Mental Discipline Essay

3 03 2014

I began the mental discipline aspect of the Dedicant Path course in late April and continued until early December. Throughout that time I usually meditated once per week but sometimes managed three or four times. My average was twice a week. One of the key lessons I learned was there are many different types of meditations and ways to meditate and I experimented with a wide variety. I started off trying to do ten minute sitting meditations focused on my breathing. After each breath I counted a number, going from 1 up to 10 and then I counted back down to 1. I felt I achieved some success using this method and usually found myself feeling calmer afterwards. Later I increased this to 15 minutes (or 20 minutes when outside).

The next method I tried from week five onwards was the Two Powers meditation. This took about ten minutes. I found this very difficult as I struggle to visualise things. I didn’t really enjoy it but persisted with the method for most of the time. Despite this, I don’t feel I really made any progress in this area.

Most of the time I meditated inside but I also tried to add 20 minutes of sitting meditation focused on my breath when I went to spend time out in nature each week. This helped me be more disciplined about it, but distractions were a real problem. I enjoyed meditating outside and feeling nature all around me – the birds singing, the sun or wind on my face e.t.c. When meditating inside, I would sit in front of my altar and often do a short devotion before beginning meditation.

One of the highlights for me was that the mental discipline requirement inspired me to go on a weekend trip to stay at a local Buddhist monastery. While there, I did 5 periods of hour long meditation sessions (focused on my breath) as well as a couple of walking meditation (mindfulness) sessions. These were the longest period of time I had done meditation and I felt they were very beneficial. By the end of this weekend, I was finding it easier to focus and keep my mind clear for longer periods. I enjoyed meditating in the dark as it provided for a more calming atmosphere. During the year I also experimented with metta (loving-kindness) meditation and found that to be quite peaceful and even emotional, although the visualisation aspect was difficult as usual.

Towards the end of the period, I took part in Exeter University’s Stoic Week which recommended several ancient mental discipline practices from Stoicism. These included planning and reviewing one’s day, contemplating the vastness of the universe and visualising how one would deal with difficult situations or people which might arise during the day. I found these to be very worthwhile exercises and probably the most useful mental disciplines I had tried. The big benefit I found from these Stoic meditation exercises was that, even in the space of a week, I became more calm in my daily life and less frustrated when negative situations arose.

I never managed to develop a consistent daily or weekly routine and so I learned that discipline is something I need to improve. Rather, I tended to meditate when I remembered. The other big problem I had was posture, which probably contributed to my lack of enjoyment of the practice. During the first few weeks, my back was in a lot of pain throughout the meditation sessions but eventually I learned that it was because I wasn’t properly pivoting my pelvis. Once I had solved that issue the back pain went away and it was easier to focus. However, I also found myself regularly slouching during meditation practice and this issue has not been resolved. A Buddhist monk in the monastery I visited suggested taking up Tai Chi, but essentially this problem is down to the fact that I slouch so much in daily life.

Despite the many setbacks during these attempts at meditation, I learned a lot of different methods and discovered verious things about myself. I am not sure whether it helped me grow spiritually, however by the end of the period I had come to the conclusion that my focus needed to be on regular devotionals and perhaps some stoic practices rather than the breathing or two powers meditation as a mental discipline practice. I still want to learn to develop a disciplined meditation practice so I will try again in future, however I think part of the issue is the need to have a clear reason or goal to carry it out. I have discovered that I can meditate for reasonably long periods if I put my mind to it, but its having that initial desire or reason to prompt me to start each time. In future, I would like to explore mantra meditation and trance to see how I get on with those. Overall I think I tried hard to meet this requirement but, while it was an interesting and educational experience, it certainly wasn’t my favourite part of the course.





Nature Awareness 8th Dec 2013 and Mental Discipline Updates

8 12 2013

So I haven’t been out to my normal place in Nature since the last post on the topic back in October. I decided at Samhain that the weather is becoming too cold now and I have seen most of the yearly cycle – everything is dying off. I also think I’m going to switch the spot I go to from the nature conservation area to a local park behind my house. This is partly because its closer so I’ll be more likely to go, but more importantly it isn’t restrictive in terms of offerings. I couldn’t give offerings at the nature conservation area because it would attract rats and they would eat the baby chicks e.t.c which I definitely don’t want to happen, however I can easily give offerings in the park (albeit there’s more people around) and hopefully this will mean I can develop a closer relationship with the nature spirits.

