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.

How To Meditate

How To Meditate

 

The purpose of meditation is to stop thinking for a time, wait for the fog of  thought to thin, and glimpse the spirit within. Controlling the flood of  thoughts is very difficult for most people. Beginners can sometimes become very  frustrated, but frustration is just another thought, another emotion that gets  in the way. The goal is to release all thoughts, quietly, passively.

A common way to begin meditation is to gently focus on one thing so that it  becomes more difficult for stray thoughts to enter your mind. I like to start  with a breathing meditation.

To begin meditation, find a comfortable position. Sit in a comfortable chair,  with your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands in your lap with the palms  facing upward. Close your eyes and begin witnessing your breath. Observe the  inflow and outflow of your breath without attempting to control it in any way.  You may find that your breathing spontaneously gets faster or slower, deeper or  shallower, and may even pause for a time. Observe the changes without resistance  or anticipation. Whenever your attention drifts away from your breath to a sound  in the environment, or a sensation in your body, or a thought in your mind,  gently return your awareness to your breathing.

This is the basic mediation. Once a person becomes comfortable with simply  sitting quietly and focusing on breathing, I recommend adding a mantra, which  creates a mental environment that will allow you to expand your  consciousness.

 

Daily Motivator for June 12 – Move ahead with no regrets

Excuses are easy, and consequently they are worthless. Real, focused,  sustained work is difficult and challenging, and can achieve magnificent  results.

What is easy and carefree in the short term becomes painfully, desperately  difficult in the long run. Because when you waste today with excuses, you fill  tomorrow with regret.

Work can be tedious, frustrating, inconvenient and draining, and yet you  absolutely can get it done. Regret, on the other hand, is impossible to escape  once you’ve created it.

So without question, it is far better to use your time to create value rather  than regret. Instead of taking the seemingly easy way out, take the truly best  way forward.

This hour, this day, this week, you are depositing the fruits of your efforts  into the lasting experience of your life. Be sure to fill those deposits with  meaningful, positive value rather than with painful regret.

You have the opportunity right now to make an effort that will make a  difference. Make the effort, do the work, create real value with your time, and  move ahead with no regrets.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator 

Daily OM for June 5 – Releasing Guilt

Releasing Guilt
Permission to Forgive Ourselves

by Madisyn Taylor

 

Dwelling in guilt is like living your life with an anchor tied to your ankles dragging you down.

Learning to accept the things that we perceive as wrong can be a difficult task for many of us. Often we have been brought up to accept that it is normal to feel guilty about our actions and that by doing so we will make everything seem alright within ourselves. Even though we might feel that we have a reason to make up for the choices we have made, it is much more important for us to learn how to deal with them in a healthy and positive way, such as through forgiveness and understanding.

When we can look back at our past and really assess what has happened, we begin to realize that there are many dimensions to our actions. While feeling guilty might assuage our feelings at first, it is really only a short-term solution. It is all too ironic that being hard on ourselves is the easy way out. If we truly are able to gaze upon our lives through the lens of compassion, however, we will be able to see that there is much more to what we do and have done than we realize. Perhaps we were simply trying to protect ourselves or others and did the best we could at the time, or maybe we thought we had no other recourse and chose a solution in the heat of the moment. Once we can understand that dwelling in our negative feelings will only make us feel worse, we will come to recognize that it is really only through forgiving ourselves that we can transform our feelings and truly heal any resentment we have about our past.

Giving ourselves permission to feel at peace with our past actions is one of the most positive steps we can take toward living a life free from regrets, disappointments, and guilt. The more we are able to remind ourselves that the true path to a peaceful mind and heart is through acceptance of every part of our lives and actions, the more harmony and inner joy we will experience in all aspects of our lives.

