This first stage in your training has to do with stillness. In a sense this is a broad “Not-Doing” in that it is opposite to what we are used to. We go about our day in constant movement, doing things, thinking things, feeling things, and so we need to learn how to become still.
One of the methods to achieve this stillness is through the practice of Asana, which is basically the practice of sitting with comfort and ease. Now this may seem simple, but sit in the same position for half an hour without moving a single muscle, and you will soon learn how difficult it can become, no matter how comfortable you may think you are when you begin.
Another aspect of stillness, and especially with the practice of Asana, is to remove the mind from the body and all exterior influences. What this means is that you bring total focus to your mind and the intent or thoughts that you are focusing on, and so whatever happens to your body or around you disappears and becomes irrelevant.
What is necessary for this course is that you practice stillness. Whenever you sit down for an exercise in meditation or further exercises, unless of course the exercise requires movement of the body, you will sit in Asana and be completely still. This means that you will not move a single muscle, you will not move your tongue, your fingers, your head or any part of your body. There are those, and you will see this if you ever read Liber 4 by Aliester Crowley, who suggest that you must practice until you become perfectly still, to the point where you can sit for an hour and balance a saucer full of water on your head without spilling a drop. Now being someone who has involuntary muscle twitches, I find this to be a bit overboard. So, if you do have involuntary movements, i.e. those movements that you have no control over, that is alright, but any movements that take place which you do have control over is a no-no. One thing I have found necessary is swallowing. No matter how hard I try to not swallow, I have to. If I do not, then I would probably have saliva running down my chin by the end of the practice which is not very good for your robes if you are wearing any. So, do swallow, but only when absolutely necessary.
Now the positions you can sit in are quite vast as far as Asana positions go. Crowley talks about four positions in Liber 4, but I would suggest using a particular one, and that is the God position. You can read the others in Liber 4 if you like, but I think you will see that they are somewhat difficult for the beginner.
So to get into the God position, find yourself a chair that is firm with an upright back. Sit in the chair with your back up straight and move your head, on your neck, slightly back and tilt your chin down very slightly. If you were to exaggerate this movement you would be tucking your chin into your chest. This will keep your neck comfortable. Then put your feet firmly on the floor, legs together (I find this difficult so legs slightly apart will do. If they are together you may find that the muscles will not allow it after a few minutes and you will spend all your time trying to keep them together, not a necessity), and your palms on your thighs. Your calves should be perpendicular to the floor, your thighs parallel to the floor.
That is the position. Now don’t fool yourself by thinking that is so easy. Try sitting like that for half an hour without moving. You are going to go through pain, I am not going to lie to you. That pain however, after some practice, will start to disappear. It is usually some or other blockages in your energy system that are clearing out. However, the pain can also result from non-movement of the muscles. You may get cramps, you will get itches that you need to scratch, but don’t move. Just let them pass and they will pass. When you are done with a meditation, don’t move immediately, first start to move your fingers, and then slowly start to move your body. First get the aches and pains worked out before you stand up.
Meditation and breath are two of the most important aspects of all magical paths. The problem is that we tend to consider them to be annoying aspects. We have a problem meditating and so we allow the practice to slip until we don’t practice at all.
Meditation is necessary for many things. First of all it is used for focus and concentration. One-pointed meditation is the aspect of causing the mind to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others and is usually the method taught in Buddhism. Now, one big fallacy in meditation is the idea that we need to banish all thought from our minds. Quite frankly, this is impossible, even the Tibetan monks who have been meditating for hours every day and for most of their life cannot cause the mind to become blank. I recall hearing that the monks were actually tested in this regard, and the most they could accomplish was five minutes of complete blank mindedness.
When we consider the 7±2 theory we find that the mind is never blank for any split moment of our life. This theory states that during periods of deep rest the mind has five thoughts going through it, and during periods of heightened activity, a maximum of nine thoughts. As we have thoughts crowding the compartments of our mind we focus on them, analyse them and when a thought starts to become less important than another, it is pushed out of the compartments of the mind and a new, more important thought takes its place. Of course what this means is that the mind always has at least five thoughts crowding it at any given moment. Taking that into consideration, how can we make the mind blank of thought? Well, we can’t, and there really is no need to create this condition. During meditation we are not required to completely remove all thought, but rather to not analyse those thoughts. We allow the thoughts to be present, but unlike in a normal waking state whereby we take each thought and analyse it, moving it aside to allow analysis of the next one as it becomes more important, we merely allow those thoughts to pass by without giving them any importance. One of the ways to accomplish this is one-pointed meditation, to focus the mind on one thing allowing all of the other thoughts to continue on by.
