Preparing for a Modern Practice
People usually assume that the practice of a religion such as ours should begin with some sort of spiritual or metaphysical training... however, that's not quite the case. If we are to be successful in our endeavours, most of us will first require some very specific mental preparation. Many modern Goddess groups seem to completely overlook this, which causes their students to experience poor results and become frustrated.
We cannot make a beautiful carving with a dull knife, no matter how earnestly we may try. Our mind, like the blade of the artist's knife, must first be sharpened, if it is to serve us well. Everyone that I know of, who was successful in their quest for an understanding of spirituality and the metaphysical universe, has done this... whether consciously, through some formal process, or in a more subconscious and intuitive manner.
Unfortunately, our modern society has caused us to develop some very sloppy, lazy, and just plain faulty ways of thinking... and these must be corrected, before we attempt to do anything else.
Let's take a moment to consider how this dilema came about...
As we know, our Neolithic ancestors experienced an enviable closeness to the Goddess in their ordinary lives, which is sadly missing today. Over time, as science and logic came to define and delimit our world, something very precious was lost. Even with all of our impressive technical accomplishments, our civilization remains badly lacking in morality and spiritual wisdom. Science and logic can not explain the value or purpose of human life, tell us right from wrong, reveal the beauty of our lives in all their spiritual dimensions, or enable us to attain harmony with the mind of Goddess. Those things can only be found intuitively... yet in most cases our intuition has become quite dull and disfunctional.
The development of logical thinking was quite natural, as man struggled with various new and complex tasks. As a tool for solving mathematical and scientific problems, it works fairly well... however it also has some very serious flaws, which make it unsuitable for resolving moral and spiritual issues.
For example, logic is based on the premise that all of the facts in a given situation are known to us... yet in many areas of life, that's simply not the case. Yet another problem with logic is its obsession with proof. In any given situation, we have been taught to mistrust our intuition and demand empirical proof for everything... and if such proof is not immediately available, then we are told to default to the conclusion that our perceptions must not be valid.
Ancient peoples were not burdened by such a restrictive system of thinking. They trusted their instincts, and were better able to perceive the presence of the Goddess, spirit-energies, and other metaphysical events. If we are to attain the sort of insights, sensitivity and awareness which they once possesed, some major modifications to our current way of thinking will have to occur.
I would now like to discuss a very well-documented and proven practice, which if followed diligently, can enable you to eliminate many of the typical flaws which may exist in your current way of thinking. Indeed, the method that I am about to recommend can produce some very valuable improvements in the thought process, which will not only facilitate your journey into the spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of the universe, but will benefit you in many other areas of life as well.
This practice is not a recent discovery... in fact, thousands of years ago people began to realize the inherent limitations of logic, with it's rather artificial definitions and conventions. As a result, a discipline known as Zen evolved. I believe this practice can be very useful to us, so I would like to present some basic information about it. Should you decide to pursue it, there are many good books available on the subject.
Zen is an outgrowth of Buddhism, which originated in India. From there it spread to China and Japan. Unlike other sects of Buddhism, Zen involves no deities or metaphysical beliefs. It is therefore not actually a religion... it is a special way of thinking, based on the realization that life is in many ways illogical, mysterious, and in some cases even incomprehensible, and that things like logic can often obstruct our ability to perceive true reality and live fully in the moment. Consequently, Zen aims at attaining spiritual and intellectual enlightenment by transcending logic.
One basic teaching of Zen concerns the subject of ego, which is the cause of most human conflict and injustice in the world. After some study, we discover that almost all ego is false, and is detrimental to ourselves and those around us. It is especially dangerous when found in persons who hold power. By eliminating false ego, we begin to see ourselves (and others) in a more realistic way... and that leads to much better decision-making and personal happiness.
Another primary teaching of Zen relates to our view of the world. Most of us have developed (or were taught) certain prejudices, biases, and other preconceived ideas, which interfere with our ability to see things as they really are... and this "disconnection" from reality is yet another cause of unhappiness and poor decision-making. By eliminating these biases we can begin to judge people and events on their real merits, and this brings us much closer to the world around us, in many ways.
One other noteworthy teaching of Zen concerns patience. It is something which does not come naturally to us as human beings, so it must be developed. We should remember that any significant endeavor will take time... and without patience, we will greatly limit ourselves, and cause unnecessary frustration and unhappiness. Unfortunately, our "fast food" culture is based on the idea of doing things quickly, rather than doing them well. This is yet another faulty paradigm which we would be wise to correct.
In certain Asian countries, young people typically undergo some training at one of their local Buddhist temples, where experienced teachers work with them. In addition to lecture and study, they employ other methods such as contemplating koans and sitting in meditation. Although most of us don't have access to an experienced teacher, we can still learn a great deal from private study, and perhaps play with a few koans and do some meditation.
The benefits of meditation are much greater than most people might expect. The mind works somewhat like a computer, with many tasks in progress, and some which are backed-up and awaiting attention. This has the effect of skewing our priorities, and leaving us with a vague stressed-out feeling. Meditation not only relieves that stress, but it helps us to get our priorities in order and keep them there.
Meditation does not require us to sit on the floor in lotus-position. It simply involves a brief period of peace and quiet, during which time you think of absolutely nothing. Of course that's not as easy as it sounds... but by shutting down the conscious mind for a short time, those mental resources are made available to the subconscious, which is then able to catch up on it's back-log of work. The result is feeling very refreshed and clear, and being much better able to deal with the challenges of daily life.
Self-improvement techniques such as these can help us to achieve a far better way of thinking. Once we have put all of the intellectual conventions, rules of logic, and other artificial contrivances of western civilization into their proper place, we may return once again to the unfettered state of consciousness enjoyed by our ancient ancestors... and begin to perceive the spiritual and metaphysical world around us, in a very direct and remarkable way.