This is the transcript for the video series available on Youtube.
Please see the link to the playlist and all the resources at the end.
In August, I attended a four-day meditation retreat at a Theravadan Buddhist monastery. This is one of the most ancient branches of Buddhism. “Theravada promotes the concept "teaching of analysis”. This doctrine says that “insight must come from the aspirant’s experience, application of knowledge, and critical reasoning.”
When I entered the Therian community many years ago, there was less emphasis on meditation. At some point, it was presented as a way to learn about theriosides and past lives.
I attended the retreat with an open mind. I wanted to know if meditation was being done properly in the Therian/Otherkin community. I see people describe meditating once or twice and seeing a Therioside. I’ve read descriptions of vision or dream-like scenes that people see during meditation. I wanted to find out if this was possible. I wanted to know if that’s what should be happening. I wanted to know proper techniques for meditation. This writing (or series of videos) will explain everything I learned.
Visiting the monastery opened up a wealth of real information about meditation and not the new-age stuff that comes up first on internet searches. Most of the books on these websites are free to download. They range from information for beginners to advanced topics. You will also find audio teachings. Enjoy and please share.
Four days of meditation guided by Buddhist monks does not make me an expert. However, I hope the information presented here can help some Therians and Otherkin be more analytical and observant of themselves. I hope this information is able to help some on their path of self-discovery and introspection. Please watch/read with an open mind and put into use the information that you find helpful. Also note that meditation might not help everyone when it’s used specifically in relation to Therianthropy.
I know that I can’t change everyone’s mind or habits related to the practice of meditation, but telling young individuals who are questioning Therianthropy that they can trust visions seen during meditation could lead them astray and cause false positives and false hope. Please take that into consideration before completely dismissing everything presented in these videos/transcript and completely disagreeing.
Questions that will be answered
Can meditation help with Therian related questions?
Will you find a therioside on the first or second attempt of meditation?
Should you be seeing visions during meditation?
Can meditation help to learn about past lives?
Should meditation be used to trigger shifts?
Is meditation the only way or the best way to learn about yourself?
What is Meditation?
“Meditation refers to the mental activity of sustaining clear awareness on one thing: a physical sensation, perception, concept, process or material object.” (“What is Buddhism” 2017 by Ajahn Chandako) This helps to train the mind and can provide insights about the self. Meditation is calming and helps quiet the mind so that we can practice on focus and mindfulness. Meditation is a time to observe yourself, the body, feelings, mental state, emotions and therianthropic shifts in a neutral way without excitement, anger, fear, or being judgmental. It can help to centre us and ground us. Mindfulness and meditation are both about being fully in the current moment, not thinking about the past or the future. This is why meditation can help with depression and anxiety, even if it doesn’t help you with Therianthropy.
During meditation, you are not supposed to take ownership of any emotions or sensations. Acknowledge them, but don’t hold onto them. Let them go. This helps the examination of objects or phenomena to remain neutral. I was told that if meditation feels like work and is not calming then other preliminary steps need to be taken to prepare the mind and body. Meditation does take practice and dedication, so don’t get discouraged if it takes several tries to quiet and calm the mind. Buddhist Monks make it their entire life to hone meditation skills.
Meditation can be just a mental exercise. Anyone can practice. You don’t need to be spiritual or follow Buddhism to utilize these techniques. This practice can be used by both spiritual and psychological Therianthropes/Otherkin. Meditation might not be easy for everyone in the beginning. However, if meditation is not helping you, that’s okay. It’s not the only way to learn about yourself and Therianthropy. Meditation is not a requirement, and being able to do this doesn’t make you a Therianthrope.
It’s also important to know what is not meditation. Meditation should not be considered a quick or easy way to find answers. It can months or years for this practice to bear any insights about yourself. Because the focus and contemplation is on one object at a time, that means that meditation is NOT about visualizations, daydreaming, or allowing your imagination to take control. If you see yourself running through the woods as an animal, then you are not meditating properly or in a way that will help you get unbiased answers about yourself. I will explain this in more detail later. I think a lot of this new-agey meditation where you listen to music and visualize can make you feel good, but you are only seeing what you want to see instead of making neutral examinations that will guide you to more reliable answers.
Meditation is not for the purpose of triggering shifts. Don’t go into meditation thinking about the shift to force it to happen. This might not be a true shift. You want shifts to occur naturally and involuntarily without thinking about them. If a shift happens naturally, then you can focus on this genuine experience. You might notice that a natural shift is different from one that was forced.