Another reason for meditation is to calm the mind, which is very similar to what we have just discussed. Once your mind becomes less and less like a train station with thoughts coming in and out and crowds mulling around, getting on and off the trains, and all that NOISE in the head…and more like a tranquil meadow with thoughts floating about like butterflies resting on flower tops and being blown here and there with a gentle breeze, then the mind starts to become more tranquil. This tranquility can lead to various states, such as the surrendering of the body in order to move into altered states of consciousness.
However, one-pointed meditation can be difficult for someone with little patience, and even if you consider yourself to be the most patient person in the world, when practicing meditation day after day, we all have moments where we get frustrated and question what we are doing and start to lose the purpose and meaning of our attempts. So we end up ignoring meditation and when we do our magic work, we just go straight into it. What happens is that we perform this or that magical operation without being completely in the required state and much of the power is lost.
There seems to be an opinion that meditation is something that is practiced as a separate act from magical work. I have to disagree with this. Although meditation should be practiced every day as an act by itself, in order to enter into a magical working it is always better to begin with a meditational practice that will take you into a mild trance state. This prepares you for the working, and also gets you between worlds or states so that your working is more enhanced. Just to walk into your working and start chanting names and performing magic will get you somewhere, but not nearly as far as you could, or should be.
What you will find in a coming lesson is a form of active meditation. Although this is not the form whereby you walk around and get yourself into a surrendered state, it does require you to do different things which can be considered active and incorporates breath techniques that get the energy flowing in the body to a point where you can tangibly feel it. This active meditation is the one that I use before doing any magical workings, but first we must begin with a practice that brings stillness. It is no good going forward until you have learned how to bring the rushing and chaotic thoughts into a sensible order that flow through your mind instead of bombarding it. This also then leads to the ability to not focus on them at all, so that you can be completely and utterly in your magical working.
The standard Buddhist teaching is that you sit quietly, spine upright, hands in lap, chin slightly moved forward into your chest (just slightly, not touching your chest) and eyes half open. You then proceed to breathe normally through the nose and you focus on the breath moving in and out of the nostrils. You will find as you practice this, that every now and then a thought comes rushing in and you shift your focus from your breath to that thought. When this happens, realize it, and then just gently push the thought away and come back to your breathing. Don’t be forceful, don’t be upset or angry with yourself, do not be impatient. This is normal, especially for an adult that has gotten so used to doing this all their life. We need to reprogram ourselves, become the master of ourselves, of our functioning, of our body, of our ego, of everything about us. This can take time. Some will find it easier to achieve than others, and this is not a reflection on you if you take longer, it is merely a personal obstacle to overcome so that you can become the very best you can be. If you practice every day, then allow yourself at least six months and you will find that you will have it at a point of absolute achievement. You will start noticing the effects within the first few days, you will feel calmer, more together, but to achieve that state where you have it right, allow yourself more time.
Now I am going to take this a step further and suggest that instead of just doing the above suggestion of focusing on the nostrils, that you move toward equilibrium. I just want to mention here that there is a thing called a “no-breath” state. This is a point that you reach in your meditation whereby you actually stop breathing. This can last for a couple minutes to a couple hours, even days if I am to believe the reports I have been told. However, although this may seem like a dangerous thing to do, it is not. You will not die from lack of oxygen, quite the opposite. When you reach this state you become completely aware and alert. You feel more alive than you have ever felt, your entire being ignites, and your heart is in perfect equilibrium, the aorta working as they should and your body and brain functioning are at a heightened level. Now I am only mentioning this because if it does happen to you, and you are not aware of what it is, it can be somewhat disturbing. I wasn’t when it first happened to me, and although I was in a state of incredible tranquility, my mind was telling me to breath or I would die. It was just being logical. And so with some difficulty as my entire body wanted to stay in that state, I forced myself to start breathing again.
