the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

The Spirit of the Dawn: Lessons from 426 consecutive sunrises

The Spirit of the Dawn: Lessons from 426 consecutive sunrises

One of the most common questions I get asked is, ‘what is my daily practice?’ These days, it changes depending on my inner enquiry and what my system needs. However, I remain true to one principle that I have upheld since I started regularly meditating around thirty years ago, and that is, I stick to any new practice until I have mastered it and it becomes familiar, loved, and enables shifts and changes.

Around February 2020, like many of us, my sleep patterns became disrupted. I have always woken early, but this was a new kind of early, around 4.30am every morning. Rather than resist the change, I decided to make the most of my disrupted sleep pattern and go exploring on my bike, allowing intuition to guide my travels in the dark, whilst the city slept. An extremely beautiful window opened up for me which I wrote about in my blog post, ‘The Art of Cultivating Detachment to Dance with Disruption’.

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

Speed, movement and adventure proved a fabulous balm to my caged spirit. There’s nothing like gliding in darkness, whilst the island still sleeps and before the day comes rushing into mind. Moreover, whilst the direction and areas I rode through changed each day, the consistent energy move was being up, aware and participating in the burgeoning light and promise of a new day. What transpired was a deep and abiding engagement with the dawn itself.

In Shamanism we acknowledge that all things, all phenomena, at their essence are a ‘Principle Idea’, a ‘Spirit’. There is an organising field of energy and information that informs everything we experience, including ourselves. In February 2020, I committed to connecting with the ‘Spirit of the Dawn’, every day.

At the time of posting this blog, I have met and energetically engaged with 426 consecutive dawns. So I think it’s fair to say that my daily practice currently and for the last 426 days is that, ‘I do Dawn’.

Sometimes it’s in the Botanic Gardens before my Qigong class. Sometimes it’s sharing a ride with my friends, sometimes it’s through a wild tropical storm, or at my altar in meditation. In the main, most days, I wake early, excited and expectant for what the dawn holds for me and ride the 37km round trip across the island to the East Coast and back. Coming from the East Coast in Australia, the sights, sounds and scents of the sun rising over the ocean make me hum. The atmosphere is charged with all the elements and this allows an incredible somatic, full-body immersion into my dawn meditation and energy practices. Dawn, on the sealine, is a double ‘Dragon Point’.

These junctures where different powerful signature energies meet are described in the Taoist tradition as Dragon Points. They are the point at which one form of Chi (vital life force) meets another. In nature, for example, it is where two rivers merge into one or the mountain peaks scrape the sky. They are where the ocean meets land or when the light emerges in the darkness at dawn. When dwelling on a Dragon Point, the awareness can easily enter into a deep trance state where intuitive guidance and revelation abound.

These areas and moments in nature are considered to be extremely powerful and if you recall those moments in the wilderness when you have been truly moved, and your consciousness spontaneously altered, when you have had a glimpse of the majesty and the mystery, I am willing to wager that you were dwelling in a Dragon Point. In most ancient cultures, the most sacred sites are either on or near natural Dragon Points like most ancient world temples, the pyramids or stone circles.  

In Shamanism, these ‘in-betweens’ are where the Shaman accesses ‘The Spirit’ of things, the ‘Principle Idea’, which also includes the day that is yet to unfold for me. 

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

How I greet each dawn when I am on my own varies. I usually engage in breathwork, some Qigong, Kabbalist energy practices, meditation, stillness and mantra. I find it good to have a selection of tried and true practices in my ‘medicine bag’ and to be responsive to what Dawn and my system are calling for. 

And I’m not alone! There are other dawn lovers out there, and whilst we’re all engaging in different ways, the one thing we have in common is a recognition of the moment and a mutual respect that The Spirit of Dawn has drawn us all there together. 

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

I have filled a journal with the revelations, insights and lessons that 426 dawns have given me and they are far too numerous to list here in this blog. So here are ten of what I believe are the most useful for everyone:

1. Commitment met with effort and then completion, is one of the best mental health hacks there is. 

In an extended and indeterminate time of holding patterns, pivots and shelved plans, creating a new and beautiful focus that requires some discipline and effort, and which results in personal achievement, is enormously satisfying and confidence-boosting. Just do it…whatever it is.

2. Regularity leads to familiarity which enables emotional/vibratory engagement.

The beauty of regular practice, especially one that engages the wilderness, reveals that even though the action seems the same, every single sunrise is not at all. I can honestly say that I have a deep and abiding emotional ‘love’ of the Spirit of the Dawn, and it is this vibratory state that allows the Dawn into my own Spirit, to stir, teach and guide.

3. Every single day is unique, and experiencing this uniqueness engenders deep-felt gratitude. 

426 dawns have leant me into the subtle differences in the feel of the waking day. All the elements of each dawn, down to the bird call, temperature, colours, and scents, will never, ever be repeated in that same combination again. This is true of every second of every day. That deep connection with the uniqueness of every moment opens the heart and floods it with gratitude. The high resonance of felt gratitude is proven to heal the body, boost immune function and lift the spirit.

4. Dawn air is fantastic for Pranayama (conscious meditative breathing).

As the first rays of sunlight touch the botanical realm, it triggers all plants to switch to their daytime breathing cycles, and they exhale a sigh of pure oxygen. The air at dawn is clear, light and highly oxygenated. Here in the tropics, it is also laden with the evening perfumes of frangipani, jasmine and ylang ylang, just to name a few. Bliss!

