Meditation is a polarizing topic across the board. In one camp you’ve got diehards who claim that meditation changed their lives, that they’ve reached insane levels of productivity, calm, and spiritual connectivity by meditating every day. In the other camp, you have people who loathe meditation. Their minds are too loud, they get bored, and they see little in the way of benefits because of it.
I often get messages from the latter group about the necessity of meditation. For some reason, witchcraft seems to have taken on a seriously Eastern bent in this instance and now witches all over are preaching that meditation is necessary for the craft. Today we’re going to take a look at whether you really need to meditate, what kinds of meditation can be helpful, and the one kind of meditation that you should avoid at all costs.
Do You Need To Meditate?
The short answer: No, you don’t need to meditate to be a witch.
Think about it, meditation didn’t spread widely in the west until the late 19th century. How would we have records of witches, magicians, and sorcerers going back to the 15th century and before if meditation was necessary for magic and they didn’t even have it? The simple answer is, they didn’t meditate. They never meditated and their magic worked just fine.
If it worked for them, it’ll work for you too.
One of the big reasons why meditation just isn’t necessary for witchcraft is that it has a completely different goal. Witchcraft is used to make a tangible change in your life. It’s designed to bring you money, get rid of stalkers, punish your enemies, protect you, and so much more.
Meditations’ main goal is to train the mind. This training can be great for lessening anxiety, stress, and depression, improving focus and calm, and increasing empathy and general wellbeing. These are all great goals, don’t get me wrong! But they don’t necessarily relate to witchcraft.
If we reach beyond these surface considerations, we realize that there’s a much more sinister side to meditation in the West that we need to be taking into consideration before we sign up for this practice.
The Dark Side Of Meditation
Now, before we get into this subject, it’s important to make a distinction between meditation as it currently exists in the Western world, and meditation in its original context, Buddhism. I am speaking only about the Western practice of meditation and NOT about Buddhism. The reason for this is quite simple, they are not in any sense the same. Buddhism utilizes meditation within a structure of ethics, beliefs, and other practices that prevent many of the problems that I’m going to discuss here. Western meditation strips away this context which has led it down an unfortunate path.
What is this path? It goes by a few different names but “spiritual bypassing” or “junk food spirituality” are the two that are most common. Spiritual bypassing occurs when a person uses their spiritual practice to feel good, rather than to become a better person. You can see where the name junk food spirituality came from, it’s just like junk food in that it tastes great and gives your brain a fun rush but is, in reality, devoid of nutrition and terrible for you.
So how does meditation fit into this? Well, when you remove all of that context we talked about it’s quite easy to use meditation as a means of avoiding your problems rather than dealing with them.
To grasp what I’m talking about, imagine that hyper-spiritual new age guy who’s so zenned out that he doesn’t even react to the bad things that happen in his life. He thinks he’s reached some kind of spiritual pinnacle but in reality, he’s just trained his brain to bury all of his emotions so deeply that he can’t feel them anymore. Sure he looks calm on the outside but do you really want to be calm when you’re going through a breakup? When a loved one dies? When you’re flat broke and have no backup plan?
No! These experiences are integral to human life, our pain and our joy are what connect us to each other and what makes life worth living. If you never feel any of it, are you really living? And further, your emotions are an incredibly important tool. They exist to tell you when things are going well or when they are going very badly. That pain is a signal that something is not right!
If you meditate yourself into not feeling your emotions, as so many people do, it’s like putting a piece of tape over the blinking check engine light in your car. Just because you can’t see the light, doesn’t mean the problem has gone away!
This is the true danger in spiritual bypassing, it blinds us to our own pain so that instead of changing things, instead of fixing our problems, we just suppress the pain so that we can’t feel it consciously and stay in whatever situation is causing that pain long term. And don’t be fooled, just because your conscious mind isn’t registering that pain doesn’t mean it’s not happening in your subconscious mind. It is, and it definitely affects your wellbeing and your body. Being unaware of the stress doesn’t stop it from wrecking you.
Then we get into the second part of Western meditation practices that are a little screwed up. Like many things in capitalist societies, meditation has been turned into a way to make money. Beyond that though, it’s becoming a tool for instilling complacency in the masses. Why question the way things are or try to change the way things are when you can just meditate and stop feeling how your job is working you into the ground and sucking your soul out, right?
This is a problem, and not one that’s isolated to simply meditation or to spirituality. We are being told from all angles that we as individuals must take responsibility for the shitty situations that major corporations and their greed have gotten us into. Climate change? It’s us lazy consumers who need to stop taking such long showers and driving around even though 71% of global emissions can be soundly attributed to just 100 companies. Pollution and plastic? Individuals need to be taking steps to reduce their plastic waste, ignoring the fact that this is nearly impossible since companies are packaging everything in plastic. These problems cannot be boiled down to individual responsibility. It’s systemic, and it only serves those who are creating these harmful systems for us to take individual responsibility rather than demanding that they fix the problem they created.
