Opening the Gateways Simultaneously

Opening the Gateways Simultaneously

 

After a suitable meditation time with the tattwas, when you feel you are ready, stand and face the north. Visualize the northern gate with the tattwa of earth carved upon it. The entry can be a golden gateway or a monolithic stone structure, or even a simple wooden gate. Stare into the tattwa until its aura begins to become visible, then shift your focus to the gateway. You should begin to see the fog lift, and the portal will be clear. It may look like a swirling vortex at first, but it will eventually take on a form that represents that element. Turn east and repeat the process. Continue with all four of the elements if you wish, or you may choose to open only one gateway at a time. If you wish, you may protect yourself with a personal bubble and enter into the realm of the elements. Be sure to ask that the gate remain open. Explore and commune as long as you like. When you are done, make sure to close each gateway by allowing your vision to blur as you look at it. The vortex should become active again, and the fog will settle.

Vision Questing

Vision Questing

 

 

A vision quest is no easy task to accomplish, but it will open your eyes to many things in this world that you had not noticed before. A vision quest pushes the body, mind, and soul to the extreme, where they all meet and come together. It is essential for all parts of ourselves to be in harmony with each other and with nature.

It is not necessary to do a full eight-day vision quest to discover your elemental affinity, but if you wish to you certainly can do so. The following vision quest is recommended, it is simpler and more harmonious to our roles in daily life. At this point, you should have some idea of which element you prefer.

1. Fast on juice and water for one day while you meditate and focus on your person elemental characteristics.

2. Early the next morning, set out for a long walk. Plan to spend the whole day communing with nature. Take only water with you. If you can arrange to camp out for the night, so much the better. If not, spend at least an hour focusing on the Earth itself. Notice the differences in grass blades, dirt types, and tree barks.

3. Open up a dialog in your head with one of the elements, asking it all you wish to know. Do the same with the other three elements in turn.

4. Do not allow yourself to sleep that night, if possible. Spend it communing with the elements instead.

5. Keep an eye out for a sign, be it a hawk flying that catches your attention or a special star twinkling. Your personal element will reveal itself in a unique way.
6. When you return home, honor yourself and the element that came to you with a ritual. You do not have to dedicate yourself to a particular element in order to learn more about it. Simply ask that element to show you more, and remember to say thank you. Courtesy and respect go along way.

7. Bless yourself with a simple statement of intent. Say something like, “I am blessed with the eyes of my Lord and Lady.” Throughout this entire process, do not be afraid to cry and laugh. A successful vision quest is a highly charged emotional task and quite an accomplishment.

If it is possible for you to do a full eight-day vision quest, the process is more elaborate as follows:

1. There is a three-day preparation period, during which you spend all of your time searching for your personal element by discussing your personality and viewpoints with the universe or whomever happens to be around. Every topic that pops into your mind is appropriate, so be sure to keep accurate notes. You swim to soak up air energy, lie on the ground to soak up earth energy, and allow the sun to shine on you to soak up fire energy. This time is meant to prepare you for your task.

2. For the next three days, go out into nature alone, with no food, only water. Fast, meditate, commune with the elements, and do a great amount of personal reflection. Stay out in the wild until you see your sign, your vision of your personal element. On the fourth morning you may return home. During this time period, you are allowed nothing that does not come from nature itself and no food. Physical activity is encouraged. If you see your sign before the fourth day, it is a personal choice whether to stay on the journey or to return home. Let your instinct guide your choice.

3. When you return home, hold a ceremony of rebirth, for you have been reborn into your element. Traditional Native American rites call for a sweat lodge cleansing , but this can also be done with smudging. To smudge yourself, light a smudging stick or burn sage on a charcoal tablet. Pass your arms through the smoke, then your legs, and so on, until you have exposed your whole body to the cleansing effect of the sage smoke. After the cleansing, it’s time to write your story.
4. Perform a rite of honor, such as a ritual bath with all the trappings.

If you have performed all of these steps and are still not sure which element is best to work with, study the four Elemental Witch path and continue your meditations. Your element will eventually reveal itself; it just may choose to wait a bit until the time is right.

Can Meditation Help You To Accept Changes in Life?

