Tag Archives: light body

Daily Rituals and Personal Daily Practices

Daily practices form the foundation of any nature-based spiritual or neopagan path. Daily practices give us a chance to dedicate regular time to our spirituality, to slow down and connect with nature, to protect ourselves from the daily energetic onslaught that is the 21st century, and to practice reverence and gratitude.  Each person’s daily practices are likely to be different, and as you walk the path of nature-based spirituality, the practices may also grow and shift as you deepen your work. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts about developing and maintaining a daily spiritual practice—different options, goals, and opportunities.

Daily Practices: Core Elements

There’s a pretty wide range of things you can accomplish with daily practices. I would argue that a good set of daily practices should, at minimum, help you do the following:

  • Offer energetic protection for daily life
  • Practice connection with nature / yourself / spirit / deity
  • Practice energetic cleansing
  • Practice gratitude, offering, and reverence

Additional things you might want to include are:

  • Engage in daily creative practices
  • Practice various kinds of energy balancing
  • Practice stillness and focus
  • Offer daily grounding and centering
  • Divination practices

I would argue that daily practices are the gateway and foundation to everything else. If you build the foundation of your connection, balance, and focus through daily practices, then you will be able to accomplish many other goals in your spiritual life.

Also, one carefully designed practice may be able to accomplish many points above. That is, if you do daily energetic working, it can provide protection, grounding, and energy balancing.  If you go out in nature, even for 5-10 minutes, you can practice gratitude, stillness, focus,  mediation, and do some cleansing.  So first, start figuring out what you really need to accomplish each day and then consider how you might get there.

Daily Ritual Practices

The AODA's Sphere of Protection in a Tree

The AODA’s Sphere of Protection in a Tree

Many spiritual traditions have some kind of ceremonial or ritual practice that is done daily. Given the challenges we are facing today, I would suggest to always doing a practice that offers grounding and protection at the bare minimum–this will help you in so many ways as you go about daily life.

If you belong to a druid order or other organization that has a set of core practices, you may already have one or more practices that fit this. The Ancient Order of Druids in America suggests daily meditation, a daily Sphere of Protection, and regular time in nature. The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids use the LIght Body exercise (this is energizing but not protective, so OBOD druids should practice something else for protection).

I use the AODA’s Sphere of Protection (SOP) as one of my primarily daily practice for grounding, balancing, and protection. The Sphere of Protection works with a seven-element system (Earth-Air-Fire-Water-Above-Below-Within). It invokes the four elements in their positive form and banishes the four elements in their negative form and also protects you.  What I like about the SOP is that it not only offers me a powerful protection that takes about 5 minutes a day, it also provides an elemental balancing, which helps me maintain my stability in today’s chaos.  Further, I use it to protect not only myself but our homestead and our animals each day.

The other ritual practice I use daily–at the end of the day–is a smoke cleansing practice combined with meditation. These two practices help me “bookend” my day–I’ll share more about that approach below.

Meditation

Meditation is a critical part of any spiritual path and can provide a wide range of benefits that are mental, physical, and spiritual.  Most forms of meditation include breathwork and focusing the mind (which could be empty mind, focusing on something like a candle, discursive meditation). Meditation can also be movement-based (like walking meditation) or even more in-depth, like spirit journeying. You can see more details about different forms of meditation in my Druid’s Meditation Primer.

If you want to hear the spirits of nature, connect deeply with the spirit world, connect to your own creativity, have more effective rituals, and accomplish many other things–committing to a daily meditation practice is the necessary path to getting there.  Meditation helps your mind become a powerful tool for any other work you want to do and is the foundation for everything else. Without meditation, you will continue to struggle to accomplish the basics because you have not trained your mind–think of this as a marathon.  Do you want to run a marathon? Better practice every day and build up to it.  Mediation is daily training for your mind.  I really can’t stress this point enough.

