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Forums -> General Info -> Meditation

Post # 1
Why Meditate?

Meditation and related kinds of consciousness-focusing are fundamental skills for many of the most important Heathen-oriented activities. It is very obviously needed for spaecraft, runecraft, priestcraft, and for the pursuit of personal spiritual growth. It is also an essential skill for those who wish to infuse their crafts and arts with a spiritual dimension and/or with specific powers such as magical or rune-powers. Furthermore, meditation is an excellent method to sustain one's physical and psychological health, well-being and energy, and to strengthen one's mental powers. A mind and body well-practiced in meditation can pursue any activity better, more calmly and intently, more fruitfully, than is the case for the unpracticed. In fact, there are so many good reasons to meditate on a regular basis, that it makes a good deal more sense to ask the question "Why not meditate?" There really are no good answers to that question, whereas answers to the question "Why meditate" could take a long time to go through!

Types of Consciousness-Focusing Activities

There is much that has been written and taught about meditation from the religious perspective in many different faiths, as well as from a more applied or practical perspective for purposes ranging from psychological healing to enhancing one's combat skills. There are different "systems" of meditation, and different ways of defining it. One of the breakouts that is often made is to distinguish between concentration, meditation, and contemplation.

"Concentration" implies primarily the focusing of one's mental and psychic powers on a specific goal, desire or purpose. As such, it is useful for applications involving memory, visualization, and mental skills of focus that are often used in runecraft and other kinds of magical undertakings. Concentration, in and of itself, is not often used in strictly religious exercises.

"Meditation" is a less goal-driven activity--there is reason underlying one's practice of it, but generally not a specific, precisely-defined goal or end-point. Meditation covers a wide spectrum of mental, psychological and spiritual activity, both religiously-oriented and not necessarily religiously-oriented; these will be discussed further in this article. It tends to be calming but invigorating in its effects.

The term "contemplation" is generally used to describe the state of mind and mode of awareness that is pursued in advanced, religiously-oriented exercises, where one contemplates the Divine, without any other purpose or goal than awareness and experience of the Divine itself.

There are no firm dividing lines between these categories, in my opinion: they tend to blend into each other at the edges, and one may pursue more than one category during the course of a single exercise or experience.

If one is interested in learning concentration, there are a number of books available that offer good exercises and training for this mental skill. One book in the Heathen tradition that can be recommended for its offering of concentration exercises is Edred Thorsson's "Nine Worlds of Midgard."

Contemplation, as defined here, is an advanced skill that is beyond the scope and purpose of an article on "Beginning Meditation." Since there are books available about concentration, and since contemplation is beyond our scope, this article will focus on meditation rather than on either of the other two categories. It should be noted, though, that training in any of these skills enhances one's ability to learn and practice both of the other ones: the skills themselves are closely related, even if the purposes to which they are put tend to differ from each other.

Types of Meditation

In this series of articles, I shall explain and offer guidelines for three different kinds of meditation. Though some religious traditions tend to regard some types of meditation as "higher," "purer," or otherwise better than other types, it is my opinion that especially at the beginning and intermediate levels, there is no one way that is always "better" than the others. It is more a matter of personal preference, as to what method appeals to you, holds your interest, motivates you to pursue it, and makes sense to you. For those of you who are more strongly motivated by variety and become bored with routine, it is useful to have several different types of approaches and exercises, to provide you with this variety. For those of you who learn better by settling into a comfortable routine, you can choose whichever method appeals to you and stick with that one, at least at the beginning stages.

However, ultimately I recommend that you learn all three methods, as each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses when they are applied to specific religious or related kinds of practices. Though different traditions and systems have their own names for these different types of meditation, I shall avoid lending any "outside" cultural or religious bias to this discussion, by making up my own descriptive names for them. I shall refer to these three types of meditation as "repetitive meditation," "immersion meditation," and "empty mind meditation."

Repetitive meditation

This type of meditation is, in concept, the simplest form, though it is no easier in practice than the others (at least in my experience!). I would guess--and this is my own speculation with only a very small amount of lore to back me in it--that this is the form of meditation most commonly used by our Heathen forebears, for many if not all of the purposes meditation is used for.

Repetitive meditation consists of taking a very short galdor or poetic verse, a simple phrase or thought, or even a single word or sound, and repeating it over and over again. One uses this short phrase as the linchpin of one's consciousness and awareness, allowing all else to fade into the background. At first, one speaks or chants this phrase aloud, and does this exercise only during one's scheduled meditation times. But the eventual goal, through long practice and training, is to be able to keep this phrase in the foreground of one's awareness even while undertaking other activities, and even when it is not being spoken aloud.