Daily OM

 

Meditation to Meet Your Water Guide

Meditation to Meet Your Water Guide 

Create a simple altar with a bowl of water and floating blue candles. Use a rain-scented incense. You may keep a chalice filled with wine or a favorite herbal tea on the altar. Take several deep, cleansing breaths. Cast your personal circle. Close your eyes. Visualize the gateway to the elemental realm of water. What does it look like? How does it open? Focus on your breath. Keep your breathing deep, slow and steady. See the gate open, and walk through it. Amazingly, you find yourself walking across the bottom of the sea, yet you can still breathe easily, encased in your own personal bubble. The sand is firm under your feet. Around you are bright coral shells, starfish, sea horses, and dolphins. Schools of brightly colored fish swim by. Walk slowly toward the figure you see in the distance. Focus on your breath. You are calm, relaxed and happy. Greet your elemental guide for the realm of water, and listen to what he has to say. When you have heard all you wish, thank him. Begin to walk back toward the gateway. Stay focused on your breath as you take on last look at the beautiful world beneath the waves. Walk through the gateway and see it close. Take several deep breaths and then open your eyes slowly. Write down what you learned in your journal. Close your circle.

A HEALING MYTH

A HEALING MYTH

By “Nihasa”

This story can have a powerful healing effect when read out loud (or recorded
and then played) to someone suffering from a phobia or other effect of childhood
trauma. While names, settings, and style can be varied to suit individual
tastes, the sequence which the apprentice describes, the sequence the princess
goes through, and the vagueness of the “bad thing” descriptions should remain
unchanged and no element of the story should be left out.

|—————————————————————|

Once, in another time and another place, a kingdom of magic and beauty knew a
time of peace. No armies threatened its boarders, no bandits plundered its trade
routes, no plagues sickened its people. Yet even in such peaceful times, bad
things could happen: accidents, misunderstandings, even good people doing bad
things.

The third daughter of the king was a bright and cheerful sort. She wasn’t the
strongest or the prettiest of the royal princesses, but she did have the nicest
wings of anyone her age. She loved to fly around the countryside and explore the
groves and meadows she found…they were always full of surprises.

One day she found a particularly pretty grove, with a pond glistening in a
little clearing in the middle. As she went in for a closer look, she saw images
start to form. She saw her own reflection, and as she lightly touched the ground
she saw that her reflection was watching reflections of her own…dim watery
reflections from her past.

“So you can see the pictures.” The voice from among the trees made her jump.
“Don’t worry,” continued the young man as he stepped out from among the trees,
“nobody else can see the same images, Princess. It’s part of the magic.”

“How…?” she asked, looking him up and down. He was a young man, no older
than the princess herself, dressed in the rough tunic of a wizard’s apprentice.
“Who are you? How did you know who I am, what I saw?”

“I am apprenticed to the Court Wizard. Everybody knows who you are, Princess…
and besides, I have seen you at the palace when I have been there with my
master.” He paused, glancing at the ground and lowering his voice. “As to the
images…well, at one time I had need of their magic.”

“When I entered the Wizard’s service, I had a great and secret fear.
Something… bad…happened to me when I was younger. It hurt to even think
about, and after time I didn’t think about it much. But ever since that time, I
had lived with the fear. When my master learned of this, he taught me the magic
of this pool and its stream.”

“The pool reflects images from your mind…scenes from your past, dreams of the
future, even fantasies of the present. The stream flows like time itself,
upstream into the past, and downstream into the future. If I followed the ritual
he described, these magics could wash clean the fear.”

She made a face. “I suppose this ritual involves deep magics usable only by
Wizards?”

“Not really. All the magic is in the waters, and anyone can use the ritual. Even
a lowly apprentice.” He grinned. “It’s pretty simple. After he told me about it,
he brought me here and then stood back by the trees. He said that he would
answer any questions I had but otherwise I was on my own.”

“I stood where I could see my reflection in the pool, and then thought about my
fear. As I thought, my reflection watched a reflection of my thoughts…like a
stage where dimly lit actors played out the scene against a colorless backdrop.
I looked up and saw that I was still here, in the glade.