5. Wild beauty is medicine.

The colours, pheromones, light, sounds, scents…provide delight for the soul, unmatched by any architected man-made beauty, and it heals.

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde6. It’s bigger than me…

No matter what worries, concerns, deadline pressures or client cases might be weighing in my mind, the massive energies of the Spirit of the Dawn put everything, every time, into perspective. Dawn short-cuts me back to humility and insignificance in the scheme of the wild, and there’s an undeniable peace that rises with this.

7. The reliability of nature is a balm.

Day always follows night. We know this, but to participate in the energy of it, directly and consistently, shifts paradigms of entanglement in a current state or the belief of being ‘stuck’ or ‘blocked’. Everything is always changing and ‘this too shall pass’.

8. Playing with the Dawn engenders mental agility.

Sometimes, in meditation at dawn, I play with perspective shifts. Rather than engaging with a rising sun, I will move my attention to the Earth beneath me and ‘feel’ the other truth of dawn, which is, the Earth turning on its axis towards the sun. These shifts provide an agility of mind that is super useful for life and work.

9. Dawn provides practice in detecting subtle energy shifts within the energy body.

At the true point of dawn, there’s a palpable shift in the atmosphere and a distinct, very light movement in the air. It requires stillness and an open heart, but it’s there. I have an app on my phone which tells me the true point of dawn each day. However, I have taken to not looking at it, but rather entering into a deep state of awareness and letting my body detect it. I have it down now and can pinpoint the exact moment of the dawn. This drill practice in detecting energy shifts within my energy body is key to perceiving intuitive information and my energy healing work.

10. Tapping the highest potential of each day.

Beneath and beyond words and thought, is a state of ‘beingness’ that the dawn slips me into, and I can locate and connect with the highest potential of the day. The day is yet to play out, but within that potentiality, at the dawn, it can be found, sensed and drawn in. On the days that seem impossible to pull off, that have me feeling tight and contracted, like for example overbooked healing sessions, or launching a new course (with new tech involved), I have been able to sense into the highest track within that day, before it has started, and stay pegged to that potential. It yields, every single time.

In May, my goodwill donations always support Mother Earth, through endangered species adoption and reforestation drives. This May, I am delighted to start sharing my Dawns with those who are eager to tap some of this divine magic. Dawn Dreaming, open-air meditations start in May. Once Twice a week, I will meet anyone who is keen, at certain locations around Singapore to greet the rising sun and guide a practice. Group sizes will, of course, be limited due to restrictions and we can swing the distancing via my Vox sets that allow you to hear my voice at a distance. $20, and all proceeds will be donated to the monthly causes…all Earth-loving initiatives. Email me here if you’d like to be notified of dates, times and locations. 

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde
the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde
the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

the spirit of the dawn and lessons from 404 consecutive sunrises daniellevandevelde

If you have any questions or thoughts on the Spirit of the Dawn or about Dawn Dreaming, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you on your path to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

the powerful gateway of the spring equinox temp daniellevandevelde

The Powerful Gateway of the Spring Equinox and how to engage

The Powerful Gateway of the Spring Equinox
and how to engage

The Spring Equinox fell on March 20th this year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the second turning of the natural Wheel of the Year; the changeover point between the dark and light halves of the year when the Earth rotates towards growth and renewal. The Spring Equinox has, for centuries, been celebrated spiritually as a powerful time for change, renewal and a move into ACTION.

In my spiritual communities, we have been exploring how to engage in these beautiful wild shifts in the Earth and atmosphere around us for inner change and growth. Why? Because this is our human nature, to change, evolve, grow, create and express. In this extended period of restriction, we are unable to change our external circumstances, change our scenery, or change our direction from the outside, in. Yet, there is an incredible opportunity to switch perspectives and learn to generate change from the inside, out. And one of the few reliable supports we have at our disposal in these times is the energy of the wild field.

The myriad of Equinox traditions and rituals of our forebears have their own unique characteristics, but what captures me is how so many beautiful themes and threads are shared in common. And it’s this commonality, these archetypal ripples through time and culture, that hold all the good stuff and useful information as to how to engage. The dynamics and unique energies of the Equinox ripple through myth, story, ritual and religion as we have tried over the aeons to encapsulate it, conceptualise it and engage with it. The wilderness is the ‘source’ and despite our modern lives telling us that we are separate from it, we are, in fact, the wild field. It runs through us, it is with us, it is in us, it is what brings us to bear.

This article lays down the major themes of the Spring Equinox and the energies it holds. I have cited only a small sample of my favourite ancient traditions here, although I encourage you to explore others more deeply. With a slightly expanded perspective and a draw to inner practice, the Equinox and the weeks that follow it present an opportunity for amazing inner shifts and changes within our lives.

1. It’s an accessible energetic gateway its an accessible energetic gateway daniellevandevelde

At this time, the sun rises due east and sets due west, giving exactly twelve hours of sunlight on the day of the Equinox and then it begins its increase, which dissipates the remnant winter and triggers new growth in the earth. The sun passes over the celestial Equator. Balance points in nature like this, where one direction or action swings towards its opposite pole, are regarded as openings to access broader fields of energy and information to support the same shifts that are happening within us. They are known in the Taoist culture as ‘Dragon Points’ and in Shamanism, as ‘liminal spaces’ and can be found throughout the natural world and also within the human body. When we seek out these liminal ‘in betweens’ and dwell in them, meditate in them, soak in the feeling of them, we access an opening out of our mundane consciousness and into our deeper, felt knowing, our spirits.

