In part I, I went over some aspects of meditation in general, as well as some of the common blockers. As there are many styles of meditation, I didn’t dig deeply into practice, but kept it general as to goals.
In part II, I’ll mention a few meditation practices I picked up along the way.
Focusing the Mind
In part I, I talked about two types of meditation. One type is the process of quieting the mind. This in itself can be a full meditation. The goal of this type of mental focus, is to quiet the noise of the mind. In stillness of thought, a foundation is created, from which spiritual effort can produce a clearer message and result. More specifically, this quiet mental foundation, is necessary for Self Analysis, Insightful guidance, or even magical operations.
A common form of general meditation is to assume a position that will keep the body awake. In the East, the idea of energy flowing through the body was central to one’s posture. Sitting in full or half lotus positions would keep an erect spine, relaxed shoulders and the hands would rest on the knees or in one’s lap.
Such a position locks the body into a position that makes fighting less likely and one’s mental state is more aware. There is a problem with this posture, for many it is far too challenging to attempt as an adult. Often there is too much attention put on the posture and I don’t want to convey that. The purpose of the posture is only to help keep the mind alert, and not nodding off to sleep.
The diagrams above come from the White Wind Zen community. Zen is a specific style that focuses the mind, awaiting the flash of Lightning, that proverbial notion of direct Insight. To sit in Zazen, one would need two things: a Matt and a zafu. The Zafu is a little pillow on the Matt. The meditator sits on the Zafu with their legs / knees coming down in front of it, to the Matt.
Zen has a very specific style. While I’ve not been a member of a Zen community I did attempt Zen meditation off and on. I won’t pretend to be an expert, so I’d rather encourage the reader to seek out White Wind Zen, or other Zen communities for details on their practices.
My first taste of Buddhism came in 2004, when I became a Buddhist under a Tibetan lineage. They too encouraged us to sit in either a full or half lotus posture. For me, I preferred the less restrictive Half-Lotus.
While the body is set with an erect spine, head straight – but slightly tilted down, shoulders are relaxed to drop down, the tongue is relaxed – the tip of the tongue resting on the top of the mouth.
When meditators came to America in the 50’s, they started a movement that introduced meditation practices to a new audience. Paramhansa Yogananda started the Self-Realization Fellowship and with that organization introduced a posture for Westerners.
The basics of this posture, is to sit on the edge of a chair, so that your back doesn’t rest against the back of the chair. Hands can be on the knees or folded in one’s lap. Feet are flat on the floor. This removes the obstacle of a challenging posture, while still offering some method of staying alert.
Eyes Closed or Open
In Zen and other forms of Buddhist meditation, the general practice (especially for calming the mind) is to keep the eyes open. Generally the eyes are kept open as small slits, looking downwards.
It is as though the eyes are relaxed and gazing towards the tip of the nose. The idea here is see some light and but not open enough to become distracted.
While most Western meditations are visualized, calming the mind is usually done without any visualization. When we close our eyes, sometimes the body feels it’s time to rest and go to sleep. Closing the eyes also can create the “theater of the mind” or day dreaming. While this might be a goal in some meditation tasks, for calming the mind, it can be distracting.
Although I said, relaxation meditations are usually done without visualization, there are some methods taught that are visual. I remember as a teenager in the 80’s, that Donald M. Kraig wrote about a technique of visualizing a golden ball of light. In his technique the ball of light had a heat to it, and as you visualized this warm light entering one’s arms, shoulders, knees, legs, feet and hands… to feel the warmth relax the muscles. For more detail on that, you can read up on his technique.
Following (with observation) one’s breath can hold a person to the present moment, which squelches the noise of the mind, thereby focusing one’s thoughts. There are so many styles of practice with breathing techniques. I’ll only mention a few, and encourage the reader to find their own:
- Breath observation: Without any manipulation or control of the breath, one simply observes it. Breathing is through the nose, and just observed. One isn’t trying to slow it down, or speed it up. It happens in real time and is simply observed.
- The 4 Fold Breath: This Golden Dawn variation of a Hindu breathing practice (pranayama) goes like this: An inbreathe is inhaled through the nose, then the breath is held, after the appointed time the breath is slowly released through the nose and once again held. Those are the 4 parts of the breath cycle: Inhale, hold, exhale, hold. This practice has many variations. In some each breathing section is done to the same time… such as 4 seconds (4 second inhale, 4 seconds holding the breath, 4 seconds exhale, 4 seconds holding the breath). Others variations use different timing on each section.
