Archive for Meditation

Meditation, Healing, Orien Rose

This email is from Orien Rose’s mother, Christine, timestamped 8:38 am:

Thank you for the texts received already this morning. She went under about 20
minutes ago…Orien just returning after being with her for the first few moments.

I will post to the blog as soon as I can get to it!


Sunday I didn’t post a meditation. Instead, Roberta and I spent about six hours writing a blog post about Orien Rose, a cover letter to send to bloggers (many of whom have responded with grace and wonderfulness), figuring out what our mailing list was, etc. That was my meditation, and yeah, that’s your meditation too. It’s about healing. It’s all about healing. In some ways, even the magic we do that has nothing to do with healing is about healing. Healing the pain of not having a job or a relationship. Healing the ache of the world through political or justice magic. Healing our ability to believe we can do magic. Being the change we want to see in the world.

I woke this morning and thought of Orien Rose. Showered and thought of Orien Rose. Made coffee and thought of Orien Rose. And at one moment, I wept; not from pain or sorrow, but from the wave of energy; of all the thoughts moving with mine towards this girl and her family.

I have a busy frickin day. But I will be thinking of Orien Rose.

Sunday Meditation: Adorning Your Altar

We’ve been talking about altars, and about doing things that connect you to deity through your altar.

Previously, we’ve discussed using creative activities to attain a meditative state, and this dovetails well with altar work, because you can create beautiful objects to adorn your altar.

I’m going to use beading as an example. A wonderful way to adorn your altar is to make a necklace, crown, or other adornment for your idol. It will personalize your altar and can be an offering given reverently. Then, whenever you see it on your idol, you’ll be reminded of your offering and your reverence.

Beading is a fairly easy hobby to pick up on; you can make simple strands with no more prior knowledge than tying a knot. Basic supplies are available at any craft store (like Michael’s or A.C. Moore).If you make the necklace large enough to slip over the idol’s head, you don’t have to mess around with clasps or findings.

Before you begin, measure the approximate length you want by using string or thread to simulate the desired look on your idol. You can wrap the strand two or three times around for a lavish look, and of course, you’ll want to measure a length to accomodate that. Later, when you prepare your beading area, have the length (with plenty of extra at the ends for knotting) already cut so that you can move easily into a meditative state without a lot of fuss.

Now choose your beads. Consider the colors that are sacred to your deity (red and black for Kali, white for Isis, gold and green for Brigid) and meaningful symbols (sea shells? coins?). Choose more than you strictly need so that your creativity isn’t blocked when you run out of a bead you really want to use.

Your beading can be rich and sparkly , or simple stones, and need not be placed directly on the idol.

When beading, don’t work on a slick surface like a wood table; use a table cloth or a tray so that beads don’t roll away. Even if you normally meditate in the dark, bright lights are your friends. Wash your hands, and if you’re using string, consider having a block of wax (craft stores sell it for just this purpose) to wax the string and make it easier to get the beads on. You might use a clip at the end of the string so you can add beads without fear of them coming off the end. Have some glue available; a dab of glue on the finished knot will help keep it secure.

With your beads and stringing material laid out and ready, prepare your space with candles, incense, or whatever you normally use.

Ground and center. You might add a prayer to the deity for whom your are making this necklace.

Look at the beads before you, and imagine how your necklace will look. If you want a symmetrical necklace, you should lay out your pattern in advance (professionals and committed hobbyists use a beading board). Allow creativity to flow through you as you choose your beads and lay out their arrangement.

Continue to breath into your center and inhale creativity, beauty, and adornment, which you exhale into the work you are doing.

Begin now to strand the beads onto the string. Place each bead mindfully and rhythmically.

When you are finished, hold the necklace before you and allow yourself to enjoy the beauty you have made. As you tie the final knot, thank the deity and release the energy into your work.

You can make a ritual of offering the necklace on a separate occasion.

