Meditation Is Hard!
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I really dislike traditional forms of meditation. I understand that it is very important to cultivate the discipline to be able to meditate, and I try to work on it, but I am really not enjoying what I’m doing. The process feels too unnatural for me, and I find it to be boring and irritating at best. I believe that the frustration of forcing myself to sit down and meditate regularly is counteracting all of the gains that I make from actually doing the meditation.
I have tried sitting down and quieting my mind, I’ve tried guided meditations of all ilk, including downloading countless podcasts, reading meditation books and on occasion recording myself or making a friend record a meditation for me to listen to. I know that I have the ability to meditate — I’ve had some success doing free writing, and I can get into that artist’s head space when I do activities like knitting, spinning or doing life drawings — but I am still frustrated, because meditation still doesn’t really feel right to me yet.
Is my problem a discipline issue? Or is meditation like birth control, and I just haven’t found the right kind of “birth control” to fit my lifestyle yet. I hope its the latter.
P.S. You’re a gem and I absolutely love your blog!
Great question! I think you’ll find that a lot of people share your feelings about the practice of meditation.
There are several definitions of meditation that I want to get straight. In the East, meditation is the act of stilling the body so you can still the mind in an attempt to reach enlightenment. Over here, we use it to guide the mind to our inner self, or use it to still the body to do astral work. So the question is, Cassie, what is your purpose for meditating?
You mentioned discipline as a possible goal for meditation. There are many ways to achieve this goal. In Zen Buddhism, the monks don’t meditate as often as other sects, but rather look for enlightenment through other forms of mental discipline such as work, humor, exercise, writing and thinking. Some stories tell of monks who gained enlightenment from a blow to the head–no meditation required!
So there are many ways of achieving a goal, and I suspect that you haven’t identified your goal in your meditation practice. If the goal is discipline, and you want to do it every day for 30 minutes, then that is what you are aiming for–the success or failure of your meditation doesn’t matter as long as you give it a try every day for 30 minutes. You could also practice discipline by going for a run every day, going to bed at the same time, or going vegitarian–all of which are meditation-free but require your original goal of discipline.
Meditation is about bettering the self by being more self-aware. It is a tool that can be the basis for many things. In my opinion, you have given it a really good try, spending a lot of time at it and using lots of different methods, and you’ve come to the conclusion that meditation is not for you. I see that as a valid piece of self-knowledge! In Witchcraft, we use things because they work, but obviously this isn’t working for you! So let’s think of other things you can do.
The Farrars believe meditation is important because it disciplines the mind for visualization, so that your magical intent can be clear, but that “artist head space” you talked about is the same thing. You’ve already met this goal. So use this to your advantage. If a group is doing a guided meditation, consider taking out a big blank piece of paper and doing a free-draw while the group leader describes the meditation.
If you are really stubborn about working on your meditation abilities, try doing some shamanic work with drumming. The rhythmic and steady sound can get you in that headspace so you can do some work. It is the same way that knitting or spinning gets you in that brainwave pattern that allows many to see the future. If that doesn’t work after a few times, try something else.
If your goal for meditation is to ground yourself, consider some other magical grounding techniques. You could make a charm or amulet out of hematite or metal to carry with you. It will serve the same purpose without requiring actual meditation. You could also use some of the parts of meditation that do work, such as three deep breaths when you feel loopy, or sitting with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight.
If you are doing some astral work in meditation, you can try other ways to do the same goal. Instead of visiting the Gods and spirits in their realms in your mind, visualize the space around you and act out your actions. Use ritual theatre by yourself or with a group. Ask the Gods or spirits to come to you (in a magical circle) so you can talk to them.
Honestly, I can’t think of a single goal for meditation that requires you do the goal with successful meditation. That is why the practice of magic is so vast–it covers all the possibilities and it is up to us to figure out are particularities and use what is available and useful to us. Bottom line–if meditation isn’t useful, do something else!
Best of luck to you in your magical endeavors!
P.S. Thanks! I think you are a gem too. Thanks for your letter! :-)