The Vernal Equinox offers a wholesale, planetary Dragon Point between light and dark, night and day, dormancy to action, inner to outer, east to west, that can be put to use in our inner practice to generate growth, movement and new directions. It’s like a Dragon Point on steroids! It represents the soul’s journey from separation and darkness into Oneness and Light.

It’s a powerful time to enter meditation and meditative ritual with the intent to access these potentials and draw them into our field of experience.

2. It works with the feminine aspects of the human system

So much can be gleaned from names. In Pagan Europe, the Spring Equinox was celebrated through the archetype of Ostara the Germanic maiden goddess of spring and the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn named Eostre (pronounced East-ra).

The word oestrus (referring to an animal in heat) is derived from Eostre and is also related to the Greek Goddess Eos, the goddess of the dawn. The word oestrogen also comes from these roots. The Equinox is distinctly feminine; not in a gender sense, but in an energetic sense. The ‘feminine’ side of our human system is represented by the right hemisphere of the brain and parasympathetic arm of the nervous system. It is the softer, more magnetic side, which governs our sensual, creative cyclical aspects. Men and women are blessed with it and the energies of this time invite us to indulge it and nurture its strengths. Somatic meditations, creative visualisation and journaling are some examples of the types of practices best engaged with at this time.

it works with the feminine aspects of the human system daniellevandevelde

Ostara, the spring goddess, oversees the budding plants and burgeoning fertility of the earth. She signals a move into action; to take germinating ideas and inspirations and bring them into the light of day through soft, creative action. The Equinox energies support us in making some moves, writing that plan, starting that book, joining that class, seeking those contacts, actioning our spiritual priorities. At this time, witches cast spells for careers, relationships, and love. It’s a time for planting new ideas and seeking harmony and balance to project good health, good fortune, and confidence in achieving goals.

Ostara’s feast day was held on the full moon following the Vernal Equinox and she, along with the ancient Greek goddess of the season, points us to connect with the movement of the moon cycle as a spiritual tool, and for women, to connect into their monthly cycles as powerful spiritual movements rather than what many regard as ‘a curse’. A simple way to do this is to track your personal cycle against the movement of the moon and to make time to enter prayer and ritual, especially in circle, at the main lunar junctures of the new and full moons. A lot can be achieved by aligning our practice and intent with the waxing and waning moonlight.

3. It’s an opportunity for final release from tethers

This aspect of the Spring Equinox is perhaps the most exciting. Many world traditions around this time hold themes of new beginnings, redemption, resurrection and a rising from old states into new, more expanded states. A dynasty of Persian kings known as the Achaemenians celebrated the spring equinox with the festival of No Ruz, which means “new day.” It is a celebration of hope and renewal still observed today in many Persian countries and has its roots in the much more ancient framework of Zoroastrianism.

The indigenous Mayan people in Central American have celebrated a spring equinox festival for ten centuries called the Return of the Sun Serpent. As the sun sets on the day of the Equinox on the great ceremonial pyramid, El Castillo in Mexico, the lengthening shadows appear to run from the top of the pyramid’s northern staircase to the bottom, giving the illusion of a diamond-backed snake in descent and taking with it old paradigms, past hurts, regrets and anything we may have held that keeps us separate from our divinity.

The Roman god, Mithras, was born at the winter solstice and resurrected in the spring. Mithras helped his followers ascend to the realm of light after death, and in ancient Rome, the followers of Cybele believed that their goddess had a consort who was born via a virgin birth. His name was Attis, and he died and was resurrected each year during the time of the Vernal Equinox on the Julian Calendar. The Jewish Passover is celebrated at this time as a celebration of deliverance and freedom.

its an opportunity for final release from tethers daniellevandevelde

These themes of new beginnings and the opportunity of freedom appear again in the Christian festival of Easter and the resurrection of Christ, which is determined each year through the lunar cycle. Easter always falls on the Sunday following the full moon that follows the Spring Equinox.

These are but a few beautiful traditions that encapsulate the return of Light through messianic saviours. There are many more, and most follow similar patterns of the saviour dying and after a time period of three stages, rising again, offering a new beginning and freedom from past low vibration states – just as the sun disappears for three months through the winter and returns as promised in the spring with the assurance of freedom from enclosure and a feast of new growth.

Our spiritual explorations can sometimes see us fall into the mire of attachment to old useless states and perspectives of ourselves, our lives and our world. So many spiritual modalities and practitioners offer ways to search, analyse, identify, name and blame the causes of the hurts, anger, blockages and illnesses we may be experiencing. Past life, karmic, familial and ancestral work is interesting and illuminating, but the Spring Equinox is reminding us that the final move is always a choice to lay it all down and move into a new day. This opportunity is open to us in every moment, but if we have built a whole identity, life and set of relationships on top of that psychic junk, it can prove sticky and hard to let go of. The energies of the Equinox can be put to use here. At this time we can simply make the choice to lay it down, along with the ninja weapons, sharp words and defence shields; to go raw, forgive, release and claim a new beginning.