Can Meditation Help You To Accept Changes in Life?

  • Eden, selected from AllThingsHealing.com

by Donna Bloom, Contributor to All Things Healing Meditation

As we move deeper into Fall, change is in the air. Children are involved in the school year, some experience a professional change and people come and go into our lives. Change is everywhere. How do we embrace change is the question. Do we resist or welcome new situations in our lives?

Meditation can help one gracefully accept changes on the horizon. Meditation is all about surrendering and accepting the present moment. In that state of grace, we get to be the observer of our own life. We get to rise above and know all the goodness waiting for us. Meditation connects you to You. Meditation is a pathway to know who you truly are inside. It allows one to be with oneself in a loving, accepting, compassionate way. By really understanding ourselves, we learn our own resistance patterns. Why do we unconsciously put obstacles in our own way? We are then able to discern if there is an underlying lesson or something to heal.

Why do we resist change? Sometimes it’s simply the fear of the unknown. Ego likes the familiar. When we let go of resistance and tap into our imagination, we can magically create beyond our expectations.

With regular meditation, we can look forward to change, as meditation fosters a safe environment to explore ourselves. What new opportunities and people will spirit bring my way? What can I learn? Sometimes change is spirit’s way to push us out of our comfort zone.

Meditation allows us to tap into our own universal source of love, wisdom and knowledge. Surrendering is about accepting the present moment as is. It’s not giving up or giving in.

So how can meditation help, when there is resistance or fear of an impending change? With patience and practice, meditation can help you detach from the emotional aspects accompanying the situation. It will help you to look at a situation from a place of non-judgment. Meditation allows you to see a situation from a broader perspective. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned or a gift to be received? To quote Esther and Jerry Hicks, “it’s all about alignment.” When you are in alignment, it’s all downstream and it’s easy sailing. When one is in alignment with oneself, there is no fear—only love and acceptance. When one is aligned with one’s higher self, there is no resistance. Change can be welcomed as a beautiful sunrise on a clear, crisp morning.

Yes, you can meditate and quiet the mind. It does take some practice and persistence, but the rewards are unlimited. You are worthy of the best possible guidance–the voice of your inner self. Embrace change with appreciation and gratitude.

Driving Meditation

Driving Meditation

  • Annie B. Bond

If you feel as if you have no time to meditate but have a long commute, try this Driving Meditation, by former Zen monk and teacher in the Soto Zen who has worked directly with the Dalai Lama.

To practice Moving Meditation you must fully accept where you now find yourself, here in your car. Divest yourself of all expectations, standards of comparison and technique, take that clear, observing, unobserving, unobstructed state of being, and keep on driving!

Now, instead of sitting erect and attentive in a quiet stationary place like a zendo or meditation hall, you are now sitting erect and attentive in your moving vehicle. You are now meditation as you move along. Do not be ruled by anything inside or outside you.

See and experience without intrusion, but when an intrusion does rear its ugly head in the form of anger, an opinion, some driver cutting you off, simply acknowledge the stray image and return your focus to being aware of everything around you. Now, driving along, be intimately involved in the action and be aware that everything around you is happening for the first time.

Everything is constantly changing, each traffic situation requiring its own set of responses. Nothing is left to rote. Keep your mind, body and senses wide awake, and as you drive along know that all that you see is as new as a baby’s smile, no matter how many times you think you have seen it before.

Try this. Spend an afternoon-walking, driving, eating-all experienced as if for the first time. Fresh, new, open.

Adapted from The Tao of Now, by Josh Baran (Hampton Roads, 2008).

Visiting the Well of Release

Visiting the Well of Release

A Meditation to Process Pain

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Okay, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but the first part of the year, New Year’s through Valentine’s, way too often finds me breaking up with someone. I hate it! You’d think I’d have figured out how to avoid it by now. But the pain of leaving, or worse of being left, never seems to get easier. All I seem to be able to hope for is a few more tools for dealing with it.