I looked back at the water, holding on to a small part of the special feeling of
fear it had given me. As I turned and looked back upstream, I saw more
images…each earlier than the last. I relaxed and let the feeling guide me back
to the earliest image. When I had that, I turned back to the pool and found my
reflection watching the same colorless players in their dim reflection of the
memory. As my reflection watched, the image went from a time shortly before the
bad thing happened, through the whole thing, and on to a time when it was all
over. When it passed the ending that way, it stopped… like a drawing. Then the
drawing faded away, and I was just looking at my reflection. The Wizard had told
me that if I stepped into that last part of the image, it would run very quickly
backwards, with full color and sound and me living backwards through it
all…all the way through to the part before the beginning. It sounded very
strange. As I looked at my reflection again, it was watching the image go
forward again in its dim, colorless way. When it reached the drawing at the end,
I stepped into the image and was plunged into a world going backwards! It went
clear through to before the beginning in less than a second, then stopped.
Startled, I let the water carry me downstream, through all that had happened
since, with the fear gone and the memory unable to hurt me. When I reached the
here-and-now, I got out and just stood there, knowing that the fear would
trouble me no more. ” He stopped, and suddenly seemed to remember where he was,
and who he was talking to. “That was over a year ago, and the fear is still
gone. The Wizard says it is gone for good.”

She thought for a moment. “So all there is to this ritual is think of the
problem until your reflection sees it, follow a part of the feeling upstream to
my earliest memory of it, wait for my reflection to see it all the way through,
step into the ending, and live it backwards quickly? What kind of magic is
that?”

He thought for a minute, shrugged, and said “Effective? If you wish, I will
withdraw to the trees while you try it.”

“What makes you think that I NEED it?”

“Because the images only come to those who do. ” His voice faded to an embarr-
assed silence as he realized what he had said. “I’ll go now.”

“Yes, do.” She said absently, already thinking. Then: “But not too far, in case
I need you.” She was remembering an incident a few days back which had set off
her special fear, and just as the apprentice had described, her reflection in
the pool was watching a dim and watery scene of the memory. Startled, she looked
up again. Yes, she was in the clearing, with the trees all around and the
apprentice all but lost among the closer ones. She could still feel a part of
that fear, so she kept that feeling while she looked back up stream at all the
images from the past that the feeling had touched…until she found the earliest
of them all. She brought that memory back to the pool and released it as her
reflection started to watch it unfold in its dim and watery way. Her reflection
seemed to have a life of its own as it watched the pale scene start before
anything happened, run through the bad parts, and then pause at a time when it
was all over. She watched her reflection shift as she prepared for what she
would do. Her reflection settled as it watched the scene unfold again. The dim
scene passed through the beginning, through the bad time and on past again. When
it stopped, she jumped in to it. Suddenly, she was there again: back where and
when it had happened. Everything was moving backwards, and in a flash she had
lived backwards through it and past the beginning. Shocked, she let the water
carry her down stream, forward through all the rest of her yesterdays without
the bad times for company. When she got to today, she stood up. There she
was…standing, dripping in a stream in the clearing. She looked around for the
apprentice, half expecting him to be laughing at the soggy mess she must be. He
was there, by the trees…not laughing, just smiling in an understanding way.

In the years that followed, they became friends. Although they went their
separate ways…he, as wizard to one of the King’s high lords and she as wife to
a neighboring prince… they valued that friendship to the end of their days.
And from that time on, neither was ever again troubled by their great fears.

The Law of Return

The Law of Return

by Amanda Silvers

The threefold law of return: We hear much about this, but do we really comprehend the meaning? What you put out comes back times three (or more), means unequivocally that, good or bad, you reap what your actions have sown.

How do we define “putting something out”? A thought, a deed, a word are all actions that contain energy. Think about this: If you disburse money willingly, with the focus that you are contributing to the prosperity of the community, the prosperous energy returns to you. Not always in the exact way that you want; sometimes in the most unexpected ways!

If you choose to live in lack, feel like there is never an adequate amount of anything and attempt to hoard and hold onto everything, the flow stops. It’s akin to putting a dam on the energy flow. If you are broke, give a little away, whether it’s time or energy or money. Doing so will create a vacuum effect, which will then help to get the flow started back toward you instead of away from you.