Druids Anchor Spot: Time in Nature

A place to come to meditate daily–the druid’s anchor spot and a nature mandala made in gratitude

The third part of my own daily triad is regular time spent in nature. My philosophy about this is tied to something I call a Druid’s Anchor Spot (a similar practice that the bushcraft and wilderness awareness communities call a “sit spot”).  An Anchor Spot is a place that you go to that is extremely easy to access (e.g. right outside your door, a 5 minute walk away) that you can visit ideally on a daily or very regular basis.

The Druids Anchor Spot practice can be as simple or as layered as you want it to be.  On the most basic level, you go to your Anchor spot and spend a little time there.  I like to spend time observing with all of my senses: attending to my sight, hearing, sense of smell, touch, and even taste (you might catch me nibbling on some Eastern hemlock needles, for example).  I also like to take a moment to check in with the genius loci, the spirit of the land, as well as other land spirits I am in contact with.  We might converse, do a short ritual, etc.  Sometimes I walk around the space and other times I simply sit.  I also like to set shared intentions with the space (e.g. what do we want to accomplish in the coming season?) and also do regular ritual work there. Even if I only have five minutes or there is a storm, I still make a point to visit for a few moments each day.

The other thing I do here daily is to offer some gratitude.  I have a hand-grown and harvested offering blend; I share a bit of this and offer my gratitude to the living earth and the spirits.  I have also built a shrine for making offerings and doing ritual work.  The space continues to evolve over time–this is also a central part of my land healing practices, so in addition to simply being present in the spot, I am working to physically heal the space.

Integration into Daily Life

As described above, you can see I essentially have a triad of practices–one that happens at the beginning of the day (SOP), one after I am done with work (Anchor Spot), and one that happens before I go to sleep (smoke cleansing and meditation).  These practices took a while to develop and a while to integrate into my life.  I’ve had many false starts and changes along the way, so I also wanted to share some ideas for how to get to the point where you have a regular, daily practice.

Calling up the sunrise with the Sphere of Protection in early spring with the geese

Calling up the sunrise with the Sphere of Protection last fall

One of the questions people often ask is–how do I actually build this into my day? My response is–how did you learn to brush your teeth? The principle is actually really similar: the goal is to create a habituated practice. This is one that you almost automatically do, and you are so used to doing it that you simply do it.  That’s the end goal.

To get there, you want to think about a few things.  First, consider how your overall day is structured and where it would be more seamless to build in those small moments.  A daily practice doesn’t have to take a lot of time–it can take as little as 5-10 minutes and you can always build from there. Find places that you might already have habituated or required practices and see if you can add a spiritual practice where you already have that time set aside. Also think about what would make the most sense for you in terms of practices based on the structure of your day.

Another thing that I have found very helpful is to really think about the transition points of the day–what does your beginning of the day look like? What might you build in there that helps launch you into the day?  Do you have or need a transition point after a certain point in the day?   What about your end of the day? Do you have a place to ‘wrap up’ for the day and transition to a good Dreamtime? If you can find those key transition points, and really work them to your advantage, then that is one way of making this all happen.

Finally, I think it’s important to understand your own nature.  Some people are very schedule driven and developing a daily routine is fairly straightforward. Other people are more whimsical and find it really hard to have a routine or even resist routines (I happen to be one of these people).  So you really have to work with yourself and show yourself some grace as you are working to establish daily practices.

Dana’s Example

To show you how this all first together, I’ll share my daily practice.  As I mentioned, these have undergone a lot of evolution and if I had a different lifestyle, I know they would look very different.  I also make allowances for myself–if I’m sick, traveling, etc, some of these would obviously be adapted. But I still try to make sure I do something every day.

Beginning of the Day and Sphere of Protection Ritual. Becuase I live on a 5-acre homestead, every day, I have animal care and farm chores in the morning. Since I have this thing I literally do every day, I always do my Sphere of Protection at the end of my homestead chores.  After the physical work of feeding, watering and tending the animals, I let the animals out and then I perform my SOP. It also allows me to offer energetic protection to the land and the animals–and it allows them to participate as well.

