identity

7 surprising realizations I experienced when I took a 30 Day Spiritual Retreat from my Businesses

A month ago, I was feeling burned out with my businesses, and in particular my writing. I felt frustrated because my writing didn't seem to really grab my readers and get them to do something such as commenting, sharing etc., and yet I realized that the problem wasn't my audience. The problem was me and the writing I was doing. So I decided to take a 30 day spiritual retreat from my regular routine of writing for other people, and in some ways from my businesses. The resulting realizations that occurred in the last month were liberating. 1. It helps to have an accountability guide to make sure you stay on your retreat. In my case, my guide was Eligos, a Goetic Daimon of Time and Writing. Both of those aspects were appropriate for what I needed to stay on my retreat. There were a number of times, especially in the first week that Eligos would call me out and remind me that I needed to stay on retreat and not write for other people.

Eligos

2. The first week is hard. So is the second week, but it gets easier after that. We live in a workaholic society and when your retreat involves you not working it can be hard to not work. I sometimes felt like my fingers and hands were itching to write and yet I could write because I'd made the commitment not to write. There were so many times I wanted to write and yet I just had to step back and honor my agreement not to write for other people during the month of November. It probably helped that I could still do some writing...

3. Always allow yourself some expression of what you are giving yourself a retreat from, but only for yourself. In some ways a retreat is really about being selfish, in a healthy way, for you and your relationship with what you are taking a retreat from. I could still write, but I couldn't write for other people and I realized I really needed that break from writing for other people. So I journaled about my experiences during the retreat instead and revised my website copy to reflect who I truly know myself to be.

4. A Retreat is a journey of self-discovery and identity. One of my complaints about my writing is that I didn't feel like my identity was really showing up. It felt really cerebral and granted I can be a cerebral guy, but people don't connect with writing like that...not in a way that moves them anyway, so this retreat was really about rediscovering my identity as a writer and allowing my identity to shine through in my writing. Whether that really moves someone to do something is anyone's guess, but I'll admit that I liked reinventing myself as a writer. Sometimes you have to challenge who you are in order to discover who you can be and a retreat from an activity can help you do that.

Meditation

5. I have to respect myself as a writer, if I want people to respect my writing. During this retreat the theme of shame came up a lot. I was surprised at first, but as I did meditation and internal work on that theme of shame I discovered just how much it influenced my writing and business practices. Turns out it influenced them a lot. Whether it was shame from being called a disappointment in my childhood and not measuring up to standards set by other people or shame I felt for not being a good enough writer, I had that shame in spades and I needed to work through it. That shame also showed up in my identity and so in some ways I wasn't letting my identity come through my writing, not as much as it could be. I'm still working through a lot of this, but one decision I've made is that I'm not going to write for exposure, unless that exposure actually helps me. I'm limiting my writing to each of my sites to two articles a month. If my readers choose to patronize my writing that may change, but otherwise I'm going to focus on projects that will bring in tangible results. In other words I want to get paid for my writing and I don't think that's unrealistic.

6. A retreat lets you ground yourself in what really matters. I spent a lot of my retreat reading books, having conversations with people I admire and respect, and spending time with family and friends. All of that really grounded me and helped me see that just how appreciated I am. Also in taking this retreat, it helped me discover an opportunity to challenge myself as a writer. I'm taking a class starting in January on how to write for the social web because even though I know how to write, I also know I can always improve and I figure taking a class would be an excellent way to do just that.

7. A retreat helps you re-ignite your creativity. It certainly has for me. I was initially hesitant to do this retreat, worried that I'd be less inspired to write by the end of it, but if anything I'm ready to write and I've got lots of projects I want to work on and share with readers.

Today my retreat is finished. My thanks to Eligos for keeping me on track. Now I'm ready to get back in the saddle, but I'm also ready to do things differently.

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Magical Experiments Radio: Interview with Heather Greene from the Wild Hunt

Magical Experiments Radio: Pop Culture Magic Panel

Breathing practices and movement work

Dzogchen I've been learning some moving meditation from a book I've been reading on Dzogchen, as well as some suggested breathing exercises. It's meshed nicely with what I already do for my daily work, but I've also noticed some interesting effects. The exercises I do don't involve any leg movement (you sit in the full lotus position). You move your neck, torso, your arms, and your pelvis, as well as the perineal muscles. There's a series of exercises you do and each of them is to help you with an elemental energy. What I noticed when I did the exercises is that I felt connected to my body more closely, both during the meditation and afterwards. I also felt that I connected with my internal energy and that doing the exercises circulated the energy.

One night after doing these exercises I did go through a bout of insomnia where I intimately felt connected to my body to the point that I felt every sensation and couldn't do anything to get the sensations to stop. Every itch, ache, and other feeling stood out in sharp relief. This lasted for a few hours. Eventually it subsided and I was able to sleep but it stood out to me and I realized doing the meditation was probably what caused the experience. This didn't stop me from doing it the next day, but I made sure to cycle the energy down a bit when I went to sleep.

Another thing I've been working on is a breathing exercise. With the breathing exercise, when you inhale, you pause and then inhale again. After that you exhale. the inhale, pause, inhale is done in order to use your lungs to their full capacity. I'd never come across this particular breathing technique before, but I've been doing it as I do the exercises and that also seems to contribute to the intimate experience of body awareness that I felt.

From Healing with Form, Energy and Light

"Realizing the nature of mind, we find that what we are in the inseparable state of awareness and emptiness. When we realize that, we realize the essence of space. If we abide in the nature of mind, merged with space rather than identified with what arises in space, there is an effect in life. There is nothing to defend no self that needs protecting because our own nature is spacious and can accommodate everything...Space is the ground of everything, the fundamental reality. We generally think of earth as representing groundedness, and it does as long as we believe ourselves to be one thing separate from everything else. In duality, earth is the ground, space is the absence of ground. But in Dzogchen, space is the ground. The practitioner merged with space is more grounded than earth because he or she is the space in which earth exists"

This saying, to me, fits what I've experienced doing the meditations. It's a feeling of clarity, a feeling of emptiness and awareness, a realization of space. I feel like I am everywhere and nowhere. I experience my body and its place in the world differently than before. I'm going to continue pursuing this meditation and seeing where it takes me as I feel it'll be useful for both the internal work I'm doing and some of my experiments.

Book Review: Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

This is a fascinating book which explores the elemental principles of spiritual work done in Dzogchen and Tibetan Shamanism. The author shares how to work with elements and provides practical exercises that can be done by the reader, provided s/he is willing to put the time and effort in. I like this book because I feel that it provides further insight into Tibetan spiritual practices and how they work, as well as how they can be integrated into your practice. The author does an excellent job of explaining the concepts and practices. If you are interested in Tibetan spiritual practices, read this book, as well as the other books by the author.

Definitions and sense of self as intersections of identity

identity I'm reading Thinking in New Boxes.  It's a good book, and I know this because it's gotten me thinking along some interesting vectors. In Thinking in New Boxes, the author explains how there's no such thing as thinking outside the box. He claims we all think in boxes and even if we get outside of one box, we're still thinking in another box, because of we use "boxes" to define and explain the world around us. Essentially, boxes are labels, definitions, models, etc., for helping us navigate and understand our experiences. He makes an interesting point when he notes, "To make sense of all these disparate inputs (stimuli, elements, events, etc.,) your mind either relies on preexisting categories that it has already created or, if none of those categories fits the present reality, it generates new ones." And what this prompted me to realize is that categorizations also can apply to a person's sense of self, and thus create intersections of identity.

Part of this realization also comes from something else the author said, namely that in order to deal with complicated aspects of real life we need to use "boxes" in order to compartmentalize those aspects. This compartmentalization creates an intersection of identity, where the "box" is used to shape an identity that handles what's in the box. So for example, you have a job identity, which is different from your romance identity. Both of these identities exist in you and can even come to the fore at the same time, but typically one will be more prevalent than another based on the environment you are in, as well as whatever stimuli you're dealing with at the time. The reason we come up with different identities is to handle the boxes, but also because it allows us to switch off when we go into another situation which calls for another identity to come to the fore.

So this is taking me in some interesting directions, because I'm also thinking about definitions and how they are used to define a perceived reality according to the agenda of the definer. When we add in the above idea, what we come up with as well is that definitions don't just define a perceived reality, but also the identity of the person using the definition. In other words, definitions define the person as much as they define whatever is being defined. This might seem like a bit of a stretch, but consider that part of the agenda for a definition is that it not only defines something, but also defines a person's interaction with that thing, and by extension the identity of the person. In this sense then a definition becomes an intersection of identity, both the identity of the definer, and the identity of the people who use the definition, as well as the definition in and of itself.

