Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Meditation
by Lori Penhaligon
“If I had to give up all magickal and spiritual disciplines except one, I would happily ditch every invocation, spell, and exercise that I know in favor of simple meditation.” [Jason Miller, The Sorcerer’s Secrets]
In all my years of practising meditation, I have never felt the need to define what meditation actually is (“Is, is is. The idiocy of the word astounds me” [RAW]), how one knows one is doing it or what the purpose is. Meditation is as natural as breathing to me, a pleasurable and beneficial act in itself and also a gateway. As I go about unpacking this deceptively simple subject, it occurs to me the process of writing this article is an act of meditation in itself, the pause and reflection giving me a renewed appreciation of its fundamental role in my magickal practice.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re new to meditation or struggling with it. It’s a practice I’ve honed and refined over the years, so I’ll be giving you plenty of tips and techniques in a while. You may also be asking “Why should I meditate?” If you believe you should or shouldn’t do something, or indeed that there are definitive right and wrong ways of doing anything, and you can’t see your way clear to ridding yourself of that mindset then perhaps Chaos Magick isn’t for you. If you’re intent on being the best Chaote you can be, however, then you’ll be on a continuous voyage of exploration and examination, discarding or incorporating elements into your practice along the way. Consequently, no two Chaos Magick practices are completely identical but may well share commonalities. The map is not the territory.
One of those commonalities is maintenance of the vehicle. How far to take this, if at all, is, of course, entirely up to the individual; I’m hardly a stellar example of clean living but to me it’s common sense to practise at least a modicum of self care and awareness in terms of eating, sleeping and exercise at least part of the time. For me, meditation forms part of self care. It improves my mental and physical performance which, I believe, allows me to practise Magick more efficiently.
It promotes a relaxed state which lessens anxiety and improves circulatory and digestive function. It allows me to open a dialogue with my body; as the muscles relax and lengthen and tendons loosen their tight grip, stress melts away and knots unravel accordingly. There are always some tricky little buggers, though; and in a meditative state I can speak directly to these areas to ascertain just what they may be holding onto, how I can help release that which no longer serves and what additional resources may be required. I can also target healing energy specifically at these areas.
I practise Tai Chi and, for me, meditation replenishes Chi. According to this model, we function on two types of energy – chi, which is endlessly replenishable, and jing, which is finite. Think of it as the backup battery in an electrically operated alarm clock. If our stores of chi fall too low, we dip into our jing, and once it’s used up – well, we drop off the twig. High levels of jing are sometimes mistaken for a particularly robust constitution (and I believe this to be true of more than a few Chaos practitioners, myself included). We think we have endless stamina but we’re actually using up precious jing reserves when we’d be far better off topping up our chi regularly and keeping our jing for emergency use only.
So far, so woo. You’re not here for the New Agey bollocks though (although if you’ve got any sense at all, you’ll be disregarding labels and doing whatever you damn well please with the tools available at your disposal); you’re here to find out how all this fits in with Chaos Magick.
Take my metaphorical hand, my fellow psychonaut, as we take a lucid step onto Freud’s “royal road to the unconscious”. His term for the dreamstate. The landscape of symbol and metaphor, the landscape I personally am far more comfortable in. As my dear old hypnotherapy tutor impressed upon me “You are limited only by your imagination. And your imagination is limitless.” Yes, I do still unashamedly use this line in many hypnotherapy sessions. I like to work with what I’m given, remember.
I’ll spare you the boring science bit about different levels of brain waves and their functions and frequencies. You may well already be familiar with the subject and as with most topics, there’s a wealth of information online, good bad and indifferent. https://examinedexistence.com/5-different-brainwave-frequencies-mean/ is worth a look. Suffice to say, you’re looking to hit about 8 hertz, the alpha/theta sweet spot; and once you do, you’re ready to rock and roll. You’re pretty much in a lucid dreamstate. A vast, uncharted vista spreads out in front of you, ready for you to explore. Can you see it? What are you waiting for? Maybe take a power animal along with you, just in case; and be wary of imbibing anything that’s offered to you by some of the fantastical characters along the way. Apart from that – knock yourself out! It’s where you’ll meet some of your greatest allies and gain some of your most profound insights. You might well be lucky enough to score an intimate AMA with some pretty big names on the scene. All you need is courage and belief.