Sunday Meditation: Brief Meditation

A while back, I promised techniques for brief meditation and brief prayer. If you’ve got a life overwhelmed by demands—small children, a noisy space with no room for quiet—than traditional meditation instructions that require twenty minutes of peace and quiet might seem laughable. But if you have such a life, you need the peace that meditation can bring even more than the rest of us.

First, work on grounding and centering. I mean, focus your meditation entirely on getting good at that, until you can do it in about five seconds. That’s easier than it sounds and it’s crucial for brief meditation.

The trick to the five-second grounding and centering is, first, to practice, and second, to leap in. Ground and center as if. As if you could do it in five seconds. Don’t say, well I’ll try, simply know you can; the resource is, truly, already within.

It is helpful to have a trigger; a crystal you hold, a picture you gaze at, a visualization you use. Imprint that trigger by using it whenever you ground and center; ultimately, simply using the trigger will start the process, as if you’ve pushed a button.

Once you have relaxed your mind and body into the centered moment, you can use that moment for prayer or meditation. Sometimes all you have time for is the centered moment, but even that can bring benefits to you.

The easiest place to find a meditation moment is in the shower. Even the most harried among us has to shower, and the relaxing feeling of hot water, the sound barrier as it rushes about us, is ideal for taking that deep breath in, finding your center, and remembering who you are. This is a moment when you can reach out to the Goddess, or ask for inner wisdom, or for strength. This is the moment when you can find the compassion that lives within you, and bring it to your day.

Another good moment for brief meditation is when you’re getting dressed. Instead of just throwing on whatever, take a moment to look at your closet or dresser and know that beauty is of the Gods, and bring beauty to yourself.

And again, when you open the refrigerator. Nourishment is the Earth Mother, it is the Harvest and the Hunt. Ground and center, and from a centered space, open the fridge and let the feeling of sustenance and satiety become a part of you.

If you can commit yourself to seeing the sacred in the ordinary, then there are many such moments you can find, and they will become a source of strength and peace for you.

Meditations on Mother’s Day

Normally we do guided meditations on Sundays, but I have a different idea for Mother’s Day.

We are “guided” by media and marketing as to exactly what thoughts we’re supposed to have today. But our real thoughts are often more complex. We’re supposed to be loving and grateful and tender. But most of our mothers are not Hallmark mothers. Most, in fact, are human beings.

In thinking about our own mothers, we may indeed feel loving and grateful and tender. We may also feel grief and loss and rage. We may feel abandonment or neglect or longing. We are likely to feel a combination of things, only some of which would make a marketable greeting card.

I remember there was a day I was working out, and I was explaining how my mother could be both maddening and wonderful. The two women I was working out with were really interested in shutting me down, in criticizing me for airing negative thoughts. I was saying how, when my knee was broken, my mother would take me to my doctor’s appointment (because it’s pretty hard to drive in an immobilizer), but she would show up every time in her Mini-Cooper. And every time I would ask her to please bring the Camry instead, because it was a long, slow, painful process to wriggle my way into her tiny car in the immobilizer. But every time she came with the Mini-Cooper. And yet, every time, she came.

The women at the gym were angry with me for being exasperated, when my mom was so great to pick me up in the first place. And it’s surely true that there are plenty of people whose mothers live the same twelve miles away mine does, who’d have to take a cab. I did say she was wonderful and exasperating. Human. Not a Hallmark card. And that wasn’t okay with these ladies, who, it turned out, were grieving the loss of their mothers.

Grief. Exasperation. Love. Anxiety. Self-consciousness. Compassion. Frustration. These are all real feelings. We may have any or all of them. Or others.

I invite you, this Mother’s Day, to explore your honest feelings about your mother, and to permit yourself to have those feelings.

Sunday Meditation: Expectations

Today is my birthday (thank you, thank you). How you can screw up your birthday is through expectations and hopes that are not articulated or fulfilled. There’s a fantasy about being catered to; that it will be like when you’re a kid, and the entire world parts like the Red Sea with birthday greetings and people bringing you breakfast in bed and presents and kisses.

