Archive for the ‘earth spirituality’ Category

Samhain/Samhuinn 2019   Leave a comment

Ah, here we are, two weeks out from Samhain, Summer’s End, Samhuinn, All Hallows Eve. (And for those in our sibling hemisphere, Beltane approaches.)

And here for your delectation is an excellent 8-minute clip of Scotland’s Beltane Fire Society’s 2017 celebration of Samhuinn:

With it you can experience a taste of the whole event, different each year: celebration, and mystery.

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Hallowe’en, we often forget, is a hallowed evening, a sacred time, however we may treat it today. (The sacred doesn’t just vanish when we ignore it. It jabs us in our most tender spots instead, until we wake up again and pay attention. Exhibit A: Almost every headline you can find today.)

I wrote in 2017 (around the summer solstice) that

the sacred is a celebration. Cultures throughout human history set aside days and places to witness and commemorate seedtime and harvest, greatest light and deepest dark. The solstices and equinoxes are human events as much as astronomical ones, and predate any written scripture by thousands of years. We likewise mark births and deaths, and we make vows and promises to uphold our marriages, friendships, communities and nations.

Moses (ever tried a desert solstice celebration?!) gets to say it in Deuteronomy 30, that what we seek

isn’t too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It’s not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who’ll ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who’ll cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may do it?” No, the word is very near you; it’s in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Oh, hear talk of “obeying” and perhaps you resist. I know I often do. Too many times we’ve been ruinously misled by over-trust and heedless obedience. (Republican or Democrat, or whatever the party platform, it hasn’t let up yet.)

As author Peter Beagle describes it, “We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers—thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams” (“Introduction”, The Tolkien Reader). What we can rightly “obey” shares an affinity with dream. It’s what resounds in us most deeply, if we turn off the jangle of the other voices. Rightly, if not always safely. The sacred is no more “safe” than love is. Both can lead very far from where we thought our lives would go. But the “wrong” voices? What is mass culture but a form of consciously-accepted schizophrenia, if we end up listening to every voice except the first one, the original?

For any authority the sacred wields is not a “command” so much as the first law of our being. To “disobey” it, or attempt to deny or ignore the sacred, is like trying to live outside our own skins. A human without the sacred is exactly that — something eviscerated, no longer alive. We use the sacred itself when we deny it — we employ energies on loan to us even as we refuse them or cast them aside. What else will we do with them?

May our doing, our discovery, our celebration, take us ever deeper to the sacred heart of things.

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A Note on Magical and Musical Fire   Leave a comment

In this post I’d like to touch briefly on a couple of magical and musical principles — the two things often overlap, if you’re paying attention. This is to some extent a Druid-Christian post, so some of you may want to spend time doing other things, if that flavor of Druidry — or Christianity — doesn’t work for you. (For instance, the video here drives my wife absolutely up the wall.)

Below is a 5-minute video of a catchy Christian worship song, “Everything Comes Alive”, from Toronto-based “Catch the Fire” [Wikipedia entry | official website], a non-denominational Charismatic movement. It’s part of an album compiled from a 2016 Revival. Recently it was posted to a Christian Druidry Facebook group, where it garnered likes, but — last I checked — no comments. I’d like to do some thinking out loud with and around it, to make some observations, and hope they will be useful to readers.

First, the video, featuring vocalist Alice Clarke, one of the movement’s worship leaders:

The song clocks in at 120 beats/minute — a tempo that’s splendid for inducing trance — and the Wikipedia entry on trance is particularly detailed and useful, whatever your orientation and interest, and deserves a careful reading, rather than me trying to paraphrase it here. And a look at the gathered worshipers shows many of them well on their way into trance as the song progresses, with its repeating choruses and singable lyrics and melody.

A subsection on general brain activity is revealing — rather than an either-or state, trance is a matter of degree and proportion among the four kinds of brainwaves:

There are four principal brainwave states that range from high-amplitude, low-frequency delta to low-amplitude, high-frequency beta. These states range from deep dreamless sleep to a state of high arousal. These four brainwave states are common throughout humans. All levels of brainwaves exist in everyone at all times, even though one is foregrounded depending on the activity level. When a person is in an aroused state and exhibiting a beta brainwave pattern, their brain also exhibits a component of alpha, theta and delta, even though only a trace may be present.