The dawn of the Equinox was a common time to enter practice and align with these beautiful movements across all traditions as is the orientation of the east. A beautiful practice is to wake early on the morning of the Equinox and the mornings that follow it, head into nature, face east and hold the intent that the rising new sun is also rising within and dawning a new way to move forward from that moment onwards. It sounds simple, but the engagement with intent and the correspondent energies in nature creates the shift. Just try it and see!

4. It’s a time for purification and forging

The increasing light at this time of year triggers growth in the botanical realm, seeds to germinate, animals to be birthed and eggs to be laid. So, it is of little surprise that the key element engaged with, in Equinox traditions, is Fire. In pagan Europe, the threshing hay that covered the floors of houses during the long winter months was gathered and burnt. In Iran, a festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri takes place right before the Equinox begins, and people purify their homes, burn fires and leap over the flames as a ritual of personal purification to welcome the 13-day Equinox celebration of No Ruz. In agricultural lands, the winter dross in the fields was burnt to clear the soil for the spring planting and first season crops. Old materials were recycled into fuel for growth.

its a time for purification and forging daniellevandevelde

On Ostara, green and white candles were lit in homes to honour the coming of the sun and the opportunity the season brings. Fire both purifies and forges, and this is the invitation of the Equinox. It is the time to dispense with the dross of low-grade content, thought patterns and relationships that hold us apart from our soul calling and to garner the courage to set to work in bringing it into a lived reality.

5. It’s a time of creation and celebration

In ancient Babylon, the Goddess Ishtar (pronounced Easter) was celebrated through ritualistic orgies that went on for days over the time of the Spring Equinox. Rather than the Netflix image that this tradition might invoke, it was a deliberate spiritual practice that accessed the enormous creative potential energies of the sacral within the human system.

Ostara is usually associated with the coupling of Pan, the Lord of the Botanical Realm and the energies of the spring goddess, to generate new growth, new realities, and the pagan traditions of the Equinox were marked by celebrations of romance, beauty and nature. Pan was also the Lord of the hunt, dancing and the feast, and he reminds us of the importance of acknowledgement of our journey, the beauty of the game of life and the importance of celebrating our blessings.

The Equinox invites us to tap this aspect of ourselves as well. To celebrate the union with our lovers, to feast with our friends and nurture gratitude for our blessings of friendship, abundance and love, things that many of us reprioritise in busy, modern lives. These activities are correspondent with the energies rising in the wild field around us and generate inspiration, movement and productivity.

its a time of creation and celebration daniellevandevelde

Another important shared symbol of this time is the rabbit or hare. It is the first animal to make an appearance when the snow starts to melt and is known for its fecundity. In ancient Egypt and Japan, the markings of the spring full moon were believed to represent a jumping hare. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol. The female of the species is super-fertile and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. Ostara’s consort is the white hare and she was believed to take on its form when delivering messages and prompts for action and movement through nature.

These beautiful energies of fecundity and productivity support all actions at this time. Procrastination will be met with higher than usual feelings of discomfort and frustration.

6. It’s a gateway to access the field of possibility

Eggs and seeds were commonly used in Equinox celebrations and rituals and supermarket shelves today are already stocked with shelves upon shelves of chocolate eggs. The symbol of the egg has very ancient roots. In pagan Europe, seeds and eggs were incorporated into seasonal feasts and eggs used for a beautiful tradition of writing the intents on the shell and then burying them under the earth near the front door of the practitioner’s home with new spring plants planted on top, a practice still used today by modern pagans.

Eggs, for this reason, were also coloured and placed in bowls in the home. Seeds were used to carry whispers and prayers into ‘the other’ by breathing intent into them and planting them in the garden, and crop seeds were honoured with a ritual before the first season of planting.

its a gateway to access the field of possibility daniellevandevelde

Pagan Anglo-Saxons made offerings of coloured eggs to the Ostara at the Equinox. In fact, most cultures paid homage to their springtime goddesses with gifts of eggs, including the Egyptians and the Greeks.

The golden yolk of the egg represents the Sun God. The white shell symbolizes the White Goddess, and the whole egg is a symbol of rebirth. Today, we know that chickens begin egg production as the days grow longer. Egg-laying is intricately connected to the lengthening of days at the Vernal Equinox. The Druids dyed eggs scarlet in honour of the sun, using gorse blossoms and madder roots. They also ritually ate the eggs at sunrise on Ostara.

One popular legend in the Germanic tradition is that Eostre found a wounded bird late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs. The hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre, hence our tradition of the Easter Bunny was born.

To alchemists, the egg also has symbolic associations with the four elements: the shell representing the earth, the membrane representing air, the egg white representing water, and the yolk, fire. To Christians, the egg represents the empty tomb of the risen Christ.

However, it’s the traditions of the eastern Europeans, particularly the Ukrainians, that honour the symbol of the egg in the most beautiful ways. They created intricately coloured eggs called pysanky as amulets of fertility, protection, and prosperity. Pysanky can be found in many homeware stores at this time. Another Ukrainian magical egg is the krashanka. Krashanky are hard-boiled and intended to be ritually eaten at sunrise on Ostara. They were associated with healing, extraction of illness and low-vibrations, and protection, and were believed to increase the production of crops and honey.

its a gateway to access the field of possibility daniellevandevelde

These symbols represent the immense generative powers of spring and are also symbols of the embodied human spirit, that holds the potential and infinite possibilities of our highest expression in life. They remind us to look within, to our innate spiritual design for revelation and transmutation. All that we require to rise is within us.

