When I began meditating, I use to think I didn’t know what I was doing, my mind would never be free of thoughts, my face itched, it’s boring and so on. Over the years, I realized that this was all normal, and the most important thing was to just keep showing up. It is amazing what meditation can do for a person, and just showing up regularly will help condition the mind to be able to focus more easily, perceive energy and other sensations in and around the body and more. This is important as important to magickal workings as it is to daily life. My thought if you are new, is to commit to 10 minutes a day, best upon waking up so that you are not likely to drift off to sleep during the session. There many good posts on this site I’ve come across and suggest reading; I hope some will find these ideas useful as well.
If you are comfortable with sitting meditation, here are some tips on mechanics and some visualization that help me. I sit on a cushion so my tailbone is slightly raised, with my legs comfortably crossed in front, forming a tripod. I imagine this base is like the base of a mountain or deeply rooted tree. My spine is straight, but relaxed. I envision a stack of plates in a restaurant where one plate is supported by the plates beneath it and they are all perfectly balanced. Alternately I imagine a baby trying to sit upright, without the muscle strength a baby will “balance” each of its vertebrae just like the plates, one on top of the other. My hands are cupped in my lap. There is a “mudra” you might try in which the hands are cupped on top of the other with the tips of the thumbs touching (this is a gauge; if the thumbs gap open or are pressed too tightly together your body is either too lax or too tensed. The idea is you should be able to lightly hold a piece of paper between your thumbs without if falling). I prefer to sit with my hands cupped holding a piece of hematite which I find to be grounding. My head has a tendency to droop forward as I meditate; to counteract this I imagine a puppeteer above me holding my head up lightly by a string as though I were a marionette. I keep my mouth closed, tongue pressed against the top palette behind the upper to minimize saliva. Eyes can be closed or open; I prefer to start with them closed and then open them slightly, focusing on an object, or gently de-focused. I’ve recently taken to “gazing” upward toward the pineal gland with my eyes nearly closed.
I usually cast a circle before I begin, so I am sitting in my spiritual place. I start with a few slow breaths, in through the nose, out through the nose. I tell myself I am breathing in during the in breath, and out during the out breath. From here there are many ways to continue, the simplest is just following or counting the breath. For me, I move my focus to an area about two inches below the navel inside the body (the lower Dantian in Chinese qigong), where I can perceptibly feel a sphere of energy, and I breath deeply and slowly to and from this point imaging a bellows fanning the flame of a sphere as it contracts and shrinks; and I watch and feel the energy expand throughout and around my body forming a protective sphere of energy around me that expands and contracts on my breath. As I settle in I mentally project myself connecting to the earth, the moon and the sun, forming a triangle pointing downward. I imagine this triangle intersecting with an upward pointing triangle that represents three candles on my altar in front of me; (Dao) in the center and slightly taller at the top, the goddess at left, the god at right. As the triangles intersect they form a six-pointed star in my mind and complete the grounding. This entire process (less the casting of the circle) takes only a minute or two.
During daily meditation, I often lose the sense of my body, and the sense of time. Therefore, I like using an app that has a timer; has periodic bells ( I react to their resonance ), and has a 4/4 timed metronome. In other posts on this site there is information about reciting a mantra. I think mantras are personal, but one that works for me and follows the 4/4 cadence is: “As above, so below; om mani padme hum” which I repeat silently over and over (I have others that honor my goddess and god as well). If instead, this meditation is in preparation of a magickal spell or casting, I will take time to focus on intent before beginning.
Metta (or loving-kindness) is a form of meditation that has existed in Buddhism over the centuries and can be very powerful and a useful way to build compassion and connectedness with the universe. It can be done easily after grounding, in place of or in addition to following the breath. When in meditation, in the mind’s eye, I think, “May I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering”. (A note: “suffering” here is a poor translation of a Pali term “duhka” which has a much richer translation, look at the wiki entry to start. I like to think of it as ‘clinging’). The next step in metta meditation is to think of your closest relationships (spouse, children, SO) and think, “May [insert their names] be healthy, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.” This process is then repeated once again for a) close friends, b) acquaintances (the Starbucks barista I see most days), c) strangers (people I pass on the street), d) enemies (or those I have wronged or have wronged me), e) all sentient beings, f) all forms of energy in the universe. I end in gratitude for being in the right place and right time to be able to do this meditation.
This concept I learned by reading Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has authored many books and made mindfulness accessible to western audiences. He coined a term “inter-being” which is the notion that we and everything else are connected to one another. I have used this meditation on many objects from a deli sandwich, to another person as I look into their eyes—and it applies across the board. It is really a technique to look deeply into something else and if you need a focal point during meditation I strongly recommend trying it. It goes something like this—I look at an apple, and ask myself what I see. Obviously a piece of fruit, But I look a little more deeply, I can see the apple contains the sunlight, water, and soil that it grew in. If I look deeper still, I can see it contains the care of the farmer, the person who picked it, the truck driver that transported it, the stocker that put in on the shelf, the cashier who sold it, etc. If I look deeper still, I see it contains the family of the stocker, the company that provides his or her wages, the wages that pay for the stocker’s daughter to attend school, and so on. In fact, if you look deep enough you can see that the apple contains everything in the universe that is of a “non-apple” nature; if you remove any of those things, it is not the same apple. And so do each of us, and our partners, friends, and everything else in the universe.
An alternative meditation that I practice is a form of simple Qigong called Zhan Zhuang, which is translated roughly as Standing Like a Tree (wiki it). It is a great form of meditation to perform outdoors, especially in or near a forest. It is often performed at sunrise, sunset, but it is equally do-able indoors (preferably next to a sun(moon)lit window). If sitting meditation makes you sleepy, this is one that will not. It is a basic form of qigong and helps with building awareness and control over internal energy. At a simple level, one stands, feet slightly larger than shoulder width apart, spine straight (but relaxed, as above), tailbone “tucked” without locking the pelvis, arms held out in front of the body as though hugging a tree (or holding a big balloon). Focus is on the breath, and ground through the feet, through the earth. If in a grove of trees, you can feel the inter-being that exists between you. That’s it basically. I’d suggest starting with 2 minutes and building. The version I use has 4 other “poses” but they all are basically motionless; so you are focusing on internal energy and mental strength, and it requires more stamina than you might think. There are books and videos on Youtube to get a better understanding if you are inclined.
In closing, I hope you find something useful here. If it helps anyone with their meditation or spiritual practice, then I am happy, and I’d love to hear more about this topic from others and what works for you all in your practice.