Tag Archives: contemplative

Learning from life

Usually I find my content for blog posts by sitting down of a morning and asking ‘what do I know that I did not know before? This week, finding blog posts has been hard, and this morning I asked myself why that was, rather than asking what I have learned.

This is a week of more hours working away from home than is normal for me. As a self-employed person, I mostly work from my home computer. Up until this summer, I’d had a bunch of routines and strategies that allowed me a flexible working life. At the moment I’m getting to grips with a selection of new jobs and this week I’m spending a lot of time on one of them. I know a lot of things I didn’t know before, about where things are kept, what of the paperwork needs revising, and I’m working on some longer term strategies. None of these things make for blog posts.

When I’m on top of things, my day to day life leaves me time for reflection. I get to step back during the day and think about what I’m doing and what’s impacting on me. It’s only since I’ve stopped being able to do that, that I’ve noticed how inherently contemplative my life normally is. At the moment, all of my reflection time is being used to figure out things about the various new jobs. In all the things I’ve taken on, part of the job is to figure out what the job should be and how to do it to best effect.

What I’ve learned this week is that I learn most when I have time in a day for contemplation.  What I’ve been doing for some time doesn’t look like the structure of a conventional spiritual practice, but it has worked that way. A process of reflecting on my experiences as I go has allowed me to learn all kinds of things, and to bring depth and richness to my life. Sometimes it’s when something isn’t feasible that its true nature becomes properly visible – that’s not an ideal way to learn, but it will do!

This period of chaos has given me scope to notice things about how I’ve been living. I look forward to getting back to calmer waters with more scope to think about things. I feel like I’ve got a lot to process right now, as well as a lot to do. What do I know that I did not know before? That I need more thinking time when I don’t have to think about anything specific. Also that there are considerable personal benefits to pondering things as I go, day by day, in the informal way I’d been doing it.

Contemplative Druidry

I first joined Contemplative Druidry as a facebook group, but by happy chance I moved to Stroud, which was the location for physical meetings, so about four years ago, I started going to those as well. It brought me into contact with many likeminded people locally. The monthly opportunity to sit in contemplation with others was a tremendously valuable experience. The habit of looking at where I am in my life and being witnessed in a held space has been good for me too.

Yesterday was the final session. It struck me how rare a privilege it is to close something with care and attention. How often the last time we do something, we only know in hindsight. Consciously and deliberately bringing something to an end, honouring its history, and letting it go is a beautiful thing to get to do, and very much in keeping with my experience of the group as a whole. I’m sad that we’re letting it go, but also in no doubt that it was the right call.

This was the last thing I did in a group that had a Druid label on it. I let go my Druid Network membership a while ago, I gave up volunteering for OBOD and I fell out of Druid Camp last year. I no longer have active membership of any Druid thing. In fact, the only thing I’m still doing that has the Druid label on it, is this blog.

For me, the group aspect of Druidry has always been key. Last time I found myself not involved in any Druid space, and asked what it meant to be a solitary Druid. A friend pointed out that what it makes me, is a hedge witch. The labels become irrelevant if you aren’t using them to connect with other people.

In the same timeframe as this last great putting down, I’ve had a lot of bardic opportunities come into my life. Last time I fell off the edge of Druidry, I was feeling really isolated as a consequence. This time, it is easier because there’s so much else going on – music, art, live performance, time with friends. The labyrinths will be my contemplative practice in coming months. I don’t feel lost or cut adrift, it’s just a shift in focus. Going back to the bard path feels like a good and right thing at the moment.

Everything has its time, it’s season. Recognising when something has run its course isn’t easy, but I think the whole process of the contemplative Druidry group has been a good one and I am proud to have been a part of it.

Druid Camp

At this early stage, much of Druid Camp is a mystery. I know I’m looking after a contemplative space. I know James Nichol will be talking about contemplative Druidry, and that there will be chanting – I’m hoping for an Enchanting the void session from J.J. Middleway, and I’ve got designs on doing some awen soaked anarchic music experimenting. Probably on the Wednesday night. I may well lead some meditation sessions – what and how much depending on who else wants to do what, and how much. Part of the joy of Druid Camp is that there’s a lot of flexibility, a lot of space to go with what happens and follow the inspiration. I’m really looking forward to it.



The productive slacker

It can be tempting to see hard work as the answer. The more pressure we’re subject to, the more difficult it gets to stop, and this can lead to working flat out all the hours there are, too tired to do any of it well or efficiently, and never questioning what any of it is for.

In the last eight months or so, contemplative Druidry has become a really important part of my life. I’m involved with a group that meets regularly to meditate, reflect and share. The first few afternoons we did this, I felt really guilty about stopping, and the first whole day we did, I struggled to justify. There was work to be done elsewhere. So much else I should be doing. Stopping felt indulgent and unjustifiable. Just sitting there and contemplating would not solve any problems.

I learned, despite my own resistance, that I really needed this time. It allows me to unravel my thoughts, getting beyond surface concerns and immediate issues, and into the bigger life stuff. Taking an hour to just let things run through my head gives me perspective and calm. I can see what matters and where I need to act. I become more able to let go of the things that I realise don’t matter.

Over the last few months, I’ve started responding to overload by stopping, walking away and getting my head straight. An extra hour in bed, an afternoon in the sun, a walk – anything that gives me the mental space to unravel a bit. Often this is really unstructured. I don’t try to meditate on anything, or to clear my thoughts, I just make space so that whatever I’ve got can percolate a bit. As a direct consequence, I spend a lot less time running for the sake of it, or doing things inefficiently. I am quick to ditch the pointless stuff, and much clearer about what I want and need. I make more productive choices, I am calmer and happier.

I’m running my brain fairly hard, in terms of the sheer quantity of information I’m handling most days. People, politics, what I’m absorbing, what I’m creating… and trying to process all of that consciously doesn’t work. If I give my mind time to wander about free range, I digest information far more effectively. Then later, if I want to do some more creative meditation, I have some headspace and it works a lot better.

I’ve noticed that it is the mind wandering periods that make me most creative. I don’t ferment inspiration or develop deeper ideas by consciously chipping away at them. I need time with unstructured, directionless thinking where I can meander about aimlessly, pondering with no great purpose. That’s when connections are suddenly made and the sparks of inspiration set fire to my mind. Trying to work hard all the time actually crushes that process.

So if you find me idling away a summer afternoon, daydreaming and doing nothing of note, I am slacking, because slacking is exceedingly important.