For me, the most complete information around the spiritual potential of the Spring Equinox can be found in the runes. In ancient times, the Nordic and Celtic runes were far more than an alphabet or divination tool as they are commonly understood to be today. They were a series of energetic correspondences collapsed into symbols and they hold much information relevant for us now on how to engage with the Wheel of the Year. The runes for the Spring Equinox (by their Anglo-Saxon names) were in order: Tyr, Eoh and Beorc.

its a gateway to access the field of possibility daniellevandevelde its a gateway to access the field of possibility daniellevandevelde its a gateway to access the field of possibility daniellevandevelde

This combination of runes captures the creative forces that unite to bring the manifest world to bear and they are no more detectable than at the time of the Spring Equinox. Tyr is the god rune (Father Sky) represented by the spear. The rune speaks of action and direction. Its characteristics are order, justice, social values, oaths and courage. Beorc is the goddess rune (feminine mysteries) and is represented by the birch tree. The symbol speaks of birthing, regeneration, growth, caring, creativity and fecundity. And in between the two is Eoh, represented by the horse. This symbol speaks to the use of our own spiritual vehicle of the human system, movement, adjustment to various situations on the move, partnership, cooperation and the astral or energy body (the call to get your spiritual game on). Together, they encapsulate both the energies of the Equinox and the connections we can make to engage more fully with this incredible wave of energy that is stirring within and around us.

Happy Spring Equinox! May the growing Light bring you freedom, celebration and a shift into your true purpose and life.

Love,

Dani

If you have any questions or thoughts about the powerful gateway of the Spring Equinox and how to engage, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you on your path to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

 

The top 5 misconceptions about meditation

Meditation Myth-Busters

The top 5 misconceptions about meditation

There is no doubt that ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ have entered the mainstream mindset along with reams of research into the physical, mental and emotional benefits they offer. In much of the commentary, these terms are used interchangeably. 

But despite the buzz and the daily posts on social media sites, there remains a lot of misconceptions about meditation and what it actually entails. Like any popularised practice, sometimes the smarts behind the actions can fall away. Yoga would be a good case in point. Many students are surprised to learn that the original purpose of yoga asana is to prepare the body and mind for meditation and inner work. The fact that regular practice gives you lean limbs, core strength and a tight yoga butt, is a happy side effect of aligning the energetic systems of the body. However, it’s not the main game.

The approach to meditation is the same. Many come to it to relieve stress or improve sleep for example, which of course it does, and relatively quickly with regular practice. But settling the central nervous system is simply the first turn of the key to unlocking the potential of meditation practice. Once you are able to settle the nervous system and alter brainwave patterning at will, you can enter this inner space consciously and really get to work. The physiological changes – yes, structural changes, that take place in the mind/body system through regular meditation, enable the practitioner to alter their state of consciousness, and therefore, their experience of life. 

There are five commonly held misconceptions about meditation that I have encountered through my years of teaching. Sadly, they appear to be the main reasons why many try it once or twice and then let it go. To dispel them, I find it useful to understand what meditation is not. 

Busting meditation Myth 1: Meditation is emptying the mind of all thought

Meditation is not about clearing the mind of all thought. If you have ever tried to clear the mind of thought, you soon realize that you’re on a hiding to nothing. The mind is thought. So, I find, a better way to view it is that meditation combines the use of the breath, the posture and a single point of focus, to draw in a dissipated mind. When we do this, we experience the revelation that there’s a difference between our awareness and our thought-field. They’re not the same thing. By regularly practicing meditation techniques we are able to lengthen and smooth out the brainwave patterning. This in turn calms the frenetic thought activity of the mind and weakens the tugging action that our thoughts have on our awareness.

Meditation is a way to gather our awareness into the present, the here and now, the only living reality. Our past has happened and our future is yet to be. Our only reality is the here and now, this moment. When our awareness is gathered into the deep now, and our mind and body align and calm into stillness, the immensely powerful heart and energy centres activate and align with the still mind. Your spiritual engine starts up!

Busting Meditation Myth 2: Meditation requires denying the body

Another thing I see quite a bit in meditation circles are keen practitioners forcing their legs and hips into a stiff, unsustainable lotus pose, or holding their arms and hands aloft in some sort of flashy mudra, and often both. There is a common misconception that we must hold the posture of an ancient yogi and then muscle our way through numbed limbs into stillness. It’s pretty hard to achieve inner calm when circulation to your lower body has come to a grinding halt. 

The idea that we have to somehow deny our physical aspect as a trade-off for higher awareness is both erroneous and damaging. The idea that Spirit and body are diametrically opposed couldn’t be further from reality. The body is integral to the process of meditation and the body and Spirit are inextricably linked. I see them as one total system, with aspects simply vibrating at different rates. And when I say ‘the body’ I mean all physical aspects – the physical form, the brain, the central nervous system, heart, chemistry, the cells and the space that holds them, the breath and the senses. 

It is true that certain meditation techniques allow a temporarily loosening of our association with the physicality of the body, but to enter those deep states we must work with the body and its energy systems. Diet and hydration also have an impact on meditation practice and are wonderful elements to experiment with when getting started. The main postural consideration is a long, supported spine and felt connection with the Earth. 

