Archive for January 2021

Artful Answers

Many of you may know author and artist Julia Cameron, whose The Artist’s Way and associated books have justifiably won her devoted readers. Here’s her entry for January 26 in The Artist’s Way Every Day*:

“Art is a form of the verb “to be.” It is not mere cleverness to point this out. At its core, life is artful and creative, each moment contains choice as much as each brush stroke in a painting, each syllable in poem, each note in a melodic line. It is because of this, its insistence on choice, that art demolishes the victim position. When bullying life demands of us some injustice: “You want to make something of it?” the artful answer is yes.

What will I make of it? The challenge for anyone alive is to re-win this artful approach every day. When I managed to center myself in it yesterday, felt its truth in my marrow, and marveled at the doors opening because of it, I sleep and wake and there it is to be re-won the next day. Now if I make a practice of it, a momentum builds over time that I can draw on — water from a well. Some days it does indeed come easier. Almost without effort there are days when I can slip back into the pose, the stance of it, like a martial arts kata. Ah, there it is again, my blood sings.

And Druidry is simply one way to do this, among many. One of the signal advantages of Druidry is that it hauls around substantially less baggage than many older spiritual paths. What was once an artful answer in many traditions has too often solidified into dogma. You must believe it, rather than practice it to find out if in fact it actually works for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, you’re bad, evil, lost, sinful, worthless, a loser, trash, garbage, rubbish, broken, useless — take your pick of abuse. Many of us have.

An artful way can be a long one. In truth it should be a long way — a lifetime’s way. Because in the end it’s the only way survivors end up traveling, each in her own way. Not my way or the highway — nothing like that. No, you find what works for you. Something is always coming to birth within us. No one else can do that work for me. Others can cheer me on, and I love them for that. They can walk with me part of the way, and I’ll cherish them for their company. They can write blogs and books, offer workshops, help us rekindle the fire when it’s fallen to ashes. They can sing to us, feed us, hold us when we cry, and remind us You got this.

Druidry from its early modern re-conceptions has (mostly) tried to be artful. Rather than a doctrine, it offers a toolkit, a spice-rack, a palette of colours. Rather than a creed, it offers songs, images, magic. Rather than priests, it offers bards. If it has weaknesses (and of course it does), one that comes to mind is a lack of spiritual guidance for those truly floundering and struggling. We have only to look at the prevalence of mental illness today and realize how many of us are suffering. Yes, individual Wise Ones can be found here and there — their own small local groups and groves know who they are. And while they can indeed offer wise counsel and compassion, most have no professional training in working with deep-seated and chronic problems. That time may come, but it is not yet now. The current stigma doesn’t cloak immorality, like it used to do. The current stigma instead clouds and paints mental illness with a most destructive brush. In a world already increasingly isolated by covid, the people who most need the rebalancing that often comes with human connection are deprived of just that necessity. Zoom and Skype and Facetime only take us so far.

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A strength of Druidry, one that’s often held out to people, is that it makes no requirements about beginning. You start where you are, with the circumstances you find yourself in. Yes, it’s true that as with internet forums, the requests for help that are often most successful are those that show the petitioner has put forth some effort already. That’s all the Druidry asks — that you actually try out some of its practices. Not believe what some of its spokespeople try to conceptualize on the basis of their experiences, but begin with my own practices that will lead to my own experiences. Then, when I come across the beliefs and concepts of others, I can begin to perceive something about the experiences that underlie them — because I’ve experienced some version of the same thing.

The tolerance that comes with that kind of recognition also gives us a place to start to work with others that springs from an inner authority others recognize. We can honor and respect another’s understandings because we’re still working on our own — in the same way. We refer it back to experience. The Land teaches me something new each season, though I’ve “been through” all four seasons many times already. My dreams show me wisdom in part because I’ve listened to them in the past. I look forward to celebrating Imbolc because I know that once again I’ll discover something valuable about Brighid, about the day, about my fellow Druids if I’m on Zoom, about early February in my particular place, whether I’m in a group or solitary.

The tree is silent because that’s the only way I can hear what it’s saying.

