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Meditation Basics

Calm-Abiding Meditation

Aaron Leitch

In order to achieve success in the arts of Magick, the student will find it necessary to train the mind and will. A regular practice of the ritual exercises- Lesser Banishing Ritual, Middle Pillar, etc. is the active way to train and focus the mind. The passive techniques are generally grouped beneath the umbrella term “meditation.”

There are actually two distinct types of meditation. The type best known to Western students is “Special-Insight” meditation. We might call it “contemplation” because it involves “meditating upon” various things- such as an idea or philosophy, or even a magickal image. Pathworking, astral travel and vision-questing might also be placed in this category. The goal of Special-Insight meditation is to explore the self and the universe, and to awaken the mind to a greater reality.

In a later class, we will be returning to this subject in depth. However, in order to practice Special-Insight meditation, it is first necessary to practice “Calm-Abiding” (also known as “Single-Pointed”) meditation.

Calm-Abiding meditation allows one to tame the unruly mind. The common person is completely at the mercy of his mind- little more than a robot that reacts blindly to his environment. An outside stimulus is presented, the mind reacts with an emotion, and the person acts accordingly. There is little to nothing of conscious will involved in the process. Not only this, but the mind is never willingly still and silent. It keeps up a constant inner-monologue that chases after thoughts and desires, wallows in self-pity, and tells us what we should think and feel in every situation. If we try to concentrate on something important, it doesn't take long for the mind to lose interest and- like a child- go rambling away after something novel. Likewise, if we try to concentrate on something that it dislikes or fears, it will rebel in any number of ways- disturbing emotional balance, and disrupting spiritual progress.

The first and most important task of the aspirant of the Hermetic path is to break free of this robotization. The mind must accept a subordinate position to the will, and must be able to concentrate for long periods upon a single subject-matter. This is the goal of Calm-Abiding meditation, and why it is also called “Single-Pointed.” Only once this kind of mental control is achieved will the Special-Insight practices have any affect. The same can also be said for attempts to attain results with magick.

Meditation is a kind of antidote to the greatest poisons of the mind. These poisons are themselves defined as attachment, desire and identification. Our attachments and desires are those things external to ourselves upon which we hang the label of “happiness.” Mysticism and philosophy have taught for thousands of years that no lasting happiness can be found in the outside world. Things there are always subject to change or death. Instead, true lasting happiness can only be found via peace and harmony within.

“Identification” indicates the mind's tendency to assume the existence of “I.” This is a basic psychological duality natural to all humans. At an early age we learn that “this is me” and “this is not me”- and every judgment we make about the world for the rest of our lives is based on this dichotomy. To understand this, imagine the difference of seeing bad things happen to others and having them happen to yourself. Having such things happen to Me is infinitely worse. The same goes for good things that happen to ourselves or those around us. We can always be wise and rational when events happen to “others”, but we lose all perspective when they happen to “Me.”

Special-Insight meditation attacks these poisons directly. However, Calm-Abiding meditation is what prepares the way and dilutes the poisons so they can be dealt with. This is the practice by which we silence the mind and its eternal monologue. The mind must not be free to think and feel as it wishes- especially when its emotions and reactions are antithetical to one's goals. Instead, the vast complex of habits and neuroses (embedded there over a lifetime of bad mental programming) must be unraveled and broken down. The mind has to be tamed.

Another poison to the mind is its natural tendency to live almost entirely in memory or anticipation. That is, we are either mulling over things that happened to us in the past, or we are hoping/fearing for things that might happen in the future. What this means is that few of us ever actually live in the here and now. This makes us blind to reality- which exists strictly in the present. A person who lives constantly in the past or future is, in fact, living in a fantasy.

Meanwhile, one who lives in the present is in a good position to evaluate his environment and formulate proper reactions. Single-Pointed meditation is an antidote to fixation upon the past and future because if forces the mind to focus upon a single subject-matter in the here and now. In this course, the single point of meditational focus will be nothing more than the breath. This is very useful even outside of meditation- because one can focus awareness upon the breath in any situation, and it will always bring the mind into the present.