The world is not the Red Sea of birthday greetings.

So let’s take a moment to contemplate this expectation. There is within you some longing. Some desire to be acknowledged, to be treated with regard, to be loved. This is a good desire, normal, human, poignant and real. It is harmful only when nurtured as a resentment towards the world instead of as a feeling of self-regard that is projected outward.

Ground and center.

Imagine (or remember) being an infant. Imagine being held, nurtured, and cuddled. Imagine a space of infinite and unconditional love.

You are an infant and unconditionally loved.

Now visualize growing up, bit by bit. You are a toddler, and still loved. You are a child, and still loved. As you grow, you also grow in independence. You are cuddled less, and cared for less, but loved just as much. As you grow, visualize that love as a thing you hold within. Visualize that love as a warm, glowing place within you. It was put there in infancy, and there it remains, glowing and warming you. It is fueled by the love given to you by others, and also by the love you give to yourself.

Continue to grow up, and see that glowing love within.

Now see yourself as you are today, and see the warm, glowing ball of love within you, nurturing you, warming you, loving you. Others love you and you love yourself. Visualize the people who love you. See them coming to you, hugging you, kissing you on the cheek, shaking your hand—however they might express themselves. And see that warm glow responding, brightening, in response to the love all around you.

And now go within, and notice that you have the ability to brighten the ball of love by yourself. Look at it, and while looking, love yourself, and notice it glowing brighter and warmer. Praise yourself for the things you’ve done well, and see the brightness. Forgive yourself for small flaws, and notice the warmth. Kiss yourself on the cheek. Stroke your own shoulders. And feel how very loved you are.

And now let the glow shine out. Let it be a part of your aura. It surrounds you. Let yourself be in the world glowing with the aura of being loved. As you move through your day, you are loved. As you do your work, you are loved. Know that this glow is always a part of you.

Sunday Meditation: Happy Passover

Passover is a celebration of freedom. I have a few thoughts about today that are ripe meditation subjects.

First is the notion of freedom. Passover is primarily a holiday of political freedom; as we contemplate freedom from slavery, we are obligated to contemplate those who are not free. Wherever anyone is enslaved, we are taught, we ourselves are not free. We must meditate
upon those who suffer so we can understand their suffering, but meditation is not enough. We should be prepared to act.

There is also inner freedom. Passover is a time wherein we can contemplate that which enslaves us. What binds you? What are you stuck with? What are you slave to? What runs you? What conditions, habits, addictions, relationships, needs, and desires do you have that prevent you from being truly free?

Passover is also a descent and resurrection. This is a universal motif in religion and myth. A god or goddess or hero descends into hell, suffers trials, and is miraculously able to return from hell after a harrowing journey, to be reborn in a way that redeems his/her people.
This is true of the descent of Inanna, of the abduction of Persephone, of the descent of Hercules, of the Wiccan tale of the Descent of the Goddess into the Underworld, and of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish version is unique in that it is the entire Jewish
people who descend and are resurrected, and therefore it is the tribe of the Jews, not any one person, who embody the redemption of the Jewish people. Perhaps this is why Moses does not enter the Holy Land; because there cannot be a single Savior of the Jews (except the Messiah); the Jews must save themselves.

The Jews journey to Egypt in pride and success but are enslaved. Slavery, symbolically, is Hell. Through a series of miracles, the Jews are led out of slavery, and in their long and arduous journey they are reborn as a new people, newly monotheistic (after that little calf
business) and with a set of laws. Thus resurrected, they enter the land of Israel.

So, resurrection. That’s a big one. But more important is the journey into and out of hell. Our lives follow trajectories of darkness and light. We are going one place la la down the road. Then we are in some other place, and it is hell. What the fuck happened? Our lives are
utterly unrecognizable. Yet we continue to journey. We can resist or accept but there we are. In Wicca we are taught that embracing the darkness leads to transformation; that only when we embrace Death can we know Rebirth. So it is a good time to ask: What do you resist? What embrace do you refuse? Is that refusal preventing you from moving on?

