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divination card, with meditator sitting beside a tree, at water's edgeMeditation

Techniques: Mindfulness
Guided Visualization
Mantra Meditation

Since the late 1960s when the Marishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the Beatles to TM (transcendental meditation), the popularity of meditative practices has grown in the West. Meditation has once again become part of mainstream religion and medicine, with scientific studies proving its mental and physical benefits, especially in countering stress.

Until its recent resurgence, meditation was relegated to secondary status within the religions of the book — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Even so, each of these faiths has maintained techniques for gaining direct experience of the divine. Within Christianity, contemplative orders of monks and nuns have traditionally retired from the world to meditate with the aim of attaining a personal vision of God. Meditation plays a part in mystical Judaism as well, whether it’s the kabbalistic tradition or later Hasidic contemplative practices. And mystical Muslims called Sufis practice dhikr — a devotional technique that includes repetition of phrases from the Q’ran, other Islamic aphorisms, or the 99 “Names of God” — as well as other forms of meditation.

In contrast to the West, the East has emphasized contemplative practices for millenia. Hindusim, Buddhism, and Taoism have each created numerous meditative techniques. Those known in the West include mindfulness, mantra meditation, qigong, and the use of koans, those seemingly nonsensical problems meant to challenge the mind to see reality as it truly is. In each of these traditions, novices are taught to empty their thoughts in order to experience the immediacy of life and the oneness of the interdependent web of existence.

For use in divination, I have gathered three meditation techniques: one based on sound, one on vision, and one on sensory perception. When employing any of these methods, it’s important to feel relaxed and comfortable. If you’re sitting, make sure to plant your feet firmly on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Also soften your neck and lengthen your spine in a relaxed way, so that your head rests gently on top of your neck. This will also allow your shoulders to drop and your breath to deepen.

Before you begin either mindfulness or mantra meditation, state your question out loud, then meditate, only returning to your question once you have finished. After a minute or two of meditating, you will probably notice your breath deepen and slow. This will make it easier for you to experience the present moment rather than the to-do lists clamoring for your attention or the difficult relationship that keeps knocking at your mental door. This or any of the other noise you usually hear in your head is what the Buddhists call your “monkey mind.” Gently bypassing all this normal chatter is the aim of meditation. Letting your mind unfocus as you meditate will allow your unconsicous to work on your oracular issue. Once you have cleared your thoughts, new approaches to your question often appear. When you’re done, thank your inner guidance for its help.

When you’re searching for inner clarity about an oracular question, meditative techniques can prove useful. In fact, meditation can help when you perform any type of divination. It quiets the mind so you can hear, see, or sense your inner guidance. Meditation has long-term benefits as well. Meditating daily, twice daily, or even weekly will help open your mind to your inner wisdom while decreasing the tension in your life. I highly recommend it as a regular practice.

Mindfulness
Anywhere Anytime Sitting Sensory

Tools and Ingredients
A quiet place to meditate

Mindfulness is probably the most straightforward of the meditation techniques. At its simplest, it involves following your breath with the ultimate purpose of investigating the mind-body experience on a moment-to-moment basis. If your mind starts to wander, use this opportunity to gently bring your focus back to your breath.

Steps

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Formulate your question.
  3. Sit comfortably.
  4. State your question out loud.
  5. Follow your breathing for ten to fifteen minutes by either:
    • Counting your breaths or
    • Thinking to yourself “I am breathing in” as you inhale and “I am breathing out” as you exhale.
  6. Return to your oracular question in order to experience it with a fresh mind. Within a few minutes, you will often sense an answer to your query.
  7. Interpret the outcome. If it has arrived as a symbol or feeling, you may need to use free association to analyze its meaning.
  8. If you need further clarification, meditate again the next day.

Guided Visualization
Anywhere Anytime Sitting Sight, Sound, & Symbol

Tools and Ingredients
A quiet place where you won’t be interrupted
Paper and a pencil or pen to record your visualization.

Guided meditation techniques are aimed at people who perceive visually. Since I use my ears more than my eyes, I find that if a visualization includes at least some auditory elements, I can make it work for me. As a result, when creating guided meditations for groups of people, I try to incorporate as many of the senses as possible so that everyone can participate, no matter what their perceptual preference.

