‘Building Mental Discipline’ Posts
I’m amused as I write this essay, simply for the fact that before I even heard of CedarLight Grove or ADF, I had a teacher when I was 18 that would ask me to meditate daily and record the experiences down in a journal. He would review them once a week to observe my progress, but I could only do this for a few weeks.
When I first started out with the Dedicant’s Program, it was in 2003, and many were still following the old DP format. In the previous format, we were to record 5 months worth of meditation in a journal. I think I got through a week. The fault was none but my own, as I attempted to force myself to conform to plain ordinary ol’ meditation with some soft music under candlelight.
This method was affective, for a moment or two. I was able to ground and recenter myself, and most importantly, calm. But after only a few moments, I’d find my mind wandering on the events of the day, thoughts for the future, or even focusing on an itch on my nose. It was near impossible for me to allow my mind to clear and rest and heal. I’d start focusing on shadows beneath my eyelids; I’d listen to noises outside my window. I became more aware of my surroundings, but the distractions were not allowing me to separate myself from the outside world and focus on my inner self.
To the Apache, stillness is a pleasure. It prepares them for the need to hide and remain still from an enemy or prey, and they are taught this from childhood. But with this stillness, they are taught to listen, focus, and be aware of their surroundings. Every minute sound, every gentle breeze, every movement in the brush is a sign.
Now I didn’t grow up with an Apache childhood, but I grew up in an environment where hunting was the norm, even for us kids. Learning to remain still so as not to scare off game, catching frogs and snakes, even practicing our silent movement abilities on our poor parents whom we happened to be spying on.
Stillness to me, is a big part of mental discipline, even if it’s not so much focused on stillness of the mind, but rather stillness of the body and breath.
So upon my second attempt at the dedicant’s program, and the adoption of the new requirements (thank you!) where instead of posting 5 months worth of journal entries, I am able to sum up my mental discipline experiences, I have since discovered my preferred method of meditation.
Drumming, to me, has always been the heartbeat of ritual (quite literally). Like our physical bodies, a ritual needs rhythm to guide it through its process.
I’ve spent the last 3 years adopting drumming techniques as a form of trance meditiation. My spiritual center is the most open, alive, and active when I am in a trance of drumming. My goal is to eventually work with some of my grovemates to help develop their connection with rhythm, and to create a united rhythm throughout our sacred space. This is also helpful for when I need to do other activities in ritual, the drumming doesn’t need to cease when I stop.
I’ve also noticed that when hunting season starts in September every year, that I begin to work on my stillness of body and breath techniques due to their usefulness while hunting. This past Sunday (October 21st 2007) I was able to successfully still my mind and body at the same time outside under the sunlight and allow myself to become completely still. Which is a big step for me, because my mind is often too active to achieve this.
As of now I am the only regular drummer within my Grove, which in my eyes places great responsibility on me for our high rites. I use my drum to signal the procession into the sanctuary, and when everyone is seated, silence. During invocations, another gentle rhythmic rumble, and when the call is responded to, a hefty pound or two symbolizing the energy raised by the participants. During empty space, such as passing around the Waters of Life, if no chants are present (or even in addition to), the drum helps keep the intent and focus on the rite at hand, rather than allowing peoples minds and eyes to wander. During the closing of ritual, the energy is released through heavy drumming, and as some participants leave for revels, others will continue to dance to experse what energy they have left.
But there are only 8 high rites a year, surely drumming takes up precedence elsewhere in my life?
Drumming for me is like a trance. There have been drumming circles I have entered that have thrown me into such a trance that my hands throb with pain and melt into nothing but bruises by the end of the evening. You become one with the drum, and your entire focus is placed into the rhythm at hand, and nothing else. I’ve never felt so recharged in my soul, as I have when I have spent an evening under the full moon drumming with my peers. We are all connected, we all share the same heartbeat, the same breath, and it is as if we are one, even if just for a moment.
The same could be said for my guitar, as I will often perform voice exercises (no words) in a rhythmic pattern in strum with the chords of my guitar. I close my eyes and all I can feel is that rhythm, and allowing my voice to follow into the depths of every octave I can reach.
It does not behoove me to perform daily drumming rituals; I think I would drive my father crazy. So I find myself compromising. I will drum with many gatherings throughout the year, sometimes several times a month. And at my home I tend to continue my exercises with the rhythm of my guitar, and also listening to various tribal pieces that I enjoy and that relax me. But it is all rhythm.
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