Anchor spot and unstructured time in nature. Then, I will go about my day.  When I finish my work for the day, I have found that I need a good transition point for whatever comes next, and that’s where the Druid’s Anchor Spot comes in. After working, I like to just unwind a bit by walking our land, walking meditation, observing, and then spending time in my anchor spot.  The time in nature is much less structured than my other daily practices.  I might find myself wandering, wondering, and simply creating the time to be present with the living earth.  There’s a lot of value in unstructured spiritual time.

Evening cleansing and meditation. After my time in nature, I will again go about my evening.  At least 4-5 days a week, that will include spending an hour or more in my art studio or doing some writing, dedicating time to my creative practices. Then, before bed (and before I get too tired!) I will do my end-of-day meditation and smoke cleansing. I like to do the smoke cleansing at the end of the day so that I’m not dragging any difficulty from the day into my dreaming (and I do practice sacred and intentional dreaming so that matters). Thus, I very intentionally clear any stress, problems, etc, that I’ve built up through the day with the smoke cleansing (I cleanse with my own herbal sticks that I make). Then will do some meditation before winding down for the evening.

Building Up

I think in the hustle and bustle of daily life, developing these practices is really critical.  Its so easy to get lost in the quagmire of modern living and all of the insanity that it brings. Like an anchor dropped on stormy seas, daily practices help you weather the storm, build your resilience and focus, and provide you with tools that can help you strengthen your own spiritual practice for years to come.

I would also say, allow yourself to shift and grow as you deepen your practice.  Find something that works for you right now, in this moment.  If your life changes or you have a new awareness or need something new, then by all means, change your practice to something that fits.  Just keep in mind the larger goals of what you want to accomplish.  For example, frequently, I also do daily divination, but right now as I’m the early stages of creating a new divination deck,  I’m staying away from other divination systems and simply allowing that new deck to come through!  Once the deck is a little further along, I’ll probably return to daily divination.

As we wrap up for today, I would love to hear examples of other ways that individuals have built daily practices into their lives. Please share so we can learn from your wisdom.

Spiritual Practices to Finding Equilibrium in the Chaos: Grounding, and Flow through the Druid Elements

A tremendous amount of really difficult occurrences are happening in the world right now. It seems like the more time that passes, the more we balance on the edge. The edge of what exactly, nobody can say.  But the edge of something, and likely, not something any of us are looking forward to. Things seem to be spinning faster, and faster; the light growing darker and darker.  A lot of folks are having difficulty just coping with reading the news or even being on social media, the enormity of everything–social, political, environmental, personal–weighing down.  Responses to this range from rage and anger to numbness. There is a heaviness in the air that cannot be discounted.

A good place to seek the stability of calas

A good place to seek the stability of calas

 

And so, many of us turn to spiritual practices as a way of helping make sense of it all, to find a way forward, finding a way to keep ourselves sane and to levy some positive change in the world. For me, any outer healing or change in the world begins with my own inner work, finding my own inner equilibrium in order to compassionately respond and enact change. I find myself returning, again and again, to the elemental work I did in my AODA and OBOD curriculum: working with the healing power of the elements, seeking balance within. And so, I’m not going to talk about everything that is happening (as a lot of it is well outside of the scope and purpose of this blog), but I am going to share with you some ways of self-care and balance seeking that I’ve found helpful in dealing with all of this. Specifically, I’m going to use the framework of the three druid elements: gwyar, calas, and nywfre, and discuss how we might use those elements (particularly the first two) to help maintain our own equilibrium during difficult times.

 

Equilibrium

We have a lot of terms that get raised when we are faced with instability (instability of any type: culturally, locally, politically, or personally). These terms most often focus on grounding, but may also include balance, composure, equilibrium. I actually prefer the world equilibrium, for a few reasons. One dictionary suggests that equilibrium is “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.” What I like about the definition and concept of equilibrium is that it doesn’t require one response (e.g. grounding) but rather a range of responses based on the needs of the moment.

For example, if I am feeling really disconnected, scattered, and unfocused, I might do some grounding techniques that help more firmly root me back in place. But there are times that being rooted firmly in place is not the best idea, and instead, I need to let go and simply learn to flow. Equilibrium implies both of these things: finding and maintaining it is situational based on the context and your own needs.

