Last week I wrote on ritual purity and talked about how I approach ritual and devotion with mental purity as opposed to physical purity due to, often, having time constraints on how much cleanliness I could impose on my physical body. I mentioned my habit of grounding, centering, shielding and how that is how I approach my mental purity for ritual.
A comment by BlackberryJuniper asked about how I did these three techniques, which I’m happy to write about as it’s something I’ve had to discuss with my uni Pagan group before after learning that most of them had never done it before so I often had to lead them through it just prior to ritual.
When I read about centering, one of the few things in the Pagan 101 books that I actually keep with my practice, it’s often described as a process of envisioning light filling the body from the center, usually the heart, until it spreads throughout the entire body from toes to scalp.
I’ve tried that method.
It doesn’t really work for me.
Instead, when I center myself, I approach it as finding an inner calm. If I need to center, usually it’s because I’m frazzled and rooted too strongly in the little things of life: the neighbors being too loud, my ankle aching, the constant noise of the dryer tumbling clothes. All of these things can, after awhile, get to me. When I approach ritual space, though, I don’t want these things dragging me down, so to speak. I don’t want to be distracted by the daily stresses in my life.
So when I taught my uni Pagan group my personal method of centering, I told them to think of a place that makes them happy and calm, somewhere they feel at ease. This could be their home or a forest glen, walking along the beach with the sand between their toes and the sun on their hair; it could be driving down a back road with the wind blowing by them; it could be anything they wanted, just so long as they felt calm and happy there.
Once they had settled into this mentalscape, I would coach them in a simple breathing exercise. In slowly, hold for a count of three or so, then out slowly. We would do this a few times, normally until I felt calm myself. Centering always takes a long time for me because I get so bogged down in the physical world that it’s hard to shed those thoughts and stresses.
At the end of this exercise, they were told to open their eyes. I’d coach them in the breathing exercise until everyone’s eyes were open and we’d move onto the next step: grounding.
Something that no one seems to talk about when it comes to centering is that you should do it in your own time. I made a conscious effort not to rush anyone when we had ritual because I know that some folks, like me, have a very hard time doing this. Constructing a mentalscape and focusing on letting go of the mundane and the physical can be very challenging for many people.
Don’t feel bad or guilty if you can’t do it right away. If it takes fifteen minutes just to center, that’s okay. You’re doing this for yourself, not someone else.
This works well for the mundane world, too, not just for ritual space. I’ve taught this method to The Boyfriend and he uses it quite often, mostly when he’s trying to sleep but can’t because he’s stressed (which is nearly every night). I personally find it soothing and use it myself when I need to sleep at a certain time but am having trouble. It works well for my anxiety – and that of The Boyfriend – and I use it, sort of, like a kind of short meditation whenever I get angry or stressed.
That’s my personal method for centering. It might not work for everyone, but it can have its uses.