I’ve created a simple oracular visualization that can deepen every time you enter its landscape. The first time you use this guided meditation, you might want to tape it for yourself or have a friend read it for you — slowly and with long pauses. After one or two times, you can probably go directly to the place described in the visualization. If you enhance your experience with greater sensory detail during subsequent use, the place you visit will become richer and richer, and the being with whom you converse will become more and more real to you.

Steps

  1. Locate paper plus a pen or pencil to record your visualization.
  2. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Formulate your question.
  4. Ground and center by taking a few conscious breaths as if you were beginning a mindfulness meditation.
  5. Begin the guided meditation (below).
  6. When you feel ready, slowly come back to your day-to-day reality by opening your eyes.
  7. Record your guided visualization and interpret its meaning. If you don’t immediately understand it, use free association to discover it implications.

Guided Meditation

Imagine that you are in one of your favorite places — a place you know and love well or someplace you have always wanted to visit. This spot makes you feel comfortable and expansive, embracing you with its beauty and vibrancy.

Look around you. What do you see? (Pause). What do you hear? (Longer pause). Feel the energy of this place. Does it revitalize you? Does it relax you and let you rest? (Longer pause). Breathe deeply and enjoy this magical spot, your sacred place of knowing and understanding. Enjoy the play of color, fragrance, and sound. (Longer pause).

Wander around this landscape, looking and touching, listening and smelling, until you come to just the right spot for you to sit. (Longer pause). Ah, there it is, a place where you can relax and wait for the enlightened being, the guide who will answer your question. You’re in no hurry, and this is your favorite spot, so enjoy it until the wise one joins you. (Pause).

After a while you hear something — a rustling, a door opening, a movement of some kind. Soon you realize that it’s the sound of your guide entering this rare and wonderful place. You look up and see a beautiful being. Is it human? Animal? A mythical being? A being of light? (Short pause). Is it a being you know and love? Or a being you honor and have always longed to meet? (Longer pause). What does this being look like? (Longer pause). How does the wise one move? (Pause). How does this wise one appear to you? (Longer pause).

Look into the eyes of your guide, the knowing, loving eyes. Notice their depth. (Pause). Notice their wisdom (Longer pause).

You may wish to walk around this place of beauty and chat with the wise one who has joined you. Or you may want to sit in some snug corner, holding hands and communing with each other. Whatever you wish, greet your guide and ask your question. (Pause).

The wise one looks deeply into your eyes and lovingly tells you what you need to know. (Very long pause). Such wisdom! (Pause). Such depth! (Pause).

You are grateful for the guidance you’ve received, and thank the enlightened being who has given it to you. (Pause).

When you’re finished, ask your guide for any further advice. (Long pause). Thank your guide again. (Pause).

The enlightened being is getting ready to depart, but before that happens, ask if there is a gift for you. (Long pause).

Notice what the wise one has given to you. What does it look like? (Pause). Does it make any sound? (Pause). Does it have a scent? (Pause). What does it feel like? (Pause).

Ask your guide what power this gift holds for you, and where you should carry it. (Longer pause).

You are very grateful for the gift you have received and thank the wise one once again. (Pause).

Now it is time to leave. Your guide tells you that you can return at any time with any other questions, and then says goodbye and turns to leave. You take one last look at your favorite place, and then begin slowly to return to your present reality, remembering everything that has happened, especially the answer to your question and the gift you have received. (Pause).

Mantra Meditation
Anywhere Anytime Sitting Sound

Tools and Ingredients
An appropriate mantra
A quiet place to meditate

Spiritual teachers in the Hindu tradition experimented with the acoustic qualities of Sanskrit for thousands of years in order to develop the mantras used today. Adepts use these sacred formulas — Sanskrit words, phrases, or sounds — to cultivate spiritual power and transform their consciousness.

In the West, mantra meditation came to public awareness as a result of TM (transcendental meditation). Dr. Herbert Benson researched this type of meditation and published his results a 1975 book entitled The Relaxation Response. He suggested that any nonsense syllable could be used to quiet the mind. I believe this is correct. If you wish to silently repeat “one,” as Benson recommends, you will probably succeed in ridding your mind and body of extraneous thoughts, feelings, and sensations so that you can truly enter the present moment and answer your oracular question with the clarity this state allows.