Of all the spiritual exercises I have practiced through my life, I have found those of meditation and yoga to be the most indispensable. Even during my darkest and most trying spiritual ordeals, when other practices have literally fallen apart, my pursuits of yoga and meditation have continued. In fact, it is during those times that they become most vital to me. They are the foundations upon which I can always fall back, and to which I must sometimes willingly return.

The great thing about meditation and yoga is that neither practice involves the slightest bit of emotional involvement. It is a fact of the spiritual path that the aspirant will eventually face aspects of both the self and the world that are shocking, frightening or even outright upsetting. Some of these things will come as a surprise, while others (perhaps most of them) are things already known subconsciously, but ignored by the conscious mind. Times like these force us to re-evaluate our motivations and philosophies, and can seriously disrupt our usual spiritual practices. The emotional mind literally rebels against progressing further, until the obstacles can be overcome.

Meanwhile, none of this affects the foundational practices of yoga and meditation. The emotional mind has no stake in them, and therefore does not rebel against them, while the rational mind and body find them intensely enjoyable. Not only can one continue with them when all else fails, but it is in fact vitally important to make much use of them at such times. They are key to mental- and to a great extent physical- well being for the spiritual aspirant.

Of course, the techniques of yoga fall outside the scope of this class. They should be learned in a hands-on manner, where the postures can be demonstrated for the aspirant to mimic. However, I do encourage the student to begin a yogic practice- even if it is just the stretches you learned back in high school gym or on a sports team. This flushes the muscles of toxins, makes the body supple and limber, and allows the energy to flow freely during meditation and ritual work.

In this class, I will share with you my techniques for Calm Abiding meditation. I will begin with some exercises to aid in body relaxation. Then, I will continue to explain the methods by which one might gain silence of the mind- or Single-Pointed concentration.


I have given the subject of relaxation its own section in this class, but not because it is separate from the practice of meditation. In fact, relaxation of the body is the first step in the process. By undertaking the exercise, one is naturally setting the mind into the proper mode for single-pointedness. However, it will take some time and practice to master this first step, and I am going to offer some preliminary exercises to make your efforts more fruitful.

These exercises are not time consuming or difficult. They are merely “tricks” of a sort that introduce specific sensations of relaxation into the consciousness. It is one thing for a text to instruct the student to “relax the muscles”, but it is quite a bit more helpful if the student knows what “relaxation” actually feels like. Because one can not describe such feelings in mere words, I am providing these exercises to guide you toward experiencing them for yourself. It is only necessary to experiment with these techniques before attempting full relaxation, so the sensations they raise can be called back to consciousness when needed.

Preliminary Exercise A

For this exercise, it does not matter if you sit in a chair or lie on the floor. In fact, you can even perform it where you sit now, as you read this lesson. It is only necessary that you be comfortable and in a place that is quiet and undisturbed.

Begin by taking a few deep breaths to clear the mind. With each exhalation, imagine tensions and impurities flowing out and away from your body. Allow your muscles to relax and your thoughts to calm. Enjoy this sensation for some time before continuing to the next paragraph.

When ready, gently shift your awareness to the chair upon which you are sitting, or- if you are lying down- to the ground beneath you. Especially contemplate the points of contact between your body and the surface that is supporting you. The surface is solid and sturdy, while you (if relaxed) should be pliant and yielding.

Now, it is time to contemplate something you may have never considered before: You must trust the chair or ground to support you! As surprising as it may sound, it is not at all common for a person to fully trust something- even the ground itself- that is supposed to be supporting his weight. Of course, this neurosis is buried in larger complexes that deal with issues of trust. An inability to truly relax into a chair is just one aspect of the anxieties and worries that destroy one's health. Learning to trust the chair enough to support one is the first step in unraveling those anxieties.