Money is only paper with numbers on it, it is used to represent energy. You expend your energy for some of it and then give it away for something someone else put energy into. Just like everything else, it goes around in a never-ending cycle; there is an ebb and flow to it. Sometimes you have more, sometimes less, but there is always a coming and going of cash; that’s why it’s called cash flow!

This philosophy also works in other areas of life, love for instance. Do you suppose that you have only a limited amount of love? Is it to be rationed out as you go through life? Will you run out? I think not. The more affection you give, the more you generate, the more you experience, the more you give! Just like that. The cycle turns the wheel.

Try this in another area. Have you ever been frightened of having something happen and then had it happen just as you hoped it would not? Or have you ever said “I will never ______ (fill in the blank)” and found yourself doing just that shortly thereafter? Magickal components are a part of everyday life. You have an intent, put emotion (energy) into it, take action and bring it into being. You begin to create with nothing more than a word or thought. It works remarkably well for those things that you say never about, because you feel intensely about them and put a lot of energy into them. What do you think would have more power: “I wish I could win the lottery!” or “I will never have enough money!”?

Your subconscious mind does not recognize the word “not”; it’s a non-word. When you say “I do not want to do that,” it is a direct command to your brain; you are basically saying that you really do want to do whatever it is. If someone says to you, “I do notwant to hurt you,” be careful!

If you sit around all the time, agonizing about your bills, your job, your health, your love life… what kind of energy are you putting out? How might that energy be contributing in a magickal sense to your circumstances? Would you do a spell to get a job you hate, or to get into a bad relationship? Of course not! So why sit around and put energy into negative crap when you could be furthering your positive wishes? The universe is a bountiful place; the Goddess is generous with her gifts. There is plenty for all. Does this ring true for you? If not, you might ask yourself, “Why not?” What beliefs that you hold to be true are sabotaging you?

“Try” is another one of my pet peeves. When a person says they will try to do something, it is just an excuse for not doing it, as in “I tried! I just couldn’t.” Think about what you say. Instead of saying “I will try,” see how much power there is in actually committing. Say “I will do it!” Also, how much power is there in saying no to those things you really don’t intend to do. Wow, what an enormous amount of energy you free up by just saying no in the first place! Then you don’t have to worry till the last minute whether you should actually do it, then have to make an excuse for not doing it – not to mention maybe having to do something you’d really rather not. You will find people will respect you more and value your energy more when you can be believed and counted upon to do what you say, as well as for your being in control of your boundaries.

Finally, be careful what you wish upon someone else, because just as positive thoughts come back to you, so do the negative ones aimed at others. Don’t wish on someone else something you would not like to have happen to you and yours. Be careful of those things said thoughtlessly or in jest. How might you feel if the nasty thought you thought when you were angry at your friend or mate were to happen?

Make your statements in the positive. Strive to be conscious of your every thought and word and the energy around them. Focus on the here and now and what’s happening. If you can accomplish this, the law of return will work in your favor and only good things will come to you.

Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it!

The Term “Fluffy Bunny” Must Go

The Term “Fluffy Bunny” Must Go

Author: Praxiteles

I believe that the term “fluffy bunny” is not only not useful or practical, but harmful, and that we should abandon the term.

So, why must “fluffy bunny” go? In my opinion, there are the five main reasons why:

1. The term “fluffy bunny” is itself fluffy bunny.

“Fluffy bunny” is defined variously, but the general notion is that of a person who doesn’t check their facts (or even care about ‘facts’, historical or otherwise); who accepts or dismisses something without critical thought; and who goes around spreading their dogma as if it is the one True Way. The usual example given is of someone who buys one book on the Craft, or several books but all by the same author, and takes this author’s approach and viewpoints as Gospel, and then goes around annoying the heck out of everyone else. When challenged or questioned on anything, the “fluffy bunny” can’t defend or explain their position, except with something along the lines of “because so-and-so says so.”

