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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Meditation

This article was written by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke on October 20, 2011
posted under Meditation

Meditation is:

  1. An emptying of the mind of all thoughts and "chatter" often by concentration only on the slow inhalation and exhalation of breath and is characterized by slow alpha and theta waves. It induces relaxation and a "clean slate" preparatory for receiving psychic impressions.
  2. A careful thinking about a particular subject in a manner that brings access to physical memories as well as astral and mental level associations of knowledge about that subject.
  3. A state of consciousness characterized by relaxed alertness reducing sensory impressions with increased receptivity to inner plane communications.

Meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis are all associated with special mental states which facilitate positive personality changes and connect with higher dimensions of the psyche. In addition, those particular mind disciplines being used to achieve particular therapeutic results are receiving increasing professional and scientific attention.

Hypnosis is increasingly used with healing applications in all fields of medicine: to modulate pain, reduce certain side effects of medications, and to accelerate healing during and after convalescence. It is also used to prepare patients for surgery and hospital procedures, and childbirth by reducing anxiety and instilling affirmative healing imagery. It should be understood that any discussion of hypnosis is inclusive of self-hypnosis, and it should also be understood that anything that can be accomplished through hypnosis can be accomplished through meditation, but we have to go beyond the common perceptions about meditation as just a state of soulful self-oblivion to understand the worldly practical applications.

Hypnosis has been called the most powerful non-drug physical relaxant available. In addition it has the potential to reach beyond the neuromuscular system to involve the autonomic nervous system to positively influence the mechanisms of disease while integrating the healing process with the emotional system and the higher realms of the psyche.

Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and meditation, all progress from the relaxation of the physical body to remove or by-pass emotional blockage and open the mind to possibilities beyond past restrictive conditioning. Meditation has a particular value in reduction of stress—considered by most health professionals as a genuine “killer” of older people because it is cumulative in physical damage and tends to become a habitual mental pattern.

Like Self-Hypnosis, meditation is mostly self-administered and can be applied entirely for physical, emotional and mental benefits. From a Mind/Body (“BM”) perspective meditation is a non-drug way to lower stress levels, relax any area of the body, reduce blood pressure levels, calm the emotions, and clear the mind.

 

Body – Mind (BM) Relaxation. To get started with BM meditation requires no training, just common sense. The keys to success are found in:

  1. 1) A comfortable posture, preferably seated in either a modest reclining or a spine upright position;
  2. 2) Deep but not exaggerated breathing at a comfortably slow pace;
  3. 3) An intentional stilling of the mind. While not a requirement, in most meditative traditions, the eyes are closed. In some traditions, different eye focus points have different effects, and points such as the “third eye,” or gazing over the nose, help to lock the brain into a point of stillness. Different meditations may call for staring into at a candle flame or other object of focus (trataka meditation).

Often, especially when first beginning a regular practice of meditation, there is noticeable tension in the body. You can easily add a Tension & Release procedure to aid Body-Mind Relaxation.

Start by pointing the toes of both feet like a ballet dancer, and hold them pointed for 60 seconds, and then relax. Next, spread the toes of both feet apart as hard as you can and hold them that way for 60 seconds, and release. You will feel mild warmth and relief. Repeat tensing, holding and releasing with both ankles & calves. Then move upward, repeating for each muscle group: thighs, buttocks & groin, chest, upper arms, forearm & wrists, hands & fingers, neck & shoulders, mouth & facial muscles, brow & scalp. 

Alternatively, you might prefer first with working up the left leg, then the right, and similarly with the arms. Either way, feel the whole body as relaxed while restoring the breathing rhythm, slowly and deeply. Silently or quietly tell yourself “breathing deeply and evenly, I am more and more relaxed.” Repeat to yourself, “breathing deeply and evenly” in a relaxed rhythm several times as you note that your mind is only involved with that one thought.

Mantra Meditation is by far the best known form of meditation, and you’ve already engaged in mantra meditation as you slowly repeated the phrase “breathing deeply and evenly” in a relaxed rhythm coordinated with your breath. Instead, in mantra meditation you can repeat other words, phrases, and short prayers in a similar fashion. Every tradition includes such mantras that may be used in the same way but with effects that do reach into the spiritual dimension.

Each mantra while having similar physical and mental effects, will also produce different emotional feelings and induce unique spiritual effects identified with the particular tradition and the words or names used. Phrases containing “God Names” are especially powerful, as you would expect.

Words aside, meditation can be classified into three types according to their orientation which in turn can be distinguished from each other by brainwave patterns.

