Early in the spring of 2010, when I was having considerable trouble with both my health and my finances, I tried meditating to get a message about what the root of my problems were. I often have difficulty meditating on these topics, perhaps because I am so “close” to them — I feel like I may have some serious blocks or false ideas or strong attachments that prevent me from getting a clear signal. When I talk to Apollo or my anima about these things, I often get silence, or cryptic answers that make no sense.
My spirit guides tend to be very, very polite. They’ll rarely smack me over the head with a message; they’ll usually wait until I ask explicitly for help or direction with something. And sometimes they’re evasive or silent even then — especially if they know I won’t like what they have to say. But if they have something important to communicate, and I’m not tuned in, they’ll coyly slip me hints and synchronicities until I finally wake up and get the message.
The Bear, it turns out, is one of those. She has been dropping me hints and signs for twenty years, and I’ve never picked up on it — until last month.
While vacationing in Acadia, Maine, I recently found myself strongly drawn to carvings and pictures of bears in the shops and on signs and so forth. And once, while hiking, I thought I heard a bear (they have a distinctive shuffle). I meditated on this, and began to remember the many times in my life when I had dreamed of bears, or encountered them while hiking. And when I did a visualization meditation in which I invited the bear to meet with me, it helped tremendously to resolve some issues with protection and financial security.
The Bear is known the world over as a symbol of protection, self-sufficiency, rebirth, the sun, and the abundance of the earth. During the winter, the mother bear retreats into hibernation, and at that time she gives birth to her cubs; little wonder that she is associated with the sun. She makes her dwelling in the Earth, and therefore has a special knowledge and intimacy with it. Tales the world over speak of bears turning into humans and vice versa: the whole Korean nation, for example, is supposed to have descended from a she-bear who made herself human by eating 21 cloves of garlic and retreating into a cave for a month. The bear is associated with protection not just because of her size and power, but because of her well-known fierceness when guarding her children — a necessary fierceness, because a father bear will sometimes kill his own cubs if their mother does not protect them.
I created this meditation based on my own recent experiences. In it, I guide you through a visualization of a landscape of forested mountains, rushing streams, and brilliant starry nights: the natural home of the bear.
These seven mini-meditations were first posted as part of the blog Druid Journal Meditation, which I worked on in 2007 and 2008. Since that blog is now defunct, I’ve reposted the meditations here, along with some ruminations on their meanings.
At first there are only confused images. I try to return to familiar places: the Temple, the Forest of Branching Paths, the Sun Prairie… But they slip away without coming into focus. I blink, look at the flame again, allow my frustration to pass. I try to focus on visualizing a single tree, a pool of water with light rippling, a mossy stone… Nothing. I can’t hold on to anything. Again, I breathe, look at the flame, and allow the frustration to pass. Sometimes it seems like 90% of all meditative practice is learning to forgive yourself for not meditating… I try again.
Oh yes! There it is.
I’ve come to realize that the geography of my inner landscape reflects my personal spiritual journey.
The inner landscape I visit most often in meditation consists of a number of consistent regions. I’ve described them in detail in other articles, but in brief they are:
The Abyss of Fear
A bottomless chasm that radiates terror. It is always dark at its edge — although no stars are visible in the sky — but everything is lit by an unholy blue light. A path, unevenly paved, leads away from its edge into…
The Forest of Branching Paths
The path gradually becomes completely unpaved, lined with springy fallen leaves. It is a wood of oak and birch. The forest is pitted with hidden dells and valleys, waterfall-fed pools frequented by goddesses, nymphs, and less pleasant things. A web of footpaths weaves among the trees, and one can frequently find souls wandering along them – I have encountered ancestors, minstrels, a band of thieves, and hidden realms of other people entirely. But if you follow the right paths, you will eventually come to…
When I first laid eyes on the Dream Master, he was Death.
In meditation, I had rowed my boat out to the Island of Smoke (a place in my Inner Landscape where I frequently go to ask things of gods and spirits), and docked it in its usual spot along the rocky, pine-forested shore. It’s a short walk up the sandy path to the clearing where I light virtual fires and give virtual sacrifices, calling to the great ones to hear my pleas and grant my prayers.
Who is the Dream Master? Easily told — he is the one who brings dreams. Maybe you know him better as the Sandman. He decides what dreams you will have, and when you’ll have them. He is your guide through the one third of your life you spend asleep.
