“If I had to give up all magickal and spiritual disciplines except one, I would happily ditch every invocation, spell, and exercise that I know in favor of simple meditation.”
-Jason Miller, The Sorcerer’s Secrets
In all my years of practising meditation, I have never felt the need to define for myself what meditation actually is.
To quote Robert Anton Wilson, “Is, is is. The idiocy of the word astounds me.” Furthermore, I have not paused to consider in any great depth how one knows one is doing it, or what purpose it might serve.
For me, meditation is as natural as breathing. It is both a pleasurable, beneficial act and a potential gateway. Mr. Miller’s words, however, quite rightly, serve as a strong reminder of just how vital the practice is to so many mages.
As I go about unpacking this deceptively simple subject, it occurs to me that the process of writing this article is an act of meditation in itself; the opportunity to pause and reflect, giving me a renewed appreciation of its fundamental role in my magickal practice.
Maybe you’re reading this article because, like a good number of my students, you’re either new to meditation or struggling with it. Rest assured, it’s a practice I’ve honed and refined over the years, so I’ll be offering plenty of tips and techniques.
One may ask “Why should I meditate?” If one believes one should or shouldn’t do something, or indeed, that there are definitive right and wrong ways of doing things, then one may well be advised to shed that mindset as a matter of some urgency, preferably with the help of Prometheus Rising by the aforementioned Mr. R.A. Wilson.
Otherwise, one might consider that Chaos Magick is not the most appropriate Occult model for one’s needs at this time.
If one is intent on becoming the best Chaote one can be, however, one will be on a continuous voyage of exploration and examination, discarding or incorporating elements into one’s practice along the way.
Whilst no two Chaos Magick practices are completely identical, they may well share commonalities. One of those commonalities may be the ways in which one approaches maintenance of one’s physical vehicle. How far one takes this, if at all, is, of course, entirely up to the individual. I will admit to an unashamed indulgence in certain vices; but I do believe it’s common sense to practise at least a modicum of self-care and awareness in terms of diet, sleep and exercise, at least part of the time. For me, meditation forms a vital part of self-care. It improves my mental and physical performance and this, I believe, allows me to practise Magick more efficiently.
Meditation promotes a relaxed state which lessens anxiety and improves the body’s circulatory and digestive functioning.
It allows one to open a dialogue with one’s body; as the muscles relax and lengthen and the tendons loosen their grip, stress melts away and knots unravel spontaneously. There are, however, always some more persistent areas of tension; and in a meditative state, one can speak directly to these areas to ascertain just what they may be holding onto, how one can help release that which no longer serves, and what additional resources one may want to bring to bear on the issues they reveal. One can also target healing energy specifically at these areas.
In my practise of Tai Chi, I have found that meditation replenishes my reserves of chi.
According to the model I studied under the expert tutelage of the Mount Tai monks, we function on two types of energy; chi, which is endlessly replenishable, and jing, which is finite. One can think of it as a backup battery in an electric alarm clock. If one’s stores of chi fall too low, one is forced to dip into one’s jing, and once that’s all used up – well, one drops off the twig, to use the common vernacular.
High levels of jing are sometimes mistaken for a particularly robust constitution (and I believe this to be true of more than a few Chaos practitioners, myself included). We think we have endless stamina but we’re actually using up precious jing reserves when it would serve us better to top up our chi regularly and reserve our jing for emergency use only.
Meditation may be viewed as the manipulation of one’s brain waves in order to facilitate certain experiences. Once one learns to do that successfully, one understands that conscious manipulation holds the key.
For the science-obsessed, there is a wealth of information available online, good bad and indifferent, regarding the science of brainwave activity, functions, and frequencies. Suffice it to say, if one cares for such details, the desired modulation for relaxed visualisation is around eight hertz, straddling the alpha/theta bandwidths.
Once one has achieved this state, one may wish to do some intensive inner journeying, perhaps accompanied by a trusted power animal, meet some great allies and gain some most profound insights.
Alternatively, one may simply wish to access that still, quiet space inside. To hold time for a little while, to distract oneself from all the external chatter and connect with one’s own wisdom. To find that all-too-valuable commodity: Inner peace.