Concentration is focused attention on a selected object, thought, image, sound, repetitive prayer, chant, mantra etc., while minimizing distractions and constantly bringing the mind back to concentrate on the chosen object.

Mindfulness requires a non-reactive monitoring of present experience: perception, thought, feelings, etc.  The meditator centers focuses awareness on an object or process—such as breath, sound, visualized image a mantra, koan, or on a physical or mental exercise—while maintaining an “open” focus that may lead to insight or enlightenment. The meditator must passively observe without reaction.

Transcendent Mindfulness requires that the meditator is open to experiencing a shift in consciousness and even changes in the physical/etheric body, all the while focusing on a thought, image or object to the point of identifying with it.

Meditation can be practiced while seated or standing in particular positions (called asanas in yoga), but once you have broken habitual mental patterns that produce stress, you can be meditating while walking or doing simple repetitive tasks.

In a form of meditation using visualization, such as Chinese Qi Gong, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy (Qi) in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed.

Mantra meditation is the most familiar form of concentration, particularly when you expand the definition of “mantra” to include chants and prayers. Mantras are usually associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, but the word is generic and can apply to any tradition. Chants are commonly associated with Judaism and many neo-Pagan religions. Sometimes magical “spells” are chanted. Prayers are found in most religions, but are particularly associated with Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Hinduism. One of the oldest sacred texts, The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers the goal of meditation: "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman) within oneself".

Yogic science teaches that man-tra ("man" meaning mind, "tra" to cut) helps "yoke" the mind to a more conscious and harmonious vibration. The repetitive use of mantras can aid meditation, clear the subconscious of unhealthy attachments, and break accumulated mental patterns.

While we list some of the best known Hindu mantras transliterated into English, we still need to provide phonetic pronunciation guide.

Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide

—From Words of Power by Brian & Esther Crowley

OM, or AUM

Pronounced: Aum, or Ah,Oo, Mm. Note: The Ah can start at the solar plexus, moving up to the heart, and then to the throat. Repeat several times, and then the Ah should commence at the throat; then move up to the brow with the Oo; and up to the crown with the Mm. The full mantra should be extended out in vibratory fashion to Ahuu-oooo-muummm, feeling the vibrations as indicated.

Meaning: There is no meaning as this is said to be the primal sound that initiated the universe. Still, it can be considered in three parts: the “A” as in “the beginning,” the “U” as the maintenance and preservation of what was created, and the “M” as transformational power. Another perspective is view the “A” and the Physical Plane, the “U” as the Astral and Mental Planes, and the “M” as Spirit. 

OM MANI PADME HUM

Pronounced: Aa-oo-mm  Mah-nee-Pad-may Hoong. Note: In extended meditative work, colors may be visualized with each syllable as follows:

Meaning: “Hail to Him who is the Jewel in the Lotus.” It is the Infinite bound within the Finite. It is used as a protective mantra, and as an attunement of person with the Divine. 

OM HRIM KRIM HUM SHRIM

This mantra is actual four mantras general pronounced as one, but also separately.  The “Four Great Goddess Mantras” bring about development and integration of the mind, body and soul. Each governs primal forms of energy.

HRIM (pronounced Hreem) governs over the cosmic magnetic energy and the power of the soul and causal body. It is the prime mantra of the Great Goddess, ruler of the worlds, and holds all her creative and healing powers. HRIM awakens us at a soul or heart level, connecting us to Divine forces of love and attraction, opening the lotus of the heart to the inner Sun of consciousness.

Source: The Mantric Approach of the Vedas by David Frawley

 KRIM (pronounced Kreem) governs over prana as lightning or electrical energy. KRIM grants all spiritual faculties and powers, from the arousing of kundalini to opening the third eye. It has a special power relative to the lower chakras, which it can both stimulate and transform. It helps awaken and purify the subtle body. It is the great mantra of Kali, the Goddess of energy and transformation. KRIM carries the supreme life force.

Source: The Mantric Approach of the Vedas by David Frawley

HUM (pronounced Hoom) is a mantra of the inner fire. It represents the soul hidden the body, the Divine immanent in the world. It both calls the divine down into us and offers our soul upward to the Divine for transformation in the sacred fire of awareness. It is used to destroy negativity and creates great passion and vitality.

Source: The Mantric Approach of the Vedas by David Frawley

SHRIM (pronounced Shreem) is a mantra of love, devotion and beauty. SHRIM is a Lakshmi mantra, the Goddess of Beauty and divine grace. Yet SHRIM works at a deeper level than merely to give us the good things of life, including health. It takes us to the heart and gives faith and steadiness to our emotional nature.