May your resurrection be blessed, and may you be truly free.

Sunday Meditation: Activities

Last week we talked about meditating while cleaning. This is good because you have to clean anyway, but there are activities that are inherently more peaceful and meditative, that can be used in a mindful way.

The activities I have in mind fall into two basic categories: Rhythmic and creative. Of course, some activities can be both.

Many meditations guide you to imagery or use objects that focus/unfocus the mind. By staring at a mandala or a candle flame, you engage the mind so that every little stray thought isn’t an agonizing distraction. At the same time, you let go of the mind.

It’s kind of like letting your dog run in a fenced yard; you don’t have to watch him every minute because it’s fenced, and you can do more interesting things while he’s running. A mandala, a breathing technique, an object of spiritual inquiry can be a fenced yard. While you are getting value out of a cognitive inquiry, you are also not thinking about all the unmeditative things that might occupy your mind.

A rhythmic activity might be drumming, dancing, weaving, spinning (on a spinning wheel), sewing, knitting, carving or sanding wood, stringing beads, etc.

A creative activity might be painting or drawing, carving, beading, sculpting, etc.

If you’re doing woodcarving, the part where you’re repetitively clearing the surface might be more rhythmic, the part where you’re actually creating a design is more creative. Similarly, designing a bead project might be highly creative, focusing on color, shape, and arrangement, while actually stringing the beads, once designed and laid out, is repetitive and rhythmic.

Your activity can be purposeful or simply an occupation conducive to meditation. Next week we’ll talk about purposes that work well with meditation.

Prepare your activity. Get out your beading, carving, or knitting supplies before you begin. Sit in your workspace with everything ready.

Ground and center.

Now simply begin, allow your mind to remain focused on the work, undistracted by stray thoughts. Bring yourself back to the moment, to the physical objects, the tactile and sensory experience of your creativity.

You can choose in advance if you will focus on the goal—the end product—or stay in the moment; this bead, this string, this drumbeat. Either way, bring yourself back to that thought process whenever you stray.

Some projects are completed in a single sitting, some are not. Having a long-term project might be a beautiful way to create meditative suggestibility—when you pick it up, it begins to induce trance. On the other hand, a one-shot project has a clear ending point, bringing you out of meditation as you finish. For example, with beading, tying the final knot and attaching the closure is a natural way to end meditation.

Sunday Meditation: Cleaning

I often meditate while cleaning. Specifically, while cleaning my altar or while preparing my home for ritual. This is a focused meditation, clearing the mind and thinking about meaning while I clean.

So I was delighted to find this blog post about cleaning in a Zen context, that mentions meditating while cleaning.

I like to think of a Zen monk sweeping the floors of a temple when I sweep. It’s corny, maybe, but it really helps me focus on the sweeping, and it’s a form of meditation. In this way, I actually enjoy the cleaning, although I’d rather be writing to be honest.

I think she’s slipping here. The trick is to stay in the moment, and not engage with what you’d rather be doing. Be here now.

So, suppose I’m scrubbing the tub for a ritual bath. I hate scrubbing the tub. It makes my back ache, it’s physically awkward, and frankly it never resuls in the Clean Tub I’d like, just a clean tub, if you know what I mean. I want it to sparkle like it’s new and it doesn’t.

But here’s what I do. I center myself, and visual the bath I’ll be taking. I align myself with a ritual purpose. I am doing ritual, just as much as I will be when I’m in the bath. Now, you can just do that, visualize bathing as you scrub, visualize having ritual seated on the carpet while you vacuum, and so on.

But I add a cognitive component: As I scrub, I meditate on the meaning of cleanliness, or of this particular bath. What does it mean to be spiritually clean? As I clean the temple, vacuum the rug, wash the altar, I ask myself about the inner nature of the temple, of the altar. As I dust my private worship altar, I meditate on the relationship I have with that altar. What does it mean to clean the idol, to serve the deity in that way?