Music, not to belabor the point, is one of the most widespread and also acceptable ways of changing consciousness. It’s also among the safest. (How many of us “zone out” to a favorite song?!) Of interest is the attention that Catch The Fire pays to quality musicianship — whatever your musical tastes, the keyboardist is skilled, and Clarke has an appealing, ethereal voice. They clearly understand its value and power as a prime expression of spirituality. Or to put things in terms of the article on brain activity, “What am I foregrounding today — or right now?”

Though many Christians might take issue with calling their form of worship a magical act, it fits the definitions and standards quite nicely. Much of the difference between denominational Christianity and Druidry in their musical choices depends on past practices, local influences and expectation, much less on the effect of the music on consciousness. From meditative reflection to transitional interlude to invoking the Spirit, the awen, the Muse, the gods, the Presence, “music magics the moment”.

As I note on my page on Magic:

[E]ach day we all experience many differing states of consciousness, moving from deep sleep to REM sleep to dream to waking, to daydream, to focused awareness and back again.  We make these transitions naturally and usually effortlessly — so effortlessly we usually do not notice or comment on them. But they serve different purposes: what we cannot do in one state, we can often do easily in another.  The flying dream is not the focus on making a hole in one, nor is it the light trance of daydream, nor the careful math calculation. And further, what we ordinarily do quite mechanically and often without awareness, we can learn to do consciously.

As we ponder how to effect the changes in our consciousness and lived experience that we desire (“that we need, that we can do, that needs to be done”), it pays to employ such readily available means as music. Within everyone’s reach is music in some form, either recorded, live from acknowledged performers, or made on the spot by ourselves. We can chant, play a recorder or whistle, find a percussion instrument among pails and cans, create a rattle from pebbles and resonant container of many shapes and sizes, and include such things in our spiritual practice, whether daily, or on special ritual occasions. (I have a small singing bowl I ring as I enter my backyard grove.)

Music draws beneficent energies to us, in our own consciousness, and from other beings around us.

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Urgent Druidry: A Triad   2 comments

Three things to work for: what I need, what I can do, what needs to be done.

(Adjust as needed to fit your path — that may be one of things that you need, that you can do, that needs to be done.)

You could think of these three as three concentric circles. The smallest? What I need. Though it may consume my waking hours (even hound me in dreams), it’s still small. However large my need feels, it’s also smaller than what I can do — the next circle. My need is smaller than my life. And even that circle of what I can do, of my living today, lies enclosed in what needs to be done, the largest, outermost circle. Fortunately, I’m not the only one working on what needs to be done. Most of that largest outer circle we will tackle together.

How do I know this? Because that’s what we all already do every day. And by “we” I mean humans, spirits, birds, beasts, bugs, beeches, and everything else known and unknown. We’re in this together. The noise that passes for news, for much of social media, for political fear-mongering, is a very small part of our Great Doing. Meanwhile, sun and moon are faithful. (If the sun and moon should doubt, they’d immediately go out, sings William Blake.) If there’s one thing our ancestors have to teach us, it’s survival. We’re here because of them. We’re a remarkable part of their Doing, a testimony, a witness, an arrow of hope shot into the sky, a carrier pigeon winging a prayer towards whatever god is listening.

colcon

And an equally “urgent” corollary to the Triad: I can work toward all three of its elements. While need may appear to stand between me and my next step, I can still work toward, with and (if need be!) around that need. And part of that is discerning whether it’s a need or a want. What economies can I practice, in the old sense of the word — laws (nomos) of the household (oikos) — Greek oikonom-ia, Latin (o)economia?

And such economies are indeed plural, for we all juggle several of them, balancing them against each other, splurging in some places, paring back in others. My wife and I make do with one car, but it’s showing its age at over 350,000 miles (560,000 km), now eating upwards of a quart of oil a week — we know we’ll need to replace it within the year. But doing at least some shopping online cuts back on driving, often enough, to more than one store just to find what we need, so keeping our home internet connection — at first glance a luxury we could sidestep by going to local libraries with free wifi and computers — turns out to pay for itself in gas and time saved.  Come winter, we need to add clearing the driveway with a snowblower, with its own diet of gas and oil. (That itself was an economy — the cost of hiring a neighbor with a snowplow for a single season pays for a snowblower.)

