Wicca is a religion that uses magick, which is triggered by the mind. In order for this to work well, it's important that the person doing the magick be able to envision what she wants to have manifest. That's where meditation and visualization skills become so important.
Remember the Thirteen Goals of a Witch? Goal number one is "Know Thyself". In other words, if you don't have a clear idea of what will make you happy, you are unlikely to get it (or even recognize it when you do get it!). So an important part of doing magick is to know what you want for your outcome and be able to visualize it strongly.
Visualiztion is the skill of seeing with your mind's eye. (also called your "third eye") When you can clearly see pictures and events taking place, using your imagination to control the outcome, then it is much easier to direct your will and your energy into making those pictures manifest on the physical plane. This is one of the ways for working magick.
Also, goal number 12 is "Meditate". Why should this be a goal of every witch? What benefits could this possibly have for us?
"Modern" science has "discovered" the many benefits of meditation, and so it became popular, especially in the 1970's. Such programs as "TM" and others, brought meditation into mainstream society. Benefits such as stress relief and greater ability to focus are easily attained using a simple meditation schedule of just 10-20 minutes a day. People who meditate regularly are calmer in crisis situations. They are able to stop the "chatter" that happens in the concious mind, and have an increased ability to focus on one problem at a time.
Meditation will bring you a sensitivity to the earth and to all life, and all the forces which surround us. You will be better able to connect, to be as one with the life forces, with the flow. Medititation brings also a sense of belonging, and that brings with it a sense of compassion. For we will be compassionate for that with which we share a belonging.
Certain meditations have also been traditionally used as one of the "eight-fold paths" to enlightenment. Meditating, for example, on questions that don't have easy answers enables you to go above your normal mundane thinking into more trancendantal thinking. One example of this might be using the Wiccan Rede and meditating on exactly what constitutes "harm" to yourself or another. Another example of this type of question is "Who am I? Am I the person I want to be?" There are books available for more information on this type of meditation, and I will refer to them later.
Many people have told me that they can't meditate, that they can't sit still for long periods, they get restless, etc. This is because the majority of people think of meditation only as sitting still in the lotus position (legs crossed) and chanting "OM" over and over. While this is one form of meditation, it is ONLY one form, and there are MANY others.
Meditation is, simply put, the focus of the mind on only one thing at a time, whatever that may be. It can be internal, such as an idea, or external, such as a flower or picture. It can be as simple as counting your breaths to a count of four, and then starting over again. It can be done while lying down, sitting still, or even moving. One method of meditation uses repetitive movements to still the mind - doing it this way you can even meditate while walking on a treadmill, or while sitting and knitting, just to name two possible ways.
So, do you want to get started? The easiest form of meditation that has been very successful for beginners, is "breath counting". This is, very simply, counting your breaths up to a count of four. It is important to breathe correctly during this exercise, you must breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth - using your diaphragm. Put your hand on your stomach, in the center just below your rib cage. This is where your diaphragm is located. Now breathe in deeply through your nose, and fill this area with air FIRST, feeling your abdomen expand. Now fill your lungs from the bottom up. And release this breath through your mouth, slowly.
It is generally best to exhale twice as long as your inhale breath, but you will do that naturally most of the time. If you start to feel lightheaded, then you need to exhale longer, and breathe more slowly. Now to do this exercise, you get comfortable, and breathe. Concentrate only on the breathing, and count to four, and count to four, and count to four, only. If any other thoughts intrude, just gently let them go, and continue breathing and counting. Do this daily for 10 minutes to start with for at least 3 weeks to see if it suits you. Sounds easy, doesn't it?
Your mind will come up with all kinds of thoughts, itches, tingles, or uncomfortableness to distract you. Your mind has been allowed to "run" undisciplined all this time, so don't expect to be able to master this overnight. In addition, remember, every time you say, "Aha! I was just doing it right!", you are already thinking of something other than your breath. Pat yourself on the back, and then go right back to counting.
One word of advice, I started to use this method, and it works very well, as a way of getting to sleep at night. It worked wonderfully, and I have never had trouble sleeping since. However, I had to find a totally different method after that to meditate, because my body was now trained to go to sleep! If you are going to meditate, try sitting up, or lying on a floor, and not on your bed. If you are going to use any meditation to put yourself to sleep at night, then be clear with yourself that you are going to sleep, and train yourself to know the difference.
Well, what if you simply haven't the ability to sit still for that long a time? Some people really don't, and it certainly doesn't mean you can't meditate. Try a "moving" meditation. Stand up and stretch your arms out as high as you can, and put your head all the way back.... that really feels good! Now, slowly come all the way down, and allow your body to relax totally, with your hands brushing the floor (don't push it if they don't) and allow your head to simply hang.
Now slowly, bring yourself back to the first position, and then hold it for a time, and slowly bring yourself to the second position, and hold it for a time. Continue to do this, and remember to breathe! You can try counting your breaths during this exercise, or you can simply find a mantra to say during it, to give your mind a focus.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you say over and over again, until the syllables have no meaning, it is simply a focus for the mind. One form of mantra, is the chant that is used during magick to impress upon the subconcious mind what it is that the person wants to manifest. You can use any word or phrase that you like, and the words don't have to have any meaning, or it can be something empowering for you. Somthing along the lines of, "I feel good, I look great" is an example of empowering or positive affirmations that can be used as a meditation mantra.
One of the best books that I have found on techniques is "How To Meditate" by Lawrence LeShan. While this book has nothing whatsoever to do with Wicca, it gives practical techniques, exercises, and advice on many different types of meditation. Also, Starhawk's Spiral Dance has some visualization and meditation exercises in it. Another book which is wonderful for someone new to these techniques is by Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization which also has a tape that goes with it, and is in it's second or third printing. I highly recommend that you work with one or more of these books, and use the exercises given there to develop and hone your skills.
Being able to visualize strongly and clearly can help you in many areas of your life. Athletes are now taught to see themselves winning by using visualization. Many healers tell their patients, especially children, to see the "good cells" battling and winning over the "bad cells" when they are fighting diseases in the body. These techniques are not new, they have been "rediscovered" and we are lucky now that this information is readily available to all, and is no longer the secret teachings of a few people handed down and taught only to selected students.
Clearly there are many advantages to using a daily meditation schedule to calm and clear your mind, above and beyond the advantages to be gained for magickal workings. This is truly a skill which should be acquired and practiced by every witch to the best of her abilities.