Our bodies are already present. They occupy a physical space and they are in the moment. Our bodies are here and now. The body is the perfect anchor to draw in the mind. 

Busting Meditation Myth 3: Meditation is a religion or opposes religion

Sometimes when I am commissioned for corporate workshops and talks, the HR team will make the point that they have a number of employees of different faiths in the office, and while they’re keen to bring meditation into the workplace, could I please keep it one hundred percent secular. The fact that I am asked this tells me that there’s a very close association made by some, that meditation is some form of religion or may be offensive to the religious.

Meditation is not a religion, even though nearly all major world religions and spiritual frameworks acknowledge meditation as a vehicle for prayer, ritual/ceremony and spiritual evolution. As meditation enables deep self-enquiry, it makes sense that it is a practice used in spiritual enquiry. And while some of the best-known meditation techniques are from the Eastern Traditions, they are not exclusively the source of this practice. Meditation is a human practice and very beautiful meditation practices are offered by all world religions and spiritual frameworks, right back to our most ancient Earth-based Shamanic roots. 

The changes in brain activity when we meditate enable feelings of deep connection, slipping out of time, acute awareness and bliss. For example, in deep states of meditation, sections of the pre-frontal cortex go into what’s called ‘temporary hypofrontality’ which is a super impressive term that I throw around occasionally to appear, well, super impressive.

It just means that they temporarily deactivate – in particular, the part of the brain that clocks the past, present and future and places self-awareness somewhere in that context. When this happens, you have the sensation that you have deeply penetrated the present moment. It brings an acute sense of awareness and self, and many equate this with a religious experience.

I would define this experience as connecting with Spirit, but it’s not the doing of some strange god that might or might not agree with other gods, or worse still, the effects of the devil…yes I do get that sometimes as well. This is an inner neurological effect of changing brainwave patterning into deeper and longer waves and it’s very, very, good for you to experience it on many levels, regularly. 

Busting Meditation Myth 4: Meditation is a selective skill that not everyone can do

It surprises lots of people to learn how mainstream meditation has been for quite some time in the western world. And it surprises me that many still hold the view that meditation is a hippy woo-woo activity practiced exclusively by new agers and the holy men of India. Thankfully, due to meditation’s renewed trendiness, this misconception is slowly fading. However, I find I do need to address it in my talks and courses.

Meditation and mindfulness practices are used extensively in the medical and psychological arena for treatment of chronic pain, depression and addiction and have been for decades. It is used in trauma and cardiac wards as a recovery process, with amazing results. It is used effectively in palliative care and the support of the elderly.

Meditation is a critical enabler in underprivileged schools and for troubled students around the world and is now accepted as a key practice in building resilience in children and teens. It is common practice in law enforcement in some progressive countries like Canada and in the sports psychology practices of the professional sports arena. A few years ago, Singapore hosted the Rugby Sevens players and I was thrilled to see the South African Rugby team meditate together before training and games. I have to admit that I find this enormously attractive! 

I also offer prenatal meditation guidance and it is a beautiful, natural way to enhance body chemistry during pregnancy and conscious connection with the baby as it forms within and during the birth process.

There is a plethora of empirical evidence, studies and research now that has followed the different applications of meditation and the effects that regular practice yields in all sorts of settings for all sorts of people living busy modern lives. 

Meditation doesn’t require a specific space or method; it just requires intent, choice and action. There are a couple of very useful things you can do to help establish a regular practice easily by working with your meditation space, starting-ritual and regularity. In any case, everyone can meditate, because we are naturally designed to do so.

Busting Meditation Myth 5: Meditation is the end game

I find it fascinating that the more we meditate, the more our system changes to enable deeper and better meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle that evidences the fact that we are designed to meditate. 

With regular meditation, we change our default perspective for viewing life. We start to observe ourselves and we start to see the cause and effect of our thoughts, feelings and actions. We start to see the thought and emotional patterns we are bound to and therefore open up a field of choice as to whether these are serving us or not. This is the realisation that mindfulness brings. It triggers us to reach for ways to feel again, to choose different lifeward responses and to connect with the flow of life.

If we continue to nourish this ability, to witness ourselves and our lives, and therefore mellow our reactive responses to events, positivity and calm ensue, which then ripples into our relationships and exchanges. We feel a connectedness with our life field and more importantly, with our self. We can also then perceive our energy bodies and a broader realm of energy that this aspect operates in. We start to perceive information and patterns beyond the physical senses. We start to read situations better. We start to feel spontaneous gratitude, loving-kindness, generosity and love. These beautiful higher feelings are harmonising, soothing, restorative and blissful, and they gently change our behaviours. 

We start to work with the flow of life. We give of ourselves more. We smile more. We want the best for others and we try to help them. We forgive more and jettison our past hurts, grievances and regrets more readily. We choose our friends differently. We choose to expose ourselves to life-supporting, positive content. This beautiful shift is where we heal and where we start to connect much more palpably with the energetic nature of the self and life.

Our meditation sits take on a new aspect as we become very aware of the energy moving through the body, thought-field, feelings and of the connection with Spirit. We become enabled and with that comes an ability to engage in dialogue with Spirit, to read the patterns, to sense the movement and to participate energetically as an active co-creator of ourselves, and our life experiences. We become creative. We cross the bridge into experiencing a Spirit-led life, into living within our divine design and power. We upload spiritual living. And this is the end game of meditating.

