Mental Discipline Journal 5, in which Cerridwen throws down the gauntlet

This is my last mental discipline journal for my DP documentation, so I’ll dwell a bit on my progress over the five months and some thoughts on future directions.

First things first, however, so here is my journal for the past month.  I have been keeping up with my morning devotionals and their associated meditations.  They continue to help me ground for the day ahead.  My time spent doing lengthier meditations has continued to decline since the summer, but I have been trying a few other techniques.  For instance, I have now taken a couple of ‘trance drumming’ workshops with David Turner so have tried working on that a bit, although I am frankly not very good with my djembe so it is going to take a while.

Looking back over the last five months of working on this journal, however, I think that I can say that I have made real progress on the goals that I set out for myself.  I wanted specifically to gain control over certain emotional triggers which had the potential to sabotage me and interfere with my life, and which were simply increasing my daily stress level.  I feel that I have largely achieved this and am very happy with this fact.

That said, I do see some new challenges for the future.  On Samhain I performed a somewhat more elaborate version of my daily devotional, and in the middle of it I decided to take an omen – very unusual for me since I have really not yet spent the effort to develop divination skills so I usually leave these to others.  Nonetheless, I grabbed my Dali tarot deck and asked Cerridwen to give me an omen regarding my path.  I then drew three cards.  The results were… well, mixed, but one of the cards was the Page of Cups.  In my limited experience I understand this to mean that the asker should engage in some deep, emotional reflection.  This gave me pause to reflect that my meditation practice has thus far always been about finding my inner stillness and bringing the emotionless calm that comes with it into my everyday life.  What I believe is the next step for me is to move away from the path of the Zen Buddhist monk and his quiet pursuit of self-realization and instead explore the path of the Shaman, who seeks not the self but rather to open himself up to the voices of the Gods.

A tall order indeed for me, I think, but who said that Druidry would be easy?

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Mental Discipline Journal: Month 4

The mental discipline requirement asks for  “An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis.”

Most of the Dedicant journals that I have seen talk almost exclusively about meditation, so this month I want to discuss one of these other “systematic techniques” that I have been exploring.

Within my professional career, I am looking to make the leap from a technical professional to management.  In doing so I am researching some of the aspects of what makes a good leader, and am particularly interested in the concept that is known as Emotional Intelligence.   If you are not familiar with the idea, it probably sounds like another flakey Covey-esque business oriented self-help notion.  But really it is just another name for mental discipline.

Those of you who work in office environments know that they are politically charged atmospheres, and probably not a day goes by that your ‘fight or flight’ instinct doesn’t get triggered.   Letting these instincts take over, however, is the surest way you have to never getting promoted.   Being seen as a leader in the workplace requires that you rise above petty squabbling, turn conflicts into collaboration, and not get pulled into power struggles.  This is where the notion of Emotional Intelligence comes in.  It’s not about suppressing your emotions; it is about recognizing emotional reactions both within yourself and in others.  Once you recognize an emotion reaction in yourself it is a lot easier to prevent it from controlling you.

Some of the techniques related to Emotional Intelligence include paying attention to physical signs of emotion reactions and quietly listening to your inner voices when faced with emotion situations, and then regulating the instincts that arise from these reactions.  I am finding that that like most things they get much easier the more you practice.  Situations that used to make my  blood boil and cause me to write mean emails to co-workers explaining all of the reasons why they are idiots now result in me thinking “Oh.. I’m pretty angry about this.”  I am then, more often than not, able to use a bit of objectivity and look for real solutions to the situation rather than just further poisoning the work environment.

So there you have it; there are lots more ways to build mental discipline than just meditation.

Mental Discipline Journal – Month 3

I have little to report for this month, I’m afraid.  All of my energy was focused on organizing our new local Druid group and I had little left over for introspection.

However I can say that although I did less meditation in July, the quality of the meditations are improving.  My short morning meditation which I do as part of my daily devotional is getting more and more profound for me.  This is significantly improving my overall mental discipline as well, I believe.  I find myself less and less bothered by trivial things, especially at work.   Like Antaeus, I feel my connection to the Earth often now and draw strength from her, and allow negative energy to be grounded into her.

 

Mental Discipline Journal Month 2

Not too much to report this month.  On the meditation front I am continuing my short sessions as part of my daily devotionals as well as trying to get outside at lunch once or twice a week to meditate in the park.

I am definitely getting better at being able to tune out the distractions around me.  With the summer here, the downtown park that I go to at lunch is teeming with people.  However, I have been able to reach fairly deep meditative states on a few occasions, once even with a group of young adults who decided to start playing frisbee right around me.

I still find that having ants crawling on me to be distracting, however… no matter how much I envision my skin to be bark or tell myself that they can’t hurt me!