For magical work, this intersection of identity and definition can be useful for exploring how particular identities are formed and sustained as well as how they can be modified. If we can consider that definitions are a categorization of not only ideas, but also identity, then whatever definitions we use need to be chose carefully, and in fact this may be why it's better to develop our own definitions. At the same time, we can also explore the identity of the person or people who developed the definitions and better understand why they chose to define something in the way they did. This understanding can help us in the formation of our own identities as well as the definitions we use, and make the magical work more meaningful.

When everything falls apart, pick yourself back up and start again

  falling apart

There are moments in your life where some part of your life, or perhaps all of your life seems to fall apart. Sometimes it may even seem to occur over a prolonged period of your life. Right now, I'm in the midst of a dark night of the soul, according to my astrological chart, and I've certainly experienced some of that feeling over the last few months. I've felt helpless, frustrated, and like parts of my life have fallen apart. I'm even feeling it right now, where I'm suddenly facing in my coaching business, a lack of clients, as all of them finished up all at once. It's a little terrifying when you feel like the bottom of your life or profession has dropped out from underneath you. And you can feel tempted to just give up when you experience those moments where everything seems to fall apart.

I'll admit that sometimes I've given up. I gave up when I left the Ph.D program at Kent State. There are times when giving up IS the best course of action you can take. When I left the Ph.d program I left it because I wasn't happy with what I was doing, and the future academic career looked like it would be even less fun and more oppressive than what I was already doing. It simply wasn't for me. So I gave up and walked away.

Other times you have to keep picking yourself up and pursuing what you know is right for you to be doing. My choices to be self-published and self-employed are examples of those particular decisions. Neither choice has always been easy to follow through on. It's tempting to just give up and find a job, or to stop writing because you wonder if it'll really find that audience that responds to your writing. Yet if you really want it, you have to keep going for it.

For me, magic and everything else I want is as much about persistence as anything else. Do you have the persistence to continue following through on what you want? Are you willing to pick yourself back up and keep trying because what you want is worth the effort. Magic, despite, how it's sometimes talked up is not really about cutting corners or getting to the fast track of what you want. Magic can help you get what you want, but there is a persistence and effort factor tat needs to be accounted for. Nothing ever just comes to you. You've got to be willing to give in order to get. And what you give is your effort, your sweat, your blood, but also what you give is your willingness to learn, to get smarter and wiser, and do whatever you are doing better than how you did it before.

I've had so much fall apart at different times in my life and yet in those down moments, what's kept me going has been this realization that at the end of the day the only thing that will pick me up is myself. Not the magic, not some deity, and not even some other person. What keeps me going is my choice to move forward, learn from my mistakes, and get better at what I'm doing. What helps me are the people who believe in me, the resources I can employ to help me resolve a given situation, and of course my own determination to not give up, unless its actually smarter to do so. Everything falls apart...pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep striving toward what you want. You'll get it right eventually or die trying.

Why you can't do that isn't a valid excuse for magicians

kon tiki I was watching the film Kon Tiki the other night. It's a biographical film about Thor Heyerdahl, an anthropologist, who had some interesting and controversial ideas about how Polynesia came to be inhabited. He argued that South Americans had sailed the Pacific ocean to Polynesia 1,500 years or so ago, but no one believed him, and they argued that it couldn't be done with the technology of the time. He decided to prove his critics wrong, by building a boat in the fashion of how it was likely built 1,500 years ago, and then he sailed that boat to Polynesia, without much in the way of modern equipment or technology. What he proved was that it was possible for people to migrate from South America to Polynesia (Whether they actually did or not is still debated). What I admire about the film and about the actual person Thor Heyerdahl was that he didn't let other people tell him what he could or couldn't do. He decided what he could or couldn't do and then proceeded to do it.

When I first started practicing magic, I had this romantic belief that people who practiced magic were people who were open-minded, willing to experiment, and willing to try new things. I suppose I held this belief, because having been a born again Christian and seeing the close-minded fanaticism that such belief creates, I wanted to believe that occultists and Pagans were better than that. I wanted to belong to something where the focus was to explore, test, and challenge the dogma and established view of things. Eventually I was disabused of such romantic beliefs and came to realize that there are pagans and occultists who can be just as close-minded, established, and fanatical as anyone else. It's part of human nature, and there is no special group of people exempted from that nature.

Nonetheless, what I have never been disabused of is my own belief that what's established and held to be true should be challenged, and that if you believe something controversial you should try it out, explore it, etc., to determine for yourself the truth of the matter. When I first started experimenting with pop culture magic (back in the late 1990's), I was told by a person I considered a mentor that what I was doing wasn't "true" magic. He tried to discourage me, but instead encouraged me, because I felt that he didn't have the authority to determine if pop culture magic was or wasn't real magic (ironically enough he was a chaos magician). I didn't buy his statement that I couldn't do pop culture magic. He was't the only person to discourage me. I was told by a number of other magicians that I was reinventing the wheel or that I was a flake or a fluffy bunny or a heretic, or whatever else. All that discouragement ever did was encourage me to continue striking out on my own, as much to prove them wrong as to prove myself right. I never let anyone tell me what I couldn't do and I never bought into their arguments about why they were right and I was wrong (and a good thing to or otherwise I'd have never written any of my books!).

I've never gotten as much flak for the work I've done with space/time magic, identity magic, or working with one's body as a living universe in its own right, but I've still gotten some resistance, some people who think they know better than me about magic and how it oughta be done. And I won't pretend that it hasn't been hard at times to face such resistance and not feel a bit discouraged because someone feels a need to lord their beliefs and values over what you are doing. It is hard on occasion, because there will always be detractors, always be people who think the best way to prove their point is try and take you down and tell you why what you do is wrong and why what they do is right. But what they forget is that what's right for one person isn't right for another. What's right for you isn't right for me, and it doesn't have to be.

Likewise what's right for me may not be right for you, nor does it have to be. I don't subscribe to some of the beliefs that my fellow Pagans hold, but I accept that those beliefs are valid and meaningful to them, and so I don't tell them that what they believe is wrong or that they are doing it wrong. It's not for me to judge them. What I will never accept is intolerance, the attempt to discourage other people from discovering for themselves what their spirituality ( or anything else for that matter) manifests for them. I won't accept the excuse of "you can't do that" from anyone because no one can tell me what I can or can't do. I'm the only authority on that matter, and I have to live with the consequences of my choices, but I also will make those choices because in doing so I am creating my reality, instead of buying into the reality that someone else holds to. And likewise I won't tell anyone else what they can or can't do. I'll encourage them, as I always have, to find out for themselves. In the end the ultimate authority of your life is you...only you can discover those answers. What you have to accept is that what is right for you may not be right for others. That's the real test of authority: Can you accept that you aren't the authority of everyone else, and never will be?

I still experiment with magic (I likely always will) because I am driven to discover my own truth. It makes for a difficult road on occasion, but it also makes for a lot of adventure. And I don't accept the excuse of "you can't do that" because that excuse is lame, and is offered by people too afraid to handle a challenge to their own perspectives. What they'd realize if they did accept that challenge is that at most it might open their minds to some new perspectives and broaden their horizons. At the least it might just make them realize that what works for them does work for them and that should be good enough, without needing to obstruct someone else.

Here's a simple truth: No one else (or deity) is the authority on how you live your life or what you choose to do or believe. You are the only authority of your life. You can choose to let a deity or some other person have authority over your life, but YOU are still making that choice and you are still responsible for the choices that you make after that initial choice is made. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to make those choices. You are responsible for your choices. You are the ultimate authority in your life, even if you have chosen to hand that authority off to someone or some thing else.

The latest issue of Portal Magazine just came out, and includes an article by me.

Book Review: The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

This is intriguing book that explores Modern Physics from a perspectives of dimensions. The author provides some compelling and thought provoking arguments about consciousness and the idea that physical reality is an experience of immaterial dimensions that are combined by consciousness into an experience that people can understand. I also like that the author includes mass as a dimension that impacts the space and time dimensions. The author does, on occasion, provide some fuzzy definition, such as what he uses to explain image, but he is dealing with some complex ideas and he does his best to present those ideas soundly. He does his best to make the book accessible to a layperson, while also providing enough depth to do the material justice.