I am also changing my mental discipline plans. I have tried to follow a meditation regime but I have failed to feel like I’m making any progress or enjoying it. I have done the required 5 months and I will still do some meditation now and again using a Buddhist loving kindness meditation or Stoic meditation but a disciplined daily regime feels beyond me. I think I have done enough to have a reasonable understanding of the Two Powers meditation and I have explored many other types of meditation but I would like to change to a more devotional practice using the Solitary Druid Fellowships evening devotion (with some small amendments). I won’t have a set time each day I’ll be doing it as I have found that too difficult to keep to when my life doesn’t have a set routine, so I will do it whenever I can and hopefully every day. I am also switching my focus more to a Norse Pantheon as I seem to be connecting better with it.

Mental Discipline

Week 28 (26th October – 1st November)

31st October – I did a Two Powers meditation for 10 minutes in front of the altar as part of my Samhain ritual. It went well although I felt tense still and kept slumping. The visualisations are not getting any easier.

Week 29 (2nd November – 8th November)

2nd November – I went to a Buddhist retreat this weekend. This involved a lot more meditation than I was used to. It started with a 3 hour workshop on meditation which consisted of a short talk, 45 minutes sitting meditation, 45 minutes walking meditation and finally another 45 minutes sitting meditation. I really enjoyed the walking meditation and learned how to do it properly. Later that day we had another 1 hour meditation session.

3rd November – The day began with an hour meditation at 5am in the morning and another one at 7pm in the evening. Meditation for these long periods was difficult mainly because I kept needing to move around due to pain. I still keep slumping and the monk suggested I might need to take up alternatives like Tai Chi to help me deal with my posture issues. Overall I felt the weekend helped me to really progress my meditation skills.

Week 30 (9th Nov – 15th Nov )

No meditation this week.

Week 31 (16th Nov – 22nd Nov)

No meditation this week.

Week 32 (23rd Nov – 29th Nov)

25th November – It was the beginning of Stoic Week so I did the Stoic Meditations which consist of a focusing on breathing for a short time, then contemplating the vastness of the universe and my place in it. Following that one plans their day and visualises situations where it might not go according to plan and how its best to deal with those. I felt this type of meditation where my mind is engaged in planning seems to be easier.

26th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

27th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

28th November – I did 10 minutes of Stoic Meditation as above.

Week 33 (30th Nov – 6th Dec)

2nd December – I did 10 minutes Stoic Meditation. I also did a Stoic circle of compassion meditation mixed with a Buddhist loving kindness meditation. I visualised a light of love surrounding my body then extending it out to encompass different groups of people until the whole world was encompassed. I also said silently “May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be loved” at each stage. I found the visualisation hard but I did feel it was beneficial.

3rd December – The last of the Stoic Week meditations today. I also did a 15 minute guided meditation which was focused on contemplating my place in the universe by imagining myself floating up from my body. It was again difficult to do the visualisation and the words were spoken too fast which made things difficult. I need to do some practice on it.

4th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

6th December – I did an evening devotional and gave offerings of Oats to the Kindred.

Outline of new daily devotion

(Light Candle & Incense)

Say: “I come before the sacred fire, sacred well and the sacred tree to give thanks for the blessings in my life.”

(Breathe deep 9 times)

Say: “I give thanks to the Earth Mother, Nerthus, for the support and sustenance she gives to my life. Hail Earth Mother!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Ancestors for making my life possible and for the guidance and blessings they give me.” Hail Ancestors!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Nature Spirits who watch over my land and home for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Spirits of Nature!”

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to the Gods and Goddesses, especially ….(changes each day)……… for the magic they bring to this world and for the guidance and blessings they give me. Hail Shining Ones!

(Give offering)

Say: “I give thanks to all the Kindred for their presence in my life, and for the blessings they have given me. Hail Holy Ones!”

(Give offering)

Say: “Mighty Kindred of the nine worlds, I give thanks to you today and ask that you accept my offerings. In return I ask for your blessings and protection upon my family, friends and upon my home. Guide me in the path I must walk and may I feel your presence ever with me.

So may it be.”

(Bow then blow out candle)





Nature Awareness Update 25th October & Mental Discipline Weeks 25 – 27

25 10 2013

We’ve had a lot of rain recently so I haven’t been able to get out much. Today I went out mid afternoon and it was cloudy but dry. There were a few blue patches in the sky and it was very windy but mild. There are a lot of leaves on the floor now and the Horse Chestnut trees have almost lost all their leaves. Many White Poplar leaves are yellow now too. There are still some blackberries around but they are very small. I noticed some a small holly plant which was probably hidden by all the growth of other plants that have now died back (although I didn’t notice it in the spring). There are also some new nettles around. I heard a few birds singing and saw seagulls and crows circling as the flew up in the wind. There was also a Magpie. Most of the insects, including the spiders are gone now but there were a few Pondskaters and a bee. In the lake there were only 7 swans – I don’t know where the other two have gone.