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*Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living. Tarcher/Penguin, 2009.

Road Ogham

Looking for a sign? (It’s true you’re more likely to see one that way.)

Don’t believe in signs? (You may still encounter them anyway. Whether you notice is another matter.)

We’re constantly encountering markers and indicators of our surroundings. What I’m here calling “road ogham” can offer a parallel, an approximation of how to work with signs, if I let it.

Consider: I meet with signs when I’m on a journey, and whether or not I notice them, they can give me information about my path, my particular location at the moment, the surroundings, where I might beneficially place my attention, and much more.

At least at first, there’s nothing mysterious or magical about them. Look and I’ll see them; look somewhere else and I won’t.

For much of my journey there may be no particular signs — the challenge then is to notice what I can observe and sense as I go. In such situations, what I attend to may well carry as much meaning as any sign: the weather, the time of day, the landscape, the road conditions, the vehicle I’m traveling in, my attitude and attention.

Sometimes the sign may mirror what the road itself is doing — the sign is clear, and accords with the path. Let me travel by night, though, and suddenly that same sign may turn out to be vital to safe passage. It signifies what’s to come if I keep going — what I can no longer see without the sign.

Sometimes my sight may be blurred — to the left the car windshield has streaks of pine-pitch I haven’t totally cleaned off — and other things may claim more of my attention at the outset. Here a dramatic winter sky dominates my visual field.

But with attention and familiarity from traveling the path previously, I notice the small sign that others may be nearby or crossing my path, or stopped in the middle of it, over a crest I can’t see beyond.

Sometimes the sign has no language attached to it — it comes solely in images or pictures.

But other times I receive a sign that alerts me to a change and also conveys a sense of how to proceed — in this case, more slowly. In some way it activates the language centers — in addition to image, I hear or understand something in words as well.

Learning how to drive means learning to take signs into account. While learning to “read” our lives and landscapes isn’t exactly parallel, we still undergo an apprenticeship.

What I gain from that apprenticeship accords with what I bring to my learning. It starts where I am right now, and I build on it.

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Posted 25 January 2021 by adruidway in Druidry, ogham, sign, spiritual practice

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Imbolc in the Belly

I don’t know about you, but I often have a gut feeling about the seasons. Two weeks out, as you keep reading me write here. Around two weeks before one of the “Great Eight” festivals looms on the earth’s calendar, the coming celebration begins to kindle little fires in my peripheral vision. Imbolc, Imbolc. We notice things, it seems to us, simply because they’re notice-able, but our noticing makes them also makes them more pronounced, more prominent, more accessible to our awareness.

It’s a common enough experience: get a new car, a new dog, a new god, and suddenly you notice them all around you. This should (re)alert us to our realities. We’re seekers of saliency — biologists and psychologists try to keep this fact (a whole level of irony in that) in our awareness. “I’m going to pay attention to whatever stands out for me in my world, because that’s obviously what matters”. Yes — but hard and fast on the tails of that comes a potent corollary: what do I want to discover? What do I choose to empower with my attention? And what am I pushing away and refusing and denying, because it doesn’t fit — because it may well bring (the horror of it!) change. Answering such questions is enough to keep a Druid up nights.

I’ve learned to tell when things are stirring because I start to get snarky.

“But I don’t believe in _____ “. Doesn’t matter. Or at least it doesn’t matter that much right now. Invite some direct personal experience into your life, and what you believe may take a holiday, or hibernate, or explode. Or stay exactly the same. You said you were looking for some excitement, right? Time to spin the Belief Roulette wheel. Why not? We do it with absolutely every other part of our lives. Why should our beliefs be exempt? After all, they’re often the least reliable part of us. When I’m kissing an attractive Other, their lips matter a lot more than their beliefs. Kiss a god three times and watch your beliefs do a backflip.

