Visualization and Meditation are both essential tools for all spiritual practitioners. A question from a student of mine emphasized the need for an important clarification: They are not the same thing. This is too often confused in writings about the practice of Witchcraft.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice of awareness of your mind. We practice it by observing our thoughts without participating in them, often while holding our body in a specific posture.
What is visualization?
“A virulent and flaming imagination” is an essential tool for a Witch. Visualizing is the act of imagining something specific (ex. a landscape, a conversation, an outcome) for a specific purpose (ex. calmness, productivity, a successful interview, etc.)
Visualization is an effective way of creating change in ourselves and in the physical world. It is now very mainstream – many entrepreneurs, competitive athletes and lifestyle coaches credit their success to visualizing positive outcomes. This is an ancient technique preserved in many initiatory spiritual traditions, including Witchcraft.
Visualization isn’t meditation. In meditation, we turn our gaze inward and observe receptively, without intentional action. Visualization is intentionally and actively changing our perception and projecting a different vision.
Meditation is a tool to understand those habits that make up who we think we are.
Visualization is a tool to change our habits.
What is the point of meditation?
Self-Knowledge. That’s it. We live in such a stressful, over-stimulated, results-driven society, made worse by our compulsive drives to stay busy and check social media. Meditation is about letting go of those expectations and agendas for a brief period and resting in moments of awareness.
Self-knowledge is the fundamental foundation of the Great Work. We notice our habits of mind, such as what we think we want vs. what we need; what we say vs. what we mean. Really knowing ourselves, including how we distract and harm ourselves, grounds us firmly and allows us to Know and Trust our aspirations and persevere when we are challenged.
And you will be challenged. Traditional Witchcraft is a “short path.” Some systems take the longer, safer route around and up the Mountain. When you choose to climb straight up that slope you may face obstacles, you may stumble, you may need to work harder than others.
“Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.”
Meditation is not about getting you something or bringing you somewhere. It is noticing what you have and where you are.
“And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the mystery.”
Meditation is not an ALTERED state of consciousness. It’s is the practice of accessing REAL consciousness unaltered by all your habits, obsessions, neuroses, anxieties, stresses, etc.
“And if that, which thou seekest, thou findest not with thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.”
What are the benefits of meditation?
The practice of daily meditation is reported to have many benefits:
Improved stress management
We experience joy in the same we experience suffering. Both states are temporary experiences of our vast minds. Meditation offers perspective, which is why that which is listed above can only ever be appreciated as a benefit, and not ever as the result, of meditation.
Realise that much of suffering is a habit of our minds. It is created by our constructed egos to reinforce separateness for its own preservation, and yet because most sentient beings individualize and suffer this way, it is also what we all have in common. This ultimately reunites us all through understanding and compassion. Here is the Scourge and the Kiss of the Goddess.
“And remember all ye, that existence is pure joy, that all experience are sacraments, that all sorrows are but shadows; They pass and are done, but there is that which remains.”
Who is meditation for?
Meditation is for anyone with a mind and is not restricted to anyone from a specific religion or culture.
How do you meditate?
Sit in an appropriate position that is comfortable to you. Begin by focusing on your breath, the feeling in your chest, the sensation at the tip of your nose, or the count of your inhalation-exhalation. Simply observe your mind without participating in any thoughts that arise. Start with 5 minutes daily and very gradually, as the months progress, increase that time.
Meditation is not about not-thinking, so don’t even try that, because it will feel awful! You have a mind, so thoughts will come. Let them come and let them go. You may say to yourself “That is a thought” and then bring your focus back to your breath. That is the practice.
Do not try to intentionally think or focus on an image or idea, though it may be worth noting if a particular thought keeps popping up.
Do not fall asleep, though do notice if you catch yourself doing so, and take care to get more rest!
Do not feel bad if it is not what you expected.
Do not think that you can have a “good” or “bad” meditation. If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.
How do Witches meditate?
By watching their mind, just like every other sentient being who’s got one.
There is no need to invoke deities or elements, visualize pentagrams or give prayers.
Many people need to formalize, ritualize and embellish something to make it interesting and motivate themselves. This bad habit comes with the good intention of commitment to starting but ends up being a crippling superstition that keeps you from meditation’s true purpose.
In my opinion, Witches should definitely have a regular practice, which should include meditation.
Meditation is not an active expression of devotion towards The Divine, though this is important.
Meditation is not an intentional practice of energetic technique, though those are important.
Meditation is not about having psychic visions nor about developing that ability.
Meditation is not theory, learning or research. Keep reading, though, because learning is important!
Meditation is not even a combination of these important efforts.
There are other beneficial tools for self-knowledge other than meditation that I recommend:
When we journal about our life, dreams and magical practice, we observe and record. We also reflect and analyse our actions and reactions after they’ve happened. We may constructively criticize ourselves and note what we need to work on about ourselves.
When we go for psychotherapy, we entrust the responsibility of analysis to someone else. The psychotherapist does what they do, says the right thing to trigger us and to help us learn about ourselves.
None of these options are quite like meditation, experiencing awareness in the moment without action or reaction. There is no substitution.
Why meditate in a specific position?
During meditation, the body is positioned intentionally to help the meditator. Different postures will affect the energetic flow of the body and will differently moderate physical responses. With experience, they will also trigger the right state of mind in the sitter. Some of us are less flexible and so we adapt the position the best we can. Even with no physical mobility, you can certainly still meditate.
What positions do you recommend?
Eyes open, spine straight like a stack of coins, neck aligned with spine, face directed gently downwards, gazing down your nose;
Tongue resting near the roof of the mouth. This moderates saliva accumulation.
“Closing the Lower Gate” or using a “Root Lock”: Slightly tightening the muscles of the anal sphincter, which activates the core and contains the circulation of energy within your body.
Seated cross-legged, right leg over left leg, in a lotus or semi-lotus position; or
Sitting up on a chair with palms resting downward on the top of your thighs;
Are there other techniques?
There are many! Some involve standing, walking and reciting mantras, staring at blank walls…
Different techniques appeal to different people – just please, remember the point. Choose one technique, stick to it, and do it. You can read all the books about meditation in the world but you’ll only benefit if you actually do it.