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid this pitfall, pain is all around us. Life, as the Buddha said, is suffering. This is a bad time of year for family pain, our having just gone through the holidays. The earth lies fallow, exposing her wounds: building sites like open sores, old mines and dumps, places whose ruin makes you weep. And it’s a dark time of year, when during long nights and short dreary days all the specific, personal drek we’ve avoided in summer and fall can rise and engulf us.

Don’t let that happen! You can process pain. Not shove it, to find it later, having grown runners to other, older pains, but truly process it — be in it, feel it deeply, then let it go. It’s not a hasty process. Expect to do this work over and over again. But each time you do, I promise you, you can and will let go a little pain. It’s hard work, because to release the pain, I find, you have to feel it again and know its roots, its causes, which usually go back to sufferings of early life or even before. But if you’re willing to do the work, you can heal.

Following is a meditation to help that process happen. In honor of the season and of the goddess Brigid, I’ve built into the meditation an image of a sacred, healing well, an image of this goddess, whose holy day Imbolc or Candlemas is. To use this meditation, either record it on tape and play it back or ask someone to read it to you. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Before starting, find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed; take the phone off the hook and if necessary shut out your pets. If you’re prone to falling asleep, try sitting up as you meditate, preferably on a chair or against a surface that helps keep your back straight; alternatively, you can sit cross-legged or in lotus position. If you have problems relaxing, stretch out on a bed, couch or the floor.

The Meditation

Close your eyes, and begin to relax. Take a few deep breaths: in, out; in, out. Feel your body, wriggle your fingers and toes, your nose, your hips and arms; roll your head. Feel where your body ends and what’s around you begins. Feel the air around you, the surface underneath you. Be here now, present in your body, in the present moment. Feel yourself begin to relax.

Continue to breathe deeply, and begin to release the cares of your day and week with your breath. Be completely here in the present moment.

Throughout this meditation, you will have a complete, deep experience, and you will remember everything you sense and learn. If you need to return, you can always recall yourself to the physical world by moving your fingers and toes. You will feel utterly safe and protected throughout.

Relax more fully still, and breathe deeply. Feel in the center of your body, behind and below your belly button, a spark of life, your life, your eternal fire. Feel that flame pulse with life. Let that flaming center send a spark of energy downward, a liquid trail like molten fire, down through your groin into your base and down into the earth. Feel this energy flow downward, through the foundation of the building, down into the deep, wet, cold earth, the soil, through hidden underground streams, cool water slick on rocks, and below that into the solid rock of the earth’s mantle. Feel the personal flame from your body push down through rock into the deep core of the earth, the earth’s molten center, where all is fire as it is fire inside you. Feel your own personal fire connect with the energy of the earth, deep and red, the red glowing heart of the earth.

At the same time, feel a spark of energy flare upward from the center of your body, up through your torso, through your neck, through your head, through the top of your head into the air. Let this energy flow upward through the air of the room, through the ceiling, through the roof of the building into the cold air. Let the energy fountain up, up, up, through the cold damp air, past clouds of rain and ice, up into the clear sky above all clouds. Feel your personal fire energy connect with the fires of the sky, the energy of sun and stars and moon, fiery, swirling sky energy.

Feel your deep energetic connections to both earth and sky, tap into those connections and deeply feel them. Let sky energy begin to flow downward into you, and at the same time let earth energy flow upward into you. Feel the two energies combine in your center, swirling together gently and cleanly, into one combined healing energy. Let this energy flow outward from your center, filling your torso, filling your lungs and throat, filling your head, filling your groin and pelvis, your legs and arms, touching and washing away remaining tension, cleansing and healing. Let all negative energy you can let go of flow with this wave out through your grounding. Let negative energy, tension and pain and anger and everything you want to let go of flow sweetly and cleanly down your grounding, into the earth, which can reuse the energy for other things.

Now let a wave of sky energy come through you again, combine with earth energy, and fill you, cleansing you, and wash away another layer of negativity down your grounding. Release everything you need to release. Keep any information you require, but release pain, tension, fear and error with the cleansing, healing energy down your grounding.

And again, let another wave of sky energy come into you, combine with the energy of earth, fill you and cleanse you, washing trouble and pain away down your grounding into the earth. Feel your deep connection to earth, and let trouble and pain wash into the earth. Keep any information you require, but let all the pain you can go into the earth.

