Let me preface this essay be explaining that over the years I had had no luck with mainstream approaches to meditation - my very active mind could never quite overcome the surrounding stimuli to result in anything productive or meaningful. I abandoned any attempts at productive meditation about 15 years ago. On the other hand, dreaming had, from a very early age, been an important way for me to process information, try out new situations and on some occasions, become privy to information that would otherwise not have been available to me. In hindsight, trance work would have been a better choice.
In 2012 a fellow grove-mate introduced me meditative trance work that utilized recorded drumming sessions; using this format was challenging as I adjusted to the audio stimulus, but after 8 minutes or so I realized that I was able to shut out my surroundings and "go with the flow" of the visions. That session only last 10 minutes but was very promising.
My first attempt to work towards the mental discipline requirement of the DP was in the fall of 2012. My plans were to use a 20 minute drum trance session at least once a week. Over the course of a few weeks I was able to complete a few sessions and through these experiences I confirmed a relationship with the Slavic hearth culture and ancestors. Alas, after five weeks or so of this routine my schedule changed and I found it increasingly difficult to make the time (an ensure a quite atmosphere without the kids around) to continue this practice.
After falling off the wagon (so to speak), for several months I was determined to initiate and complete the required five months of mental discipline. I began once more in late August of 2013 and again used the 20 minute drum trance recording, followed by a simple one card reading afterwards for clarification and contemplation (all of this to be recorded in a journal). My goal was to do this at least once a week and on the high days. What I found very interesting was that from the beginning the realm or environment (for lack of a better word) that I found myself in during these sessions was very different from what I had experienced the previous autumn. I began to visit with what would become a recurring figure that resided in a cottage in a shallow valley. Over the course of the first month I began to realize that this figure was Veles, Slavic god of cattle, commerce, magic, the underworld and music. I was a bit surprised by this, as I hadn't spent as much devotional energies towards Veles as towards some of the other Slavic deities such as Perun and Mokosz. But time after time he appeared and clearly wanted some commitment from me. In one particularly memorable trance I finally made a tentative oath to Veles - immediately after I made the oath I was jolted out of the trance by an extremely loud thunder/lightening strike from nearby on our property. In ancient Slavic cultures oaths were sworn before/in the name of two deities - Perun (god of war and thunder) and Veles. It was as if Perun made his formal witnessing of the oath known.
During the second month there was a bit more variability in my trance visions. Sometimes the ancestors were there, and in others I was once again in the realm visited in the sessions from the fall of 2012. Sometimes I began the session with a specific question in mind, and sometimes I just went with the flow. I began experimenting with using the Two Powers meditation at the beginning of my sessions. During the trances I was still frequenting Veles and his cottage; often this served as the "launch pad" for the main activity of the session. Once during this month my MP3 player died before the drumming was over. Lesson learned. I did a session every week this month, plus an additional one on the autumnal equinox.
During the third month I determined that the weekly trance sessions were more effective if I did the Two Powers meditation at the beginning; I also felt like going into the session with a specific question in mind was better than not having a focus. Some Scythian elements began to creep in to the imagery I experienced, and the amount of underground elements increased. Once I remained the tree from the Two Powers meditation for the entire time, and it was quite serene. I also experimented with a shorter 12 minute drum session when I was short on time (figuring a short session was better than no session at all).
At the start of the fourth month I began smudging mugwort 20 minutes or so before I began the session - this definitely seemed to enhance the trance. I also began to feel that sometimes the 20 minute drum session wasn't long enough - sometimes I was just getting to the crux of things when the drum pattern changed to call me back. Due to time constraints I had to miss a weekly session and definitely felt the loss - this had clearly become a habit. I did do an "extra" session on the winter solstice. Near the end of the month I acquired a longer drum trance recording (up to 60 minutes) and was very pleased to have the flexibility. My relationship with Veles continued to strengthen.
During the fifth month of regular trance sessions I focused on my individual relationships with the nature spirits, the ancestors, and with the Shining Ones. I had stopped using the mugwort smudge prior to sessions but started it back up because of what seemed a noticeable beneficial difference. I did an extra session for the new year and I spoke with the kindred about my future practice as a Druid and what to include in my upcoming oath rite.
Going forward, I can see myself continuing this practice - although with a bit more flexibility as far as schedule. I will definitely use this process as a resource when I need guidance or advice, or to note special holidays. I am also interested in the possibility of exploring the role of seer, and how these practices work within that construct.