The title of this post is a light-hearted nod to my profession as a secondary school teacher. Helping teenagers to navigate their way through the hormone-drenched adolescent years is a tough job, and a piece of advice I often give to my students is, 'Sit down and be still'. While on the surface this is a simple behaviour management technique, I am also communicating a deeper truth to these young people. Simply sitting down and being still allows us to be our most authentic of selves, limiting the unwanted effects of the constant influx of varying emotion and external stimuli.
As a Feri Witch, sitting practice is fundamental to my formal morning practice. In fact, I would say that it is the most essential practice that I engage in on a regular basis. While it is often more interesting to do complicated kala rites or an energetic Ha prayer, without the grounding and foundation of sitting practice, these more exciting techniques often come to nothing. Indeed, sitting practice is the rock upon which all other practice is built. In my Sevenfold Feri Praxis, I place sitting practice in the North, given its grounding and stabilising nature.
What do I mean when I say 'sitting practice'? There are countless forms of meditation, from the most abstract contemplation of the nothingness of the void, to the most prosaic of chanting while counting mala beads. While these all have spiritual value depending on your goals, sitting practice is a lot simpler and manageable for those of us not living full time in an ashram. What follows is my interpretation of sitting practice as it relates to Feri.
For me, sitting practice is a combination of three things: stillness, openness and focus. These all combine into the umbrella term of 'mindfulness' as I understand it. By stillness, I consciously rest in the physicality of my body, kneeling on a meditation bench (after three years of pins and needles from incorrect sitting posture, I finally caved and bought a wooden bench.) I attempt to focus solely on my breath, the soft sensations of the indrawn breath and the satisfied exhale of the outgoing breath. I will say to myself mentally, "In...out...rest...in...out...rest..." to keep my mind focused on this task. This then leads to a natural and unforced openness. This openness is the key for grace to descend. By grace, and I am paraphrasing Thorn Coyle here, I mean the expectation that the Universe will meet me half way, often in an unexpected manner. It also invites the decsent of the Godsoul.
It is no secret that the goal of Feri is self-possession. When you have wooed your own divinity like a lover, called to it in the night, prayed for its descent into your body, and felt it's presence shimmer through your being like an electric wave of honey, you have tasted self-possession. Full self-possession occurs after a long period of openness, of clearing the way for the Ori or Godsoul to descend of its own accord. Sitting practice provides the periods of quiet solitude necessary for this most holy of goals.
A less well-known Victorism is "Work for the Self, and soon you will see the Self everywhere." I believe he is pointing to the truth that our Ori is the point of light through which all other light can pass through. By consciously working on the descent of your own divinity, you open yourself (eventually!) to the numinous that exists outside of the self, as well as inside. By simply resting each morning, sitting still and focusing on the breath, untold gifts are bestowed upon you.
I have not discussed the difficulties associated with this practice - I will leave that for another post. Needless today, just because something is simple, does not mean it is necessarily easy!