Feel yourself cleansed and sparkling, full of earth and sky energy, and deeply connected to both earth and sky. Ground out any energy you

don’t need into the earth.

Now imagine yourself at a stone boundary marker, standing beside a gravel road. It is dusk, wintertime, and you are in farm country. The landscape is wintry, with a light dusting of snow, the tree branches bare of leaves, but you don’t feel the cold. Smoke rises from chimneys of houses here and there, some far away on bare hills of cropped brown. The air smells cold and of woodsmoke.

You turn and walk a while down this road. To either side are fields full of stubble, tan. As you pass, crows rise cawing. Far across a field, you see a lone scarecrow standing.

The road slopes gently down a hill, and you come into a small wood. Tree limbs rise gnarled and black around you, shadowing the road. A rabbit raises its head, brown against white shadowed snow, looks at you a moment and bounds away.

You come out of the wood into a flat landscape, cropped fields to either side behind board fences. You walk awhile, the scenery barely changing, all in colors of brown and grey. The smell of the air changes, and you realize you must be coming to a body of fresh water. Walking forward, you crest a shallow hill and see before you stands of rushes around a large lake.

You continue forward on the road. The gravel stops, and you keep going on an earthen path. Tall rushes stand at either side, the air brushing through them, whispering. You push down the path through the rushes and find yourself at a dock where a small rowboat is tied up, oars lying in its bottom.

From here, at the lake’s edge, you have a clear view across. A band of gold haze lies along the horizon, between long bands of grey-purple cloud. The water is steel-grey, and in the center of the lake lies a small island, crowned by a grove of birch trees. The island attracts you strongly, and you decide to row out to it.

Knowing this is the custom of the place, you get into the boat, untie it, and fitting the oars to the oarlocks begin to row. The island is not far away, but it takes longer to get there than you think it will. The boat moves slowly and dreamily through the twilit water. The twilight stays constant; the sky does not get darker. This seems strange, but you feel perfectly safe and protected, and you accept that twilight stays in this place.

You come to the island shore, step out onto gravel and pull the boat up so it won’t float away, setting the oars in its bottom. The grey water, tinged lavender in the light, laps the gravel shore. You walk toward the grove of birch, and again though the trees don’t seem far away, it takes you longer to get to them than you thought it would. Things move slowly in this place. All around you lies dusk-purple light. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this place.

You edge between two birch trees and come to the center of the island. Here sits a stone well. Over the well hangs a weeping willow. The long arms of the willow move gently in the air, rustling.

You see among the willow branches, sitting on the edge of the well, a woman clad in sage-green. Her hair is long, falling almost to the ground, and a very fair blonde, or colorless, or grey — it’s hard to tell in the light. She greets you and tells you that this is the Well of Release, and she is its keeper.

You greet her with reverence. You know she is no ordinary person but a goddess. (Pause briefly.)

She asks you what you would release, and you tell her. (Pause briefly.)

She asks you to sit on the edge of the well, sit comfortably. When you are seated, she asks you go deeply into the problem you would release, saying she will protect you as you do.

You agree to her suggestion and begin to go into the problem in your mind. See the problem in your mind. See pictures of scenes around this issue, the people involved, the places. Take some time and bring the problem you want to release fully into your consciousness and emotions. (Pause for some time.)

Feel the emotions around the problem. Name these emotions. Be in them. Avoid resisting them, but let them be present and flow through you. Feel them fully. (Pause for some time.)

The keeper of the well watches you, understanding fully and protecting you as you do this work. When you have fully gone into, recognized and felt the emotions around this problem, she nods deeply and says she will give you something to hold this issue, a symbol or object to contain this pain. She holds out her hands, and between them is this symbol or object. (Pause briefly.)

You take it into your own hands. This symbol is a container and is meant for your use, to protect you. You feel perfectly safe and protected.

She instructs you now to put the problem you want to release into the symbol, to let flow into the symbol everything you need to let go. You do so gently and fully, letting your emotions and memories and thoughts flow into the symbol, keeping only that information you need and letting go all pain into the symbol. (Pause for some time.)

