Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Panic, Meditation, and the Dilettante

Many parties on my blogosphere talk about how meditation is the cornerstone of their practice. And I really respect that, but it's not the cornerstone of mine. And at first I felt like a complete dilettante about that. What? Sit quietly for an hour? What kind of girl do you think I am? I don't *do* that!

It's not that I haven't tried. I have, meditation was part of my ADF druid dedicant program. The issue, the real issue, that took me years to get to the heart of is that I can't do traditional meditation because of my panic disorder.

I've done what I'm supposed to do, I've sat on the couch, I take meds (delicious, delicious meds! O how I love thee!), I've found god(dess)(es), I've come to terms with the things that caused that in me. But here's the thing, it doesn't go away. Some people think that's what therapy/meds is supposed to. Congratulations! You're healed of years of abuse, bad relationships, bad decisions, and living with a debilitating condition! Go! Be free! Live a normal life!

It would be kick ass if it *did* work that way, but it doesn't. I get better at living with it, at managing it, so much so that people who've only known me as an adult (especially past the age of 25) forget how damaged I am, which is flattering. But it's still there. And real, true, emptying my mind meditation triggers a panic attack in me every time. I don't know all the hows and the whys, but I do know some, just like I know some of why going to the movies at a theater does the same and drinking caffeine. At the end of the day, this isn't something you can always logic your way out of. Your body is reacting in a real, visceral, primal way and it doesn't care if you say, "Oh no body! We're not *really* in danger! It's fine, really." Because often, your body's response is, "OMFG!!!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" until it's done.

Some magic users have gone so far as to say they didn't think you could be an effective magic user without meditation. I've asked what should I do due to my body's chemical reaction (also? Fibro? Not the greatest for long term meditation) and no one had any kind of answer for me. This was devastating to me. I wanted to be a real live girl and no blue fairy had any sort of answer for me as to how to get past this.

So for a while I gave up. That's right, I gave the fuck up. It was exhausting enough trying to lead a "normal" life, if I couldn't ever do this, well it's unlikely I'll ever run a marathon either or be president.

I don't have the answers for everyone, I can only speak for myself. But I don't think really many people have talked about what to do if you have a disability(ies) that prevent you from having a full, rich meditiational life. So, let me tell you what I've found for myself.

How to be Magically Delicious Without Emptying Your Mind Meditation

Why can't you meditate? If you don't know why, really know why, you're not going to be able to figure out the actual heart of your magical practice so do some serious soul searching to figure out why. Even if your reason is "I don't want to", go deeper than than and think about why you don't want to.

Redefine meditation for yourself. My japa practice has been something I've done every night without fail since late December. It gives me the benefits that meditation is supposed to give people - relaxing, focusing, clearing my mind, etc. My brain/body can handle a full 108 every night and it's really helped my personal practice. Guided meditation such as the IPM and visiting my own internal hearth can really be helpful for me. When I am not strong enough to clean my actual hearth, cleaning my internal hearth really helps keep me sane, I can also visit with my god/desses there. Other things that help me: cooking, cleaning, baking bread. Don't discount those practices, they can really help you develop your magical practice if you treat them as meditational practice.

What is it you're trying to accomplish with magic? I have to be blunt, I'm not looking to talk to angels. I'm not looking to call in any kind of super serious spirit that needs to be confiiiiiiiiiined by my dark aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarts! I like having an occasional meditation chat with my god/desses, I like trying to build a better me on my path - to be faster, stronger, sexxxier. For me that really equates to: having a magical practice to call my own, having enough money to pay my bills and occasionally travel and buy a ridiculous purse, get in better shape, writing, and crafting. All of this can be accomplished with low magic. So if I personally don't need or really even want anything that can be accomplished with higher magic, why do I keep torturing myself? It's ridiculous. I personally have yet to go into any situation that could not be solved with mundane means or low magic. It could happen, but . . .it hasn't. So why am I preparing for some kind of magical apocalypse if I don't need to? For me, it has been far more beneficial for me to stop torturing myself about things I wasn't trying to accomplish in my practice anyway and get better honing my practice to accomplish the things I *am* trying to accomplish, none of which require a huge meditational practice.

If what you are trying to accomplish does require it, it's going to be a difficult path so make sure it's worth it to you. You may want to start looking up Rinpoches who have experience with disability and meditations.

You still need a cornerstone in your practice. If meditation isn't your cornerstone, what is? Really stop and think about it. My cornerstone is my hearth. My magic happens in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the bedroom (if you know what I'm sayin!), using household tools. It's my chantry, my sanctuary, my safe space, my temple. So I need to focus on making sure my hearth is in order, which is where the majority of my magical practice lies with offerings being a second and spellwork being a third.


sara star said...

I can't seem to properly meditate, but I am not going for a eastern based practice. So other mindful acts do just fine for me. Like the ones you stated above. Visualization, relaxation, prayer beads and repetitive activities.

Shelly said...

You make a good point about knowing what you want out of a magickal life and what you are trying to accomplish. This is something I do struggle with. Heck, I struggle alot with my practice. Routine and I have always been frenemies...

There are so many things that I do want and I need to re-evaluate whether what I am doing with my life now aligns with that.

So, in short, just want to say thanks for the knock on the head `;~)


resewn sally said...

I know how you feel in a way. I also struggle with meditation, for the same reasons. I have a couple times had a successful guided meditation. That was good, but of course it doesn't happen often. I find visualisation the best i can do alone without panic setting in. I don't think meditation is the be all and end all, you find other ways to meet your own end goals.
Sal. X

Anonymous said...

Between my own fibro and my sensory processing issues, I had a remarkably similar response to sit-and-empty meditation for YEARS.

It wasn't until I started occupational therapy that I learned why I could only seem to meditate while ice skating or dancing: the sensory-processing crap meant that I needed something to engage my vestibular and prioperceptive senses so they could keep my lizard brain from going "OMGWTF!!! WEREALLGONNADIIIEEEEE!!!" all the time. I now meditate mostly while lifting weights or rolling around on an exercise ball.

I still believe there are ways to develop that deep relaxation in just about everyone, but I now also believe that no way works the same for any two people.

Shelly said...

Hi again `;~)

I've been thinking about this post and it bloomed into a post! I thought I would share with you `;~)


Unknown said...


i try to find exercises, mundane and magickal, that can do many things at once since everyone is pressed for time and doesn't have an hour to meditate. i found japa practice certainly trains the mind and achieves result, a multitasking practice.

anyways, meditation - by definition, is reaching a higher and deeper state awareness and we can certainly do that with japa practice. my routine is before i sleep and once i wake up.

funny how i saw this post because i was making notes on what I've done with "Initiation To Hermetics" and FB recommended some kind of daily "autosuggestion" routine.....oh synchronicity.

Deborah Castellano said...

Thank you all for your kind thoughts!

Shelly, I really enjoyed reading your post!

Shelly said...

Thank you `;~)

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