by Casey McCarthy (additional contributions by Quinn Mims)
Greetings everyone and welcome to Day 3 of our Yggdrasil Meditative Series. In the last post, we entered a state of quiet stillness in preparation for approaching the World Tree as an object of self transcendence. We set a tone for practice and established a protocol for mindfulness to follow. If you have not yet read the first part of this or you would like to review, you can find the post from Day 1. I would also recommend starting with the meditative process we outlined yesterday in preparation for each day of our exercise.
We all experience hardship. It may take different forms and offer different outcomes for each individual, but the experience is universal. When we are faced with a challenge we can feel overwhelmed. The task ahead of you can be daunting. Today we will approach the tree, so to speak, and together enter a mindset that will help us endure, and even transform, through hardship.
The theme of the seed has been arising over and over again in this piece. The tree is grown from the struggle of the seed. To burst forth and claw to the surface is an often seemingly impossible task. But we do it, we aspire. Then, like the seed, we transcend. A part of this journey can be realizing that when we step out of the story around our own sense of suffering we see that others suffer just as we do. That we are all sharing in hardship.
Odin’s own experience with hardship drove him to seek greater wisdom beyond himself, even if that meant doing battle with the very self that held him back from what he could become. The tale of his struggle is recounted by Snorri:
I know that I hanged on a windy tree
nine long nights
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run. No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn
downward I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.
– Havamal, 138-139, The Poetic Edda
Below are two different exercises. You can choose to do just one or both, depending on what feels right for you. If visualizing doesn’t come easily for you, the experiential exercise is another way to engage with the same experience.
Imagine yourself before an ancient towering Ash tree, the most sacred and holy of sites, about to enter into a life or death struggle with yourself; the thick roots winding out from its wizened trunk, with branches that stretch out to oblivion. Its immensity is overwhelming, just as the immense task before you.
Wind rustles those great branches, though you are still. What do you feel in this moment? Do you feel prepared? Receive and accept anything that arises inside of you without analysis or judgment.
Settle yourself before the world tree. Return to the stillness of a seed that you found during the Oss meditation in part 1. Your body is still as the trunk of this majestic tree, nourished by the roots and connections you have to the world.
Return your attention to the oss, or breath, like in part one. Consider the immensity of the task that Odin was preparing for; the most powerful of gods who can best any opponent now about to enter a battle- against himself. How does one prepare for confronting an opponent with all of the same strengths and weaknesses that you yourself have?
What strengths does your opponent have that you must be wary of? Remembering that your opponent is now yourself. What weaknesses would you be forced to exploit?
What feelings arise for you thinking about these? Receive and accept anything that’s alive inside of you in this moment without analysis or judgment.
If we look at the World Tree as a totality, as the sum of its parts, with its branches reaching skyward and communicating complex realities to the greater organism as it receives direct stimulus, we can see the correlation to our own brain processing thoughts and information. Just as the trunk takes in all the nourishment from the branches is like our brain receiving intuition from external sources. Finally, roots connect to the earth and interact with the world, much like our bodily vehicles.
Contemplate this over the next day or so and continue to feel the richness of your full experience of hardship and we strive together to burst forth from our respective shells, whatever they may be. The World Tree that Odin approached was also simultaneously his own process- no separation. It is the same as we approach the tree – thoughts, feelings, sensations, all inter-playing.
For the next three segments we are going to focus on three different aspects of the tree as analogous to aspects of consciousness-
The branches as thought, the trunk as intuition, and the roots as somatic, or body based.
By adopting a full scope of what the tree can represent in terms of experience, we can encompass all of it and then use that to frame the concept of hardship. Until tomorrow, fellow seeds!