Archive for the ‘Earth Meditations’ Category

Winter Solstice Tea Ceremony

800px-Pine_Needle_Tea

Photo by Tom Check under CC

With endless holiday commercials since late October, shopping and decorating, you may be holiday cheered out by now.

However, the Winter Solstice is a powerful time for connecting with the natural world. In the Yearly Rites section, I wrote about the importance of connecting with the natural turn of the year. It brings us closer to nature and ourselves.

The Winter Solstice (on Dec. 21 this year) marks what earth-based religions call “the triumph of the light.” After the Winter Solstice, the days will start to get longer again. It’s a marker in the depths of cold days that warmth will come again. Burning a Yule log, bringing a Christmas tree inside and hanging holiday lights are all ancient celebrations of life’s triumph over darkness and stillness.

In order to connect with the Solstice, I have a tea ceremony of sorts I like to do that I wanted to share.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is pick out an appropriate tea. I like to pick out a flavor that is closely associated with the holidays. The herbs usually have a close connection to the Solstice. Some of my top choices are:

Peppermint tea: This one is just a given. Peppermint is an invigorating tea that is closely associated with mental stimulation. It is the perfect choice for combating the surly sluggishness of winter.  This one is easy to find in the store, and you probably won’t have the fresh plant around this time of year.  If you do thanks to an indoor garden, however, here are instructions on how to make the tea.

Pine needle tea: In case you weren’t aware, yes, you can make a delicious tea out of real pine needles. It ties into the season perfectly. Evergreens like pine have strong associations with eternal life and bold heartiness. Here are some great instructions with photos on how to make a fresh, natural cup of pine needle tea.

Cinnamon tea: With this classic holiday flavor, you can brew the tea straight out of cinnamon sticks. Here’s how. Cinnamon is associated with vitality, energy, courage and fortitude. It’s the perfect drink as the light triumphs over the dark.

Once you have your tea picked out, the ritual is simple. You’ll just need your cup of hot tea and a quiet place.

  1. Breath slowly and clear your mind.
  2. Think of the cold winter, the silent earth. Picture snow on the trees (or maybe in your area it’s simply a rainy season). Fully picture and immerse yourself in your vision of winter.
  3. Hold the teacup in both hand and feel the warmth of the tea. Think of the days getting longer and picture sunny days.
  4. Drink your tea slowly, and as you do, feel it suffuse you with vigor and warmth.
  5. While still drinking, focus on a key aspect of the herb in the tea. For instance, if you are drinking cinnamon, could your life use more courage?   Is there an issue you are avoiding? Hold the question in your mind. Answers may come and they may not. Don’t feel forced into anything. But when they come, they’re usually pretty strong.
  6. Once your tea is gone, focus on your gratitude for these gifts.

Once you’re done, you may want to go write down any epiphanies. I also find it helpful to just record my experience; it may reveal some wisdom.

Happy Solstice!

Mindfulness Hiking / Walking Meditation

Katie_Walking_Labyrinth_2

Photo by JamesJen under CC

I wanted to do a very short post to introduce walking meditation, sometimes called mindfulness hiking. The practice is exactly what it sounds like: you essentially meditate while you walk (more on the basics of meditation here).  This is technically a type of Shamatha Meditation, or using a focal point to meditate, so in this case, the world around you.  You eventually clear your mind and focus entirely on your surroundings and body, opening up your awareness to earth and achieving a greater understanding of your surroundings.

There are already several great guides online, so here are a couple:

Beliefnet has a great guide on how to start mindfulness hiking here.

For a great guide on the essentials of walking meditation, visit here.

As we move through the seasons, I’ll update with mindfulness hiking posts geared towards specific elements and seasonal changes (more on seasonal rites here).

Basic Earth Cycle Meditation

This is a guided mediation adapted from a ritual exercise for summoning the four elements. You’ll need nothing but peace and quiet, a journal and your own power of visualization. It’s meant to open you up to the stages of earth and connect with its levels of power. Through the exercise, you will hone your visualizations skills, reflect on the elements and come to know earth’s full beauty.

