Here are some exercises to move us a little more easily along our paths, not much more time required daily than last week: Ten minutes for meditation, about three minutes for grounding and centering, and the odd moment here and there for energy perception exercises and shopping, whatever time you choose to spend with your journal, and some time at your discretion to practice the Breathing Truth exercise.
If you have been doing the Simple Breath Meditation and the energy perception exercises in Lesson one, by now you may well be experiencing challenges with it. Change and resistance go hand in hand. It's a human thing, and it keeps us from jumping off mountains without thinking first—sometimes. As anyone knows who has been consciously on their path for a while, the spiritual path is definitely not smooth and blissful all the time.
Most humans, especially in Western cultures, feel that their lives could be better. If they have outgrown the idea that getting more objects, more money, and more power over other people will make them truly happy (it doesn't), they begin may be looking at personal and spiritual development as a path to happiness. Approached properly, this works.
There are several "spiritual" paths to failure, though. If we start out with the idea that getting right with God/dess or O Universe will bring us all that stuff we couldn't get enough of (things, money, power), we are again doomed to failure. It is surprising to me how much of "new age" thinking wraps around the idea that we'll get everything we think we want if we just are "positive", think "correctly" while saying a lot of affirmations, and only associate with the "right" people who will give us everything we want because we "deserve" it. None of those paths, in my experience, work well in achieving happiness because they have the wrong objectives.
If we have the idea that we must always "do good" and be martyrs to the desires of others, this also is not a road to spiritual understanding or happiness, but it may at least be helpful to other people—when it doesn't actually get in their way.
If we have the idea that a spiritual teacher can magically turn us into happy beings with little or no effort on our part, we are going to have major problems, and we'll likely find the wrong teacher. If the teacher is on an ego trip of their own, learning the same lessons about possessions, money, and power as we are, he or she will be quite unable to actually help us.
However, there is another kind of spiritual teacher—the kind who knows you ultimately have to make the changes in yourself for yourself, and that they can do little but offer guidelines that may help. That kind of teacher understands the rough spots, having been through and overcome many of them themselves. That kind of teacher also knows they don't have all the answers, that a suggestion is just a suggestion, and that different people take varying paths to the same goals. This teacher knows themselves to be human, and therefore not perfect and certainly not all-knowing. And this kind of teacher will give you the information they think you need, encourage you when they think you really need it, and let you get on with things. And when you succeed, they will be proud of you and let you know it. And they probably won't say, "I told you so!" about anything.
I know the secret to true happiness—the kind of happiness that doesn't depend on anyone or anything outside you. And it is there all the time,even when things aren't going well. Happiness is the natural bedrock of our being. The only reason we don't realize this is that we've covered up the bedrock with a huge garbage dump, with fertile soil over the dump in many places. In the garbage dump layer is all the stuff that causes us suffering—certain emotions, certain desires and ambitions, actions we regret, repressed grief, anger, and fear, stuff like that. You may not believe that it's that simple, but it is. You'll see, if you stick with this. All we need to do is clean out the dump and keep new stuff from adding to it. We're working on that. It takes time, especially since it is so easy to collect more garbage as we go. It can be done.
Like all good meditation exercises—exercises that actually help us in some specific way—the basic breath meditation in Lesson 1 is difficult at first. And it goes on being difficult, but the difficulties sneakily change as we practice. First, we may find that we can come up with all kinds of reasons why we cannot find the 10 minutes to do it, why we will (without even trying) be unable to do it, and why it is pointless to do anyway. The first sign of resistance is to give ourselves some semi-plausible reason for not meditating, not even attempting to do so. The only cure for this is to just do it—no excuses. Just. Do. It. Sit down and do it.
Once we actually sit down and attempt the meditation exercise, the next level of resistance from the Habitual Self is often to find reason to doing something else immediately. Oh, I may have left a stove burner turned on—I must fix that now. Did I pay the electric bill or have I forgotten? I'd better do it now before I forget. I wonder if I really had enough in the bank to cover that check I just sent? I'd better check that immediately before it gets to the bank. The dog is very quiet—I'd better see what he is up to. These distractions can get really silly, like "What if someone interrupts me? How will I feel? How can I make them go away? What will they think of me for doing this?"
And after we do whatever it is, somehow we either forget to go back to meditation or we "don't have time now." The cure for this level of resistance is to recognize the cleverness of your unconscious mind at creating distractions that will pull us away, and, if we can, to laugh at it. Then we need to ask ourselves if this really will not wait for 10 minutes, and unless the house is actually on fire or the baby crying, to ignore it and simply meditate. Just. Do. It.
Often the next distractions can go either of two ways—discomfort caused by the meditation or playing with the meditation. Let's look at discomfort first. The chair is uncomfortable... funny that—it has always been comfortable before. Thinking about your breathing is unusual and sometimes doing so makes you breathe oddly or get tangled up and find it difficult to breathe. Yet, we must remember, that most of us go through every day breathing normally all day. We know how to do this! We can do this!
