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(See also “Celestial Bodies,” “Sex,” and “Wicca.” Also see “Mysteries.”)

“Pagan” usually refers to what are sometimes called the “old religions” or the “earth religions” and their followers, many of whom believe in fairies, spirits of earth, air, fire, and water, or other spirits existing in or with natural objects. “Paganism” refers to the general belief system of those who follow these ways.

“Pagan” in its spiritual practice does not mean someone who is unschooled or believes in wild behavior. Likewise, those who practice paganism are not following pure instinct or worshipping evil. Rather, the great majority of them follow a belief system that is consistent, spiritual, and uplifting for them.

Examples of pagan religions are wicca (see), Native American (First People) belief in a Great Spirit inhabiting every part of creation, and other groups who find God or the Spirit in nature. Many nature-oriented pagans, like the Native Americans, believe that each of us walk, live, and breathe within the body or bodies of the Great Spirit, or the earthly Goddess, or an overall divine being. Early Greek followers of the mystery religions and Mother Goddess religions had similar beliefs.

If this pathway of meditation suits you, then pursue it like any other: with scientific skepticism and trust in the experiences of millions of meditators. In general, if you are not working with a master but just with a group or alone, then you should follow practices that, in meditation in general, focus on higher energies, light, love, peace, and greater awareness.

Pagan religions were much more common, encompassing most of humanity, before the coming of the earth’s masculine-dominated religions with their primary gods and goddesses (e.g., Zeus, Aphrodite, and Loki) in Greece, Rome, the Nordic countries, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

However, even then, many pagan beliefs were still followed in rural areas away from the city centers of power: people gave lip service to the dominant gods but believed in local fairies and used potions and spells recommended to them by the local expert on magic, often a woman. Even when the dominant religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and others like them came into power, many villages still had their local experts on magic and spirits of the woods.

These “old religions” practitioners used many forms of meditation. To learn more about some of these meditation activities, see “Celestial Bodies,” “Sex,” and “Wicca.”

PAIN (PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL) AND DISEASE [See also the Guide called "Pain (Physical and Emotional)," "Depression,” ”Emotion,” "Emotional Reactions," "Fear," "Sin," “Problems," and the Guide called "Problems." If you are looking for help in using pain as a means of meditating, see "Pain for Meditating."]

Physical pain, emotional pain, and disease are common themes or questions related to meditation. Some people meditate to help manage pain and disease. However, some experience pain or especially notice their disease during meditation.

You cannot necessarily get rid of physical pain–nor emotional and physical disease–simply by meditating. Sometimes this works, usually by some type of release of tension. And sometimes you can decrease physical and emotional pain or discomfort by meditation. However, normally, you need to manage pain and disease using doctors, counselors, physical therapists, exercise, use of supplements and herbs, or other physical means.

Meditation may well play a helping role. But if your pain is regular or intense, you almost always need more than meditation. 

If you experience pain in meditation itself, it may be normal or it may indicate you need help. Normal pain in meditation is rarely more than mild to moderate. It can come from using an awkward or difficult pose too long, from stretching a little-used muscle, or from trying a position that your own body is not meant to use.

Sometimes the pain can come from simple causes such as a too-full stomach or air in the bowels. In such situations, the solution may be to use greater moderation in eating before meditation, or simply to use a different position. Remember that meditation is equally lying down, standing, or walking, as in sitting. and it is equally possible in a chair as it is on a floor.

In meditating upon physical or emotional pain, the best solution usually is to go into the heart of the pain. This is what many psychologists recommend for emotional pain in particular. It works such as well for physical pain. With either kind of pain, you need to discover exactly where it is, what it is, and how it is hindering you. To do this, you use your awareness to focus on the pain and stay with it. As you do so, you let other parts of your body and mind relax. Again, you may want to try different physical positions to see which best suits your focus on your pain.

