In the private Facebook group for Black Flame Immersion, the topic of meditation came up. A common complaint about meditation, that I’ve heard over the years, is that people tend to either fall asleep or their mind is too active to meditate. While we may not be Buddhists or Hindu’s, those ancient traditions have had success at taming the mind’s many thoughts, and have advice on staying awake during longer engaged meditations.
My Meditation Background
As a teen in the 80’s, the first form of meditation I learned was probably from an occult work like “Modern Magick.” From there I studied many different religions and mystical paths, each offering a variation of the process.
Stripping away the various methodologies to meditation, it is a practice used to either quiet the mind or impart insight. Often both quietude and insight are sought, the former laying the foundation for a clear dissertation of insight.
Insight itself can be broken into Self Analysis or Outside Guidance. Some forms of meditation seek to connect with an outside entity to offer guidance through internal imagery and thought. While other meditations seek insight through a careful and contemplative analysis.
The mundane (non-meditative) mind grapples with life in an often distracted fashion. The mind moves from one topic to the next, staying busy with often useless data. Emotions and subconscious thought are exerting influence over the mind. How often does one react to something and wonder, “why did I just do that?” Why did I snap at my wife, why am I tense with my kids? Why am I avoiding spiritual work?
Those questions are asked in times of reflection. We might wonder why we are the way we are, and this lite form of meditation can give us some insight through careful analysis. Often there is a precursor to our reactions. Something is not right and we might take that out on the wrong person, or stop doing something we had previously set our goal to complete. Whatever the first cause, it is often occluded and it takes much work to discover the problem. Meditation can help with such problems, in fact it’s difficult to meditate until these unresolved situations are acknowledged and understood.
Meditation is not just a therapy. I don’t meditate to be a more productive human. For me meditation is a doorway into another world. A world of finding my true Self. A world of bridging realities from the profane to the eternal.
Even to a Buddhist, the goal of meditation is not to be a better worker, or a happier human. To a Buddhist, Life is Suffering, but the way out is through enlightenment – which is achieved through meditation. This is the case with meditation in ancient cultures. Insight was sought by the shaman through meditation. World’s were bridged by the occult meditator of the ancient world.
It is only modern America that has monetized meditation into a “be more productive” therapy. Being more focused, and more calm is certainly a by-product of meditation, but that isn’t the goal. If it is made the goal, then one simply slips into the promise of modern concepts like Scientology (to make a perfect worker, devoid of sick days, willing to work harder and longer than most). My goals are not in the establishment of this world, but in the betterment of my true Self (that which is beyond the corporeal body).
Quieting the Mind
If the mind is left running amok, then a possibility of contamination will result.
For many, if they were to stop what they’re doing, sit down and “not think” for a moment, they would produce a multitude of thought. After awhile the mind drifts and thinks, “what’s for lunch? How about a sandwich? A sandwich but what should go on it? Mustard? Mustard, what a funny name. Remember Colonel Mustard from the game Clue? I never played the board game but I did see the movie ‘Clue’ in the 90’s. The 90’s, grunge music was popular in the 90’s. Remember Alice In Chains?”
That rambling mind will go nonstop. Kids are like this, but verbally. Every thought, and its tangent is verbalized by children.
The problem with this rambling mind is that it distracts. It also contaminates. Distraction is obvious. How can we hold a thought with clarity if the mind is drifting all over the place? Regarding contamination, if we are seeking guidance and our mind is not still, then the message gets distorted.
Spiritual guidance is very subtle. It’s like listening to a whisper from across the street. If a loud gardener is holding a conversation with your spouse, how can you hear that quiet whisper?
In either case, analysis or guidance, we need a quiet mind.
As an example, in the path of Viapassana, first the mind is quieted (Shunyata). Once the aspirant is capable of quieting the mind, then they do so and apply the Illumination techniques to get inspiration or insight through the meditation process.
With a quiet mind established, one can dig deeper into the goals of insight. At the most mundane level, insight would be self analysis. Questions are asked, “what is my purpose? why am I like this? Why did I react like this today?”
Therapeutic practices like that can help shake out why we are the way we are. An angry outburst may be related to an underlying and unresolved issue with family.
From the Left Hand Path forms of analysis, we might ask questions relating to our nature. What is a person? Are we more than the body? Do we have any experiences that prove this to ourselves? Am I an Individual? Am I subjugating my nature to another person or group?
Truth arrives in the form of Gnosis. Gnosis is an individual’s truth. It isn’t something that others will always relate to. I suppose a good question would be, “how do I know this is true? What if this Gnosis is my subconscious desire and it leads me astray?”
