Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 3: Meditation and Self-Care

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Alex:

Freshly brewed tea is a favorite offering of mine. I brew the tea (loose-leaf in a tea ball, because I might be a touch of a snob), stir in honey and milk, and pour spoonfuls into the sink, usually to Hestia, Athena, the Olympian Muses, and the Titan Muses, in that order. Honestly I probably should offer libations more often and incense less often, because there is never any telling when my asthma will react to the incense smoke—but I enjoy the scents of incense, and…well, between my paycheck job and the endless quiet reminders that I am not working hard enough (evidence, I don’t have enough money), there really isn’t a lot that I can take a moment to enjoy. I don’t think the Gods begrudge my enjoyment of what I am offering Them; They ask for first-fruits, not the whole harvest, and the first portion of sacrifices at feasts, not the whole hog.

I note your observation that daily practice is like meditation, in that being distracted from it is not—rather, should not be—a reason to blame or be upset with oneself. Meditation is…interesting for me to attempt. I attempted it just now—I set a timer for five minutes, sat up straight, and closed my eyes. Three and a half minutes later (which is to say, when sitting up straight got too painful), after some deep breathing and a lot of repetition of snippets of “The Mob Song” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991)…

(Guess what movie I watched most recently. Go on.)

I tried it again: I found a Celtic-style meditation music track on YouTube and found a comfortable position on this sofa and set a five-minute timer. I succeeded in thinking of very little but the music for those five minutes, but only because focusing on the music—on the dancing feel to the music—drove all other thoughts out of my mind. I’m not sure that achieves the desired effect of being quiet so as to listen for the Gods, mind you…

But then I’m not sure much does. My mind simply doesn’t quiet that easily.

I wonder if that’s why I struggle so to expand my daily practice, even on a once-weekly basis.

I also often struggle with simple self-care. I have a list of questions I try to remember to ask myself whenever I’m feeling particularly unmotivated or otherwise really down.

Have I eaten in the past four hours? Refilled my water cup in the past two hours? Had tea or coffee in the past six hours? Taken an Adderall in the past six hours? (Sometimes I have declined to take an Adderall that day for reasons, and on such days I am free to stop complaining about life at any time.) Did I take all other daily medications at the appropriate times in the past twenty-four hours? In that time frame, did I shower, and did I remember to pour a bowlful of khernips over my head (to add spiritual cleansing to the physical) between turning off the water and toweling off? How much did I sleep?

How much else have I been doing today? Is anything else particularly screwy with my physical self today, and if so, can I / how can I do something about that? What about mental self? Emotional? Spiritual? (If those are even reasonable distinctions to make, but it does help to identify the realm in which a problem exists.)

Do I just not want to do the thing right now, and if so, why is that? If it’s something I can’t or shouldn’t put off, can I talk someone in a particular IRC channel I hang out in into warring with me—or simply declare a war to the channel myself and proceed?

(War. Noun. A given length of time, usually twenty minutes, starting at an agreed-upon time, usually a-multiple-of-five minutes after the hour, in which all participants attempt to either write as many words as they can or accomplish productivity in some other way, perhaps washing dishes, taking out the recycles, or making progress on a spreadsheet. I do not understand why twenty-minute IRC-channel wars separated by ten-minute breaks work better for me than Unfuck Your Habitat’s 20/10 concept—but they do, even when I am the only one warring!)

The way this series of questions works is, I have identified a collection of problem areas in my self-care. If I ask myself whether I have addressed that particular problem area recently enough, and the answer is no, then I know I will feel better upon addressing that problem area. Sometimes there’s not much I can do—I am currently in the middle of a serious emotional problem and effectively all I can do to address its cause is wait for the stressors to go away. Or if I realize at work that I feel ick because I missed my shower, the best I can do is head to the restroom and wash my face. But sometimes there is something more substantially doable. For instance, I have not yet eaten on this gray Thursday morning; I have prayed no prayers, and I’m feeling strongly that my not doing this is getting to be a serious problem; I was rudely awoken after too few hours’ sleep. (Scheduled complex-wide maintenance, but other than “between 8a and 6p on some day this week”, I had no clue when maintenance was going to get to my apartment. At least I can stop anxiety now over when that maintenance will occur?) I should therefore eat, pray, love and, because I have hours yet before my scheduled work hours begin, go back to bed!

…I’m going to make tea. 😛

Rebecca:

Enjoying the offerings has a long tradition! Not only incense, but the meat from a sacrifice was cooked and shared with the people.

On the topic of meditation, I notice that you’ve picked up a common misconception about the goal and purpose of meditation. Empty mind meditation is one form, and is mostly practiced in Eastern religions and cultures. Western cultures tend, instead, to instruct one to focus on one image or one task. It is meditation to trace a labyrinth, and to focus on it fully. It is meditation to wash dishes and focus on that fully. And, yes, it is meditation to focus fully on one piece of music. There are sitting meditations, moving meditations, chanting meditations, doing meditations, breathing meditations. You can meditate by spinning thread or yarn—one of my own favorite meditations, in fact!

Because the goal of meditation is to focus the mind fully on a single thing. This has many uses, including to focus on listening to the gods. It can also be used to explore the symbolic and magical meanings of a rune or geomantic figure, to explore the art on a tarot card, to find the Muse in the music, or simply to calm oneself and prepare for the day.

Everyone, and most especially those suffering from some form of disability, should find a method of meditation that works well ,em>for them, and not try to force themselves to use something that doesn’t work. This is a place in which we absolutely must listen to our bodies and our brains, and find something that works with our disabilities, not against them. Someone with ADHD should try doing meditations, so that their body and hands have something to occupy themselves with while the mind works on focus. Even a video game, if it’s simple enough, can be meditation. Try classics like Snake and Pong. (Sorry, MMO fans!) Or try making things, whatever kind of craft you like, as long as it’s simple and doesn’t require active mental attention. Knit or crochet or spin or quilt in long lines. Let your hands go on automatic, and sink your brain into the pattern of knit-purl, or of through the loop and back, or of the flick and twist, or of the over and under.

If you process auditory stimuli well, listening to music intently, focusing on it entirely, works perfectly well. If there’s a simple repetition, sing along with it, or drum to the beat, or dance a pattern to it over and over again. If the visual is your thing, find an image that you can either look at a picture of or hold in your mind, and trace it over and over again with eyes

The list goes on and on. Find a thing that you can do without active thought, and do that thing, focusing your entire mind and self on doing it. Breathing meditations are popular in many cultures because breathing is so simple that almost anyone can do it easily, but it’s far from the only thing, and there are many many options for people for whom breath is a problem.

That’s a great self-care checklist! Another one, necessarily less tailored, I like is You Feel Like Shit: An Interactive Self-Care Guide.

Check back tomorrow for discussion of distraction and importance!

This series is being posted simultaneously at Bacchic Underground, Never Unmindful, and Delmarva Nikephoros.

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