Further Thoughts on Body Enhancement via magic

Dragontat

I read an interesting post by Chirotus Infinitum that was a response to my recent post about body enhancement via magic. He made reference to the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and much like him I have found that particular series of books to be foundational both in my body modification work and in other magical work I've done. In fact, it's fair to say that reading that series inspired at least some of my thoughts on how I might modify my body with magic as well as how to use those modifications to enhance my magical work.

Something I didn't mention in my previous post was how I've used my tattoos in my body enhancement work. While one of the purposes of my tattoos is devotional, used as an offering to the various elements I've worked with, another purpose is also to enhance my channeling of that elemental energy. The act of getting the tattoo allows me to fully embed the energy into my essence. Each tattoo represents a different energy (or energies) that I can access. For example the the hourglass - web tattoo is connected to the elemental energies of space and time, while my blue dragon is connected to the elemental energies of water. The current tattoo I'm getting, another dragon, is being used to connect with the elemental energies of fire and movement. I have plans to get more tattoos down the line, but undoubtedly some of that will also be influenced by what I work with and how I want to dedicate myself to that energy.

There's not a lot of work written about working with the body. My book Inner Alchemy discusses some of my work and I am continuing in some of those directions, but I think that the body is an untapped resource, especially in Western Culture. Eastern cultures emphasize a connection and cultivation of the body's resources that simply isn't found in Western culture because of the spiritual disconnect from the body that both Christianity and Western Science are responsible for. That spiritual disconnect has fostered perspectives about the body that are unhealthy and don't fully enable people to feel empowered to embrace or work with their bodies. Sadly Western occultism continues to foster similar perspectives. For example, Robert Anton Wilson refers to the body as a robot and seems intent on trying to escape it (not surprising given his encounter with Polio).

I was fortunate to avoid a lot of such limiting beliefs in regards to my body because I wasn't raised in overly religious household and had a natural curiosity about my body that I chose to explore so I could better understand it. I grew up sleeping naked in bed instead of having pajamas on (and I can't understand why anyone would want to wear pajamas) and I have always loved my body and appreciated its curves and the various sensations I can feel. I've also had my own experiences of body hate, such as when I was anorexic, but overall I was fortunate to embrace my body in a way that I observe many people don't. I honestly feel that one of the reasons people are so dysfunctional about sex comes right to the fact that Western culture overall has such a dysfunctional relationship with the body.

There is a lot to be explored in terms of enhancing the body with magic, but also in really understanding the body as a universe of its own, with hidden wonders to experience and explore if we are willing to set aside our all too limited perspectives and cultural biases about the body. This work can only occur if more people are willing to explore the body as a universe and allow themselves to be open to whatever experiences are encountered. Certainly I will keep writing about my own work because I realize more than ever how important it is to continue cultivating perspectives and experiences that run counter to the dysfunctional values that mainstream culture embodies.

 

The Ontological Reality of Deities, Spirits, and otherworld beings

  thiede

Thanks to the polytheism vs pop culture magic debate that has been going on I've been thinking a lot about my own interactions with deities, demons, spirits, etc. Galina Krassakova posts her own views about her experiences and why she doesn't need theories to define her relationships with her deities on Pagan Square and though it might surprise her and the other polythiests, I'm actually in agreement with her argument that theory ultimately distracts from doing the actual work. Theories are at best tools, but even as tools they should be used carefully lest they overshadow the actual work.  My latest article on Pagansquare discusses theory and its role in magic further, but for this post I thought I'd focus on my experiences with Deity, spirits, and other assorted spiritual beings I've worked with. That phrase "work with" is likely where I and the polytheists differ and we'll get to why that is later.

My journey with the spirits has taken me on some interesting paths, and some of those paths have been theory oriented.  I've explored archetypal theory for example and applied it to my practice. My book Pop Culture Magick is a prime example of the application of archetypes to magical work and to be honest I still use some of that in my practice, particularly with identity magic. And working with the concepts of archetypes has lead me to some interesting conclusions about deities, demons, etc., based less on theory and moreso on observation, practice, and experience with said beings. I don't feel that these realizations take away from the reality of the spirits, so much as provide some additional forms of engagement that ultimately can lead to a more primal experience of spirit. I liken it removing a mask and uncovering what's really underneath the mask, and realizing that the mask was used in order to provide a particular space where spirit and human could meet for the comfort of the human.

Yet the removal of the mask was also the removal of theory. Instead of focusing on the attributes and behaviors, the trappings as it were, I encountered the deeper ontological reality of the spiritual beings I was and do connect with. And instead of trying to get them to fit my agenda or needs, I allowed and do allow myself to be moved by them, to fully experience them as they are instead of through an interpretation based on theory. The irony is, that by allowing myself to be so moved, I've been moved as well by the pop culture spirits I've worked with, the ones that are supposedly not real. In my article on pop culture on pagan square I mentioned how I had a long relationship with Thiede. Thiede is a character in Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series, a fantasy series, and yet for me Thiede has been and is real. Thiede is the guardian of Space, the revealer of the ley lines between planets and stars, a dehara, and so much more to me. Reading about him in a book was only the start of my connection to him, and it was a connection, from the start, that moved me deeply.

When I say the phrase "move me" I'm not talking about being emotionally moved to tears. I'm talking about encountering a spiritual force that has deeply affected me, changed me and pointed my life and spiritual practice in a different direction than it might have gone otherwise. And that experience isn't something you can just slap a theory on. It defies theory because theory is ultimately an intellectual process used to categorize and define something into a neat little box that you can store away until you need it. I've had an encounter with something fundamentally different from me and that experience has changed who I am. It has changed my identity.

And this is not an isolated incident. Each year I work with a different elemental force and part of that process involves working with a spirit guide that provides a "face" through which I can interact with that elemental force. The elemental balancing work is an intense process of change that is brought by interacting with the element. There is no theory for it, but simply the engagement of practice and the recognition that I need to work with a given elemental force in my life. The various entities I've worked with during the balancing rituals haven't been archetypes...far from it. They are collection of beings that even today are in my life. They are not something I believe in...they are something I experience. That's an important distinction to make because in my opinion belief is just another theory, another tool. The experience of them in my life is something else. To me, the spirits I work with, traditional or pop culture, are real. There is an ontological essence of being, of identity that is objective, beyond any categorization I could give it, and it is sustained not merely by my own experience, but also by the experiences of others, independent of my own.

My work with my spirits has some form of devotion and offering attached to it. Some of the tattoos on my body, for example, are devotional offerings of my skin made to a particular element as a way of recognizing the significant role the element has played in my life. I also make offerings to particular spirits in the form of writing or through painting. But the work I do with them is nonetheless geared more toward the advancement of my work with magic than anything else. They play an important role in my life, but they are not central to it, so much as they help me focus on what is central. Thus I work with them, and this likely is different from how the polytheists approach such matters.

Just because some of my spirits aren't tied to a particular religion or culture of old doesn't invalidate their existence. And while it might be said that such spirits were created by an author or artist, I'd argue that perhaps they weren't created, so much as channeled and experienced. Whether anyone agrees with me or not on that issue isn't important. What's important in the end is that I am doing the work I am called to do. I'm getting out of my own way and letting it happen, letting myself be moved and inspired, so that I can do what I need to do. And really, isn't that the point?

 

Magical Enhancements of your body

Enhancement The other day I read an interesting post by Mr. Black on human enhancement. I've always been fascinated by how a person can enhance his/her body using magic since I first started practicing magic. In my book Inner Alchemy, I described some of my work toward that purpose, but there's a lot I also haven't shared, so below is some of the other enhancement work I've done with my body and thoughts on how you can apply this to your own work.

1. Enhance your muscles. When I was in college, one of the jobs I worked at was a package factory (similar to UPS). You'd work for four hours packing boxes (50 - 100 Ibs) onto trucks. It's hard work and you get sore quickly. It's a job that has high turn over as well, with up to 50% quitting in the first 2 weeks. When I worked there, one of my solutions was to temporarily enhance my muscles, both in terms of strength and healing. What I did before the shift was to run my hands over my legs and arms, putting energy into the muscles so that I could warm them up ahead of time, as well as help them heal. This allowed me to condition my muscles during the first couple of weeks so that I wasn't as sore as I would've been otherwise. Additionally, the work was easier because I'd enhanced my strength during that time. To this day I still use this working when I need to do physical labor. All you need to do is your own energy to your muscles. Basically you are using your chi to enhance your muscles.