Once you have put what you need to into the symbol, the keeper of the well cranks the well-handle and draws up the bucket. She instructs you to put your symbol into the bucket, and you do. It goes easily, no matter how big or amorphous it is, as if that’s where it belongs. It disappears into the bucket.

Then the well-keeper lets the bucket back down into the well. The Well of Release, she tells you, lets into an underground stream, a stream that is able to change and break up pain and trouble and old blockages and let energy go where it belongs. You look down into the well, and you see the bucket hit the water, the dark water with just a ripple of light, see the bucket go into the water, disappear into the water. As it does, you feel released of your pain, you feel it gone. (Pause briefly.)

Now the keeper of the well brings out a crystal decanter full of water, and she motions you to stand in a silver-edged basin whose drain feeds into the source of the well. “This is the cleansing Water of Release,” she tells you. You see the water in the decanter sparkle with its own inner light. She pours the water over your head; it cascades down over you, and you feel not wet but as if cleansing, healing energy were going through you, washing away the last vestiges of pain and trouble, releasing the last blocks and letting them pour downward into the underground stream and into the earth. (Pause for some time.)

The well-keeper smiles at you and says, “Now you are cleansed and healed, and in token I give you a gift.” In her two hands she holds out this gift, and you take it. You examine it, and she tells you what you need to know to understand it. (Pause briefly.)

Know that you will keep the memory of this gift as you need to, and all else that you need to retain.

Now you say your good-byes to the keeper of the well and thank her. (Pause briefly.)

Leaving her, you pass out between the birch trees, and on the gravel shore find the boat. You draw it toward the water and get in, push off with your oar and slowly row back to the lake shore.

At the lake’s edge, you tie the boat to the dock, replace the oars in the boat bottom and, turning, walk back through the rustling reeds along the path. You pass through the reeds to the long flat land, the road with brown fields on either side, and into the dark wood. You notice that it has begun to get dark. But it is a reassuring darkness, a warm and protective darkness, a blanket drawn over the land that lets it sleep.

You pass under the black, gnarled branches and out of the dark wood, and you walk up the slope of the hill, looking at the cropped fields on either side. You greet the scarecrow and the crows that rise from the fields to caw at you. You continue along the gravel road, the landscape getting darker around you, and you find yourself back at the boundary marker from which you started.

You settle down beside this marker. All around you darkness falls, comfortable, comforting and calm. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this meditation. You will keep everything you need to keep.

You begin once more to feel your body. You are coming up from trance, feeling warm and relaxed yet energetic. Feel your body; wiggle your fingers and toes. Feel the surface below you and the air above. Retain in your mind everything you want to remember from this meditation.

Feel yourself present in your body, present in the here and now. Notice your breath; feel yourself draw breath deep into your lungs and let it go. You feel present and calm yet full of warm energy.

Breathe deeply once more, and open your eyes.

Howling Wolf Tree Dream Meditation (Wolf Moon)

Howling Wolf Tree Dream Meditation

Wolf Moon
 
 
The sound of the wind moving through the trees is reminiscent of the howl of wolves. Other Pagan traditions such as the Druids, and the practices of the American Algonquin tribes, also refer to the time after the Winter Solstice as being the Wolf Moon.A half hour before going to sleep, drink a cup of chamomile tea. While drifting off to sleep, imagine yourself as a seedling that is just beginning to sprout. Sense yourself spreading your roots down in the earth, while at the same time moving your trunk or body toward the light. Feel yourself growing all the time. Plants grow more at night than they do during the day.

 
The popular New Age author and workshop leader Gregg Braden postulates that each cell of our body generates 1.17 volts of energy. When you calculate all the cells together, your body can generate alot of energy, particularly when directed toward a particular focus. You are a conduit or lightning rod of energy, waiting to realize your true potential.

Sense yourself becoming a large tree that has grown for many years. Every part of you emanates with energy as you reach toward the light with every part of your being. You are a connecting point between this world and all worlds. As Lucan said in AD 60 when addressing the Druids: “To you alone it is given to know the truth about the Gods and Deities of the sky. The innermost groves of far-off forests are your abode.”