Such relative economies differ for each household and nation. What appears a clear indulgence to one may be a clear necessity to another. A car is nearly a necessity in the States, as absurd as that may sound to much of the planet that gets along fine without one. No car, no phone, and you don’t stand much of chance even to qualify for 80% of the jobs available.

Life, I keep learning (the gods keep teaching), is never OSFA — one size fits all. We find a balance as we can. And this isn’t just a gluttonous West vs. struggling Third World: if my wife and I had remained in Japan, we’d never have needed a car — the train system is that good. Economies are still local, despite the global economy we keep hearing about.

And these are just physical needs. So often my physical life stands in for what’s happening with me spiritually — the physical is indeed a metaphor for the spiritual, a ready barometer, especially when I’m not connecting with the divine cleanly enough to hear its guidance in any other way. Assuming this is a random universe is not only supremely boring, it’s way more fun to see how spirit can reach somebody even as thick as I can be, and through the most “mundane” circumstances. That pesky stomach bug, the delay in traffic, the unexpected medical invoice for what insurance doesn’t cover, the collapse of carefully-laid plans for Saturday’s outing to see the autumn leaves — all are my teachers, if I haven’t checked in lately with spirit. My daily life drags me kicking and screaming to the altar, if I don’t (won’t) walk there on my own. It’s quite simple, really, whispers spirit. Offer flowers, or blood.

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The Instructions of King Cormac   2 comments

cormacThe Instructions of Cormac, the Irish Teagasca, comprises a guide for rulers, and more specifically, according to legend, the collected wisdom that King Cormac of Ireland leaves for his son and heir Cairbry. You can find several versions online (here, and at Ancient Texts here). Cormac’s reign is variously dated somewhere in the period between the 2nd and the 4th centuries CE.

People ask from time to time where Druidry, or the larger Pagan world, finds any kind of moral code or ethical guidance, as if, apart from a divinely inspired holy book, there can be no form of wisdom or morality worth the knowing. But in fact most cultures generate such traditions of wisdom and upright interactions among people — that’s how any group manages to survive and thrive. We forget that virtue, rather than some artificial standard that mysterious “others” devise, is simply what emanates from the actions and character of any person who is a vir — a complete, fulfilled human being. Is the ideal often a challenge to achieve? Sure. What’s the point of a cheap ideal?

What qualities, then, should a good leader — in this case, a king — exhibit? How can we recognize a great ruler? Making allowances for a millennium and half of cultural change and distance, The Instructions as one source of guidance hold up well:

Let him (the king) restrain the great,
Let him exalt the good,
Let him establish peace,
Let him plant law,
Let him protect the just,
Let him bind the unjust,
Let his warriors be many and his counselors few,
Let him shine in company and be the sun of the mead-hall,
Let him punish with a full fine wrong done knowingly,
and with a half-fine wrong done in ignorance.

Moving beyond just the ruler, what should the whole tribe aspire to?

“To have frequent assemblies,
To be ever inquiring, to question the wise men,
To keep order in assemblies,
To follow ancient lore,
Not to crush the miserable,
To keep faith in treaties,
To consolidate kinship,
Fighting-men not to be arrogant,
To keep contracts faithfully,
To guard the frontiers against every ill.”

Likewise, what qualities can we recognize in one who fails the test, who can offer nothing more than contention and dispute?

“O Cormac, grandson of Conn”, said Cairbry, “What is the worst pleading and arguing?”
“Not hard to tell”, said Cormac.
“Contending against knowledge,
contending without proofs,
taking refuge in bad language,
a stiff delivery,
a muttering speech,
hair-splitting,
uncertain proofs,
despising books,
turning against custom,
shifting one’s pleading,
inciting the mob,
blowing one’s own trumpet,
shouting at the top of one’s voice”.

Or as J. R. R. Tolkien has his characters say in The Two Towers:

“Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’
‘As he has ever judged’, said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house’.”

Part of our trouble today is our discomfort at such quaint old words and ideas as good and evil. Political Correctness, so quick to arm the supposedly Woke to call out and cancel those who offend against its strictures, seems curiously powerless to address the larger problem of outright wickedness in each of us. (Pagan communities struggle with evil in their midst as much as anyone.)

