into these devotionals. Visualising the powers of earth and sky came surprisingly easy, and reminded me of some of my OBOD exercises such as the “Light Body exercise”. Using the Two Powers as my meditation deepened my practice and my sense of connection. On holiday, I had the opportunity to do the Two Powers sat on a glacial boulder by a fjord in Norway, which was a very intense and moving experience.

After deciding on a Norse hearth culture for the Dedicant Path, I switched from using Dangler’s devotions (which have a Gaulish focus) to those in Egelhoff’s book Sunna’s Journey, which has a similar short rite focused on the Norse “deities of the day”. Saturday is the only day of the week not named after a Norse god or goddess, so I decided to take it as a day off! At this point, I also switched out the daily Ogham for Runes instead, and used this as an opportunity to learn to recognise the runes and their meanings.

As well as doing a daily devotional/meditation in the mornings, I have found that my Nature Awareness exercises have also acted as a form of moving meditation. I regularly take walks by the river or in local woods, in silence, observing nature around me. Sometimes I sit and do the Two Powers meditation outdoors, which always feels much more “real” and physical than at the indoor shrine. I make sure to do this at least twice a week.

Over the past months, I have found meditation to be challenging and often frustrating, but also (when it feels right) calming and helpful. Meditation has been shown to help with depression and anxiety, which I suffer from, so I fully intend to keep up a meditation practice after finishing the Dedicant Path.

Mental discipline is still a struggle, especially on a cold morning when all I want to do is stay in bed for 10 more minutes, but I have found that on days when I do meditate, the day seems easier and more productive afterwards. The virtues of Piety, Vision and Perseverance certainly come in useful in deciding to meditate on days when I don’t feel like it. While I haven’t been able to do more than 10 minutes at a time, I hope to work up to a regular 20-minute meditation over the next few months.

References:

ADF. Our Own Druidry. ADF Publishing, 2009.

Dangler, M.J. The Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.

Dangler, M.J. A Crane Breviary and Guide Book. Garanus, 2010.

Egelhoff, N. Sunna’s Journey: Norse Liturgy Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2012.

 

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