You can begin your transformative journey through my online meditation course, or sign up for my fortnightly meditation sessions and guided practice

If you have any questions about meditation or wish to dispel your misconceptions about meditation, do get in touch. You can also visit my website to explore courses and useful content to guide you on your path to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same. 

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What happens when we meditate regularly?

What happens when we meditate regularly?

Regular meditation allows us to shift from a ‘reactive’ to ‘responsive’ mode in life and establish mindfulness, because it shifts the physiology of the body, and in particular, the physiological stress responses that are triggered through reactive patterns. Prolonged stress or ‘high vigilance’ can establish when we are not present to ourselves, and the truth of what we are experiencing. It has hugely detrimental effects on our chemistry, cellular regeneration capabilities, cognitive function and mood. Regular meditators have markedly less stress hormone levels in their bloodstreams generally. This evidences a calmer, more measured approach to stimuli.

Regular meditation generates a pause point between our state of awareness and our interface with life. This carved inner space allows for mindful choices, which in turn, reduces reactive stress responses. This furthermore deepens our capacity to make lifeward choices. A beautiful virtuous cycle establishes when we meditate regularly.

There is a large body of credible research today, into the many benefits of regular meditation and mindfulness. Below is a summary of the more interesting findings. This fascinating area is covered more extensively in my courses and programs, along with tools and support to help you establish your pause point and a default state of presence.

Changes in the brain and nervous system of regular meditators

  1. Slowing and synchronisation of brain waves that correlate with relaxed wakefulness, creativity and intuition.
  2. Integration of the left and right hemispheres representing a synchronisation of the logical with the intuitive.
  3. Decreased limbic arousal in the brain, resulting in reduced stress and increased stability to stress.
  4. Synchronisation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system occurs during meditation and allows the natural bio-rhythm of the body to reestablish.
  5. Better memory and recall functions, mental clarity and concentration for mental and physical tasks.
  6. Increased activity in the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing, memory and learning.

Changes in the body

  1. Lower blood pressure, better heart health, oxygenated blood and lower levels of stress-related chemicals in the blood.
  2. Stemming of the ageing process and an increase in immune-cell longevity.
  3. Relief from insomnia, chronic pain, migraines and headaches.
  4. Assisted healing after injury or trauma.

Emotional benefits

  1. We know that meditation helps overcome depression and calms anxiety.
  2. It engenders greater compassion, a sense of interconnectedness, self-esteem and resilience.
  3. It strengthens interpersonal communication and emotional growth.
  4. Psychological research shows decreased anger arousal in high-anger situations.
  5. It reduces feelings of loneliness in older adults.
  6. Meditation is used successfully in overcoming addictions.

Now that you know about the benefits of meditating regularly, why don’t you get started today! For the same daily commitment of time that it takes to make a pot of coffee because you haven’t slept, or tail-spin over a thoughtless statement someone made, or work out an apology for an angry outburst, or medicate a persistent health issue, or remember the name of your child’s teacher, or calm yourself down from a panic attack…you could be establishing the pathway to a healthy, purpose-led and empowered life!

If you wish to start meditation and understand the benefits of meditating regularly do get in touch and take our introduction to meditation course – Return. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 


If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.

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Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know

Meditation and mindfulness: what you need to know 

‘Meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ are now accepted mainstream terms and are backed by a large body of research into the physical, mental and emotional benefits they offer. In much of the commentary, these two terms are used interchangeably. 

Confusion around the terminology and unclear context sees a lot of people swerve around the exploration of meditation and mindfulness entirely. In doing so, they are denying themselves the cultivation of powerful natural techniques to heal and live an empowered life. 

So, here’s the low-down on meditation and mindfulness for those starting-up their meditation practice.

What is meditation and what is mindfulness?

Simply put, meditation is an enabler for transformation. 

It is largely understood to be a way to find the still eye at the centre of the hurricane of modern life, moving us from a reactive to responsive engagement with life, into mindful living. This, in itself, is a worthy shift, yet the practice of meditation takes us well beyond it. 

Corporations are introducing meditation and mindfulness programs into their employee wellbeing menus. Schools are offering meditation as an extracurricular activity and home group teachers are bringing short practices into the classroom as part of their positive education initiatives. Meditation centres are popping up in neighbourhoods and yoga centres and religious centres are starting to emphasize their approaches to meditation more overtly and a myriad of wonderful, clever apps have flooded the Internet space.

On the big stage too, we are seeing celebrities, business leaders, opinion formers and politicians all coming out as avid meditators as if it’s the latest solution to emerge on the wellbeing scene. Despite many of us quietly meditating for years, and ancient spiritual frameworks offering deep, profound wisdom in the art of meditation for thousands and thousands of years, you could say that the ‘old school’ has well and truly become the ‘new cool’. 

Yet, despite the buzz and the daily posts on social media sites, there remains a lot of misconception around what meditation actually is, and why to engage. Like any popularised practice, sometimes the smarts behind the actions fall away and while many take up the practice, the deeper understanding of it is lost. Yoga would be a good case in point. Many students are surprised to learn that the original purpose of yoga asana is to prepare the body and mind for meditation and inner work. The fact that regular practice gives you long lean limbs, core strength and a tight yoga butt, is a happy side effect of aligning the energetic systems of the body.