Meditation is the same thing. Instead of looking at the world that we live in and taking note of the poverty, the child hunger, ever-widening wealth gap, the greed, the exhaustion, the way we work ourselves to death and submit ourselves to insane amounts of stress, we meditate. We block out all those pesky, annoying feelings, the taste of injustice, the stress that is endemic in our culture, and we meditate. Sure it makes us feel a little better. And, hey! It probably allows you to perform better at that job that’s demanding way too much of you in the first place
But it doesn’t fix anything, it blinds us to injustice and makes us less empathetic toward those who are suffering (they should just meditate more, right?) It disconnects us from our true wants and needs and makes us complacent in a system that we have the power to change! In Buddhism, this doesn’t happen. Tibetan Buddhists who are world-class meditators have empathetic reactions that are startling more intense than the average person that we can easily track with brain imaging. Their meditation increases empathy. Ours often decreases empathy.
Witchcraft is first and foremost about changing your world to be better. Not about feeling better but actually, tangibly changing it to be better. This is where this kind of meditation and witchcraft are completely at odds. You cannot blind yourself to the injustice and pain in your life AND change it to be better. If you cannot acknowledge what’s wrong, you don’t even know what to fix.
Does this mean that you should never, ever meditate for any reason? No, not at all. I meditate every day. It is surprising that I meditate despite my vehement objections to it? Maybe, but I know how to avoid the problems we’ve discussed. And if you want to meditate, then here’s how you can too.
Meditation To Improve Your Witchcraft
If you’re going to meditate, you need to know your why. What are you hoping to get out of it? Do you want a little more calm and a little less anxiety? That’s cool, meditation is great for that if you do it right. Do you want to enhance your magic? There are ways to meditate that do that too. Here are the things you’ll need to keep in mind to make your meditation practice suit your craft.
1. Breathing Meditation
First things first, if you’re doing breathing meditation designed to quiet the mind and let your thoughts float by you are NOT supposed to try and suppress them. Pushing your thoughts away is how you train yourself not to feel things and as we’ve discussed that is all-around Bad.
Instead, the goal is to be paying very close attention to them, you are noticing the thought and while not directly engaging with it you are simply letting it come and go on its own. This is great for training focus and for helping you to learn to hear more of what your subconscious mind is trying to say. Again, do NOT try to force your thoughts away while doing breathing meditations.
2. Skill Meditations
If you want to meditate to enhance your magic then you need to know HOW you want to enhance it. Do you want better energy control? Do you want to be able to hear spirits better? Do you want to enhance your dreaming or astral travel? These will be active meditations, that is, meditations where your mind is actively doing something. Figure out what you want to enhance and go find a meditation for it! There are tons of them all over the internet and you can try out a dozen of them to find one that really suits you.
3. Discursive Meditation
This style of meditation is native to Western occult practices and it is great for enhancing magical practices! Discursive meditation, rather than being a meditation of NOT thinking, is a meditation of intentionally directed thinking. It’s lovely for those of you who have minds that are too busy and don’t do silence. To perform discursive meditation, you need to choose a subject. Tarot cards are a great subject to start with but you can also use geomantic figures, plants, sigils, magical texts, and many more things. Essentially what you’re going to do is allow your mind to unfold the symbolism and the secrets hidden within that subject through focused attention.
All you need to do is sit upright in a chair, feet flat on the floor and hands resting on your legs. Focus your gaze on the subject and begin thinking about what you already know about it. If you’re focusing on a tarot card, think about the keywords and meanings you associate with it. See if there are ways that the images relate to these meanings, begin trying to pull new meaning out of the imagery on the card. Allow your thinking to be directed but also to flow. If you get distracted, return to the subject gently by retracing your thoughts to where you left off.
This takes some practice but when you become proficient at this style of meditation, it can lend itself to unraveling magical meaning very quickly and easily. Don’t be too worried if your mind won’t stay on track at first, this is normal. Just keep coming back to the subject, your mind needs to be trained to not wander and this takes time. Start with increments of time that feel easy, even 3-5 minutes is fine, and build up your focus over time.
If you’ve been struggling with meditation and feeling like a bad witch because of it, it’s time to be done with that. You do not have to meditate to be a witch. I would much rather see meditations used as a tool for enhancing specific skills, not as a cure-all bandaid that we slap on every magical practice. Use it if it serves a purpose in your practice but otherwise, spend your time digging into subjects that interest you and grow your craft!