If your pain is emotional/psychological, try to separate the mental element (usually a memory or series of memories) from the physical feeling that results. Focus on just the mental or just the physical. For most people, focusing on the memory and feeling (letting it wash over you repeatedly) will, gradually–often after several or more meditation sessions–lessen the pain’s power over you. You also will become better at keeping the two separate.

If you cannot succeed in dealing with an emotional/psychological pain in this way, the next step is to exercise daily or more often, moderately to vigorously. You might want to combine this with writing all of your thoughts and feelings about the pain in a private journal.

If these activities, along with meditation, do not work well, then you should seek professional help. In fact, if your emotional “pain” is depression, anxiety, or several other types of strong physical discomforts, you might have a medical or biological condition that takes a medical intervention. If you are suffering from depression in particular, see “Depression.”

For any frequent, continuing, or intense pain, whether physical or emotional, you should consult a physician or counselor immediately. Then use this person’s advice in practicing one or more forms of therapy and other improvements in your physical or mental health. Throughout these, using meditation may help you better monitor your problem, goal, and improvements.

For more information on meditating on or dealing with pain, see the Guide called Pain (Physical and Emotional).

PAIN FOR MEDITATING (See “Drugs and Body Implants" and "Ignatius of Loyola.")

          One traditional but much less used path for meditating is the path of self-inflicted pain. This does not usually include pain inflicted beyond what a person can handle, not pain that causes severe emotional or physical reactions, and not pain inflicted by torture or by accident (though some meditators have learned to find higher or deeper states of meditation when others are torturing them, or when life itself delivers incurable pain).

          Two classic examples of meditating by using pain are the Hindu fakirs who use it, such as sleeping on beds of nails or piercing their bodies with sticks in multiple places, and the spiritual activities of the Christian founder of the Catholic Order of Jesus (or "Jesuits"), St. Ignatius of Loyola (see). Such practices were more common in the past than now, but they still are used by some people.

          For the great majority of people who are not masochistic and dislike pain, pain usually is a distraction to meditation, not an aid. Most founders of the world's great religions, even though some have tried extreme practices, recommend a middle path (see). However, if you enjoy pain, if it brings you peace or balance, and/or if it helps you find deeper states of love, joy, peace, or strength, then this path may be at least in part for you. There are, however, some "don'ts" for using pain for meditating:

PAIRED (AND SMALL-GROUP) MEDITATIONSee “Others, Meditating with.” Also see ““Leading by Using Meditation,” “Leading Meditation Sessions,” and “Master/Teacher.”

PATHWAYS OF MEDITATION, GOOD AND BAD (See also “Stages of Meditation”)

There are several major meditation “paths,” “pathways” or groupings of “practices.” These are formal ways or patterns of pursuing meditation on a regular basis. They do not exclude each other, none is required, and each eventually will lead you to merging points with the others. For those practicing alone, both positive and negative pathways are listed below.

All paths of meditation start best with good breathing. They also start best with comfortable posture, whether that means running, walking, sitting in any comfortable position, or lying down in an alert state. Finally, they start with your being able to pay attention or to focus on meditating with few or no distractions, whether you are completely alone, with others, or in public.

And there are a few presuppositions about the above meditation starters. All of these starters assume that you work on being in reasonably good health, and on living a life that allows you, at least some of the time, to be at peace.

Major Positive Pathways:

These pathways generally are considered safe for those working alone:

1. The Path of Awareness/Consciousness. See “Awareness of Awareness,” “Awareness of Each Object of Awareness,” "Centering Prayer," “The ‘No’ Meditation,” “Nirvana,” “Solar Plexus Energy Center,” and “Throat Energy Center.”

2. The Path of Prayer/Words/Mantras. See “Prayer,” “Word Meditation,” and “Throat Energy Center.”

3. The Path of Focusing on Higher Body Points. See “Above-the-head Energy Center,” Third Eye Energy Center,” and “Superconscious Energy Center.”

4. The Path of Focusing on Central Body Points. See “Throat Energy Center,“ “Heart Energy Center,” and “”Solar Plexus Energy Center.”