2. Enhance healing by communicating with cells. When I get tattoos, I tend to heal fairly quick because what I do is communicate with my cells and direct energy toward the metabolism functions in order to improve the speed of healing. I've also used this for other injuries. While it doesn't provide instantaneous healing, I have noticed that healing occurs quicker than it normally would. With tattoos the healing time usually takes 3 weeks to a month, but I've been able to heal in a week. To do this kind of work you need to learn how to communicate with your cells, which I've covered in Inner Alchemy.

3. Eye sight enhancement. I have 20/20 vision. Neither of my parents or their parents had 20/20 vision, but I've always had it. One of the activities I do on a regular basis are eye exercises, which include bringing my sight into and out of focus as well as rolling my eyes and looking up or down or to the side for more than a second. Doing these exercises help to enhance my sight, but I've also done some inner alchemical work with the rods and cones as well as the natural chemicals in my eyes, focusing on cell regeneration, so that I can keep my eyesight at its current performance. Thus far it seems to have worked, but time will tell if what I'm doing is working.

These are just a few examples of how I've experimented with enhancement of the human body. I am continuing my exploration of the body, because I feel that learning how to work with the body is an integral key to enhancing and even prolonging life.

 

 

Elemental Balancing Ritual Movement month 7

Eros 4-24-13 I had a dream this morning. I was on a road trip with Jim Nadenicek, a friend I knew in my State College days. We were driving through Pittsburgh and just happened to be going by my old elementary school, so I asked him if we could stop in. We did stop and I saw a few teachers I vaguely recognized and read into a woman I knew as a kid. She gave me advice about how to conduct myself around other people. Then I went outside and Jim had this jeep. My car had broken down and we needed to go to the auto repair shop to see what was wrong. An interesting dream that I'm still processing, but I see certain themes in it that are consistent with internal work I'm doing right now. My dreams have become more vivid since I've been doing Zhine meditation regularly.

4-26-13 20 years ago in April I started practicing magic. It's hard to believe that 20 years have passed. I feel proud of myself as a magician when I look at those years and everything I've done and explored and I feel excited about the rest of my journey and I'm grateful that barring anything unexpected, I should have a long time to explore my spiritual journey and implement it in this life. How fortunate I am...

4-27-13 I've been doing some further reading of the Post Infidelity Stress Disorder book and one of the realizations I've had is that until I really explored these problems they would have continued to show up in my relationships. The author makes a good point that a person is attracted to someone who reminds them of their parents or themselves. I see that in my relationship choices. Most of the women I've been attracted to have in one way or another reminded me of the strictness of my step mom. Kat's pretty much the exception and who she is similar to is me. Recognizing these patterns of attraction helps me also see how the behavior has been set up to undermine the relationships. I feel sad about it, but in a weird kind of way also relieved because I have a much better understanding of my issues. And through understanding comes change.

4-30-13 There are days I really don't want to meditate or exercise. I feel extremely busy or like I have too much on my plate. And yet I know that if I don't exercise or meditate I am cheating myself of so much. So today was one of those days and I made myself exercise. I feel better for doing it, and I also know it reinforces the discipline I believe is essential. Keeping yourself on track isn't easy all the time, but the true test is to choose and do something when you don't feel like doing it, but know you need to.

5-01-13 I got an email from Weiser books today about the Wealth Magic book. They want to look at more chapters of the book. I'm not sure how I feel. Part of me feels happy,  vindicated, acknowledged, but another part of me isn't sure if I really want to go with a big publisher. I have mixed feelings on all of this. I feel conflicted, not sure what choice I'll make, but Kat and I will discuss it together and then I'll make a decision about where to go next.

5-02-13 I sent the rest of the manuscript in. I figure I owe myself the opportunity to see what will come of this particular opportunity. Worst they can say is no and if they do say yes, then it's bargaining time, because I definitely want some say in what happens with the book and how I can use it to promote myself to a larger audience.

5-07-13 Something I've come to recognize about myself is that I can be brittle. Kat says I like order, and there is truth in that. I like things in my life and universe to be orderly, to follow certain conventions and to be easy to find. And this is where it can lead to brittleness because sometimes I cling so much to the order that I don't adapt to what really needs to be changed. My work with movement is helping me realize this brittleness about my personality, and with some work I think I can be more flexible even when my sense of order isn't as I'd like it to be.

5-15-13 Sometimes I go through periods where I have little to write. This is one of those periods. I've learned to accept these moments when they occur as I figure it is just a period of gestation and deeper thought. You can't rush magic and you can't rush writing.

5-19-13 Movement is about boundaries as much as anything else. Today I had to tell someone my boundaries around a specific topic. It wasn't easy to do it, but I realized that I didn't need to be moved to the head space that I felt moved to when discussing the topic with that person. So setting up that boundary was really a healthy action taken. There are some memories you don't want to revisit, especially if you are an abuse survivor of any type. Those memories can put you in a space of being a victim and while it is important to work through those memories, it should be done in a way that is empowering to the person.

I've been thinking lately about my role in my household. I am not the chief bread winner. Kat is the chief bread winner of the house hold and I am comfortable with that. Nonetheless I also contribute in my own way. I clean and cook, I take care of the cats and the kids as needed. I take care of Kat and support her in what she is doing. And I do bring in some income with my businesses and that income is increasing. We both work hard to make sure our household is a stable one. I feel lucky to be with such a wonderful person who is dedicated to me and to the spiritual work we do.

5-21-13 Kat and  I got a Synastry reading over the weekend, basically an astrological comparison of her and I's chart. It was helpful and confirmed certain patterns of behavior and ongoing life changes for both of us, as well as showing each of us how we could support each other through those changes. One of the issues it reminded me of was the importance of letting go of needing to be in control and instead continuing to accept that I don't have control over everything, but I do have control over how I work with it. In April I started a particular Pluto conjunction, which is a dark night of the soul and I'd have to say that I've certainly seen evidence of it in my life in little ways, but instead of letting it control me or feeling helpless, I've chosen to roll with it, accept that I don't have control over everything, but also ask myself what I do have control over. And what I've found is that by letting go in some cases and acknowledging that I don't have control, I can actually discover choices that provide me a way to resolve the situation in my favor. And there's a key realization about movement here: Choosing to move with something you can't control allows you to find control through the movement. You accept you can't control the situation as it is, but you learn to move with the situation until you discover the options that provide opportunities for you.

Elemental Balancing Ritual Movement Month 6

Eros 3-20-13 Last night Kat and I got into a conversation about how I really don't let people get me things. It's a behavior she's observed before, and it's one that has played out numerous times in my life. She asked me where it came from and I dug in deep and found this old wound from my childhood (where else, right?). I remembered being giving gifts by my step mom and dad, only to have those gifts taken away in order to punish me. For example, I remember getting a Nintendo with some games. On a routine basis the Nintendo was taken from me for anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months at a given time to punish me...and even when I did have access to it, I was told I should be playing outside and thus my time was minimized on it. When I moved from my dad's I wasn't even allowed to take it, even though it had been given to me as a gift. And that wasn't the only they took away from me on a regular basis as a way of punishing me. While this particular approach to parenting wasn't the worst thing that they did to me, it definitely left some scars and wounds, right up to including not trusting that what someone gives me is really mine.

Later on when I lived with my mom, one of the worse things she ever did was box up my books in order to force me to be more social with people. Same lesson which illustrated to me that if something was mine, my possession of it wouldn't be respected. Not a surprise then that I learned to sneak around, and that I wouldn't always be open about what I wanted, or even what I bought. I learned not to trust people. But I know it's different with Kat and as I sat with the pain of my younger self and really felt this wound that I hadn't even realized was there, I also felt this loosening up of a block. Later I had a dream which helped me recognize how my own experiences of being parented influence me on a subtle level, when it comes to my step kids. I dreamed I was driving them to school, and I drove past this yield sign and got stuck at a stop sign. I felt blocked and I realized that it represented how the parental values from my past sometimes block me from having a genuine connections with my step kids. This is why doing the internal work is so important.

4-1-13 Last week was Spring Break, which involved a trip to Bend, and other such things. But it also involved some internal work, including Kat getting rid of some magical constructs within me, left by an ex, who had less than noble designs on me. I feel different with the constructs gone I hadn't even realized that they'd been placed within me, and while they aren't responsible for my behavior (only I am), there was some influencing going on. It highlights to me just how vulnerable you can be, and just how much trust is involved when you are with someone on a romantic, sexual, and spiritual level.  say that with awareness that I have sometimes been the person who has had less than noble designs. In fact, I'd never claim that I am ever just a victim. I am a very fallible person, and I've made share of mistakes and bad choices. Fortunately I've also made some good choices.