Therefore- while in your calm and relaxed condition- allow this new thought to formulate. When you do, allow your body to literally melt into the surface that supports it- so that the points of contact between it and your body increase. Trust that it will not break or give way, and that it can support weights far heavier than your own.

Once you have melted as far into the surface as you can, simply rest there and enjoy the experience. Repeat this as often as you wish. If you have not performed this exercise before, you will likely find it takes you to a level of relaxation you have never before experienced.

Preliminary Exercise B

The previous exercise is an old one, and some students may have already found it in other sources. Meanwhile, the exercise I am about to share is my own creation. I use it as a continuation of the above- as it would not have the same affect on its own. I highly recommend that you perform this exercise while lying flat on the floor. (Sitting upright in a chair would not allow for the full affect.)

This one I call “Letting Go of the Skeleton.” Another aspect of anxiety and stress is our tendency to clamp down on our own skeletons. Our muscles- which should be limber and flexible at all times- are instead turned into hard bits of body armor. This literally crushes the body from the inside, and pulls the skeleton out of alignment.

I feel that we cling to our skeletons for much the same reason we do not relax into a chair. It is based upon fear and distrust- so that we grasp our bones in the same manner we might grasp a branch before falling from a tree. That is to say, we are holding on for dear life.

Therefore, precede this exercise with Exercise A- assuring your subconscious mind that the floor can fully support you no matter what. Then, shift your awareness inside your body, concentrating upon the points where your muscles join to your bones. Once you have achieved this, address your muscles directly and tell them to let go of your skeleton. Endeavor to feel them unravel, especially at the joints, and allow the skeleton to simply float inside the body. This will be accompanied by a melting sensation in the muscles similar to Exercise A, followed by an increasing sense of vertigo.

This vertigo might cause anxiety in some students. Like letting go of that tree branch, you might literally feel as if you are about to fall. If the vertigo becomes too much, return to Exercise A once more (to reassure the subconscious that you can not fall) and repeat the process. Once you make it all the way through, and the vertigo subsides, again rest and enjoy this new level of relaxation. Repeat often.

Preliminary Exercise C

This exercise is also my own creation- which I call “Letting Go of a Liquid.” You might choose to use it as a continuation of the previous, or even as an alternative to Exercise B. Like the above, it is based upon our tendency to tense our muscles into a kind of body armor. This time, however, we will focus intently upon the muscles themselves, rather than the skeleton or joints. (Once again I recommend this be done while lying on the floor.)

As before, it is best to begin this technique with Exercise A. Then, shift your awareness once again to the muscles inside your body. Now imagine that the very core of your body (where your skeleton should be) is a free-flowing liquid of some kind. On its own, this liquid would pour out of your body and drain away. All that is stopping that from happening are your muscles, which must squeeze tightly to keep the liquid from escaping. This is no simple task! It is like trying to hold water in your hands, keeping it from leaking past your fingers.

Now, remembering that you can trust the floor to hold you, go ahead and release the liquid. Allow the muscles to relax- to melt- once again, and literally feel the liquid pour from your body and pool on the ground beneath you. In no time, the liquid is absorbed by the ground and gone forever- taking with it your tensions and impurities. You are left lying in deep relaxation, no longer vainly holding back the flood.

When you use these exercises to relax the muscles, you will find that the tension you normally feel will be replaced by something unique. I have heard this new feeling best described as a profound feeling of “heaviness.” It feels as if moving your limbs would take a monumental effort, very similar to the feeling in your limbs when you are suddenly awakened from sleep.

Full Body Relaxation - “1 – 2 – 3 – Sleep!”

The technique of relaxation I am about to share is one I learned at the age of fifteen. I would say it was the first sincere step I took toward learning the arts of Magick, though I didn't know it at the time. The book I found it in actually promised to teach the art of self-hypnosis, for which the deep relaxation was its primary focus. I don't remember the full contents of the book, but this technique has stuck with me throughout the years.