5. The Path of Faith. See the above “Paths 1-4.” Also see “Awakening Experience,” "Centering Prayer," “Faith,” “Mysticism,” and “Prayer.”

6. The Path of Focusing on Lower Body Points. “See “Lower Energy Centers.” Also see “Healing,” “Kundalini,” “Problems,” “Sex,” and Will.”

7. The Path of Devotional Work: See “Karma Yoga.” Also see “Base-of-the-trunk Energy Center” and “Work Meditation.”

8. The Path of Working in Person with a Master. See “Master” and “Problems.”

9. The Path of Finding Ultimate Being in/through/with Other People. See "Others."

Major Negative Pathways:

Here are some pathways that, when you are not working in a close relationship with a master, can be dangerous, unproductive, or unethical:

1. The Path of Power or Willfulness. See “Delusions,” “Solar Plexus Energy Center,” and “Will.”

2. The Path of Lower Desires and Lower Pleasures. See “Health Energy Center” and “Energy Centers” (Lower). Also see “Healing,” “Kundalini,” “Problems,” “Sex,” Will,” “Healing,” “Kundalini,” and “Problems.”

3. The Path of Controlling Matter. See “Base-of-the-trunk Energy Center,” “Delusion,” “Kundalini,” “Pain,” and “Problems.”

4. The Path of Inflicted Pain. See “The Middle Path.” Also see “Health” and “Pain.”

5. The Path of Highs from Drugs. See “Drugs and Implants” and “The Middle Path.” Also see “Food and Drink” and “Health.”

6. The Path of Self-Psychoanalysis. See "Psychology," "Problems," "Emotional Reactions," and "Fear."

PEACE (See also the Guide on the "Starting Stage of Meditation.”)

          "Peace" in meditation practice has two important meanings. The simpler meaning is simply that you need to find a state of peace as much as possible when you meditate. In this sense, "peace" simply means seeking silence, comfort, an alert and untroubled awareness, a lack of physical and emotional pain, and a lack of constant distraction. This kind of peace does not mean necessarily being completely physically still, as it can be done when walking or otherwise moving; and it does not mean that you have a perfect absence of thought or feeling, as often some of the starting meditations you may have to use will actually help you achieve a more peaceful state. An example of a peaceful state of meditation is when you are sitting or walking, calming focusing in the way you have chosen, with the external word and thoughts and feelings about it gradually falling away.

          "Peace" in a deeper, more intense meaning is a type of strong or deep meditation experience that you may discover or learn to slip into through meditation. It is characterized by a deep feeling of calm, an intense experience of clear restfulness, and an ability, in the midst of this great peace, to focus your meditation even more deeply in special ways. It is not necessarily a sudden "born again" or otherwise "divine" experience (though for some it can be if it is especially intense); likewise, it is not just a normal restfulness. The best example of being in a state of great meditation peace is that you feel like your awareness is floating in a ball of gentle, quiet, powerful restfulness, within part or all of your body or even surrounding it.

          To pursue either type of peace, simply follow your meditation exercises and be willing to try new ones. Once you have experienced the kind of peace you are looking for, then examine it and let it imprint itself on every part of your being so that in another hour or day you can remember it in order to focus on it and return to it.

PEOPLE, MEDITATING WITH/AROUND/IN See “Others, Meditating with/around/in.” For more detail, see the short Guidebook "Other People."

PERSONALITY TYPES, HINDU See “Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva.”

PHYSICAL THERAPY See “Breathing,” “Exercise,” and “Hatha Yoga.”

PICTURES FOR MEDITATION See  “Maitri Wisdom Meditation" and the "Third-eye Energy Center."

PIERCING THE BODY See  “Gifts,” Pain for Meditating," and "Drugs and Body Implants."

PLACES FOR MEDITATION See “Settings,” ”Moving,” and “Still.”

