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Scott K Smith

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On Magick, Health, Healing, Ritual, Energy, and Spirit. Dedicated to the Gods in all of us, TheSacredOther.com

Musings

Healer. Artist. Intuitive.

Musing on Meditation: Ritual and Contemplative Practices

Scott K Smith

As you may know I'm an avid listener of OnBeing with Krista Tippett, her latest conversation with Mirabai Bush co-founder for the Center of Contemplative Mind in Society, who teaches Mindfulness Meditation at Google, sparked my interest when she included "Ritual" in the genre mindfulness. And although I know that meditation is a ritual in itself, it may include other aspects of religious or spiritual practice. We see in a lot of popular culture meditation forms that follow the form of Buddhism, Hinduism, and even contemplative Abrahamic meditative practices in familiar forms such as Relational, Generative, Stillness, and now in larger circles Activistic mindfulness practices. 

As pictured in the tree above, you see one of the first branches that Mirabai Bush has put onto the tree is ritual/cyclical. And this includes "Establishing a sacred/personal space. Retreats. Ceremonies and rituals based on spiritual or cultural traditions."

What it says to me is, "Scott, you have discovered the branch of the tree you sit upon."

As a pagan with a practice that holds a sacred emphasis on the Earth, I am centered on the turning of the seasons, the sun and moon, the stars in the sky, as much as I am the rise and fall of the green, and the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. As a practicing Witch my magic/k not only stems from the time and tides of the turnings of the wheel, but on the sacred mysteries associated with those orbits, rotations, and flows. 

As a teacher of meditation, and ritualist I am called in to open up the sacredness of these turnings, by looking deeper into the mystery of their motion. 

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society writes about the branches of the tree as they have illustrated above, here:

"On the Tree of Contemplative Practices, the roots symbolize the two intentions that are the foundation of all contemplative practices. The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groupings of practices. For example, Stillness Practices focus on quieting the mind and body in order to develop calmness and focus. Generative Practices may come in many different forms but share the common intent of generating thoughts and feelings, such as thoughts of devotion and compassion, rather than calming and quieting the mind. (Please note that such classifications are not definitive, and many practices could be included in more than one category.)

Because this illustration cannot possibly include all contemplative practices, we offer a free download of a blank Tree that you can customize to include your own practices. Activities not included on the tree (including those which may seem mundane, such as gardening or eating) may be understood to be contemplative practices when done with the intent of cultivating awareness and wisdom."

This may not be a revelation for you. You may think that contemplative practices are all known, and we all understand what they are. You may not. I find that, at least in Los Angeles, if I open up a conversation about meditation thoughts generally turn to Zen, Popular Science, or the latest meditation practice that's become vogue again, Transcendental Meditation (TM). If I bring sacred space, not even the word "magick" into the practice, it's then no longer in the hard realm of the mind, but now a niche practice. A sub-subset of meditation that some will fear--because fear of the propaganda around the words magick and Witch--or dismiss. 

I'm here to mend that break.

I'm not a Wiccan or a "Wicca," and although I am very grateful for the large body of work, teachers, and even the made up stuff that came out of the roots of this modern practice (truly), I found my practice more eclectic and then meandering into different places; I find my magickal home home with The Temple of Witchcraft. For me their mystery teachings feel more practical, natural, and true... and they work with the wisdom of my heart, and the things that I know. Hand to glove. And without meandering off the path of a meditation post too far, I can see where my drop in with magickal circle might be met with dismissiveness and fear. It's a cultural bias, lack of knowledge and a history of segregating Eastern  as "proven" and Occult as bogus, charlatan, or even "evil." 

Even if I set aside some of the inaccuracies that pagan authors and teachers are, and have tackled to expose about untruths in the broad genre of magick, there is a history of quackery in the magickal and new age field. White people posing as (excuse my use of the word) "Oriental Mystics," Native American Shamans," "Kahuna's" and other now obviously culturally appropriated titles, symbols, and patched together systems, at one point not long ago flooded the new age market with a mishmash of information and poised it as ancient, true, and special to make you powerful. Reiki as a tradition has it's gaping holes that have now been filled in. Fake "Native Americans" (as bad as black face in my opinion) posed as "Shamans" and sold magic acts that were nothing like what the traditional ceremonies were... cultural narratives that spoke of creation, and ones place as a people in the sacred world, and how to come closer to that world. 

And though I am not knowingly part of any of these appropriations I watch for them. It's hard not to flinch sometimes. My choosing embrace pagan as a standing ground was open enough to say that earth practices were my choice, nature and the seasons, without being culturally specific to any one group of people. "Go find your own culture, learn your heritage before you come to learn mine." I think many of us in a capitalistic world are looking for that, connection. To reclaim the word Witch in my life was not just radical/art/healing, but the most proper metaphor for what I do. To use magickal ritual, to craft from practice and to teach from this space.

Listening to Krista Tippett and Mirabai Bush talk tickled a deeper intuition. I woke up to a deeper realization on how ritual and the practice of magick is my process, more than anything else, has been a solid practice I have been able to put on the table for the community. The roots of the practice are illustrated in the tree, Awareness, and communion & connection. Through circle we do all of these things, and more, in sacred space. Like me, you may not find very valid practices such as Zazen or Dhyana the right fit, and this is why I continue to approach the meditation space in circle and evoke the words Satsang and Spirit, as both leave the door open to the potentiality of an expanded experience in the circle of safe space. Both describe the exploratory vehicle that meditation is regardless of the brand or tradition. 

I choose ritual, I choose inner work, I choose the spirit of the community in the love of a magickal circle. 

Community Meditation is (with me), the last Sunday of the Month at The Crystal Matrix in Atwater Village. I also host 1-on-1, and small group meditation sessions from my sacred space in Los Angeles. 

If you are interested in the discussion between Krista Tippet and Mirabai Bush that so inspired me, you can listen to that here: OnBeing.

My best,

Scott K Smith
TheSacredOther.com

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