Preparation for Meditation
There are four positions for meditation: sitting, walking, standing, and lying meditation. I will go over each of those in more detail later. Meditation sessions are usually about an hour long. If you can’t sit for that length of time, it’s okay to start with shorter 10-15 minutes sessions to begin your practice. It’s best to meditate with the eyes closed to reduce visual stimuli, but you can also meditate with them half-open. If you need to meditate with your eyes open, try to look at something calming and simple. (Of course this is not true for objects of meditation that require the visual observation of the object.)
Our minds want to wander and be busy. If you notice that your focus has been broken, don’t be angry or upset. Meditation takes practice. Gently remind yourself to breathe and return your focus to the object.
It’s best to have no adornments or makeup during meditation. That means no jewellery, no accessories such as ears or tails, and no collars. It’s best to just have comfortable, loose-fitted clothing. Why should you not wear these items? These are distractions. Your mind will probably wander to them and focus on those outward physical things instead of the answers that are within yourself. These items can block you from being able to examine phantom shifts as they occur in their natural and pure state.
Gear can’t tell you anything about yourself. We also have mental and emotional attachments to these items that can cloud our judgment and understanding. You don’t want that during meditation. Meditation is a time to observe yourself, the body, feelings, emotions, and shifts in a neutral way without excitement, anger, fear, or being judgmental. You aim to be detached during meditation. It’s hard to distance yourself from preconceived ideas and beliefs that might be incorrect if you are wearing a full set of accessories that constantly tug at your mind and attention. You want to put all of that aside. Every meditation is a chance to examine the self with a fresh start and from a new perspective.
It’s best to sit in silence if possible. Music can be a distraction. If you need music to cover up traffic or other sounds, find music that is soft and minimal. You want something that will help noises fade away and disappear. You actually want as little sensory input as possible. Being outside can be nice, but don’t let every rustle of leaves, bird chirp, or sound break your concentration.
Be well rested. Don’t try to meditate while you are tired or sleepy. You want to be alert but calm. Also don’t be hungry or too full. You don’t want those sensations distracting you. Meditate one or two hours after eating a good meal. However, what makes each individual comfortable will be different. You many need to experiment and try different things to find out what works best for you and makes meditation successful. At the end of our meditation, Ajahn would ring the standing bell or singing bowl. This was a gentle sound that brought us out of meditation. So you might want to set a timer with a nice chime sound to signal the end of the session.
Postures for Meditation
Sitting is probably the most known posture or position to be in during meditation. The other three are walking, standing, and lying meditation. Sit on a cushion to lift the pelvis off the floor and sit cross-legged. This helps straighten the back. Rest the hands lightly on the legs, or cup them together in the lap. Try not to slump or slouch. I do recommend sitting on the floor. It is solid and will give more support. Sitting on a soft bed or couch might make it harder to keep your back straight. If you find that your back or shoulders hurt and that’s distracting, you can start by sitting up in a chair or against a wall. There is a variety of cushions, stools, and benches that help with this position. You may need to try this a few different ways to find out what works best for you. During my retreat, focus was placed on the cyclical nature of the breath entering and leaving the body and the sensations that come along with that process. This is a good beginning object, but if you have trouble with it, just try another object.
Walking meditation can be done in sessions on its own, but it is often used between a couple sessions of sitting meditation. This use of both positions allows for longer periods of meditation. Walking may also be better for individuals who have a lot of energy, who can’t concentrate while sitting. Or those who find it hard to stay awake while seated. Walking meditation can be done inside or outside. If it is safe to do so, you may want to go barefooted, but it’s okay to wear shoes too. The walking that I did was back and forth in a straight line of about 15-20 steps. I think walking in a small circle is also acceptable. It’s best to walk with the hands held in front of you. Keep the eyes cast down a couple feet ahead of you. This reduces visual distractions.
A good starting object for walking meditation is focusing on the sensations coming from the soles of the feet. Slowly lift and lower each foot, taking in the feelings of these motions and the contact with the ground. Find a speed that is comfortable for you. Go as slowly as you’d like to.
“When you get to the end of the path, turn slowly around and re-establish your mindfulness. Where is the mind? Does it know the feeling at the soles of the feet? Or has it wandered off?” (“Walking Meditation” Ajahn Nyanadhammo) See link at the top to resources.
Standing and Lying Meditation
I did not practice in these postures during my retreat. What I know is that standing is also good for individuals who may find the sitting posture difficult. While you may see or know of people who lie on their backs, this makes it easy to be too relaxed and fall sleep. I was told to lie on the right side, with the head propped up by the hand. The Buddha is depicted this way in art and statues. See the links at top to resources. There are a lot books free for download, and I’m sure you can find more about these postures if you are interested.