PLANETS See “Celestial Bodies and Meditation.”


PLEASURE AND MEDITATION – (See also “Health,” “Middle Path,” Pain,” “Problems,” and “Sex and Meditation.”)

Pleasure can aid meditation, or it can get in its way. And sometimes meditation itself can bring great pleasure. Pleasure comes in many forms: physical, emotional, intellectual, artistic, and spiritual.

Pleasure in general is not, in and of itself, an evil. It does not necessarily need to be avoided. And it is not something that wrecks a “pure” life. Rather, pleasure in its better forms is natural for your body, part of it, and good for it both for health and in meditation.

Examples of constructive pleasure in life include feeling healthy, being positive about yourself, feeling strong, and enjoying nature and other people. Examples of constructive pleasure in meditation include feeling light, joy, peace, love, calmness, restfulness, energy, and many other positive experiences meditation can bring. For some, simply the strong cessation of pain, doubt, fear, or other negative experiences is itself a pleasure.

What happens when meditation brings you pleasure and success in life? This can be good, and it may be fine to enjoy it for what it is.

Or instead, it might be a distraction. If you become completely caught up in the pleasure itself, keeping you from meditating well, then you may need to set aside the pleasure for a time, whether that time is several minutes or several months. For example, if you discover a great friendship through a meditation class, then stop meditating to explore the friendship more, this is a distraction from meditation. If meditation brings you better health, will you still continue meditating? If meditation makes your sexual feelings more intense, will you still continue meditating? While meditating may sometimes be considered a short-term means to a goal–and such meditation is better than none at all–you can advance further as a human being if reaching external goals does not stop your meditation practice.

In general, the distractions of pleasure in no way mean that you must avoid it. It is possible in many situations to combine meditation with the pleasurable activity such that the meditation experience informs and compliments the pleasure. Meditation does not require you to give up external pleasures (unless you find them too distracting and want to focus purely on concentrating).

Much of the purpose of meditation can be to highlight and strengthen parts of life you enjoy or with which you have a strong identity. However, if learning and expanding one’s horizons–or especially developing a greater, deeper internal awareness–is your major goal, then you should not lose focus on concentrating even as good things happen.


POSITION See “Posture.”

POSTURE(See also “Balance” and “Pain.”)

Meditation is best, whether moving or still, when you maintain good posture. Good posture simply means that your body is balanced, comfortable, and alert without being tense.

Rigidity, awkwardness, pain, additional pressure, and contorted or convoluted positions are not helpful except during a few physical and meditative stretching exercises. Your head and trunk should be straight (but not rigid), and your arms and legs should be balanced equal when you are still, or equally alternating  if you are moving.

You may, instead, lie on one side or lean one way and meditate, and then switch to the other side or other way and repeat the meditation. This, too, can create physical balance during your meditation session.

For more information on posture in meditation, see the Guide called Posture.

PRANAYAMA YOGA (See “Breath.” Also see “Solar Plexus Energy Center” and “Energy Centers.”

Pranayama Yoga is a physical yoga practice that involves a variety of ways to breath for health and better meditation. For more, see “Breath.”

PRAYER – (See also “Above-the-head Center,” “God,” “Heart Center, “Mantra Yoga,” “Posture,” “Spiritual,” and “Throat Center.”)

Prayer is a type of meditation in which you reach out to a higher power, higher state, or higher being. You do not just invoke or summon (see “invocation”) the presence of the higher power or being, and you do not demand that it make something happen. Rather, prayer is more like a request from you for help, a sharing with a higher power or being, or a recitative or wordless dwelling within the higher power, state, or being.

The word “prayer” often is associated with the major Western religions. However, prayer is used by many people in some form or another in all major religions, past and present. For example, in Buddhism and Hinduism, a “mantra” (see) is a type of prayer. Prayer may be spoken or unspoken, and with or without ritual.

For more information on prayer as meditation, see the Guide called Prayer.

