In recent years meditation has become much more popular – it is no longer the preserve of initiates, or those who have dedicated themselves to the esoteric life. It is open to everyone. And everyone seems to have a different way of doing it.
And a different definition of what it is!
Put ‘What is Meditation’ into google and you will get 368million results!
This is both a good thing, and a bad thing. Its good that this timeless magical technique is now easily accessible, so that the earnest seeker can reap the benefits of including it in their magical practice. Its good that millions of people everyday are able to reduce stress, increase their health, and become more focused and productive through just 5 to 10 mins of meditative exercises.
If you have not yet been sold on the benefits of mediation take a look at my previous blog “10 Reasons you should Start Mediating today”. Its a pretty good summary of why the widespread availability of meditation is an excellent thing.
But its also a bad thing, especially for us as Magical Practitioners. Endless books on mindfulness and endless you tube videos of ‘guided meditations’ have blurred the boundaries of what meditation is and the type of meditation which is most useful to you as witches and magicians. It also tends to give the impression that this is something to dip in and out of, something that is easy and requires little to no effort.
So when you try it and you don’t achieve Zen Master status an hour later its easy to give up. To relegate the book to the growing pile of things you’ll get round to learning later.
Because, be under no illusion. Meditation is simple, and its effects are profound. But it is not easy. Its hard work which requires dedication and consistency. But if you will let me, I’ll try and walk you through the maze and help you make sense of it all.
The popular images of Zen Buddhist meditators show us people who have spent a life time in study and practice to reach what appears to be perfect silence and peace, in a perfectly focused mind. Its never easy to start a new practice when you feel you are 10 or 20 years away from mastering it and making a difference.
But just 10 minutes of meditation practice today will mean better sleep TONIGHT.
Even if that 10 minutes feels like failure.
Even if your mind wanders constantly for 10 minutes.
Because its not failure. Its what meditation is!
In this post I am going to break it down into simple steps – and there are just three of these to master today!
Before we get to those steps let set some background. A little understanding goes a long way in learning something new.
There are many good reasons to meditate – I’ve already linked to my previous blog on the subject – but there is one overriding reason why I think every witch, pagan, magician, <insert your own personal magical path label here> should learn to meditate.
It quietens the conscious mind, and creates space within it.
Why is that important? Because when your mind is full, or over-spilling, as it is for much of the day, there is no space for anything else. No space for sub-conscious. No space for super-conscious. No space for spirit to speak to us. No space for the divine to enter.
When your mind is full can you recognise your own voice, and tell it apart from spirit?
When you undertake guided mediations without having mastered the art of making space in your mind, how can you differentiate between your own thoughts and insights and the ‘messages’ which you receive?
For this reason alone meditation is one of the most important magical skills that you can learn. Its a skill I teach every one of my coven students, because once you master it new worlds are unlocked for you. It provides a ‘level up’ to your magical practice which is difficult to put into words and can only be experienced.
Mediation is Experiential – So get ready to experiment!
You could spend weeks reading about mediation. Amazon sell in excess of 50,000 books on the subject. But you cannot approach this as an acedemic training.
Its only when you put the books aside and spend just 5 or 10 minutes putting the techniques into practice that you will reap the benefits. In this article I will explain some techniques, and give some pointers and guidance. But I cannot explain or describe the results. My very best efforts at wordsmithing would be a pale comparator to your experience, and it would benefit you not one jot!
This is true no matter how badly you think you have meditated, or how new you are to meditation. In fact in the earliest days we often see the biggest strides in benefits.
The benefits you will see from 10 minutes of your mind constantly wandering and being pulled back are huge. And no beautiful prose composed by me – or any meditation author – will even come close. One adds to the noise in the mind, and one begins to train the mind to clear it away for more important matters.
So I ask you to make one commitment. Once you have read this article you will find just 5 minutes at some point today to implement the three steps I recommend.
Is that OK?
Can you find that 5 minutes?
Types Of Meditiation
There are many different approaches to mediation – but they broadly fall into two categories, Active and Passive meditations. But both are steps along a longer process to reaching silence and space within the mind.
Within these broad categories you find breath meditation, mantra, image focus, tattvas, transcendental, mindfulness, progressive relaxation, loving kindness…. I could go on and one and baffle you with options.
But you first need to understand what I mean when I talk of meditation.