- Spinal Breathing: There are many specific types of spinal breathing. In his book “Raja Yoga,” Vivekananda talks about his style. Other styles were introduced by Yogananda and even modern western teachers. It all boils down to visualizing the breath moving as a light, or spark through the spine. On the inhale the breath starts from the base of the spine and rises up to the top. In some styles the process gradually pulls the breath higher and higher, to rest at the top of the head. Each exhale pulls the spark or light back down the spine towards the base.
- Breathing into the 3rd Eye: In this practice the meditator focuses on the breathing sliding through the nostrils. It is as though the observation is a segment of the breath, and it is visualized moving up through the nasal cavity. Each inhale the breath is observed up through the nose, and each exhale the breath moves back out the nose. Continuing with this, after some time, the aspirant draws the observed feeling of the breath into an area between the eyebrows and slightly higher than them. This region is sometimes called the “3rd eye” or Ajna chakra. The breath is visualized and observed on the inhale to enter that region, and on the exhale to move back out. The benefit of this, is that it tunes the meditator into the pineal gland, which is often used in other spiritual practices (especially visualized ones).
- Israel Regardie created a Golden Dawn process of energy cultivation with the breath. It is a visualized process and often called the Middle Pillar. If the reader is interested, seek out his book by the same name.
There are probably as many styles of meditation as there are people. Here I’ll mention a few that I’ve been introduced to over my lifespan. The goal here isn’t to follow someone’s path, or style, but to take these as tools. Meditation styles can be modified, changed and rearranged to fit the needs of the aspirant. Below are some ideas that one can play with.
In mindful meditation, one is not withdrawing from the senses, but rather tuning into them. They become hyper aware of sounds, breath, touch and taste. Thoughts are obliterated with the use of sensation.
Posture in Mindfulness is different, as mindfulness can be practiced while walking, talking or sitting at a restaurant. Quiet settings are also not required, as the sound of the environment becomes the meditation object itself.
In mindful eating, one doesn’t gobble down food while watching TV. Rather the food is carefully prepared, observing each state of the process of cooking. When eating, the observer feels the texture of the food, the taste the sensation of chewing and swallowing. All distractions to eating are let go of.
With mindful talking and listening, the observer is paying attention to the words they are saying. The thoughts and feelings are observed. When someone else is talking, the mindful practitioner is paying attention to each word, each breath, the feeling of tone and so on.
Mindful walking focuses the mind on each step. Every aspect of walking is tuned into. The feeling of air moving against the skin, the weight of one’s shoes, the sound of each footfall.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is an example of a popularized form of mindfulness in practice. Zen and Japanese culture is very big on mindfulness, from the work of sword making, to cooking food and serving tea.
Zazen and Inner Observation
In many meditation practices the aspirant sits, clears their mind, and waits for illumination. Zazen caters to this concept. The meditator sits on a zafu and cushion, eyes partly closed, chin tucked in and faces a wall.
Zen isn’t just about reaching a state of non-thought, it seeks the illuminating aspect of the mind. That flash of light in the darkness, so to speak. It takes quite a bit of resolve, as the aspirant must push through the tedium of sitting without thinking.
Thoughts will arise, and the meditator is not actively fighting those thoughts, but instead observing them. All is observation, without effort.
Visualization in Shamanism
While I’m not sure how accurate anthropologists are, they do seem to concur that Shamans led or followed a guided from of visualization. Often this depicted scenarios where they were guided into the earth, or dismembered by an animal or god, only to be recreated anew.
Such meditation styles are visual. The meditator closes their eyes, focuses on their breath, or rhythmic drums and allows their mind to quiet. Once stable and quiet, the mind is drawn to the imagery of a topic. The shaman might follow visualized steps into the earth, or descend an imagined cliff. Obstacles will block the aspirant from some goal, and these must be overcome through some activity.
The case of dismemberment is a visualized concept of rebirth. Taking out that which doesn’t work and being recreated by a god or spirit.
Visualization in Tibetan Buddhism
Unlike Zen, the Tibetan Buddhist utilizes visual concepts. Many of us have seen those sown patterns called Mandalas. In Tibetan Buddhism that 2D pattern is actually a 3-Dimensional space.
Meditations in such cases are about walking through the maze like pattern, into different rooms that convey certain ideas. One room might convey the idea that death is near at hand, impressing upon the meditator to focus on the spiritual aspect of life, rather than the profane aspects of the world.