One other thing you will notice is that the first time you perform a new practice, no matter what it is, there is an ease to it and you feel great afterward, a complete achievement, but when you do it the second time, you can’t achieve it again. This is because of expectations. The first time you do it, you are not sure what to expect, and so it flows easily. The following times, you attempt to simulate that which happened before, and so we force the results, as we have expectations of what will happen. As hard as it may be to not do this, don’t do it. Every time you sit down for a practice or exercise, imagine you are doing it for the first time. Don’t expect anything to happen, just let it flow freely.
If you do find yourself battling with anything, not achieving the results you expected, relax, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you do, you will force it, and that will cause blockages. This will lead to a feeling of failure and impatience, and you will stop the practice. A few months later you will probably come back to it and decide that you will give it a better chance, the same will happen and you will stop. A couple years down the line, you are still doing this, but if you had just been patient with yourself and dedicated yourself to the time period suggested, you would have perfected it within those couple years instead of trying from the beginning again. Does it sound like I am talking about someone specific? That’s because I am, me. I am a very impatient person when it comes to myself. Eventually, after years of trying again I decided enough is enough, so I set a time aside each day and I do the required exercises. If I don’t achieve the results in six months time, then what I have lost? Nothing, I had a good experience regardless. Believe me it saves a lot of time and anguish, so just stick with it, and dedicate that short bit of your day to practice. Try the mornings, try the evenings, if you can, do both as you will find that different times of the day are better for you. I tend to have a very active mind in the morning as I think about everything I need to do, so first thing in the morning is very difficult for me, whereas in the evening the day is over and I can relax. See what works better for you.
Now as far this meditation goes, you can start with 10 minutes a sitting, and increase the time as you go. The period of time that is suggest for this practice is that which is equal to your age. So, if you are 24 years old, practice for 24 minutes in one sitting, if you are 60 years old, practice for 60 minutes. I can’t say I am entirely sure why this is suggested, and the older you get the more difficult it can be to fit into your day, but do your best. Obviously as you get older, you increase the time per sitting which means that you move closer to the ultimate goal of the meditation, which is release from the body and expansion into the Cosmos, so you begin at a younger age and gradually work your way into that.
So, sit quietly, with your back upright. I like to sit in a chair with my feet planted on the ground, do not cross your legs, although in Eastern practices it is suggested that you sit cross legged on the floor, preferably in lotus position as this allows the energy to circulate properly. I am a Western person, so lotus does not fit my body very well. Your hands should either be on your thighs or in your lap. The position of your hands in your lap can be that of the Eastern people as they practice meditation. This is with palms facing up and one hand over the other. So, put your hand in your lap with palm facing up (if you are male this should be right hand, ladies would first place their left hand), then rest your other hand in your palm with that hand’s palm also facing up. The tips of your thumbs can then touch each other forming a circle with you thumbs and hands.
Then just breathe normally. As you take in a breath see it moving from your nostrils down into the pit of your stomach, and on the exhale, moving back up and out your nostrils. Don’t force your breath, just breath normally. You may notice that you breath deeper than usual, this is fine, it is only because you are more aware of your breath. Continue with this and let it continue naturally. What you will find, and usually with the more time you spend on it, is that your breath starts to become more and more shallow. As this happens it doesn’t reach the pit of your stomach anymore, but becomes shallower in the body also and the point it reaches moves up. Eventually your breathing becomes so shallow that it doesn’t go beyond the nostrils and this is where it starts to move up into the third eye. With more time, you will reach the “no-breath” spoken of previously. From there you will open up, you will start to see images that may be blurry and indistinct. This is your Sight opening up, and it will become clearer over time, and then eventually you will release from your body and experience the universe as Reality. But remember, this is not an overnight thing, and it needs to be practiced every day, so don’t rush it.
What also takes place with this specific meditation practice is that you are filled with energy. This energy, in context to the culture it comes from, is commonly referred to as Cosmic Energy which comes from the Cosmos, into the top of your head and through your body, filling the energy channels in the body or meridians and opening them up. If you have any pains or ailments, the Cosmic Energy will unblock that area where the energy in your energy body or meridians have become congested and not flowing properly, and you will regain perfect health.
I would suggest getting a journal to record your practices, what happened, any thoughts or feelings, etc. So, don’t forget to record your findings, no matter whether they are positive or negative, in your Journal. You will see your progress quite clearly.
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