 

Grounding, or the work of Calas

When I talk to spiritual friends about these times and all that is happening, I think a lot of them talk about “grounding” and grounding strategies. Grounding usually happens when we connect with the energies of the earth, of stability, of calm. In the three druid element system, this grounding is clearly represented by calas, which is the principle of solidity and substance. Calas represents the physical substance of things, the strength in the cell walls of the plant, the stones beneath our feet, the stable and unchanging fathoms of the deepest caves. When we ground, we plant ourselves firmly and solidly on the living earth–we plant our feet strongly and with purpose. We stand our ground, so to speak, we dig in our heels, we spread ourselves out upon the earth and feel its stability and strength.  Now, there are times when grounding is the correct response, and there are also times where I actually think it does more harm than good. The key questions to determine whether or not grounding is an effective approach seems to be: do I need stability in my life right now? Do I need something firm to stand on, to hold on, and to simply be present with? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then by all means, ground away. But recognize that sometimes, holding fast to something is a reactionary response, rather than the best response.

 

There are so many practices and ways of grounding–I’ll just share a few of my favorites.

Earthing and forest walking. I really love to take a barefoot walk through a path in a very familiar forest (even better if it is raining, lol).  I wouldn’t do this in an unfamiliar forest, or one that has a lot of poison ivy or brambles. But certain forests, dirt paths, and mossy areas lend themselves really well to this kind of activity. It is the most simple thing–you take off your shoes and socks, and simply walk on the earth.  Feel the land beneath your toes.  Walk, perhaps in movement meditation, for a period of time. You can combine this with energetic work.

 

Energetic work. When I do the forest walking, I like to stand a spot and envision the energies of the telluric current, those of the deep earth (envisioned in green-gold) rising up through my soles of my feet and into my body, clearing me and filling me with a sense of calm and stability.  The OBOD’s Light Body Exercise, for those that practice it, works quite well as a grounding and clearing activity.  Really, most kinds of energetic work can be good during the forest walking.

Some shagbark hickories can provide amazing grounding!

Some shagbark hickories can provide amazing grounding!

 

Weeding and Garden tending. Spending time with earthy things, like in the garden, can be extremely grounding and stabilizing. Planting, harvesting, weeding–even laying in the garden with a good book is a sure way to help do some grounding work.

 

Working with the stones. Carrying a small stone with you is a grounding activity in and of itself.  I have one that I’ve been placing above my heart if I am feeling really awful about all this stuff–I clear it once in a while by placing it in running water or sunlight, but at some point, I know I will be casting it off back into the earth permanently. This stone work is good for trauma and really deep healing.

 

Eating nurturing and nutrient-dense meals. Sometimes, when we are upset, we forget to eat.  But food has always been a grounding thing, and the more nutrient-dense and protein rich, the better.  An omelette of sausage and eggs and kale, for example, is just about as grounding as one can get!  Remember to eat.  The body and the soul both benefit.

 

Burying your feet in the earth. Similar to my earthing and forest walking, I have found great comfort in taking a shovel, digging a hole in my garden, and sticking my feet in it, covering them up with the soil. Sit there for a time in quietude, doing perhaps energetic work as well, or simply being and soaking up the sun while you sit. It works.

 

Sitting with Hardwood Nut Trees. When I am feeling ungrounded, I seek out hickory or oak trees and spend time sitting with them or hugging them. There is something about the energy of the hickory that I found extraordinarily grounding. Many of the hardwood nut trees also have this quality, as well as some others. I’m not sure I’d use a walnut, they have a bit different of an energy, like an expelling energy, which also has its own magic (but is not really well suited for this purpose). .

 

Sitting with a flock of chickens. Maybe this is just a personal thing, but I get great stability out of simply being near chickens. Chickens do many of the activities on this list, after all: dust baths, burying their feet in the earth, eating nutrient dense food, walking on the land barefoot–and they have tremendous connection to the energies of the earth. Spending time with them can be very grounding.  It is fun to watch them find bugs, peck, scratch, take dust baths–and most flocks that were raised with love will welcome your company and companionship.

