16 May, 14

One of the wonderful things about dancing to the beat of your own spiritual drum is that you can constantly change your dance.  You can change your practice, change your philosophy, even change your beliefs.  And one of the things I love best about my personal brand of Earth-based spirituality is that the way I understand the Divine is utterly fluid.

It’s not that I throw my beliefs around willy-nilly. Rather, the Divine is an incredibly complex concept, and the way I see it, there are many, many ways to understand it or approach it conceptually.

Goddess is existence

Goddess (or God, or God/dess) to me is the pure fact of existence.  She is the fact of being.  She is the unmanifest, the everything and nothing that the universe is born of and returns to.  In one sense, then, She is immutable.  She is what is static in Cosmos.

But She is also change.  And the very stuff of the universe is the product of her constant changing.

If I were a monotheist and believed in a transcendent Divine above and beyond the universe, then That Which Is Constant might be Goddess for me; and That Which Changes would be Her creation – the universe.  But as a pantheist, I feel that the matter of the universe is divine too.  And I believe that everything is one, so there is no divide between the constant aspect of Goddess and the changing one.

Is Goddess a thing, a being, a force?  Or is She a process?

I feel the divinity in the interconnectedness of everything.  And perhaps for me that interconnectedness is the Divine.

Goddess for me is not a personified deity.  She is not a conscious being.  She is not even something that is beyond or separate from me, or you, or anything.  Rather, she is something that runs through us all.  She is the way that we are all linked.  She is the relationship between all things.  She is the force of change and creativity.

But is She really a force in the way we traditionally understand it, or is she simply the process of Cosmos?  She is many things, many forces – the tendency of Cosmos to behave in particular ways.  She is the process of Cosmos.

So what is the Goddess process?

The Goddess process is the act of change itself.  Change is the energy of Cosmos.  If Cosmos were not changing, it would not be creative.  In fact, it is difficult to imagine how the universe could exist if it were static.  Static existence is empty, a void, the unmanifest.  It is the ultimate mystery.

Cosmos/Goddess changes because she is deeply connected.  She is connected to everything in Cosmos, because she is Cosmos.  And this relationship cannot happen without her changing, and without her changing it.

The Goddess process is the act of creation through change

What happens outside of change is a mystery to us.  The universe for me is change.  Goddess is both the existence that encompasses everything and the change that births the universe.

Cosmos encompasses the universe, but also includes anything that is beyond it.  So Cosmos may on some level be static.  But because it contains the universe, and the universe is part of it, it is also in constant change.

Goddess and Cosmos are to me somewhat synonymous.  But Cosmos is the matter, the fact – Goddess is the process, the creativity, the change.  The universe is part of Cosmos.  But the Goddess created the universe.

So on some level, I believe in a creator God.  But the way I got there is turned on its head.  Rather than deciding that there is a conscious being in charge of the universe who must have created it, I have decided to call that act of creation divinity itself.

14 May, 14

Death Tarot card for personal development

The Death Tarot card can be a starting point for personal development

Death does not halt for anyone.  This is true of physical death, but it is equally true of any of the other more minor endings we experience in our lives.  Every time you experience change, you experience death.  In a way, death is the ultimate change.  Change IS death – the ending of what was.

The Death Tarot card is a stark reminder that there are some things you cannot control.  No matter how carefully you plan or prepare, no matter how good or careful or healthy you are, sometimes your world will get turned upside down.

I do not understand death to be a thing or a state in and of itself.  I don’t believe in the traditional understanding of souls, or an afterlife.  For me, death is simply a change in form, a dissemination of your physical form and consciousness back into the whole.

Death is simply part of the life cycle, and not to be feared more than any other kind of transformation we experience.

Contemplating Death can help you grow

Many religions and philosophies and ways of life work to avoid death.  They promise us an afterlife, or distract us from this core truth of humanity.  Even religions or spiritual paths that are Earth-based or immanent often advocate belief in the continuation of consciousness.  Magical practices intimate control and the imposition of our will, and so offer a similar escape.

Feeling in control or as though our lives matter is certainly important to us.  But consider how you might balance this with the acknowledgement of the ebb and flow that moves us and changes us, that gives us our identities and strips it away again.

If you embrace death as the end of your current personality, your current existence takes on much more potency and significance.  Consider that the lack of a belief in an afterlife offers more meaning to your life, not less.

When you see your life as being finite, as being a great accidental gift of the universe, every moment can become precious.  Even if you do believe in incarnation or heaven, consider how your consciousness must change completely after death.  Even if there is an afterlife, will you still be you?  You won’t – not in the way you are now, anyway.

