Utiseta, Breath, and Mound-Sitting
by Lydia Helasdottir
excerpt from Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism
The best beginner's technique is the basic four-fold breath: you breathe in for a count of four, you hold for four, you breathe out for four, you wait for four, and you just do that. It helps your body not to freak out when your consciousness leaves, because it's used to doing this automatic breathing. Just sit and do that for a while. If you are working on ascending, going up through the Tree, then it's better not to lie down while doing this. It works better for your energy body anyway, if you want to be moving Kundalini, for your spine to be in a vertical position, so you should sit upright in a chair. But in terms of actually getting out and traveling, it doesn't make any difference whether I'm curled up in a ball or lying down or sitting against a tree or in the train or whatever.
The trick of doing the four-fold breathing thing is to actually extend yourself at the times when you're holding the breath out. You breathe out for four counts, and then you slip further out during the counts before you breathe in again. I've done that so long that sometimes even now, if I do it, I lose all feeling of the body; the body just doesn't exist. It's a really simple thing that I learned so many years ago, and it still does the right stuff for me. It works. I also meditate and travel when I'm running, but that's a slightly different deal. That's about 80% in the body and 20% out. Particularly if I'm having a hard time, I'll just go away and talk to whatever wights or boggarts are in the forest that I'm running through, and whine at them about how hard it is, and they kind of commiserate, and after about ten minutes it feels better.
The first couple of times that I did that for work, it was very much “Oh, I don't know if I can really do this!” And you just have to use your mind to say, “Well, what if it is all in my imagination? If I were to be able to do this, what might it look like?” It does work. Then, eventually you'll feel a sensation that there's really something there.
We do moundsitting, ordinary utiseta, and going under the cloak, and sensory deprivation stuff like cat's cradle and such things. Ordinary utiseta we like to do overnight, not just for a couple of hours. You go through the stage of “What the fuck am I doing here? This is really silly.” It seems to be needful sometimes to just go through that. We start with the following exercise: Start with experiencing yourself, and that which is around you. Place your attention on the trees and the rocks, the root that I'm sitting on, the wind in the trees, the smells. We do this whole thing of “I can see one thing, I can hear one thing, I can smell one thing, I can taste one thing, I can feel one thing.” Then you go to two things, then to five things. Getting to the point of smelling five different things is quite difficult, especially if you haven't moved your position, but it's a good thing. So the first point is to be really aware of you and the things around you. Do that with your deep breathing.
Then you contract you attention inside yourself. If you're wearing a cloak, at this point you put the hood over yourself. Contract your attention so that you're not noticing anything from the outside, and you're just trying to find the core of the center of your being, all the way down. Really compress it so that it's just you. It might take ten or fifteen minutes for you to even get there, and then you do that for an hour or so. Then you expand your attention outwards, but you go past the boundary of your body, so now you're experiencing all that stuff that's around you, but not as separate from you any more. And at that point, often it's easier to commune with the wights and the dead people and whatever else. And you do five or six or twelve or so cycles of that during the night. That's pretty potent stuff. You can get people who are relative brickheads - thick people who can't see things or hear things - to at least have an unusual experience in doing that....if only because when you pull your cloak over your head it changes the oxygen content of your breathing, It's the “holotropic breath” of Stanislav Grof, this particular hallucinogenic ratio between carbon dioxide and oxygen. You can get it by hyperventilating, too, and it's just as potent as LSD. It's quite remarkable stuff.
So if you do this thing on a mound, or inside of a faery hill, then you're likely to talk to them. If you don't have mounds around, ancestor graves might work. We live in Europe, where there are plenty of mounds and faery hills, but it's different in the New World. But you have to have a reason to actually talk to them, anyway. Not just to have them show up because it's cool; they'll ask, “What are you going to do for me?”
How Faery-mounds work: You just go for a doze on some welcome-looking rock on some wild and green hill, and if you're near a faery place they'll suck you in. Of course, whether or not that's good rather depends on the situation. If you have a particular reason for dealing with them, then you can put your “I am here and would like to talk to you” hat on; you can sort of put that flag up and then go to sleep, and they'll come and talk to you if they want you. If on the other hand you don't want to talk to the Fey, but you need to have a sleep somewhere on the mountain which is Fey-haunted, I would just advocate drinking some fucking coffee and moving on. If you feel the strange desire to go lie down and sleep somewhere in the hills of Ireland, better be sure that you know what you're getting into. “But it's so nice and warm there, and everywhere else is cold and rainy...” They don't like cold iron, either, so you can do a certain amount of protective stuff with wearing cast iron jewelry or horseshoe nails.
The deal with sitting out is that you actually need to have a purpose. “Why am I doing this?” Just to see what's out there and talk to something cool is not a purpose. “I have a question that I can't get an answer to, and I need to talk to my ancestors.” Or “There's a part of me that I don't understand, and I need to get some clarity.” Or “Someone has come to me with a problem that they need help on and I don't get it.” Or “The land is really sick and I need to understand what to do about it.” These are all good reasons, but not “Hey, maybe something cool is out there and I can talk to it.” No. You might even get fed on, so be careful.