Archive for the ‘spiritual crisis’ Tag

Emnight — Equinox   Leave a comment

In recent days, one of the most frequent searches run on this site — no surprise — was for “equinox ritual”. While I don’t have a full rite posted here, it’s a good time to reflect again on crafting our own rites — on ways to access and craft a recognition and remembrance that fits who, and where, and also when we are.

frontstone

I am a ritual too, says rock, and weather, and grass, and person looking

Awareness of this time of balance — especially in the face of so much upset, anxiety and disturbance around the globe — is ancient, and good to recall, and to bring forward again into conscious attention. A thousand years ago, the Anglo-Saxons observed, On emnihtes dæg, ðæt is ðonne se dæg and seo niht gelíce lange beoþ. On the day of the equinox, that is when the day and the night are equally long.

Emnight, the old word for equinox — a good word to bring back, from *ev(en)-night, Old English efen-niht, emniht, when darkness and light are paired and even.

It’s true that membership in a practicing group equips you with experience of a round of yearly rituals, and after participating in a few rounds, you may begin to play with local versions of your own. If you’re a solitary, there are rituals online to study and ponder. While certainly not everyone has ready access to the internet, and most groups have wisely curtailed physical gatherings for a season, that’s all the more reason to find our own ways to acknowledge and honor the seasons and the holy tides or times. And that includes our own personal times and seasons.

Where do we find balance in uncertain and difficult times? One way is by aligning ourselves with rhythms larger than any one person, but also part of each of us. In such ways we can glimpse and participate in those patterns and re-balancing flows, and re-set ourselves. And reset and reset, at need. For now the need is again great.

Reginald Ray, in his book The Indestructible Truth, puts it this way:

Through ritual, genuinely undertaken, one is led to take a larger view of one’s life and one’s world; one experiences a shift in perspective—sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic. This shift feels like a diminishing of one’s sense of isolated individuality and an increase in one’s sense of connectedness with other people, with the nonhuman presences of our realm, and with purposes that transcend one’s usual self-serving motivations.

Ritual is a way of reconnecting with the larger and deeper purposes of life, ones that are oriented toward the general good conceived in the largest sense. Ironically, through coming to such a larger and more inclusive sense of connection and purpose, through rediscovering oneself as a member of a much bigger and more inclusive enterprise, one feels that much more oneself and grounded in one’s own personhood. Through ritual, one’s energy and motivation are roused and mobilized so that one can better fulfill the responsibilities, challenges and demands that life presents.

“So what’s my ritual?”, you ask.

Well, who and when and where are you? These answers can open and shape your rite.

I stand here and name your place and time. It’s the equinox, so declare it.

I/we stand here on this ancient land [all lands are ancient and holy when we know them so], gift of spirit, child(ren) of the ancestors, at this time of equal darkness and light.

If you have an image or object that represents the ancestors, so much the better. Or consecrate one as part of this rite: This stone, or cup (or picture, etc.), inheritance of my/our people, I/we place upon my altar.

In this time of equal dark and light, I/we welcome — who do you welcome? Whose presence blesses you? Whose taking-part matters to you right now?

Prayer is always appropriate — what’s your prayer at this moment? There’s a place both for scripted and spontaneous prayer. If you’re alone, a prayer or cry for help may spring to your lips without any forethought needed. You can mingle the two, the planned and the popping-up-in-the-moment. In fact, that’s often ideal.

What gifts can you offer? We all always bring something, even in potential, waiting to give. (Unexpressed, the ungiven can frustrate us. The gift needs to be given.) It may be a vow or promise, it may be continuing to do what you’re already doing — and naming that — it may be something that represents to you the heart of what you do and who you are. Any physical thing that signifies something of this to us can take part in our rite, because it offers a focus for our attention and one more access point for Spirit to reach us. Perhaps you yourself can take on and ritualize the image of someone who inspires you, and you can assume during the ritual the identity of that person, or of someone or something whose legacy you carry and continue. A mask, a word, a ritual gesture or action. It may be something you aspire to be and do over the coming weeks and months. It may be that writing this down is also an appropriate part of the rite itself, alone or with one or two family members, if you’re doing a small ritual together.

I am moving my altar stone into place, the massive mossy rock I’ve pictured in previous posts (not the one above — that’s the boulder in our front yard, spackled with snow). The physical effort and sweat is a principal part of my rite, the beginning is the first shifting, and the end is positioning it where it needs to be, and acknowledging it in its new place. They sang the stones of Stonehenge into place, goes the legend. Our days are equally legendary, if we let them be, equally redolent of the stuff of worlds speaking to each other, with us a part of it all.

Se emnihtes dæg, says the Leechdom, one of the old books, ys se feorþa dæg þissere worulde — Emnight’s day is the fourth day of this world.  A bit cryptic — yes. Mysteries still unfold in our day, though we often turn away from them in search of what we think we already know.

Our equinoxes are beginnings, yes, and also completions, fulfillments. They are the fourth day, the full circle, the manifestation, the revealing of spirit in us, and us in spirit, whatever form that takes.

A blessing on you and your lives and rites, on the forms of revealing spirit.

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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

Help Along Our Ways   Leave a comment

woodpath
[This lovely image comes courtesy of mistressotdark. And in case you’re wondering: yes, the path sometimes IS this clear, lovely and straight. But we earn these glorious stretches during intervals when everything isn’t sweetness and light.]

Today’s post features an excerpt from Tommy Elf’s moving account of his Bardic journey, framed by his experiences at the first Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana this past weekend. His words dovetail with the previous post here about initiation — always a challenge, whether you’re journeying down a solitary path with its own obstacles and opportunities unique to your nature and history, or along a more public walk with Orders like OBOD.

Here are Tommy’s reflections:

Folks, I have been in my Bardic Grade studies for the last seven years. For those seven years, I believed that I could struggle through the material on my own. I rarely asked for help from my tutor/mentor, and stepped back and forth constantly as life had set into time requirements. At this gathering, I opted to have a Bardic Grade initiation – and I am glad that I did so. It has changed my perspective so much. I had the chance to talk with other Bardic Grade folks, as well as my fellow initiates, about their experiences. And I found out that I was not alone in those moments. Furthermore, one of the guests was Susan Jones, the Tutor Coordinator for OBOD. She held a session with all the Bardic Grade members to discuss pitfalls, and various other aspects concerning the course. Listening to other people discuss their experiences helped me to realize that our journeys may be unique to one another, but there are some aspects that are similar. For anyone currently in their Bardic Grade studies, I cannot stress how much help is actually available to you. You just have to reach out and grab it! There is your mentor/tutor, the discussion board, your own grove or study group (if one is near enough to you), as well as other folks within OBOD who are taking their Bardic grade or have already been through it.

Tommy’s openness here contrasts helpfully, I hope, with my own sometimes opaque references to my journey. There’s also a delightful symbolic resonance to his seven years in Druidry — at a crisis moment, the turn comes, and ways open before him. Seven it is. And now the challenge: what next? How do I incorporate this new thing into my life? How do I step into possibility, and not snuff it out by dragging along with me everything I DON’T need? What am I called to do? What CAN I do?

If time truly is what keeps everything from happening at once, and space is what keeps everything from happening here, we have ample reason to be grateful to both, pains though they both often are. Or more elegantly, as I’m fond of quoting Thoreau: “Time is the stream [we] go fishing in …”

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