Druidry for Beginners – Where to Start? The Senses.
I know a lot of people who have been walking the Druid path for many years who hunger for books and information that take them deeper, but I also know there many people who are new to the path, who are looking for some kind of guidance on how to fully immerse themselves into their newly found Druid Way. The shelves of alternative bookshops (remember bookshops? Thankfully there are still some left out there…) once had a number of introductory books about Druidry, but over the years these books, and the bookshops themselves have slowly disappeared. I got my copy of Elements of the Druid Tradition by Philip Carr-Gomm from WH Smiths back in the early 90s and this book helped to guide me on my first footsteps on the path. Browsing Amazon can be confusing. There are introductory books, but there is nothing like picking up a physical copy from a shelf, feeling its weight, browsing the contents, reading about the author. Harder to do in the Kindle store, or do I just sound like an old fart missing the good old days?
I’ve also read that peoples’ reading habits are changing. Rather than sitting down to read a book, it would seem that many are exploring blogs, podcasts, and shorter fiction. This can’t be 100% true otherwise the sales of George RR Martin’s books wouldn’t be so high – it takes a serious time commitment to read those! But there is no doubt that our time is precious, and that committing to reading an entire book is now, for some, a serious decision.
So I thought I would begin a series of posts on the blog about things people who are just starting out on the path can do to make their experiences deeper and more enjoyable.
My first port of call would be the course run by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Way before I became their Pendragon in 2010 I sent off a self-addressed envelope in April 1994 to begin my Journey. It helped tremendously. Does it answer every question? No, nothing can. But what it did for me was to provide a focus. A map and a well-trodden path through the forest from which to explore the tributaries and smaller pathways along the way. So if you can, try their intro pack. I suggest this as a member of the Order for whom the course was a great help.
If for whatever reason you don’t want to do a course or join an Order, this series of blog posts might be of help to you. Starting a course is also a commitment and maybe you just don’t feel ready, or joining an Order might not feel right for you at this time. Whatever the reasons there is no requirement to join an Order to follow the Druid Way. As time passes though, you might find that the idea of community and meeting others might encourage you to look at this again.
My advice right now? Turn off your computer, put on whatever clothes are appropriate for the weather, and get outside. Go for a walk in the countryside or in the woods. If you’re in the city get yourself to a large park. This will be a walk with a difference. When you get to your destination find a quiet space. Even when we go for walks we can bring all the baggage of our everyday lives with us. We might be thinking about the bills we need to pay, what is going to happen to John Snow in the next episode, is the car MOT due? What do I have for dinner in the fridge? That person at work who is just getting you down. We can be focussed on anything other than the walk we are taking. Like we have this incessantly chattering voice sitting on our shoulders and talking into our ears, drowning out every other sound.
We need to shut them up.
So find that quiet space in the woods or the park. What you are going to do is open up your senses. Raise your arms out to your side to make the shape of a T. Look at a point straight before you, just above where you think the horizon might be. Then push your arms a little further back. Wiggle your fingers and whilst doing this slowly bring your arms forward until you see your wiggling fingers either side of you. Stop moving your ams, but keep your fingers moving when you see them in the periphery of your vision. Keep looking at that imaginary horizon too. In Wilderness Awareness this is called Wide Angle Vision. I’ve also heard it called Seeing through the Eyes of the Owl, which I much prefer. Once you can see your wiggling fingers slowly drop your arms but keep your awareness on all you can see around you. Using the Eyes of the Owl you can see so much more. More movement. Stay like this for a while.
Next place your hands behind you ears. Use your hands to direct your hearing. Listen and see how much more you can hear. Do this for a while then take your hands away and listen deeply to the sounds around you. I bet you will hear layers and layers of sound that you thought you were hearing, but until this moment you weren’t aware of them. Listen deeply to the sounds around you. both near and far. Then, at the same time do the exercise above and see through the Owl’s eyes at the same time as you listen with the ears of the Hare.
The next sense to work on is the sense of smell. Reach down and pluck some grass. Crunch it up and stiff it. Don’t take a long sniff – that is our natural way of smelling things. This time sniff in short bursts, like you see a dog sniffing the ground. You will smell so much more if you sniff quickly. Do this with some earth, a twig, whatever is around you.
Then do the same with the air around you, hear the sounds through the ears of the Hare, and open your Wide Angle Vision to see through the Eyes of the Owl. Using all three senses at the same time.
Already you will notice that the chattering voice is becoming quieter. It simply can’t compete if your awareness is on your physical senses. For some focussing on these three senses all at once can be quite hard, so I’ll leave it there for today. This exercise is a standing meditation. It stills the mind, and brings us into a deeper relationship with the space around us. Try to do this every time you go for a walk in the country, woods or park, and you will notice so much more than you ever did before. More movement, more smells, more sounds, more wildlife, more birdsong, more flowers.
It’s a great place to start.