Political Correctness too often turns out to be just another fundamentalism, as if we don’t have enough of them already. If we heed the wise words of the Galilean master, we need to cast out the beams and tree trunks from our own eyes and hearts and minds, before we pluck the slivers from others. Otherwise, it’s all just trees, but no forest. There’s no overview or clear vision of how to proceed.

So I apply these standards first to myself, then to those in, and running for, office — because they have made bold to set themselves up as a standard for others, and as people qualified to lead. If you also choose to apply a standard first to yourself, and then to others, may you come at length to lay aside shallow partisanship for a deeper, wider, wiser view.

This is the principal reason why this blog rarely addresses the hot political topics of the day: I have more than enough to do each day to discern where I need to work on myself. Those with greater virtue than I possess can turn to reforming others. In fact, be my guest!

Because what I realize I want is spiritual freedom, and no one and nothing else can give that to me — not a party, nor a politician, a policy, a partner, a profession, or a privilege. I have to earn such freedom myself, like we all do. The road is long. Few people gain such freedom without some kind of spiritual practice. That’s one of the few things I’ve learned that I can confidently pass along, and I try to do so on this blog.

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Image: Amazon: Andrew Offutt/Cormac Macart.

Miscellanea, September 2019   2 comments

1) I’m working my way through Caitlin and John Matthews‘ recent (2019) The Lost Book of the Grail: The Sevenfold Path of the Grail and the Restoration of the Faery Accord. When I’m finished I’ll post a review here.

Perceval_à_la_recluserie

Perceval à la Recluserie/Perceval at the Hermitage, XV century. Wikipedia/public domain

The “lost book” of the title is 484 lines of Old French verse from the 1200s called “The Elucidation”, which has been mostly ignored by scholars, though it serves as prologue to the works of Chrétien de Troyes , the French trouvere or troubador who can be fairly said to have launched the Arthurian tradition. Caitlin Matthews and Gareth Knight include their new joint translation of “The Elucidation” in this book.

2) Pillbug, Part 9427

This section isn’t important. You’ve got better things to do. The content has been generated from statistics caused by a wormhole in social media. OK — you’ve been warned.

Why does a post from March 2017 that’s still received no likes in the more than two and half years since it was posted show a 5-month increase in readership? (Yes, I know such things are circular — some of you will now read it merely because I mention it here. I’m trying to minimize that source of views by making you look via the Search box if you really want to read it.)

Here’s one snapshot of the stats for the post that WordPress supplies to the numbers-obsessed:
Created with GIMP

I conclude one or more the following:

+ The post conceals a vital hidden meaning, or cosmic code, that I myself don’t recognize, but that perceptive readers have detected and are studying scrupulously.

+ The post has become a loathsome example of clickbait and you’re just pranking your friends to get them to visit it, laughing maniacally when another feedback loop like this post confirms your success.

+ You’re deeply bored.

3) Like many of you, I distinctly felt the shift around the Autumn Equinox as we continue to enter more fully into the dark half of the year (the bright half for everyone down under). Now is a time of turning inward and attending to rebalancing, harvest, composting, integration and dreaming. (Or renewal, seeding and taking root, augmenting, blossoming and vision.)

I work with an aging hospice patient who’s dedicated his professional life as a doctor and medical researcher to exploring, understanding and addressing the effects of the shifts in the earth’s magnetic field, daily, monthly and seasonally, on the seasonally-sensitive among us. And that includes a wide number of us, when we assemble changing energy levels, seasonal-affectivity and other mood disorders, people sensitive to electrical storms, neuro-degenerative illness, alcoholism, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, certain cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, residence at high latitudes, etc. One particular prescription he offers is to engage with “the meander” in all its forms: walking labyrinths, doing sacred pilgrimages, and attending to balanced meditative physical rhythms of many kinds (tai chi, etc.) to reset our internal harmonics.

4) Tarot reading this morning: hierophant (5), high priestess (2), moon (18). In the dark of the moon today, with a new moon this evening for the eastern U.S., that feels worth my attention on our sacred identities as mediators of holy energies, and the moon beginning a new cycle.

5) “Patience”, says my lectio divina for today, my holy devotions, “is the greatest discipline along the spiritual journey. By patience you can endure hardships, karmic burdens, slander, the pricks of disease and pain. Keep your focus on the goal, returning every time you swerve away”.