This was briefly mentioned during my retreat. A body scan can be done as a preparation for meditation, for relaxation, or as a full meditation focusing on the physical sensations of the body. Practicing body scans will help you examine phantom shifts better. Start at your toes and work your way up through the regions of the body to the head. This type of meditation can be as detailed as you would like it to be. Notice any tense muscles as you focus on areas of the body. Try to relax those muscles. You might also want to take note of any emotions that come up during the process. Acknowledge that they exist, but don’t hold onto them. Let them go to clear the mind for focusing. Making sure that your mind and body are relaxed as a preparation for meditation can be helpful. I recommend learning more about this on your own if you are interested.
Meditation and Therianthropy
What questions can meditation answer?
Meditation can not directly answers questions such as, “Am I a Therianthrope?” or “What is my therioside?” Those don’t make good objects for meditation. Meditation can help us observe and examine how our bodies feel. If you happen to shift naturally during meditation, then that is a great opportunity to really examine that sensation and phenomenon, perhaps more deeply than you could at any other time. I will say that a shift should not be triggered or forced to happen. It would be best if it were a genuine thing that your mind and/or body was experiencing on its own.
Meditating on a shift will probably work best for phantom shifts, but it could be done with a mental shift as well. I think it’s possible to examine those instincts and be mindful of the mental state without letting the shift be in control. You are always in control of yourself, and it is possible to step back and separate yourself from the shift in a meditative state in order to learn from it and learn about yourself. This will help with self-control if you have trouble with control during shifts.
Meditation is a mental exercise that strengthens the mind. With the more thorough examination of shifts through meditation, it may help you identify a species of animal. Shifts can give clues about the physical characteristics of theriosides such as size (you may feel larger or smaller), what kind of fur (texture, length, thickness [not colour as you can not feel colour]), what kind of skin (maybe it’s actually scales or feathers), how many limbs, toes, and so much more. The level of detail that you want to try and sense is up to you.
Mental shifts can reveal behaviors and instincts such as the urge to build a dam if you are a beaver. During meditation, once you notice one of these behaviors or urges, that can become the object of the mediation. How is wanting to build a dam beaver-like? Are there any other animals that build dwellings? You may need to take mental notes and research later (see meditation is only one tool of many in the toolbox). Can this behavior be human in any way? Meditation can lead you to more and more subtle and refined questions about yourself if you keep up the practice.
Always pick only one main question, shift, sensation (mediation object) at a time. For example if you have a phantom shift and feel a tail, ears, and paws, pick one area of the body to examine in detail. Focus in on the ears. What does the shape feel like? Rounded or pointed? Wide or narrow? Long fur or short fur? No fur at all? Maybe it just feels like an opening which birds and some reptiles and fish have. If you are splitting your attention between different areas of the body and different sensations, that is being distracted and can easily cause confusion and mistakes about what you are really feeling.
Visions During Meditation
Following from the premise that meditation can not directly reveal a therioside to you, the next questions is, “Can one see visions during mediation?” You may see images during meditation, such as an animal, but don’t pay too much attention to it or put much faith in that animal being the therioside. Meditation alone can not give you that answer.The subconscious mind is symbolic. Seeing an animal might not relate to Therianthropy. It could mean something else. This is also true for dreams.
Did I see images or visions during my personal meditation sessions? Yes, but the goal is to let those pass by. Don’t acknowledge them or take ownership of them. They are not the focus or object of the meditation. Meditation is quieting the mind. We should not be allowing the mind to take control and show us random things. I was told to take note of what I saw and experienced but don’t believe anything or take it to heart without further investigation and evidence.
For Buddhists, they may want to know about their past lives to examine why something good or bad has happened due to their karma. I saw this briefly mentioned in one of the books I had time to skim through at the monastery’s library. Unfortunately, I did not get much information on the correct process for this purpose. The answer I got to this questions from one monk was that the question was beyond his experience and knowledge. So, if a monk who has been studying and meditating every day for the last two or three years doesn’t know the process of meditating to learn more about past lives, then it’s unlikely that someone else can achieve any results on the first or second attempt.
I think trying to use meditation to learn about past lives would be a very lengthy process over years of practice. One person in attendance mentioned to me that she had better results learning about past lives by practicing lucid dreaming. Like with visions during meditation, I was told to take note of what I saw and experienced but don’t believe anything or take it to heart. Don’t cling to the imagery or get excited about it, because it is most likely not true.
One Monk’s theory for the imagery we see during meditation was that we are creating narratives that help us work through problems, a situation, or negative emotions associated with an event in our lives. These scenarios or narratives might help to alleviate pain or suffering. Alleviating pain and suffering is also one of the purposes of meditation. But the images that we see might not actually be what happened in a past life. Remember, in the Theravāda practice, the Monks believe in critical reasoning.