Google the word Imbolc for its origins and you’ll get a range of learned and folk opinion. The possible meanings can each lead to fruitful meditation and ritual. Old Irish i mbolc, modern Irish i mbolg, “in the belly” — the soon-to-be-born lambs of the season. Oimelc, an alternative name dating from the 10th century, meaning “ewe’s milk”. Old Irish imb-fholc, “to wash or cleanse oneself”, consistent with this festival of purification. English Candlemas, St. Brighid’s Day. A holiday dating “from the Neolithic period”, Wikipedia tells us, with overlays and cultural additions over time, making for a splendid richness and depth.

Go outdoors, after or before you’ve Googled, or instead, and if you’re in the Northeastern U.S. you probably see new snowfall.

Back yard, 10:16 am this morning.

I can learn at least as much Druidry exploring the transformed landscape as I can pondering the possible origins of the word Imbolc. If you live in a different climate, the same holds true. Maybe not today, but yesterday, or tomorrow.

A lovely example of our Druidry at work and play, from an online post: Want to celebrate this snowy landscape, invite something of what’s happening to earth, trees, and sky into our homes? Bring in some snow, melt it, and water the houseplants and pot-herbs with it, a winter’s blessing. Make tea or coffee with it. Save some to asperge the house with on Imbolc, or ceremonially deploy it during your Zoom ritual.

Your song and my song of Imbolc may be different, winter-song, desert song, sea-shore song, tropical song. What matters is that we listen and hear them and sing them, aloud or silently.

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Greetings to Peru, newest visitor according to both the Flag Counter and WordPress analytics. Imbolc and Lunasa, Lugh and Brighid, linking the holidays as our planet is linked …

Midwintering

A recent post in a Druid forum asked about connecting with the natural world in winter, especially in regions where cold and snow make the outdoors less inviting unless you plan to stay active and warm hiking or skiing and so on.

Especially in cooler climates, winter draws us inward. That nudge to hibernate, to drowse and sleep and inhabit an in-between is a valid one, one we can honor and welcome, rather than resist, or apologize for, or feel somehow shamed by.

That inward focus can lead to celebrations and insights into nature through drawing, writing, music, crafting, etc. — arts that spring from our own inwardness, a whole world we often step past in the more outward-facing months of summer.

Even water drowses, moves slower, curves back on itself, dreaming of a thaw …

Planning a garden, celebrating each midday point in these short winter days, watching the dawns or sunsets, etc. can all be conscious acts of dedication and participation during winter. And incubating dreams, keeping a dream journal, working on projects or issues or questions through dreaming, including daydreaming and drowsing, can all be richly productive. Objects I’ve collected in better weather now matter more. They’re important to touch and handle frequently: stones, feathers, shells, bones, pieces of wood, etc. Contours and textures of our worlds.

And this physical touch and connection, especially now when we hunger for it during covid, can include pets, who mediate wonderfully for us with the natural world. So we talk with them, cuddle them, spend even a little time outdoors with them and watch them play in the snow, and perhaps rekindle the wonder of winter, even if we don’t choose to ski or snowshoe or hike or sled, toboggan or romp.

The natural turn towards inwardness accords with the dark and bright halves of the year. The “yang-ness” of much of Western culture prods us to give some account for ourselves, to justify our hours and days with productivity, with gains and forward movement and progress. If we’re to e-volve, we have to “turn outward”, the word itself tells us. But that’s just half of it.

Part of the natural rhythm that Druidry can help us re-establish is a more sane balance between outer and inner activity. Anyone who thinks trees and animals aren’t “active differently” in winter can apprentice themselves to the natural world to find out just what’s going on. This can be another winter activity — reading, study, inquiry, research, pondering, finding out for ourselves, as well as walking outside to smell the chill air, marvel at winter sunlight, catch all the hues of gray and white, light and dark, shade and sun.

These queries and thoughts are fitting for the new moon that’s upon us. We’re just emerging from the Dark of the Moon after all, into a New Moon. Lunar questions, lunar contemplations. The tree for the month, following the 2021 Lunar Calendar (www.thelunapress.com) is Luis, the Rowan or Mountain Ash. As I look on the Rowan in our front yard, I try to honor its lesson, follow its lead.

