Meditation comes in various forms for different purposes. The most commonly known forms of meditation - in the Western world - involve deep breathing and clearing the mind for the purposes of relaxation and stress reduction. This meditation has scientifically proven to bolster health and well-being. Although not necessarily advertised as meditation, breathing techniques common to meditation is now taught through the medical community as HeartMath, in which we use our breathing to help connect heart and mind together. (For more information on HeartMath, see the Institute of HeartMath website.) In Witchcraft, these forms of meditation provide the foundation that lead into other forms of meditation to help seek answers, travel between the worlds, understand life lessons, find guidance, connect with guides, and more.
Basics of Meditation Practice
Always ensure you will be as comfortable as possible. Turn lights low or off or wear an eye mask to help block out light. Make sure the room is of a comfortable temperature. Use blankets and pillows as necessary. Ideally, you will want to be on your back with your arms by your side, but if such a position is uncomfortable or impossible for you, seated in a chair with a back will work. If you desire, you can burn candles or incense or have music playing to help you relax. The idea is to let your mind and spirit do the work while your body simply rests.
Once you have your space set-up and you are positioned comfortably, start focusing on your breath. Ideally, you will want to breath deeply. This involves use of your stomach as opposed to your chest. Chest-breathing is for when we are in fight-or-flight mode. Western society often teaches us to suck in our guts and breathe so our ribs will expand. However, ideal breathing for non-stressful moments in daily life involves the use of our diaphragm. By using this muscle when we breathe, we allow our lungs to fully expand down into the abdomen and filling the chest during inhale and then pushing the air back out completely on exhale.
To practice, breathe deeply through your nose. Feel your abdomen push out followed by the chest as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale through your mouth, feeling the air first leave your chest followed by your abdomen as your diaphragm pushes out any remaining air. If you are uncomfortable with breathing out through the mouth, only do this for the first three deep breaths to help adjust to breathing with your stomach.
Once you have mastered the breathing or feel comfortable moving on, focus on relaxing your muscles. As you inhale focus on a part of your body that is tense and allow that area to release any stress as your exhale. Generally, it is best to start with your head moving down to the feet. For example, consciously relax each part of your body in the following order: head, neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, chest, abdomen, back/spine, hips, pelvis, legs, ankles, feet.
This practice can take anywhere from a couple short minutes to as long as you feel comfortable. If you fall asleep, do not assume failure. When you first learn meditation, the idea is to relax. Falling asleep means you did just that! Once you've mastered breathing and relaxing your body, you can try focusing the mind. One technique is to try to hear and think absolutely nothing, letting any stray thoughts drift away as you become aware of them. Another technique is to focus on any sounds around you without attaching meaning or thought to them; simply listen.
Meditation Used in Witchcraft
As there are differences between the traditions of Wicca and other Witchcraft paths, the type and style of meditation used may equally differ. Meditations can be used in solitary and group settings. They may be guided or resemble shamanic journey in which the sounds of instruments does the guiding. Witches may use meditation for helping to balance chakras, get in touch with their guides, spiritually travel to upper and lower worlds to seek guidance, new perspectives, or answers to a problem. In group meditations, Witches may use guided imagery to help each other connect on a spiritual level or share an experience. Meditation may even be used as a foundation practice in helping other areas of metaphysical study and development such as psychic skill development, astral traveling, visualization, creative thinking, and so forth.
The following example meditations may be used to get you started. Keep in mind that many traditions and meditation practices exists for various purposes. As you continue to study, be sure to look into these other techniques and see whether or not they are appropriate to integrate into your practice.
Grounding and Centering Meditation Practice
Grounding and centering can be performed a number of ways, including meditation. Here you can use symbolic associations to help you release negativity and come into your center. In this example, we will use water, but you can use any elemental associations or other imagery that works for you - earth imagery is particularly useful for grounding and centering. Start off with your basics of meditation with breathing and relaxing.
Next, imagine yourself standing in a stream. Feel the water on your feet, hear the sounds of nature around you, see the plants at the water's edge. Taste the moisture-rich air and smell the wet ground. Notice any tension or negativity you feel and see it appear on your skin. Look up the stream and follow it until you find yourself standing before a small waterfall. Step into the falling water and watch as the dirt and grime is wiped away. Feel the negativity leave every part of your body, both inside and out, and flow down the stream where it dissipates and returns to the earth for renewal. Continue until you feel completely free of negative energy.