6) Some of my Pagan friends on social media have expressed deep delight in this over-the-top column from 26 Sept. 2019 in The Federalist, a strongly right-leaning publication. Headed by a close-up pic of climate activist Greta Thunberg, the article opens, “Climate Worship Is Nothing More Than Rebranded Paganism. We’re seeing sexualized dances, hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, all to promote a supposedly greater cause”.

“Where do I sign up?” wrote one of my friends.

“Ah, I’m finally starting to remember the Sixties!” wrote another.

“Aw, sh*t! I’ve been doing it wrong!” exclaimed a third.

7) In his poem “The Spoils of Annwfn” Taliesin writes:

Apart from seven, none came back up from Caer Siddi [an Underworld fortress].
I am one who is splendid in (making) fame: the song was heard
In the four-turreted fort, fully revolving.
It was concerning the cauldron that my first utterance was spoken:
It [i.e. the cauldron] was kindled by the breath of nine maidens.
The cauldron of the Chieftain of Annwfn: what is its faculty?
— Dark (ornament) and pearls around its rim–

One of several translators of the poem for a book published a little over a century ago observed that it is “one of the least intelligible of the mythological poems” (Charles Squire, “The Mythology of the British Islands”. London, 1905).

But sometimes ya just gotta run with what comes. I can always work it out later. Meanwhile, why strive to interrupt the awen as it flows, issuing from the Deep (one of the meanings of Annwfn) within us?

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Gods for the Ungodded — and Vice-versa   Leave a comment

With the pervasive influence of belief-religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism on many of the readers of this blog, we tend to think of the dividing line between “who’s in” and “who’s out” as something marked by beliefwhen there are numerous other options available. It’s not just “paper or plastic?” There’s canvas bags, and boxes, and carry-it-out-in-my-hands-without-any-container-needed-thank-you, to name a few. And if we look over some of the terms available to describe this range of approaches and objects of our attention and intention — terms like atheist — they often bring way too many non-useful associations with them. Often atheist really isn’t a particularly useful term for many who just don’t bother with deity, as deity has never bothered with them. Hence the term ungodded in the title of this post, an awkward attempt to get at this phenomenon.

After all, orthodox Hindus aren’t normally labelled a-carnists, non-meat-eaters, though most are vegetarian. It’s simply their default setting. If I’ve never paid any particular attention to deity at all, I’m not so much an atheist as an alter-cosmist — I live in a different cosmos, where the question doesn’t arise, or hasn’t done so recently. At least until the door-to-door folks come calling with their pocket sermons and their flyers and leaflets and their “either you’re in or you’re out”-trips. Binarists, every one of ’em, devotees of a binary black-white, either-or world that ignores an immense and uncharted middle ground. Worshipers of Binaria, goddess of absolute distinctions in a world of shaded and subtle continuum inherent in almost everything.

Marduk_and_pet

Marduk and his dragon Mushkhushshu — public domain/Wikipedia

Or to take another tack, I don’t believe in my ancestors so much as understand they exist(ed), from the evidence of my own existence right now, though many of their names and faces are lost in time. (The same happens to gods. Marduk, son of Enki, anyone? Does your non-belief make you an a-Mardukist?! Or can we concur that most of us check the box marked N.A. — “not applicable”?)

Some ancestors contribute to my genes and bloodline directly, while the others subside into the background, distant cousins, every one of them. Imagine — and I mean imagine — that god/desses fill some of those same spaces. Powers that made and are making a difference, even though I never meet them directly. Imagine the cosmos filled with nothing else than cousins. My counterpart in Azerbaijan gets along perfectly well without my knowledge or belief, and he’s a mortal man. What of god/desses? Can’t they do at least as much?

“Oh brave new world, that has such people [deities?] in it!” — Miranda, Shakespeare, The Tempest, 5.1.186-187.

Gravity existed long before anyone believed in it. We could call it a goddess, except that we (mostly) haven’t conceptualized that Power in such a way. And no, I’m not suggesting that we pray to Gravitas at her altars — although doing so would doubtless reveal some world-widening insights we haven’t yet reached. Any scientist worth her training knows that dedication to her field reveals secrets obtainable in no other way. What else is devotion, after all, but a means of contact, a chance to widen the world and make use of the divine gift of our imagination and creativity? What else, you might ask, are we for? (Try that out as a subject for meditation and practice for a month of days, in any way you like, and get back to us with what you discover.)

