Posted by: justblade | March 25, 2012

Light my fire – pondering kenaz

Kenaz has two major meaning associations – one, the torch or firebrand, from the Old English Rune Poem and the other, ulcer or sore, appearing in both the Norwegian and Icelandic Rune Poems. These juxtaposed meanings have been explored widely in most publications on the runes, including Pollington, Paxson, Gundarsson, and the list goes on. My pondering was sparked in a rather unexpected context – while I was exercising.

Exercise is not the first place I would have thought of for engaging in meditation, but it is certainly not unknown. It seems to crop up reasonably regularly especially in endurance activities as well as those requiring focus. I have recently started running and completed my first 7km run. I have come to enjoy the strength I find in my body as well as some time that is mine to sweat out listening to music that carries me along (in my case, hard dance/NRG and oldskool techno). While I consider that caring for my health is an important aspect of my Heathen practice, this is not a post about physical exercise per se. It is about blending the physical exercise with spiritual exercise and the interesting things that can come of it.

One of the components of my current training programme is interval training (intervals of one minute walking, four minutes jogging/running , for those that are interested). I was on an interval run yesterday and using the time to alternate between paying attention to my body in terms of maintaining good form and allowing myself to be carried away into other thoughts. This blend of association/dissociation was something that came up at a running seminar I went to before my first run and is something of a common experience. The apparent ideal is to maintain a 50/50 split – too much focus in the body is too hard to maintain and too much thinking about other things risks not paying enough attention to form and risking injury. I have found that I can associate well even while listening to music because I use music that I love dancing to, and that requires body awareness for me at least. Sometimes the music will also support the dissociating times for me, but yesterday I had a ‘light bulb’ moment courtesy of kenaz.

I had been musing on runes and the challenges I faced last year in too much ‘busy’ interfering with my desire to write and do other Heathen-related things. Thanks to a coupon gift of five sauna sessions at a local spa, I had been meditating on ingwaz a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure why kenaz popped into my head yesterday while I was running but it did. It was just over half way through my run time and was at a point of balance between feeling strong and limber while also starting to fatigue a little and feel sore in places. The following ramble attempts at a first capture of the ponderings. I hope to come back to this and tease it into a more coherent form.

Kenaz the torch – the spark and inspiration, a firebrand lighting the way, leading a march or signalling the beginning of the Olympic Games, spilling light into the darkness and creating a protecting visual field against the night. Hearth and home, warmth, comfort and light against the cold and dark. Heat that helps cook food and burn away the dross. See alongside this, kenaz the ulcer – soreness burning around my body, pain restricting and preventing, sapping energy, fear and self doubt eating away at my sense of competence and confidence. Kenaz turns on its side to form a fire pit blazing, seeing another kenaz, this time the sore, hovering above and then lowering down into the flames. Watching the flames consume the sore as it burns into ash and then nothing. Feeling the fire work its warmth through the shoulder where soreness has sat, slowly releasing strain and restoring free movement.  Feeling my body moving freely, fuelled by the fire of enjoyment. Kenaz turns into the torch again, lighting the way.

It was not a long meditation and was broken up by the interval structure when I did come back to my body to check my form and bring my heart rate back down so that I could exert myself again for the next running interval. The gym or out on a run are times I have to myself and no interruptions or distractions. Surprisingly perhaps, it also feels good to be doing ‘active’ meditation that includes association as well as dissociation time as a kind of embodied practice. Considering that I have done a lot of ‘practice’ while out dancing in the past, maybe this is not so surprising after all.

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