Mental Discipline

5th October – 11th October

6th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went well but visualisation still needs improving.
9th October – I did 10 minutes of the Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped so my back hurt and visualisation was very difficult. I prayed to the kindred giving them an offering of incense as well as lighting a candle and praying to Brighid.

12th October – 18th October

17th October – I did 10 minutes of the  Two Powers Meditation at my altar. It went ok but I slumped a lot again as I don’t think I was sitting correctly and found visualisation difficult.  I gave an offering of incense to the kindred and lit a candle to honour Brighid. I’ve decided to try some Buddhist style meditation again rather than Two Powers for a while.

19th October – 25th October

25th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in my nature spot. The time went fast and I felt calm. I enjoyed the wind blowing around me and against me as I sat there still. I changed my routine a little from chanting 1 up to 10 alone to doing that and then counting back down from 10 – 1. I did slouch a lot which i think was because I wasn’t sitting right and my paper I write notes on flew away half way through so I had to sort that out and begin again. My breath slowed when I was meditating but I sometimes felt more tense when it did. I have done some research on mantra meditation and might try some of that this week too.

For more exciting news – I am going to stay at a Buddhist Monastery next weekend so should hopefully be able to reboot my meditation practice and sort out issues I have.





Nature Awareness Update 4th October & Mental Discipline Week 23 + 24

4 10 2013

I went out to the spot in nature early this afternoon. The sky was cloudy although there were a few blue spots. It was very warm and windy. There are still lots of blackberries out but most flowers have died off now. The floor was covered with leaves, and many leaves on the trees have turned yellow (except the horse chestnuts which turn orange or brown), however there are still many green leaves on the trees. The horse chestnut has some large buds appearing on it and the few chestnuts that are left have turned brown. There are still lots of spider webs around and I also saw a few bees and the red dragon fly again. Pond weed is covering the small pond now and is also in the larger pond however there were still quite a few pond skaters in there. There were very few birds in the nature reserve, however on the lake there were seagulls, a heron, 8 swans, 5 coots, some ducks and 6 moorhens. There were also three different types of mushrooms on the grass nearby. It seemed a lot quieter today with a clear sense that things are winding down. There is a lot less activity than there was a month ago. Next week I want to try an experiment by opening myself up to messages from  the Earth Mother and local spirits.

Mental Discipline

21st September – 27th September

21st September – I did 20 minutes meditation at my normal place in nature. I got interrupted twice and my mind kept wandering. i was also distracted by the birds singing. My legs are still a problem as I’m not sure what to do with them when I’m there. But I found my sense of hearing improved and I became more aware of what was going on around me. I felt calm afterwards. Overall I didn’t think it was too good of a session.

25th September – I did the two powers meditation for 10 minutes at home in front of my altar. It went well and the visualisation was a little easier. I also lit a candle and prayed to Brigid.

28th September – 4th October

4th October – I meditated for 20 minutes in the nature spot. My mind kept wandering a lot but I seem to have solved my leg issue by simply keeping my feet flat on the floor. I also seem to breathe faster when my mind wanders and slower once I return to focusing on my breath again. I felt quite calm after.





Nature Awareness Update 25th September & Mental Discipline Week 22

25 09 2013

I went out to my usual nature spot on Sunday as it was the Autumn Equinox. It was 3pm and it was cloudy, but warm with a little wind. There are still lots of blackberries out and some aren’t yet ripe. There were a few bees and wasps as well as spiders in large webs. I also saw two red dragon fly’s, lots of pond skaters and a butterfly. Many leaves on the trees have changed colour to red, yellows and browns now however on some trees most leaves are still green. There were a pair of small birds in a tree and some magpies and sea gulls around. One of the swans is missing but I saw a young adult moorhen too. I’m not sure what happened to the others.

Mental Discipline

14th September  – 20th September

20th September – I did a 10 minute Two Powers meditation in front of my altar. It went well but I felt a bit tense and visualisation is still difficult.





Nature Awareness Update 13th September & Mental Discipline Weeks 19 – 21

13 09 2013
English: Horse chestnut leaves turning brown

English: Horse chestnut leaves turning brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been very bad and not visited my nature spot since the end of August because I have been very busy. Today I went out at 3pm but it was raining a little. There was some wind and light grey clouds covered the sky. The last few days I have had a sense of things changing in nature. The weather has turned, it has become cold enough that I’ve now had to shut the windows in my flat and the number of leaves covering the ground is now noticeable. The leaves on many trees are changing colour and the blackberries are beginning to go over. Many flowers have died off and the plants are turning brown. The horse chestnuts have few green leaves left and the white poplar leaves are beginning to turn yellow. I saw a few bees, a red dragon fly and some large spider webs but there were very few insects around. There were lots of seagulls and I saw a Dunnock but couldn’t see any others (although I heard a few in the trees). It’s really beginning to feel like the earth is dying off again now.

