Archive for the ‘four directions’ Category

Cat of the South, Horse of the North   Leave a comment

The Sunday Guardian included this article on a large feline figure among the Nazca lines in Peru.

Nazca feline figure / Andina

Now we have two out-sized figures — the Nazca Cat and the Uffington Horse — to use when we call the Quarters/welcome the Directions/invoke the Watchtowers/hail the Archangels/commune with the Guardians.

Uffington White Horse / Wikipedia

Let our Druidry span the planet!

But wait! What is it I’m invoking, or at least imagining here?

We have marked the images of animals on our landscapes, both physical and psychic — marked them visually, emotionally, energetically. It feels like part of the same impulse that leads us to put pictures of friends and family on our walls and mantles and desks. Image evokes presence, welcomes the energies of the imaged being (or place). We go where our attention takes us, so it’s prudent to be conscious about what we allow into our attention — a potentially profound practice over time, over an entire life. Image, icon, logo, meme, visualization — we use this human ability in so many and such varied ways, for our enervation and also for our betterment.

It can be a practice to meditate with these images, to inquire what they can teach us, what we should be attending to, how to regard them, what energies they mediate into the landscape where they are located, and into our consciousness when we think of them, recall them, bring them to mind, see them with the mind’s eye. Those of us who feel “I can’t visualize” may in fact be profound visualizers, since visualization is as much about feeling and sensing as it is about “seeing.”

When we plan a trip, go to the grocery store, think about dinner, bring up a memory, the associated images can pass by the screen of our inward attention so quickly we think we’re not seeing them, when in fact they may merely be passing faster than thought can separate them. We’ve done this since we arrived in this life, so it’s little wonder the images we practice are fast. Often we “flesh out” or incarnate an anticipated event by just such an inner run of images. We may not necessarily “see them” in a “daily life” way, but a part of us notes whatever is missing from the sequence, and that’s what we add to the grocery list, or remind ourselves to attend to after we return home.

Some practice with this can be revealing, if we start from the assumption that visualization isn’t our “problem”, but rather a skill we’ve already perfected, one we do so automatically we no longer notice it, like walking without falling over like when we were toddlers, any more than we notice our cerebellums telling our hearts to beat, or our stomachs to digest. Bringing these semi-voluntary and involuntary actions under conscious control is a different matter — some branches of yoga teach this — but we all visualize constantly, and usually faster than thought.

As above, so below — yes. But as within, so without, also. Our inner and outer worlds can start to work together rather than fighting each other, with loving practice to what our attention is doing, and where we’re placing it, and how we feel about what we’re attending to.

Attitude and attention — two of the greatest powers we have.

/|\ /|\ /|\

Directional Divination, and Confluences

equinoxmt

scenic drive up Mt. Equinox, VT

We inhabit a speaking cosmos. (World, would you call me home?) I don’t know about you, but that’s what I keep on concluding, when I consider my own history, the breadth of divination systems, the experiences of many who report contact with other beings, sought and unsought, the writings in world-wide cultures attesting to the existence of persons both with and without skins on, and many other odd and assorted pieces of evidence. How to connect, how to join the conversation, is what remains, and that can become part of a regular practice. For that, here’s one more item from my toolkit.

Diyeshegwanhi dee-yeh-sheh-gwahn-hee — the “seven directions”. It’s a word that came to me in meditation many years ago, and I use it when I do this particular divination. An awareness of the cosmos with seven directions appears in a number of traditions: the cardinal four of north, east, south and west, with the addition of above, below and toward the center. Often the starting direction varies, but I almost always end with toward the center. It focuses and closes the divination with what is going on within — something good to attend to, that guides without dominating the divination.

After grounding and centering, I invite the directions, acknowledging my kinship with the beings who inhabit each of them. Recently I’ve been reading about ancestors who lived and are buried in northern Vermont, so today I begin with north.

North of my kindred, I greet and bow to you! [Pause] May I attend to your wisdom.

And so on through the directions, making it a meditation, a ritual, a prayer, and varying what I name and attend to as I go. Sometimes it’s enough just to turn in the direction, or to visualize it (which can mean other senses than site — the focus of imagination IS visualization, regardless of the active sense. I may feel north, for instance, rather than hear or see anything).

I write down what I sense/visualize, and that’s my divination, always shaped by the final focus on what’s going on inwardly, which guides my interpretation. (I often use the abbreviations n-e-s-w-a-b for north, east, south, west, above, below in my notes — holding the center apart — and so I think of the meditation as my neswab meditation.)

This morning’s divination:

North: birdsong
East: shadow under the willow
South: morning haze
West: openness
Above: a swirling or whorl of energies
Below: containment
Center: movement across, or transverse

I am moving across a field with both song and shadow. I’m open or accessible to these energies emotionally, while my field of movement, my perception or awareness of a range of action, as well as my intention, may be obscured by haze and shadow, or by a confusion of energies. Goals: attend as I move, watch and work for clarity, and sharpen my intention. Because the field is in transition — because I’m transiting it — now isn’t the time for insisting on substantial or enduring perceptions, but for a sounding of what’s current, timely, of the moment, as a guide for what’s coming next.

asc-rdview

Mt. Ascutney from the south on Rt. 91N

Now it’s certainly possible — and maybe desirable, depending on your inner guidance — to expand this to include other correspondences: the chakras, the notes between octaves, and so on. Personally, I find my own associations much more useful than someone else’s. Your mileage will vary. The point with any divination system is its practicality: does it serve? If not, its neatness, symmetry, complexity, etc. are all distractions.