Rowan, as an image of winter’s inwardness, you do well. Hard even to make out completely, set as you are against a background of other trees. Barren, and with the camera’s foreshortening, looking like you sit directly under electrical lines.

Often it seems trees wait because they “can’t do anything else”. So it can be revealing to do a tree meditation, to listen to what is going on with a particular tree. Rowan isn’t worrying about winter, or considering the starkness of its branches against other trees, or the sky. Its sugars and life-sap have retreated from where its leaves were, but it’s no less alive for all that. I hold the Rowan twig I picked up a few years ago from a dead branch on the ground. I’ve used a woodburner to mark the Rowan ogham ᚂ on the stave, another step. On such seemingly small actions we can build steps and paths to further insight and connection.

Whether or not I “finish” a set of ogham staves, I have these gifts from several neighboring trees to hold and connect with and listen through. Rowan’s magic, magic of hemlock, oak magic …

One great gift of the Others like trees and animals (as well as people) who share our worlds is that they help draw us out of ourselves, when necessary. Caitlin Matthews’ wise book, Celtic Devotional, offers this short meditation for the Thursdays of winter: “I give thanks for the wise qualities of the evergreen trees that have stood by me this day: may you show me how my own heart can be evergreen and growing through winter’s doubt and darkness”.

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Matthews, Caitlin. Celtic Devotional. Fair Winds Press, 2004.

A Druidry FAQ

This is a post that will become a page on this site, because the topics it addresses raise perennial questions. Its direct inspiration comes from discussions on Druid social media sites, and from your search terms here at A Druid Way.

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If you bear in mind the popular saying “Ask three Druids and you’ll get ten answers”, you should be in good shape. This short FAQ arises out of one person’s experience, study and reflection. As with most things, a second – and third – opinion will be very useful and give you a broader and more informed perspective.

What is Druidry?

Druid author J. M. Greer gives an answer that’s held up well over time: Druidry “means following a spiritual path rooted in the green Earth … It means embracing an experiential approach to religious questions, one that abandons rigid belief systems in favor of inner development and individual contact with the realms of nature and spirit”. While beliefs matter, more important is what Druids do each day. An openness to experiences and encounters in nature forms part of the Druid perspective.

Do Druids believe ____ ?

Some probably do. Many may not. No single creed or statement of faith unites all Druids, because Druidry is an individual spiritual practice or way of life rather than a set of beliefs. In this way, it’s like asking “What do carpenters believe?” This sets it apart from many Western monotheistic faiths, and also makes it possible to be a Christian and a Druid, an agnostic and a Druid, etc.

However, it’s possible to talk about what Druids believe using general statements with “most” and “many”. Here’s a Triad that probably characterizes a large number of Druids:

Most Druids are united by a love and respect for nature, and show an attentive attitude towards its rhythms and cycles that they may express in seasonal observances like the solstices and equinoxes. Secondly, many Druids also perceive a spiritual dimension to life, though that may or may not mean belief in a god or gods. Third, many Druids also express their perspectives and experiences creatively, through craft or art, carrying on in modern forms the traditions of the ancient Bards.

Do you have to have Celtic ancestry to be a Druid?

No. The ancient Celts were a culture, or set of related cultures and languages, rather than a single genetic bloodline. Given that the Celtic peoples apparently ranged across much of Europe, from Ireland and Portugal to Germany and Italy, and possibly further east, settling and intermarrying with other peoples, this shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s true there are a few and mostly small Druid groups who require their members to demonstrate a specific ancestry — often Irish or Scottish. But our ability to love and respect and live lightly on the earth certainly doesn’t need or benefit from genetic gate-keeping. Anyone anywhere on the planet can practice Druidry starting right now.

Where do the teachings of modern Druidry come from?

A range of sources. Many traditional stories in surviving Celtic literature like the Welsh Mabinogion point to Druid practices and understandings. In several cases, they also provide teaching stories and initiatory insights which several Druid groups use in their training. While a few individuals and groups claim to preserve ancient or hereditary Druid practices and beliefs, in most cases these are the common folk wisdom of most pre-modern cultures around the world: a knowledge of herbs and natural cycles, animal and plant and star-lore. More important than how old they may be is the question: “Do they work today?”

