Meditation is a word that most of us have heard in reference to spiritual practices. The trouble is that most of us think it applies to someone else. When we first hear the word, many of us imagine bald-headed monks, the wearing of scarlet and saffron robes, or the chanting of mantras high in the mountains of Tibet to the sound of gongs. BONG! Is that what you think? Then you’re wrong.
Witches worth their broom-bristles know how to meditate. If you are new to the Craft or to mystical practices in general, you have probably never learned this skill. It’s time you hunkered down to the zafu (a meditation cushion, see Day 10 for method) and learned how to do it. It is an important mystic art as well as a basic staple of magical doings. Aside from the fact that regular meditation can lead to profound insights and life-changing understanding, it also has its more mundane uses. It helps you to relax; it promotes good sleep, better concentration, and improved overall health. It almost sounds too good to be true!
There are probably as many ways to meditate as there are words written on this page. Each style of meditation has common elements yet each requires a unique approach. Some common elements of all meditation techniques are that they all can lead to both personal and universal insight, and each requires focused attention. Here are some of the ways that meditation techniques are distinctive and unique.
Meditation techniques that come to us from the East – in particularly from China, Japan, and India – lead the practitioner toward physical and mental stillness. Once you learn to intentionally still the associative, rational, and cognitive churnings of the mind, you begin to experience multidirectional consciousness. In other words, you align your internal world of perceptions with the external world, and form a single unifying reality. The result is that one is able to perceive the unity of life and the imminence of deity.
Eastern styles of meditation do not require that you create mental stillness by blocking out your thoughts. Instead, they suggest that you observe your thought processes in a detached way. In other words, you should allow your thoughts to exist naturally, but try not to engage in any of them. Some specific techniques include recitation of mantras, focusing attention on the breath, or focusing one’s vision on an object like a candle flame. Although this type of meditative practice can be difficult for some Westerners, its devotees refer to it as “the quick path” to spiritual empowerment.
In the West, we have television timing. We like action – and lots of it. Westerners also like to think of the world in terms of scientific truths and objective reality. We tend toward thinking in straight, logical lines rather than in endless Eastern loops. We feel comforted whenever we can understand the logic behind point A leading directly to point B. We believe that time is valuable and that it can be wasted. Of course, none of our ideas about the world are truth-in-fact, but since they are part of the culture in which we live, they do influence our meditative style.
Like our Eastern counterparts, the goal of the Western style of meditation is that of bypassing the critical thinking mind and its processes. But instead of doing so with stillness, it accomplishes the same task with activity and imagery. We like to see and hear things in our meditations, so Western styles of mediation often include what is known as guided imagery. A guided imagery meditation is something like a controlled, planned dream through which someone else leads you. Guided imagery meditations work to evoke some response from you at a deep mind level. Examples of guided imagery include using your imagination to envision world peace or imagining a healing golden glow that surrounds and nurtures you.
Exercise: Meditation Temperaments
To assess which style suits you best, consider the following questions:
- Do you like your life to be perfectly organized or do you not mind a bit of chaos?
- Do you respond to most queries with action or with contemplation?
- Are you active and mobile, or are you laid back and sedate?
- Do you believe that every question has a definite, logical answer, or do you think that questions can sometimes beget more questions?
- Are you naturally internally focused or externally focused?
- Are you naturally patient or not?
- Are you strong willed, decisive, and direct? Or are you easy going and more indirect in your approach to people and tasks?
Consider your answers and decide which style might be best suited to your temperament before you begin with the meditation exercises tomorrow. Individuals who consider themselves to be organized, action-oriented, mobile, and logical might try the Western types meditation techniques. Those of you who see yourselves as laid back, contemplative, less active, and nonlinear might try the Eastern meditation methods.