These are deep meditations that can take me on interesting journeys. I value them.

And while I will never love the dishpan hands, or scrubbing the tub, doing these meditations takes me far beyond what I’d “rather be” doing and allows me to be fully present for a spiritual task.

Sunday Meditation: Darshan

The word darshan in Hinduism means many things. Here I am referring to the visual contact with the deity, and I am going to be translating it into a Western Pagan context.

We’ve been talking about using an altar for meditation. Some people don’t know quite how to use an altar, or quite how to make the vital connection with deity that makes an altar such an important place in the home.

One thing that really works is to create a visual, one-to-one relationship with the idol you’re working with. Pick up the statue or image (perhaps you have a framed picture). If you can’t pick it up, come close to it. (And this is important when determining how to lay out your altar—make sure you can do this.) Make eye contact. Gaze into the beloved eyes of your Goddess or God, and express love in your gaze. Receive the gaze of your deity, and feel loved in return.

Some statues have expressive eyes that are easy to gaze into. But if a deity statue is a solid—brass or stone—the eyes may lack emphasis. You can adorn your deity with cosmetics to emphasize the eyes. In fact, this can be part of your meditation/worship.

I use a liquid eye-liner to emphasize the eyes on my metal Kali statue, and a touch of red lipstick for shading on lips and brows. The face becomes intensely expressive and I benefit from the extra attention I have given my altar. It instantly feels personalized and intimate.

Breath deeply, ground and center, and gaze upon your altar. Are you able to have the darshan experience as it is now? Can you see your deity easily? Can you bring Him/Her close or yourself come close? Adjust the layout as needed.

Now study the deity and make sure you can truly find Her/His gaze. If the image is “just an image” to you, how can you adorn, emphasize, or adapt this image to make it feel more animated?

Now, breathing deeply and grounding again, light your candles and incense, hold your crystal, do whatever you do that says to you “I am at my altar.” And in that clear and focused state of mind, find your deity’s loving gaze. Perhaps there is a message for you, perhaps not. It is enough simply to breath at peace in this state, and feel the presence.

Sunday Meditation: Preparing a Mixed-use Altar

Last week, I talked a little about using an altar for meditation, and having a mixed-use prayer/meditation altar.

Creating this altar can itself be meditative. Before choosing each element, take a deep breath, still your thoughts, and allow yourself to focus fully on the task of creating this altar.

What are some practical considerations?

It should be in a location where it is physically accessible for you. I had an altar I knelt at, and I had to rearrange everything after my knee injury made kneeling inaccessible. It should also be in a location that is easy to keep clean.

Some people like austere, simple altars, and some like a huge array of sensory stimuli. These are personal choices. Be sure you have everything you need at hand. If you prefer an austere look, then a drawer or storage box is helpful. You’ll want candles, incense, incense holder, and matches. You may want crystals or stones or other meditation objects, a rosary, a book of prayers or meditations, and perhaps symbols of the four elements.

Because this is a prayer space, you will want an idol or representative of the deity to whom you pray. This may be a devotional altar to a specific deity, but because it is a mixed-use space, you should be able to move things around, to move your focus for that prayer or that meditation before you.

My altar

This is my prayer altar. You’ll notice right away I like the cluttered look. It is primarily a Kali altar, and you can see that She has central position, many symbols, and many things that belong to Her. But you’ll also see Bast represented (lower right)—I added Her when my cat went missing. There’s a tiny little spot of red in the lower left, which is actually Radha’s skirt; the “love” portion of my altar didn’t fit in the frame.

Thing is, when I’m focused on Bast or on love, I can move things around. If I need to pray to Shiva, I can bring Him forward. The black mirror that serves as a base to my altar pulls focus, so whatever I move on and off the mirror determines my meditation or prayer subject.

This altar is on my dresser. I can stand comfortably, and I can pull up a rocking chair. I have different types and colors of candles, and the red box that Shiva is on top of has additional supplies in it.

All this clutter tends to get dusty, but cleaning the altar is itself a meditation.