 

Truthfully, as delightful as the above activities have been, I haven’t been drawn to grounding much lately–it seems like, in some ways, I am already too grounded and connected to what is happening.  Like my feet are planted so firmly that maybe I’ll just fall over if the wind comes by.  And so because of that, I have really been embracing the second druid element this year: the principle of gwyar.

Flowing, or the work of Gwyar

The element of Gwyar, often represented by water, represents the principle of fluidity and of flow.  Gwyar is the principle of change, opposite of the stability of Calas.  All things grow and change, and sometimes, we must learn to be adaptable and embrace that change.  Water teaches different lessons than the grounding of the earth–it teaches us the power of flow.  The babbling brook cascading over the stones, the water flowing off the leaves during a storm, the air flows pushing clouds and rain further across the landscape, the constant flow of time: these are all part of the power of gwyar.  Like Calas, there are times when embracing Gwyar is the right approach, and there are times when being too “go with the flow” is not the right strategy.  Questions I like to ask to determine this are:  Am I in need of letting go? Am I in need of trusting the universe to guide my path?  Am I feeling to rigid or inflexible?  Affirmative answers to these questions suggest a need to embrace Gwyar.

I have found that embracing Gwyar has been helpful for me as there are a number of things in my life, and certainly in the broader world, that are out of my immediate control. As much as I would like to control them, I am unable to do so, and attempting to exert control is only going to lead to my own suffering.  Instead, I must learn to accept these things at present, and flow with them, and the act of releasing my attempted firm hold is in itself a very powerful magical act.  And so, here are some ways to embrace the power of flow:

 

Getting on the water!

Getting on the water!

Get on the water. This summer, I bought a kayak, and have spent nearly all of my free time out on lakes and rivers, learning how to flow with the waves.  This has its own kind of healing work, but in a watery sense–rather than being firmly planted, I am learning the power of flow.  Of riding the waves, leaning into the current, anticipating–and simply moving along.  Not fighting the current. Putting up my kayak sail, and simply letting the wind and waves take me on an adventure.  Kayaks and other water vessels are easy to come by–you can rent them at many state parks or local lakes; you can also ask around and I’m sure at least 1-2 friends will have one you can borrow.  I would suggest a kayak, rowboat, or canoe for this kind of flowing work–you want to be closer to the water, as close as possible.  The other option is tubing–a lot of rivers offer a tubing option where you rent a tube, bring a cooler, and spend the next 4-6 hours floating down the stream.  This is really, really good for connecting to the principle of flow.

 

Whitewater Rafting: If you really want a more extreme version of “getting on the water,” whitewater rafting or kayaking is a good choice.  The stronger currents force you even more to get into the physical embodiment of flow and adaptability, which is a powerful spiritual lesson. In fact, the reason that this post is two days early from my normal schedule is that I am getting on the extreme waters this weekend and heading out to one of my very favorite rivers, the Youghiogheny, for some rafting!.

 

Water observations. Sitting by moving water (or even still water) can teach you a lot about flows and the importance of going with the flow. I love doing this by small streams and creeks–playing with the rocks, seeing the interplay between gwyar and calas as the water tumbles through and down the stream.  What amazes me even about still water, like lakes, is that the lakes themselves change as the weather conditions change–from choppy waters to still and clear waters–and this, too, is a powerful lesson.  As I observe the water, I think about the places in my life where I need to embrace gwyar and flow, and the places where calas is a more appropriate path.

 

Energetic work.  Similar to the work above, I have found that I can connect to the element of gywar energetically, especially at points of water or other kinds of movement or flow (a dance, for example).

 

Mindful drinking of water.  Drinking high quality water mindfully, paying attention to the taste and the feel of it as it flows, and sipping it quietly while you mediate, is another simple activity that you can do.  Try to find local spring water, if you can, for this, but any spring water or well water would do nicely!

 

Bathing.  We all need to be clean, and bathing rituals and activities can certainly help.  Even if it is simply a matter of turning your awareness for a few minutes to the flow of the shower around you, or the comfort of the tub, it can be tremendously useful for  connecting to gwyar.  I sometimes will let the water drain out of the tub as I sit within it, feeling the waters flowing around me and cleansing.