A lot of the work around movement has actually involved knowing when not to move. An example: When I'm in a conversation and there is a lot of emotional content attached to the conversation, knowing when to listen (not move) is just as important as knowing when to speak (movement). In a way non movement is a preparation for movement. It's not standing still so much as getting ready to move. It's a subtle distinction, but one I'm really paying conscious attention to. Recognizing when to not move can be quite useful in working with movement as an element.

4-2-13 Two things of note today. I found myself really wanting to buy books even though I have plenty. I recognized that this was a feeling of wanting to be distracted. And later when I was holding Kat, I felt this resistance or reaction to the idea of her giving me pleasure or making me happy and I realized that this part of me felt like it always had to put other people's pleasure in front of my own and that I alone have to be responsible for my pleasure, which ties right back in, I think, to the desire to buy the books. As I was telling Kat this, I felt part of myself crack open, and I allowed myself to feel her love and desire to please me. It was a little frightening, but also empowering.

4-8-13 Movement is a recognition of change, the application of change to your life, on a certain level. Movement isn't just a change of the scenery, but a shift in your mind, a shift of space and awareness and context. I was thinking of this today as I did my movements through the day. Movement to a client was a different perspective than movement to home or my coach, or to be with Kat. Movement creates a contextual awareness of what you are moving from and to, what you embody and what you will become.

4-12-13 I've written a bit about my move from polyamory to monogamy before, but it is a journey that has been a bit of an adjustment for me. The truth is that I never really practiced good polyamory, and I'm not sure I ever really knew what good polyamory looked like. And perhaps most importantly, I've come to realize how much that type of relationship could allow me to avoid facing certain behaviors, emotions, and issues from my past. The last year in particular has really forced me to see certain patterns that I ignored before. So I've become monogamous, and that has been a challenge as well, because in doing so I'm facing these issues head on and no longer ignoring them or providing them outlets. At the same time, I have a very supportive partner with Kat and this has given me strength to face those issues, as well as helping me learn how to really love myself instead of relying on others to fill me up.

4-16-13 One of the books Kat and I are reading right now is about Post Infidelity Stress Disorder. It's an interesting book, and what it is doing for me is helping me explore the history of infidelity in my life, both in terms of when I haven't been faithful and in terms of when it has happened to me. The book is bringing up a lot of reactions, especially as I realize that polyamory was a decision made because I didn't believe that I could be faithful to just one person, based on the fact that my father was never faithful. He was my model for sexual behavior and romantic behavior, although I doubt he ever knew that. I certainly never told him. But I recognize how much HIS infidelity has been a trauma in my life, and how it has provided an excuse for my own behavior, and justification for being polyamorous in the past (If I know I'd cheat otherwise, better to be this way). As I said above I've never been good at polyamory. I have made some bad choices, I have cheated (even in that context), and I haven't really, truly ever looked at infidelity as it has showed up in my life as much as this book is providing me a chance to.

One of the reasons I became monogamous with Kat is that I realized that I've never had good relationship boundaries in my life. She's the first person to really speak up consistently about the need for those boundaries and to call me on my behavior. But she's also realized that there are root causes for the behavior and so we're reading a lot of books on relationships and love as a way of proactively  addressing the behaviors so that they don't hurt us or our relationship. And where mistakes have been made, we are taking a hard look at both of our roles in those mistakes and helping each other heal. At the beginning of my relationship with Kat, and even a few times since, I made a few mistakes that really hurt her. I was acting out behavior without really examining it. She was hurt and upset, but she also called me out on it, and helped me recognize how it was hurtful to her. That in turn really allowed me to look at my life choices and make some changes, including becoming monogamous. Kat and I had been in a closed relationship since the very beginning, and all along we've explored what love and this relationship means to us. We've actually been monogamous since April of 2012 (when we decided that it was what was best for our relationship), but I haven't written much about it because it's been an adjustment, and there's been a part of me that has felt that I failed at being poly and shouldn't discuss it...but I'm realizing that I haven't failed so much as I've recognized a need to change and grow. For me growing involves being in a relationship with some very defined boundaries, as well as recognizing how previous relationship dynamics and behaviors have caused pain as opposed to bring bliss. And I find that monogamy brings a level of stability I never had before. I feel safe. I feel wanted. I feel focused, not just on my partner, but also on my projects. Monogamy works for me, and has helped me become much more honest with myself than my previous relationship dynamic did.

Having someone who wants to be so involved in the internal work is a new development, and something I'm still adjusting too. I'm being much more open with her than I ever was with anyone else, letting her in on what I'm working on and how I'm working on it. I'm realizing in this work how much poly really didn't help me, because what it allowed me to do was act out behaviors I learned instead of really confronting how those behaviors were impacting my life and others. So am I failing polyamory by recognizing that monogamy works for me? Maybe, maybe not. My choice, afterall, is just my choice. It's not a judgment of other people and their choices. It's a recognition that what seemed to work at one time wasn't really working, and that all it was really doing was enabling destructive behaviors that have hurt myself and others. I've made a change and that change, that choice is a better one for me and my partner.

4-17-13 I was told, in a reading I received, that I'd be entering into a pluto/neptune phase, both of which demand a level of internal work that is as much about deconstructing images of the self as it is about discovering the core of the person. I think though that I've been on such a long cycle of internal work that this just icing on the cake. Doing internal work demands a level of commitment  and a willingness to dissolve everything you value in order to uncover the real alchemy of your being. The cherished images fall away to reveal the dross, which is calcinated and changed by the internal work. You become forged in the essence of your being and at the same time lose what you've held onto, which is some precious sense of ego.

On another note, I've been thinking about movement and time, and how the experience of movement is really an exploration of time as well. I'd noted this in Magical Identity, but I see it as more evident in light of the work I am doing with movement as an element. Movement draws upon time as the backdrop to support the discovery of possibility and the realization of manifestation. Movement is the actualization of time, the realization of potential, and the becoming of being.

4-22-13 I've been doing some further thinking about my history with infidelity and also my history with women. The majority of relationships I was involved two elements: The women were older than me and there was always a power dynamic at place where the women held the power (or seemed to). Even in the cases where I was with someone younger than myself, there was still something of a power dynamic at work, though in one case it was a reversed dynamic where I seemed to have the power and in the other case the other person seemed to have the power. My step mom and later my mother created the initial history and impression of women. Both women held a role of power in my life and while I never felt attracted to either of them (thank heavens) I nonetheless learned fairly quickly that my role was to serve the household and by extension them, and do my best to make them happy, while hoping all the while to avoid punishment. Not a healthy dynamic, but one that was thoroughly ingrained in me, and one that I've only really begun to chip away at in the last few years, thanks in large part to being with Kat.

On top of that I remember being fascinated with several soft porn and porn movies where the women in the movies seduced the men and then proceeded to take control of whatever money/wealth/power the men had, while seducing the close friends of those men, in order to basically put the powerful men into their place which was as someone who was thoroughly humiliated. The movies fascinated me, and turned me on, not the least because there was this element of infidelity, this power gained by cheating which consequently would destroy the power of the person who was in control, bringing them to a place of humiliation, of weakness, of having no power, while the cheater had the power. I recognize in all of this the seeds of my own experience with infidelity, the motivation to cheat, and how I used it to gain a sense of power over people I felt had power over me. I found women in general to be fascinating and powerful, and one of the skills I endeavored to learn early on was how to become as good a lover as possible so that I could use my sexuality to have power over the women in my life. I figured if I was as good, if not better, than the person I was with, sexually, then that I could make that person crave me and my sexual skills. If this sounds twisted...well it is twisted. I'm not proud to write this or admit this motivation, but I don't think I've ever really been honest about the motivation to cheat or the motivation to feel empowered in a relationship. I always felt that the women in my life were as much enemy as friend. They, to my perception, held the power and not only that, but they could potentially take me for whatever I had. Indeed with a lot of my relationships there was manipulation on both sides of the relationship. I remember several of my older lovers in particular imprinting me both sexually and magically for their own gain, and to have some sense of power over me. I found it attractive, even as I found it threatening. So in turn I did the same thing, but through cheating. I recognize this now and I recognize further how polyamory was more of a front than anything else for this behavior. I chose to be polyamorous because I felt that if I was in a monogamous relationship I couldn't help but cheat, but even in polyamory, what did I do? I cheated...not all the time, but sometimes, because of these motivations I'm only now consciously recognizing.