Imbolc Meditation

Submitted By: Cogar niMhorrighan

Here is an original meditation for the Imbolc festival (can be used at
any time):

It is a lovely spring day. The air is fresh with the fragrance of green
plants preparing to bloom. The sun’s radiance bathes you in comfort,
perhaps the first warmth you have felt in many months. You sense that
you are in Ireland, because it is green and everything feels clean and
alive. The landscape is timeless and magical. In the distance, you
hear birds singing as they welcome the unexpected warmth of the day.
Inside you, happiness begins to bubble and dance, very quietly at first.
It feels almost like anticipation, but it puts a smile on your lips as
well.

You are walking up a slight hill, not steep enough to tire you but just
enough to sense that something wonderful can be seen from the top. As
you walk, the grass is already tall enough to brush against your lower
legs. You know you are in a wild place where Nature flourishes.

Towards the top of the hill, you see a dolmen – two standing stones and
a large stone across the tops of them, like an arch. You wonder why you
didn’t see this dolmen sooner. It is as if it appeared when you were
just twenty feet from it. Does it mean something? Is it real? You do
not pause to wonder, but keep walking towards it.

As you walk between the stones, you notice carvings and symbols on the
sides of the dolmen. Some of them are lines and hash-marks, which you
suspect are an Ogham message. Others are just symbols, which you will
return to look at, another day.

As you pass through the dolmen, you feel an invisible curtain brush over
you gently. In the space of a blink, it is a clear, crisp night. The
stars are above you, brilliant and twinkling. You know the moon is
behind you, but you do not notice its light because there is a sparkling
fire just ahead. There is no breeze, but the evening is chilly as you
would expect when Winter is still in the air.

You pull your clothing more closely around you, as you continue up the
hill. You are eager to reach the warmth of the fire, which is bigger
than you thought at first. In fact, it is a bonfire and you realize you
have arrived at Imbolc.

You run the last few steps to stand next to the fire pushing your hands
towards it, to capture the heat from a safe distance. Tall yellow and
white flames seem to warm you inside and out. You pause to look at the
sky again, and savor the moment.

Looking across the flames, you suddenly realize that you are not alone.
You can see the top of someone’s head, and you aren’t certain if you
have intruded on a private ceremony. Slowly, you walk around the fire,
and your companion stands up from the rock she was sitting upon. She is
a tall, strong woman, with long hair so light you cannot tell if it is
blonde or white. She looks like the Queen of Pentacles in a way, with
an ageless sense of knowing and accomplishment. She wears a long gown
and an embroidered cape, yet you can see her bare feet peeking out from
under her skirt. You know she is someone noble yet without artifice.

Without a word, she stretches out her hands to take yours in welcome.
You know, as if you’ve known her all your life, that this is Brighid.
This is a special and sacred moment.

She welcomes you to her fire, which will burn tonight and every night,
for Imbolc is her festival and her fire is never extinguished.

You sit down next to her, on large flat rocks that are warm from the
fire, and very comfortable. She begins to explain to you the meaning of
Imbolc, and its promise of a fresh beginning–not just to the plants and
animals, but also to everyone on Earth who chooses to permit Imbolc into
their lives.

She helps you to remember your past dreams, especially the ones from
your childhood which began, “When I grow up…” And as you recall these
fantasies and goals, you realize how many of them were left behind with
your childhood, yet how many are still alive in what you do each day,
today. This is not a sad realization as much as it is a recognition
that you can start afresh now. Every one of those dreams is still with
you.

Brighid reaches to her side and picks up a fallen twig from a nearby yew
tree. It looks like any other twig, in the firelight. However, when
Brighid places it into the fire, the bark on it sparks and flames like a
sparkler, giving enough heat energy to set the twig burning brightly.
Without saying anything, Brighid is showing you how even a small spark
will set alight your oldest and most neglected dreams.

The lesson was simple, but vital. Now it is time to return to your own
world. As you stand, Brighid offers you a cup of clear water, which you
sip. The sensation in your mouth is unique. There is a kind of
life-giving energy, that is Spring itself. You take a large swallow of
the water, and feel your entire body respond to that water with a
vitality that–like your forgotten dreams–you had almost forgotten from
childhood.