On the mental discipline front I am making progress.  I have a bad habit of letting little things easily get to me.   Traffic is the worst.  I can never seem to get over just how rude cagers can be.  The Oatmeal has a great cartoon about it.  It’s like those little metal boxes with wheels bestow their drivers with the right to hate everyone else on the planet.   So anyway, I have been the past often found that something as stupid as having my right-of-way being stolen will put me into a foul mood that I simply cannot shake.   This month I have been working on it, and am finding techniques that allow me to, if not always not be bothered about it in the first place, at least be able to ground myself and allow the negative energy to dissipate.  And that’s a good thing.

 

Mental Discipline Journal Month 1 – May 2011

Here are my notes related to building mental discipline, starting at the beginning of May 2011.  I’ll start with my meditation journal and then talk about mental discipline overall.

As noted in my preamble post  I’m not new to meditation, but the DP work has encouraged me to try some new things.  To begin with, as you know I’ve been working on trying to do a daily morning devotional which has included a short grounding and centering as well as a short meditation on the blessings of Cerridwen.  This has been challenging since my mornings are typically rushed and my brain is trying to focus on just getting me out the door on time without forgetting my lunch, keys, work pass, or pants.  I’ve been successful in doing the devotional probably 3 or 4 days a week on average, and am getting a bit better each time at the meditation portion.  I find that it really helps me set a good mindset for the day which is always appreciated.

With the weather turning nice, I have also started trying to get out to a nearby park at lunch to sit under a tree and do the Two Powers meditation.  This, too, has proven challenging as it is a typically busy downtown park, filled with people and surrounded by roads.  More often than not, park staff are also out with their internal combustion engine-driven tools; pruning, mowing, cutting, chipping, or blowing.  So.. challenging yes, but challenging is good.

And speaking of the Two Powers, I had possibly my best experience with it so far doing a solitary blessing ritual outdoors  in mid-May.  At the initiation of the ritual I lit the fire and then circled it three times while doing some drumming, and then stopped and went into the meditation.  It had been cloudy all day, but then the sun came out and while in the meditation I became acutely aware of the wind around me, then sun shining down on me, and the sound of birds all around me.  At that moment, I had just a glimmer of what it might be like to be a tree; feeling the wind through one’s branches, the sun on one’s leaves, and year after year the cycle of birds nesting in one’s arms.  It was really quite moving and it took me a long time to leave that place and return to the work at hand.

On the topic of mental discipline as a whole I’ll just talk about one particular event.  I applied for a new job a couple of months ago and had pretty much given up on it when I suddenly got a call in early May asking me to come in for an interview later that day.  Having so little time to mentally prepare for it made me quite nervous and I don’t think I exactly aced the interview.  I just wasn’t as sharp as I wished I had been.  In an interview the trick is to ascertain as quickly as possible what traits and skills they are looking for, and to shape your answers to every question to frame yourself as an expert in those skills.  However, I flubbed that, not picking up on what he was looking for early enough.  So, one of the things that I am aiming for as part of my mental discipline training is grace under pressure.  I’ll let you know how that works out for me.

Mental Discipline Journal – Preamble, in which Hercules learns that to be something is to know something.

If you have ever watched Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, you’ll appreciate that they play fast and loose with history and myths.  One of the most egregious, and yet highly entertaining, episodes has Hercules getting shipwrecked in Ireland and becoming embroiled in a war between the Druids and the Celtic Gods(!).  Yes, it seems that the Morrigan (played by an irresistibly cute Canadian with a wonderful fake accent) is fuelled by the blood of Cernunnos and is trying to find and kill the Druids who want to free the Celts from the oppression of their gods.

The writers didn’t just bend the truth; they took off and nuked it from orbit.

Tamara Gorski as The Morrigan

The point to all of this is that Hercules found that his great strength was not enough to defeat Morrigan.  He needed something more.  That’s when the chief Druid, in about three cut scenes involving a horse and a lake, taught Hercules the mysteries of mental discipline.  That was the secret weapon that Herc needed to defeat Morrigan and Cernunnos and save the Celts(!)  He then goes on to Norway and saves Baldur from Loki, but I’ll let the Norse kin fret about that one.  The point is that mental discipline is a very important resource to have.  Just ask Hercules.

Now, I want to begin this journal by saying that this is not going to be a “meditation journal”. I became enamoured of eastern mysticism very young and took up meditation and beat poetry in my late teens. I absolutely sucked at poetry, but I got pretty good at meditating. So I will talk about meditation, but I’m not going to focus on it. What I will try to focus on is the stuff that I still struggle with; namely bringing that calm mental discipline that I can achieve in meditation to every day challenges. There are still moments when even seemingly trivial things can cause by emotions to go on a rampage, looting and burning and raping and pillaging while my ‘mental discipline’ goes and hides under a bed or something.  Reigning in these emotional triggers without simply suppressing them is the ongoing goal of my mental training.

So anyway, this is just been a preamble. I like to keep my blog entries shortish so I’ll save the first ‘real’ journal entry for another day.

Continue on to Month 1.