In this exercise, we will be envisioning each group of muscles in the body. I suggest you begin by obtaining some pictures of human musculature, so you will have a basic idea of how things are connected beneath the skin. You can likely find these easily on the World Wide Web. It is only necessary to take note of how the muscles are arranged and attached to the skeleton. I have found that knowing how such things actually work makes it much easier for the mind to consciously affect the body.

When practicing full body relaxation, it would be best to work in the same spot where you intend to perform your meditations. This should be the same quiet and undisturbed place where you do your ritual exercises. In fact, it is a great idea to precede your meditation practices with the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar.

While you are perfecting this technique you may sit upright or lie down. It may be easiest to lie flat at first- on your back with your hands at your sides. However, eventually, you will want to practice sitting up in a mediation posture- which I will describe later in this class. For now, simply get comfortable and endeavor to clear your mind of distractions.

To initiate the process, I learned to use a key-phrase: “1, 2, 3, Sleep!” Over the years, my brain has associated this phrase with the relaxation process. When I (silently) speak this phrase to myself, my body immediately knows to go into the state of relaxation. I have considered changing this to something more romantic and occult- like a Qabalistic word or phrase. However, I have stuck with “1, 2, 3, Sleep!” for so many years it would be pointless to attempt to re-program my brain now. Besides which, it is a phrase that will not likely arise in any common situation- which makes it a perfect “key phrase” for inducing relaxation whenever I choose.

After saying (or thinking) the key-phrase, shift your awareness to your feet- specifically the toes. Picture the muscles in your toes attached to the bones. They begin in the toes, but they extend across the tops and bottoms of your feet. Once you have this in mind, consciously address the muscles and tell them to “Relax.” If you have done the preliminary exercises, then you have an idea of how the relaxation should feel. The muscles should literally melt at the command to relax, letting go of the bones, and taking on a profoundly “heavy” feeling. Spend as much time as you need.

When you are ready, move your awareness from your toes into your feet. Focus on these muscles- which extend back into the toes as well as into the heel and ankle. Address these muscles as before, telling them to “Relax.” They, too, should melt and become heavy.

Now continue by shifting your awareness into your heels and ankles. Focus upon the muscles there- trailing off toward the shins and calves in one direction, and back into the feet in the other. Tell these muscles to “Relax” and feel them melt into deep relaxation.

Continue this process into the calves and shins, the front and backs of the knees and thighs, groin, stomach and lower back, chest and upper back, the various groups of muscles in the arms, hands, and fingers. Finally, continue into the neck and proceed to relax the muscles in the head, scalp, and face. Do not rush! Take as much time as you need with each group of muscles, and periodically monitor the groups you have already done to ensure they have remained relaxed. Make sure to pay special attention to the scalp and face, as these muscles tend to hold onto a lot of tension.

If, at any time, you lose track of this process- due to the mind wandering away- simply take a deep breath, repeat the key-phrase “1, 2, 3, Sleep!” and bring the mind back to the process. You can pick up where you left off, or go back a couple of muscle groups.

Once complete, you should experience the feeling of profound “heaviness” throughout your body. Do not worry if you don't feel it right away, as it will take some time and practice to get the most out of this exercise. When you do achieve the sensation, it will feel nearly impossible to move your limbs. Of course, you are not actually paralyzed in any way, but you should make no attempt to move at this time. Simply lie there and enjoy the sensation of deep muscular relaxation.

The entire exercise can take anywhere from half an hour to a full hour- taking longer at first, but decreasing in time and difficulty as your mind and body grow accustomed to it. After a few weeks or months, you will find that it takes little more than speaking the key-phrase to send you into the relaxed state.

You might even have some trouble staying awake for the entire process. If so, you might trying sitting up after all. I will discuss proper sitting posture below. (You can, by the way, use this technique to get to sleep if you are having trouble in that regard. Though I don't recommend it very often, because you don't want the mind to automatically associate the exercise with falling asleep. Only use it when you are stressed out and need the help.)