PRECOGNITION, PREDICTING THE FUTURE See “Gifts,” “Psychic Abilities," and "Distractions.”

PRESENCE (See also “Awakening,” “God,” “Starting Stage,” “Middle Stage," and "Present.”)

“Presence” can mean several states of being or existence in meditation. In some belief systems, it means there is the presence or nearby existence of a spiritual being. In other belief systems, it might mean that you or another person is establishing a strong “presence”–a thorough or intense state of being within you or, perhaps, at a distance in or from another person’s mind.

In meditation, it does not mean that you are, as a person, simply “present”; or that you are “presenting” something, or something is being presented to you. Rather, a “presence” in meditation means your awareness is in the presence of a higher, deeper, or especially more intense state of energy or being. For example, you might feel the presence of a different-than-normal power, force, or state of being; or you might feel the presence of someone who may be communicating with you inwardly by thought or feeling.

PRESENT (BEING IN THE PRESENT) See “Awareness of Each Object of Awareness.”

PRIDE See "Emotional Reactions to Meditation.”     

PROBLEMS PRACTICING MEDITATION(See also the Guide called "Problems," “Depression,” “Delusions,” “Emotion,” "Emotional Reactions," "Fear," “Pain,” “Posture,” and the Guide called ""Pain (Physical and Emotional).")

Many people experience a variety of problems. They range from delusion, discomfort, falling asleep, depression, pain, and nothing happening, to adverse reactions to drugs and to psychological problems.

Such problems are not always small, simple, or easily solved. Sometimes, instead, they create serious difficulties when you are trying to start meditation or, perhaps, move forward with good meditation practices.

Significant examples may include such problems as delusions (see), drugs (see), depression (see “Depression” and “Dark Night of the Soul”), posture or physical position (see “Posture”) and pain (see "Pain"). You may also see the “Guide to Problems” below for disagreements with others about meditating, disbelief, falling asleep, straying focus, nothing happening, and psychological disturbance.

For more information on how to deal with problems relating to meditation, see the Guide called Problems.

PROPHECY See “Gifts.”

PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS See "Denis of Syria."


There are a variety of reasons to believe that psychic phenomena, abilities, and connections exist, at least in some way. Many ancient “miracles” and “magic” (see) are, today, easily explained and duplicated by science. This will continue to true as science expands its knowledge now and in the future.

Psychic abilities/connections are not some kind of mysterious, strange event. They are normal to both humans and animals alike. They are not unscientific, as sufficient studies of psychic phenomena have been completed during the past fifty years to argue that they are, in fact, real. They usually are considered a separate group or category from occult (see) phenomena, which have more to do with lower, darker, or more pagan or wiccan forces and powers. And psychic abilities/connections are not unpredictablel: they happen in organized patterns.

Common examples include thinking of another person at the same time he or she is thinking of you, being aware someone is watching you, having a dream of someone or something that later is echoed in reality, and many others.

Meditation may lead some people to experience what seem like psychic phenomena. Such phenomena should be treated with caution and a healthy skepticism, as should anything discovered in meditation. There is nothing wrong with such experiences.

On the other hand, they are no more special in meditation than are other thoughts and feelings. They may help meditation. But if they do not–if they are just a distraction–then they should be ignored during meditation. After you are done meditating, then you may, if you wish, further pursue knowledge or awareness of psychic phenomena just as you might spend time pursuing a philosophical idea, a new way of working, or a new recipe. (See also “Balance.”)

Where or how do psychic abilities and connections exist? Well-regarded twentieth-century Roman Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin commented on this in his philosophical works. He was a highly respected scientist: a paleontologist and geologist. He suggested that in addition to the layers of earth and, above them, plants and animals, there is also a layer he called the “noosphere,” which means “thought layer.” He argued that all human thought collects there, and all humans have the ability to tap this layer.

This noosphere is similar to what famous early psychologist Karl Jung called the “collective unconscious.” He said it is a repository of all human thought and feeling accessible to everyone, in especially unconscious ways or moments like dreaming, intutions, and imagination.

