Bringing the Gods Into a Meditation Practice

Readers may or may not know this, but I sometimes do self-care modules in the Fabulous app. It isn’t my favorite self-care app (Calm is currently the front runner for me), but it certainly does win at pestering one with phone notifications.

Some of the things the Fabulous modules ask people to do make my eyes roll, as they seem a bit gimmicky now that the novelty has worn off. For instance, I truly do not care about Warren Buffett’s reading habits, nor do I find trivia about his work ethic personally motivating. However, I’ve found its modules somewhat helpful for approaching challenges in fresh ways, especially when it comes to some of the time management techniques — it’s one thing to do them in an article and quite another to get phone notifications reminding one to do them. The module I’m working through now is called “Pillars of Self-Esteem.” It’s mostly about evaluating limiting beliefs in a healthy way. We don’t realize how many of these we have sloshing around in our heads until we are writing them out to a timer.

As part of this section, Fabulous just had me do a “self-compassion” exercise that I hated. It was a brief guided meditation about building self-esteem in which one was supposed to work oneself up into an agitated emotional state based on limiting self-beliefs in order to exercise self-compassion. Several minutes into the meditation, once the “follow your breath” part ended and the actual exercise began, I learned the state they wanted me to put my mind in. I felt a reflexive recoil because it was intentionally miasmic, overpoweringly so, once I started working myself up. Miasmic and unpleasant — not something that my emotions and desires were interested in! Why do it this way, I wondered, when I can just do an ordinary compassion/lovingkindness meditation? (I am planning another post on lovingkindness meditation and the Gods, but I have to revisit some Hermias passages to weave in.) So I prayed. I prayed to Apollon to guide me through the purgative process into a state of purity.

The first reason for doing this — or, perhaps the only true reason — is that all things are more sacred and more sanctified the more we consciously recognize that they flow from the Gods. Dedicating a process to them confirms and affirms what may have only been tacit before. Hierocles of Alexandria, when commenting on the Pythagorean verses, said something similar. Joining prayer to an activity is like joining form to matter, according to his commentary on 21. Finding the words and concepts to bring forth from one’s mind, voicing them in the prayer, and linking the action to how one knows the God infuses the act with divinity, much like sanctifying a statue and praying to it awakens the link to the God it represents. This was even more important for a meditation exercise like the one Fabulous wanted me to do, as I knew it was aiming to improve my mental habits, and the mental habits we keep impact how easily we can enter a state of focus and purity for ritual. The second reason was that I wanted the God’s protection — while my negative self-talk is manageable now, it wasn’t very manageable when I was younger, and I wasn’t sure how leaning into the poison would go. What would I find when I arrived? Would I be able to get back out again?

Thankfully, under the God’s guidance, the rest of the visualization meditation went well, and it led to a better state than the one I started in. I mentally noted that this was a useful exercise for purification. I took down its bitter medicine and came to some insights about how a violating experience when I was 18 led to some compulsive thought patterns, which I can now deal with more aptly. The meditation ends with extending feelings of love and warmth to oneself, or being what we need to ourselves. It’s similar to what happens in other compassion meditations — in which a grounded understanding of how the Gods overflow with their providential love can enrich the experience of lovingkindness and compassion to unite one’s soul to their divine outflow, a unity that dissolves the dissimilar insofar as is possible for us and which excites the soul to likeness and the happiness Iamblichus mentions in De Mysteriis — but in a less intense way, as this specific Fabulous meditation’s focus is solely on oneself, not on others. I did have a sense of being in a place of safety and refuge, though, in addition to the feeling of mental purity.

This morning, at 6:45 AM, I did the meditation again. Previously, I had chosen the evening, but I wanted to complete this meditation before showering. During my morning ritual, I would do a prayer structure that a friend and I have been trying recently, as it was my final opportunity before the point in the lunar calendar that feels inappropriate — we are about to enter a series of days that are more suited to ancestors and underworld Gods. It felt inauspicious to do the Fabulous self-esteem meditation later in the day because the prayer structure is a divine gift that must be treated with care. The purgative self-compassion meditation functioned very well as a precursor to physical purification (the shower) and what followed once I lit my shrine’s candle.

All of the above is to point out that we can begin with a God, or a set of Gods, or the Gods in general, in anything we do. Within everything lies an opportunity to uncover the hidden seed of a precious flower.

5 thoughts on “Bringing the Gods Into a Meditation Practice

  1. I really appreciate your point about how beneficial and protective it can be to bring the Gods into other meditations. I practice Dialectical Behavior Therapy (a type of therapy that is based on a framework of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with mindfulness worked in) and the exercise you described reminded me of some DBT exercises, in which the idea is to think of things that make one distressed and then practice the DBT exercises to self-soothe and regulate emotions. I never like these exercises either, and it sometimes does feel deliberately harmful. I never thought of them as purgative, but they do help me to practice those same skills when dealing with intense emotions out in the world, in a less (somewhat) controlled setting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem. Yeah, probably so. It does make it interesting. For what it’s worth, I do view DBT as — among many other things — a practice of self-compassion. And for me, it is also definitely a practice of self-care. But the way it lands for me may not be (actually probably won’t be) universal. It certainly is a far cry from Metta, either way, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Cıbear-ḟoraoıs Sneaċta and commented:

    “[…] all things are more sacred and more sanctified the more we consciously recognise that they flow from the Gods. […] we can begin with a God, or a set of Gods, or the Gods in general, in anything we do.”

    Great post from Kaye on interweaving daily life and religious life, bringing the Gods into everything (or perhaps, bringing everything to the Gods?)

    Liked by 1 person

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