When you are ready to finish, it is best to take some action to let the mind know the exercise is officially over. (You do not want the mind to react to some outside stimulus and end the exercise at its own discretion.) I usually just reverse the key-phrase by saying “3, 2, 1, Wake!” Once my eyes are open, I clap my hands together a couple of times to break the calm and silent atmosphere.

Calm-Abiding Meditation

Calm-Abiding meditation involves the elimination of both inner and outer distractions. We have already discussed inner distractions- where the mind chases after thoughts, looses focus, or drifts into either memory or anticipation. Outer distractions are noises and interruptions in the environment that attract the mind's attention. A sudden noise on the outside should not end one's meditation any more than a sudden mental image or thought. Consciousness during the period of meditation should remain steady, like an undisturbed candle-flame.

Calm-Abiding accomplishes this by narrowing down the consciousness to a single-pointed focus. As previously mentioned, we will be using the breath as the point of focus for this class.

The Yogic Breath

Before I continue, I want to give a few pointers on proper breathing. We will not be using any complicated breathing patterns here- just normal steady breathing. However, it is very common in our Western culture to breathe with only half of our lung capacity. In order to train the mind and will, it will be necessary to stop starving the brain for oxygen.

In order to take a full “yogic breath”, inhale deeply by expanding your diaphragm. That means, as you breathe in, make sure it is your stomach that expands rather than your chest. In this way, air floods all the way to the bottom of the lungs- instead of collecting only in the top portion.

Once the diaphragm is fully extended, proceed with a technique called “re-breathing.” This simply means to hold the air you have already inhaled to the bottom of the lungs, and then expand the chest to inhale even more air into the top portion of the lungs. Of course, the initial breath and the “re-breath” should flow together as a single inhalation, filling the lungs to their utmost capacity. Hold this for a moment, and finally exhale gently until all the used air is expelled from the lungs. Then repeat the process.

The aspirant should practice this technique often- regardless of time or place. If at all possible, one should learn to breathe like this on a regular basis. (At the very least, learn to breathe from the diaphragm even without “re-breathing.”) Meanwhile, make sure to breathe this way during your relaxation and meditation routines.

Sitting Posture

While it is possible to meditate while lying down, I find it is not the best habit to encourage. It is entirely too easy to fall asleep in such a position. The best idea is to sit in a reasonably comfortable chair, or to sit on the floor. If you sit on the floor, you will most likely want to find a place with some back support- such as a nearby wall.

Sitting upright with your back to the wall, cross your legs in front of you. The posture should look like you are sitting “indian-style”, though you should not entangle your legs together. Cross one leg in front of your body, and then place the other leg directly on top of the first. If this does not work for you, you can place the other leg directly onto the floor in front of the first leg. These postures reduce stress on the knee and ankle joints.

Meanwhile, keep your back straight and head upright. As you relax into this posture, allow your skeleton to take over most of the job of holding you up. (The back-support helps here.)

Some texts on meditation suggest keeping the eyes open. This can be a big help, especially if you have trouble staying awake during meditation. Allow the eyes to focus on a point just past the end of your nose, without looking at anything directly. (You might call this a “zoned-out” look.) However, if this does not feel comfortable, I find no harm in meditating with closed eyes. It is how I generally choose to practice.

Silencing the Mind

Now we begin the practice of Calm-Abiding meditation. Start by assuming the meditation posture, remembering to breathe properly, and then follow the full relaxation exercise as described above. Once this is achieved, you will proceed through several stages of consciousness, as your awareness is slowly refined to single-pointed concentration.

Stage One: Empty the short-term memory buffers. Few are aware of this fact, but the human brain has its own set of “memory buffers,” just like a computer. As information is taken into the mind, it is held in these buffers for some time awaiting proper sorting and filing into the memory. This kind of diagnostic work usually takes place when we sleep, and is the source for a great many of our normal dreams. These buffers also seem to be the source of short-term memory, as they contain information that has only recently been recorded by the senses. When one experiences sleep deprivation, a large part of that experience is based on an overflow of these mental buffers. Short-term memory suffers dramatically, as do coordination, the ability to focus and concentrate, etc. In severe cases, hallucinations can even accompany the condition.