Brain scans also show that each human being has an electrical field that extends strongly around the body for a few inches, and less strongly further away. Such energy fields (see “Energy Sphere”) can explain how people physically close to each other might share thoughts and feelings.

Almost all major religions advise that psychic phenomena–like intellectual, emotional, and physical phenomena–can be harnessed to help the greater purposes of meditation. They also warn, however, that such abilities and connections can, instead, be obstacles or distractions to reaching deeper, higher, and more thorough meditative states.

PSYCHIC BODY See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”

PSYCHIC CONNECTIONS See “Psychic Abilities/Connections.”

PSYCHIC PHENOMENA See “Psychic Abilities/Connections.”

PSYCHIC SELF See “Energy Sphere,” “Energy Centers,” and “Soul.”

PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMSSee “Psychology.” Also see “Delusion,” “Depression,” “Illusion,” “Pain,” and “Problems.”

PSYCHOLOGY (See also “Brain,” “Delusion,” “Depression,” “Illusion,” “Memory,” “Mind,” “Pain,” “Personality,” and “Problems.” Also see "Ego," "Superego," "Id," and "Unconscious.")

“Psychology,” which means the “logic of the psyche, soul, or mind,” (see “mind” and “soul”) is the systematic learning and use of who you are as a thinking and feeling human being, how you arrived at this point in your personal life, and what you can become, personally, in the future.

When used correctly, psychology is not a false science that misleads people. It also is not a replacement for spirituality or religion. Rather, the study of psychology can be a complement to meditation.   

Examples of psychology include the study of how people act and react as they do, the counseling of people experiencing difficulties and blocks in their lives for which they need help, and research on behaviors of individuals in a variety of situations.

The ancient arts and sciences of meditation and yoga from around the world, as well as those of many major spiritual systems, are in many ways the early forerunners of today’s field of psychology. In terms of meditation and yoga, psychology represents a wonderful opportunity to wed science with older meditation and yoga systems. The best psychologies, like the best meditation and yoga systems, encourage people to find help and useful aids from all fields of wisdom, and from many experts in many different fields. Reading texts on psychology easily can go hand in hand with studying meditation and yoga.

One form of psychology can be dangerous, especially if you try to practice it on yourself: psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the process of exploring your own past traumas and other bad memories. Doing this on your own, without someone to guide you through it, usually is an exercise in searching for–and emphasizing–negativity. It is true that meditation, and any kind of deeper self-searching for higher states of being, often will trigger painful and uncomfortable emotional memories. However, to actually pursue such memories–without using the higher and deeper positive states of being as a guide and relief–is a recipe for disaster without a guide. Even with a guide, psychoanalysis has a spotty record, with some patients receiving it from a psychoanalyst actually getting worse, and perhaps only half getting better.

In addition, most modern psychology finds meditation useful for human beings. You may find it helpful to receive psychological assistance while practicing meditation and yoga.

PUBLIC MEDITATIONSee “Others, Meditating with.” Also see ““Leading by Using Meditation” and “Leading Meditation Sessions.”

PURGATORY See "Afterlife."

PURITY, PURIFY, PURIFICATION (See also "Clarity," “Spiritual Awareness," "Colors,” "Divine," and "Energy Centers.")

"Purifying" means creating or being in a state of clarity, both mental and emotional, in which you can experience the more intense states of peace, love, joy, strength, or other purer states of being. In meditation practice, it is not (though it can be represented symbolically by) outer or external conditions, events, or rituals; neither is it an outer state of being, such as the simple act of being a virgin or having received a shriving of sins through confession. In meditation, purity is a significant and deep inner state of being.

An example of a state of inner purity is one in which you are filled with inner peace, love, or strength. An example of purification is any meditation exercise that clears your mind and body so that it can receive such deeper feelings. Sometimes meditation practices

PURUSHA Hindu. See “Atman.”



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