Hedge Riding: The Art of the Hedge Witch

Bringing the Hedge back into Hedge Witchcraft, working with liminal spaces and the Otherworld

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Meditation - The Gift of Transformation

Meditation is a huge part of my spiritual life.  It is something that I try to do every single day, in various shapes and forms.  I find that sitting meditation, or zazen is the best way for my self to refocus on what’s important, to stop the chattering ego and really get deep down to the issues at hand. So much clarity is gained from simply stopping, from allowing the silence to fill your soul. In that deep pool of quiet, in that dark heart of Cerridwen’s cauldron, lies transformation.

You have to be willing to do it, though. It’s difficult, as many of us don’t really like spending time alone, much less sitting still and “wasting time”. However, I would posit that this could very well be the best use of your time, realigning you to the present moment, grounding yourself in the reality of the here and now.  We can get so carried away on our emotions, on our problems with the world, on our own sense of self that we become blinkered to the rest of existence. Life is constantly happening, all around us, and we hardly notice it.  Sitting meditation is a great way to pay attention to it, to our selves, our bodies and our minds, to see how they work, to get in touch with them once again, thereby allowing us to get in touch with the rest of the world on a much clearer, positive level.

Like a deep pool, the waters may become disturbed, but if we stop the mud will eventually settle to the bottom, the clear water rising to the top to perfectly reflect the sky above.  We can become as this pool, reflecting with clarity the present moment in all that we do, in all that we say and in all that we think.  It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

 It takes a lot of practice. A lot.  I can guarantee you won’t get the hang of it if you only try for a couple of days and then give up, saying “I can’t do it”.  Perhaps “can’t” isn’t the issue, but rather “won’t”.  We have to be willing to step up the challenge, to breathe in the silence and face the abyss.  Perhaps this is too frightening for some, facing who they really are, seeing their actions and their behaviour in the clear reflective pool of being.  For others, it’s an opportunity for growth, to not let ourselves be slaves to our shadow selves. When our shadow selves rule, when we live reactionary lives (lives led only by reacting to situations, instead of acting with intention), when we live unaware life slips past us at an alarming rate. Things often seem out of control.  We then release all personal responsibility; we simply quit, saying “I can’t do this”.

Meditation can be your personal cheerleader.  It can discipline the body and the mind, saying “yes, you can, just do it!”  In times of great trauma, in times of great stress, meditation will allow you to transition these moments into ones of mindfulness, wisdom and ultimately joy.  When we are kind to our selves, through quiet meditation, breathing in to our souls, breathing in to our hearts, our lungs, our ancestors, our gods then we create joy, both within and without.  Meditation is all about having compassion for your self.

Try it, if you don’t already incorporate meditation into your daily schedule. Simply find time to sit for 15 – 20 minutes, either on a cushion on the floor, or a chair. If sitting is just too uncomfortable, due to illness or injury, then lying down is fine as long as you won’t fall asleep.  Take a few moments to allow your body to rest comfortably into position. Your spine should be straight and relaxed – if sitting on a chair, try not not use the backrest. If sitting on the floor, try using cushions to raise you slightly off the floor, so that when you sit “cross-legged” your knees will at least be at the same height as your hips.  I bring my right foot in first, and then have the left leg in front of that – the legs are not “crossed” but rather folded inwards, as in the Gundestrup cauldron position.  That way, the circulation still flows freely – if I do cross my legs, one of them falls asleep.

I then rest my hands on my knees, palms up, middle finger to thumb, bringing my elbows in slightly if I find I am leaning too far forwards. I rock back and forth a bit to find the centre spot, and then close my eyes, focusing on my breath.  After years of practice, I can now focus on the breath straight away without thoughts of the day, past experience or future worries crowding in.  If you find this happening, simply smile, let it go and return focus to the breath.  Try this for just ten minutes. You may have to refocus 10 – 20 – 100 times, but each time simply smile to your mind and return to your breath. It’s not about how good you are at focusing, but about coming to an understanding about how your mind works. Once you see how often these thoughts come in, and how often you have to let go, you will realise how much these thoughts have controlled you. It’s time to take charge now, and let them go with a smile to your heart.

The last five minutes of my meditation session are filled with prayer.  If you like, you can always begin with prayer, and then meditate afterwards – I do this if there is an issue or a question that I need to look deeper into, questing the awen.  Then, the meditation is opening yourself up to receiving an answer, by turning off the chatter and allowing the gods or ancestors to speak in the newly found silence.

Build up the sessions until you can do 20 – 45 minutes a day.  You may find that your back muscles ache from sitting upright after two minutes – that’s fine, they probably haven’t been used very much and just need time to strengthen. Holding in the lower belly a little helps, as long as it doesn’t restrict your breathing. Gradually, you will find your back muscles getting stronger, and be able to sit in position for longer periods of time.  Stick with it.

When the body and mind are stilled, we return to our selves.  In the stillness of the centre, we can see the world around us.  Let that world spin, for it will go on regardless – know that here at the centre, in the present moment, there is only the stillness, the silence and the breath. How exquisite a gift!

From here, learn about other meditation techniques, such as walking meditation, journeying, yoga or tai chi.  Once you have gained the discipline found in sitting meditation, you can carry that forward into moving meditation, a beautiful affirmation of the body. Let’s cover that in another blog post!

Blessings on your work. x

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  Joanna van der Hoeven is a Hedge Witch, Druid, and a best-selling author. She has been working in Pagan traditions for over 20 years. She is the Director of Druid College UK, helping to re-weave the connection to the land and teaching a modern interpretation of the ancient Celtic religion.  

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