Of course, this isn’t an ‘end goal’ of meditation, at least in my view. Meditation is about manipulating your brain waves in order to facilitate certain experiences. And once you learn to do that successfully, you understand that conscious manipulation holds the key. It’s all about the energy. You may wish to do some intensive journeying; or you may wish to access that still, quiet space inside. To hold time for a little while, to distract yourself from all the external chatter and seek your own wisdom. Or just chill for a few.
If you’re not sold yet, you’re dead to me. If you’re still hanging on in there – bless you for your long attention span and let’s move on to some how to’s. You can, of course, join a class. You’ll pick up some useful tips. But you’ll also wish to practise on your own (ideally daily) and some people find it less easy to relax in a group setting. So we’ll take a quick look at solitary meditation.
Much like preparing for a lover, some people like to set the scene with a bath or shower, slip into something clean and comfortable, draw the curtains, dim the lights, light candles and incense and… well, you get the picture. If all that helps you prepare, then great. It’s all ritual, which is pleasure in itself, and it’s worth exploring any or all of this foreplay. It might well prove to be a valuable part of your meditation routine, particularly when starting out. They can all be useful triggers. The potential danger for me (and this holds true to my magickal practice as well) lies in training yourself to believe that any of these components are essential, that if they’re missing then you will somehow fail. The only things which are desirable for me are solitude, quietness, and comfortable clothing. Even if none of these are available, I can still access a meditative state very easily; any natural aptitude aside, it’s the result of years of regular practice. Any act can become a meditative act; one of my favourite places to meditate in my old flat was at the kitchen sink whilst I was doing the washing up, gazing out of the window and into the trees outside…
But I digress. So, you’re quiet, you’re comfortable, you’re happy with your surroundings. The Sai Baba is lit and so are you. Settle yourself into a comfortable position, preferably cross-legged, but if this is uncomfortable or not possible, then sit at the edge of a chair with feet firmly planted hip-width apart; or lie on your back in savasana (corpse pose); it’s all good. Close your eyes, palms facing upwards, straighten your spine and – here comes the only really essential bit – breathe! Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold for a second, and out through your mouth, releasing any cares and worries and feeling tension melt away. Continue to breathe in this fashion and direct your attention to your breath, noticing it slowing and lengthening as you continue to breathe evenly in and out. Simply observe. You may notice the breath is cooler on the in breath and warmer on the out breath; you may wish to incorporate certain words, “calm” on the in breath and “release” on the out breath, for example. And just…. Be. That’s really all there is to it. You’re at the gateway to wonders. You may wish to set an alarm for say, 10 or 15 minutes’ time when starting out so you can relax and let go completely, and then extend as you build up. Oh – and make sure your phone is unplugged and your mobile is set to silent!
The most common obstacle I hear is an inability to ‘switch off’. It’s very easy when starting off to become distracted by the ‘chattering monkeys’, the voices which are reminding us we have a dentist’s appointment in the afternoon, asking us if we’ve remembered where our car keys are, wondering if we’ve got enough money to pay the electric bill etc etc. Please don’t be discouraged. These are all too common and certainly don’t mean you’re ‘failing’ or will ‘never get the hang of this’. They just need to be dealt with, is all. Let them flow. Let them chatter themselves out without engaging with them in any manner. As thoughts come up, acknowledge them without judgement and let them go. If you’re particularly visual, you may find it helpful to visualise them as balloons which you release and watch bobbing unhurriedly over the horizon, getting smaller and smaller…. And if you’re not particularly visual that’s fine, just continue to practise detached observation. You’ll be there before you know it.
Finally, some people find it helpful to listen to binaural beats or guided meditations (always available on Youtube if necessary). Another technique is to stare into a candle flame or examine a flower or other object. Play around with it, and most importantly, have fun! As with most things, the more you practise the easier it gets. And practising detached observation in meditation will seep into your daily life. You’ll learn to respond rather than react, discern without judgement and you’ll get less caught up in dramatics. And those are arguably the biggest benefits of all.