R. J. Stewart offers an “American Goddesses Meditation” as a way to explore deity that you might connect to quite naturally. (Why not use what’s nearby first?! If you’re not an inhabitant of the States, adapt to your locale — who’s a goddess in your area? There might be rivers, mountains, and so on that deserve attention, if only for experimental devotion. Who gets represented in statues, names, images — even and especially if they don’t at first come across as goddesses? And you can try the same with gods, if you’re so inclined. Many deities are partly or proximally incarnate — they have a physical form you can use to approach them, much as the Orthodox in some traditions have icons, statues, etc. Looked at one way, some of the most seemingly Protestant and Evangelical among Americans are polytheists, also worshiping a hard, metallic and martial war-god, carrying around his talismans and charms in the form of AK-47s, Glocks, etc.)

liberty

Liberty — Wikipedia/public domain

If, on the other hand, you do practice devotion or dedication to some form of deity, it behooves you to try out non-belief, for what it can offer you that nothing else can. By that I mean, among other things, rather than fearing doubt, to harness it as a tool for insight and exploration. One of my teachers exhausted doubt as a factor when he finally pursued it to its deepest ends — ran it to earth, so to speak — and realized that for him it no longer exerted power. Doubt became merely boring, not worth the time (like chewing gum you’ve worked on for hours). Doubt no longer offered an illicit thrill, or troubled his inner worlds. As far as doubt is concerned, then, he’s now an atheist.

Can I be an atheist towards fear, or anger, or some other Power that asks for my worship and energy and attention? Who and what else do I worship that doesn’t deserve it, or that I’ve outgrown? (And to turn the wheel another quarter turn, who and what might I be overlooking or ignoring that merits more attention than I grant today? Chances are great there’s something more I can discover about this endlessly amazing universe.)

[“Why, when God’s world is so big, did you fall asleep in a prison, of all places?” — Rumi.]

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Crisis, and What Next   1 comment

Or we could call this “(Spi)ritual First Aid”.

John Beckett’s excellent recent post “When you have to be a spiritual emergency room” is a good reference for the angle I’d like to take in this post. My focus will be on the self, rather than helping another. Experience your own crises and refine your strategies more than a few times, and the opportunity will come to serve others in need.

bridge-arch

Yesterday at an open discussion on dreams I had an insightful conversation with a person who was walking his path as consciously as he could. At one point, he said he knew what gave him nightmares, but he wasn’t going to forgo hot wings every once in a while, just because of the fallout they caused. They tasted too damn good.

This is being the knowing effect of a cause, a step along the path of spiritual discipline. It’s using consciousness to help shape what we experience.

But I’m not talking about that here, about such a reasoned weighing of pros and cons before choosing, but about those moments of full-on spiritual (and sometimes physical) ambush — moments we know too well. The world is no longer a friendly place.

Experience a form of combustion, shock, blowback, fallout, karma, inner explosion, cause and effect, consequences, results, crisis — and hearing someone tell you that “you create your own universe” just doesn’t help ease the suffering. True, down the road, once you’ve pulled yourself back together, tracking down possible contributing causes can be a wise course of action, one that can lead to averting, or processing, or seeking more wisely — the same experience in the future. But in urgent situations, we need a compassionate — and effective — first response.

Obviously, deal with any immediate emergency conditions. First aid, or even a visit to an urgent care center or emergency room, may go far to restoring a sense of safety and self-care. Treat the burn, stop the bleeding: deal with intoxication or drug use or poisoning of any kind. A panic attack may have physical causes among others. Get away from whatever is toxic — smoke from the fire, the bottle of mead, the bong or cigarette, the hypnotic drumbeat, other people, the ritual circle, the spiritual practice, or the room you’ve been in too long. If necessary, remove any books, pictures, clothing, or other objects associated with the crisis — or remove yourself from the space, if that’s easier.

As a next step, yes, listening’s enormous in its power to ease many kinds of suffering, though sometimes it may simply not be available — no one I’m in contact with understands, no one gets me. (True, this can be mere destructive egotism — “I’m special. Nobody knows me or my inner world. I can’t be helped”.) But if I have a partner or friend or community, a priestly counselor I trust, then I’m blessed, and partway home. Giving shape to my experience in words helps me see into the situation more clearly, and know it for what it is or might be. Getting it down on paper does the same thing, and sometimes more solidly. The Wise in Ancient Egypt knew that if you can name it, you can begin to tame it — or at least not inflame it further.