 

Getting in the mud....

Getting in the mud….

Standing and walking in the rain.  Take a walk in a rain without an umbrella (and preferably without shoes). Pay attention to how the water feels as it soaks you, flows around you.  Pay attention to how it runs down the road, down the trunk of the tree, see where it goes afterwards.  This is tremendously useful and I try to do it often!

 

Swimming in a lake or stream. Jumping in the water, and floating for a time, is a really fun way to embrace gwyar.  I have been combining this with kayaking–I kayak out to a secluded spot and then jump into the water for a bit.  It has really been great.  I’ve also been working to visit the many local swimming holes near this area!

 

Sitting with a flock of ducks.  If chickens epitomize an earthy and grounding being, the duck is a good representation of gwyar.  I like sitting with ducks a lot–they have a very different energy than chickens, and observing them can help teach the principles of flow.

 

Some Methods of Bringing Balance and Unity of Calas and Gwyar

A third possibility, of course, is that in order for equilibrium, you need both the energy of gywar and calas.  I have found that if I’m generally just so overwhelmed, feeling both ungrounded and unadaptable, the unification of these two elements in my life can really help me find my footing.  You can combine activities above together, or engage in activities that innately emphasize the unity of the two elements.  Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Playing in mud puddles. Playing in the mud should never be discounted as a fantastic method for seeking equilibrium.  We knew this well as children, but have often forgotten the most important truths as adults.  Wait for a good summer rain (it has been dry here, but I am waiting) and find a puddle in the field or abandoned dirt road somewhere–somewhere safe and clean.  And get on the oldest clothes you can, take off your shoes, and just jump in it. Or make your own mud puddle with the hose.  Make mud pies, just like when you are a kid.  This is a most healthy antidote to present day reality!

 

Natural Building. An alternative is to visit a natural building site and become one with the cob.  Natural building requires initial flow and wet materials that dry into strong structures.  Making some cob with the feet and the hands, and plastering it on there, is a great experience.

 

Frankfort Mineral Springs - Embracing Gwyar

Frankfort Mineral Springs – Embracing Gwyar

Visiting Springs.  Springs are another place where you can see the interplay and balance between gwyar and calas in a natural setting. I have been visiting springs all over Western PA since moving here a year ago. I recently went camping at Raccoon Creek State Park and had the delight of visiting the Franklin Mineral Springs while I was there. It was really a cool spring–completely unexpected–with heavy content of iron (I shared a photo of it above). It had a basin where the water flowed so cold–I dunked my head in it, soaked myself up in it, and observed the flow of this spring. It was awesome! What I have found about these natural springs is that, at least here, they really do represent the intersection of gwyar and calas–the flow interacting with the stability of the stone.  This particular spring resonated strongly with balance of the elements: the stone where the water issued forth and the basin for stability, the ever-flowing gush of the water from the stones, and the mineral content in the water itself representing the unification of the elements.

 

Stillness. Stillness of the body and of the mind is another way to embrace the intersection of gywar and calas.  We spend so much of our time running around, dashing to and fro, and never really just being present in the moment, in ourselves. After the AODA’s practices, I like to sit in stillness in nature, quiet my mind, and simply be present in the world around me. This work requires us to both physically stop moving and be more stable, but also flow into the moment and simply observe what comes. It is powerful and profound!

 

Dancing: The principle of dance is all about the intersection of the stable earth and other objects with flow, and participating in some dance yourself (even if you aren’t very good, it doesn’t matter, go do it in the forest or wild areas where nobody can see you). I like to do this with ribbons or flags or something to even more appropriately attend to the energies of flow.

 

Throwing Pots. Any art forms that encourage the intersection of calas and gwyar are useful activities for seeking equilibrium. I have found that pottery, for example, is one of the best ones (for reasons similar to natural building/cob building, above). The intersection of the water to shape the clay, and then the application of heat, offers powerful spiritual lessons and opportunities.

 

As we all navigate these difficult times, I hope that the above material will provide you with some strategies for seeking equilibrium.  Blessings upon your path and journey!