Tong Len is another example of visualization in Buddhist meditation. Tong Len, means “taking and giving.” In this meditation a person is visualized before the meditator. The person is visualized has having some darkness within them… the meditator draws the darkness out of the other, by way of breathing. Each inhale draws the darkness closer to themselves… the idea is that the meditator is willing to draw that darkness into themselves, wherein they convert it to their own use.
I’m not suggesting the religious aspects of this are important, but the visualization style can be used in Left Hand Path techniques. That idea of drawing something from another. Or pushing something in.
Scrying and Entering
Golden Dawn magic systems were heavy into scrying. The Golden Dawn integrated Hindu Tattwa cards for this reason. Tattwa cards are symbols that represent specific elements (earth, air, water and fire). These were used as scrying tools.
The magician would meditate upon the card at hand, and visualize it internally (with closed eyes). After recreating the Tattwa card within their mental space, they would pass through it, as though it was a door.
Once on the other side, the subconscious mind would create a tapestry… and if you align to the symbolic nature of the card (and understood it), you would have a world manifested in a dream like vision.
Keep in mind that the information received can be from external forms, but it can also be from sub conscious and/or random thought patterns. Any profound discoveries made should be carefully considered before attempting. An idea to sell all your possessions and move elsewhere, may not be what one really needs to do…. as this invokes the theater of the mind, the subconscious might be creating random thoughts and ideas to fulfill the need of the meditator.
If the randomness is a problem, is it even useful? Yes. When this works, it works well. But it doesn’t always tune into something real or profound. This technique borders on a magical operation and should be considered as such.
Regardless of meditation style, there will be times when elements about our own nature rise to the top. Our issues, our success, worries or concerns, these will float to the top.
While in a Golden Dawn order, I once was participating in a group scrying operation. I ventured off in my own direction and saw a vision of a world flooded. Ruins of ancient bridges rose above the crashing waves. A torrent of downfall along with lightning and thunder filled the vision. My eyes adjusted to see two figures standing on a bridge. Both had their faces obscured in raincoats. One was an adult, the other a child. In this vision the adult walked over to the child, pulled a gun out and killed him.
It was disturbing. I was even ashamed to have seen such a vision… after all it came from me. For years I didn’t tell people about it. Truthfully it probably relates to some deep feeling of my own childhood being destroyed by another, or perhaps I chose to destroy my childhood self, in favor of growing up sooner. There’s many interpretations here, but all of them personal.
Scrying like this can be done with anything… a mirror, a symbol, a language… whatever you can imagine. The object is stared at, memorized, recreated internally and entered through a visualized method (walking through a door, having the object pass through you, and so on). The mind is allowed to freely create all that is rendered.
Self Analysis may not be visual at all. It might be more about one’s feelings that come up while sitting in meditation. Memories, feelings, thoughts or opinions. At first they may feel like distracting elements, but if we put attention on them and observe their movement, we may discover something profound, something we need to take care of.
Visualized meditations are often used to get guidance from one’s deity, spiritual belief system or religion. In this way the belief of the meditator is bridged into visualized elements.
Those who may worship Set, might create a themed tapestry of Egyptian lore. A desert, a pyramid, warmth of a hot sun. The deity being sought is visualized and interacted with. While this may not be the real being, it is acknowledged as though it is real. Advice given is then considered.
A character from America’s recent past was that of Napoleon Hill, who wrote about a technique called the “Mastermind technique.” It relates to this concept.
Scrying is a style of mental focus that often creates a rich tapestry to connect to an entity. Often the goal is advice, and through scrying one bridges that gap, in the hopes of asking or praising the being.
Personal Practices (Examples)
Today I have a few meditation practices that have a Left Hand Path focus. These are merely examples:
Feeling rather than Thought
Similar to quieting the mind, I reach a state where I feel my observations without much thought at all. I know or am aware of my presence. I sit in that state as long as I can to quiet the mind and focus my non-thought attention.
Visualization of Reaching towards the Greater
I face a piece of artwork I created to represent the Left Hand Path. It’s a wood burning. I release all apprehension, all anxiety and any surface thoughts. Just being in the moment I accept the artwork to represent the greater aspect of myself… the Daemon.
I reach out towards the Daemon from my chest area… as though the energy there is extending towards the Greater Self like a vine stretching outwards through the artwork.
I imagine the Greater Self from the other side of the artwork (now acting as a doorway), doing the same, it’s vine coming to me… and as the two vines are parallel they begin to wrap and coil around each other. The embrace tightens as each side pulls back a bit, making a tight union.
In this state I feel more expansive. I hold this as long as I can.