In the past two months, I’ve begun exploring yoga. Exercise has always been an incredible method of trance for me, and it has always been something that I have regularly devoted myself to (though when I was very little I tended to tell people, “I’m not athletic, but I like to read!”), whether it’s been ballet, gymnastics, or golf, which I did from the time I was small through high school; regular daily exercise to build mental and physical stamina, discipline, and strength; or crew during my brief time in college. Meditation, too, has been an important part of my life since I first began exploring Buddhism and Taoism several years ago; but somehow the idea of combining them through yoga just never appealed to me until recently, maybe because yoga was never something I could afford (how ridiculous that you must have wealth enough to participate in something that produces full-being health!).
The person with whom I live owns Suzanne Deason’s Yoga and Pilates Conditioning for Weight-Loss videos, so I gave them a try, and have absolutely fallen in love. I finish the routine feeling as if I have devoted an hour to both exercise and meditation, and it is very satisfying, calming, and fulfilling. It has helped me realign my body, mind, and spirit, aided me in rediscovering equilibrium between them, thus helping me develop a better relationship with food and my body (a challenge for someone with a history of eating disorders, self-abuse, and body image issues).
And yet I still find myself with the hunger to find a form of seated meditation that works for me. Because I no longer feel that zazen is a way to enlightenment for me. I never felt a disillusionment from Buddhism, but it’s as if once I left the horrible living situation I was in, my spirit’s need for Buddhism disappeared; when my circumstances finally became more peaceful, I was drawn to Witchcraft and Paganism again, which I’ve studied and practiced in many different forms off and on since I was twelve (back when I couldn’t stand Wicca but didn’t understand why I couldn’t find anything out there that could give me what I wanted from a magico-spiritual practice, without the ceremony, circle-casting, four elements, and “Wiccan Creed”; I gave up and just kept doing what I’d always been doing, believing in what I’d always believed, and realized Trad Craft and Druidry were exactly this, when I came across them).
When I first really began looking into the Dedicant Path about a week before the Spring Feast (Vernal Equinox), despite having been a member of ADF since November, I started attempting prayers. I am always grateful for my food–eating vegan and trying to buy local certainly helps–but starting at the Spring Feast I began speaking a prayer for my meals. My favorite is the variation of the Waldorf School prayer:
Earth who gave to us this food,
Sun who made it ripe and good,
Mother Earth, Father Sun,
We’ll not forget what you have done.
I found that this was not working for me at every meal, because it is awkward to do around others; it doesn’t hold the same power when spoken in my mind (it feels as if I am as appreciative as ever, not showing piety as well); and it’s difficult for me to remember to do this every time I’m hungry (and as someone with a high metabolism from daily exercise, I tend to eat many small meals or snacks throughout the day). So this meal-time prayer has become something I do at the formal High Day meal I have with family (though they don’t celebrate my holidays, somehow we all feel the need to sit down together at High Day dinners, and I am always asked to say that prayer), when I also give a portion of the food and the organic scraps from the preparation (flour, fruit peels, spices, etc.) to the Kindreds.
Already I have a High Day tradition, made even more meaningful by sharing it with Christian family. But I am still missing the meditation, something I would prefer to make a daily practice, as it used to be when I identified as a Zen Buddhist and Taoist, when I had found more peace within myself than ever before (people were in awe of how constantly tranquil I was). I recently tried piecing together several prayers offered in the Dedicant Manual, tiny rituals that I performed to great benefit when I was first exploring the ADF Core Order of Ritual. I thought I might find even more meaning in them than I did then if I combined the parts and language that held the most power to me into their own little rite; but it was awkward, and I felt nothing, and I knew it was not something I wanted to repeat, especially on a daily basis.
Last night I tried something different. For many, many years, I would light a candle each morning, meditate, then seek a one-card piece of guidance from the Tarot (or the Powers behind the Tarot) to aid me that day. I would interpret this, meditate briefly upon it, record it, and go about my day. This practice came to a halt when I became Buddhist, as the Buddha spoke out against such charms and omens (despite that folk magic still finds its way into many Buddhist practices). I was confused, and felt I received more guidance and wisdom from his teachings and those who had followed his path throughout history, so I tucked my beloved deck away and turned towards koans and mantras (though, really, I still practiced folk magic; I don’t think anyone who practices such things ever truly parts from them).
In the confusion of a terrible break-up a few years ago, I brought the cards back out (along with my more formal magic), and periodically turned to them again and again, as I needed, while still trying to hold onto the peace I had previously found in Buddhism (it was a confusing time all around). But when I left for college, somehow my DruidCraft deck did not make the trip (though unfortunately somehow my Ryder-Waite deck did, and although I think it’s an essential for any Tarot-reader, I really don’t trust it, and therefore don’t use it). At a New Age-y, soft-and-fluffy-Pagan-y shop in the Bay Area, I fell in love with the Shadowscapes deck, and after I’d been daydreaming about it for weeks, my girlfriend bought it for me. I loved the deck, loved caressing it and staying up late at night while my girlfriend tried to sleep with the light on, reading and rereading the companion book and diving into the dreamy imagery, fascinated by the artist’s interpretations of cards I thought I’d known so well. It was about the time that I began really delving into Hedgewitchery and folk magic (including that of my Caribbean ancestors) instead of just studying them, as I had for years; better timing there could not have been.
Recently, without a set of Ogham staves, I’ve begun exploring the Tarot more often than my once-in-a-while, I-need-a-new-perspective divinatory encounters, using the Shadowscapes deck to receive my Omens in ADF ritual. I have found it works quite well, and my relationship with the deck is deepening.
Last night this was taken a step further. I thought, “What if I could use the messages of the cards as koans?” So this is exactly what I did. After purifying myself, chanting, aligning with the Two Powers and the World Tree, and meditating for a brief while, I shuffled and dealt a single card for the purpose of meditating upon the message. I drew the Moon. In a world the color of stone and elm bark, the Sidhe Queen comes to dance with the Spirits in a magical fairy ring that glows with inner phosphorescent light as bright as the Crescent Moon above. There is always danger in wandering into a fairy ring, in traveling beyond one’s place of comfort and entering the realm of the Moon, but “if one keeps the wits about, a glimpse beyond the bounds of sunlit reality is the rarest honor and most inspiring of enchantments. It is a doorway to hidden unknowns, and the wellspring of mingled dark and light that seeps forth from there” (Barbara Moore, Shadowscapes Companion).
I meditated upon this message, upon its relevance to my life. I observed each thought that the card produced in me, from a distance, through the lens of both object and subject. After so much time spent meditating upon it, I actually entered the card. I became the Sidhe Queen, stepping onto midnight dew, my skin glowing with Moonlight, dryads falling in step behind me, ready to attend me. I reached down to touch the phosphorescent mushrooms, with their silken rubbery skin. I calmly acknowledged the danger, accepted my choices, and bathed in the magic of the place. I had earned the trust of the Spirits through piety and by trusting in Them, when so few can distinguish their sense of caution and hesitancy from intuition, when the latter so often tells us there are such great rewards to be found in Trust.
I believe that this method of meditation is one I wish to continue on a regular basis, at sundown, either before I perform a rite or after preparing for sleep, and beginning to unwind before bed.