Then there may be deeper discomforts, sometimes quite painful ones. We talked about them and how to deal with them in Meditation and the First Steps in Self-Healing. Fortunately, these don't happen often. You may be able to handle them yourselves, or you may need skilled help. Remember, the wise person asks for help when they need it.
In the ordinary daily meditation, we usually experience a stream of distractions and varying forms of resistance. We get frustrated and annoyed—and letting go of the frustration and annoyance is the key to letting go of the resistance because resisting the resistance takes you twice as far from the meditative mind as the initial resistance does. The main trick here is not to "fight back and conquer" but to simply notice the resistance in whatever form it takes and let it go. One way to break the thought or feeling is to simply name it—worrying, thinking, daydreaming, wishing, babbling, anger, fear, resentment, fretting, wandering—and go back to the breath and to the count. You're breathing, you're counting, you're meditating.
Distractions can also come in the most alluring guises. Wonderful visions accompanied by delightful feelings may occur. As hard as it may seem, these too need releasing. When you're trying to meditate, they are simply another distraction from the meditation. If you like, tell them to please come back when you're not meditating. If they do not return when you're free, you'll know that they were just your Habitual Self creating distractions and nothing more. True visions come at a right time, not when you need to be doing something as important as your meditation practice. After all, the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day are available for them and good spirits, guides, teachers or friends, will respect that.
This is a simple meditative exercise that sometimes has very profound effects. I like to do a few minutes of it after I do my earthing and centering and before I do the simple breathe-and-count meditation. It is optional, but I recommend that you find time to practice it at least occasionally. A little of it helps clear the mind wonderfully, and on the occasions when we seriously need it, we are already at least a little practiced in it.
It's very simple: As you inhale a simple, normal breath, think, "I am breathing in truth." As you exhale that breath, think, "I am breathing out not-truth."
Don't think about what "truth" is or ought to be—your higher self knows and understands. Besides, you are breathing in the energy of truth, not some assorted facts. Don't try to label or identify what "not-truth" is either. Again, this is about the energy of not-truth, and your higher self knows and can take care of this much better and more effectively than your conscious mind. Don't get caught up in thoughts or emotions that may come up, which are usually about facts, pseudo facts, and outright lies—just keep coming back to and stay with the natural, simple breath and the words. In a week or two, I'll talk more about this and the powerful uses we can put it to in times of stress.
This is where your magical and spiritual power comes from. Our physical energy comes from the food we eat, the response of our bodies to moderate sunshine, and the air we breath. Our subtle energy is different. It is everywhere in the universe and everywhere in us and constantly moving. This movement is what keeps us alive, just as much as the physical energy does in other ways. The important thing about the subtle energy in us is that it must keep moving freely, without blocks. Thoughts, emotions, and physical problems create blocks—crystallized energy, immoveable energy.
How do we move it and release those blocks? By changing our mistaken thoughts and beliefs, releasing old repressed emotions, finding and releasing the patterns of behavior and thought that cause us to keep those blocks strong, and being conscious of the reflexive reaction to physical pain that causes us to create blocks around it. Physical pain and illness are often in part a result of subtle energy blocks rather than the first cause of them, but in either case, cause or effect, subtle energy does not have to be blocked by pain or illness. The hardest part of removing the blocks is the releasing of the behaviors and attitudes that cause them, but we can help this process along wonderfully and painlessly and magically.
By moving subtle energy.
Just as the moving water of a stream gradually wears away the rocks and debris in the moving water, we can help the process of release by simply moving energy. Sound too easy? It isn't—all of our resistance, our tricky Habitual Self, will attempt to keep us from doing this just as it tries to keep us from meditating and doing other things that will change, heal, and enrich our lives. The Habitual Self does not like change and will try to get in the way. (There are things to do to help diminish that too, but we can't do everything at once. We'll get to them later.)
So. Moving energy. The reason we began with feeling the energy between our hands was that I wanted you to get some sense of subtle energy and its changeable nature and movement. Keep working with that. Do not worry about feeling skeptical or thinking that what you feel is your imagination. If you keep practicing, you will gradually increase your skill at perceiving it. And you will also make discoveries and have experiences that will convince even the most skeptical that what the experience has its own reality. There is a reason why it is called subtle energy. It isn't fully imperceptible, but it is all too easy to ignore—and we often get in the habit of that. Overcoming a habit isn't always easy, especially when the habit is supported by others around us who are making the same error.
The first thing to realize is that subtle energy is everywhere, moving in patterns and randomly. Thus, when you inhale, you're not only taking in oxygen to feed your cells, but you're also taking in subtle energy at the same time. But whereas physical energy is fairly much automatically operated by the body, subtle energy can be influenced by the mind. And the more we practice influencing it, the better we get at it. So, to practice...