The Renaissance recovery of Classical sources, the influences of Neo-Platonism, Arabic learning in astronomy and medicine, mathematics and alchemy and astrological lore, and the British Druid Revival beginning in the 1600s, all play their part in helping to deepen Druidry. Practices of meditation and visualization also derive from a variety of sources. Most Druid teachings emphasize learning from our own locale. The trees, plants, animals and landscape, previous inhabitants and climate all have many things to teach.

How do I become a Druid?

For anyone alive today, the path to Druidry has been made smoother and broader by books and the internet. Many Druids are great readers. Books can give you a sense of the range and depth of Druid practice, and inspire you to adapt relevant portions of it to your own life and circumstances. (See Books and Links.) The internet can connect you to active and established Druid groups, who offer events and resources for members and non-members alike. But while these sources can be helpful and inspirational, a walk around one’s home area is an excellent prime starting point. What can I learn about — and from — the trees and animals and plants in my region? Who lived here before me, and what did they know? What local geographical features like mountains or lakes or the ocean influence the weather? How do I “fit” where I live?

Can I be a Druid without joining a Druid organization?

Absolutely. Even those Druids affiliated with an organization are often “solitary” Druids for 350 days out of each year. Curiosity, a willingness to learn and study what interests you, and reverence for the earth are the marks of a Druid, not membership in any group. (See my post Druiding without An Order.)

What do we know about ancient Druids?

Direct evidence is comparatively modest. We have archaeological discoveries and the accounts of Classical authors contemporary with ancient Druids. We can make intelligent guesses from some of these sources, but much remains unknown. The single best book on the subject is Prof. Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain.

How can anyone claim to be a Druid today, if we know so little about the ancient Druids or their practices?

Philip Carr-Gomm, former Chief of OBOD, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, addresses this directly:

“Contemporary Druidry draws on a heritage of thousands of years, and yet many of its ideas and practices have only been formed over the last few hundred years. Unlike most of the established religions, which are based on doctrine formulated in the distant past, Druidry is developing its philosophy and practices in response to the spirit of the times. It is being shaped now rather than being preserved or simply passed on, and paradoxically, although it is inspired and informed by an ancient heritage, it is surprisingly free of the weight of the past. This leaves modern Druidry open to the criticism that it has been invented; but it also makes it a thoroughly contemporary spirituality that speaks directly to the needs of today” (What Do Druids Believe?, pgs. 2-3).

I love Druidry but I don’t like ____ . Can I still be a Druid?

If you already know you love Druidry, nothing more needs to be said. You’re in excellent company — the wider “Druid world” require very few things from a Druid except that love and respect for nature.

(For some people, magic or ritual are words they might put in the blank above. Stick with Druidry and you may well find out more of what they’re all about. But again, absolutely neither is any kind of requirement.)

We can apply/adapt the words of Jesus here (as in many cases): “People aren’t made for Druidry; Druidry is made for people”. Go with what truly works for you, and you’re walking a path with heart.

Are there initiations in Druidry?

Because you can be a Druid by yourself, no initiations are necessary. With that said, some Druid groups offer study materials that include self-initiations — opportunities to deepen and hallow your experiences and understanding. And some groups make initiations a prerequisite for advancing within the group.

Life presents us with a few initiations of its own that all of us experience. Practice Druidry over time, and you’ll pass through the initiations of death, sickness, loss, change, love and birth. Your Druidry can help you navigate those experiences with greater understanding, resilience, growth, and compassion for others.

I like what I’ve read about Druidry, but I don’t believe in _____ .

If you love and respect the natural world, you’re ready to practice Druidry. If you’ve read the other parts of this FAQ, you know you don’t need to believe to be a Druid — you need to practice. Many of your beliefs will come from those experiences. More encounters and reflection may help you get a clearer picture of Druidry and what it means for you. Books, experiences with groups, study, and time spent in nature can all help you clarify your next steps.

Which Druid order has the best ____ ?

The inside word on that is ___ .

What about people who say Druidry is ____ ?

