Saturday, December 27, 2008

Druidic Mystical Practice- Open Meditation

In the course of devising this big outline for a nine-month program of Druidic magico-religious work, I am forced to revisit the basics of meditation training and trance yet again. Despite some efforts on my part, I consider the present ADF Dedicant training in trance and meditation to be barely adequate to get started - I feel a need to require remedial practice at the start of the next level.

I especially intend to require the work of 'silent' meditation, or Open Meditation as I am calling it this week. There has been plenty written about this technique, including by me, but I want to emphasize it in the opening steps of the work. So I've written this little homily and encouragement, and I'll append the basic method and a simple ritual setting for it.

Training the Mind for Druidry – part 1: Open Meditation
In the course of working with students I find a continuing resistance to the systematic practice of basic Open Meditation. By this term I mean the practice of concentrating attention on a single object, such as the breath, while allowing other thought and sensation to flow by the attention without attachment. This technique is basic to further trance and even to ritual work and should be a common part of any program of mental practice. Beginning students, however, do find reasons to balk.
Some seem to find the business of sitting motionless, pursuing nothing except mental activity, to be chafing. To this the only answer can be that any new skill has its basic methods, and most of them involve some inconvenience in early phases. Whether stretching the hands for the piano or lying face down for push-ups, discomfort is often part of learning. So we can only tell students that the results will justify the work of learning to sit motionless. Fortunately for these students a practicing Druid spends rather more time in the trances associated with ritual, than in motionless trance.
Some students mistake this practice for the attempt to ‘stop thinking’. In some of the world’s mystical systems this does seem to be a goal, with great value placed on finding and enhancing the silence between thoughts. Druidic lore doesn’t suggest that the finding of motionless silence is, in itself, a core goal. It seems to occur spontaneously in some students, but it isn’t central to the work.
Rather the point of this method for the system we’re building is the development of a detached observer in the self – a point of observation for all that passes, within or without. The student learns to maintain her equanimity – engage her passions at need and to step away when she must. The work of Pagan spiritual practice can arouse the passions, can stir up ones mental contents. The ability to stand in a place of neutrality and peace offers a special strength in the work of magic, whether it’s dealing with one’s emotions, or facing the Gods.
It is common to confuse basic trance with the work of Open Meditation. They are, in fact, closely related, but there is an important distinction. Basic trance is the primary mental preparation, induced by relaxing the body, focusing the attention and suspending critical observation (or ‘attachment’ as some say). We have taught this state through the Fire and Water induction, and the Bone, Breath and Blood exercise. Either of those exercises, among many other similar forms, produces the focused poise that leads to other trance states.
Open Meditation can be understood as an extension of that poise into a longer experience sustained by will. By directing the concentration upon a single focus – watching the breath being our most usual method – we locate the still point. As our thoughts and impressions flow around us, we keep returning our awareness to the focus as we sit in stillness. By sustaining the relaxation, concentration and detachment of basic trance we allow the mind and emotions to relax in turn, releasing the ‘knots and kinks’ of daily life.
Open meditation is an excellent accompaniment to the regular work of ritual purification. The Water and Fire clear away the spiritual cobwebs and parasites of daily spiritual life in the world. Open meditation deprives your personal inner imps and larvae of their food and weakens their grip.
So we begin the formal work of mental training by learning to abide calmly among our own thoughts and feelings. If no other good were gained from the work of Druidry, the ability to stand at peace amid the swirl of life’s impulses would pay for all. In order to work the system I’m presenting here the student will have to simply choose to set to it, and develop the basic skills that support all further work. We will refer often to the ‘Druid’s Peace” in this work – by this we mean that steady and unmoved center. In addition to this Peace, we will learn a set of active meditations, but the Peace is the basis of them all, because the Peace grants access to the management of the mind by will.
Open meditation is as basic to mental training as aerobic exercise is to training the body. Some students will take to it readily, others may find it more difficult. Its value and results speak for themselves and to neglect it in early training is to deprive yourself of future resources.

Working Open Meditation
First Stage:
• First find your seat, in a position that can be comfortably maintained with your spine straight.
• Begin patterned breathing. Work the Blood, Breath and Bone induction.
• If you wish to work a simple shrine opening, do so now. Practice maintaining basic trance as you speak and do the ritual gestures. Return to motionless basic trance following the work.
Second Stage:
• Choose a point of focus for your concentration. Initially you should continue to use the breath.
• With your attention focused simply sit and maintain that focus. You choose not to give attention to any specific thought that arises, whether about the object of concentration or any other thing. Each time that you notice a thought or specific impression holding your attention, return your attention to the focus. That is the entire basic technique. Like raising an arm or taking a step it is the act of will that brings the attention back to the focus.
• As you practice you will begin to notice more quickly when you have drifted, and be able to hold your concentration on the focus for longer without breaks. This is the first level of success in this practice.
• Always end the session of meditation formally, with the recitation of a closing charm and/or other formal gesture.

Stage 1: Simple Shrine Blessing and Open Meditation.This first section can always serve as a fall-back, or minimum practice. It can be done daily, even as you add additional work during retreats or more focused workings.
The Druid seats himself in her seat, facing east if possible. If there can be hallowed Fire and Water, so much the better. The body should be kept balanced and alert, while relaxed.
Begin your breathing pattern. Find your peace, perhaps using the Bone, Breath and Blood method.

Bless the Water and Fire, as you say:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, Below and on High,
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.

When you are ready, dip your hand in the Water and sprinkle or lave yourself, then pass your hands through the incense or Fire and bring it onto yourself, as you say:

By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky

As you cleanse and bless yourself, feel the Water and Fire washing and searing away all that’s not in your true pattern of being.
Light an additional offering of incense, and open your heart in welcome to all the Holy Beings. Say:

Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea
By Fire and Well, by Sacred Tree
Welcome I do give to ye.

At this time you may wish to pause in open meditation for as long as you wish. In daily practice it can be enough to do the simple cleansing, followed by open meditation.
When your meditative practice is complete, take time to return your awareness fully and completely to your body and material senses. Even as you remember what you may have gained or learned in a working, allow your awareness to return to common life and breath. Before you rise from your seat pause for a mement and return to your center in peace. Cross your hands on your chest and say:

The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.

on to pt 2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This post has inspired me to try my best to get back into a daily practice of meditating. I did the 5 months for my DP, but then I just... fell out of the habit. Thanks for giving me a nudge.