This month the theme for the Cauldron Blog Project is doorways. January is named for Janus, who is God of beginnings and transitions, of doorways and portals, who is often depicted with two faces, one facing forward and one looking to the past.
I was watching a show a while back on the way the mind works, and it was testing people and how well they payed attention to the world around them. I have seen several examples of this little trick, but this one had a person at a desk (like a check in desk at a hotel), who would be talking with someone, then they would drop a pen, and duck down (so they were completely out view of the person they were talking to). A completely different person would stand up with the pen and keep up the conversation as if nothing had happened.
The amazing (and somewhat scary) thing is that most people don't notice the difference, even if something drastic changed (like a man bending down and a woman coming back up). This happens because of the way our brains register doorways.
The brain thinks about a room as a completely separate place, with it's own set of memories. When you pass through a portal (in the case of the example, the desk acts as a doorway: creating a separation between what happened before the person ducked below and afterward), your brain expects things to be different. It's kind of like a reset button.
It doesn't have to be a physical door either. Studies have shown that a character walking through a virtual room in a video game has the same effect.
This effect also explains why sometimes we get up to go get something from another room, walk into that room and can't remember what we went in there to get. The bad news is that even going back to the original room doesn't help us recall what we forgot!
At first glance, this all seems horribly inconvenient. And yet, there are a ton of ways we can use this knowledge to our advantage. Firstly, if you know you have something important to remember in another location that you absolutely don't want to forget....write it down!
But consider this approach when it comes to casting circle. When we cast a circle, we are creating a room within a room. We acknowledge this when we cut a door in the circle for any reason. But even the act of casting circle sets the area within apart from the rest of the room. This has a real impact on our brain. In a very real way, our brain sees that inside area, our circle, as a different space, not of the room anymore, but it's own room. The things we do in circle are removed from the things we do at other times, even if we cast that circle in the middle of our living room with nothing more than tracing our finger in the air: we are still telling our brain that there is a 'room' there.
I have been blessed enough to have participated in several group rituals, and one thing I always love is when there is a doorway to the circle, both on entering and leaving. I definitely feel that it gives a weight to the ritual, a sense of otherness. As simple as it is, even just marking the doorway on the ground, helps create that sense of boundary.
We can also take advantage of our tendency to forget things in previous rooms when we do work with our past. If there is an event you want to distance yourself from, old feelings you want to recover from or resentments you want to let go of, you can use the power of doorways to help separate your current self from those older experiences. Use doorways in your visualizations. See yourself in that time and place where the event took place and then walk through the nearest doorway. You can continue walking through doorways as you feel you need to.
You could also use the doorway visual as a way to help new traumas from taking hold. When you feel yourself in a situation that you aren't comfortable with or don't want to deal with, visualize a door between you and whatever is bothering you, and then shut it.
On the flip side, if you are doing guided meditations, and are receiving a message, consider having pen and paper handy to jot down a quick note before you return to your waking mind (since many visualizations involve doorways which might close off that information from you once you have passed through them). Include your journaling as part of the meditation, give yourself a moment or two to draw or write impressions while you are in the moment. It doesn't have to be a deep reflection, you can wait on that until later, but if you have a word or symbol pop into your mind, don't trust that you will remember it when you come out of the meditation.
Taking inspiration from Janus, doorways don't always have to block things out or look to the past. Consider doing meditations into your own future, where you go through a doorway into possibilities. As it is the beginning of a new year, instead of trying to set resolutions to change what we didn't like from the past year, why not take a moment to stand at the doorway to the upcoming year. Look at the door, see what it looks like. How do you feel when looking at it? Then, open the door and step through. What kinds of things do you see? Have paper ready and sketch or write about what you see. Don't think too hard on it, don't try to see what you feel you should see, just let yourself be open and experience what comes to you. Later on you can go back and look at your notes and see what messages you find in them and how that can influence your coming year.
One of my long standing visualizations includes a room with many doors. Some of the doors bring things in, some open to other rooms for specific purposes and still others let me out into different worlds. I have always loved this visualization because it gives me pretty much everything I need in one place. But I never really though much about how I changed when using the doorways. If every doorway leads to a whole new world, then every time you step through a doorway, you have the opportunity to be a whole new you.
I think we tap into this more than we realize. Think about if you have ever paused at a doorway, to gather yourself. Perhaps you were about to enter into a room and meet a bunch of strangers, and you pause to gather courage. Or maybe you were still a teenager, and had done something wrong and knew your parents were waiting just inside the house to talk to you about it. Or you might have even just had a horrible day and you shut the door when you come home and just lean on it for a second, glad to have that doorway between you and the rest of the world. Whatever the reason, that doorway transformed you. The you who was on one side became a different you, embodying different qualities. And though you may have gathered up your intentions before you stepped through, the instant you were in the doorway was when the change happened.