Mental Discipline

24th – 30th August

25th August – I did the two powers meditation for 10 mins in front of my altar. It went well today and i only slouched once. i found visualisation a little easier too and towards the end (when the currents were mixing) I felt warm and could sense extra light (might have been from the sun though). I lit a candle beforehand and prayed the druids prayer as well as a prayer to Brighid, I also lit some incense as an offering.

26th August – I meditated for 20 minutes in the nature spot outside. My legs wouldn’t get comfortable so I had to try different positions but none felt relaxed. It seemed a lot easier to focus but my mind did wander a few times and I got interrupted by someone too. I also had trouble with my back again. Overall it seemed a good session but I need to deal with the comfort issues when I’m sat outside.

31st August – 6th September

1st September – I did two powers meditation for 10 minutes in front of my altar. It went well and visualisation was slightly easier. I also slouched less. I did feel tense as I was imagining the water coming up into me and could sense brighter light as I imagined sky power going into me.

7th September – 13th September

13th September – I did 20 minutes meditation outside in the nature spot. I felt very calm afterwards. The meditation went ok but I had a lot of tension in my feet and my mind kept wandering after about 10 minutes. I had no issues with my back which was good.





Nature Awareness Update & Mental Discipline Week 18

27 08 2013

I went out to the nature conservation area on Monday evening. It was a lovely sunny hot day, with no wind and not a cloud in the sky. There were sounds of crickets, seagulls and a few small birds singing. I saw many insects including butterflies, a pond skater, a red dragon fly and a blue one. There were also many bees and wasps still collecting nectar. The plants are now taller than I am, most of the blackberries are ripe but there are still many not yet ripe. The horse chestnut seeds are very big now and the leaves on those trees are turning brown.

There weren’t many birds around this week. I saw a robin, a wood pigeon and a large raven. There were no moorhens in the ponds today either.

I picked up a piece of rubbish and took it home as an offering because i’m not allowed to leave anything there for the nature spirits.

Mental Discipline

17th August – 23rd August

The good news this time is that I have managed to meditate a lot this week.

17th August – I did a four minute meditation. It was difficult to focus at the beginning and I was interrupted a few times. Otherwise it went well. My hearing senses felt a lot clearer.

18th August – I did a 20 minute meditation outside in the nature spot. The time seemed to drag and I kept slouching. I lost focus quite often but not as much as a few weeks ago.

20th August – I have decided to go back to doing the Two Powers meditations. I did a meditation for 10 minutes in front of the altar. The visualisations are still very difficult but I found it easier to stay focused. It was a good session. I felt calm after and like I had “filled up on power.”

21st August – I did the Two Powers meditation. I felt very hot and tense so I wasn’t breathing properly during the session and I had some chest pain. The visualisations were difficult but I did feel calm afterwards.

22nd August – I did the Two Powers meditation for 10 minutes. I also prayed to Brighid first. I put an extra cushion on my chair after having asked a meditation expert for advice about slouching and he said a strong foundation is key. It did seem to help with slouching a bit. I’m still struggling with visualisation though.





Nature Awareness Update 11th August & Mental Discipline Week 14-16

11 08 2013
English: Blackberries

English: Blackberries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t managed to get out to the nature reserve for a few weeks but did manage it this week. I went out on Thursday at 5pm. It was sunny but also windy and quite a few clouds were in the sky. I saw five little ducklings as well as the swans and all seven cygnets which are almost as big as their parents now. I also saw what I think were black headed gulls but they had white heads at the moment.

There were many insects out including lots of bees and wasps, some butterflies and three dragonflies which surprised me because I thought they only lived a few weeks out of water…although it may have been new ones. I could also hear crickets.

There were lots of new plants I didn’t recognise, and almost every plant in the area is now over 5 ft tall. Blackberries and raspberries have been ripe for the last few weeks.

Seagulls were flying over head and I saw a moorhen with two of her chicks. I don’t think the others have survived :(. The chicks are twice their original size now so I’m feeling optimistic about their survival. A female blackbird came close to the moorhen nest and the adult moorhen chased it away.

I was surprised when I got there to see that one of the benches was broken. A man came during the time I was sat there and mended it. I helped him.

