Meditation in various cultures

When we think about meditation, we generally think about the Far East. While there are groups in the Far Eastern cultures that have certainly made it a practice to be masters of meditation, it is by no means the truth to say that they are the experts on the subject, and indeed there are many instances where meditation has been used and even is still used in the western world. Some examples of this can be found in the Native American cultures, often combined in other ritual acts, such as the use of dances that not only are acts of display and worship, but also methods of active meditation. My own interest went to my own culture, naturally, and there I found that the Anglo Saxon traditions, which stem in part from the Gothonic tribes, also has a while system of meditation, magic and combat that all combines together and the use of these practices is aligned with the concept of the Wyrd and in tapping into the powers around you in different ways. Warriors used it in certain instances to achieve the state of ‘Baresark’, to go berserk in battle, and to in other forms take on the mentality of the ‘Ulfdenar’, the wolfmen. Sorcerers used the same concept to find their ‘fetch’ or Fylgia (as it is referred to in the Norwegian Gothonic traditions) and to access shamanic healing states that call on the spirits of plants and animals to drive off elves and to cure sicknesses. It is soon clear that in older societies meditation was considered a pretty basic art that more than one group in the different cultures used in wildly different ways. The Norwegian system of Stav, for example, is based in the runes and has a whole set of exercises, based in the runes themselves, that have the practitioner go through movements inspired by the shapes of the runes while chanting and breathing in certain ways to achieve a kind of ‘yoga’ that keeps the body supple and vital. These same stances and movements also translated into a kind of ‘karate’ that used armed and unarmed combat, and in fact there are still practitioners of this art today. In Greek society meditation was used to achieve mystic trances and was highly respected as we see in the instance of the Oracles, the most famous being at Delphi. All of the different occurrences seem to have the same basics in common though, and these remain the same today. The methods of achieving the mental state are short, easily memorable, simple and are designed to detach the practitioner from general reality. Some cultures made use of hallucinogens, but that is by no means the rule at all. Many cultures required movement, such as dance or a yoga style of movement, which shows that active meditation has proved to be very effective. It is also noted that in all the cultures the art of meditation is deemed to be difficult and a challenge, and in fact in the Anglo Saxon traditions the art was embodied for a sorcerer into a kind of quest which started the practitioner on the path to being a Sorcerer. Any interest therefore in improving ones spiritual life therefore must begin with lerning such basics as meditation as an art and as a daily practice.

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