The approach to meditation is the same. Many come to it to relieve stress or improve sleep, for example, which of course it does and relatively quickly with regular practice. But, settling the central nervous system is simply the first turn of the key to unlocking the gateway to empowered living. Once you are able to settle the nervous system and alter brainwave patterning at will, you can enter this inner space, consciously and really get to work. 

How do meditation and mindfulness improve our lives?

I find it fascinating that the more we meditate, the more our system changes to enable deeper and better meditation. It’s a natural virtuous cycle that evidences the fact that we are designed to meditate and live creatively through our inner aspect. With regular meditation, we change our default perspective for viewing life. We start to observe ourselves and we start to see the cause and effect of our thoughts, feelings and actions. We start to see the thought and emotional patterns we are bound to and we’re able to observe our reactions to these patterns in our bodies and sense of wellbeing. 

This observational state is mindfulness.

For new-comers to meditation, it can be quite an awakening. Very often I see people in my courses come to the shocking realisation of how stressed they have become, of how less vital and sensual they feel and how they have lost their sense of intuition, their inner knowing. The pace of our modern lives requires a mechanical approach to keep up, especially if we’re running a family, home, career, or have children or a partner to support. And when we are in this mode, we become reactive to our outside world and a slave to time. We miss the present moment and we are always shocked at how quickly life is flying past us. 

What is mindfulness meditation and how does it help?

Within the thousands of meditation approaches that exist, there are some that are called ‘Mindfulness Meditations’, where the point of focus of the meditation practice is simply to observe. However, all meditation practices lead to a mindful state. 

If we continue to nourish this ability to witness ourselves and our lives through regular meditation, we shift from reactive to responsive, and with this shift comes a marked fall in adrenaline and cortisol hormones in the bloodstream. This vastly improves cognitive function. Parts of the brain actually rebuild physically. Our cells regenerate, our body chemistry changes, we sleep better, we dream and we start to feel great. This positivity and calm improves relationships and exchanges, and we feel a connectedness with our life field, and more importantly, with ourselves.

A broader field of choice opens up for us. We have the inner space, clarity and wellness to choose the person we want to be, and how we respond to life and others. We become expansive. 

We start to read situations better. We start to feel spontaneous gratitude, kindness, generosity, and love. These beautiful higher feelings are harmonising, soothing, restorative and blissful and they gently change our behaviours. 

We give of ourselves more. We smile more. We want the best for others and we try to help them. We forgive more and jettison past hurts, regrets and resentments. We choose our friends differently. We choose to expose ourselves to life-supporting, positive content. This beautiful shift into expansiveness is where we heal and where we start to connect much more palpably with the energetic nature of the self and life. We become creative. 

What happens when we start to meditate and establish mindfulness?

At the outset, for the new meditator, the practice is essentially mind-training, to gain mastery over thought and the system’s responses to thought-patterns. It is about reclaiming ‘present awareness’.

In this context, ‘to meditate’ is to consciously draw in the dissipated mind, calm the mind/body system and dwell in a state of clear, alert awareness, at will. It combines posture, the focus on breath, and a single point of focus for the mind. Every time we catch our mind wandering and bring it back to the point of focus for the practice, we exercise the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for our ability to concentrate the mind on the present. Yes, meditation enables the ability to meditate! 

There are literally thousands of different ways to meditate and beautiful meditation practices from every culture and spiritual modality. Yet, essentially at the outset, they are all about the same thing – using various techniques and points of focus to train the mind into present awareness. 

It’s exactly like getting fit or learning a new skill. It requires dedication to familiarise yourself with the art. You can’t decide to start playing the guitar one day, and then give it up because you’re not able to unleash Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven immediately. It’s similar when we train our bodies. A little exercise every day, very quickly cultivates a new stronger level of fitness and endurance.

Meditation works exactly the same way.

Neuroscience confirms that a daily practice of at least ten minutes every day will establish the neural pathways and associations in the mind, to help master the move into present awareness. The more we dwell in present awareness, the more it establishes as our operating state. We start to live mindfully. A pause point is established between our interface with life experience and how we choose to respond. 

Mindfulness is the ability to experience day-to-day life from this viewpoint. It helps us recognize our habitual emotional and physiological reactions to day to day events. 

Just like learning a new skill or getting fit, meditation requires a dedicated choice to do it, a push to practice. And after teaching meditation to thousands of people over the years, I can absolutely confirm that within a very short time, that ‘push’ flips to a very strong ‘pull’. Your system recognises the innate benefit of the practice. Your body starts to heal from the damage of reactive stress triggers. Meditation pulls you towards it. And there are also some wonderful meditation practices that specifically circuit-break reactive stress responses as you embark on this transition to mindful living. These are explored in the current online Introduction to Meditation Course – Return, now open, with nine beautiful guided meditation tracks to support you.

If you wish to learn more about meditation and mindfulness or have any questions, do get in touch. You can also visit our website to explore courses and useful content to guide you along your journey to healing, self-discovery and mindful living. 


If you enjoyed this post and would like to share it, I request that you please credit Danielle Van de Velde as the author. I do not authorise repurposing or republishing without my written permission. You may email me for the same.