I will be the first person to tell you that I have a hard time with meditation. I always have, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of my OCD and my lack of ability to quiet my mind (for mental health reasons). So I always felt like a bad witch because meditation doesn’t come easy to me. But, imagine my surprise when I found out that meditation is not just about sitting down and being quiet. There are so many different styles of meditation and I wanted to share some with you. Maybe you need help, too.
Where does meditation come from?
If you’re like me, you like to know the history behind things and the why for things that we do. Meditation has been around for thousands of years…quite literally. The oldest documented examples of meditation are found in wall arts in the Indian subcontinent. They date to around 5,000 to 3,500 BCE! The wall art depicts people seated in a meditative posture with half-closed eyes. However, written evidence of any form of meditation was first seen in the Vedas around 1,500 BCE. 
By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it, and Voltaire asked for toleration towards Buddhists. There was also some influence from the Enlightenment through the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot (1713–1784), although he states, “I find that a meditation practitioner is often quite useless and that a contemplation practitioner is always insane”. Meditation has spread in the West since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. Most prominent has been the transmission of Asian-derived practices to the West. In addition, interest in some Western-based meditative practices has been revived, and these have been disseminated to a limited extent to Asian countries. 
Spiritual Meditation is one of the most common forms of meditation in the New Age and spiritual community, and it is the one that is the most recognized, in my opinion. Spiritual Meditation is what we would typically think of when we think of meditation. You sit down, close your eyes, and be silent. You attempt to quiet your mind and focus on the silence to gain a deeper spiritual connection to either the Universe, your Gods, etc. This is the one that is difficult for me.
With Mindfulness Meditation, the purpose of meditating is to acknowledge your passing thoughts, but don’t get involved. So this would look like sitting still with your eyes closed, but on the inside, your thoughts are free to flow. You’re simply practicing being mindful of the thoughts you have. This is supposed to be done without judgment or involvement.
Focused Meditation is very common in the witchcraft community. The first example that comes to mind is candle flame meditation. With this, you use your senses - in this case, your sight - to focus on the flame of the candle. It is a good practice in keeping focus and targeting your intention. Another example of focused meditation is the idea behind prayer beads or, more commonly, the Catholic Rosary. A prayer is said while either counting the beads or a different prayer is said for each color. This is a perfect type of meditation for someone who needs to practice their focus…like me.
This one is my favorite because I don’t have to be still. The first activity that comes to mind when I think of movement meditation is yoga, but this type of meditation is not limited to any particular movement. This could be a walk in the woods, it could be a swim in a lake or pool or even your workout at the gym. Movement meditation is good for people who have trouble sitting still and are comfortable with the movements and letting their mind wander.
This is a type of meditation that I have recently started incorporating into my life due to my trouble concentrating. With guided meditation, you listen to an audio recording - or someone speaking in person - and let their voice and their instructions guide your thoughts. This can be as simple as them instructing your breathing to make sure you’re breathing slowly and properly for the meditation. It could also be as complex as them guiding you on a journey on the spiral path to meet your shadow.
As part of my depth year, I have tried to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. I will not lie to you, it has been hard. I used to do it at night before bed, but I found that I would procrastinate or just forget to do it. Now I do it in the morning after I’ve been up for a few minutes. I get my coffee and meditate while my coffee cools. Then I journal about my feelings, my meditation, whatever I need to. Then I enjoy my coffee!
Meditation in your spiritual practice is good for more than mindfulness. It can help to unlock “doors” in your mind that were previously closed to you. Now, I don’t mean that if you meditate you will suddenly have the ability to fly or read minds. What I mean is that sometimes, our brain does weird things and turns off or closes parts of our brain. This could be shutting off access to certain memories, feelings, or even making us feel something that isn’t in context to the world around us - I’m looking at you, unwanted anxiety! Anyway, when you can unlock those parts of your consciousness that may have been closed to you, you can deepen your spiritual connection to the world around you.
I, like a lot of people who are in the West, had limited knowledge about the different forms of meditation around the world. I’m sure there are more variations to meditation than can fit in an entire book, and the ones I have listed here probably just scratch the surface. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are doing something wrong because they just can’t get the hang of meditation - the spiritual method above - and then they give up.
Recent studies, particularly the work of Harvard-based neuroscientist Sara Lazar, have found that mindfulness meditation may physically change numerous parts of the brain. Writing in 2011, Lazar and others reported that mindfulness-based stress reduction altered gray matter concentration within the left hippocampus, the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), and the cerebellum. These changes in the brain were detectable after participating in a mindfulness training program for just eight weeks, and could theoretically impact cognitive faculties that include, “learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” 
Besides being good for your spiritual practice, it has been shown that a daily practice of meditation is actually good for the brain and your mental health. According to Psychology Today, a routine practice of meditation may help with sleep, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and brain function.
Do you have a meditation practice?