Left Hand Path spirituality should have a goal of guidance to our own true nature. Through practice and repeated self analysis (through meditation or other spiritual practice) we start to understand our deep needs and what feelings and thoughts are Gnosis and what are not.
Beyond practice, there’s a basic idea (in my view) that anyone seeking their true Individuality will not want to be suppressed. Anything (thought or action) that leads to suppression is likely not part of one’s goals – and those things that raise up the Individual Self are certainly in alignment with Left Hand Path spirituality. This can be a test, to determine what is true for you… does the solution in meditation suppress or impress one’s Individuality?
When relating to inner imagery, thoughts and feelings, we are often seeking a guide or guidance from an outside force. With a quiet mind, we can negate some of our own subconscious influence. There may still be contamination, which is why we don’t run off and do whatever pops in.
Any advice needs to be carefully examined before putting it to practice.
When I was following Hekate, I once had the strong feeling of a global pandemic. This was many years ago and I felt at the time, this was my subconscious mind trying to make a story up for my enjoyment (which happens a lot). I dismissed it. Two years later, we have the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be coincidence. Perhaps I was wrong to dismiss what I was given. Such things need to be analyzed before running off into extreme measures. Before changing spouses, houses, jobs or locations, remain grounded and analyze how this advice would affect you as an Individual.
The less clear a decision is on how it would effect my Individuality, the less prone I am to acting on it.
Over many years I’ve heard of common problems with meditation. These problems span every style and are not limited to one practice or another.
I Fall Asleep
I have a copy of Jane Wolf’s diary. She was an actress in her day, and an ardent student of Aleister Crowley. In fact she left her acting career to follow Crowley to Italy and live like a vagabond. She stayed with him until his death, following his advice – much of his advice was detrimental to her, which also goes to showcase the danger of following another’s path completely.
Jane Wolf stated in her diary that she was having a problem meditating late at night. She found herself nodding off to sleep, despite her best efforts to stay awake. Crowley’s response is hand written in the margin of her diary. He basically asks, “Have you tried cocaine?” This is an example of Crowley’s very poor advice. Putting aside Crowley’s advice, stimulants, like coffee, tend to jumble our thoughts and excite them into a furor.
More practical tips would relate to posture and the time of day for meditation.
While some lay on their back to meditate, this often induces sleep. If one’s goal is astral projection or sleep based meditation, it’s perfect. However for analytical or insightful meditation, having an upright spine (and straight spine) can greatly improve the odds we’ll stay awake.
Not everyone can sit in a full lotus, or half lotus posture. This posture however is very good at keeping the mind alert. But it isn’t necessary. One can sit in a straight back chair, with their back away from the back of the chair. Nothing should be touching the spine. If you rest the back against the chair, then the feeling of relaxation might occur. The spine should be free of resting against anything. If sitting in a chair, have the hands either on the knees or folded in our lap.
Time of Day
Regarding the time of day… meditating when our body is very tired will often lead the mind to slumber. Try and keep meditation practices to daytime, or when we are often very alert.
This isn’t practical for all of us. Having kids makes this especially hard.
Having our eyes open helps keep our attention alert. In the Eastern forms of meditation it was common to keep the eyes slightly open. Closing the eyes can impart a feeling of resting or getting ready for bed.
This will impact visualized meditation. It’s very hard to imagine something when our eyes are open, yet it can be done. Dimming the lights can aid in this.
Mindfulness / Awareness
For those seeking to quiet the mind, one form of meditation that won’t induce sleep is Mindfulness. This is called Vivid Awareness in other schools of meditation. Such practices don’t withdraw from he senses, but become more aware of them.
The keyword here is Awareness. Our mundane mind labels things. We don’t want to label in this meditation style. Instead we observe. We are aware of what is happening around us. This awareness is not distracted by labels.
Example: I once was meditating and heard a dog barking. Instead of being distracted with the label “that’s a dog barking,” I observed the nuance of the sound. The beginning of the bark, the change of the bark and the end of the bark.
This type of meditation can be done anywhere. One can even walk in mindfulness. Eat with mindfulness or engage in a conversation with mindfulness. The focus is pulled away from our thoughts of “what to think or say next,” and into the listening and observing of what is going on.
I used to think this was only to quiet the mind. There’s a point where this practice is borderline tedium. The mind will squall with “oh my god, how much more of this must we endure? Isn’t our time up already?” I kept pushing through and had these moments of awareness of the space. I felt I occupied that space and it led to a feeling of “Me” being more expanded than my body.