You may have noticed that we live in an era where almost everything now has both ardent fans and unrelenting critics. The best way to respond (or ignore) is to practice Druidry yourself over at least a few years — then you’ll know what it is for you. The second best way is to attend some Druid events with practicing Druids, observe thoughtfully, and ask questions. The third best way is reading widely. As Druid leader, Her Majesty’s coroner (anatomical pathologist), actor, author, drag queen and popular speaker Kristoffer Hughes likes to say, “What other people think of you is none of your business” (unless you’re planning on running for office).

If you’d like an objective tool to assess any group, you’ll find Isaac Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame most helpful.

Can I be your student? / Will you teach me?

This blog offers more than enough enough material for you to pick up the practice of Druidry, and to locate diverse sources to answer your questions better than I can, and to guide a beginning practice. Ultimately, your best teacher is the Land you live on.

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For the book titles cited, see the page Books & Links on Druidry. For the names of people, see the page Voices of Modern Druidry.

Nine Ways to Ground & Center

Cycles and circles invite us to return to the beginning, to the starting point, to our foundations, to the spring and font and source of what we know and do and perceive.

Grounding and centering may receive attention in your individual practice or in a group, or a ritual or ceremony may touch on it only briefly, if at all. Nevertheless, the practice remains a core tool in our spiritual toolkit, never replaced, because in so many ways it represents the heart of everything we do. We wish to connect, to re-link, to “return to our factory settings”, to recharge, to balance and harmonize and attune. The science is increasingly clear — such practices have wide-ranging value.

clearing a path to the light, to the road, to a way

Our languages often contain faint echoes of such things: “Pull yourself together. Get a grip. I really lost it” — but generally don’t offer clues on how to do the pulling, the gripping, the re-finding of what I lost.

Below are nine ways to begin to do this, to open the doors, invite the presence of spirit, and dedicate ourselves to expressing its wisdom and insight in our lives, for everyone’s benefit. Nine’s a happy number — there are many more.

Some of our greatest service to others arises when we take care of ourselves.

ONE — with sound

Many traditions have holy names, sacred words, bells, chimes, gongs, etc., that envelop the practitioner in sound. Because of the definite effects of these practices, stories and legends have often grown up around them attributing magical properties to them. Direct experimentation is usually the best guide — go with what works for you, while being open to avenues for change as needed.

Asking for a word or sound can also help. Your willingness to make the request can itself open doors that help you notice what comes to you. You may find your attention focused on a word or sound or name in your reading or your conversation during the day, or you receive a nudge to find (or make) a bell, chime, rattle, etc. The act of making can itself induce positive effects — you’re following guidance you received inwardly, which clears the path for more.

TWO — with a ritual gesture

Many people find ritual gestures help them ground and center. The act of lighting a candle or incense, casting runes, opening a holy text to a random page for its guidance, standing before an altar, crossing yourself, bowing, or performing a more elaborate series of gestures — ceremonials favored among magical groups like the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram — all rely on the power of conscious, intentional action to bring about focus and clarity.

THREE — with attention on a focus point

Devotional attention placed on a sacred image or holy photograph is a long-favored technique. A personal contemplative practice may involve icons, statues, tarot cards, or other divination images or systems. Bringing the attention to a focus-point concentrates its energy. Many people report the sensation of being watched or stared at — we’re often sensitive to such things. Focused attention by another person generates enough energy that we feel it.

Through such practices we may also begin to discover how unfocused we often are. Such techniques increase our capacity to focus and ignore distractions. With so many faces and names on social media and in the news and in advertisements striving to grab and hold our attention to their advantage (and not necessarily ours), it can be a profound practice by itself to reclaim our attention and put it to uses that we choose, not someone else. Achieving and sustaining personal sovereignty can be a lifelong practice.

FOUR — with a prayer, chant, verbal formula, etc.

The advantage of a chant or prayer, especially one that we know by heart, is that it can help quickly generate the atmosphere and energies and focus we desire. (One downside of long practice, of course, can be eventual over-familiarity, which we can always work around with our creativity. Another practice!)

