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Mental Discipline

First Iíll give my mediation journal, and then something about the experience as a whole.

Jan. 24, 2002.

Followed breathing, counting to 5. Fifteen minutes. Comments: I usually meditate for 20 minutes, but since I hadnít done this particular meditation in quite some time I decided to start light. I found it very difficult. I was almost panic stricken, wanting to quit. There were very many breaks. The short times that I was able to concentrate solely on the breathing were all broken up by thinking, ďOh good, Iím doing it right now.Ē I suspect that the very fact of being in a program, whereby I am committing myself to a long period of frequent meditation, caused much of this. I am used to meditating just for a day, and then for another, and so on. But this whole ďdo it for five monthsĒ thing is stressful.

Jan. 25, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. Fifteen minutes. Comments: Less stress, but not much more success. Many ideas popping into my head to distract me.

Jan 26, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. Fifteen minutes. Bothered by cat and nervous habits. Some good moments.

Weekly Summary:

A start. Not the kind of meditation Iíve been doing for a while, and surprisingly difficult. My mind tends to take any downtime as an opportunity to come up with things, and Iím having trouble convincing it that counting my breath counts as something which should keep it occupied.

Jan. 28, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes. Nervous habits still bothering me, especially the eyes; it takes them a while to calm down enough to keep them closed. The very idea that I am going to be writing things down later is a distraction; I keep thinking of things to write, I am watching myself meditate rather than meditating.

Jan 31, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes planned; Debbie came home early after 7 minutes.

Feb. 1, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes. The longer time is not appreciably harder than 15 was. Nervous habits still a problem, although calming a bit. The fact that I have committed myself to five months of this is a problem. When I meditated before, I took a ďone day at a timeĒ attitude. As a result I was often able to meditate daily for months on end. The prospect of a certain time period within which I must meditate regularly is daunting.

Feb. 2, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes. Eye problem seems to be improving some, although it has a way to go. Perhaps this will overlap into my everyday life. I am developing the ability to refocus attention after it wanders by imagining a drawing together between my eyes. This quiets distractions, and, if done well and quickly, limits them to the space of one breath. One odd thing: I think this is because of my deviated septum, but when I breath the left side of my face seems to go up higher than my right. This is a little distracting, and disruptive to my balance, but I donít think there is anything I can do about it.

Weekly Summary:

Iím starting to settle in. The raising to 20 minutes was done without a hitch; that is the length of time I have meditated in the past anyway, so that is no surprise. The nervous habits continue to be a problem, but only for the first few minutes, and I think they are diminishing even in that time. Developing the technique to limit distractions to one breath is proving useful. I will, of course, have to go beyond that eventually, since it is itself a distraction. Iím having scheduling problems; the priority of meditation needs to be raised.

Feb. 3, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 10 minutes. This was at a grove, meeting, which accounts for the short time. It was nice meditating with someone else in the room; it gives a very different feel to the session.

Feb. 6, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes.

Feb. 7, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 Minutes.

Feb. 8, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 Minutes.

Weekly Summary:

It is difficult to write daily reports, so I will probably not do it so much from now on.

Difficulties continue. I think that I could get a lot of creative work done simply by trying to meditate.

My seat has improved.

Feb. 14, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes.

Feb. 15, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes. Disturbed by phone call a few minutes into it; call lasted about one minute and then I returned to meditating.

Feb. 16, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes.

Weekly summary:

When distractions arise, I am improving my ability to reconcentrate. It frequently involves a Ēquivering,Ē which I hope I will get beyond, but for now it is productive.

Feb. 17, 2002.

Ritual for Jenna joining the grove. I found that my ability to pay attention to the ritual as it was unfolding rather than keeping a step back from it has been improved by meditation.

Feb. 21, 2002

Followed breathing, counting to 5. 20 minutes.

April 24, 2002

I have been faithful in my actual meditating during the gap since my last entry, meditating usually three times a week, with only a few of twice. In all cases, I have done my usual counting to five for twenty minutes. I have not, however, quite obviously been faithful in recording my meditations. This is in large part due to the fact that the room that I meditate in and the room where the computer is are far apart; by the time I get around to being in the computer room the meditation has slipped my mind. I will therefore be keeping a handwritten record in the room in which I meditate, which means I will be able to transfer the information to this journal at my leisure.

April 25, 2002

Standard meditation. Much daydreaming.

OK, Iíve given up on recording each session, and will be making weekly reports for the rest of the journal.