Source: The Mantric Approach of the Vedas by David Frawley

Another group of mantras are used individually to stimulate the psychic centers, or chakras.

There are many, many more traditional Hindu and Buddhist mantras with various applications. As indicated above, some have specific transformational effects, while others are chanted or sung to produce feelings of peace, unity and communion.

Judaism. The core of Jewish meditation disciplines are found in the Kabbalah in which the ultimate purpose is to understand and cleave to the Divine. Classic methods include mental visualization of the higher realms through which the soul navigates to achieve certain ends.

The basic belief is that through meditation one can separate his soul from his body and transcend to the upper universes. The Kabbalah serves as a map telling one how to prepare and where to go.

Meditation involves controlling ones thought process, blocking out the five senses and entering expanded consciousness. Without meditation a person uses only three to five percent of his brain. Part of the brain receives signals of spirituality, but these signals are very sublime and are blocked out by the other five senses. When one clears his head of all thought he can feel spirituality and eventually can transcend to the upper worlds.

Jewish meditations are, of course, in the native language of Hebrew, and the mantric words will be presented in transliterated English. Here is a phonetic pronunciation guide:

The Hebrew letter chet  is pronounced “ch” as in the Scottish word loch.

The letter zayin = “dz” as in adze.

Kaph =  “kh” as in Khmer.

Tzaddi = “tz” as the ts in cats.

Quf = the guttural “q” as in Qoran.

The proclaimed goal of Kabbalah meditation is able to answer three of life's most critical questions: who we really are, where we came from, and why we are here. The answers provide the means to achieve true joy and a deep sense of accomplishment. You are able to experience life under the light of the Higher Being of your own realization.

The central focus of Kabbalah is on the Tree of Life, a unique diagram representing the Macrocosm and the Microcosm – that whole of that which is without and the whole of that which is within, the Universe and the Whole Person

This Tree of Life and the wisdom of the Kabbalah are the foundation of Western metaphysics and invisibly of the whole of Western science and philosophy. With it, we have the means to understand and relate to the body of the Universe and of Man and the Soul of Man and of the Universe. 

While there are individual Hebrew mantras, the premier form of meditation is found in the practices of “Path-Working” often in combination with individual cards from the Tarot. These are imaginative journeys or guided meditations following the twenty-two paths between the ten Sephiroth which should be understood as the “God Forces” behind the universe. 

From a psychic perspective, path-working has been described as the art of clairvoyantly investigating the Paths of the Tree of Life. The technique was largely developed by adepts of the Golden Dawn and Aurum Solis but has become a comprehensive meditative system outside the magical orders. Once the meditator has passively followed the guided meditation, he should then attempt to re-tread the Paths out-of-body following certain ritual techniques involving visualized symbols, performing certain gestures and vibrating Divine Names. 

Path-working can be classified as a Transcendent Mindfulness form of meditation in which shifts in consciousness are the intended result. These are astral learning experiences that can be understood as “initiations.” 

Generally included in the visualized symbols used with each path are the related Tarot cards (major arcana) and/or the related Hebrew letter. Just as the individual Tarot Arcanum communicates particular information and energies, so do the individual Hebrew letters. 

Because path-working is a visual exercise, it needs some sort of visual focus and the images of the Tarot Trumps are the most convenient for this purpose, and often serve to frame the type of vision that ensues. 

We can’t go into even an overview of path-working in brief article like this, so we refer the reader to A Garden of Pomegranates – Skrying on the Tree of Life, by Israel Regardie with Chic & Sandra Tabatha Cicero for a full exposition. 

To the kabalist, speech is the medium of revelation and hence language itself is sacred and an object of contemplation. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are profound realities embodying those primal spiritual forces that are, in effect, the “building blocks of Creation.” Hebrew is called a “flame language” and each letter appears to be shaped out of flames that can channel forces connecting Heaven with Earth is special ways.

Because of the belief that these letters (the forces embodied therein) predated Creation the letters themselves and the order and manner in which they are utilized are of crucial significance, and their properly pronounced sounds transformative. Hebrew chants (mantras) were designed as special formulas able to arouse spiritual forces.

As with Hindu mantras, the purification of the divine power within is attained through the correct and persistent vibration of the sacred sounds and can result in powerful effects of a physical and paranormal nature.

Active Imagination. The pre-eminent psychologist, C. G. Jung developed a technique of meditation called "Active Imagination", which is similar to Path-working.