With Kat, things are different. I think because we are reading these books together and because we are very focused on exploring our respective issues and how they contribute to our relationship, I've been able to drill down to these issues and recognize them in a way I never did before. I am able to see how infidelity has shaped my life, from my family history to my own history. I've never really had a normal relationship with anyone else because my model for relationships was based off a very unhealthy power dynamic and set of beliefs about how to feel empowered. And the result has been a lot of pain for myself and for people I've been involved with. With Kat, I have a healthier relationship, one that is becoming more healthy all the time because we are talking about these issues, recognizing the history as well as the present. She's not out to have power over me (and I am not projecting that belief on her). She wants to be with me for me...not because I'm an author or a magician or any of the other labels I could attach to myself. Not because I'm great in bed. And sex is no longer a weapon or a defense or a way to have power or manipulate. It is simply an expression of love, a choice to really open up and be present with this person I love. A little while back Kat said to me, "I release any claim I have on you, because I see now that claiming you has involved some level (in your mind) of coercion and power. If you want to be mine, I want you to give yourself to me, freely" I've never realized how much, in my mind, there was this association with coercion, but I see it today so clearly, so overtly...and I am able to give myself to my wife without being coerced. I freely give myself to her in perfect love and perfect trust because she sees me for who I am and loves me for all of what I am, without trying to get something from me. I've never given myself permission to give myself to another, not really, but all this internal work is showing me how I can, and how I can liberate myself from my own demons in the process. That is true movement. Praise Eros!

4-23-13 I've been going through my Facebook list of friends and defriending a lot of them lately. It's not anything personal...in fact is the lack of anything personal. I don't know most of the people I am "friended" to and I figure in most cases they've friended me because of my books, but I'd rather they liked the magical experiment fan page, if that's the case. So my de-friending of people has been a good exercise in boundaries because I'm only leaving people on that I know fairly well or want to stay in touch with because I knew them back in the day. I haven't been good at establishing boundaries in the way that I need to do, but I'm learning and this is one step of that recognition.

Why Imagination is essential to magical work

  imagination

Kat and I are reading The Miracle Tree by R. J. Stewart. There is a chapter in it, which he devotes to the topic of imagination. I like his definition of imagination, in part because its similar to my own, and acknowledges that imagination is a very real element of magic. I think of imagination as the composite super consciousness of all living beings linked together. He calls that the imagination of the universe which works for me. I think that when a person accesses imagination, s/he is accessing this superconsciousness. I suppose the best evidence of that is found where a person will invent something and someone else who s/he doesn't know will also invent it as well. The imagination works through people to bring forth new visions of reality.

And when a person works with his/her imagination s/he is accessing all the creativity that is available, but also the limitations of what people can conceptualize. At the same time the imagination could also be that place where we meet the spirits, a middle ground that they use to present a face to us, and that we use to discover more about them. I think of the astral plane as a good example of that latter idea. It's an experience which is based in the imagination, imo, and we shape it they way you can shape your imagination, but it's also more than that. Maybe the astral plane is one of the more "physical" representations of imagination.

Whatever you think about imagination, the truth is we use it a lot in magic. Visualization, for instance, is an application of imagination. When you visualize that piece of fruit, smell, taste, touch, and hear it, you are imagining it, which doesn't mean its a fantasy...It's a vivid experience that you have.

Still you might wonder what the difference is between fantasy and imagination. Fantasy is another form of imagination, albeit one usually caught up in specific desires. I think of fantasy as non-applied imagination. It's something you day dream about, but it's not the application of imagination to reality, so much as a desire to escape reality. People flee to fantasy to get away from something or to lose themselves in an experience. Applied imagination, on the other hand, always has some level of practical application involved. If you are writing a business plan for example you are using your imagination to help you visualize what the business will be and then you taking action, which starts the process of manifesting imagination into reality.

Imagination is possibility and what a person does is filter all those possibilities into something concrete and then s/he starts the process of applying it to reality. Imagination is the zero, entropic in a way because until action is taken its just endless possibility, but no reality. But imagination is essential to magical work and life in general because it provides us the forum in which we can visualize a different reality. If you had no imagination, you'd have no incentive or creativity to make change happen.

Here's a link to my latest radio interview from Pagan Propensities.

Sex and Creativity

khajuarho I've been meditating a lot the past week on sex and creativity and how both are outlets of a person's life energy, as well as being pathways for magical work. I've found that these two expressions go hand in hand. When they are balanced they feed and inspire each other, but if there is too much of one the other can be dissipated...and if there is not enough of one, then it becomes an overriding obsession. These two expressions of life aren't the only expressions, but I think of them as primal expressions for myself. I've used both sex and creativity to define my life at different times and I've found that I need both in order to truly be happy, but I also know that a lack in either one makes me miserable, and that too much usually leads to a burn out of some kind.

In meditating on these two expressions of my life, I've also looked at my history around them. I had several realizations. My period of a few years where I wasn't writing was also a period where I had very little in the way of sexual satisfaction. Once I started to have sex in my life again, I became creative again as well. Sex got the juices going, literally and figuratively. But the other realization was that my creativity suffered when I spread my self too thin.

You get interested in multiple people and when you do you spread your energies thinner and thinner, with less focus on the creativity. It's not an ideal situation if you are a writer or artist. You need to save some of that energy for the art and writing. Sex, and for that matter love, can take up a lot of energy if not properly managed and focused.

Being with Kat has been good for me because in the process of developing this relationship I've come to really understand how much I gave away of myself in the past, and how much I caused my own periods of non-creativity. There were other factors than just sex or love, but nonetheless I feel more creative because I'm not giving away too much of my energy to other pursuits. The time I do invest into a relationship is returned to me with much more focus on the creative work. I think this is why the writing has come back so much. I'm focusing one expression of my life and in turn another is also being focused. I'm focusing on one relationship in my life and in turn that relationship is helping me define my spirituality and creativity and become more productive. As such I moved away from Polyamory to a Monogamous relationship. I don't think polyamory is bad or wrong (It can and does work for some people)...I just realize it hasn't worked for me and that if anything it has enabled my various issues in ways that have been hurtful to myself and others.

I think a given person only has so much time, and what you do with that time and who you spend it with is important. How much of yourself can you give away and still have something left for what's important to you? As I get older I realize that I want to conserve my life energy and keep it focused on what I feel called to bring to the world. Sex is an inspiration for my creativity, a fuel that feeds my imagination, but I don't want exhaust it. Thus I'm finding the Taoist work very helpful as well for keeping that part of my life focused to generate creativity.

In other news, I was on the Green Egg Radio Show. You can listen to the interview here. I recommend fast forwarding past the first 5 or so minutes, because the hosts were reading an introduction of who I am during that time.

 

Exercise as a meditative and magical state of being

exercise In the last month I've taken up Tae Bo as a cardio exercise. It's been a wonderful way to get my body into shape while losing weight, but it's also been useful as a way of exploring exercise to achieve a meditative state. While I am able to still my min through breathing techniques, I've also found that exercising really forces you to focus your mind, and in the process blocks out the chatter of the monkey mind.

I do some pushups and stomach crunches before doing my morning meditation and I reserve my evening for the Tai Bo exercise. It's a great way to ground myself at the end of the day and it becomes a meditation where I focus solely on my body and the movements. However this stillness of mind is also useful for magical purposes.

For the last couple of exercise sessions I have charged and fired sigils. I have visualized the sigils while exercising and used the movement to charge them. Every exercise movement becomes fuel for the sigil, and when I am finished with the exercise, I launch the sigil. It's not all that different from playing a video game and using it to launch a sigil.

Another way I've been using exercise for magic has actually been for the sculpting of my body. I was inspired to do this through the work that Zac Walters did with exercise magic. He talks about his work in the Magic on the Edge Anthology. I haven't applied his exact methodology to my own exercise work, but what I have done is visualized how I want my body to change as I exercise. When I am exercising I do this visualization where I sculpt my body, particularly the areas I want to change such as my belly and my face. I've noticed that the way my body appears is conforming more and more to the visualized body I have in place in my mind when I exercise.