I’ve had an odd relationship with sleep for the past few years. I tend to do pretty well with it — I fall asleep easily. Then I stay asleep a good long while (usually eight or nine hours). I can frequently “program” myself to wake up at a time of my choosing (though not so reliably that I can give up my alarm clock). I can nap for fifteen or twenty minutes and wake up completely refreshed. For about 15 months, I was polyphasic, getting by on as little as three or four hours of sleep per day.
However, I don’t do much work with my dreams — I’m not a lucid dreamer, and usually the meanings of my dreams are pretty mundane. I get a lot more out of meditation.
Nevertheless I had been wondering about the Dream Master for a while, off and on, before it occurred to me that I could try to meet him in “person”.
A few weeks ago I had a meditation unlike any other I’d had before.
In the visualization, I was walking out along the high ridge that looks out over the sea. It was very early in the morning — the sun had not yet come up, but the sky was ruddy and growing lighter every moment. Suddenly, at the edge of the ridge I saw a strange black figure, wearing a robe and hood, and carrying… a scythe.
It is a dark day here. I sit with my head in my hands, the cold rough stone under me, the loose leaves clattering and swirling in the wind as it tosses through the bare temple. This temple is Apollo’s, but the sky is gray, the rain is cold, and…
Wraiths walk where there was sunshine.
I just got back from hiking a small part of the Appalachian Trail, and Lo, my whole life is close to turning upside down. I definitely have some thoughts from the trip I want to share with you, but they will have to wait until other matters get sorted out. In the meantime, here is a piece of doggerel I composed on my final day, when the dehydration had really taken its toll…
A spring day in early May
The morning sky was pale,
Two groups of campers came to hike
The Appalachian Trail.
One group were time-worn veterans,
Strong and tough with age;
They’d climbed these hills for many a year,
They were old and hard and sage.
The other group was young and strong,
As taut as well-bound rope;
With anything that came their way
They knew that they could cope.
They both set out from upper Georgia
North towards Tennessee,
They only wanted to hike a bit
And enjoy the scenery…
It’s been over six months in the making, but I finally finished it: a brand-new set of eight downloadable guided meditations, which can be purchased separately or as part of a big Relaxation Package along with a 20-page Guide to Relaxation and Peace. In keeping with my philosophy of donation-based offerings, all meditations are available for a donation of any amount. So that you’ll know exactly what you’re getting, I’m providing transcripts of all the meditations in a free PDF.
I had a great time making this package, and there’s no question in my mind that these are the best meditations I’ve ever put together. If you enjoyed the Meet a Guide meditation, you should definitely consider checking these out, since they’re designed to provide gentle visualization practice and a deeper connection with Spirit along with deep peace.
Peter O’Gamhna first contacted me a few months ago, to share his experiences with the free guided meditation “Meet a Guide”. He found himself talking to an entity that identified himself as Apollo… but who seemed a bit “distant” and definitely did not take on Apollo’s classic appearance! Since then Peter’s journey with meditation has been a remarkable one, and I encouraged him to write it up so that we could share it with you here. Meditation isn’t for everyone, but for myself and many others, it’s been an amazing path!
My name is Peter O’Gamhna. Jeff has given me the wonderful chance to write a guest post for his highly successful blog, one which I have eagerly accepted. I’m going to be discussing visualisation meditations, sharing my experiences and thoughts with you the reader — it is my hope that in doing so I might inspire a few of you to give it a try yourself, or simply satisfy your curiosity about the matter.
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down
And winter’s closing in
I have recently begun to have regular contact with a new spirit guide. I think he has been prowling around at the edges of my consciousness for a long time — maybe for years — but it seems that the time has finally come for me to get to know him better. Ever since my first trip as an adult to the American West in 1995, I’ve experienced an intense longing to go back, to experience it more deeply. This longing has waxed and waned over the years, and sometimes it has disappeared entirely. I got a chance to indulge this longing with a trip to South Dakota last summer; and I found myself particularly affected emotionally by the herds of bison in the Black Hills, and most especially by one poster of a bison standing in the snow that I chanced to see in the gift shop in the Badlands. Its eyes seemed incredibly human and terribly sad.
