Ok, three asides in a row means it’s time to get back on track!
We’ve touched on how to cultivate quiet, internally and externally, defining and recognizing truth, and where we will be seeking truth. Now that the stage is set, it’s time to dig into some specific Listening practices.
- Meditation – This is probably the most “main stream” practice that I have experience with. I struggled with meditation quite a bit in the beginning, and what I call meditation would look pretty weird to a Buddhist monk. For me, the most important thing I had to learn to really settle into meditation was that, while there are several traditions that have pretty rigid rules about how they meditate, since I operate outside of those traditions there is no “right” way to meditate. Yes, the goal is stillness, but if you fidget you’re not a failure. Maybe walking meditation works better for you. Maybe you can’t pretzel yourself into lotus position; chairs are totally fine. Your mind will wander, it’s in its nature. As long as you keep breathing and coming back to stillness, you will develop a healthy meditation practice, and with it, begin to Listen. I only got a handle on meditation after my foray into shamanic journeywork, and it was most helpful for me to do it in community, which for me (for a while, anyway) was in the local liberal Quakers meeting. Pro tip: A purring cat in your lap totally helps, too!
- Prayer – Different traditions define prayer differently. At its core I’d call it anything that opens a dialogue between you and the Divine. For me it’s pretty close to meditation, but for someone else praying the rosary might be what connects them to God. Explore!
- Shamanic Journeying -Shamanic journeying is a practice that uses drumming or other rhythmic sound to alter consciousness and allow contact with the Spirit World. It’s specifics can vary by culture and even individual practitioner, but those are the basics. The drumming helps alter the brain waves, slowing them to bring on a state deeper than meditation but still above dreaming sleep. This state fosters contact with the Spirits and the ability to explore Their Realms. The practitioner can call their Helping Spirits to them, or seek Them out in Their Otherworldly homes, and obtain wisdom, comfort, and/or healing. I participated in a year-long apprenticeship with a wonderful contemporary Western shaman, and it changed my life. If I am in a hard place, I turn to my drums and let them carry me off. For me, the most important gift to come out of the apprenticeship was a deep connection with my Spirit Guides. That connection cracked something open in me, allowing me to feel and sense more deeply, and I am often in touch with Them in “the real world” too, not just during journeys. Their guidance and support has changed my life and I am profoundly grateful to Them.
- Divinination – I define divination as any practice that looks for the hidden meaning of things. It can be looking for signs in the environment around you, or it can be using specific, often purposefully ambiguous, tools to connect you with deeper knowing. Some examples are:
- Tarot Cards – Probably my first foray into divination, and I’ve recently come back to it after letting it drift away. My first deck appealed to my mind, but I never got much connection from it. Then I came across a deck that spoke to me, and practically seduced me in the store. I brought it home and it’s been brutally honest and almost frighteningly accurate. Apparently I just needed the right fit!
- Pendulums – These are useful for yes/no situations, and can be nice when you need to drill down into specifics, but I wouldn’t recommend them for broader Listening.
- Omens AKA Paying Attention – The world is in constant dialogue with us, if we only keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to it. I have experienced omens in the form of animal sightings, the timing of a breeze, and the location of airplane chem trails. Observe, ponder, and trust the resonance that comes.
- Free Writing – This practice is a way of tapping into different parts of your mind, you just set pen to paper and write without thought, letting whatever comes through comes through. After you feel you have been emptied of words you go back and review what poured forth, looking for that resonance of truth on the page.
- Almost Anything – Don’t be constrained by what I have experience and luck with. Maybe chanting a mantra is what works for you. Maybe dancing wildly or spinning like a dervish is what taps into your body knowing. Maybe you read the cloud formations in the sky or the patterns of the stars. Maybe saints speak to you in the pews, or the trees speak to you in the forest. Experiment, explore, trust your gut and see where it leads you.
I think I will add a Resources page to list some books and websites for those interested in digging deeper into some of these specifics. Look for it coming soon!