6: Meditation/Mental Discipline Essay
Meditation has never come easy to me. I have always been a bit of a hyper person and I’ve struggled with maintaining regular breathing in Yoga and even in childbirth with my son. I have always had an issue with “calming down” and finding deep ways to maintain focus. The Dedicant Path focus on mental discipline and meditation was one of the requirements I feared I may not be able to complete. I would try my best, but I did not have high hopes.
When I started the Dedicant path in January 2016 I decided to try listening to audio recordings of the Two Power meditation and while I enjoyed the words, I did not have any real meaningful experience in the beginning and found my thoughts wander around to anything else. I tried putting in earphones to help drown out distractions, but it still did not always help a whole lot. Those first few weeks from January 6th to around February 1st I tried and tried to just use the Two Powers meditation to orient myself with it. Finally as I entered into week 4, I started visualizing the meditation as a circuit and feeling “cold” and “warm” travel through my body. It was a surreal experience and when I first “snapped out of it” and realized that I had removed myself from all outside distractions for the first time. I was really proud of myself.
The Two Powers meditation started being something I would do weekly, listening to a recorded version, using headphones, sometimes at home and other times at school. The week of February 22nd I found that I could remove myself much easier when sitting in a quiet area at school than I could in my own home. After a while of listening to the same audio meditation over and over I grew bored, and knew I needed to find new ways to meditate.
From the beginning of March until well into April, I began to flounder with meditation again for a while. I was so hung up on how to do a meditation “right” and worried I was doing something wrong because I simply couldn’t focus anymore. I tried an audio-guided trance meditation on March 23rd with good intentions but then laughed at some of the wording the recording artist had used and realized I had ruined the meditation for myself.
I had this idea of “failing” a meditation that I couldn’t move past and I struggled for several weeks. I would get mad at myself and went back to my old ways of thinking “I just can’t meditate.” ( I actually wrote those words on two entries in March, on the 20th and 29th!) On April 14th I asked my husband for help as he had just went to a Meditation Retreat and he had came back with some amazing ideas.
He suggested that I try different ways to meditate than simply sitting in a room and listening to an audio recording. I was introduced to the idea of meditation by physical movement, by repetitive processes, by using senses other than just auditory.
The week of April 25th, I began to try running and meditating. I removed my headphones and set out to run knowing I would be able to focus on my breath. When I run I always go to a sort of “trance-like” place anyway, so why not try meditating during it? As I ran past the city and trees in the park I opened my mind and felt a pounding connection with the earth each time my foot hit the pavement. I felt the earth shake; I felt roots from my feet go deep into the earth. I felt the sun’s daylight above me shining down one me urging me to keep going. I felt the same sort of connection I had with the Two Powers meditation simply by being outside and running. My heart raced, I truly felt like an energized circuit and I realized that physical meditation is something that comes to me quite easily. At the end of my run, not only did I feel proud of the physical exercise (like I generally do), but I felt spiritually energized and rejuvenated too. My meditation had reset my day and given me a new perspective.
I continued to run and meditate several days a week into May. Some days I would repeat a mantra to a deity and visualize them in front of me, or running beside me. On May 30th I decided to try meditating on a virtue and go to a place where I could let my thoughts flow freely. It worked really well and I cycled through the virtues while I ran twice a week into June.
This new form of meditation caused me to consider other methods as well. Repetition became another meditation tool that I began to use. On June 23rd I tried to draw not knowing what I was intending to create, I just opened my mind to whatever my pen wanted to draw. I drew some of the most amazing artworks while my thoughts moved from one deity to the next, one virtue to the next, one element of my spirituality to another.
On July 2nd I noted that I was practicing focused meditation at least 3 days a week and I had been writing down my experiences, thoughts, and collecting my drawings into a journal that was filling up rapidly. I revisited the Two Powers meditation that week and found a new connection to it again because I wasn’t so convinced that “just couldn’t meditate.” I tried trance meditations again on July 21st and realized just how powerful they could be for journey work. Once I found some meditation tools that worked for me easily, I began to know what sort of spiritual and emotional space I needed to be in to meditate in ways I had “failed” before.
A very important meditation moment for myself was on May 17th when I was standing at the Vista House in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. From the top of a cliff you can look down at the Columbia River as far as the eye can see before being obstructed by trees. It was sunset and the sky was a salmon pink color. It was breathtaking and I was there to take photos for Columbia Grove’s website. I put all other things aside (mentally and physically) and took a moment to meditate in that environment. The gorgeous view, the smells of the gorge, the breeze blowing across my skin, the sound of the trees near me creaking; I took it all in. I saw a vision of a woman walking up to her waist through the water. She had on a salmon colored dress, like the sunset, and her fingertips were dancing on the water as fish swam around them. She had darker skin, like the indigenous peoples of our area and she had a long feather in her hair. As soon as I saw her, I knew her to be the Goddess Columbia, our grove’s goddess of sovereignty. It was a short meditation but it felt like I watched her for a much longer time. On the way home I kept that image of her in my mind and upon getting home I brought out my pens and began drawing her. The image I drew is now our Grove’s logo. I am a woman who never thought she could meditate, and now my grove uses a piece of artwork that came to me through a meditation, this is a very big deal to me.
This journey of building mental discipline and practicing regular meditation has helped in many areas of my life. It has helped me slow down, quiet my mind, and pay attention to details more. It has helped me “feel” more clearly with all of my senses and it has deepened my spiritual relationship to the Kindred because I have taken the time to open myself up to them.