Therefore, the first step toward silencing the mind is to clear out these buffers. The aspirant doesn't have to do a thing to accomplish this- just relax and “zone out.” That is, allow your mind to simply wonder where it will for a while. Naturally, it will begin to review the day’s events, current problems, and perhaps even your immediate surroundings. It may attempt to solve problems, or fantasize, or perhaps merely ramble upon several unrelated topics. This is part of the process of sorting the information and filing it properly within the memory structure of the brain. Give yourself about 15 minutes for this stage.

Stage Two: Clear the mind and focus upon the breath. Begin this stage by willfully clearing your mind- bringing an end to the free wandering it enjoyed in stage one. To accomplish this, I use a technique of “listening.” Imagine, for instance, that you are in a room having a conversation with another person. Suddenly, you hear a faint sound from behind a nearby wall. The usual reaction to this is to exclaim “Shhh! Listen!”- after which the room crashes into silence and one listens as intently as possible in the hope of detecting the slightest of sounds.

When you attempt to clear your mind, act as if someone has just shouted “Shhh! Listen!” Then let the silence crash down around you, and listen as if you expect to hear an otherwise inaudible sound. (As they say in the East- contemplate the sound of one hand clapping.)

Having gained this silence, shift your awareness entirely to your breath. Breathe easily and quietly, endeavoring to hear the inner movement of air through the body. The longer you concentrate and relax, the more your breathing will soften and slow. Slowing the breath is important! (Eventually, after some weeks of regular practice, you will find the breath can slow until you are hardly breathing at all.)

Stage Three: Acknowledge thoughts, and lay them to rest. Once you are set upon this course, you will find it is perfectly natural for the mind to begin to wander. It wants to forget about the breath, and go rambling off as it did when you cleared out your memory buffers. This is where the true force of will comes into play. Each time a thought or memory arises, do not identify with its subject matter, and do not chase after it. Regard the thought in a detached manner- as if it were nothing more than a projection upon the backs of your eyelids. Then, consciously address your mind with the phrase:

“I will think about this later, but right now I am taking a break...”

Finally, watch the thought fade away into the blue-black patterns that swirl before your closed eyes. Once it is gone, return again to full concentration upon the breath.

The first part of that statement- “I will think about this later”- is important, because it lets the mind know you are not dumping these thoughts forever. Instead, you are only shelving them, and giving the mind permission to retrieve and deal with them later. Without this reassurance, thanks to attachment and identification, the mind will openly rebel against letting go of its thoughts.

There is no doubt whatsoever that you will have to repeat the statement to yourself over and over again. The trick is to never become discouraged. Like a good parent showing infinite patience to a curious child, never become upset with your unruly mind. Never admonish yourself. Each thought that arises is simply addressed with the full statement- “I will think about this later, but right now I am taking a break”- and then allowed to fade away. Over the next weeks and months, you will find yourself repeating the phrase less and less. However, at first, it will be nearly constant.

As you gain experience with the practice, you will discover that this “nagging” from your thoughts is not just nagging after all. Like all aspects of the psyche, it is a cyclical program- and it will take you somewhere if you follow it all the way through. The first thoughts that occur to you- as I have suggested above- will be the current events of your day. Each one is patiently acknowledged (“I will think about this later”) and then laid to rest (“but right now I am taking a break”), making way for a new thought to arrive. This new thought should be something less immediate- maybe something currently happening in your life that extends back a few days. Once this is acknowledged and laid to rest, the next thought will be something from further in the recent past. This cycle continues with each thought, or group of thoughts, until older and older memories resurface. You may find what is milling around in the depths of your consciousness surprising or even upsetting, and that is why it is vital to remember to never identify with these memories and emotions.