Lets start with what it is not. I have already indicated that I am not talking about what is popularly termed ‘guided meditation’. This is not to diminish its importance, or its use to a witch – far from it! Creative Visualisation or Pathworking , as it is also known is another key strand to our work. But I recommend this is approached after you have some experience with meditation under your belt.
Its also not contemplation. It’s understandable the this has become the common definition – after all the work meditation stems from the Latin ‘meditat’ – to have contemplated, or ‘meditari’ to measure. Its not a terrible description, it simply only tells half the story. Contemplation is a step along the road to meditation, and if this is as far as you ever got its further than many ever will. But you need to know its know the whole story.
I’m going to turn to some wiser folk than me for some help with definitions – each adds something new to our understanding and taken together will provide a shared understanding of what we are dealing with.
Now let me clarify for a moment what I mean by meditation, because meditation can mean plenty of things. The word itself is defined only as “to engage in mental exercise for spiritual purposes,” which covers a lot of ground. So while technically kneeling in prayer, doing Tai Chi, or lying on the bed and listening to Enya could be considered meditation, they are not what I mean by meditation. What I mean by meditation is process for alleviating the grasping at thoughts and cutting through mental distractions through single pointed focus.
Jason Miller, The Sorcerer’s Secrets
We can penetrate far into the Unseen by means of meditation. Occult meditation is a combination of the two methods of free association and directed reverie; it begins with free association, starting with an idea which is known to have been derived from the Inner Planes by the operation of the Higher Consciousness (that is why such books as the Voice of the Silence are so valuable for meditation), and passes over, or should pass over, into directed reverie; the secret of success lies in keeping the mind steadily on its plane and subject, but leaving it free within the limits of that subject; an operation which requires considerable experience and skill.
Dion Fortune, What is Occultism?
Most English dictionaries will define meditation as some form of contemplation. The two words are seemingly almost synonyms. Thus, those teachers who equate meditation with contemplation would have you simply look at an object, listen to a sound, or contemplate a thought and call it meditation. It is not. Meditation as it really exists is derived from an Eastern idea based not on contemplation, but silence—the silence of the mind.
Donald Michael Kraig, Modern Magic
These quotes define the end game of meditation – they define where we are heading. If only for a few moments at a time. But there are steps along the way (and remember just 3 steps today!)
Those three steps are:
1) Sit comfortably and relax.
2) Notice your breathing
That’s it! That’s the basics of meditation.
It’s not ALL there is to meditation but its all we need now. These steps will deliver huge results if you keep repeating them. In fact I only got this far for over a year when I started and I still saw increasing benefits everyday and made massive magical progress.
So lets break it down even further. Lets take each step at a time and really understand what we are going to do.
Sit Comfortably and Relax
There are hundreds of variations for meditation positions, and it will take a while to find the right one for you. But today I want you to chose between just 2:
1. Sat upright on a dining chair
2. Sit on the floor in some variation of crossed legs (remember how we used to sit at primary school?!).
The photos on the left should give you an idea, but in each option you are aiming for a relaxed but straight spine and a position you can maintain without movement for about 10 mins.
A small meditation cushion can make sitting on the floor easier and more comfortable. Or sitting on an incline (literally a hillside!) just takes the pressure off slightly increase comfort in the early days.
I don’t recommend the kneeling position unless you have experience sitting like this as it tend to get uncomfortable quite quickly!
Place your hands on your knees. Experiment with palm up or down, see what feels right for you.
Next I want you to consciously relax your muscles. You might just perform a quick body scan noticing tension and correcting your posture to remove it. Or you might use the exercise given in my free e-book Starting Witchcraft. Or any other technique you are familiar with.
Notice Your Breathing
Once you are sat comfortably you might like to close your eyes. Reducing one of your senses out of the equation tends to make it easier to turn inwards.
Then take your attention to your breathing.
I don’t want you to change your breathing at all just notice it.
Feel the air coming into your body and leaving it. Just be aware of it for a few moments.
If your breathing is deep and slow – that’s fine. If its faster and shallow – that’s fine.
You are not trying to achieve anything but being aware of how your breath feels and moves your body.
Again there are many many choices you could make here, but I’m going to make it simple again. You only have 2 choices!
Choose either your breath or a short phrase to focus on.
The phrase might be from a book which inspires you or you want to understand better. A favourite of mind is ‘the leaves of the tree are for healing’. (Its from the bible, but it also has many magical meanings). Any short phrase that resonates with you is fine.
