Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to Meditate

Free pdf booklet on meditation and its effects

FREE PDF booklet in Dionesia Rapposelli's (Soror ZSD23's) series on magic, mysticism, and higher spirituality. Meditation and Its Effects. Topics in this booklet include Raja Yoga, Mindfulness, Shamatha, How to meditate, Benefits of meditation, and Chakra and Kundalini lore.  It is richly illustrated with my own original art work.

Contact the author at her Web page for info on  other available and planned pdfs in the series. 

Mindfulness East and West

“You must keep the mind fixed on one object, like an unbroken stream of oil. The ordinary man’s mind is scattered on different objects, and at the time of meditation, too, the mind is at first apt to wander. But let any desire whatever arise in the mind, you must sit calmly and watch what sorts of ideas are coming. By continuing to watch in that way, the mind becomes calm, and there are no more thought-waves.” Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)

self portrait from my Spiritual ideal series
Swami Vivekananda was a Vedantist monk and Hindu missionary who became a big celebrity in the US among the progressively spiritual and intellectual set at the turn of the 20th century. In the quote above, he is talking about Raja or “Royal” Yoga. Raja Yoga, also called Classical Yoga, has nothing to do with body work. It is an Indian spiritual philosophy that outlines how to transcend the mind and achieve enlightenment through meditation. The philosophy exists as a book called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It was probably written sometime between the first and third century.

Mindful Mind
A key part of meditation practice is to watch your thoughts although this has often been misunderstood to mean that a person should fight having thoughts. There are forms of meditation that aim to suppress thoughts through concentration and fixation techniques but, for Westerners and people in modern society who,  paraphrasing a few lines from a Bob Dylan tune, have “a head full of ideas that are driving them insane,” mindfulness practices are probably more suitable at least at the beginning. Mindfulness (Vipashyana) meditation is a thought-transformation technique.  It trains you to realistically evaluate your thoughts and feelings, accept them , and then shift focus to more positive and constructive modes of thinking and feeling. 

“The body together with the notions of heaven, hell, bondage, anger, and fear are mere illusions and have no relation to me. I am pure consciousness. Therefore, what do I really need to do?”  From the Ashtavakra Gita.

Another main style of meditation is called Shamatha. Raja Yoga  falls into this category. The goal is to quiet the mind to achieve calm abiding. This form of meditation generally begins with observing your  thoughts so that you can have better choices about your thoughts, emotions, and actions and not be captive to the onslaught of compulsive rumination and distraction.

Regular meditation practice may start with watching the mind with detachment, then gradually concentrating and quieting the mind through mantra recitation and/or concentration on a mental or visual image (such as a picture or other object) or a process (such as breathing or feeling your pulse or focusing on a certain part of the body).

When the mind is quieted and keenly focused through concentration, the sense of time and subject and object (i.e., yourself and the object of concentration) are overcome. An illuminated sense of “being” or presence arises. This is true meditation, as defined by Raja Yoga.

The moment is experienced in its purity. It is not qualified by judgment, fantasy, or memory. Mental and emotional projection and karmic momentum stop. In deeper and deeper stages of meditation, the sense of duality becomes thinner and thinner until only a sense of pure awareness -not awareness of any thing-remains. Adepts then say that even this is transcended by another kind of experience.

Mind Stuff

The mind is naturally noisy and much of it runs like static on a TV screen or random code that comes up on a computer screen. It is sometimes like white noise or background noise and sometimes like a parrot or a little yapping dog.

What you are watching when you watch your thoughts is the noisy static and baggage of your mind. In fact, you are watching the subconscious mind come to the surface like soap bubbles. Like soap bubbles, the images of the subconscious are colorful, like the rainbows that form on the skin of bubbles before bursting into nothingness. If you suppress and filter these images and thoughts, which is what we do consciously and subconsciously at every moment, you merely drive them back into the sticky soapy goo of the subconscious where they intensify and evolve into neuroses.

