"Take time to be silent in the Temple of the World"
We live in a busy world. Even when we try to relax, our minds are often filled with distractions. Besides the stress and unhappiness that this busy-ness can cause, as pagans it can also make it difficult to connect with the numinous world - with quiet pulse of the Divine beneath all things. But there are ways to let go of the world and find the peace and inner stillness - and one of these ways is through meditation.
Meditation is simply the process whereby we bring our mind to gentle focus on a single stimulus - allowing that focus to build into an awakening awareness of the nature of our mind. It is a simple skill learnt with gentle practice and relaxed doing. The practice of meditating strengthens concentration, helping us to hold and maintain focus - it also leads to self-discipline, and compassionate self-awareness.
There are some excellent sites that will give you tips on meditating (Zen Mountain Monastery gives a good guide to Zazen practice, and there are some beautifully simple guided meditation files at Jet City Orange - an adaptation of one of which is available below).
However the simplest and most effective method of meditation is the traditional buddhist form of Vipassana: meditating on the breath:
Set yourself a regular time to meditate: everyday if you can, initially for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes (but eventually up to 30 minutes if you can). Setting yourself a regular time will help you to establish and keep to a routine; early mornings are a good time - or once you arrive home from work. Look on this time as something precious: time to be with yourself - a spiritual "beauty half-hour".
Find a quiet space to practice - ideally one with the minimum of distractions, and at a comfortable temperature. Darken the space a little - not completely dark, but a gentle, dusk-like level of light. If noise is a problem, think about wearing headphones (and perhaps listening to some quiet nature sounds or white noise)
Come to a comfortable seated position: with spine erect and shoulders down and back. Let the body be relaxed, with the breath fluid and easy.
Let your mind sink down and rest in your belly. Relax and breathe - fully land yourself in the body.
Release any thoughts without judgment: it is in the nature of the mind to distract you with thoughts. Acknowledge them, and then let them go. With calm compassion, bring your awareness back to the breath - to the life force - as it flows into and out of your body.
Notice the sensations as you breathe. The slight swell in your belly as the air gently rushes in, the gentle expansion of the ribs and back as you body welcomes the life force; the momentary stillness between breaths; and then the gentle sinking of the chest as the breath is released - easy, gently, relaxed.
Don't try to change your breath. Just observe it as it is, without the need to change anything. Just notice - gentle, compassionate, relaxed.
If you notice your attention drifting, honour yourself for noticing and being aware that the mind has strayed - then quietly bring the mind back to the breath: gently and without fuss. The nature of the mind is to wander - being aware of the wandering mind means that you are alert and attentive.
Go deep within yourself. Connect to your inner vitality.
When the mind wanders, bring your awareness back to the breath - back to the sensations and the feeling of breathing - over and over and over again. Do so with love and compassion - show the mind the depth and fascination that can be found in the infinite variation of each breath in the breathing.
Let go of doing.
Don't push away the thoughts, or try to ignore them or force the mind back to the breath. The more you push, the more they push back. Instead, embrace the distractions: enfold them in awareness and surround them in the soft relaxed breath. Hold them gently and kindly - as you would a little bird - and then quietly let them dissolve away.
Be here - now. This moment, this breath. And this one. And this one.
Be compassionate - with the breath, with the mind, with your Self.
Allow the mind to settle into the stillness of simply breathing. Be with it - be quiet - and let stillness gently grow within you.
Surrender into serenity.