Now I agree that this behavior is rather unimpressive, and that “because so-and-so says so” isn’t any kind of reasoned response or valid argument. However, have you maybe noticed that the same people who throw around the “fluffy bunny” and “fluff” and “nonsense” labels the most are often the very people who can’t explain why a particular author or book or person is so bad, so “fluffy”? Instead of taking the trouble to back up their assertions with reasons and facts, they just slap on the “fluffy bunny” label and pour on the derision and contempt.

To my mind, this is type of behavior is worse than the behavior being criticized.

Labels and stereotypes are the tools of guilt, shame, manipulation, and domination. They bypass reason and consideration and go straight to an emotional level. No tyrant or demagogue has ever been able to dispense with these tools; no genocide, no atrocity, no war has ever been committed or fought without their help. They stop you from considering the people involved, from thinking of the person, the human being.

Fluffy bunny in drag isn’t any better than fluffy bunny. The website Why Wiccans Suck, for example, isn’t any more thoughtful or profound than that which it attacks. If someone hates someone or something because it is “fluffy bunny”, and when asked for an explanation why can do no better than say, “because it’s fluff and nonsense”, well then, I’m sorry, but I don’t see any essential difference between the behavior they are exhibiting and that which they are attacking.

And supposing that someone can articulate many good reasons why something is bad then why fall back on a crutch, on a label like “fluffy bunny” in the first place? Wouldn’t a paragraph or two of articulate and reasoned criticism be so much better?

2. “Fluffy Bunny” is a straw-man term.

Has anyone ever actually met a fluffy bunny, either in real life or online? Perhaps some people have, but I haven’t! Looking over the more serious definitions of what a “fluffy bunny” is, at, for example, Wicca for the Rest of Us, I can’t see that there could possibly be very many bona fide fluffy bunnies running around out there. And keep in mind that those people who are de facto fluffy bunnies due to ignorance, and who stop being such when confronted with the facts and better information, are not fluffy bunnies.

Fluffy bunnies, according to the definition, are those who ignorantly and stupidly cling to whatever they hold up on a pedestal, regardless of the facts. Now, really, how many of those people have you met?

So, why is this term so prevalent? Is it perhaps because its use makes people feel good because it implies that the user is not a fluffy bunny, is in fact a “real” Witch? A “serious” Witch? I think sometimes this may be the case, or partly the case, and this brings me to my next point:

3. “Fluffy Bunny” is manipulative and plays on the fears and desires of the inexperienced and insecure.

For the record, I include myself here. The stupidest thing I ever wrote online is when I asked for a definition of a “pop Wiccan” because “I didn’t want to be one, ” and knowing what it was would help me from becoming one. But, really, how could I know that I didn’t want to be a pop Wiccan if I didn’t actually know what a “pop Wiccan” was? I couldn’t. It was stupid. Or actually, it was insecure.

I greatly admired (and still admire) the person with whom I was talking, and wanted to avoid what she despised or dismissed. In other words, instead of thinking for myself, I wanted her to think for me. This is not what being a Witch is all about–quite the opposite–regardless of whether the opinion or position was right or wrong.

Witchcraft isn’t about having the “right” opinions, or reading the “right” books, or being taught by the “right” Coven–not if “right” is something you dogmatically and thoughtlessly accept from others.

The widespread use of the term “fluffy bunny” and terms like it, creates an atmosphere of negativity and nastiness, and this atmosphere tends to focus the attention on opinions and positions instead of on process and methods, which help develop discernment and skills.

It’s got a bunch of people out there wasting time trying to avoid being a “fluffy bunny” when they don’t even know what that really is, and could thus only accept the judgments of others on the subject, and hence perpetuate the fluffy bunniness of the term “fluffy bunny.”

Wouldn’t it be better to focus attention instead on learning and progressing? I suggest that maybe the best thing we can do is not to be afraid of being called “fluffy bunny”; not to be afraid of reading a book reputed to be “fluffy bunny”; not to care so much what others opine, but instead to care more about trying to find the truth for ourselves.