This meditation exercise may seem ridiculously simplistic, even banal, and it may seem that nothing of any great value in a spiritual sense could be achieved through practicing it. But, there is a very long tradition of testimony to the ability of this specific practice to bring a person to great heights of spiritual development. The Christian mystical tradition in both the Eastern and Western churches has shown through the centuries that this meditative practice can be of enormous benefit and effect. Often simply the name "Jesus" is used, or a very simple phrase such as "Lord have mercy" or "Hail Mary, full of grace." In the Hindu tradition, the use of the word "OM" is famous for its beneficial effects. Buddhists, Muslim Sufi mystics, Native American religions, and people in many shamanic religions around the world make use of simple chants, words or phrases--even ones that have no actual linguistic meaning to them, such as "OM" or the Native American "heya-ho."

How does this meditative practice work? Simple though it seems, it works simultaneously on a number of different levels and dimensions at once. At the physical level, if one is chanting or speaking aloud, this practice causes even, rhythmical breathing, and sets up vibrations in the head and body that can have many subtle good effects, including relaxation and the toning and stimulation of the spiritual energy or maegen that we carry in our bodies and brains.
At the conceptual level, it can imbue one's consciousness with a particular thought, meaning, or essence, depending on the phrase or word that is used. For example, galdoring a rune will bring the power of that rune into your body and mind, and the more you do this, the more imbued you become with the power and understanding of the rune.

Repetitive chanting is one of the very best ways to bring yourself into a trance state, if you are seeking to do this. Speaking or chanting the name of one of our Goddesses or Gods, or a phrase of your choice that relates to them, with your full consciousness devoted to this practice will help to bring you into their presence and open up mutual awareness between you and them.
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Re: Meditation
Post # 2
At another level, this practice creates a strong habituation in you: a habitual awareness of the importance, the significance and meaning, of whatever it is you are focusing your mind on in your chanting or speaking. This habitual awareness can, over time, create a complete change in your outlook and how you go about living your life. As you can see, this deceptively simple-minded meditation exercise can have very far-reaching effects.

Though repetitive meditation is most often done by use of words and the voice, there are other kinds of repetitive activities that can be used instead of or as well as words. Quite a few shamanic traditions around the world require their trainees to undertake repetitive actions for long periods of time: actions such as grinding grain with a mortar and pestle, or simply tapping or rubbing one rock on another rock. Apprentices are kept at this activity for days, even months or years, until they have achieved the conceptual breakthrough they are seeking.

For modern Heathens, some ideas for repetitive meditation are drumming, or dancing some simple, repetitive dance motions. Your dance might imitate the movements of one or more animals you feels close to, or imitate some feature of the natural world such as ocean waves or blowing wind. Or one could turn rune-stadhas into simple, repetitive dance movements. Another excellent method consistent with our traditions is spinning, and focusing meditatively on the spinning itself. You could perhaps come up with other simple actions related to your favorite crafts.

It is extremely important, however, that the meditative action be basically purposeless, not oriented toward the production of anything useful in a material sense. That is the point of the meditation exercise: to break any action or phrase down into its mindless, repetitive, automatic functions. It is this very purposelessness that causes the esoteric and psychological benefits of the meditation exercise. At advanced stages of meditation, one will apply the lessons one has learned from basic, purposeless meditation activity to actions that are goal-oriented and purposeful. But one pursues those activities from a purposeless frame of mind, applying the meditative state to one's everyday tasks in life. At the beginning stages, however, it is essential to use purposeless, non-productive activity (which can include the use of voice / words) as the matrix for your meditation exercise.

I have made considerable use of the verbal repetitive meditation technique described above, as well as dancing and drumming, and have found that they all work very effectively. I have made less use of the other kinds of repetitive actions described above, so I cannot offer you any comparison as to their relative usefulness. It seems, however, that the human mind and spirit do respond in a particular way to repetitive activity of any kind. This being the case, I would suggest that if you wish to pursue practice of this technique, you could experiment with just about any simple, repetitive kind of activity, and see what works best for you. Keep a journal with descriptions of your experiences, and this will allow you to compare how well the different approaches work for you.Immersion meditation
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Re: Meditation
Post # 3
Immersion meditation is very similar to repetitive meditation in that one is focusing on a subject. However, instead of it being one subject, such as a short galdor, phrase, or a single word, it is an entire situation, thought construct, maybe even the universe its self. Immersion meditation therefore can be the most difficult form to learn. Immersion meditation can be purposeless in that the idea is not to achieve something material, but to allow thoughts, ideas, realizations to come to you of their own accord. Or it can be goal oriented, in that a goal to understand something better is set, and then contemplated until understanding is reached.

