Should witches meditate?

One thing that beginning Wiccans seem to ask quite a lot is “Must I meditate?” The short answer is, yes. Meditation is exercise and training for the mind, and mind skills are essential for all Wiccans. Even if you don’t particularly want to develop yourself in a wide range of areas you still need mind skills to perform Wiccan basics.

You must be able to focus your mind and remove distractions to perform any sort of ritual at all. You must be able to stay with guided imagery to ground and center yourself. You must visualize imaginatively and with focus to see the circles you cast. You must be able to concentrate and hold an idea or picture firmly before you in order to cast spells. You may be surprised to learn that the more freeform your Wicca, the more you will depend on mind skills.

Traditional Wiccans can allow the structure of ritual to guide them through the visualization and focusing process; they can use the words repeated in each ritual, Moon after Moon, as a hypnotic induction. They can use the repeated gestures as a movement meditation. Indeed, repetition is one of the most powerful tools of trance induction; it narrows the mind into the locus of the work quite effectively .

Because eclectics, who tend to do a different sort of ritual every time they work, don’t have repetition as a tool to concentrate their minds from the outside, they must hone their interior skills. Radical witches sometimes perform rituals with untrained people. A women’s empowerment circle may have a few witches and a bunch of newcomers interested in the empowerment experience. Or a Green meeting may have a few witches imparting spiritual focus to political work. These are occasions when only a small percentage of those present can be expected to know how to ground and center, how to visualize, how to concentrate the mind on a unified purpose. Thus their skills must be sufficient to support the group.

When I teach, I like to emphasize these very practical, and fairly simple, qualities of meditation: The ability to focus; The removal of distractions; The acquisition of vivid visualization and sensory imagery; The ability to apply more advanced mind skills like psychic selfdefense

Most of us have heard of Zen meditation. We expect that successful meditation involves emptying the mind into a state of no-thought and becoming one with white light. Or something. The truth is, even hardcore Zen masters don’t consistently achieve a state of no-thought. Instead, they have learned to have thoughts to which they pay no attention, thoughts that fall away , that fade into the background. This eventually allows them to have long periods of no-thought, but thoughts will always come, sooner or later. The point is, Zen meditation and many similar forms have entirely different goals than that of the average Wiccan. They seek to achieve inner peace, to become closer to the gods, (or God, or the Universal Oneness), to know the nature of the Self, and to transcend the ego-mind. These are laudable goals and goals that Wiccans might be very interested in accomplishing.

Certain advanced Wiccan skills, such as deep trance or channeling, depend on a greater ability to still the mind, quiet the ego, and reach an inner balance. Of course, these goals are also valuable in and of themselves. But these goals are not the same as the rather simpler set with which I started. They are not the same as being able to visualize, concentrate on an image or idea, respond appropriately to guided imagery , and remove distractions from the mind in order to focus. When you begin to play a musical instrument, such as the piano or the clarinet, you may be given finger exercises to learn. These train the hands to play the instrument. As you become skilled at your instrument, you may do these exercises much less often, using them only as a warmup. Eventually, you will play well enough that the instrument itself trains your fingers. Or, you may continue the exercises throughout your life. Meditation is a similar training exercise—for your mind. As you become skilled, you may use it less often, or you may adopt it as a lifelong practice. It’s up to you. There are many different kinds of meditation. Some ask only for stillness; others employ postures (yoga), sounds (chanting or mantra meditation), ideas, or images upon which your mind can focus.

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