Make the most of now – embrace the inevitable change

This philosophy can be applied to day-to-day existence as much as it can to the whole span of your life.  If the inevitability of death makes your live your life more fully, then the inevitability of change should make you embrace each moment as it comes.

Even the terrible moments are to be cherished on some level – because they too shall pass.  The very fact of your pain is part of the gift of life and consciousness.  Take comfort in the fact that change will eventually take your pain away.  But try seeing it as being a sacred fleeting moment, all the more sacred for being something that will change you deeply and which you will not forget.

So when the Death card turns up, greet it with a smile.  Remember that life is short and sweet, and the momentary experiences of our lives even more so.  Accept change with grace, even when it hurts, and remember that without it, there would be no life as we know it.

09 May, 14

step outside your comfort zone

Step outside your spiritual comfort zone

The season of Beltane is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere.  In some places, in the month of May, we are now in summer. Whether or not you feel a change of energy at this time of year, it is happening!  The growing light and warmth allows us to be more energetic, to spend more time outside, and to rise early more easily in the morning.

If you practice a personal, solitary spirituality, the dark months of the year probably see you spending a lot of time in your sacred space.  We tend to do introspective work, and a lot of divination and work at our altars.  Reverence is quiet at this time.

The month of May has a double meaning.  In March, we started to “march” forward in the light.  In May, we “may” do anything.  It is the month of ultimate permission.  This is the time to let go of resistance and self-limitations.

Shake it up – make new spiritual habits

Step away from your altar this month – either literally or figuratively. Speaking literally: make your practice more active than passive.  Speaking figuratively: you can step away from your altar by changing up your practice.

Take your spirituality outside.  Rather than revering the divine at your altar, revere it (her/him/them) outside in the wild.  Visit the sacred places of the deities you work with, if you can.  If not, find a place that feels sacred to them.  Make it theirs.

Changing things in your practice might mean creating an altar or a sacred space if you don’t have one.  It might mean changing up your altar space or trying something new in ritual.  Take all the items off your altar and really think about what you put back on it.  If your practice is simple, try doing something more elaborate – or vice versa.

Embrace the newness of May

As the beginning of Summer, or the end of Spring, the month of May is a wonderful time for beginnings.  It’s a great time for creating new habits.  The rest of the summer is ahead of you – and particularly any new habits that require going outside will have ample time to be set in stone while the light and weather is more clement.

As well as embracing new practices, new deities, or new habits, this is a good time to act on anything you have been wanting to integrate into your practice.  Make a list of anything and everything that has caught your attention – from symbolism to meditation practices to specific deities.  Make a plan of action to start integrating these things into your practice.

May action reflected in nature

All of the Northern Hemisphere on Earth is fully awake and blooming at this time.  Here in Ireland, the trees are fully green, flowers are in full bloom, and birds and animals are highly active.  There is a sense of excitement and celebration.

This time of the year reflects for me the formation of our solar system and the Earth in the history of the universe.  The ground for creativity has been formed; we are ready to take the stage.  The Spring months were all about laying down the basics, getting the creative juices flowing.  But now in May things are fully formed and ready for action.

If we’re comparing the history of the universe from the big bang until now with the length of a whole year, this schedule does not quite match up.  According to Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar, the month of September would more accurately correspond with the formation of Earth.  But my correspondences speak in metaphorical and energetic terms, rather than purely time.

Remember the cycle of the year and the creative history of the universe as you strive to be more active this May.  Get outside, experience nature, and get inspired by the wealth and abundance of the season.

07 May, 14

Gaia is a convoluted goddess, because her name has come to refer to diverse figures and concepts.  As a Greek goddess, she played a central role in the Greek creation myth.  She was the Earth, but she was also a personified deity.  From her were birthed all of the original gods, the Titans.  Today, her name has been used synonymously with concepts of Mother Earth, and even the spectrum of scientific understandings of the Earth that we call the Gaia Hypothesis.

For a long time I used her name synonymously with Cosmos, but recently I’ve been tapping into her in what feels to me to be closer to her original Greek form.  In choosing Tarot cards for her I focused primarily on her as Mother Earth.

Tarot cards chosen

Major Arcana: The Empress

The Empress is Mother: she is the creatrix, a figure of nurture and abundance.  This card taps into Gaia as being literally a mother in the Greek mythology, as she gives birth to and nurtures the gods.  This card also brings together the elements of Earth and Water, both of which are hugely important to Gaia, as they are arguable the two main elements of Earth and life.

