Learning to Meditate

At Rainbow Druid Camp 2015, Philip Carr Gomm talked about how we find the idea of meditation. We each have a body, if we experiment with what it does, especially around pain and pleasure, we learn about the power of focusing and surrendering at the same time.

This relates to one of the core differences between Paganism and a revealed religion. If we burned all the books, all the Pagans, took away every written and oral-tradition reference to modern Pagan practice, sooner or later someone would look around them and notice the land and the sky, the pragmatic way we depend upon everything else for life, and the sense of wonder that beauty inspires. From there, many of the things intrinsic to Paganism could be reconstructed. With revealed religions, were you to destroy all the records, stories and evidence, you would destroy the religion.

Meditation is something we do because we have bodies, and all traditions, however old, come back to the truths of the body, and are available to be found, rediscovered, or reinvented on other terms by anyone with a body who happens to be paying attention.

I started meditating as a child, as a desperate response to insomnia. I created a method to still my mind and focus it so that I wouldn’t panic and make things worse when I couldn’t settle at night. I would count, slowly, sometimes to very high numbers indeed. It wasn’t creative, or inspiring, but it helped, and it meant that when I came to other forms of meditation, I already had a lot of the needed tools.

Aged ten or so, I read a fraction of a book on yoga that talked clearly about transcending the body, overcoming the body, negating it. I knew instinctively that this wasn’t what I wanted, stopped reading and moved on. In my teens, I learned about pathworking and visualisation, from witches. My formal exposure to meditation was in a Pagan context, and I’ve always thought of it as something Pagan, and with its own perfectly valid traditions rooted in this soil, and this ancestry. I get very stressed when people are adamant that meditation *is* eastern, that only the eastern models exist, that everything else is derived from there, that we have to do it that way and so forth.

The meditation I practice comes from my body, and from other Pagans. There’s a dash of Tai Chi/ Taoist influence in how I approach very body orientated meditation, again, because that’s who taught me. As this is a more life and body affirming path, with a very different underlying logic to transcendent faiths, I find it a better match for my Druidry. There’s a little bit of Quaker influence in the mix now as well, coming to me from working with the Contemplative Druid group.

Meditation exists across time and places not because someone found the one true way and everyone else then stole it, but because we have bodies, and there are things those bodies very naturally do. Stop. Breathe. Listen. Feel. The rest is just detail.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Learning to Meditate

  • inanna

    hi nimue. i just want to point out that in my experience (18 years of practice, 15 of teaching), although there is definitely a pervasive trend towards transcendence of the body within yoga, many modern practitioners find this problematic. we can see how this idea, while it might have worked well within the cultures yoga grew up in, often intersects unhealthily and unhelpfully with our current ideas about the body, and the environments/relationships that sustain it. there are lots of us working to reconnect with our bodies and, as a natural continuation of that, to reconnect with and to treat gently the land that we can’t, in the end, remove the body from. it is certainly true that many of the ancient texts on yoga seem to support the mind/body split, and the idea that the body is subservient to the eternal, unchanging soul that yoga is meant to reveal, but this is actually only one strand of yoga as a whole.

    this comment is just offered as a counterpoint to your experience, as yoga is a tremendously healing presence in my life, and i wouldn’t want interested readers to be turned off by reading this post.

    • Nimue Brown

      I can only comment on what I’ve experienced, which isn’t much 🙂 There’s a lot of transcendence in the philosophy around reincarnation, in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, that I just don’t engage with. If you’d like to talk about more body rooted practices, I’m always open to guest blogs.

  • inanna

    that’s a generous offer, nimue: thank you. in the light of how ludicrously long it is taking me to send important emails (including to you) and keep on schedule with my own writing, i feel like now isn’t the time to take on any more commitment! but hopefully others will read this and be able to offer something…?

    for what it’s worth, it’s my experience too that there is definitely a negation/transcendence thrust in many of the practices i’ve encountered, and i am deeply uncomfortable with it. i don’t know if this is because, as a person enmeshed in this particular culture at this particular historical juncture, i am just not able to understand what the individuals who disseminated the teachings meant; or, if the teachings themselves are just irrelevant to us “moderns”. either way, the sophisticated technology of yoga is a powerful tool for happiness in my life.

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