The meditator is instructed to choose a dream or fantasy image, and then concentrate on the image to fix it in the mind. Contemplating it serves to animate it, and the alterations that occur must be noted as they reflect the psychic processes occurring in the unconscious which appear in the form of images of “conscious memory material,” thus uniting conscious and unconscious.

Instead of merely observing events, the meditator participates as a real character in drama that is taking place within his psyche. The goal is to assimilate lessons from the Unconscious into Consciousness in “Individuation”—the conscious process of psychic healing and integration of all parts of the psyche. The importance of being involved in the vision rather than just being an observer is to integrate the statements of the unconscious and to assimilate their compensatory content—thereby producing a whole new meaning. 

Jung observed in his own active imagination sessions two types of fantasies: one was related to images from his own past, but the others were mythological, archetypal, spiritual, and religious." He recognized these as symbols of basic drives common to every man throughout history, leading him to form the theory of the Collective Unconscious, perhaps his greatest achievement. 

In path-working the meditator likewise must experience himself as a character fully participating in the vision he is experiencing. In addition, the symbolism of the Paths of the Tree of Life is likewise "mythological, archetypal, spiritual, and religious," and the Tarot Arcana are direct representations of the Archetypes. The path-worker has a set framework within which to explore the archetypes himself. 

Likewise, we can compare the self-initiatory process of path-working with the individuation process of Jung’s Analytical Psychology. 

The Middle Pillar Exercise. Perhaps one of the most important magickal exercises based on the Kabbalah and given here in Hebrew was developed by the Golden Dawn, and described in The Middle Pillar by Israel Regardie (edited with new material by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero). The following version is a variation practiced by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke in his personal discipline. 

Essentially, it is a meditational exercise intended to open and balance the five specific psychic centers (chakras) that correspond with the Sephiroth on the central pillar of the Tree of Life as visualized within the physical body.

While visualizing the Sephirothic Centers within the body, reach up to center above the head (Kether) with both hands, see the center fill with white light from the Cosmos above, then vibrate the holy name AHIH (Eh-he-yeh) three times, pausing in between each to take a deep breath. After the third vibration, inhale and bring your hands down to the throat center (Daath) while visualizing the light descending from the crown to the throat, and vibrate the holy name YHVH ALHIM (Ye-hoh-voh E-loh-heem) three times as previously.  

Continue on down the Middle Pillar in the same manner vibrating YHVH ALOAH ve-DAATH (Ye-hoh-voh El-oah ve-Da-ath) at the heart, SHADDAI AL CHAI (Shah-dai El Chai) at the genital center, and then ADNI HARTZ (Ad-doh-nai ha-Ah-retz) at the earth center. 

In review, you have brought light from above down the central column of the Tree and your spine, filling each center with that white light. Each center is pulsing with the light. 

Continue experiencing the light continuing down the central column, but now slowly bring your hands from their down position up on each side while seeing and feeling Earth energy rising upward through the spinal column in your inhalation, and when you reach the crown see and feel it fountain out and down outside your body to sweep back in at the feet. Now comes the more challenging part: With each inhalation pull energy up the center column, and with each exhalation let energy flow down the center column as well as outside the body in a complete and continuous full circulation of light and energy. It sounds more complex than it is. Continue this for several minutes, and then let it dissipate as you feel calmly energized in your body and aura.

The Open Dialogue. There is one particular form of meditation dear to writers and researchers alike, that of tapping into the Unconscious to secure answers to specific questions.

In the Mindfulness Meditation there is focus on a single object or idea combined with openness to insight. In the “Open Dialogue” our focus is on a specific question while we are open to a variety of answers that might be specific to the question but more often will be “clues” that can be noted and then become the object of further continued meditation, or taken up again at a later meditation. 

In essence, we entrust the Unconscious to come up with generally non-specific answers to our specific question that may lead to further questions and further answers that are more clue-like than specific. It’s a kind of inner brainstorming that can be continued over a period of time. And even though it is presented in this examination of meditation, the same process can be continued with the use of our Tarot cards, Tea Leaf Reading, the Pendulum, Dreaming, Crystal Gazing, Spirit Communication, etc. 

The “Open Dialogue” is for Big Questions that may even be your Life Work, but more often are chapters in your “book of life.” 

And, in closing . . .And for our final mantra we remind the readers that the primary purpose of all meditation and all psychic work is to bring each person to union with the Divine:

SOHAM, HAMSA

(So-ham, Hahm-sa)

He Am I; I am He.

 

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