Major Arcana: The World

Gaia is literally the World in that she is literally the Earth.  But this card also taps into the expansiveness of Gaia.  She is primordial, the first thing that comes into existence after Chaos.  The World represents completion and fulfillment of potential, which is important in Gaia because of her role in empowering her oppressed children, the Titans.

Minor Arcana: Eight of Pentacles

Gaia’s stories are notably very Earthy.  There is nothing very ethereal about the Greek creation myth – it portrays creativity as an arduous task, fueled largely by bodily fluids.  The Eight of Pentacles reminds us of the hard work that needs to be done in order to create or change anything.

Court Card: Queen of Cups

The Queen of Cups reminds us of Gaia’s association with water.  The Earth’s surface is comprised of 70% water, and it is essential for life.  This Queen is nurturing, healing, and pours her love out to the world.  She is deeply connected, as is Gaia, and as is the Earth itself.

04 May, 14

As my meditation practice matures, I have been experimenting with different meditation techniques. Trying different meditation techniques will help you get your practice off the ground. If something isn’t working, tweak it. Even if it’s working, try something else and compare the experience. Just getting started is the best way to find your feet.

What does meditation feel like? What should you be aiming for?

I have been meditating fairly steadily for about a year. This practice was a little limited, and I wasn’t hugely committed to it. But when I started meditating seriously again a few weeks ago, I was experiencing some deep meditation sessions straight away. This is great, but I will note for anyone starting out: you will probably not experience this straight away. And that’s ok.

One of the main struggles you face when you’re new to meditation is that you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what it should feel like, or what you should be capable of. Meditation is a terribly difficult practice to describe. This used to frustrate me endlessly. No matter how many “how-to” books and articles I read, I still felt that something was being withheld, and that it wasn’t completely clear what I was supposed to be aiming for.

Meditation practice is something that happens in the mind, and so it’s very hard to describe clearly. If you have meditated before, you will have a clearer understanding of what is being described. But when you’re new, you don’t have that luxury.

But I have come to the conclusion that you don’t need to fully understand meditation to start. You don’t need to be sure of what you’re doing to experience the benefits of it, and improve the skill. If you sit, focus on something, and repeatedly draw your mind back every time it wanders – that’s meditation. Do it every day, and that’s a meditation practice.

What my meditation practice looks like

Previously, my practice consisted of ten minutes’ affirmation mantra in the morning, and ten–twenty minutes of meditation on silence in the evening. Initially, I added a thirty-minute meditation on the breath into the afternoon and continued with my other practices as before.

I have read repeatedly that two twenty-minute meditations a day is the optimum for serious beginners. So this week, I’m experimenting with something different:

  • A twenty-minute mantra meditation twice a day,
    • first thing in the morning,
    • and in the evening after work before dinner.
  • A ten-minute sacred silence meditation in the evenings. This is my equivalent of prayer.

I had previously meditated solely with my eyes open. Now, I do my mantra meditations with closed eyes. But I still do my ten minutes of sacred silence with my eyes open, using prayer beads for focus.

I do my meditation generally after yoga, outside if possible, or in front of an open window. Currently, I sit in a chair. But I am fairly comfortable in lotus and will be transitioning at some point soon.

Different meditation techniques and my experience

At some point, I came across a yoga meditation practice that uses the mantra I AM. I had never tried mantra meditation, and I wanted to see if it felt different to counting the breath.

It definitely does. The book I recommended last week – Eric Harrison’s Teach yourself to meditate – recommends trying different meditation techniques before settling on your go-to practice. I would definitely echo this. This is not just because each type of meditation will suit different people better, but because they feel qualitatively different.

Visualisation

When I started meditating seriously a year ago, I began with a visualisation practice. I would listen to a fifteen-minute forest soundtrack and visualise myself in the forest, often as a tree. At the time, this was much easier for me to maintain and focus on than breath meditation.

Breath meditation

Meditating on the breath feels more like “true” meditation. I find that my mind feels clearer during and after. But it’s definitely easier for the mind to wander. I have tried simply focusing on the breath itself, and I have tried counting it to five. Without counting, I find my “monkey mind” can get truly carried away!

Mantra meditation

Mantra meditation has felt the deepest for me. It seems that my analytical mind can become even more still. Eventually, I reach a point where I feel as though my body is asleep, but my mind is awake. The first time I tried the I AM mantra, I experienced the deepest and most blissful meditative state I ever have. Like the breath meditation, though, the mind wanders a bit.