By far the most important tool I've learned to use in my holistic studies has been the techniques of meditation. Though I started with an interest in more esoteric arts, I had a very wise teacher who emphasized that one must have awareness and mastery of the self before attempting to influence and heal others. She made a meditation and journaling regime mandatory before going on to other disciplines. And for that I'm eternally grateful.
The practice of meditation cleared many of my own problems. With regular meditation practice, my long-standing health issues cleared away. I was prone to hayfever allergies. They were not severe enough to require shots, but they were bad enough that I was on a prescription medication for three out of four seasons—for pollen, dust, cat hair, and mold. The medication has so many potential side effects, yet I couldn't go off it because I would get stuffy and sneezy and not be able to function. The medicine made me functional.
Once I had been meditating consistently for a few months, I had a strong feeling that I no longer needed the prescription drugs. I slowly tapered off of them. My doctor said I could try it, but thought I would want to jump back on the prescription immediately. I didn't. Over the course of the year, I realized my allergies had almost completely subsided. A few peak pollen days here and there would get to me, but I was no longer miserable with allergy symptoms. I was also prone to tonsillitis, got it once or twice a year, and would require antibiotics. As I continued my meditation practice, I realized that I didn't get tonsillitis anymore. In fact, my overall health and well-being improved greatly. I found myself doing well when others were getting colds and the flu.
Meditation not only healed me on a physical level, but aided my development on an emotional and spiritual level. It brought a greater awareness of the issues holding me back and gave me tools to transform those emotions. With self-awareness came power.
As I continued my esoteric studies, I realized there were many forms of meditation. What I considered to be meditation, from a Western tradition, was very different from those following an Eastern tradition. In the East, many meditation practices are focused on clearing the mind, to create a state void of thought. There are many techniques to create this state, including counting breaths, silently repeating a mantra (a sacred word or phrase), chanting a mantra out loud, gazing upon a sacred image (often called a yantra), or holding a specific yogic position designed to induce a meditative state. Once the thoughts of the mind are observed and gently dismissed, an awareness of the true self can be built, beyond the mind. Our true self uses the mind like a tool, though most of us think we exist through our own mind. We do not. The mind is one of many tools that our true consciousness uses in this world.
In the West, meditation techniques are often called pathworkings or guided meditation. Rather than encourage a state void of thought, the practitioner is given techniques that guide them on specific thought patterns, designed to improve health, well being, increase awareness, answer life's questions and change your life, both in the inner and outer worlds. Western meditation could be called a form of self-hypnosis, inducing an altered state where you can transform your consciousness. Through the mind-body-spirit link, amazing things can occur.
For an understanding of the techniques and skills needed for transformation, without committing to a particular spiritual path, the study of hypnosis or self-hypnosis can be a great starting point. The techniques can be used to create positive statements, like affirmations that program the consciousness to create the reality you want. Hypnosis can also be used to journey when the goal is not so clear, using guided imagery to create safe zones in your consciousness, and to evoke internal guides and healers to aid you on your quest of self-understanding.
Unfortunately there's been a lot of poor imagery associated with hypnotism. Some believe you have to have magical powers to do it, and that you cannot hypnotize yourself, instead you need another. A hypnotist, or better yet a hypnotherapist, can be very helpful in accessing those states of consciousness and can act as a guide, though they are not mandatory. A good hypnotherapist will want to teach you skills that will reinforce whatever was done within a session, giving you new skills that will last a lifetime.
Some believe the hypnotist can make you do things against your will, as seen in many stage show acts. You will not do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn't desire to do otherwise. Though it can free you from inhibitions, if you don't want to cluck like a chicken, the best hypnotist in the world cannot make you cluck like a chicken on stage. They go through a subtle screening process with the audience to find volunteers who are willing to be exhibitionist and avoid those who are not. It has led to the idea that you must be weak-willed in order to be hypnotized—this is simply untrue. Anybody can use hypnosis. If you feel uncomfortable with the hypnotist, or don't want to be hypnotized, you won't be, but if you have a desire to experience this state of consciousness, then you can.
One of the best explanations of hypnosis comes from the introduction of Hypnosis for Beginners by William W. Hewitt.
"Hypnosis is a lot like daydreaming. When you daydream, you alter your state of consciousness to the alpha frequency region and engage in your fantasies. All the while you are conscious and aware, yet you remain oblivious to external distractions. Daydreaming is a perfectly normal, safe and healthy phenomenon that we all engage in from time to time. Sometimes a daydream is so intense and goal-oriented that a person achieves the goal. This usually happens spontaneously and without deliberate intent.
For a slightly more esoteric approach to the powers of the mind, I suggest Mind Magick: Techniques for Transforming Your Life by Marta Hiatt, Ph.D. In it, Hiatt gives these self-hypnosis pointers:
To focus on self-hypnosis, Hewitt gives a series of programs to be done using your own voice in Self-Hypnosis For a Better Life. Here is an excerpt of one that is helpful for insomnia:
Tonight you will experience a relaxing, restful night of sleep that is just like the deep sleep of a new born baby. And when you awaken in the morning you will be completely refreshed physically, mentally and emotionally. You will be full of energy and enthusiasm. Every time you listen to this tape, you will relax ten times deeper than before, and you will go to sleep faster and sounder every time, and this is so. Your mind now understands that when you retire for the night that you desire to go to sleep quickly and to sleep deeply. Your mind will cooperate by relaxing you completely right away.
For those who feel the need to be guided by another and do not have the resources to go see a practitioner, you can find many recordings. Llewellyn produced the Deep Mind Tape: Creative Visualization by Denning & Phillips. For those of a more magical persuasion, Donald Kraig's Using Modern Magick tape has the relaxation exercise on it, as well as a list of pronunciations for magical words in his book, Modern Magick. I have produced two sets of 4 CD Companions for my books, with guided meditations on each. Although based on The Inner Temple of Witchcraft and The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, you don’t have to be a witch to enjoy the meditations within them. Hypnosis, meditation, and mind magic are not restricted to any one path or tradition. Anybody can use these skills to improve their life.
Christopher Penczak is a Witch, teacher, writer, and healing practitioner. He is the founder of the world-renowned Temple of Witchcraft and the Temple Mystery School, and he is the creator of the bestselling Temple of ...