You might like to choose one from this handy download I’ve prepared for you – 50 Meditation Focus Phrases.
Whatever you chose move your attention to it now. If you chose the breath you simply carry on with holding your attention on your breath, but try and hold it in one place. Perhaps your nostrils where the air enters and leaves. Or perhaps the rise and fall of your chest/stomach area.
If you choose a phrase simply hold it lightly in your mind – allowing thoughts to rise and fall away. Notice connections which are made and let them pass. Turn it around in your mind and view it from different perspectives, but keep your focus on this phrase and its meanings.
If your mind wanders from the breath or the phrase just gently bring your attention back to your focus.
Don’t worry or judge the Wander! Just bring it back. This is all part of the process.
In fact it is success – noticing the wander is magical development in action! Or as Joseph Goldstein says:
Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind.
So just return and continue your focus. Aim to spend around 5 minutes on this at first – you can lengthen it as you progress but the goal is not hours and hours of meditation its about building habits. About creating calm that’s sustainable.
Better 5 mins every day for the rest of your life than 2 hours every day this week and then never again!
You may wish to set a timer to let you know when the session is over, but I personally dislike this – it jolts me unnaturally out of meditation. In the beginning I used to sit near a clock, so if I felt time had elapsed I could gently open an eye to check and when I found I had only been focused for mins it was easy to return.
When you have finished take a few deep breaths. Move your toes, fingers slowly – then arms and legs, gently returning to your body and being back in the room
Common Questions and Difficulties
When Should I meditate?
The best time to meditate is when you can fit it in! When you will stick to it, and when the outside world will distract you least! You’ll hear many people say first thing on a morning is best – but if this is when you are battling a screaming child and a school run, or you start work at 6am and already get up before 5 then I’m going to give you a free pass and ay ‘try lunchtime’.
The reason for morning is it said you are closest to the sleeping state when your mind is naturally connected to other states of consciousness. But what is important is consistency. What is important is keeping your new practice up. So chose the right time for you.
Do be careful with bedtime though – when you are tired mediation can be a nice feeling, but falling asleep during meditation can leave you feeling ‘out of it’ and not properly refreshed. For this reason I recommend you never meditate in bed. (Unless you are trying a specific technique and you are VERY experienced of course!!)
How Long should I meditate for and how often?
Again consistency. Short and regular has much bigger results than a few hours once a week or once a month. Ideal time to work up to is 20 minutes – to include time to get ready for the meditation, the meditation itself, and to jot any quick notes you want to take afterwards.
In the future you might extend this, but it won’t necessarily provide better results so don’t stress about it.
Where should I meditate?
Once you are experienced you can meditate ANYWHERE. My favourite place is to meditate on the train to London. But to make life easier in the first few weeks try and reduce distractions as much as possible.
Somewhere quiet, warm but not hot, somewhere you feel safe and relaxed, and somewhere you are unlikely to be disturbed. I’ve already said not in bed, but if possible not in the bedroom at all. Meditation starts to work with various subtle energies which leave traces that can disturb sleep.
What if I feel ‘spaced out’ afterwards.
Following these 3 steps above should not leave you feeling spaced out. But if you do then my best advice is to eat something – a small piece of chocolate, a bite of bread, or a cup of plain builders tea with a little sugar are all perfect. This will help you to ‘ground’ or to literally return to the earth plane. If this doesn’t work take your shoes off and get outside bare foot. All the better if its cold or raining – don’t wrap up and the grounding will be even quicker!
I can’t do it. My mind wanders too much.
I’m glad you noticed your mind wandering. You are doing it right! Keep it up.
I know this was a long post – so well done getting here! There is so much to learn about meditation, so many ways to approach it, and there is no right way or wrong way. The best way to meditate is the way which you meditate!
Not the way which promises the best results but you never get around to.
The suggested starting points and 3 steps suggested here are just that – suggestions on a solid way to begin your practice, that you can repeat over and over. You can change the phrase, you can move your attention to where in the body you focus on the breath. You could use introduce another type of focus – such as an image. But the basics are the same.
Once you have got these cracked we’ll start to look at the next few steps – moving us closer and closer to the elusive silence. Closer to the space in the mind which allows spirit to enter. Closer to the recognition of your voice and their voice. Closer to Magic.