As John notes, ground and center. Repeat as needed. This can be a matter of a practice I already do regularly, or something I haven’t yet incorporated into my routine.

One common version: Sit upright, or — better — stand. Stretch, feeling the muscles and tendons of your body. Take three slow deep breaths. Feel the body rooted in the earth, the legs going down like tree roots. Release what holds you back. Know the blood flowing in your veins is an echo of the ocean’s tide, the same salt sea. Feel the air around your skin as you breathe in and out, whether there is a breeze or all is still. With the blessings of earth, sea and sky, you are here and now.

Address other physical symptoms. A bath or shower can help wash away emotional extremes, as well as calm the body, slow the heart, ease tensions, etc. We all know this, but often remember it least at crisis points when we need it most. Accompany the bath or shower with visualizations and meditations, prayers, and any other physical aids like incense, bath oils and salts, etc. Music can also soothe, just as it can raise adrenaline and blood pressure: choose what soothes. Sometimes silence is perfect. Other times, there has to be something playing in the background to help calm the inner and outer turmoil, if silence itself is unnerving.

Watch diet. Carnivores can often benefit from eating a meat meal, which effectively closes down the psychic centers because it demands significant energy to digest. If I dig into a steak, I can feel the doors close and the body center. (Fasting has the opposite effect and is pursued for comparable reasons — conserving and then redirecting energy normally used for digestion to other purposes.) Other non-flesh proteins can have a similar though less immediate effect.

Choose surroundings. The familiar may be immensely comforting — a place, a particular room. Or a change may be indicated. Be outdoors if possible, if this feels good, rather than too much. Lying on the earth can help restore a feeling of security and groundedness. Make sure any people and animals nearby are a comfort, not a source of anxiety.

By itself, focusing on slow, steady breathing can induce calm, charge the body with oxygen, and release tension. Its regularity is meditative, and counting the breaths to ten and then starting again can become a basic practice.

John Beckett mentions shielding exercises, good ones. Here are some techniques I also use.

Visualizations to dump negative thoughts or unwanted experiences can help. One of my favorites is the snowball technique: visualize what you want to drop as something you pack into a tight snowball. When you’ve clumped it thick, throw it into a river, which washes it away and dissolves it.

Another similar visualization: sweep your outer and inner spaces with a broom of light. Collect the sweepings and cast them away — again, into the river, or a hole in the earth you fill, or a dump truck/lorry, or somewhere/something else that takes them away and disposes of them. Some find visualizing a friendly monster with an enormous mouth which consumes them and then obligingly runs away with them can help. Others like to imagine a whole team working to do the same thing — friends, or an army of helpers, cleaning the space. Go with what works — use the inner creativity we all possess.

A third technique — the Three Doors. Visualize — or if visualization doesn’t come easily — feel your way toward — a cave or tunnel entrance into an enormous mountain. Once inside, close the first heavy door behind you. You hear it boom and resound as it shuts, the locks banging home. Do this two more times as you pass down the corridor or tunnel — three doors altogether. At last you are within a chamber of light, with the three immense doors protecting you from all harm.

Other living beings like pets can serve as a comfort — we’re seeing the growth of using companion animals for relieving stress and reducing anxiety. A purring cat in the lap, or a dog enjoying a mellow time of dozing or looking adoringly at you, go far to restoring balance and centering.

Physical objects — rosaries, statues, prayer beads, talismans, rings, stones, etc. — can also help. Specially-crafted items, like talismans, can bring more specific kinds of ease and provide a sense of protection. We’ve seen the popular spread of fidget spinners to help deal with restlessness, anxiety, stress and ADHD.

Physical activity can also help — sometimes the nerve centers, chakras, etc., are already too fired up and any focus on them only exacerbates the situation. Physical movement — walking, swimming, physical training equipment — can provide a focus and an easing of inner imbalance.

Just as there are many spiritual techniques for every other kind of experience in the world, so spiritual first aid can accompany solely physical responses to crisis periods.

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Image: free public domain images at Pexels. com

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