Group practices like communal prayer or chant can bring many people together quite rapidly. Similar effects come with prayers in other traditions. If you were raised in a different tradition from the one you now practice, you probably still recall some of its most common recitations, creeds, prayers, etc.

Many are interested in composing their own chants, prayers and recitations. The act of doing this can itself be a form of devotion, a practice of prayer and listening, and of grounding and centering. (If you’re beginning to realize that much if not everything we do is an opportunity for grounding and centering …)

FIVE — with a visualization

Many people believe that if they can’t see inwardly with as much clarity as their physical sight provides that they’re somehow “bad at visualization”. We forget that visualization is larger than the eyes. It’s the engagement of the whole imagination — and all of us imagine. For some it may arrive as a feeling, a tickle along the spine, something sensed with hearing, or inward presence, or sensed in a wide range of other ways. When we daydream, often we’re aware of being in a different space and place. The experience draws us in, and eventually we “come back”. From where?! Daydreaming can be one way to play with visualization, relaxing all our senses, so that we don’t censor them before they can take us to “lands away”.

SIX — with an associated physical sensation

By my bed I keep a Druid stone, one that I found on a local walk, that has featured in rituals, and that has consequently come to be a symbolic and ceremonial object for me. I can easily pick it up, feel its rough edges, sense the coolness of the granite, recall its presence at previous events, and add to its value and significance. Its flat bottom, as if it broke off from a quarry where stone-cutters worked, its density and weight and color all add to its sensory impact. Contact with it evokes previous contact. For me it is a touchstone, a measure of my days.

It’s among our more interesting human habits to collect such keepsakes and objects that call to us, and physical contact with them can help us ground and center.

SEVEN — with a direct prompt

Sometimes a direct prompt to “ground and center” can remind me to do just that. A simple printout with those three words “ground and center” posted in a prominent place, a screen saver on my computer, an automated, regular email I send to myself, a timer on my phone that helps me collect myself perhaps 3 or 4 times a day — all these can help me ground and center. If an object works and can do this, the prompt can simply be the presence of the object someplace I will notice it.

A friend of mine chooses a certain day to be an activation day. She’s on the road a lot for work, and every time she sees a road sign, she practices grounding and centering. It’s a kind of mental fasting from things we don’t need, things that can distract us. And the road signs themselves often try to do this, to rouse us from “road dreaming”, from the hypnotic state we can often enter behind the wheel: “Caution” — “Children at Play” — “Slow — “Work Zone” — “School” — “Pedestrian Crossing” — all of these are calls for our attention meant to benefit everyone. Using them as reminders to ground and center takes advantage of daily props as prompts to spiritual practice.

EIGHT — with the help of others

We can engage the companions of our days as aids in helping us. Partners, pets, guides, signs and omens, etc. can all serve as reminders. If I go to work, my return and the greeting of partner, pet, etc. can become a practice. Ground and center at the moment of our re-connection. Cats and dogs help us make it physical. Touching warm fur, feeling a nose or a tail against our skin, hearing a purr or a happy bark can all become reminders of how grounded and centered our pets are, and how they invite us to become as earthed as they are.

NINE — with food and drink

Many people have discovered the effect of food and drink on our attention and energies. A good meal can center us, make us grateful, and earth any random energies after ritual or practice. Yes, we wisely attend to the advice to avoid eating before and after ritual for this very reason. But again, our discretion and individual circumstances and experience can be our guides. Food helps close the psychic centers, especially when they’ve become over-active, or if we’re out of balance. The traditional heavy meat-centered meals of the holidays famously leave us sleepy afterwards — all the more if we normally go light on animal proteins most days, or avoid them altogether. After we receive an emotional shock or blow, food and drink can help calm us and aid us in dealing with the situation.

Ritual food, taken after a rite or ceremony or prayer, can have the same effect. Often a ceremonial or traditional meal accompanies rituals and religious practices in many traditions. Even if we’ve left behind such family traditions, almost everyone celebrates a birthday with food. We have many such openings in our daily lives to develop and extend a practice.

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