I think dialogue is good; discussion is good; considering the thoughts and reasoning of others is good; by all means engage in these activities (as we are right now). But I think that accepting labels and bald dogmatic assertions, even from those with more experience and skill, short-circuits all of these good things.

4. “Fluffy Bunny” is authoritarian.

It seems to me that those who use a label, a stereotype, like “fluffy bunny”, necessarily imply that they are an authority. They are asking you to take their word on something, unless or until they bother to explain the reasoning behind the judgment.

And, please! I am quite sure that there is always someone out there who thinks that you and your way is “fluffy bunny”; always some group ready to look down on the group looking down on a group just finding their way as best they can; always someone ready to point out what you are not, what you have not, where you are unworthy of serious consideration.

Wouldn’t it be better to just stop with all that? Don’t we have better things to do with our time than criticize and condemn and judge others and how they practice? We’re not monotheists! We have no orthodoxy to defend; no Tradition to keep pure and untainted. Can’t we instead use all of that extra energy to strive all the harder to live and practice to the best of our ability?

5. It will hurt your magick.

Or at least it did me. I have found that contempt and disrespect is not something that will enamor my Younger Self to my Talking-head Self. Contempt is spiritual and magickal poison in my experience. It goes hand in hand with skepticism and snobbery.

Obviously, this is only my experience. Test things out (if you haven’t already) and see for yourself. Try for a day, or for 8 hours, to bend your mind to the good in people and situations. Do not indulge in contemptuous or belittling thoughts towards others or yourself. Now cast a circle or do a pathworking or LBRP, or whatever practices you do, and see if you notice a difference. Perhaps you will find that it is easier to reach ritual or magickal states of consciousness. I certainly do.

But, don’t get me wrong here. You don’t have to go around fooling yourself into believing everyone is an avatar of perfection. You don’t have to check your discernment at the door. You just have to avoid holding others in contempt.

So those are my reasons. Perhaps you found them interesting and worth reading, or perhaps not. But either way, I do understand the problems and frustrations behind the widespread use of the term “fluffy bunny.”

I understand that there are plenty of people out there playing at being Witches; dabbling, posturing, looking for instant gratification, and I understand that many serious Witches are concerned that these people drag things down to a lower level and give Witchcraft a bad name, and so on.

I do understand that.

What I don’t understand is why we give them so much thought, and even a stereotype, when instead we could have given their opposite as much or more thought, and held it up as a shining ideal.

Fluffy bunnies are, after all, immune to criticism by definition, right?

In my opinion, it’s better to show what you think is the way forward, and the ideal, than to waste time and thought on where you do not want to go, on what you do not want to be. People will scatter from the latter in every direction. But people will go towards the former from every direction.

So shouldn’t we think about abandoning the term “fluffy bunny” and focus on the opposite?

How about the “sleek raccoon” or something?

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.

Your Daily Horoscopes for Thursday, August 11th

The serious Capricorn Moon fills our minds with thoughts of success, yet today’s early morning Mars-Pluto opposition may still have us locked in a power struggle where no one will win. A conflict can escalate due to a misunderstanding because retrograde Mercury forms an argumentative semisquare with authoritative Saturn. Thankfully, original thinking can precipitate a sudden resolution, prompted by an intelligent Mercury-Uranus alignment.

 

Aries Horoscope
Aries Horoscope (Mar 21 – Apr 19)

You may have to take a stand against a rather formidable person, but today it’s you who is the tougher cookie. Unfortunately, you might not be aware that you could hurt someone’s feelings because you are so determined to reach your goals. Nevertheless, you would be more effective if you didn’t push so hard. Soften your approach and consider how others may react before doing something you’ll regret.

Taurus Horoscope
Taurus Horoscope (Apr 20 – May 20)

Naturally, you want to follow through on your commitments, even if your schedule suddenly changes because of unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately, other people don’t seem to have the same level of integrity and you may become angry with someone who falls short of their promises. Instead of adding to the drama today, be as compassionate as possible, shift your focus to finishing your own work and don’t be too judgmental of anyone else.