Now, on to the practicalities.
One can, of course, join a class and pick up some useful tips. But solitary practice (ideally daily) is desirable and I will concede some people may find it less easy to relax in a group setting, at least to begin with. Accordingly, I herewith proffer a brief outline of the solitary meditation model I have both made personal use of and have taught to others to great effect over the years.
Much like preparing for a lover, one may wish to set the scene by taking a warm, scented bath or shower, slipping into something clean and comfortable, drawing the curtains, dimming the lights, and lighting candles and incense.
It’s all ritual, which is an immersive pleasure in itself as a prelude to the main event. Any or all of these elements may well prove to be a treasured part of one’s meditation routine and can be useful anchors for the meditative state.
One major potential danger (and this holds true in magickal practice as well in my estimation) lies in training oneself to believe that any of these components are absolutely essential, that if they’re missing one is somehow doomed to inevitable failure.
The only things which I find nearly essential are solitude, quietness, and comfortable clothing. Even if none of these are available, one can still easily access a meditative state; natural aptitude aside, with regular practice.
Any act can become a meditative act. Consider this proposition; everyone who has been accused of daydreaming has actually been engaged in meditation. I still recall fondly the view from the window of my Parisian drawing room whilst I was doing embroidery, pausing every so often to gaze out of the window upon the fantastical topiary and whimsical statues… and in this reminiscence, I find fresh meditation. The circle rolls on, Ouroboros continues to eat his tail…
But I digress; forgive my indulgence, and allow me to return to instruction.
As a precursor to meditation, I invite you, dear reader, to become quiet, comfortable, and happy with your surroundings. By all means, light some incense and take a moment to appreciate the scent; perhaps the air is heady with jasmine or frankincense. Now, settle yourself into a comfortable position; preferably cross-legged. If this is less than comfortable, simply sit at the edge of a chair with feet firmly planted hip-width apart; or lie on your back in savasana (corpse pose; spine and limbs straight and relaxed, legs uncrossed, palms upturned at your sides). The most important factor here is your personal comfort.
Close your eyes, palms facing upwards, lengthen your spine and – most essentially – breathe! Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold for a second, and out through your mouth, releasing any cares and worries and feeling any tension melt away. Continue to breathe in this fashion and direct your attention to your breath, noticing it slowing and lengthening as you continue to breathe evenly in and out.
Simply observe. You may notice the breath is cooler on the in breath and warmer on the out breath; you may wish to incorporate certain words like “calm” on the in breath and “release” on the out breath, for example.
And just…. Be.
That’s really all there is to it.
You’re now at the gateway to wonders. You may wish to set an alarm for say, 10 or 15 minutes’ time when starting out so you can relax and let go completely, and then extend as you build up. Oh – and please do make sure your phone is unplugged and your mobile is set to silent!
The most common obstacle I hear about is an inability to ‘switch off’.
It’s very easy when starting off to become distracted by the ‘chattering monkeys’, the voices reminding one of a forthcoming dentist’s appointment in the afternoon, asking one to pinpoint the location of one’s car keys, wondering if one has enough money to pay the electric bill etc. etc.
One really mustn’t allow oneself to feel discouraged.
This is all too common and certainly doesn’t mean one is ‘failing’ or will ‘never get the hang of this’. The chatter just needs to be dealt with. Let the voices flow. Let them chatter themselves out without engaging with them in any manner. As thoughts come up, acknowledge them without judgment and let them go. If one is particularly visual, one may find it helpful to visualise them as balloons before releasing them and watching them bob unhurriedly over the horizon, getting smaller and smaller…. And if one is not particularly visual that’s fine. The continued practice of detached observation will bring success.
Some find it helpful to listen to binaural beats or guided meditations, available on Youtube as necessary. Alternatively, one may find it useful to stare into a candle flame or lose oneself in contemplation of a flower or other object.
I encourage the reader to experiment and, above all, enjoy!
As with most things, the more one practises the easier it becomes. Furthermore, the practice of detached observation in meditation will seep into daily life. One learns to respond rather than react, discern without judgment and get less caught up in dramatics.
Those are, arguably, the biggest benefits of all.