Meditation for Beginners
Meditation is a good first step along almost any spiritual path,
including Witchcraft and the other shamanic and nature-worship
It isn't terribly hard, and it isn't very exotic. It's a fancy name for
a group of fairly simple activities that are pleasurable as you do them
and carry payoffs regardless of what your eventual religious choices
Let's first take a look at some of the ways regular meditation
anybody, whether they are religious or not:
- Stress reduction: Any excitement, good or bad, sets
off a state
of physiological arousal called stress. It's a good thing in itself,
us to respond quickly and effectively when we need to. But modern life
is a constant series of small excitements, like being startled when the
phone rings, and our arousal level never goes back down to its "resting
state" all day. Mainstream doctors estimate that 50-80% of the diseases
they treat are in some way related to elevated stress levels. Problems
as serious as strokes, ulcers, heart attacks are directly stress
Laboratory experiments have shown that regular meditators go into the
state just like anybody, but when the stimulus is gone, they return to
the resting state much more quickly and completely.
As you can see, all of these benefits are irrelevant to whether you
to pursue the Craft. So even if you should decide that you really
a convent rather than a coven, you will not have wasted your time. But
if you do get into the Craft, you'll soon find yourself doing things
pathworking (guided fantasy), tranceworking, divination, healing. All
these are easier and come more naturally to a mind trained by
- Concentration: Meditation is exercise for the mind,
just as push-ups
and sit-ups are for the body. One of the purposes is to strengthen the
meditator's ability to focus and concentrate on whatever is being done
at a given moment. Eastern meditators excel at martial arts and
because of this ability, while Western ones make surprisingly good
This can't help but be useful, wherever your spiritual or professional
interests may take you.
- Fresh perception: We don't always pay attention to
what comes in
through our senses. We look at the sunset and think about how we
that problem at work earlier or who we expect to see at the party
Or we don't pay attention to all of what comes in through our senses.
need to focus. We watch the traffic and ignore the sunset. But the same
mental control that lets us focus in can, with a little more practice,
let us open up. When it's appropriate, we can just let all the beauty
the sensory world in and revel in it.
A note of caution here: some meditative systems do advocate and train
for withdrawal from the world of the senses, which is seen as a veil of
illusion separating us from absolute bliss. Some physical exercises are
better for tennis and others for swimming, and you choose your training
on the basis of your goal. As worshippers of the manifest Mother Earth,
we know that absolute bliss can be found in the dewdrop on a spider's
- The Peak Experience: A sense of union with All That
by feelings of great joy and peace. A major reward for following any
path, this experience is actually not dependent on being in any
religion. It isn't even dependent on being religious at all. Regular
seems to increase the probability that you'll enjoy this, but
sometimes also have peak experiences. Like orgasm, impossible to
before or to miss afterwards, and very, very good. Try it, you'll like
At this point, it's time to stop talking about it and start
Here are a couple of starting points;
- Body Work: There are many well-developed methods,
and you can probably
find good teachers for things like Tai Chi or Hatha Yoga near your
Right now, here's something much more basic. Start with your right arm
and tense it up. Make a fist, pull it as tight as you can. Hold it for
a few seconds. Then, very suddenly, release it. Let it drop like the
of a rag doll into your lap. Feel the increased relaxation and the
energy flow in your arm. Next time, instead of sitting in a chair with
a book, try the same thing while lying flat on the floor. You'll be
to repeat the process not only in all four limbs, but in most parts of
your body. It's a good warmup for the more mental types of meditation,
or you can use it if you have trouble falling asleep. On a high stress
job, you can do this with just your shoulders while sitting at your
Nobody will notice, and you'll break the stress cycle.
If you are curious about why and how meditation seems to work, I'm
a short reading list. Just remember that the theory is pretty useless
the practice. In other words, don't just read, meditate.
- Breath Counting: Classically, you sit comfortably
for ten or more
minutes, breathe slowly and deeply, and count from one to four, one
for each breath, again and again. If your attention wanders, just bring
it gently back to your slow counting. This calms you and gives you
A Pagan adaptation of this practice would be to think "air, fire,
earth," instead of "one, two, three, four." You can then practice
the elemental colors, or a picture for each element (e.g. hang gliders,
a campfire, breaking waves, a rock face). You will be reinforcing your
attunement to the elements each time.
- Mindfulness: The most basic one. Just observe the
flow of your thoughts
passively. Do not follow your thoughts nor associate to them, just let
them go. The classical visualizations for this are a stream with logs
down it or a pond with bubbles rising slowly to the surface. Again,
will strengthen your power of concentration. It will also increase your
- Contemplation: Choose an object and spend ten
minutes a day simply
looking at it. Don't describe it verbally, don't associate to it, just
look at it. You'll be using the same object for several weeks at a
so choose something that will last, like a rock rather than a flower.
trains your sensory awareness.
One Pagan adaptation would be to use one of your working tools, which
would help you attune to that tool much better. Or, if you want to work
on your visualization, try doing two ten minute periods per day, one
your chosen object and one without.
- Mantra Meditation: This is the form everybody has
heard about. You
choose a short phrase and repeat it to yourself for ten minutes a day.
It trains us to shut up the "inner dialogue" that most of us have going
on at all times, so that we can really listen to each. other or look at
the sunset. Opinion seems to be divided about whether to use a nonsense
phrase or one of special personal significance.
Brief Reading List on Meditation
Johnson, Willard. Riding the Ox Home. Boston, Beacon, 1987 More
of the background, history and philosophy, less practical advice for
meditatiors. I particularly love this book for its presentation of the
"ox herding" pictures, a traditional series of illustrations of the
LeShan, Lawrence. How to Meditate: a Guide to
Boston: Little Brown, 1999.
The most important source for this article. Dr. LeShan is a practicing
psychotherapist, a student of parapsychology, and a teacher of
and psychic healing. Very down to earth and practical approach.
published in 1974.
Mariechild, Diane. Mother Wit: A Feminist Guide to Psychic
Trumansburg, N.Y.: The Crossing Press, 1981.
Much of the best Pagan materials have been coming out labelled "for
women." Men are either going to have to adapt this stuff for
as women have done for years, or deprive themselves of excellent
like this book. A cookbook -- many, many exercises --and a fine one.
Rush, Anne Kent. Getting Clear: Body Work for Women
Random House, 1973.
Watts, Alan. Meditation. New York: Pyramid, 1974.
As above not really just for women. An excellent summary of body
exercise, breathing, massage, nutrition and more. Gentle feelings.
More poetic than informative, but too beautiful to leave off the list.
This one is for the flavor.