Finding Your Own Meditational Practice

People who meditate are like many (though not all) dieters, parents and runners.  If they’re doing it, they think it’s like the best thing in the entire world and everyone should do it!  Like, yesterday!  It’s life changing!  The highs!  The lows!  The experience!  There’s nothing like it in the world!

Sticking my face in a blender is like no other experience in the world and I’m pretty okay with not having that added to my bucket list.

With that said, before we even get into this, let’s establish a few things:

1. Meditation is critical in some Eastern paths such as some branches of Buddhism and Hinduism if you are trying to Get Somewhere.  Also in some Western paths such as Christianity and some Ceremonial Magic.  Get Somewhere is loosely defined as infinite cosmic powers, godhood, minor versions of godhod, a higher plane of existence or getting off the wheel all together.  If those things are your immediate goals, by all means get thee to a nunnery posthaste.  Re-prioritize your life immediately so that your primal needs are being met, dump most of your worldly goods and social life and devote your life to this.  Do what you need to do in this incarnation.

2. If you have a meditation practice that is not as intense as #1 but you feel it’s a cornerstone to your spiritual life, hooray for you!  Seriously, that’s great.  I’m glad that you found something that’s working for you, lordess knows there’s enough struggle in life, it’s great you have a foundation to get you through your day.

If you fall into one of those two categories, awesome.  This post will probably be useless to you.  As for the rest of us. . . .

Many people in the occult world talk about how meditation is critical for magic and the cornerstone of their practice. I really respect that, but it’s not the cornerstone of mine.  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, so I gave it a shot.  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, 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 do. 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’ve gotten better at living with it and at managing it. People who have only known me as an adult tend to not realize the depth of my damage, which is flattering and all I guess but it’s still there.

Real, true,  emptying my mind meditation triggers a panic attack in me every time. I don’t know all the hows and the whys it is, but I do know some of them.   Just like I know some of why going to the movies at a theater and drinking caffeine also trigger panic attacks for me.

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  to these triggers is, “OMFG!!!!!!!!!!! NOTHING IS REAL!!!!!  EVERYTHING YOU DO IS MEANINGLESS!!!!  YOU MIGHT NOT WAKE UP TOMORROW!!!! ARRRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” until it’s done.  It’s not like it’s just thoughts either.  Your brain will try to trick you into believing that you could be dying– inability to breathe, racing heart, inability to concentrate, chest pains, migraines, rashes, it’s got a whole treasure chest of panic to work with.

If you don’t suffer from a panic disorder, you’re probably rolling your eyes and figuring that all this is exaggerated.  That’s fair.  It’s another one of those experiences that’s hard to simulate, like child birth.  The closest example I can think of is to to hold your breath under water.  When you feel like you may drown and need to surface, try to stay down there for three more seconds and fight your body’s natural desire to surface.  See what that feels like.  Now imagine that you can’t surface and you can’t black out and that’s a panic attack.  It can last for minutes or hours until your body has decided that the danger has passed.

Some occultis have gone so far as to say they didn’t think you could do effective magic without meditation.  This was devastating to me because besides the panic, I also have fibromyalgia which is not primo for sitting still for long periods of time.

So for a while I gave 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 or be president either, so whatever.

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 or disabilities that prevent you from having a full, rich meditiational life.

How to be Magically Delicious Without Emptying Your Mind Meditation

Why can’t you meditate? If you don’t know what’s preventing you from meditation, you may be missing some roadblocks in your spiritual practice.  For me, what it came down to is that I know what’s lurking under my surface, I don’t want to keep digging it up because for me I’m completely indifferent to the things that long term brain-emptying meditation has to offer.  If I don’t care about the cookie at end, why am I going to want to keep reliving trauma?  It’s not enough of a reward for me personally for me to want to keep picking at scabby wounds.  What prevents you?  Is it time?  Is it past traumas?  Is it not being particularly invested in huge cosmic powers?  Think about it.

Redefine meditation for yourself.  Brain emptying meditation is only one kind of meditation.  There’s moving meditation, there’s journaling, there’s trance work, there’s mantra/japa work.  All of these things are legit forms of meditation.  Are these meditations some would consider still full of distraction, keeping you from the really high level knowledge and power?  Yes.  Can you still learn a lot about yourself, your magic and your path this way?  Yes.  Definitely.

You can still be an effective witch without high level meditation practice and taking medication.  I have personally done effective magical work without high levels of meditation and taking prescription medication.  

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 spirit that needs to be confiiiiiiiiiined by my dark aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarts!  If I need to hold you down to have a conversation then I don’t think it’s going to be a great conversation for either of us.

I like having an occasional trance chat with my spirits, I like trying to build a better me. 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, feel comfortable in my own skin, have time to write/yell at the internet, and build my small business.

All of this can be accomplished mundanely frankly, so my magical practice is the cherry on top, the extra push I give things in my life to get to where I’m trying to go. So if I personally want anything that can be accomplished with higher knowledge, why should I torture myself? It’s needless. We’re not all going to be pop singer-astronaut-mathematicians in our daily life, we’re not all going to be Bodhisattvas either in our magical practices.  Sorry. 


You still need a cornerstone in your practice. If meditation isn’t your cornerstone, what is? Having a foundation is important to your work, so what is it?  My cornerstone is bringing glamour into my every day life through magic, my hearth, my writing, my business and interacting with others.  It’s what I draw on in times of need.  Think about your own cornerstone.  What do you want your magical practice to be built on?  It’s got to be sturdy enough for you to stand on.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


3 Responses

  1. Firstly I want to give you the BIGGEST hug evah! … I was so glad to get to the end of your post and discover you found your own way. 🙂

    The ’empty your mind’ version may work for some practitioners of eastern philosophy based traditions, but for westerners, it can be a whole ‘nuther kettle of kittens, and the last thing we need to do is ingest the ‘teachings’ of some bloke who figures if it worked for him then it must work for everyone. (OK, that may be a little strong, but ‘guru’s’ get my goat!)

    No, a thousand times no! There are a gazillion ways to still the mind/noise/get out of our own way, so we can engage with ‘stuff’ that is beyond the edge of this measurable, quantifiable physical world we inhabit. Everyone’s Path is unique to them
    Widdershins recently posted..‘House of Cards’ … Mind Blown.My Profile

  2. You might think that I would completely disagree with you here but I don’t. Its true that I think meditation is awesome and something that I think most people would benefit from. Its efficacy is being proved every day by scientific research, so I don’t really need to get preachy about it. It is the cornerstone of the magical style that I teach. But it is not the cornerstone of magic in general, and magic can certainly be done, and has been done without it.

    The bit about panic attacks from meditation is also all too true and not uncommon. I have witnessed this myself in people in my classes. It is something that can be worked through with a teacher – but unless you feel a burning desire to do so, why would you? Life is short and we cannot do everything.

    The only nit I would pick, and doubly so with the response from Widdershins is the idea that the whole experience is natural or more suited to “Easterners”. Having lived in the East and the West it is simply not true. At all.

    They are no less materialistic. They are no less complex. They are no less able to grasp the simplicity or anything like trhat at all. One look at the dizzying array of Gods and Spirits in Buddhist, Hindu,Taoist, Shinto, or other eastern Religions should give an indication of how complex their religions can get. It makes Khabbalah look like childs play.

    Anyway, good and honest post.

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