Finally I've used the exercise to also get in touch with the consciousness of my body and work with it to enhance the metabolism and speed up the purging of toxins and bad fat from my body. I've noticed that I'm continuing to lose weight at a decent recent, in part thanks to the diet I am on and the exercise, but also because I am using the exercise to communicate with my body and help it purge the toxins. The result has been a sense of greater health and energy than I've had in a long while, as well as a closer connection to my body. There are probably other ways that exercise can be applied to magic, but these the ways I am currently using it for myself.

 

Feng Shui and Movement

Feng shuiAt the last magical experiments potluck, one of my friends presented on Feng Shui. She'd just gotten her certification in Feng Shui and she shared what she learned with us. I found it fascinating and I'm going to pick up some books and possibly even take a course or two as I think it could be applicable to my spiritual work, especially with movement. I've always noticed that when I clean my home or we move furniture around that the energy also gets moved. The personality of the home changes, and even the way the energy moves through the house also changes. In fact, one of the suggestions my friend made was that I should change the position of my desk in my office. Originally it was set up so that my desk was facing the window and my back was turned to the door. According to Feng Shui this actually hurts the flow of energy toward your business because you are essentially indicating that you don't want more business. It makes sense in a way and I figured it didn't hurt to move the desk. So I moved it so that now it faces my closet, while still giving me a view of the window and the door. I don't yet how it'll affect my business, but I have noticed a change in the energy of the room and I actually like the current set up better.

When I look at movement as an elemental force one of the things I consider is how I move through an environment. Movement is as much about what you can't move through or around as it is about the actual movement that occurs. I've changed my desk so I sit differently, have a different view and there's a bit more space in the room. I swivel my chair around to reach for things on a shelf and everything is in easier reach than it was previously. If nothing else has changed, how I relate to the room and the various tasks I do in the room has changed. While there's nothing overtly magical about that, it is fascinating because it makes me think about how set up and design influence movement, both the physical and spiritual movement that a person does in a given space.

If you've read Magical Identity, you know that a lot of my interest in magic has shifted toward exploring magic as an ontological activity. My interest in movement is part of the next step of that exploration as I see it as an essential part of an ontology of magic.

Cultivate Imagination and Wonder

wonder One of the messages I consistently offer to other magicians and people in general is the importance of cultivating imagination and wonder as resources for living life and inspiring your spiritual practice and overall success in life. I can't emphasize enough the importance of these resources or why it can make such a difference in your life to cultivate them, but I think that whats make them so important is how they can enrich your life.

Your ability to wonder and imagine is a great gift that will take you on adventures if you are willing to let it inspire what you do. Simply allow yourself to be open and ask questions that seem silly or self-evident, but then explore those questions from a place of great curiosity. What don't you know as opposed to what do you know? Use what you don't know to inspire you to discover, leaving all assumptions aside...whatever you discover won't necessarily be true, but at least it'll be something you didn't know, prompting you on to discover angle upon angle upon angle...

A cultivated sense of wonder always inspires the person to discover more and question what s/he already seems to know. There is no satisfaction in what is known, but rather a recognition that there is more to discover and what is discovered is seen as a gift in itself, and an opportunity to continue learning. There is an insatiable voracity for learning that is found in wonder...and the imagination feeds that sense of wonder by allowing a person to access the possibilities of what might be.

Your imagination provides you access to possibilities. It shows you what might be and its only limitation is your belief or lack thereof in the possibilities presented to you. Imagination is wonderful because it also gives you a space to examine a given possibility from as many angles as you can think of. Your imagination is where the cooking starts and there's no limitation on how you can experiment with what's presented to you.

Cultivate your wonder and imagination by learning and applying what you learn to your life, while asking questions. Cultivate these resources by never being satisfied with the answers. Let these resources move you to discover, explore and experiment...they'll also show you how to turn your reality into something wonderful.

Elemental Balancing Ritual Movement Month 2

Eros 11-22-2012 I've made a lot of changes in my life in the last few years. One of those changes has been parenthood. Until a few years ago I was child free. Becoming a step parent has been a challenge at times. Learning how to be a parent has really involved learning how to relate to two people at their level of experience, while also learning the parenting experience itself. Most of the time I think I have a handle on it, but sometimes I don't think I get it at all. Learning to be a parent has been good for me in a variety of ways. It's allowed me to make peace with some of my childhood wounds, while learning a level of responsibility and awareness of others that I've admittedly not cultivated prior to becoming a step parent. But such movement requires work, time, experience, and patience.

I am still figuring out my approach to parenting, while also balancing it with my wife's approach, and with the awareness that I am a step parent and also a person who hasn't been in the lives of my kids for the entirety of their lives. I am very aware of the fact that I only have so much say as a step parent and that while I have something I can offer to the kids, they may not even be all that interested in what I have to offer. The main lesson is learning to be patient with them and myself, as well as working with Kat on parenting.

11-26-12 Movement happens in all directions, both spatially and temporally. We can move into the past even as we seemingly, steadily move into the future. I am reminded of this on occasions where a memory from the past flits up to my awareness calling for awareness of it and whatever lesson it has to offer. Living in the present, in the moment is also an act of movement that rarely occurs because it calls on a person to fully be in the moment.

11-27-12 I've been re-reading some books with Kat and I've noticed the words Being and Identity coming up a fair amount. Made me realize how the ontological concept of magic has been on my mind for a lot longer than I'd realized. The seed was planted over a decade ago and it's only come into fruition in the last few years, and is still evolving. That kind of movement is something you want to appreciate because of how it helps you recognize the important themes of your life.

12-01-12 When I think about the kinds of pop culture characters I am drawn to, the ones I like, its the characters who are amoral, who are broken in some way or form and yet have a found a way to succeed despite being broken. I like them because they are reflections of myself. I am broken in some ways. I don't know if I will ever not be broken in those ways and while I can work on the issues around the broken parts of myself and make some changes, there is also a recognition that some part of me will always be broken. And like those characters I've realized that following the rules doesn't always work, that sticking with the instructions on the recipe gets boring, and that success is often found by going your own way. Unlike those characters I've realized long ago that I don't want to perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction. Yes I am broken but that doesn't mean others need to go through it. When I apply movement as an element to this understanding it is with the recognition that I am moving from one cycle of life to another, to discontinue the cycle of dysfunction that has shaped my life.

12-11-12 Went in for a physical yesterday and found out today I might have diabetes. I might not, since I ate a granola bar for breakfast and it has a lot of refined sugar, but even if I don't, its a wake up call. I've more weight than I want to have and the walks and other exercise aren't doing enough. That and the diet needs to change. Movement brings change and awareness of your body. I feel that although I do exercise regularly, I can improve my relationship with my body and this situation makes me aware of that as well.

12-12-12 Movement is sometimes defined in context to what you are moving away from or towards. I thought about this today as I met with my business coach. One of the actions he has asked me to do involves doing more direct marketing, i.e. meeting with people one to one to talk with them about what I do and learn what they do so we can refer each other. I'll admit, it's a push out of my comfort zone, but I also realize I haven't leveraged my business relationships in the best possible way and it shows. I've found relating to people to be awkward and although I've gotten better at it, I know there's room for improvement. So this movement calls on me to move toward an action I need to do, while moving away from my reticence. I can handle that and I feel the last couple of days has in one way or another been inspired by my work with movement...if for no other reason than to remind me that I need to make some changes in my life, and what else is change, but movement of one kind or another?

12-13-12: I have pre-diabetes. Basically my blood sugar is too high, the sugar isn't getting processed the way it needs to. It's not diabetes and I have time to reverse it. Kat and I decided that we both need to lose some weight, so I've ordered some Tai Bo exercise videos, and we've also ordered nutrisystem meals, which will help us lose weight. We're going to make some changes in diet as well, cut out most of the starches. I can do this, and I know I will feel better. It's odd though because I weigh 255, but you wouldn't easily be able to tell it. Kat told me that the weight seems to mostly go to my belly, and even there not so much. I do think the daily push-ups and sit-ups have helped, as has the walking, but I need something more rigorous. My metabolism has obviously slowed.

Movement is manifesting in my life. The need to exercise and diet is just another manifestation and I'm glad its happening because I want to live a healthy life. Although I'll admit I feel a little dismayed about my health, I also feel hope, because I know I already have a plan of action and I'm moving on it. There's no point in dwelling on the negatives...better to focus on what you can do about it.