A month or so ago, I was clearing out my house clutter as part of my physical manifestation overhaul when I chanced on a small stone carving of a bison given to us by my in-laws, who lived in Denver for a while. It brought on a surge of longing that was visceral, almost painful. Then, finally, a few weeks ago, I was driving my son home from school, thinking about these feelings, thinking about the bison, musing about it, when I realized that the bison was talking back — I had slipped into a meditative state and made contact with the guide.
My second grader is now officially a third grader. We had a huge school-wide picnic in the blazing summer heat. Looking out from under the chestnut tree at the top of the hill, eating a fresh cool salad, there was short grass in the foreground, tall grass a little beyond that, rolling farmland a bit further out, and then the forested Holyoke Range, hazy and blue in the humidity, presiding silently over the raucus proceedings.
All the adults kept accidentally calling the kids “second graders”, and the kids kept screaming out “third graders!”
Tomorrow we’re headed to Boston for my wife’s ten-year college reunion. Then we’re driving a bit further, out onto Cape Cod, for a week of camping by the beach. (Yes, with four small children. Don’t worry, we’re professionals.)
So I’ll be away from the computer for a spell, and I realized that this would be an awesome chance to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: bring some Other Voices front and center here. I did some guest blogging for Pagan Sojourn back in January, and Slade and I have exchanged articles, and each of those experiences was extremely positive for all involved. The cross-pollination of ideas and readers and writers is exciting and invigorating for everyone.
Below is a list of the generous bloggers who have graciously agreed to step in to fill my silence, along with a snatch of their voices:
- Adam Alexander of Adam’s Peace.
Sometimes, I have strayed from this topic, and other times, I have remained extremely faithful, but the purpose of this blog has always been to encourage other people to talk about inner peace, whether here, or in their own domains.
- Damian Carr of Be the Change – Tread the Path.
I then noticed that the elderly man had taken a large crucifix out of his pocket. He then, quietly but very deliberately, blessed the tube carriage and all the people in it three times. Nobody else seemed to notice…
- Angela-Eloise of Blogickal.
When we are learning to walk, we have people who hold our hands. When we are learning to walk in divine love, it’s nice to have people who lend their support as well.
- Erik of Executive Pagan.
The simple act of pouring a libation or casting an offering into the fire grounds my prayer in the physical universe, and reminds me that I am a part of Ultimate Reality, and that the Gods are equally real and equally present here with us.
- S. Nichole of Pagan Sojourn.
This blog was meant to be a year long study of Paganism, before moving on to something else. However, when I got to end of the year, I realized that I had more that I wanted to learn.
S. Nichole’s post: Religious Tradition and Innovative Ideas
- Kara-Leah Masina of be Conscious now.
What does it mean to be conscious? It means you are aware of the gap between the thinking and the acting when YOU have a choice. You can obey your thoughts… Or not. That gap — that choice — THAT is the stillness of Self. That is Consciousness.
- Slade Roberson of Shift Your Spirits.
You are God; act like it. The time has come to shift your spirits and transform the life you are already living into the creative spiritual mission you know it’s supposed to be.
Over the next week, these big-hearted souls will be posting on topics of their own choosing when the spirit moves them. At Erik’s suggestion, some of them are planning to write about the tension between innovation and tradition in religion — a fascinating topic, and a potentially explosive one, as history has shown. But whatever they write about, I thank them all from the bottom of my heart! I can’t wait to see what they will post.
Men go abroad to wonder the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
[Note: I just realized that my beautiful “Other Voices” page was gutted when I upgraded WordPress last week. My apologies to those whose work was represented there — I didn’t backup things properly, it appears, and I will have to reconstruct it from scratch after my vacation.]
Meet a Guide: Free Guided Meditation.
The meditation is in mp3 format, is 22 MB, and lasts 18.5 minutes.
For me, meditation provides the simplest, richest, and most effective window into whatever issues are most urgent and troubling in my life. It doesn’t matter what I’m struggling with — meditation almost always helps. I’ve used meditation for:
- Dispelling fear
- Helping to decide on and maintain sleep patterns
- Contacting hidden elements of my subconscious
- Contacting spirits, guides, and even gods
- Bringing peace
- Manifesting money
- Weight loss
- Guidance on the Druid path
My goodness! I wasn’t expecting the list to be so long when I started making it.