January 7, 2014

DP Requirement: Mental Discipline Essay

Being a 200 hour level trained yoga instructor and a Reiki master should make meditation easy, right? I mean, it's not like I haven't learned a ton of different ways of accessing meditation. Even yoga itself can be meditation in motion. You're basically meditating when you practice Reiki. Should be simple, yes?

Well, despite the copious amounts of tools in my fairly large toolbox for this requirement, I'm back to where I started. I think I'm going to have to provide some background for this to all make sense. 5 years ago, I had an hour-a-day meditation practice, focussing mainly on mantra work. That was on top of my daily yoga practice, which effectively grounded me and balanced the rest of my life, which was spent in more cerebral pursuits, having formerly been an engineer. I'd lost 100 pounds, and finally had a good grip on my life and what I wanted it to be.

I went from being someone who was successful in all of the ways you're supposed to be successful by society's standards, to someone who would do well to have a shower every day. I've had problems with depression and anxiety with my whole life, but this time around, I had to completely surrender to it. I had to quit my job, yoga, Reiki - everything. I've since become a shell of my former self. I am on the upswing now, but I've been kept prisoner in my own house by overwhelming feelings of sadness, panic attacks, suicidal ideation and paralyzing agoraphobia for almost 4 years. Having gained most of the weight back due to a diagnosis of insulin dependence (I refuse to use the word “diabetes” because of all of the cultural baggage and misunderstanding that goes along with that, despite the fact that it's due purely to a defective pancreas), my yoga practice has gone out the window. I don't know what my body feels like any more, and frankly, I'm afraid to find out.

All of this being said, I can probably easily convince you that meditation, in the purest sense of the word, does not come easily to me any more.

I've been working on this particular part of the Dedicant Path requirements since I started in late August of 2012. I started by listening to Ian Corrigan's Two Powers meditation on YouTube. I understand the concept of the Two Powers. Yoga and Reiki is similar in form. The bottom three chakras are your “grounding” chakras, which are in tune with earth energy. The top three are those that are in touch with your soul, spirit, and the universe. They meet at the middle in your anahata chakra, where they mingle and try to figure each other out. This is all well and good. I, at this point in time, have limited ability to feel safe and grounded. And, let's face it, I'm either too drugged up, or my anxiety is running too high to let my upper chakras have control for very long. The Two Powers, at this time, don't work for me.

Off and on, I tried various other forms of meditation. I tried giving myself Reiki on a more regimented basis. I tried Trataka (candle) meditation. I tried guided meditation. I tried listening to crystal singing bowls. I tried pulling out my crystal singing bowls. Everything either felt like I was just letting my brain have enough free reign to become anxious (and would usually lead to a panic attack), or I would become so ungrounded that I wouldn't be able to sleep. Attempts to ground myself would lead to feeling too grounded and unable to snap back to reality. Needless to say, many attempts were made, and not much discipline was acquired. These forms just proved really inaccessible to me at the moment. I'm sure there will be a time in the future when I'm able to get back into my old habits, but right now, it's really unfair of me, I think, to expect myself to be able to do those things. Coming to terms with that, with where I'm at at a moment-to-moment basis, has been one of the major things that Druidism has helped me with.

The past 5 months, I have been working on some form of mental discipline at least once a week (usually more frequently). To begin with, I started doing full-on COoR rituals 5 times a week. I figured, hey, these actually have a script. All I need to do is go outside, or to my altar, and “follow the bouncing dot”. I also wanted to try connecting with various deities, and figured this would be a good way to do both this and the discipline requirement at once. I even constructed a shrine in my backyard in the form of a rock garden: one area for the Nature Spirits, one for the Ancestors, and one for the Shining Ones. This worked for a few weeks, but eventually morphed into doing more simple devotionals. I started keeping Brighid's flame as well, which has helped me become closer to her.

Despite devotionals being relatively simple, I was still missing that feeling of connectedness to the universe, to Mother Earth, to the Kindreds, and, especially for me, to the Shining Ones, that I'm sure is the point of this exercise. I was still failing at finding what yoga people would call “the gap”, or the “space between thoughts”. That sweet spot where the infinite pours in, and you all at once feel connected to the universe and part of it at the same time. I've had that before, but I just couldn't seem to find it again.

The epiphany came when I was experimenting with making a quilt for a friend's baby shower. She is very close to Brighid, and wanting to form a relationship with her myself, it became a bit of a prayer/devotional/meditation in motion in its creation. I suppose part of me was literally praying that I wouldn't screw up this quilt too badly, but it gave me that sense of peace that comes with being in contact with that “bigger than us” power. For the first time in at least 3 years, my brain shut off, I lived in the moment, and time flew.

Since then, I've decided that this was the form my devotionals should take. I still dabble in the more traditional devotionals, and every once in awhile do a COoR ritual on a special occasion or a full moon (and have had some very profound omens and results from these undertakings), but making things in the name of the Shining Ones (and definitely with their help) has been the sweet spot for me. I've made a lot of my own ritual tools, garb, malas for mantra work, and divinatory tools. I've since taken up silversmithing, and have created many “shiny things for the Shiny Ones”. They both serve as a moving meditation in their creation, and a reminder of the Shining Ones' presence when worn. I ask for their guidance, I thank Mother Earth for providing the materials, and I thank individual deities for their gifts to me as I progress. For example, I talk to Brighid a lot while I'm working, asking for her to steady my hands and make me think clearly as to the best way to do certain things. I ask for Shiva's presence when I recycle old jewelry, asking him to destroy the old to make way for the new (and that the new will be aesthetically pleasing, of course). My creations make me feel grounded, less alone, and have been the only thing I've been truly proud of for as long as I can remember.

So, in closing, this has been quite a journey. I officially finished my 5 months of continuous work on discipline on January 5th, 2014. The best part is, that I have found something that I will absolutely continue doing. Creating things in this meditative way is not “work” for me. I do not feel like I'm paying figurative lip service to devotional activities the way I did when I was attempting the Two Powers, or the other purer forms of meditation. This works for me. And, let's face it, I'm not about to stop making jewelry any time soon. So this exercise, for all its ups and downs, was a complete success for me. I found something I'd lost for a long time. My connection to my Gods, to my Kindreds, and to my inner voice that whispers, in the quiet moments I've found, “you can do this – I just know you can”.