Meditation is a spiritual staple on the path toward becoming more authentic, clear & wise. It is that last part, wise, that concerns the Witch the most, because Witch means 'Wise person.' But we have some pretty odd perceptions & beliefs about meditation here in the west, probably because the concept of meditation originated in the eastern world thousands of years ago.
As a spiritual teacher I hear a lot of people say, "I can't meditate" or "I can't quiet my mind long enough." This has lead me to understand that our western perceptions are faulty on the subject. So it is that I often instruct them to clarify for themselves what the word means to them, if not to everyone in the world.
OM / AUM
For example, I divide meditation into 2 similar but different categories & since I've used the words already, I will use Eastern Practice & Western Practice for clarity. The Eastern approach has many different traditions & techniques associated with it. We consider this from our western perspective to be sitting in Lotus Position for hours, chanting or sitting silently. No wonder we think this is impossible in the west. Who has that kind of time to sit in silence? When my students really balk at the idea, I refer them to the 2nd category I am describing next.
Western Practice is just as huge in its derivations, though not as ancient obviously. Hypnosis, Silva Mind Control, Guided Imagery, Pathworking & the extremely popular Creative Visualization are all forms of what I consider meditation born in the west. Even spacing out watching TV or listening to music fits into this category. So I have found a decent definition that bridges both east & west.
Meditation is essentially focusing the mind, not essentially stopping it from thinking. The nature of the mind is to think, so stopping it from doing its job isn't exactly the goal. Rather it is about redirecting the mind via focus.
Consider the word contemplation. What happens when you contemplate something, anything? You focus your mind upon it to the exclusion of other stimuli inside or outside of the self.
2 cats contemplating my laptop, on my lap
Granted, as a culture, we're not so contemplative in the west. We're more impulsive. Yet some of my strongest & most inspired impulses came after a period of focus via some form of meditation eastern or western. I have studied & practiced forms on both sides & even experienced some which really bridge both worlds.
What does this have to do with the Witch & Witchcraft as a spiritual path & practice? Well, just about everything. Keep in mind, I'm not bound by a tradition in my spiritual practice. I'm a proud Eclectic Witch, picking & choosing what works for me as I go along my Wisdom Path, which is what Witchcraft is.
I have sat for hours in silence, visualized, been hypnotized & even chanted myself to bliss using both Sanskrit & English words. I've followed my breath, counted from 1 - 10 over & over, as well as studied The Ishaya's Ascension, probably the most simple & effective form I have ever experienced.
But like anything else I do, I like to mix it up. There's no doubt now that the benefits of meditation are more than spiritual. It has been shown to have immediate beneficial effect on our physiology, mental health & emotional balance. It has been studied, a lot, even by scientists & the medical profession to the point where it is recommended in a general way for our healing in all areas of life.
The best part of being an Eclectic Witch is that I sample most of them sooner or later. Like a new pair of shoes, they don't always feel 'normal' at first. If I'm trying to achieve a specific goal, like bliss or clarity, I often find myself disappointed at first try. Just like new shoes, I need to walk in them for awhile. Leading me to a brilliant quote that I learned from Caroline Myss, one of my favorite long distance teachers...
"Seek not perfection. Seek only practice."
But here in the west, we demand so much perfection that we exclude the idea of gradual practice to achieve our goals both inner & outer. But I find, in time, that those new shoes loosen up & comfort comes the more I practice any form of meditation.
Here is my advice to anyone, Witch or not, about meditation: try a bunch of them. Shop around & find a handful of both eastern & western forms. Browse YouTube videos, as there are tons of them on there. Read the classics both ancient & contemporary. I've been teaching & leading meditation for decades & I'm still discovering new forms that really work for me.
I've even tried the 21 day meditation challenges presented by Oprah Winfrey & Deepak Chopra. These are great for me because all I have to do is register, click a button & follow along. Plus, they are FREE!
But as I said, I'm an eclectic, so I weave & wander my way through many techniques, usually blending eastern practice one day & western the next, or sometimes even later in the day.
I love meditation & I don't know how people get through their lives, let alone a day without it. I know I can be a crazy person by noon if I don't start my day without some kind of centering, focusing & yes, even silence.
So, at the time I am writing this, it is the Monday before Thanksgiving 2013. I have to pack a week's worth of work into 3 days so I can take 2 off on Thursday & hopefully Friday. We shall see. But that said, I invite you to join me in slowing down, if even for 15 minutes each day to digest what has already come into our systems & let it settle so we can make room for the new.
In this, it is my intention to launch myself peacefully into the rush of the Holiday Season with all of it's chaos by being a centered, clear & focused as I can be, little by little as I practice my way daily toward eventual perfection.
Blessed Be & Blessed Thanksgiving