An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five-month period. (800 word min.)
For almost the past year now, I’ve been working on finding a way to do some form of meditation or devotional in a way that both fits into my schedule without me forgetting about it, and that still carries some form of meaning. At the end of this essay I’ve included the outline of the different types of things I’ve tried over the past year, separated out by months.
When I started out trying to get a hang of the whole mental discipline “thing” I leaned toward what I think of traditional meditation and the techniques I learned in dialectical behavior therapy. That (DBT), at least, is something that I’ve had to practice and get fairly good at. I’m diagnosed bi-polar, and one of the stabilizing therapies that is used is DBT. It is like a skill set that we’re taught that helps to manage day-to-day life on a more stable and consistent basis. So, since it already had some elements of meditation it was a good starting point for me, and has remained a skill that use at least in part everyday. Breath-counting as a way to get in a calm mindset, as well as mind emptying techniques. The one that has worked best for me is to try to sit with a quiet mind. It’s like my mind is a clear blue sky, and I picture every thought that pops into my head as a cloud. I acknowledge the thought-cloud and I let it blow away in the breeze. It is a way to begin entering a calm, empty mind state without getting fixated on any one thought that will pop into your head, because, let’s face it, it is nearly impossible to think of literally nothing. So this mind emptying as a sort of starting point has worked well for me. It serves as a base for nearly every other form of mental discipline that I’ve tried.
With the base of just trying to quiet my mind and enter a state where I could try to focus my mediation to be more grounded in spirituality and religion I began trying some different things on top of that quiet mind. I was gifted a set of Hellenic prayer beads by Emerald. There are thirteen beads in all, one for each Olympian and one for Hestia. Included with the beads is a short litany with praise for Hestia (both first and last) and for each Olympian. It began as a good way to make connections with each of the Olympians and slowly developed into nighttime devotional (and for a few weeks both morning and night) that I would either do alone or with Thom (my fiancé). As Thom began getting more involved with these nighttime devotionals I toyed with idea of creating our own set of family prayer beads that honor our patrons, meaning it would be a mix of Hellenic and Celtic deities with the spice of a few other cultures thrown in. It’s not something I have done yet, but I still would like to, especially as we approach the child-rearing time in our lives and I would like to have family traditions that were can raise them in and pass on to them.
Near the beginning of this, while still learning about different techniques for meditation, mental discipline, and energy work I attended a few meditation classes that Irisa and Paul, from my Grove, were hosting. The things I really needed (and still need) work on that these classes started with were shielding and grounding. And while maybe these aren’t exactly meditation, like the quiet mind exercises, they form a good base for being able to move in to different forms of meditation. I enjoyed the classes, but after moving, both because they were during the week and due to gas prices, I was no longer able to make it up for the classes.
A big change for me this year is that it my first year of teaching and I’m working with high school students. Once school starting is was like a shock to system and to my sleep schedule. I had wanted to try morning devotionals, but always feeling rushed in the morning I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. I tried really hard those first few weeks to do a quick meditation to start each day, thinking it would help to ground me out and center me at the start of the day. Most of the time it just stressed me out because I felt like I was running late all the time. I couldn’t quiet my mind to even start since I was so worried about making sure my lunch was packed, I’d remembered to brush my hair and teeth, and that my lessons plans were in order for the day. There have been a great number of changes to this as the year has gone on to make some sort of morning devotional work with my schedule and still be meaningful.
I tried pulling an Oracle every morning. I found my quiet mind, prayed to Apollo, and then pulled a disk. I would write it down, interpret it as best I could, and then use it message to guide my day. This worked really well at first because I was just starting to work with the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and so it both helped me begin learning them and gave my day a thought to focus it. However, with this method, I still ran into the time crunch issue. I slowly moved away from doing this in the morning because I was just pulling a disk, writing down the name, but then having to run out the door and I wouldn’t get around to interpreting it. I moved it to the evening, but by that time, the purpose I’d had for pulling it (as daily guidance) wasn’t as meaningful, because the day was already mostly over. So this attempt at a daily devotion phased out.
