I’ve just returned from the wonderful Dragon Rise Witchcamp, which this year happened in the hills of Snowdownia at Cae Mabon. While there, I twice offered a space for silent meditation, and it led me to thinking about why we meditate, and how we can do it with more ease and less struggle. It also got me the title of ‘The Meditatrix’, which I’ll be using for this and future posts on the whys and hows of silent meditation.
Silent meditation is something that a lot of people on a spiritual path, whatever that path is, either do regularly or feel that they ought to do regularly. And it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? All you have to do is sit still for ten or twenty minutes every day. But like many things in spiritual practice, silent meditation is simple, but not easy.
The goal of meditation
It is also a practice that many of us have come to accept as beneficial without really thinking about why. The goal of meditation, it is often said, is to still the mind. This is certainly one of the goals it has for me. If I have a still mind, I can become aware of what is present within me and around me, and thereby have more useful information to guide my decisions and actions.
But the stillness of mind that meditation brings does not happen immediately. Many people give up on meditation after a few weeks, when they find this out for themselves, thinking that they’re doing it wrong. If you’re one of these people, you’re not doing it wrong! Stilling the mind can take many weeks or months of daily practice. For some of us, it does not happen for years, or even decades, if at all – we only experience a lessening, not a complete stilling, of our mental clamour. But without the open silence of meditation – or sitting practice, as it is sometimes called – there is little hope of even a little stilling taking place.
Stilling the lake, your mind
I liken the stilling of the mind to the stilling of a small lake. Events in our lives, and our reactions to them – from birth to the present day – are like ducks landing and swimming about on the water, rocks thrown in by people on the shore, fish lifting their mouths above the waterline to catch insects, and more. Each causes waves, and more and more ducks, rocks, fish and other things are happening to the lake all the time. There is no opportunity for the waves to become ripples, and for the ripples to still, before the next wave-making event occurs.
Silent meditation is like a pause for the mind, in which no new disturbances happen, and the waves and ripples in our minds have a chance to begin to settle.
Find a quiet spot, somewhere to sit with your back and neck straight and relaxed, with your knees lower than your hips, to protect your lower back, and give it a try. Set a timer with a gentle sound for ten minutes. Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders and your hands. Breathe.