The World is Your Oracle
by Nancy Vedder-Shults

Linnea Vedder Shults has collaborated with her mother Nancy in crafting The World is Your Oracle. Linnea is painting a deck of 48 cards to accompany the book, creating an oracle of oracles. When you choose a card from this deck, you select an oracular technique, not an answer to a divinatory question. You can view her other art work at www.linneavs.com.

Nancy's forthcoming book, The World is Your Oracle, compiles hundreds of divination methods, from ancient oracles to modern-day techniques. The excerpts published here will describe a few of the ways to access the deeper layers of our minds and broaden our sense of perception.


A good oracle puts us in touch with ourselves. It lets us discover our motivations, feelings and thoughts about the question we're exploring. And it connects us with the atmosphere or environment surrounding that question — making us aware of the water we swim in, but usually don't notice.

To receive inner guidance, all we need is to open ourselves to what our body/mind tells us, what our emotions display, and what our unconscious knows. In this way, we can begin to hear with our inner ears and see with our inner eyes. Using these mystical senses — what we might call the sense organs of the unconscious — we perceive holistically, noticing relationships and patterns rather than isolating, classifying and judging what we observe. Once we have gathered this wisdom, we can then use the rational mind to interpret what we have learned.

We live in an interconnected world, a web of life. Each segment of that web reflects the whole just like fractal designs or holography. That's why the patterns we discover through divination give us information. They mimic the relationships of the whole at a particular moment in time.

From my experience with mantras, however, I also know that each syllable has a specific energetic effect. In fact, Hindus say that a mantra is “divine power clothed in sound.” During a particularly trying period of my life, I used a protection mantra that reduced my level of fear. I’ve also practiced a mantra that increased my creativity and one that removed obstacles from my path, both to great success. Within the Hindu tradition, mantra meditation is usually performed for forty days, but I have had results much sooner using mantras as a springboard for divination.

Following this oracular method, I list possible bija mantras (seed sounds) you can use in divination. These simple syllables are vibratory experiences in their own right and, as a result, have no translation. Instead, the sound of each mantra invokes an identifiable energy, for instance the energy of abundance, protection, attraction, or creativity.

Steps

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Formulate your question.
  3. Choose an appropriate mantra.
  4. Sit comfortably.
  5. State your question out loud.
  6. Begin your mantra meditation with a few conscious breaths as if you were starting a mindfulness meditation.
  7. Then repeat your chosen mantra for 10 to 15 minutes, chanting either silently in your mind or out loud.
  8. Once you’ve finished meditating, bring your mind to bear on your oracular question. Within a few minutes, an answer should begin to take form.
  9. Interpret the outcome to analyze its meaning, perhaps with free association.
  10. If you need further clarification, meditate again the next day.

Possible “Seed Sound” Mantras for Divination:

  • Gum (pronounced “gum”): the bija mantra that can remove obstacles from your path and bring success to your efforts. If you feel blocked, gum will clear the way.
  • Shrim (pronounced “shreem”): the seed sound for abundance in a variety of forms. If your question concerns health, wealth, spiritual abundance, friendship, family, or tranquility, this is the mantra for you.
  • Dum (pronounced “doom”): the bija mantra for protection. If your concern fills you with fear, this mantra will make you less afraid and, as a result, more clearheaded about your choices.
  • Eim (pronounced “I’m”): the seed sound for creativity of all sorts, as well as for music, science, education, and spiritual endeavors. If your query has to do with any of these areas, eim can invoke a successful understanding of your situation.

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MatriFocus Cross-Quarterly
is a seasonal web journal (zine) for Goddess Women and others interested in Goddess Lore and Scholarship, Goddess Religion (ancient and contemporary), Feminist Spirituality, Women's Mysteries, Paganism and Neopaganism, Earth-based Religions, Witchcraft, Dianic Wicca and other Wiccan Traditions, the Priestess Path, Goddess Art, Women's Culture, Women's Health, Natural Healing, Mythology, Female Shamanism, Consciousness, Community, Cosmology, and Women's Creativity.

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