If it helps, for instance, to associate the directions with sacred spots on your own local landscape, follow through. Four New England mountains lie along my cardinal directions: to the east is Mount Monadnock; to my south, Putney Mountain; north is Ascutney; and west is Mount Equinox. I’ve visited all but Equinox, and it happens to lie in the west, and be the home of the only Carthusian monastery in the U.S. — the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration.

To take just one obvious tack from my divination, what needs transfiguring that I haven’t yet visited or invited into my experience? And given my interest in Druid-Christian linkages, what should I be focusing on there? The home page of the monastery website, as a pointer, notes “The Transfiguration of the Lord contains all the constitutive elements of Christian contemplation”. The Carthusian prescription for contact, for connection, is silence and solitude, and of course prayer.

All of this is a helpful reminder for someone like me who can spend too much time online. That’s what bloggers often end up doing. So a regular period of fasting from social media is one way for me to bring more solitude and silence into my life, where I can then hear the awen more clearly.

/|\ /|\ /|\

If you find yourself asking But where’s the Druid(ry) in all this? you might enjoy reading the current (21st) Mt. Haemus lecture, sponsored by OBOD, which this year is “The Well and the Chapel: Confluence” by RoMa Johnson, MA, MDiv, addressing connections between Druidry (the Well) and Christianity (the Chapel). The link takes you to an OBOD subpage where you can learn more about the author, and download a PDF of the lecture.

Johnson explores five sub-topics: Worldviews—Immanence and Imminence; Justice—Sin, Responsibility and Restoration; The Three—The Sacred Feminine and the Trinity; Immrama—The Soul’s Journey and Inspiration; and Confluence.

/|\ /|\ /|\

 

 

East

Feeling from the West, and from the South the fire of intention set on slow burn. Now on to thought, consciousness, intellectual discrimination — the original sense of the word, that priceless ability to make distinctions, not our unfortunate modern meaning-shift of imposing them hurtfully on our brothers and sisters. Properly-made distinctions distinguish between stupid and wise uses. Distinctions by themselves are inert, lifeless. They need human consciousness to animate and manifest them.

IMG_1783

ECG directional banner for East and the Hawk of Dawn. Design by Dana Driscoll.

But often, feeling is first, before thought, before reflection. We feel and then think about it, even as we experience and then reflect on what happened. e e cummings captures it perfectly in his love-poem of that name:

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

and death i think is no parenthesis

So much here, in the “syntax of things”, the pattern and web that bards sing of. Here the Bardic impulse lives: thought in the service of feeling, shaping in words what comes first in emotion. So we continue to turn counterclockwise to work our spell, from feeling to intention and now to perception, clarity, naming what first was wordless. My spellchecker flags my initial typo “worldless” — true as well, because without thought is no distinct world, for feeling floods everything, without the distinctions of thought.

We flow liquidly from feeling to feeling, not bothered by the categories and parameters and boundaries of thought. But feeling, if it’s to lead to anything other than the next feeling, needs the mold and shaping power of thought to give it direction and focus. Thoughtless feeling blunders and bumps into things, knocks over both bad and good, never noticing the wreckage. But wise thought charged with feeling bears a rare potency.

How marvelous that thought is also magically linked to spring, to beginnings and formative activity! The freshness of new thought, the airiness of clean perception is indeed Springtime. And the cosmos invites us to say, as cummings poem announces, “we are for each other”. Because as another Bard reminds us, “no man is an island, entire of itself”. (What do they teach in schools nowadays? We’ve long had that wisdom laid out before us that we need to navigate difficult times. True Bards have always been out in front, pointing and singing us to our heart’s deep desire.) We are kin, family, relatives. The Lakota know it, calling the cosmos mitakuye oyasin, “all my relatives”, winged and footless and four- and two-footed.

It’s in the Western world in particular that we’ve carried individualism too far and made a cult of it, set up altars and applied ourselves to worship. Friendships and families, strained. Human connection breaking. The Me generations are reaping the harvest of being cut off from the cosmos. Sever the link to the worlds, cut the original umbilicus that was never meant to break, and we’re just “stupid bags of skin”, to quote yet another philosopher. Beings who live, and die, alone. Sad, and wholly avoidable.

Thus to thought, to link us up, to relink us, Latin religare, from which comes the noun religio, a relinking. The multitude of shapes and forms that religion can take testifies to mental creativity. Almost anything shaped with love can help to relink us to what we need to truly live. Lose the love, though, and any form empties out pretty fast. It can’t serve its purpose without feeling, any more than it can without thought. Without the heart, religion dies. Without the head, it’s brain-dead at birth.

Of course, if we leave religion in the hands of thieves and scoundrels, we’ll get the same result we do when we leave governance in similar hands. But that’s on us. Religion well-practiced can relink us to what nourishes and feeds us. When (not if) it’s not doing that, it’s always time to wrest the reins from the hands of the incompetent and the malicious. Little wonder we’re in a spiritual-but-not-religious age. But the spirit needs a container, a form, a shape, to embody it in a world of bodies, forms and shapes. A formless spirituality may work for spirits, but we have bodies while we’re here, and an embodied spirituality will almost always serve us better.

So I light my fire, I meditate with an image, I write and draw and dance and do ritual to embody what I want to celebrate and remember and welcome into my life and the lives of those I practice with.

And I write about some of that here.

/|\ /|\ /|\

As this blog approaches its 6th anniversary and 50,000 hits, I again want to thank all of you who visit and read. Site statistics tell me more of you stay than leave, which in turn tells me I’m talking about things that matter enough to you that you come back, and wrestle with some of the same issues, and attempt to make of your lives something worthy of the gift of life we’ve been given.

 

%d bloggers like this: