Meditation: An Instructional Guide for Beginners
Meditation is a cornerstone of any magical practice. For many, the biggest obstacle to developing a good meditation regime and reaping the benefits of it can be getting started. Modern culture inundates us with stimuli in the form of electronic entertainment, distracting gadgets, overcommitting ourselves and more ways to waste time than we can count. It takes time to re-train yourself to still your mind and create a sense of inner calm. A poor understanding of what meditation is further complicates attempts to practice it.
Meditation helps us cultivate a state of mind conducive to ritual, spiritual experiences, psychic development and magical workings. It really is a lot simpler than most beginners think. Here is a brief guide to help you get started.
Learning to Meditate
What Not To Do
Sometimes the best place to start when teaching someone what to is to explain what not to do. When you try to meditate, you should not try to:
- get too comfortable; meditation is meant to be a relaxed state of awareness, but you’re not trying to get so relaxed that you want to fall asleep.
- clear your mind. That’s right; I said don’t try to clear your mind. Sadly this common misconception thrown about, and it’s the very thing that trips up so many beginners. Trying to force your mind to do anything (even to banish thoughts) during meditation is the antithesis to what meditation is supposed to be.
- expect major cathartic events like visions, visitations, astral projection and the like. Sure, they’re things you might work up to and occasionally experience, but really, that’s not what daily meditations are supposed to be about. Putting that kind of performance pressure on yourself is really going to get in the way of your efforts.
What to Do
Along with the caveats, there are a few measures you can take to ensure your efforts are successful. To get started meditating, you should:
- set aside a place that is calm and quiet. Make it a place away from the hustle and bustle of the household, away from windows that face noisy traffic, playing children or barking dogs. It should be a place where you can go for up to 30 minutes at a time, undisturbed, with a comfortable place to sit.
- Plan to meditate regularly. You’ll get the most out of it if you keep up with a consistent routine. You don’t have to start out big– just 5 to 15 minutes each day. You can increase it incrementally as you start to get into the habit, but at most on any given day, you won’t need more than 15 to 30 minutes.
A Basic How-To Meditate Guide:
- Stretch for a couple of minutes. It will help release some tension and let you relax more easily, and will also prepare you for the time about to be spent sitting still.
- Get into a fairly comfortable position. Unless you’re planning to fall asleep, it’s best to sit up with your spine straight. Let yourself sink into the position so you’re not forcing yourself to sit rigidly. You can cross your legs if you’re on the floor, or you can put your feet flat on the floor if you’re sitting on a chair. Lay your hands on your lap.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a deep cleansing breath. Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply (without straining), then let it out your mouth even more slowly and completely. Do this once or twice, then let your breath just fall into a normal, natural rhythm.
- Find something to root your consciousness at the moment. This might be your breath, or your center– that spot behind your navel deep inside. If you’re using soft music, you can focus on that. This root essentially keeps you grounded at the moment. Don’t force concentration on it– simply allow yourself to be aware of it.
- Thoughts and feelings may drift by as you sit there meditating. Let them. You can observe them; be curious about them, but try to remain detached from them. For example, if your mind starts racing with the idea of what you need to do before dinner, or with the anger you felt after arguing with your spouse, don’t get tense. Just observe it, with an attitude of, “Hmmm… look at that.”
- Return your awareness to your root, and let the thoughts and emotions drift by. Don’t engage them or let them carry you away. If you have trouble letting them go, pull a Scarlet O’Hara and tell yourself, “I can’t think about that today; I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Return your awareness to your root.
- If there are any distractions– such as a dog barking or someone in the house drops something, treat them the same way as the thoughts and emotions. Note them, and let them go drift on by. Think of all these things as though you are rooted in the earth, and they are clouds in the sky on a breezy day– acknowledge them if you must but let them just drift past you.
- When you’re ready, take a couple of cleansing breaths and open your eyes. You might want to stretch again.
Keeping Up Momentum
Try to meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes, and whenever you reach your goal try to increase it by a minute or two until you can go for at least 15 minutes. You may have to remind yourself a few times to get into the habit, but meditation as a way of making you feel refreshed, calm and de-stressed; after a while, you might look forward to these sessions. You might even increase to two sessions per day.
You can keep this practice up for the rest of your life if you like and it’s all you need. However, if and when you feel ready, you can move on to other techniques and more advanced methods.