How to Meditate: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the simplest and most powerful meditation practices because it can be done anywhere and at anytime. There’s no excuse for not practising mindfulness! 

Mindfulness is about paying attention. Normally your attention is scattered all over the place. You can be doing one thing, or maybe even several things at once, but your mind is busy thinking about something else. 

How to Meditate: Watching the Breath

Meditating on the breath is simple but powerful and should be the foundation of your meditation practice. It’s good to start your practise session with this meditation, and then if you wish, move on to other types. 

Watching the Breath helps to calm your mind and body. If you’re having trouble with negative thinking or difficult emotions, focusing on the breath will help you to gain control. It stops you from getting lost in your head because it brings your focus back to your body in the most direct and intimate way. 

How to Meditate: A Guide to the Ultimate Healing Practice

If you think meditation is just for religious people or crazy-eyed sadhus in loincloths, you could be missing out on one of the most powerful practices available to humanity. Meditation reduces stress and aids healing, clears and focuses the mind, and makes you happy. 

You don’t have to be spiritual or religious to meditate, but if you are, there are meditative or contemplative practices in all religions. There are no special requirements, you don’t have to tie your limbs into esoteric knots or chant incomprehensible mantras – unless you want to! 

The Handless Maiden 7: Inner Marriage

Our story continues: the queen is healing in the forest with her child, but what of the king… 

Soon after the queen left the castle, the king returned from the war, but the queen and his child weren’t there waiting for him. He asked his mother where they were. She was furious with him, and said, “How could you? I did as you ordered, you lunatic!” She showed him the eyes and the tongue, and the terrible letters he had sent. 

The Handless Maiden 6: Wandering and Waiting

Our story continues: the queen with silver hands has given birth, but all is not well… 

The queen and her son were no longer safe in the castle, and so, with the baby bound to her breast, the queen bid farewell to the king’s mother. Weeping, she left the castle and returned to the forest. 

She wandered, not knowing where she should go or where she would be welcome. She prayed for guidance and an angel appeared on the path. 

The Handless Maiden 5: The Devil Returns

Our story continues: the maiden has become a queen with silver hands… 

The queen stayed in the castle and the king lavished her with love and care. But in time, he had to leave to wage war in a distant land. Before he left, the king asked his mother to take care of the queen, for she was expecting his child. She must send a letter as soon as the child is born. 

The Handless Maiden 4: Love in the Underworld

Our story continues: the maiden has found her way to the king’s orchard… 

The next day, the king was walking in his garden, counting his pears, for he knew exactly how many were on each tree, when he realised that one was missing. He called the gardener and questioned him. The gardener explained to the king what he had witnessed the night before. A spirit without hands had been led into the garden by an angel and had eaten one of the pears. 

The Handless Maiden 3: Entering the Forest

Our story continues: the deal has been made and the maiden has lost her hands… 

The devil retreated to the forest and the maiden’s parents did their best to care for their daughter. Her father begged her to stay, promising to provide everything she could ever want or need, but she refused. She had her bloody stumps cleaned and bound in fresh white gauze, and then set out towards the forest. 

The Handless Maiden 2: Dismemberment

Our story continues: the deal has been made and three years have passed… 

At last, the dreadful day arrived when the devil would come to claim his payment: the maiden. That morning, the girl washed and drew a circle around herself with chalk. The devil appeared, but couldn’t come near her. Furious, he demanded she must not wash herself again, and then he left. 

When the devil returned the next day, the maiden wept and wept and her tears ran down her arms to her hands, washing her clean. So the devil still couldn’t touch her. Enraged, he ordered the girl’s father to cut off her hands so she couldn’t weep on them. 

The Handless Maiden 1: Deal with the Devil

Once there was a miller who had fallen into poverty. His mill was broken so he had to go to the forest to chop wood. One day, when he was hacking at a tree stump, an old man appeared and said, “I’ll make you rich if you give me what stands behind your mill.” 

The miller assumed the old man was talking about the apple tree out back, so he agreed to the deal, dollar signs flashing in his eyes. The old man told the miller he would return in three years to take what was his, and then he vanished. 

The Handless Maiden: Healing a Dark Night of the Soul

The Handless Maiden is a myth that speaks powerfully to our dark and confusing times. It’s a fairy tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, but its roots are much older. The story is about a maiden whose father sells her to the devil in exchange for wealth and convenience. Her hands are chopped off and she must wander alone in the forest in search of healing. 

Jungian analyst, Robert A Johnson, says the story is about the wounded feeling function, a wound that’s so common in the Western world that many people don’t even realise it’s a problem. In a sense, we’re all handless maidens, wandering about, bleeding from our stumps, feeling lost and alone. 

Tarot and the Hero’s Journey: The World

The final step on our journey to awakening is The World. A young figure wrapped in a veil dances within a wreath holding two wands. Four creatures are depicted in the corners. This is card number 21 which reduces to 3 symbolising the synthesis of opposites and creation. 

The World symbolises the unified Self. The figure in the centre is an hermaphrodite, combining both male and female in a synthesis of opposites (the carefully placed veil hides the evidence!). The tetramorphs in each corner symbolise the fixed cross of manifestation in the zodiac: the ox for Taurus, the lion for Leo, the eagle for Scorpio, and the man for Aquarius. The androgyne represents the goal of the quest. The opposites have been integrated and the hero no longer has any illusions about being separate from the world. He has reached his goal and dances joyfully at the mystic Centre where past and future, action and inaction, intersect. 

Tarot and the Hero’s Journey: Judgement

The next step on our journey to awakening is Judgement. An angel blows a trumpet and in response, figures rise from their tombs, ready for the Last Judgement. This is card number 20 which symbolises the duality of the number 2 but on a higher plane, so it’s moving towards a final synthesis. 

Judgement shows the rebirth of the integrated Self. The naked figures in the foreground are the divine brother-sister pair with their child between them. The child from The Sun has matured into adulthood and united the opposites to give birth to the Divine Child, or regenerated Self. The united psyche bursts forth from the walls surrounding it and a new stage in spiritual development is reached. 

Tarot and the Hero’s Journey: The Sun

The next step on our journey to awakening is The Sun. A joyful child rides a horse in front of a wall topped with sunflowers, while the sun blazes down. In some card packs two children are shown dancing together in front of the wall. This is card number 19 which reduces to 10 symbolising a return to unity out of multiplicity. A number of attainment. 

The Sun shows a return to the state of innocence and childlike joy. The hero has made it through the illusory lunar night and arrived in the sunlit garden. The child represents the pure light of the inner self, while the white horse represents purified instincts and libido. The hero’s old self is dead and he sees the world with the fresh, innocent eyes of a child, but without the naivety of the Fool. Consciousness has triumphed over the dangers in the unconscious.