Monday, August 30, 2010

Altars and Shrines. A New Start

Jason Miller has been blogging about his ongoing process with his home shrines and altars. Now Jason’s a diligent practitioner, including to doing teaching and magic-for hire, so he does need some gear and some space. However his recent post is about his choice to pare down his permanent home-shrines in favor of doing as-needed work. I must suspect it’s all about real life, Jason’s new twins (wit and strength to them) being a major influence on his choice.

I suppose it’s all about phase of life. Me, I’m eagerly awaiting the departure of our adult daughter from the house. She’s been a fine room-mate but I do covet a corner where I can establish a larger working shrine, and pull a chair into open space to practice. We’ve gotten by with out nice bedroom shrine for the last couple years. In fact we’ve done some pretty cool work there, including ADF’s clergy practice. If we needed more work-top space, a handy tray-table could be purified and worked.

I want more space for specific small God and Spirit shrines, and a way to sit comfortably, not on a bed, before the shrine. I think I’ll take a corner of the room, and run shelves up the walls, with a big surface at the bottom. This should lead to improved opportunity for trancework and theurgy, as will having the place to ourselves. All stage of life… if there’s any advantage to getting older, it should be more access to resources and more freedom to use one’s time and effort as one pleases.

Keep an eye out for pics of the new library/temple as it shapes up this winter. Also, expect at least another post even later today. Damned if I’ll have a month with just one or two posts ; )

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Catching Up on Meditation Instruction

Ya know, I've rewritten instructions for a basic course in meditation, mental discipline and trance so many times, but I seem to have missed a basic element that I actually use personally all the time. Students complain regularly about the effort of 'silent' meditation, focusing on no particular thing but just letting the mind flow and become calm. Many such students can benefit from this form, in which a specific focus is chosen. The focus can have actual idea content to 'meditate on' during the work.
I know some teachers hold that only one sort of method - the silent sort - is 'really' meditation. That's all too doctrinal for me, and contemplation meditation of this sort may be a fine way for students to get used to sitting silently doing only mental activity.
In any case, this is catch-up, and will end up in the new month 1 of the Nine Moons. I *am* getting back to work... expect more stuff soon...

Contemplation Meditation
In Contemplation Meditation you choose a specific pattern or symbol as the focus of your attention. In many cases the symbol – such as the Hallows, or the image of a God – may be physically present. It is also common to contemplate a mental construct image. You visualize, imagine or conceive the symbol in your mind, and observe it as if it were in front of you.
In this exercise the goal is similar to Open Meditation. You intend to keep the symbol always the entire focus of your attention. You may find your mind ‘thinking about’ the symbol – your task is to return attention directly to the object of Contemplation, without attachment to the flow of consideration about it. In this way we hope to allow the reality of the symbol to enter our awareness directly, and deeply. There is always time to think about these matters – meditation is a time set aside for other mental goals.
The technique of Contemplation is core to most of the higher-end of ritual and magical trance. As you work your way through ritual the ability to address each action with a whole and focused mind, to experience each thing for its unique power, is key to effective results. You learn to be in the presence of the Gods themselves, while maintaining the Peace and Power of your own Center.

Three Primary Contemplations
1: The Two Powers.
You will develop the ability to easily bring the Two into your awareness, and you can then use their flow and circulation as the object of Contemplation. Set the circulation to turning in yourself, and allow your breath to keep the flow as you turn the focus of your attention to the feel and experience of the Two. Without attached consideration, allow yourself to observe the flow and shine, at peace. Each time you find yourself following a ‘train of thought’, simply return your attention to the continuing flow of the Two. Finish with balance and a blessing.
2: The Hallows. In this you will meditate with open eyes, focusing your attention on your fully operative Hallows of ritual. You will sit before your shrine or ritual arrangement, with the Fire lit, the Well blessed and the tree and all cleansed with Fire and Water. You allow your gaze to fall on the whole pattern of your ritual tools and symbols, experiencing their form and meaning without attachment to any flow of thought. Finish with balance and a blessing.
3: Nature Contemplation. This practice is described in the Dedicant’s work, but it should certainly be part of your regular practice. Find a place where you can observe a bit of nature, preferably with no visible thing obviously made by humans. You might choose a specific great tree, or a stream or other water, or any natural spot, but it is good to practice this also in more ordinary natural settings. You find a seat and with your Peace and Power on you allow the reality of the place to be the object of your contemplation, without attachment to idea or emotion, to beauty or ill. Finish with balance and a blessing.

The Practice
The Shrine is set with an object for contemplation – a symbolic card or image, a deity, flame, or the Three Hallows themselves. This technique can be applied to music as well, though music may be more inductive to reverie than to concentration. Contemplation can also be fixed on a phrase or an envisioned image, but to begin it is best to contemplate a material object.
1: Basic Trance: The Blood, Breath and Bone Exercise
• Stand or be seated firmly, spine erect, arms able to relax.
• Take three Complete Breaths and continue to breathe.
• Become aware of your body, where you are supported on the ground by your firm bones. Be aware of your bones, holding you upright as you feel your flesh relax.
• Continue to breathe fully, and focus attention on the sound of the breath. Concentrate inward, listening only to the sound of your breath.
• Turn your attention inward, and hear and feel the beating of blood in your veins. Feel the subtle pulse, as your breath flows and your bones uphold you.
• Continue this pattern as you open your eyes. Allow yourself to remain relaxed, focusing only on your Blood, Breath and Bone.
• Recite this charm:
Bone uphold me
Breath inspire me
Blood sustain me
In this holy work.

• Return to silent breathing and listening within.

From this state there are two basic kinds of meditation with which to begin your work. Ritual actions can also be performed, while maintaining Basic Trance state. In this case we continue to:

2: Meditation
• Continue your basic trance, settling peacefully into blood, breath and bone.
• Open your eyes, and bring your gaze gently upon the object of your contemplation.
• Allow your gaze to focus on the object of contemplation, and only on that object, concentrating your attention to that single object or symbol. Just as in Open Meditation you focused on your breath, allowing all thought to flow by ungrasped, so in Contemplation Meditation you focus your attention on a powerful symbol, and allow only considerations and perceptions of that symbol to fill your mind.
• First always return to the material form of the object, its real presence. From there you may carefully open to ideas concerning the object. This will inevitably lead to associated thought. Whenever that happens, simply return your awareness to the visible (or audible) form of the object.
• The goal is to extend the periods in which your awareness is wholly occupied by a single object, especially one with spiritual or symbolic meaning.
• When the time is sufficient, close your eyes and return to basic trance, then close.

3: Closing
• Always end the session of meditation formally, with the recitation of a closing charm and/or other formal gesture.
The blessings of the Holy Ones be on me and mine
My blessings on all beings, with peace on thee and thine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
Thus do I remember the work of the Wise.