I start our session with showing you the splendid Wheel of Seagais Personal Reader Kit. You can find out more about it here. And if you’re in Glastonbury on 4th June, come along to a morning workshop on it!
The world can be a difficult place to live in. The body can be a tough container for us to inhabit. One solution is to follow a path of detachment – that teaches that the physical world is ultimately illusion, and that our focus should be elsewhere: on the Divine. The problem with this approach is that it easily leads to denial, in the psychological sense of not really facing the educational opportunities embodiment offers us, and often in the literal sense of denying ourself the pleasures of the sensual world. In extreme cases it leads to mortification and the repression of the self and of other people. This is why so many are now turning away from such approaches, which are found in both the East and the West, to embrace body-affirming and Nature-affirming paths such as Druidry and Paganism.
But even amongst embodied spiritualities like Druidry, most practitioners will believe in an Otherworld, in a reality beyond the world of appearances, in the continuity of life after death. Philosophically, they will most likely be Idealists rather than Materialists, believing that matter is a derivative of consciousness, not vice versa. This is the great strength of such an approach – you can have your cake and eat it! You can fully engage with life, celebrating the pleasures and beauties of embodiment, avoiding the dangers of denial and repression, but you can also be sustained in a knowledge of and experience of other levels of reality. Through spiritual practices, you can experience detachment from the ever-changing parade of sense impressions to bathe instead in a reality that sustains your spirit and feeds your soul. You can love the house you live in, and you can also walk outside and gaze up at the stars.
The goose teaches us that we can experience both engagement and detachment – which is why she is featured in The Druid Animal Oracle. A goose is among the highest flying of birds, reaching up to 29,000 feet (8,800 metres) and yet it loves to strut about in the mud too. What a lovely example to us, bringing to mind Mary Oliver’s inspiring poem ‘Wild Geese’, which ends:
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
To ground this idea in experience, let’s use a key technique taught by Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis, within the Sacred Grove. Originally called the The Psychosynthesis Identification/Disidentification Exercise, others have renamed it more simply as the Centering Exercise. There are various wordings you can use, but essentially what you are doing is affirming the physical, emotional and mental aspects of your being, while also affirming that you are more than any of these. You can read the original version of this exercise here, but I prefer a variant, which you can find on this site, and which I have amended slightly here:
I have a body, but I am more than my body. I am the one who is aware: the self, the center. My body may be rested or tired, active or inactive, but I remain the same, the observer at the center of all my experience. I am aware of my body, I love my body, but I am more than my body.
I have emotions, but I am more than my emotions. My emotions change, they come and go, but I love the fact that I feel deeply. I have emotions, but I am more than my emotions.
I have a mind, an intellect, but I am more than my mind. Regardless of my thoughts and regardless of how my beliefs have changed over the years, I remain the one who is aware, the one who chooses – the one who directs my thinking process. I have a mind, but I am more than that.
I am a centre of pure awareness. At One with all Being.