  1. Start by sitting straight with your legs folded. Slow your breathing and focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Keep doing this until you feel utterly relaxed and calm.
  2. Start by picturing a desert. You see the sand, cacti, a small lizard scurries past. All is dry, but a quiet life exists here among the spikes and needles. Sit for a moment and just feel this place.
  3. Now you are in a more lively field. The grass is knee high, prairie dogs watch from the distance, the grass sways in the breeze. Focus on the scene entirely and just feel the moment.
  4. Now you are in a vibrant forest. Squirrels run up the large, ancient trunks of oak trees, a green light shines down form the canopy, smaller trees form a dense curtain of green, underneath you is spongy soil made new from the yearly leaves falling. Everything smells earthy and fresh. Alive. Sit for a moment and drink it in.
  5. While still in the forest, reflect on the concept of abundance: think about your favorite food, how that food was made, what part of the earth it came from, then give thanks to the earth for her gifts. (Remember, even if your favorite food is a man made concoction like Pop-Tarts, the flower in the crust still came from the earth. Unless your favorite food is Twinkies, then you should really re-evaluate your diet…)
  6. Now you are on top of a mountain. A whole range of peaks stretches into the distance.   Under you is old, steady rock from when tectonic plates were smashing into each other eons ago. A mountain goat leaps past. A hearty, small tree clings precariously to a cliff edge nearby. Sit in the moment utterly once again.
  7. Now bring it back. You are on the mountain, then back in the forest, then the field, then the desert. Take a moment to reflect in the darkness how you felt at each of these stages and what the element meant to you.
  8. I recommend keeping a journal next to you during these practices. Record any insights from the meditation. You may merely have basked in earth’s full splendor, or you may have had an epiphany while you were in the forest. Sometimes you might have a passing thought that is only understandable later. At any event, it’s worth recording.

Grounding and Centering Meditation

I’m going to start this section with a meditation that is so classic I can’t possibly not mention it: the “grounding and centering” meditation. The ultimate goal here is to visualize yourself with tree roots at your base and branches at your top. It taps into the powers of earth in the most powerful of ways. You literally see yourself becoming one with the earth. As you visualize your energy mingling with that solid mass of rock below us, you should feel incredibly grounded and calm. It’s no accident that being stable and calm is called being grounded. Earth acts as a giant conduit to dissipate stress if accessed properly. You’ll see in a moment:

  1. Start by sitting up straight. Some people sit on a chair with their feel flat on the floor, or sit with their legs crossed.
  2. Regulate your breathing. Slowly inhale and exhale, paying attention to each breath. You should start to feel calm and focused after a couple minutes or even seconds of this.
  3. When you feel at peace, imagine roots descending from your spine, going into the ground, working their way through the soil and the larger rocks beneath. Don’t worry if it takes some time to get the hang of this. Visualization takes practice.
  4. Once you feel like the roots are deep enough, visualize a light green glow coming through the roots and moving up and through you. It moves up your spine, to your heart, and out to your limbs and head. Feel like you’re basking in the energy.
  5. Feel how steady and stable you feel. Picture your body as the trunk of the tree.
  6. Now visualize branches going up from your head, reaching for the sky. You feel the warmth of the sun on the branches, the leaves sway in the breeze.
  7. Spend as much time as you need holding this state. During this time you might come to some interesting realizations or just feel totally connected to the moment.
  8. When you are ready, feel the branches come down into your head. The roots draw up out of the ground back into the base of your spine. Picture you as you again and open your eyes.
  9. You may feel slightly punch drunk with the energy you just worked with. Shake out your limps and stamp your feel on the ground. That will normalize your energy and bring you fully back to your body. If you’re especially sensitive, you may also need to eat something like some bread to bring yourself fully into the material plane again.

This is a great mediation to use to combat stress. If you feel frazzled, generally unfocused, angry or overly emotional, with practice, this will bring you down right where you need to be. If you practice this enough, you may begin to feel more “in the moment,” or what Buddhists refer to as mindfulness. The exercise focuses your inner energy on stability and the beauty of the moment. After a time, you may be able to transfer that to other areas of your life.