As you step from out of the waterfall, feel the sun shining on you and the water again at your feet. Feel the positive energy streaming from the rays of the sun and the water playfully running across your feet and the surrounding rocks below. Allow the positive energy to fill your body and fill the gaps left from washing away the negativity.
When you feel calm, positive, and focused, return to part of the stream you began and end the meditation. As you open your eyes and begin to move your body, you should feel grounded and centered and ready for any working.
Shamanic journeys differ from a Witch's meditation between worlds in that it's comparatively simpler. Journeys involve use of an instrument, usually a drum, rattle, or singing bowl. There is no guided imagery or words. The practitioner simply allows the sound of the instrument to take them into a meditative, somewhat hypnotic, state where their spirit is taken on a journey. They are often met by an animal guide or other spirit to take them on the journey. Although a practitioner may have a question or situation in mind, the journey does not come with a specific intent such as what he or she will do or say or where he or she will go. This lack of detailed intent in journey is what allows the practitioner to completely transcend the rules and laws of the physical world as we know it and opens up more possibilities and perspectives.
Some journeys involve work on this plane, while others involve the upper and lower worlds. Anything that would involve helping to change things or see a new perspective on things on the earth as we know it is done on this plane. However, far more common are journeys to upper and lower realms. The upper world is considered brighter, more direct and straight-forward. It's a place to go for concrete answers or perspectives using rational, logical, reason, left-brained thought. The lower world is often thought of as more dense and dark but earthy. Some answers here are presented more as riddles as a kind of "here's what you need to know, now go figure it out for yourself" approach. Which realm is right will depend on the need for the journey at the time.
As a Witch becomes proficient in his or her meditation practice, meditation starts to resemble these shamanic journeys. However, it is common for Witches to maintain a practice of guided imagery to take them to the world they are going to and intent is usually less vague. For example, Witches may meditate to meet with a particular spirit guide, seek healing, reach out to someone on the spiritual plane that they cannot - for whatever reason - on the physical plane, perform spells on a different plane of existence, seek out the mysteries associated with a particular deity, meet their ancestors, confront their Shadow, and so forth.
Journey-Style Meditation Practice
To do a journey-styled meditation, start with the basics of breathing and relaxing. To help you slip into a deeper level of consciousness, countdown backwards from a number of your choice. Some hypnosis-based traditions say to do this once starting with 100 down to 1. Others will do so twice starting with 12 or 13, clearly visualizing the number the first set and then simply counting the second set. The first set helps you to focus and enter a meditative state and the second set allows you to let go of preconceived expectations and limitations as you slip into a deeper consciousness. After this, the music will guide you.
For this example, we will use the imagery of a hallway. Experiment with other imagery such as a special inner temple, slowly drifting on clouds, the World Tree of Norse mythology, paths in the woods, tunnels in caves, etc. As you complete your countdown, see yourself stepping into a large hallway with three doors. Take note of the hallway. How does it look? How does it make you feel? Go through each of the senses taking note of the energy of the place. This is your portal. Depending on what your intent for this meditation is, you may already know which door to walk through. If you are unsure, take your time and sense the one you are meant to walk through. One door will keep you on the Earth plane or "middle" world. Another will take you upwards to the upper worlds while the third will take you down to the lower worlds.
Once you have walked through the door, follow the path until you come to the end. You may be met by a spirit guide here or you may have to wander a bit. This is where the guided imagery ends. From here out, it is a matter of where you are taken or want or need to go.
Whether the music is prerecorded or someone is there playing, you will notice a sudden shift in the beat when it is time for you to head back. Do not fret if it feels you've been in the meditation for only a couple minutes or a few hours. Time in this space is not the same as it is on the earth plane. The usual journey or journey-styled meditation lasts anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, but is rarely felt as the actual length.
Take whatever way back is easiest for you until you are standing again in the hallway. Leave the hallway just as you stepped into it in the beginning. Be sure to count in the reverse manner as you did before. If you counted down once from 100, count up to 100. If you counted down twice from a different number, count upwards to that number twice. In the latter case, on the first upward count, allow your mind to come back to the waking world. Allow thoughts and sounds to be experienced freely (so long as you are concentrating on the counting). On the second set, begin moving fingers, toes, muscles, and open your eyes as you reach the end.
© 2014 by Evylyn Rose
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