Meditation and Magick

Meditation and Magick
Meditation has been part of magick for thousands of years in one form or another. But in the last century or so with Paganism and other magickal lifestyles becoming more popular confusion has arisen as to what exactly mediation is. This has lead to it being confused with focus, attention, and concentration, all of which are ways of using the mind, while meditation is a way of relaxing it. Perhaps the biggest confusion today exists between meditation and concentration, with many people thinking that being able perform feats such as being able to hold an image of a candle flame in their mind for ten minutes or more to the exclusion of all else means that they have attained a deep level of meditation. They haven’t, but they have developed an impressive level of concentration, which is focusing the mind. Meditation is about relaxing and refreshing the mind while focusing the mind takes mental effort, as anyone who has tried the candle exercise will know, or can tell you.

On the other hand meditation encompasses both inner and outer worlds and relaxes the mind when done correctly, but the important difference between meditation and concentration must be understood. A good example of this comes from the world of martial arts training. Many years ago at a Ninpo seminar I was talking to a practitioner of Chi Na, a style of Kung Fu incorporated into many different systems, which emphasises grappling. The talk drifted into the area of attention and awareness.

“When I trained in Hong Kong as a kid” He said “The teacher used to ask things like ‘Who here has noticed that it is raining outside?’ and the kids who put up their hands were punished”

“So anyone who progressed in that class learned to not notice anything happening outside the training hall, or lie if they did?” I said mildly “Doesn’t sound very practical to me.”

He frowned “At the time we were told it was to focus on the lesson. But now you put it that way…” He tailed off looking worried

“That’s the difference between awareness and concentration. It sounds like the system you were training in was an indoor style, with its focus on outcome. Rather than a more lifestyle oriented system such as Ninpo in which all round awareness is emphasised” I explained

In Magick meditation is used to still the mind and enhance awareness of the inner worlds. First of the psyche, then of the gateway to other realms beyond it. In the early days of practicing meditation many people experience distractions on many levels as their mind tries to compensate for what it believes is the consciousness appearing to shut down. Systems such as the ones using mantras or mandalas attempt to overcome or bypass this with constantly repeating a simple phrase or sound, while looking at a mandala is supposed to give the conscious mind something to do. In the early stages this can work very well, but the image or sound usually has to be transcended in order to make the mind a blank canvas.

I was taught to meditate using a number of techniques, from this I found three that worked for me. The first was to sit comfortably and just be aware of my thoughts and breathing without influencing them. The only inner comment acceptable was “Did I really just think that!” at some of the weirder or more extreme images and thoughts as they passed by me like a bus on a road or a twig in a stream. The second method was to use a brief visualization as a ‘bridging technique’ to clear the mind by imagining an empty pool lined with tiles, then a fountain springing up in the centre of the pool filling it with clear water. As the pool filled the tiles receded (or faded away) leaving clear water stretching away to infinity in all directions, clearing the mind as it did so. A variation of this I was taught was to imagine muddy pond with waves on the surface. As you focused on your breathing the waves calmed, the water cleared, and the bottom of the pond became visible. Then, as with the fountain exercise, the sides and bottom of the pond faded away to infinity leaving clear water.

At first glance these methods seem relatively easy, but they’re not. Even on the physical plane the brain is divided into competing neural networks. They have a place in the decision making aspects of our life, and many people spend their entire lives being unaware of their existence. But when we begin to meditate and turn inwards mentally they come into abrupt focus. From sensory impressions to long forgotten memories, each can clamour for attention once the mind is turned inward. Sometimes an attempt to “entertain” itself this mental static can manifest to the meditator in the forms of apparent visions of Deities, The Otherworld, and other planes of reality.

There’s an old joke in one of the Tibetan systems of spirituality that goes like this:
A novice enters into senior monks quarters full of excitement, runs up to the his meditation instructor and says “Bhante Kassapa! I just had the most amazing experience! While I was meditating I suddenly found myself before the Buddha and all the Gods and Goddesses in the Celestial Realm! It was wonderful! I saw the past and the future, all things were revealed to me! What shall I do now?”

His instructor looks at him, smiles, and says “Keep meditating. Pay no attention to the visions and they will go away.”

This emphasises the idea of non-attachment in meditation. Be aware of the inner and outer world as you meditate but do not focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others. Many Pagans take up meditation with the idea that they will develop ‘superpowers’ not understanding that meditation is about being aware of yourself and refreshing your mind. The energies you may sense or encounter in meditation can be noticed, but put aside to examine later. But concentrating on them while you are supposed to be meditating is like just looking at one leaf on a tree. If you just concentrate on the leaf you miss the tree, and possibly the forest too.

Meditation helps condense your sense of self, harmonises the mind, and refreshes the practitioner. Later on in ritual, spell work, divination, and working with Divinity, you need self-awareness to know the difference between an internal archetype and external energies/entities. For people who are natural telepaths and empaths meditation helps build up their boundaries by helping them become aware of their true self. This is important as these abilities can leave their possessors with a poor sense of self and difficulty in discriminating between their own ideas and emotions and someone else’s. They can learn where the sensitive areas of their psyche are during meditation and take action to manage them with other techniques outside of the meditative state. Then check again during a later meditation to see how they are getting on. As their self-knowledge improves so does their control over their ability. For people wanting to develop these skills reversing the aforementioned example can also be helpful.

One of the best descriptions I have heard of the benefits of meditation is that it is like coming home. This is a very useful analogy because as it is a mental state you always have your home with you. As one Yorkshire witch at a Moot I was at in Leeds said “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits. That last part is me, meditating.”

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