I call this a kind of “filtering down” through the psyche. It is an indication that you are doing things correctly, because the meditative process should open the path to deeper and deeper levels of consciousness. The thoughts and memories that arise during your journey are simply those most immediately associated with each level. If you go chasing after them (that is, if you contemplate them) you will be mired in one particular level for the length of your session, and the meditation process will have halted. (Later on, with Special-Insight meditation, you will explore these various levels. However, that technique must wait until you have mastered Calm-Abiding.)

At this point, I also want to add a warning for the men. Women may also find this of interest, though I'm not certain it applies to them to the same extent. When it comes to sexuality, the male mind is wired into an extremely visual mode. The male-oriented sex industry in our society reflects this- from lingerie to printed pornography to live shows. The human male is sexually motivated to a large degree by what he sees. The result is that every healthy male runs an actual pornographic “movie” just below his waking consciousness. Because our species mates year-round, this level of thought is always active- the movie is constantly playing, taking in new imagery for fantasy, and always on the look out for cues from females that will bring it to the fore of our psyches. This has caused no end of misery for Priests, who are appalled at the existence of this level of consciousness. The advertising industry, meanwhile, counts on it.

The reason I bring this up as a warning, is because the male aspirant who undergoes Calm-Abiding meditation properly is- without a doubt- going to pass through this level on his way to single-pointedness. If it takes him by surprise, it can easily disrupt the meditation session and draw him into sexually charged fantasies. On the other hand, if he recognizes it for what it is, it is much easier to acknowledge it and lay it to rest.

Now, back to our main subject. If the mind continues to rebel to the point of hindering your meditation- that is, refusing to let go of its thoughts- there is an extra step you can take. The student of the Western mystery traditions has probably heard of this before: the Four-Fold Breath. Of course, I promised there would be no complicated breathing patterns in this class, and I'm keeping that promise. The Four-Fold Breath is very simple:

-Simply inhale via the full Yogic Breath, while silently (and slowly!) counting to four.

-Hold the breath now, for another count of four.

-Now gently exhale the stored air in your lungs, also to a slow count of four.

-Hold the breath again, this time with empty lungs, for another count of four.

-Finally, inhale a full breath to the count of four once again. Repeat the process for as long as you need.

This gives us a sort of “mantra” (the repeated counting from one to four) with which to occupy the mind. If you will keep up this pattern and persevere through more than a few minutes, you will find that the mind eventually calms. The wandering thoughts will be laid to rest by the repetitive counting- because repetition in the thoughts is a form of trance. (Like having a tune stuck in your head.) Eventually, even the counting will get softer and softer until it, too, fades away. You will be left with pure silence in the mind.

Final Stage: Calm-Abiding. The culmination of all of these instructions should result in a deeply relaxed body, a very slow- almost non-existent- breathing pattern, and a silent mind. In my own experience, I have found this feeling to be akin to “sleeping while awake.” You are awake and conscious, but the mind is entirely at rest without its constant running monologue. This, for myself, results in a kind of time distortion. I may sit in silent meditation for what feels like hours, only to return to normal consciousness to find that just a few minutes have passed.

If this happens, don't be alarmed. The entire meditative process might take you an hour or more, but if that results in a mere 2 minutes of true mental silence, it is worth the effort. In fact, when you first achieve this state, it is unlikely you will stay there for more than a few seconds. Time and practice will expand this to longer and longer periods.

If, during a session, your mind becomes sleepy or bored, it is acceptable to get up for a few minutes. Take deep breaths, walk around a bit, and then go back and resume the meditation. It is very important that you never practice until you are sick of the whole thing. Always walk away from your sessions wanting more. As long as this practice remains pleasant (even fun) your mind will be eager to go along. On the other hand, once it becomes yet another chore, the mind will rebel against it.

This ends the introduction to “Meditation Basics.” Make sure to take your time with these techniques, and practice them often. It would be best to meditate at the same time and place every session (preferably your ritual space), though you should not avoid the practice if this is not possible. It is only necessary to find somewhere that will remain undisturbed for about an hour. You will soon find that meditation is not just pleasant and beneficial, but that it is essential to mental well-being.

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