What your Pagan Teacher wants you to know …
Meditation is a weird thing. It is seen as this perfect thing that a few people can actually do. In reality even after 30 years of meditation there are days I struggle. Not because I’m bad at it but because life happens!
Much like falling asleep (a different kind of brain activity) there are layers and stages to meditation.
I am sure they have proper names and titles somewhere. This is how I experience them, still.
Brain radio is the weird ambient noises inside my brain often a mix of 80’s cartoons, toy advert jingles, and random chunks of some song I heard and didn’t like on the radio 20 years ago, along with odd question and ideas.
Brain radio can be a distraction. It can give you colours and shapes for your attention to chase. It is actually useful sometime too. If I am “stuck” for an idea or creative thought just sitting in this stage and watching the random chatter can produce what I’m looking for without looking.
If you get past this phase you can go into the next phase.
The Itchy Fidgets.
Suddenly everything is itchy. Your clothes are made of burlap. Your bra is digging in. Your knee hurts. You struggle to get comfortable. The clock is too loud. What is that smell?
The itchy fidgets is actually you being aware of something you usually ignore, your body. In this sense while irritating breathing through it and ring your attention to it can give you a new understanding of how you are feeling.
The truth is your bra was digging in long before it bothered you. Your knee always hurts. You are just more in your body than usual. It is a stage not the end point. There are days when I get stuck here. I give myself permission to let it go. To breathe through it. To soften. This state is its self a meditation, just like the previous one. It is a place that yoga, tai chi and dance dwells. Movement can help. Sometimes the reverse, stillness. It’s a stage not where you need to end up, but if you do, don’t berate yourself too much.
This a peaceful and pleasant place for many people and for other terrifying. It is like almost sleep. It is soft and calm and relatively empty. Sometimes images or thoughts come but they have a different quality from other states. This is a balance of dreaming and awareness. This is the place most people think of as “meditation” lives. The thoughts often symbolic, paradoxical and beautiful. There may not be any thoughts at all.
The Nothing is the place people seem to aim for without understand all parts are part of the process. It is also a place that people fear. I have seen students struggle like they are drowning after working so hard to get into the water! I don’t know if it is fear that is usually there and they suddenly discover it. I don’t know if it is feel of voids in general (must fill everything with light and bright). Fear of death (is the nothingness like death?) This place is one of peace for me. I know “I think therefore I am” is not true for me. I am comfortable and happy in thought-less nothingness. In a book I read it was described as heart stone. I like the weight of that idea. A sense of drawing one’s self into a core point.
Lucid Dreaming or Journey Work.
While it is possible to move into this state other ways it is underneath the Nothing. The Observer self or awareness become less tethered. You can journey inside your inner landscape (you are a universe after all) or outside of yourself. You may find yourself in a pleasant or significant landscape. If your journey often enough you may have a starting point you can come to easily and return to easily. Yet the quality of the journey, and how tactile and “there” you are will be down to your own psychic muscles and ability. Practice as always makes better. Still there is no guarantee you will find your Narnia a peaceful beautiful safe place. There may well be terrifying and conflicting part in this space too. That doesn’t of course make it less worthy or valuable. What we fear, what we loathe dwells within us too. True spiritual and even magickal progress comes from working inside our own darkness as well as our own light. Sometimes it can be difficult but that makes it no less worthy. Being present and breathing through what you experience and allowing it to teach you is important. Beyond this is another place.
If you have never experienced this state you can not understand it in words, mine or other peoples. Connection. Infinite. Tapping into the cosmic brain. Light. Love. Everything.
Meditation is a journey. One to try and take every day. Much as it would be amazing to walk around touching the infinite everyday it doesn’t get your food shop done. Different stages on the path are just as valid and important as each other. Yes it is bliss to touch deep within and without the self. Yes it is amazing but you must also be a messy human too! One who likes dirty jokes and food and dancing.
Meditation is like mentally and spiritually going to the gym. If you didn’t get as far as you wanted try doing more later. Don’t give up or berate yourself if one of the stages is sticker than usual. It shows you where you might need to do more work. That’s all. If your thoughts are distracting, look at them. What are they trying to tell you? Are you itchy? Does your knee always hurt? Maybe see someone about it! Is the Nothing your only goal, or terrifying? Examine that.
When I teach I work a lot on person growth, and meditation. I have caught a lot of flak over the years. “Oh it’s just meditation, teach me something exciting/magickal/proper/” and all I do these days is shrug. Scrying, divination, astral and journey work all come this place of altered consciousness. Meditation is one of the 8 paths to ritual magick. There other ways to attain different consciousness, but in terms of reliability, legality and safety it is by and far the best. Meditation is an amazing tool, with a diverse and complicated array of effects. After thirty years I can still see only a fragment. The practice is not for any one kind of person or group. It doesn’t make you perfect. However it does give the space and tools to heal ourselves in deep, changing and profound ways. Imperfect practice and bad days are going to happen. That doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong or that you haven’t meditated. Show up. Give yourself the attention you need. Forgive your bad days.
Keep breathing and work through it.