A lot of “stuff” may come up in meditation. Images that seem visionary or like astral travel may emerge at a certain point early on in meditation practice for some people. Some people who meditate without guidance get caught up in this mental imagery instead of truly meditating. Although visualization, astral travel, and trance can be valuable methods of consciousness expansion, they need to be coupled with basic meditation and engaged in skillfully for greatest benefit.

It is important in meditation and other spiritual practices to know where the content of the mind and mental experiences are coming from. They are coming from you. Phenomena are not appearing before you or coming into you; they are coming out of you. 

In the words of the well-known mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987): “All the gods, all the hells, all the heavens are within you. That god is within you. It is not something that happened somewhere else a long time ago. It’s in you.”

In meditation, when done correctly, the images and thoughts that waft through consciousness will subside or become somewhat distant, like white noise. You will feel calmer and more focused in daily life because you simply have more room in consciousness to be present and aware.

Preparing to Meditate

Simple stretching and movement of the joints and also deep breathing or some basic breathing exercises, done briefly, are recommended to prepare for meditation.

  • Cover the body with a shawl or blanket to keep warm (body temperature goes down during meditation). Keep the back and neck aligned and straight.
  • Sit comfortably, even if this means you are sitting on a stool or chair.
  • Postpone meditation if you are hungry or full, sleepy, anxious, depressed, or otherwise impaired.
  • Meditate in the same place at the same time. That is, make it a routine if you wish to achieve results. The best hours of the day are the morning and evening (sunrise and sunset). 
  • Determine how much time you sit for meditation and keep to it even if you become drowsy or restless during that time.
  • Observe rather than “fight” or be discouraged by sensations of noisiness, restlessness, boredom, or drowsiness.

Excerpt from La Maga – Chapter  VII Peace and Illumination

She wasn’t allowed to talk during their walks, anyway. In fact, she had to walk on her own, alone, with her own silence, her own muted thoughts. At first, she tended to seethe, wondering whether Sofia made Lenny walk like that, too—or whether she talked to him while they walked. Mirelle bet she did. Mirelle could tell when she looked at that kid.

If it wasn’t that he had done a 180 degree turn since Sofia had made him her special project, Mirelle would’ve become completely discouraged. She had to trust the method. She had to trust that a wonderful transformation was in store for her too. And she knew that she was extremely privileged. Even if Sofia kept her as an assistant forever and never let her take wing on her own, it was okay. Sofia was very kind toward her, and Mirelle could’ve had a far worse fate.

Medea Sarin Sortiar would’ve had Mirelle doing all kinds of weird things—and gophering around as one of her handmaids if Mirelle had apprenticed with her. She would’ve been learning magic straight-away. It would’ve been dark and chaotic but magic nonetheless. There had yet to be magic or thought-forms, keys, or rites in Mirelle’s apprenticeship with Sofia La Maga. So far, the only thing that had happened was these long silent walks and hours of sitting meditation in which Mirelle felt the weight of time and the racket of her mind and brooded.

She kept at it , hoping that if she dealt with it gracefully, she would be taken seriously by La Maga Magus who would then teach her something.

Emptying the mind is a dangerous thing precisely because it’s purgative. One sits expecting stillness that tames the tedium of time only to find that time is nothing more than the succession of thoughts. Even if they are muted, they persist nevertheless, like TV-screen static that hiss and scintillate annoyingly and are made of ions from the beginning of time.

The noise goes on; mundane thoughts give way to visions that seem like communications but are always deceptions. They are more junk from the depths of consciousness: random archetypes and convoluted wonders, mixed up impressions of stimuli complicated by one’s human senses. Emotions without thoughts soon follow. These are realized as things best forgotten, disguised as nightmares and neuroses emerging from an abyss: a Pandora’s Box called contemplation. One knows oneself then or goes insane.

Resolve, resting, the thoughts do not cease; they go far away, as if they were someone else’s property. That’s when a kind of serenity follows as a sense of balance yet awaiting the next wave.