After returning the cup to Brighid, and then a quick embrace, you stride
purposefully around the fire and back to the dolmen. Passing under it,
you emerge back into the daylight and the warm air and clear sunshine of
an early spring day. You know you have not merely learned the meaning
of Imbolc, but actually experienced it in your soul. From now on, every
time you sip fresh water, or see twigs and branches burning in a
bonfire, you will feel Brighid’s presence, and be reminded of the
fire–and dreams–that burn within you, too, and will never be
extinguished.

A Sip of Inspiration

A Sip of Inspiration

by Miriam Harline

Invocation/Meditation

You are in a dark room, empty of furniture, a box of wood rough-hewn. The window looks out on night. You smell woodsmoke, though there is no fire. You are cold, and you huddle on the floor, wrapping your arms around yourself.

The door opens, and standing in the doorway is a woman with long blonde hair. She wears a white dress, hanging in graceful folds, and no shoes. In her hand is a white candle, burning. “Rise,” she tells you; you do, and follow her.

Outside hangs black night, a sky dusted with stars, no moon. The ground is cold, frozen hard, but there is no snow. You follow the woman down a narrow path. To either side rise hills, grass tan when the candle shows it. You walk down; the stones under the hills begin to show to either side. Beside you, slowly, rock walls rise.

The walk down turns steep. You smell salt, hear waves crash. The land flattens, and under your feet is sand; you are on the seashore.

Ocean water pours across the sand, a margin of foam at its edge. The candlelight glows, a yellow globe on the water. You follow the woman still; you turn and walk above the surf. It is low tide.

A cliff rises ahead, to your left, and in the cliff you see a black mouth, a cave. It is so dark, black on black, you feel some fear. But the woman walks right up to it, enters the tall mouth, twice her height. You walk after her into the cave, still on hard-packed wet sand; when the tide is high, the cave floor must be covered in water.

The path of sand narrows between rocks; you continue along it. You turn a bend, and behind you can no longer see the sea, but you hear it still, rushing, sighing.

You walk on. To either side rise black walls of stone, occasionally veined with red. Ahead, as the path curves, you see not darkness, but golden light.

You turn another bend, and the cave ceiling rises; you are in a vast room, lit by candlelight. Before you is a line of eight women robed in white, all holding white candles.

One woman steps forward. She is blonde, like your guide, but taller, older, in the prime of womanhood. Her face is still, not smiling, full of pride. “Greetings,” she says. “What is your name?” You tell her.

“Why have you come here?” she asks. Your eyes go wide, because you have no idea; you were waiting, and were summoned, but you do not know why. But your guide steps up and whispers in your ear, “For inspiration.”

You repeat, “For inspiration.”

The woman who greeted you smiles; you have made the right answer. “Very well,” she says. “Come forward.”

All nine women turn, move further into the cave, form a circle. You see in its center a huge cauldron, waist-high, its legs straddling a fire. The cauldron is boiling, and from it rise rainbow bubbles that pop in the air, leaving a smell of spice and honey. “This is the cauldron of inspiration,” your greeter says.

Two women in the circle loosen their hands and beckon to you. You pass by them, and the circle rejoins around you. You stand before the cauldron. “Drink from the cauldron,” the greeter says.

Drink? you say to yourself. But the liquid in it is boiling. I will boil my hands. “Drink,” she says. “That is why you are here.”

You look around, in fear. These people are crazy. Then you catch the eye of the woman who guided you, and she smiles very slightly. You sense there is some magick here. Foolishly or wisely, you lower your hands into the cauldron.

The liquid is just cooler than lukewarm, delightful, like a bath on a hot summer day.

You cup liquid in your palms, raise it to your lips. The smell of spice and honey fills your nostrils. The liquid seems to shine upward into your face, rainbow colors. You sip.

An explosion goes off in your head. You fall backward onto the ground. You see stars, moons, suns, rainbows flare; a stream of firework, many-colored, falls from the sky. You hear music, whispers, laughter; someone close is speaking in your ear, you can almost make out the words….

After a long time, you wake on the floor of the wooden house. All is dark, and your head hurts. But now the house is warm.

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.

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.