I decided to take the metal discipline requirement as an opportunity to do something I hadn’t done before. I have meditated and done various types of trance work in the past and wanted to do something different. Over the last several years I had thought about trying yoga but, for one reason or another, never did. I decided to give it a try, not just focusing on the physical benefits, but also looking at how a regular yoga practice would affect my emotional, spiritual,l and mental lives.
I began my yoga journey in December of 2013. One Saturday I was shopping at Meijer and finally gave into the pull of the “fitness” section. I selected two beginner yoga DVDs and a conveniently packaged beginner yoga set that included a mat, block and strap. On the December 12th I finally did yoga for the first time. It was rough. I was shaky and unstable in a lot of the poses and was about 8 inches away from being able to touch my toes. My first sessions were about 10 minutes each, and that was more than enough. I started out doing yoga in the afternoons after work as a way to relax after the day. Gradually, I found myself relaxing into the poses. They were still tough and I wobbled, but after a few weeks my inner dialogue went from “I’m gonna fall and hit my head” to “Focus. You can do this”. My mind began to focus on the poses and my breathing rather than the rat race of everyday life and the long to do list for work and home. Soon I added the mantra, “Between fire and water I find my balance” to my yoga practice. I also began anointing my forehead with water from my well and lighting my sacred fire before beginning yoga and turned my yoga practice into a moving devotional.
The relaxation pose at first served as a chance to catch my breath after going through the more active parts of the routine, but as my mind and body quieted during the poses, the relaxation at the end took on a more meditative feel. I began to go deeper and deeper during the Savasana. This never seemed long enough, so I started meditating right before bed. This served two purposes. First, it settled my mind further and allowed me to get deeper and better quality sleep. Second, it helped me re-establish a regular meditation schedule. During these evening meditations, I began to go deeper and interact with the Kindred and my Patrons on a more regular basis. I met and was adopted/welcomes home by a Dragon clan as well as meeting two more patron deities. I also learned to let myself float and not think; to quiet my mind and just be; and to have no expectations or destination in mind for the meditation. When I do this successfully, I lose myself for a bit. It feels as though I am floating above everything, recharging in a vast pool of universal energy that surrounds us everyday, but most of the time we never interact with or tap into. This does not happen every time of course. There are days when my mind refuses to settle, my toes cramp, or I am distracted by something going on outside the apartment. This has been and will continue to be, a journey and a lesson in persistence.
As I continued to do yoga and meditate, I also began walking outside. As the weather got better I felt the pull of the outdoors and wanted to spend as much time outside as possible. I upped my walking routine and it turned into a run/walk. I began to notice that walking and running also had a calming and meditative effect. As I walked or run I chanted to myself. I have used “Earth, Air Fire, Water”, nonsense syllables in a counterpoint rhythm to my steps, affirmations, and the names of my patrons as mantra during these exercised. I have been amazed at how well this works to not only quiet the mind, but make the exercise easier and more enjoyable. My walks and runs have gone from a way to keep active to meditative activities and moving devotionals. They have also given me a chance to interact with nature more frequently. I have walked and run through snow, sleet, rain and sunshine, through blustery winter winds and strong spring breezes. I have watch birds migrate and trees bud. I have seen storm clouds roll in and felt the first rays of sun after rains clouds part. I am looking forward to encountering new things as the year goes on.
When I started the mental discipline journey I figured I would do the same type of practice for the entire time. What I discovered was that one practice led to another and although those practices may not have been similar in nature, they did serve the same purpose; to quiet the day to day madness of my brain and allow a different state to emerge, one where things are the same but different, where everyday objects and occurrences take on a new meaning. The bud of the tree becomes a reason to rejoice and a squirrel scampering along a lawn brings laughter. I learned that this altered state doesn’t have to be achieved only while sitting or standing quietly, though that certainly has its place. It can also be achieved through movement and even during something as seemingly mundane as a walk though an apartment complex. The most important thing is allowing your rational thinking, ever analyzing mind to detach and allowing the quiet, creative, intuitive mind to come out to play. This is a continuing journey and I look forward to the new and interesting paths and trails I will undoubtedly explore as it continues.