Gemini Horoscope
Gemini Horoscope (May 21 – Jun 20)

Your thoughts and emotions don’t mix well today. You may try to manage your desires in order to fit in socially, but you could grow resentful if you don’t say what you feel. Unfortunately, knowing what’s best doesn’t always mean that you will do the right thing. Instead of acting too quickly, think about the consequences of your actions before blindly following your impulses. You might feel differently tomorrow.

Cancer Horoscope
Cancer Horoscope (June 21 – Jul 22)

You may be upset today if someone promises one thing yet does another. However, you might withhold your feelings because you don’t fully understand what’s going on. It’s extra challenging if you cannot trust your senses, especially if others are sending mixed messages. Accept your dilemma as a temporary situation that will soon fade, for attempts to end a conflict now will only increase your frustration.

Leo Horoscope
Leo Horoscope (Jul 23 – Aug 22)

You quickly tire of a melodrama that reignites today, but this time it’s different because the crisis has passed its peak and you feel strong enough to handle it. Nevertheless, you still must show up and combat the threat with a concerted effort or it could reappear again sometime soon. Respond to the current situation with compassion rather than animosity to help everything return to normal as quickly as possible.

Virgo Horoscope
Virgo Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)

You may be amazed by how fast you respond to a difficult situation today. Normally, you would prefer to gather facts and then take some time to think about your options before swinging into action. But there isn’t enough time for such a rational approach now, so you must immediately process what is happening and use your intuition to reach a conclusion. Don’t hesitate to react without your safety net of logic because any delay lessens your current chances of success.

Libra Horoscope
Libra Horoscope (Sep 23 – Oct 22)

Family dynamics weigh on your mind today, possibly preventing you from doing what you want. You may be tempted to walk away from the domestic drama, but you might be under pressure to increase your involvement. Unfortunately, losing your temper is easy now, but won’t help your cause. Instead, consider what can be done to settle the tension. Your innate ability to understand both sides of an issue enables you to be gracious in how you handle this tricky situation.

Scorpio Horoscope
Scorpio Horoscope (Oct 23 – Nov 21)

You are determined to stay on track today as you push to reach your goals, even if you would rather withdraw for some precious time alone. But solitude might not be in your immediate future, even if it’s high on your personal agenda. Being flexible is more important than sticking to your plan, since it’s impossible to know where an interaction with a colleague might lead as emotions heat up. It’s not necessary to win an argument now; it’s wiser to set a course based on compromise.

Sagittarius Horoscope
Sagittarius Horoscope (Nov 22 – Dec 21)

It’s frustrating if you crave something but can’t afford to buy it. Maybe you want your partner or friend to rescue you now. But instead of getting angry when others don’t come to your aid, try a radically different approach to find satisfaction. Letting go is your best bet today, but this tactic requires some real soul-searching to detach your happiness from the current object of your desire.

Capricorn Horoscope
Capricorn Horoscope (Dec 22 – Jan 19)

Mars’ opposition to passionate Pluto in your sign dredges up intense feelings about someone or something standing in your way. Even if you are determined to reach your goals today, you need to be careful about riding roughshod over others to get what you want. The intensity of your current ambitions may create more problems than solutions now, and scaling them back just a bit might be the most sensible thing you can do.

Aquarius Horoscope
Aquarius Horoscope (Jan 20 – Feb 18)

You might be unusually ambivalent when asked about your plans today. Whether you’re considering a new path at work or in a relationship, it’s hard to make a commitment now. It isn’t that you don’t care; to the contrary, you care so much that you want to be absolutely certain about your choice. Even if you’re feeling pressure to decide, take a few more days before letting others know.

Pisces Horoscope
Pisces Horoscope (Feb 19 – Mar 20)

You don’t mind the idea of working today, but your ideal is far from the reality, prompting you to start planning your secret escape. But you could get into a disagreement with a friend or lover if he or she tries to coerce you into some activity that you would rather skip. Don’t play the role of a martyr by agreeing to drop your plans for someone else’s. Take responsibility for what you want and don’t give in. Prevent problems later on by being very clear right from the start.