Week ending May 4

I decided to change the form of my meditation. Since one of my goals of meditating was to increase my ability to concentrate during rituals (something in which I am very poor), I decided to focus on something external. As a good Indo-European, I chose a flame, using an oil lamp. I found that I was far better at this than I had been in the past, and even a bit better than when doing the breath meditations. I attribute this to two things. First, there is the sacred nature of fire. While I am equally vested in the concentration aspect of breathing and the flame, the flame has an intrinsic value that makes concentrating on it easier. This is encouraging for applying it to rituals, which of course also have intrinsic value.

Week ending May 11

I have continued the fire meditation. It continues to be more effective than the breath meditation, which is reassuring.

Week ending May 18

Fire meditation. There are, of course, still many breaks. As always, the worst breaks come when I realize that I havenít had any breaks for a while. That starts me into the ďarenít I doing great? Wait a minute, I just made the break worse. Oh great, thinking about making the break worse is even worseĒ loop. Pretty standard stuff.

Week ending May 25

Fire meditation. The effort to concentrate on the fire is making fire more significant to me. Because of the stillness of the flame from an oil lamp, I am not seeing things in the flame such as patterns. Rather, I am seeing the flame itself. This is very interesting, since it means that I am focusing on something that is both living (and therefore inherently moving and changing) and still. This works in very nicely with the fact that my patron is Cernunnos who, as a god of bidirectionality, is the quite center that is nonetheless in a point of great power.

Week ending June 1

I ended my five months of meditation with a continuation of the fire meditation. I have found the shift to be very interesting, and I think that having done the breath meditation for so long actually contributed to my success with the fire work. This is because with the breath there was nothing but myself, which was inherently harder than working with something outside myself. Switching to the fire meditation was a relief.

Overall Impressions

I minored in Eastern religions, so I learned to meditate in college. Since graduating in 1979, Iíve meditated off and on. Sometimes it was every day for a year or so, sometimes less, and sometimes it was a year or more between periods of meditation. During the times when I meditated regularly, I operated on a ďone day at a timeĒ principle. Thinking ďIím going to be a meditator and do this for the rest of my lifeĒ was overwhelming. Even ďIím going to meditate daily for X daysĒ was too much to handle. I think that a few times I managed to complete a plan of meditating every day for a lunar cycle, but the stress of doing this would cause a backlash, and I would be able to make myself meditate for some months afterwards. The only thing that worked for a long period was telling myself, ďIím going to meditate today. Iím just committing myself for this day. Tomorrow Iíll see about tomorrow.Ē

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the meditation requirement. Five months? A commitment to five months? Not bloody likely. Still, there it was: if I were going to complete the DP, I had no choice. It was only by remembering that that I made it through. It got harder towards the end, and I just kept telling myself that if I quite Iíd just have to start over again, with another five months to go. So I finished, after what seemed far longer than five months.

The switch to the fire meditation towards the end was a good idea. Performing ritual is extremely important in my life, both my solitary practice, and as the main priest in my grove. My mind has a strong tendency to jump around and to run away with ideas. Thatís not completely a bad thing, since itís the jumping around and running away that that helps me with my work. My greatest strength is being able to make patterns from facts and ideas, and concentrating on any one could actually defeat this strength.

However, sometimes I need to stop thinking about things in general, and concentrate on something in particular. This is especially the case in ritual: whatís going on now? When I concentrate on the moment, the ritual makes a stronger impression, and Iím more likely to go beyond the moment. I canít always afford to do that, since as the main priest and liturgist I need to be keeping track of whatís going on so I can keep things running smoothly, but even so it helps.

It also helps when Iím at someone elseís ritual. I have real problems attending these; Iím reviewing them as they go on: why did they do that? was that done well? can I steal that for my own rituals? The skills I learned through meditation help me say instead, ďstop; just be part of the ritual.Ē I canít say I succeed, but itís better than it was.

I must admit that I was relieved when the five month period was over. I found it very hard to make sure I meditated regularly. Thatís one reason my entries grew less detailed and less frequent as time went by; the thrill was gone, and all that was left was the drudgery. The excitement level picked up towards the end when I switched to the fire meditation, but I was still happy to lay the obligation down.

Since the end of the five month period, I havenít been doing much meditation of this type. Iím involved in relaxation exercises for anxiety reduction, but even that gains strength from my previous practice, and in turn makes it easier for me to apply the lessons from the DP meditation. Because I can relax my mind more easily, I can shift into the concentration developed through the DP.

All in all, this has been a useful experience, although it would be a lie to say that I enjoyed it. Iím proud of getting through it.