Meditation and Reflection

There are lots of ways to meditate, and there are several reasons to do it. First of all, meditation is like a mental coffee break. It relaxes your body and clears your mind, getting rid of everyday stress and mental clutter. When you take a few minutes to bond with Eternity, your English midterm is put in perspective — which will help you do even better on it, by the way! Meditation is also mental discipline. It’s a way for you to get a grip on your thoughts and emotions, so you control them and not the other way around.

Controlling your mind and will are totally essential to magick. We use techniques very similar to the Eastern styles, but there are also less formal ways to relax your mind and get in touch with your subtle self. Meditation can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. As crazy as it may sound, washing dishes and vacuuming are two of my favorite ways to meditate.

Buddha Monk Master, Take 1

Really stretch yourself out. Tense and release each major muscle group, starting with your feet, working up to your legs, then your trunk, your arms and hands, your neck and head. Breathe deliberately for a few seconds, making sure to expand your chest and belly while you inhale, and compress them completely when breathing out. When you find a comfortable breathing pattern, close your eyes and listen to your breath.

You can try a couple methods for getting into the meditation mindset. Count your breath, listen to it, and keep your mind focused on that. Whenever your mind strays from your breath (and it will, believe me! You’ll start hearing bits of songs in your head; you’ll start thinking about your day. You’ll realize that you’re hungry, your nose itches, your feet feel weird), gently bring your concentration back to the sound of your breath going in and out, counting “one, one, one — two, two, two.”

Buddha Monk Master, Take 2

One technique I found in a wonderful Buddhist source book suggests using an object on which to concentrate. Visual aids can help your mind stay focused. Anything you find interesting will work, and geometric patterns seem to work especially well. Grab a poster, picture — whatever — and tape it to a wall. Set yourself up in front of it, close enough that you can see all the details, but far enough away that you can see the whole image. You can also use a statue, a candle (the first meditation I was taught), whatever you like.

Try it with a big circle. Draw a blue circle on a white sheet of paper. Use a compass or a template to make it as perfect as possible. Tape it up on a wall and sit in front of it. Let your mind focus completely on the circle, and say, “Circle, circle, circle.” Then, close your eyes and picture the circle as perfectly as you can. If you see a shadowy image of it (it should be an orange afterimage, if you used a blue circle), keep your eyes closed and look at the image. Try making the circle appear and disappear on the back of your eyelids. If you don’t see an image when you close your eyes, open your eyes again and continue looking at the circle intently, closing your eyes occasionally until the image appears. This technique helps cleanse your mind of negativity; if your mind is filled with a pure image, there’s no room for anger, jealousy, or hatred.

Guided Meditation

This type of meditation uses audio guidance to take you into a light trance. The goal is to get you into your subconscious, and you’re often instructed to find an object, person, or other symbol that you mentally “bring back” into your waking consciousness. If you do this on a regular basis, the theory is that you create a sacred place in your mind where you can go when you need to recharge your mental battery or wrestle with your issues. I’ve never had much luck with this technique. I had a psychiatrist try to hypnotize me once (very similar to guided meditation), and he said I’m not “suggestible.” You may or may not be suggestible (open to someone guiding you through a series of mental images), but it’s worth a try. Lots of people have good experiences with guided meditation.

Have a friend read the meditation out loud to you, or tape yourself reading it and play it back. Make sure you read it slowly, clearly, and in a soothing voice. Start by counting backward from sixty. While you listen to the voice counting, tense and release each of your muscles, starting with your feet and ending with your face. Lie down, close your eyes, and imagine the scene as vividly as you can.

Moving Meditation

Crazy as it might sound, playing basketball, running, or swimming — any sport, really — can be a meditation. Playing a sport is mindfulness; if you’ve ever played competitively, you know exactly what happens when you get out of the zone: you move badly, you fumble the easiest plays, and you lose the game. Same deal with life in general.

Keep your mind focused on your body’s movements, and don’t let your thoughts stray. Doing something that’s rhythmic, like swimming, running, walking, bouncing a ball, etc., will make this really easy. Just concentrate on the sound you’re making, and make sure to bounce, run, swim, etc., in a definite rhythm.

It’s a Short Walk to Enlightenment

Put on comfortable clothes and shoes, and head outside. Before you get going, stretch a little: bend to touch your toes, straighten up and stretch out your arms, roll your head from side to side, whatever loosens you up and gets you ready to move. Pick a stopping point. Make it a few minutes away, maybe a five or six minute walk. Start your rhythmic breathing, and walk. Time your pace so it creates a rhythm with your breath. As you walk, concentrate only on your breath and step. If you lose your rhythm, stop. Take a moment, calm your breath, concentrate, and get moving again. It helps to look down at the road when you do this — fewer distractions!

The Sound of One Mind Meditating

When you hear different types of music, you probably have very different and obvious reactions. Classical music makes me feel either really relaxed or exuberant, depending on the piece; techno makes me want to dance or trance; punk makes me want to paint my house and overthrow the government (not recommended for meditation!). Find whatever music makes you feel relaxed and focused. Close your door, find a comfy spot, and press play.

You can use the music to practice mindfulness, listening to every nuance. You can close your eyes and see what pictures the music conjures. You can just enjoy the relaxing pleasure of hearing something that speaks to you.

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