As we had recently moved, right around when school was starting was when we began unpacking boxes in earnest. I began slowly building my altar downstairs in the living room. It had always been in my bedroom before. Moving it into the living room helped with the brief morning meditation a little bit. Because I was already downstairs getting ready for school, I was able to actually spend a few moments at my altar each morning before leaving. This is something that, at least in part, has continued to be a part of my morning routine. I greet the Gods in the morning, sometimes lighting a candle (I stopped doing this because I would forget to blow it out), and making a small morning offering. It is brief enough, and takes place where I already am, that I have been able to keep up with my “morning greeting.”
The other form of morning greeting that I got in the habit of doing around November is what I like to call “car devotionals.” I have a 30-minute drive to work directly east that is almost always completely uneventful. The reason I began this type of morning prayer was because at that time of the year I got to see the sunrise every morning, driving directly into it. I was inspired to just speak directly from the heart about what I feeling and seeing. Bright and Beautiful Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, is who I most often call on those morning drives, but there have been many gods who have given me words for them. These car devotionals have been absolutely constant. Even now when I no longer see the sunrise every morning, I’m in the habit of delivering some words every morning to the gods, and so I’ve been able to keep up with it. That 30-minute drive, without the radio, is my time in the morning to calm, center, find guidance for the day, and offer praise to the deities of my heart.
The deep of winter is actually when I had the most trouble with mental discipline. The obstacles I struggled with the most were not being home/travelling, and an overwhelming depression simply from the cold and the dark. The prayer beads helped with the being away from home factor, as I was able to take them with very easily. The depression was a lot harder to deal with. I didn’t want to do anything, not eat, not go to work, not go to activities or hang out with friends. The thought of sinking further into my own head when meditating scared me, quite frankly. This is when I began experimenting with active meditation. The idea of being able to keep my body busy so that my mind could free up a little bit. Over the winter I had good success with needlepoint and sewing in general. Cross-stitching was what I tried first, but that didn’t work very well because it required too much concentration or I would lose count of my stitches. However, when I started working on backing and quilting a quilt I was working on, that’s when I found I was able to actively meditate. My hands were busy, so my mind was free to wander. Because my body was occupied doing something I wasn’t scared of losing myself in my head.
As spring finally began rolling around the winter depression and general down feelings ebbed, but I continued with the active meditation, but now taking a more, well, active form. I do karate and so I began trying active meditation with my kata (forms) and while working out. I was very helpful, very freeing. This occupied my body even more fully and so I was able to let my mind explore even more. As the weather gets even warmer, I’ve found that gardening also functions as a very good active meditation for me.
So, over the past year I’ve developed a good base for meditation and mental discipline through the quiet mind exercises. I would still like to work more on the grounding and shielding so that I can perhaps step up the meditation to some trance work. But until I’m comfortable with letting my mind escape and until I ground properly, I won’t be trying that on my own. I plan to continue trying different things. I have a few methods, such as the car devotionals and active meditation, that have remained constantly useful during this time, and plan to continue using them until they no longer seem to work.
-breath meditation (counting breaths, controlled breathing)
-quieting the mind with DBT techniques
-Hellenic prayer beads morning & night
-envisioning light and color shielding
-experience with vicodin and being an amoeba
-Hellenic prayer beads morning and night
-Oracle pull a day
-start of school, morning devotionals
-building altar downstairs
-Hellenic prayer beads night
-Oracle pull a day
-morning devotionals turn into car devotionals
-Hestia flame in morning
-Hellenic prayer beads night, thinking of making new combined set to include Celtic/Norse for Thom
-Hellenic prayer beads night
-struggling with not being at home for devotionals
-“active” meditation – sewing/needlepoint
-struggling with schedule & depression
-mind quieting & breathing
-more altar visits (unscheduled)
-still struggling w/ schedule & winter darkness
-active meditation – kata
-active meditation – kata, gardening
-active meditation – kata, gardening