In the Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 51:20) the Buddha does “recollect his manifold past lives” so it’s not impossible. There are hundreds of stories about the Buddha’s past lives as humans, gods, and animals. The catch is that the Buddha remembered his past lives after he achieved enlightenment. During my search for more information on this topic, I read in many places, and was reminded that the purpose of meditation is to be in the current moment. Not thinking about the past.
Lucid Dreaming and Awareness
I did not get much information about this aspect of meditation, but I will briefly mention it. Maybe you can explore it and learn more on your own. Lucid dreaming means that the dreamer is conscious of or aware that they are in a dream. This becomes another chance to be observant of the actions of your mind.
One possible way to achieve lucid dreaming is to focus on the breath as you fall asleep. This awareness can transfer over into the dream-state. Waking meditation practice can help increase how often you are able to lucid dream.
The monks didn’t have time to go into very much detail about the concept of non-identity either, but I wanted to mention it. You may want to learn more about it and explore this concept on your own. In a way, non identity means to find the self by learning what is not self through mindfulness. This is letting go of the persona without and within.
Some Buddhism practices don’t believe in a soul or true self. Others do. This can be the concept that we are not individuals. If we stop focusing on the “I” and stop clinging to identities that we must defend, which need constant maintenance, then we can see that we are a part of everything around us. In other words, labels and identity such as class, race, sex, human or nonhuman, separate and divide us. This causes suffering. If we let go of those, then there is nothing separating us, but this is hard to achieve in our current society and social conditioning.
Identity can also be thought of as temporary. Why? We will die, and we will be something else when reborn. Everything is temporary because everything is constantly in a process of change, and this includes identity and what labels we currently apply in this life. Impermanence is a common concept to meditate on.
Ulfrvif’s Personal Experiences While Meditating
On the first day of the meditation retreat that I attended, the first sit made me feel very shifty. I felt fur on my arms and other canine features that I don’t feel as often. However, I think this is not due to the meditation itself. Rather, the shifting was caused by simply being in a new environment. The monastery was deep in an area of woods that I had never visited before. I was curious and it’s the wolf in me that surfaced and wanted to wander and explore the new surroundings. I did not mention Therianthropy to anyone there, but I got the sense that most of the people there were open-minded and accepting. I didn’t know anyone there prior to the retreat, but I was not anxious or afraid. The energy of the area was calming and relaxing.
The following meditation sessions had less shifting. I really enjoyed sitting in the silence with no distractions. It’s hard to make myself do this at home with the computer for entertainment and chores and work to worry about. I did find it difficult to focus on the breath. Maybe that’s just not a good object for me, and I need to find something easier for me personally. I think each individual might need to experiment to find a good, easy starting object. But I honestly don’t think I will be making meditation a normal part of my routine. However, I do try to remain mindful as much as possible. I think mindfulness can be done anywhere at anytime.
I think meditation could be a positive way to help Therians and Otherkin who experience species dysphoria. It can help you remain in the moment, centered on the here and now instead of fretting about what you are not or the past. Being mindful helps you notice when you might shift. Being mindful helps you be aware of negative feelings like anxiety so that they don’t get out of control. Meditation can help with general, overall health. It can supposedly increase memory and attention.
Thank you for watching the videos or reading this transcript. I hope it can help the Therianthrope and Otherkin community understand meditation better and use it properly. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me.
Resources and References
Related Youtube Video Series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLstK9Lfd1GW1_iLvbLNoPSLnwex2SXn9V
More Books: https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books
by Ajahn Punnadhammo - https://www.arrowriver.ca/desana.html
(talks given during my retreat are August 3,4,5)
Theravāda Buddhism - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada
Visions During Meditation
“What Does It Mean to Have Visions During Meditation?” https://mindworks.org/blog/mean-visions-during-meditation/
“Identity and Selflessness in Buddhism: No Self or True Self?” Jack Kornfield, https://tricycle.org/magazine/no-self-or-true-self/
Links below are to specific books good for beginners.
“What is Buddhism?” Ajahn Chandako, 2003. https://www.abhayagiri.org/books/416-what-is-buddhism
“Introduction to Insight Meditation” Ajahn Sucitto,1988. https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/introduction-to-insight-meditation?language=English
“Walking Meditation” Ajahn Nyanadhammo, 2003. https://www.abhayagiri.org/books/447-walking-meditation
“Meditation: A Way of Awakening” Ajahn Sucitto, 2015. https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/meditation-a-way-of-awakening?language=English
Music used in videos
“Namaste” and “Ohm” are created by Jason Shaw. Released under Creative Commons License 3.0. https://audionautix.com/
“Continuum” was created by Jason Shaw. Released under Creative Commons License 3.0. https://audionautix.com/