Meditation is simultaneously one of the most well-known parts of Wiccan spirituality, and it is possibly one of the least practiced. It’s something every intro book to Wicca recommends, it’s something that is usually recommended on social media when the typical “I’m interested in Wicca, now what?” question comes up, and it is something that has been shown by science to have major medical health benefits, both mental and physical. So why do so few people meditate?
I think it’s for a variety of reasons. The constant barrage of electronic stimuli we are subjected to has had the effect of altering our attention spans and making it harder for the mind to focus on one thing. I’ve had so many people tell me that they used to read, but they can’t anymore, it just doesn’t hold their attention, so they watch YouTube or listen to podcasts instead. 1 in 4 adults don’t read a single book within a year. It’s not just an issue of education, either. 42% of adults do not read another book after they graduate from college. (1,2) I bring up books because reading requires some similar skills to meditation and it is something that has definitely been affected by our hyper-focus on sensory input in our society. Meditation is not stimulating the same way entertainment is. What it activates is on a different level.
There is also the difficulty people have with doing anything on any sort of regular basis, something I addressed in my article on daily practice. This isn’t unique to meditation- it affects all sorts of things; exercise, eating healthy, flossing- the list goes on and on. We like novelty. We used to be told that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Research has shown that number actually varies widely, from 18 to 254 days to make a habit, with an average of 66. (3) And ask anyone who has had to quit an addiction or who has even tried to control what they are eating; extinguishing certain habits are not at all easy, and it takes longer than you think to break them. (4)
Another reason is that meditation does not come easily or naturally to a lot of people. Our initial fight or flight responses to a stressful situation do not include sitting still, breathing deeply, and calmly focusing. Many of us are faced with the situation of having to un-learn a lot of habits such as tensing muscles up, making your breath shallow or even holding it when you’re stressed, and being hypervigilant. When you’re doing meditation in a place and a time where you aren’t physically scattered, that doesn’t keep your mind from going all over the place, also known as “monkey mind”.
Meditation is highly important in Wiccan practice, however. Meditation helps you develop the skills you need to engage in successful magick. Calming yourself, focusing your mental and psychic energy on one thing, visualization, filtering out outside stimuli- all these are critical parts of magickal practice. Simply saying the words and doing the motions with good intentions isn’t enough. Energy needs to be raised and directed towards your goal.
Then there are the many mental and physical benefits of meditation. For a short list, meditation has been clinically proven to help with stress, depression, and anxiety; it helps with chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, cognition, addiction recovery, improving sleep, improving overall fitness, and it may help reduce age-related memory loss. There are many other fields where meditation is being studied to see what benefits it can bring. (5,6)
So, you know you should meditate. But what does that mean? Is there “Wiccan” meditation? Do you practice mindfulness, or do you try to empty your mind and think about nothing, or are you trying to reach some amazing spiritual state?
There are many different types of meditation, but for our purposes, there are typically three: mindfulness meditation, visualization (sometimes called guided) meditation, and focused meditation.
Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation where you are not trying to empty your mind, nor do you judge your thoughts or try to keep them. You just observe them, notice them, and then let them go. Most mindfulness meditation practices do have you concentrate on something, like your breath, as a kind of anchor while these thoughts come and go in your mind. Sometimes mindfulness meditation involves visualization (picturing something with your mind- watch this brief video for an example of a mindfulness meditation using visualization), but not always.
Mindfulness meditation has been heavily influenced by Eastern spiritual practices, particularly Buddhism, and is the form of meditation that is typically researched.
Guided/Visualization Meditation: This is a meditation where you take yourself or are taken through a “script” where you imagine things vividly, trying to use as much sensory input as you can. In the above-linked meditation- stone flake on a lake- you are asked to picture how the day looks, to imagine the feel of the water on your “body”, the temperature of the water, the smell of the air, etc. This is very commonly used in Wicca, and can often be easier for people who either really struggle with “monkey mind”. I have also found it helps when I’m struggling with depression, as it gives the spiritual benefits of meditation without leaving my mind free to wander in places I don’t want it to go.
You may read the script beforehand and use your memory to guide you through your visualization, or you can use a CD, mp3 file, YouTube video, or apps like Headspace and Calm to have the script read to you. Some people record themselves reading the meditation script then listen to their own recording.
Wiccans believe that this form of meditation can, with the right intention, create a form of reality- this is how visualization works in magick. For more on this, go to my article “What do you mean when you say you “see”?“
Focused meditation: This is where you focus on something using your senses to help you meditate. Common examples are using a mantra, prayer beads, counting your breaths, or candle gazing. This sounds much easier than it actually is. The goal is to keep your focus on what you choose, and if your attention wanders, gently re-direct it to the object.
There are other forms of meditation and other ways of dividing up these categories. (7,8) And of course, Wiccan practice isn’t “limited” to these three. What is most important about what form of meditation you choose is that you like it and will do it consistently. And no one says you have to engage in one form of meditation all the time. While it’s useful to have a “backbone” to your practice, Wicca is not Zen Buddhism, which has very specific techniques and goals for meditation.
What is the Wiccan goal in meditation? I would say that in meditation, just as in prayer, the main goal is to draw you closer to the God and the Goddess, to help you engage with the Divine. It might be hard to see how mindfulness meditation can help with that. One way it does is simply by helping with your mind’s chattering and bouncing around, and giving you a clearer, more static-free connection to the Divine. We can’t always hear the God and the Goddess as they speak to us in their quiet, subtle tones. Meditation (of any kind) opens up your “ears” to their voice.
Guided meditation in particular teaches visualization skills, which are also essential for magick. If you can’t bring your goal to life in your mind, if you can’t give it form and attention on the astral plane, you aren’t going to be able to direct energy towards it- indeed, even the direction of energy involves focus, intent and visualization. Focused meditation also really helps with this, as it helps you learn to keep your mind on what you want it to focus on.
So, how to start? I think most people find that some sort of help, virtual or otherwise, is really useful in the beginning. To just sit down for a thirty-minute chunk and try to focus on your breathing is going to lead to failure the vast majority of the time. If you have no experience with meditation, I would say to either start with as low as 5 minutes if you are doing mindfulness or focused meditation, and stick with the smaller guided meditations. Most people find they can stay focused on a guided meditation easier and longer than the other forms of meditation.
You can buy guided meditations, you can download or stream them from apps like Headspace, Calm, and Gaia, or you can use YouTube. YouTube offers a wide variety of guided meditations. Do you want to connect with your patron deity, align your chakras, or simply feel connected to all that there is? Then there is a guided meditation for it on YouTube.
I use a mix of all three methods of meditation, although I probably use focused meditation the least. I’m about 50/50 on the other kinds. I have got to where I can mediate 30 minutes in one sitting silently, and even longer in a guided meditation, but it took a fair amount of time and regularity to get there. If all you can tolerate at first is five minutes a day, then do that, but do it regularly. Consistency is more important then amount here. It’s like any other muscle or skill- you have to practice it. Meditation, after a period of six to eight weeks and at a certain amount of time each day, can cause permanent positive changes in your nervous system, which in turn make it easier to meditate. (For just a few examples, check out this article.)
I hope this article has helped inspire you to get started on your own meditation practice! For more information on meditation and paganism, you might enjoy this YouTube video: The Power of Pagan Meditation.