(Guided) Meditation What??

Last night I had the opportunity to participate in a guided meditation with fellow Heathen women. I hadn't initially been aware that we would be engaging in this particular activity, and it's probably better that I didn't know - I've had what I've come to recognize as an aversion to guided meditation (meditation as a whole, really) for a very long time.

Once when I was probably twelve years old my mother brought me along with her to a community ritual in the deep Michigan forest. I have no idea what the purpose was anymore, but I do recall that it was my first experience of group trance. A large group was assembled around a bonfire, each person with a twig in hand to represent something (energy, thought pattern, person, feeling, etc.) that they wanted to release. We chanted and chanted and chanted, and I recall the precise moment when I was pulled out of the trance, and became startlingly conscious that our volume had slowly diminished from a loud roar to almost a whisper. No one was guiding us in this - somehow we all just "knew" what to do. It was in that moment that everyone stopped chanting at exactly the same time - except for me. In my awareness about what was happening, I started to chant one more round before quieting immediately in embarrassment. I am sure no one cared - but I cared. On one hand I'm grateful for that sudden awareness because it gave me a striking understanding of altered consciousness that I probably wouldn't have had if I'd remained in the trance. On the other hand I carried a lot of shame around regarding that experience for a long time. It seems like a silly thing to be ashamed of, but I wanted to know - why did I suddenly "snap out of it"? The chanting would have been seamless and perfect if I had been able to remain in that space with everyone else. I think I started to tell myself a story that I couldn't "do trance the right way."
Sunlight through Iceland spar
I've really enjoyed Alice Karlsdóttir's book, Norse Goddess Magic: Trancework, Mythology, and Ritual, in part because of how she describes her own path in trance work. She writes that it was quite challenging to reach a trance state for a long time, and she would compare herself to other women who seemed to reach it with relative ease. She would sit there, eyes closed, wondering if she was doing it right, and when the session closed, other participants would have detailed stories of travels and conversations they experienced while she would have little to speak of. She came to accept that she might just have to put more effort into it than some others do, and she didn't give up. The result was that she was eventually able to enter trance quite effectively (and many of her experiences are outlined in her book). Reading that felt like a pat on the shoulder - you got this, girl, you can do it, too. Still, I'm married with three kids, have a full time job, and live in a very small home. Finding space in which to practice journeying is such a big challenge that I generally don't even try.

In chatting with the women last night, I realized that I do experience a lot of "passive messages" through dreams. I don't intentionally seek them out (as is generally the case with guided meditation or trance work), I simply receive them. Over the years I've come to be able to tell the difference between a "normal" dream and those that involve communication with "spirit" (guides, higher self, passed family members, deities), as well as precognitive dreams that give information about events that will soon transpire, or are already unfolding.

I also am able to connect with spirits while I am awake. I close my eyes and send out etheric "feelers." I can sense an "other" consciousness that is just as aware of me as I am of him/her/it. I may ask a question, and I often receive an answer. Sometimes I simply express, or send, a sentiment, and in turn receive an impression or feeling back. At first I would take these experiences with large grains of salt, but as the "answer" or sensation would manifest for me in the physical world I realized that I could trust them. Now when I "feel" or "see" (as in clairsentience or clairvoyance) a response to a query, I let it guide me. The Heathen Woman blogger frames this sort of experience in the context of "threads of wyrd" which is a powerful and beautiful way to understand it:

Every person has the ability to send and receive messages through the threads of that web. If you’ve ever heard the phone ring and known who was on the other side before you saw the caller id, you’ve experienced what it feels like to receive an impression through the threads of wyrd. If anyone has ever told you that they just knew it was you on the other end or that they just knew you were going to arrive, then you have sent messages through the threads of wyrd. The Gods are part of the web of wyrd, and everyone can send and receive messages through the web, including the Gods.

In addition to dreamwork and intuitive information gathering/communing, I have experience both with psychometry and mediumship (these aren't entirely separate from the previous two, in fact). I recall the first time I sat with a psychometry group, holding on to a metal object and praying that "something" would come to me, and I wouldn't make a fool of myself in front of all of these women. I kept seeing eagles, owls, and other birds. I couldn't make sense of it, and when it was my turn to share, I gritted my teeth and started to speak. As soon as I began to tell about the bird impressions the entire group erupted in raucous laughter. It turned out that the woman whose object I was holding was an avid bird watcher, and had just returned from a birds-of-prey expedition to Minnesota. Eagles had been a main topic of conversation for her traveling party. I was immensely relieved. And this taught me a little more about trust.
The forest is often a liminal space in journeying
The first experience with group mediumship was not as pleasant, but ultimately very affirming for me personally. I recall sitting with a woman (we were trading parters every ten minutes or so) and "seeing" an elderly woman who felt like a grandmother. My partner was adamant that there was no one she could think of that matched the description. I felt pretty embarrassed. When we changed partners, the same grandmother spirit was present, very strongly. I was sure that since it had been wrong for this last woman, it was probably wrong now, too. So instead of describing what I saw and felt, I said, "I guess it's an older woman who could be maybe a family friend..." She said that it did not sound like anyone she knew. She said, "I've been hoping to hear from my grandmother, but no one has been able to pick up on her.." I was crushed, and ashamed for having doubted myself. In retrospect, I was sure that it was this woman's grandmother the whole time, but in my "greenness" I hadn't known how to make sense of it.

As I consider these "abilities" and experiences, a couple of potent themes emerge: shame and trust. I realize that I have tended to favor a focus on what I "can't do," or areas where I feel insecure, rather than focusing on what I have experienced, and what I have accomplished. When taken as a whole, I realize that I may already have the "raw materials" to be able to give guided meditation a serious try. While dreamwork is passive, I do have experience with active, conscious "seeking" (of sorts) that bears results.

In last night's meditation we were meant to try to visit the Norns. I definitely did not make it there. I kept hearing my kids shouting in the background, and I was worrying that we'd run out of time before anything "happened." At the very start I saw rune flashes: ansuz and perthro. They were fitting considering the activity underway. I saw a flash of a goat face. Was it legitimate, or just my imagination? I spent a lot of time trying to release my environment and feel the place in my mind's eye - feel the breeze on my face, feel the cool air in my lungs as I inhaled. I tried to see through my dream-eyes rather than imagining myself as a separate entity. Fortunately, by the time the session was nearing its close, I did manage to end up sitting cross-legged at the base of a tall red pine tree. I sat there thinking, "Now what?" I saw a goat again, this time white and a bit shaggy. Is this a spirit animal? I'm a capricorn..... but a goat? Really? Am I just imagining this again? Is it real? The drumming ended, and that was that. In our post-meditative debrief I was interested to hear that two of the other women in our small circle had also ended up in a pine forest. The woman leading the session (who has a lot of training in shamanic practice) had achieved a full visitation, and recounted her experience to us. She said that she is often shy about sharing, because often people listen with some level of suspicious and doubt. I understand that completely, and was grateful for her trust in us.

I was not prepared for that activity, but I'm glad I did it. It's about practice; it's about releasing expectation. It's about inviting the images, feelings, and messages that come, and about suspending judgment, self-doubt, and criticism. This practice will be a project for me - a positive challenge to pose to myself for the coming year. Releasing shame, fear, doubt, and hesitation, and opening myself up to learning to trust will be critical components of this journey for me, but as I review my own history, I can relax into the knowledge that the basic building blocks are already in place. I'll be sure to post updates periodically as I test the waters.

How do you feel about guided meditation? What about solo journeying? Do you have any hesitation around this practice? What methods to you use to relax into the experience? Please feel free to share in the comments!


Popular Posts