With immersion meditation one immerses one in a concept, an idea, an imagined place, a symbol, or other types of constructs. For example, one may wish to immerse themselves in the ideas behind the concept of Wyrd. Using immersion meditation, this can be done many ways. First one might wish to try merely immersing themselves in all the intellectual concepts surrounding Wyrd and its operation. They might meditate on the meanings behind the words Wyrd and orlog, and contemplate related words and their meanings . Another way to immerse one's self in Wyrd may be more visual in nature. One might visualize themselves at the Well of Wyrd, watching the Wyrd Sisters water the World Tree, recite orlog, and carve on the staves. Or they might visualize their life as a thread in the great loom of Wyrd. Or they might try to visualize their own orlog in some way, perhaps as a book, a thread, or a miniature version of the Well of Wyrd. Using immersion meditation, there are any number of ways one might try to contemplate Wyrd. Often in immersion meditation, the aim is to "become one with" whatever subject one is meditating on in order to better understand it. For example, if one were to want to contemplate a tree, one may visualize that they become one with the tree, feeling the branches sway in the wind, and the roots sinking deep in the earth.

This may be the core of immersion meditation, the becoming one with something in the mind to better understand it. Buddhists will speak of unification with objects or ideas, and this is often the idea behind immersion meditation. Buddhists and Hindus are not the only ones to practice immersion though. Christian monks will use similar techniques in the contemplation of Bible verses, or concepts such as the love of their God as do Jewish mystics. Immersion meditation can work equally as well for Heathens. First, one must go through the three steps of relaxation, calling on miht and m?gen, and breathing. Once that is done, and one has achieved meditative silence, they can begin their immersion. This can be done by merely visualizing becoming one with an object or concept, or through guided meditation where one is guided by another verbally through a series of visual images. One could also begin immersion merely by thinking about the concept wishing to be meditated on. Any of these methods will work. The primary goal is not to let one's thoughts stray outside the subject of the immersion. For example, if one is contemplating the meaning of the human soul, they would not wish to start thinking about the car payment they need to make tomorrow. Tapes are often handy in immersion meditation as are visual symbols. For example, prayers to Frige played on a tape may aid in a meditation on that goddess as would a figure or picture made to represent her.

Immersion meditation has its strengths and weaknesses. Its primary strength is it is not limiting. That is immersion meditation allows one to see the whole of the concept they are contemplating without being drawn back to one word or phrase being chanted as with repetitive meditation. This is also its greatest weakness. It is possible for one's mind to stray in the contemplation of a topic, esp. when there are many related concepts. For example, someone contemplating Wyrd using immersion meditation may wander down the line of thoughts surrounding orlog, and from there precede to think about events in their own life. While this would be a good topic to meditate on, it may not achieve the goal if the goal is to understand the Wyrd of the universe, and not one's personal orlog.

Empty mind meditation

Empty mind meditation is just that, emptying the mind of all thoughts, memories, emotions, and sensations. This is done by stopping each thought as it enters the mind, and allowing the mind to think about nothing. The goal of empty mind meditation is not to think about nothing though, but to allow thought patterns to form naturally within the mind without personal control. This can only be achieved by first calming the mind, and emptying it of all thoughts.

Empty mind meditation is not a form of meditation that can be achieved in one setting. It has to be practiced at least weekly for many sessions. Over time, it will get harder to stop thoughts from arising, or as soon as one is stopped another will arise. At this point, one will merely want to observe one's own thoughts and fantasies, not control them. Over time, by releasing control of one's thoughts, thought processes will slow down and one will be able to examine and contemplate them. The goal of all of this is to learn to silence one's own mind to the point to sense thoughts they normally not notice. In many martial arts, empty mind meditation is used to develop intuition by silencing one's mind to the point that they are more aware of their surroundings. Thus empty mind meditation can be used to make one's self more aware of one's self as well as one's surroundings.

Empty mind meditation has many strengths. It can be used as a simple relaxation technique, silencing worrisome thoughts. It can be used as it is in martial arts to increase one's awareness of their surroundings (not becoming lost in one's own thoughts), or to increase awareness of one's own thoughts, feelings, or emotions. Finally, it can be used to train to silence the mind enough to hear the spirits and wights of the multiverse one may wish to communicate with. Empty mind meditation's weaknesses though are apparent as one cannot as in repetitive or immersion meditation center on one object or related concepts. With empty mind one is when learning to use it at the mercy of their own mind, or once they have learned to use it, at the mercy of the sensations around them. And once one has mastered empty mind they are at the mercy of both. None the less, empty mind meditation is perhaps the best for sp? workers to learn. Only by mastering empty mind meditation will they learn to silence their minds enough to go in deep trance and hear the spirits that they have invited.
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Re: Meditation
Post # 4
Very helpful.
Thank you.
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