Meditation for beginners

While meditation is originally an Eastern practice many forms of it have arrived to the West. Personally I’m not familiar with the nuances of Eastern practices and will only discuss the general ideas of meditation in a context that’s easily understood by readers with little or no knowledge on the subject. For anyone wanting to know more about Eastern meditation techniques, there are plenty of books and courses available.

When I talk about meditation I don’t mean one specific practice, but a number of techniques that are closely related to each other. As a whole, I view meditation is the art of connecting with ones mind, which can mean calming one’s thoughts or exploring them are they come. All exercises start with finding a calm, silent place, where nothing is going to disturb you. Take a sitting position in which you can breathe freely and have your back straight. Place your limbs in a way in which you feel comfortable, letting your hand rest on your lap, for example. For a beginner one of the hardest things is often to find a position in which the muscles don’t start cramping after a while.

Note on literature: There are few generally accepted ideas on how meditation should be done and every guide and book has it’s own details, imagery and tips. Don’t let this confuse you, but choose a technique that fits you and ignore the rest until you’ve learned the basics.

Exercise 1: Relaxation
Take a deep breath, let the air stay in your lungs for a second and then breath out. Keep doing this until the breathing becomes automatic, following the cycle without any effort from your side. Now focus your thoughts on the tips of your toes. Imagine your consciousness has moved into your muscles, becoming part of the basic sensations of your body. Relax your mind at the same time as you relax your toes. Now repeat the steps with your feet, legs, knees, thighs, stomach, chest, fingers, hands, shoulders, throat, face and finally the head. You can imagine a string of energy streaming through your backbone starting at the small of your back and going up all the way to your scalp.

Expected results:
Hidden tensions in your body will go away and you feel calm and focused on listening to your own body. Ten minutes of daily training for a 2-4 weeks should turn this into a familiar routine for the and you will start finding your muscles relaxing just after a few breaths. You can keep moving your attention up your body or simply focus on imagining a stream of energy flowing through you. Calming your body will also start affecting your mind, shutting out thoughts in favour of silent contemplation.

Exercise 2: Awareness
Important note: This exercise may be unpleasant for people suffering from severe anxiety or depression. I suggest finding a calm, safe place with someone close by you can talk to if you feel you need it. You may want to skip this in favour of exercises 1 and 3.

Preparations: Finish anything you have been doing in good time before starting. You may want to start with a relaxation exercise to calm your mind. Make sure you have plenty of time to meditate without anything catching your attention. I also recommend sleeping and eating well during the time you repeat this exercise.

Relax and close your eyes. Do not focus on anything in particular or focus your attention on the rhythm of your breath, whichever feels most natural to you. Let your thoughts float freely in your mind. Try not to let any of them take your attention away from your focus. Simply be aware of whatever images, memories, sensations of emotions well to the surface and let them disappear just as they arrived. If you lose concentration, open your eyes and start again.

Expected results:
You will experience a flow of unconscious or semi-conscious thoughts (“noise”) coming out. Any fears, hopes or dreams may distinguish themselves in forms you wasn’t aware of. If you keep a magical diary, don’t write anything down of what you experience during meditation. After 3-6 months of daily practice you will start noticing yourself become more aware of your psyche in your daily life outside the meditative state. This will lead to a better understanding of yourself and your emotional responses. This kind of awareness is the basis for later magical work and should be practised regularly by beginners and masters alike.

Exercise 3: Focus
Form the image of a small orb in your mind. When you close your eyes, think the orb is still right in front of your eyes. Relax and make sure also your eyes are relaxed despite “looking” at the orb. Ignore any flashes of light or figures flickering in front of you. Keep doing this until you have a clear sensation of the orb in your mind. It may come to you as an actual image or as an empty area where the orb is supposed to be. If you lose focus open your eyes and start again.

When you’ve found your own inner orb focus all your attention solely on it, gently pushing away everything else from your thoughts. For some people it’s necessary to imagine your will is keeping the orb spinning. Experiment with the image to find your own preferences and you learn to clear your mind of anything else than the image of the orb. If a 3D object causes you trouble for some reason you may also imagine a simple white spot in place of the orb. Whichever object you pick you need to stick to it from then on in order to accustom your mind to it. Finish your session with 10-20 minutes of awareness meditation to deal with any thoughts and feelings you had during the practice or if you avoid awareness meditation, sitting still with your eyes open sorting your thoughts until you’ve processed anything that came your mind.

Expected results:
You will find it easier and easier to focus your mind on a single abstraction. After some months of daily training you should be able to clear your mind in just a few minutes of meditation. You may find emotions rising from inside you. However your awareness and relaxation training will help you to remain focused on the focus instead. The exercise will teach you the type of concentration that is very important for magical work.

Further reading

http://www.wikihow.com/Meditate-for-Beginners
An excellent step-by-step guide for beginning meditation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra
Chakras are originally part of Eastern practices, but the idea has also spread in some form to the West. The idea of seven chakras is relatively easy to grasp and works as a good basis for more complicated symbolic systems.

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Are spirits real?

As a person who works with spirits despite accepting them as real I get lots of people, especially believers in spirits, challenging my beliefs. Those who have known me for a long time know that I started out as a believer myself, since those around me believed in what they experienced. After being introduced to the idea I felt I was frequented by visiting spirits, some friendly, many less so.

I’m a person who wants to understand and control her surroundings. There had to be a universal pattern between how spirits acted and what they truly were. I started with simply making friends with a few, not pushing them away but letting them come to me for me to learn more about them. I learned not to fear any spirit, however harmful it claimed – or was claimed – itself to be. What I learnt during that time still defines me today.

It appeared to me spirits were stronger than others. A handful had strong personalities and a clear presence when you interacted with them. My curiosity was directed towards the ones that didn’t. Why did many spirits feel like you could simply blow in their direction and they would go away? I figured out that my imagination was so used to seeing spirits everywhere I was projecting them into places there wasn’t anyone to interact with. Therefore I worked out a few basic cognitive tools to work out a difference between real and imagined entities:

1. If you tell yourself the spirit isn’t there, does the presence disappear? If yes, it’s not there.

2. When the spirit talks to you, does it express opinions contrary to your own? If yes, it might be there.

3. Does anyone else notice the spirit without you pointing it out to them? If no, it’s not there.

4. Does the spirit know something no one else does (about a historical event, for example)? If yes, it might be there.

As any sceptical reader will notice, none of these clauses straight out prove any spirits are real. In my long life I’ve had one single experience that passes number 4 and then I was alone and wasn’t able to get an assessment on number 3. Over time I learnt many things about the psychology behind spirit sightings, especially how being in a group affects your perception.

So, the question I’m asked is this: With all the experience I have, especially with some with apparent evidence of real spirits, why do I not accept the idea that they are real? For me the answer lies in intellectual honesty. I do not have any objective proof to show anyone that my or anyone else’s experiences are truly, truly real. I cherish every moment of what I’ve felt and seen, whether good or bad, but it would be dishonest of me to claim I know what’s really out there. Nothing our current scientific research shows supports the idea of spiritual entities. That doesn’t bother me. To the contrary, my research has led me to where I wanted to be. I believe I have a fairly good idea of how and why we experience spirits, from a purely psychological viewpoint. I have, for experimental purposes, created and controlled meetings with “spirits” for others.

Are spirits real? No. Are they a valuable tool in understanding ourselves? Yes, I think so. Spirits are powers and ideas that have taken their own life in the collective mind of humanity. Their true power lies in their connection with the psyche. It’s said that every man has his own demons. I believe that’s true.