Here is a simple and useful subtle energy movement exercise that is done in three breaths, as follows:
First, check the energy between your hands before doing the exercise, looking for size, texture, and resiliency.
Next, take in a deep natural breath, and as you exhale imagine/allow the subtle energy in the breath to go down, all the way down through your legs and feet and into the heart of the earth. (You can ignore anything between yourself and the earth—it will not affect the energy enough to bother about.)
As you inhale the second breath, feel/imagine the warm, nurturing, strong energy of the earth rising up through your feet and legs, through your body. Notice as it passes through your heart. Then, as you exhale, allow/imagine the energy to go out through your arms and hands and up through your neck and through the top of your head. You're not trying to keep or store it—you want it to move freely through you, washing away anything that doesn't need to be there, cleansing as it passes, just like the flowing water in a stream.
As inhale the third breath, imagine/sense/visualize the bright, clear, powerful energy radiating down on you from the source of all being. (You can think of this source as the sun, the energy radiating from the center of the universe, the God/dess of your choice, or whatever other concept of source works for you.) Inhale, thinking of it radiating down through your scalp and head, neck and chest. Be aware of it passing through your heart. Then as you exhale, sense/imagine the energy flowing out through arms and hands, down through your body, legs and feet, into the earth.
Repeat the entire cycle three times, making nine breaths in all. When done, check the energy between your hands again, and note any change.
Do this at the beginning of every meditation and before doing any healing, psychic, visionary, or prayer work. And do it again when you're done.
Peering in my crystal ball (to sounds of ethereal music), I can foresee that you are going to need some magical items in the weeks to come.
Journal—you've already got that, right?
Pendulum—we'll be doing some dowsing and scrying for different things. In fact, we'll be doing a great deal of it, so you'll need a pendulum often. I'd recommend having two—one for everyday to have with you most of the time that can get lost or mislaid and be easy to replaced, and one fancy one so that you can feel that you have a Really Magical Pendulum, which won't actually work better than the ordinary one, but it's nice to have nice things. (There speaketh the Libra!)
The everyday pendulum is easy to make. You need a suitable weight and a bit of string or light chain. A brass or steel key is about the right weight (aluminum is too light). A ring you wear can be used if it is the right weight, and it's something you always have with you.
The weight needs to have a hole in it for attaching the string and it needs to hang pretty straight. A moderately heavy bead will do, or you can buy a few galvanized metal washers and use enough of them to swing properly. You can test for the right feel by using a key—just tie a bit of thread to it and swing it. It should have a definite swing, not wobbly, and be easy to swing with a slight movement.
A pendulum needs a string or light chain about 6 to 9 inches long (approximately 15-25 cm). String or thread will do, but thread will need to be doubled or braided to be heavy enough. Chains usually need special little rings to attach them. Thread would probably work for the attachment, but it will wear out quickly. You can, if you have long hair, use one of your own hairs, renewing it each time. In fact, the classic pendulum for everyday use was a gold ring (preferably your wedding ring, which was believed to have the advantage of being sacred) and a hair from the head of the user.
You might find just the right thing for an everyday pendulum at a thrift or second-hand store. A necklace with a suitable pendant on it can work very well. I used to use them a lot because they were always conveniently at hand. Just make certain that it's cheap enough to lose without distressing you.
A fancy pendulum can be made by a crafty person or purchased in a shop that carries new age things. You could probably find them on-line as well, but I'd prefer to actually hold it and see that the hang and swing of it feels right before spending actual money on it. I'm not sure exactly when we'll start using them, but it will probably be fairly soon.
Tarot or Oracle Cards—We won't need these immediately, but some of you may not have decks and will need a while to look around and choose one you feel happy with. Many of them can be purchased through Amazon.com if you don't have a local store that stocks them. One of the best places to look at them (even better than most shops where they are usually sealed up) is http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/ where there are reviews and sample cards for over 1200 decks. (Yes, I did type that right—1200.)
One Packet of Blank White 3 x 5 Card—the kind of cards that people keep recipes or addresses or notes to themselves on. Usually there are 100 cards in the packet and they are made of light card stock. Plain white, blank on both sides is probably best. You'll need them for a number of things. Some of them may even wind up pasted into your journal.
Colored Pens Or Pencils—a cheap set will do as long as the marks are clearly visible.
A Goodish Pen to Write With—nothing is more distracting than a skritchy pen or one that makes messes. Sometimes a good pen makes one feel more like a Real Writer, but whatever works best for you.
Spiritual Advisor—Find a person who can help you if you find you have heavy stuff to deal with and want help. Choose carefully—this needs to be someone you can be honest and reasonably comfortable with, but it also needs to be someone with counseling skills and whose view of spirituality is not incompatible with yours. It may be a long search, so start now.
Take one of your 3x5 cards, copy this list on it, and carry it with you until you've got everything taken care of.
That's all my crystal ball is showing me at the moment. There are apt to be other things later.
© 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.