Mental Discipline

Week 14, 15 & 16

This is going to be a long bit to cover the last three weeks.

The good news is that having an app on my phone is working and reminding me to meditate, not every day but more than usual.

28th July – I did a meditation inside. I began by saying the Druids Prayer and then meditated for 20 minutes in front of my altar. I have changed it slightly to make the Buddha statue a more central part. My mind kept wandering and was a little fidgety. I was an ok session and I felt peaceful afterwards.

29th July – I have started using a “learn meditation” app on my phone and it begins with three minutes. I did three minutes of meditation today and it went well.

30th July – I did a three minute meditation this afternoon and it went well. I slouched a little but managed to focus for most of the time.

31st July – I did a three minute meditation as part of my lughnasadh ritual. It went well.

4th August – I did a three minute meditation. I found it very hard to focus for more than a few seconds. I think its because I hadn’t done it for a few days.

7th August – I did a four minute meditation. It was hard to focus but I felt calm afterwards,

8th August – I did a 20 minute meditation outside although I was interrupted after the first 10 minutes so it became two 10 minute meditations. It seemed easier that normal but towards the end I kept losing focus. I did feel some changes in consciousness towards the end of the first 10 minutes though. Overall I felt it was a good session.





Nature Awareness Update 19th July & Mental Discipline Week 13

19 07 2013
English: Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus). Français ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went out at 4.15 on Friday. It was very hot as we are enjoying a long heatwave in Britain this year. There were a few cirrus clouds high in the sky but little wind. When I first got there, I noticed that there were raspberries already ripe. I tried one and it was lovely and sweet. There was a mixture of ripe and unripe ones which is a huge contrast to last year when nothing was ripening at this point.

There were lots of insects around including quite a few white, brown and even blue butterflies, there were also bees, two dragonflies, pondskaters, water boatmen and a spider. The brown bits of the horse chestnut leaves have got bigger and its clear that they are starting to change colour.

There were some birds singing in the trees, a few seagulls flew over and I saw a couple of wood pigeons. I also saw at least three of the baby moorhens and a parent but i’m not sure about the fourth. The older sibling was helping to feed one of them too. The baby coots are adult size now and the baby cygnets are doing well too.

Mental Discipline

13th July to 19th July

I was outside again for my meditation today. I did a meditation focused on my breath. It didn’t go particularly well although I think I was sitting better as I didn’t feel any pain. I did keep slouching and had a lot of trouble avoiding thinking. I still can’t keep my mind clear even for 10 seconds. I also didn’t manage to do even a single day of short meditation so I have now added an app to my phone with a daily reminder to try and help. Overall, I need to improve and do meditation more often.





Nature Awareness Update 12th June & Mental Discipline Week 11 + 12

12 07 2013

Last week I was on holiday so I’m having to do two weeks worth in one. I didn’t manage to get out to my place in nature last week but I was camping and spent a lot of time outside so I reckon that counts.

On Thursday this week I went out, it was very sunny and we’ve been enjoying a lovely heatwave. The sky was blue and there were a few wispy streaks of cirrus clouds. There was a little wind but not much.

There were many seagulls, a few wood pigeons, a swift and some crows. There were also a few house sparrows and dunnocks (I can finally identify these). The brilliant news is that the two moorhens were in the pond….and they have four new baby chicks! The chicks are so small and cuts but they and able to swim and for the most part feed themselves so they are doing better than the last lot. I did ask the spirits and the earth mother to look after them this time and help them all survive. There was another bird which I couldn’t identify (I’m pretty sure it was their previous chick that survived) and it kept coming close but being chased away by the adults.

There were lots of insects around including three pondskaters, a dragon fly, bees, butterflies and lots of spiders webs. The reeds have grown noticeably large and the meadowsweet and purple loose strife are both flowering now but the yellow iris’ have almost all gone over.

As usual, I greeted the earth mother, nature spirits and spirit of the place and thanked them when I left.

Mental Discipline

 

29th June – 5th July

I was on holiday this week so I decided to do a meditation at camp site. I kept getting distracted but did 20 minutes. It didn’t go that well as my back was in pain a little because I wasn’t sat right.

6th July – 12th July

11th July – I did 20 minutes meditation out in the conservation area. I got distracted a few times by the birds and my mind wandered a few times. However I felt very calm afterwards, and during the meditation I felt some feelings of going within or boundaries disappearing. It was a good session and I’m enjoying doing it out in nature. I do feel I should be further ahead at this point in being able to have a clear mind so have decided to try and make the meditations a daily habit by starting off doing just 3 mins a day and building up slowly, but doing longer on the day when I’m out in nature.