By far the most important tool Iíve 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 Iím 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 seasonsfor pollen, dust, cat hair, and mold. The medication has so many potential side effects, yet I couldnít 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 didnít. 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 didnít 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 lifeís 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 thereís 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 may stage show acts. You will not do anything under hypnosis that you wouldnít desire to do otherwise. Though it can free you from inhibitions, if you donít 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 hypnotizedthis is simply untrue. Anybody can use hypnosis. If you feel uncomfortable with the hypnotist, or donít want to be hypnotized, you wonít 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.
ďHypnosis 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:
ďHypnosis is a technique that enables you to achieve this altered state of consciousnessthe day dreaming statedeliberately and direct your attention to specific goals in order to achieve them. Like daydreaming, hypnosis is a perfectly normal, safe and healthy phenomenon. In hypnosis, like daydreaming, you are conscious and aware, yet remain oblivious to external distractions. In both daydreaming and hypnosis your mind adjusts to the alpha frequency rangethe difference is that in hypnosis your mind is directed to specific beneficial goals you wish to achieve and not to fantasies. These beneficial goals include quitting smoking, dieting, improving self-image, overcoming phobias and fears, improving memorythe list of uses is limitless.Ē
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:
- Select a quiet place where you can spend an uninterrupted fifteen to thirty minutes each day practicing self-hypnosis.
- Seat yourself in a comfortable chair with your hands resting in your lap and your legs uncrossed.
- Fix your eyes on a spot above eye level. As you are staring at this spot, relax your body and tell yourself repeatedly that your eyelids are getting very, very heavy, and that they will soon close and stay closed until you are ready to come out of the hypnotic state.
- With your eyes closed, talk to yourself about becoming more relaxed. Start at the top of your head and relax every muscle down to your feet, or work in a reverse pattern. Begin with your key phrase, ďRelax now.Ē
- Visualize a restful scene, such as lying down on the soft grass in the woods, taking a hot bath Ö and stretching out in a comfortable bed.
- Give yourself a triggering cue, such as raising your index finger to indicate to yourself that you are now in hypnosis. When this occurs, say to yourself, ďI am now in deep hypnosis.Ē
- Visualize the outcome of your suggestion, using as much sensory input as possible. For example, visualize yourself at your desired weight and wearing clothes that will fit you at that size. Visualize other people telling you how good you look.
- Give yourself direct, positive suggestions that you are now doing what you want to do and being what you want to become.
- Work on only one, or at most, two, suggestions within one session.
- Before giving the signal to awaken, tell yourself that you will carry out all the suggestions you have made and that you will go even deeper into hypnosis the next time. Remind yourself that you will feel refreshed, rejuvenated and energetic upon awakening.
- Practice the art of self-hypnosis every day to become an adept practitioner.
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 Kraigís 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 donít 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.