12-17-12 In one form or another I've undertaken movement in multiple areas of my life, urged on by a need to change and a realization that I've been in a rut in some ways. I've been calling people I'm connected with and setting up meetings to get to know them better. And yesterday I did a Tai Bo exercise for the first time in years. At one time I found the exercises easy to do, but yesterday it was hard work and I could feel the burn, a good sign and exhilarating because I really allowed myself to get into it. I'm being careful not to overdo it, but I like the idea of knowing that with steady and disciplined work my body will different and in better shape than it has in a while.

12-20-12 The last couple of days I've continued the Tai-bo exercises and in just a couple days it's already gotten easier, which is a bit of consolation really because it means the exercises I was doing before were helping to some degree. We've also gotten the nutri-system diet, which I'll be starting soon.

Today in the small business management course we focused on renewal for your business, but also for yourself and something that was said made a real impact on me. The what ifs keep you from being present with who and what you have and the experience you have in the present. I've been getting better about the what ifs and being more present, but I could feel this blockage around my shoulder and I started doing the Taoist Water Meditation breathing, allowing it go to work on the blockage as I continued to listen and take in everything. I felt the blockages come loose just a bit...There is work there I need to do, a holding patten I need to let go of, but I feel movement happening and a sense of the beginner's mind, not knowing because I recognize that I know equals I don't want to hear it.

12-21-12 We started nutri-system tonight. The food is different. there's a distinct, subtle taste, a kind of tang. I think it's the appetite suppressant, but it works. I ate a portion much smaller than I'd usually eat and I don't feel hungry. And what you use to supplement this diet makes it workable, but what I like most is that it will likely help me eat smaller portions once I'm off of it. I've always liked my food, but I know I can like it and still eat healthy.

12-22-12 Kat and I are reading Relaxing into Being by B. K. Frantzis. I've read the book a few times, but re-reading it is always helpful and its fair to say its one of the more significant works in my life. Re-reading it now has helped me re-examine my meditation practice and do it more mindfully. You can get to doing a technique so often that sometimes you don't stay present with it and I realized that had happened with me. So the last few days I've been doing this practice and working on a couple of deep-set blocks and this morning I woke up from a dream I'd had where Kat decided to leave because of something minor I'd done and we talked about it. And as we did this I felt this block in my chest start to dissolve and this pouring of emotion come out. It was a powerful feeling that moved me and moved our conversation. In turn Kat had her own dissolving occur. It was a powerful bonding experience for us that allowed us to explore the issue between us in a way that was safe and respectful.

I close out this month with the realization that perhaps what I am learning the most about movement is how to really let myself be moved. It's a realization that's been occurring for a while, but it's coming into fruition into a form that I can share with others who want to learn.

Cultural themes vs Personal themes of Wealth

culture identityAs I'm writing the wealth magic book and getting some feedback from prospective readers, one of the themes coming up is cultural identity vs personal identity, specifically how people define their own identity and definition about wealth in context to their environment, people in their lives, as well as what our culture says people should want. In Magical Identity, I explored how culture, family, environment, etc., shape a person's identity and this can and is easily extended to wealth as well. The perception of wealth that we're shown isn't necessarily the same as the reality of wealth for any given person. I think that truly understanding the concept of wealth as it applies to an individual's life involves some level of internal work that factors in the cultural theme of wealth and explores how much that theme really applies to the person's life.

I use myself as an example. Strictly examining my life by the cultural theme of wealth that is prevalent in the U.S. I wouldn't be considered wealthy. I'm not a multimillionaire, nor am I really obsessed with making lots and lots of money. I even have some debt that I'm paying off. My businesses are gradually becoming more successful, but I've made a few mistakes along the way. I've dropped out of graduate school, worked in the tech writing industry a couple of years and I've written a few books, but I'm not even all that well known in the occult community. By the cultural theme of wealth in the U.S. I would not be considered wealthy.

But by my theme/definition of wealth, I do consider myself wealthy. I am able to live on my own schedule, by my own rules, doing something I love to do. I am supported by someone who believes in me, and in turn I support her in a variety of ways that while not financial, nonetheless are significant to her because they make her life easier and bring her a sense of peace and contentment. I am able to work on my projects and I am happier than I have ever been. I have friends I care about, who also care about me. And while I have some debt, I also have some investments, and a financial plan that is moving me out of debt.

I am wealthy because I choose to define myself by the wealth I have in my life, which is more than just how much money I make. I am also wealthy because I have a plan that I am following, which is slowly but surely producing results. I am wealthy because I am doing what I feel called to do instead of settling for doing something that I don't want to do. I am wealthy because I have support from people who believe in me and are invested in my success, enough so that even when I have doubts, they don't and help me see what I have going in my favor.

I see cultural identity as a mirror of sorts. It shows me what the culture values and allows me to evaluate those values as they apply to my life, but in the end I think it is far more important to define your own values around wealth. This doesn't mean that I advocate believing in the virtue of being poor as a form of wealth, but rather I think that to truly understand wealth you need to understand how it applies to your life and this means consciously creating an identity and definition of wealth that gives you a way to meaningfully interact with what constitutes wealth in your life.

There's a lot of pressure to adhere to cultural standards of wealth, health, and everything else in between, but I don't think you can meaningfully get a lot from those standards because if you examine them you realize they create a lot more stress and unhappiness than anything else. People are so busy trying to fit into those standards that they lose themselves along the way. They can't keep up with the Jones, and they don't even know what they really want.

What really makes your life meaningful is how you define your life in context to how you want it to show up. Are you doing what you love to do? Are you happy with how your life is manifesting? Are you being true to your calling? Those are the questions I'm interested in, as they apply to my life and the lives of others, with wealth as a focus. I figure if you really get wealth, you know it when what you are doing is bringing you to life and who you are doing it with is what motivates you to do it. I admit its not a conventional approach to wealth, but I've never settled for conventional, because conventional is usually flawed.

Elemental Balancing Ritual Movement month 1

10-22-12 Last night I did the switch over to the element of movement. Eros, who is traditionally thought of as a love deity, but also has some attributes related to movement. I got a statue of him a little while back and I paced that statue on my Tesser-act board and then I vocalized his name, calling to make a connection with him. We connected and then I entered into a meditative state where we talked movement in my life. He had me feel the movement of my heart and other parts of my body, and then we looked at the movement of my relationships, businesses, and life. He told me that we'd be doing a lot of work and he was right, because right out the gate he gave me a challenge.

He told me that I needed to write to two of my relatives. I have some blocks with these people and he felt that I needed to address them instead of avoiding them. So today I wrote to letters and sent them off. Right now I feel queasy. They were not easy letters to write, but I also feel some sense of movement within myself. I feel these places of tension and old pain being stirred and while its not fun to feel, I know that choosing to face it could free me of that pain and tension.

10-23-12 I've had one relative respond, while the other has not. The one who responded offered excuses more than anything else. Still its not what is offered, but what I get, which is movement away from moments that have defined my life in ways I no longer find useful, and never really did. Eros, with his curly locks, and angel wings tells me that movement is a state of being as well as transition,  space become fluid.

10-26-12 When I met with my business coach earlier this week he suggested that I create a time budget sheet and analyze where I'm putting my time and/or even prioritizing my time. I have decided to do the project because it will be good for my businesses, but also because it is an analysis of my movement. He even suggested that if I could cut back on certain activities, it might prove helpful in terms of helping me focus, which I'm inclined to agree with, especially when I put it into context with working with movement. I find it ironic then that in November, I'll be in a situation where I will necessarily have to scale back some of my activities due to a temporary limitation of movement. But there is value in starting in stillness, because stillness is the seed of movement.

10-27-12 In meditation today I ended up revisiting some past memories of my childhood. Eros pointed out that remembering is its own form of movement, an attempt to rewrite the past or come to terms with it or even just to experience it. I felt something crack open and inside was a candle flame. He told me it was the flame of my childhood hopes, still burning even with everything that happened. I approached it with the reverence and wonder of a child, allowing myself to bask in its warm glow, even as I fed it with the hope I feel now.

10-29-12 I've been reading Cupid's Poison with Kat. Reading it has been mind blowing in terms of understanding the physiology of orgasm sex vs non-orgasm sex and in terms of understanding how physiological changes induced by orgasm have contributed to relationship problems in the past. It also has caused me to look at polyamory in a new light, especially when you look at the arguments in books on poly which state that one of the reasons people choose polyamory is because one person can't entirely fulfill the needs another person has. For a long time I believed that, but my views have been shifting for the last half year, mainly because I am with someone who I can really open up to and feel safe with, and most recently because of this book and its explanation of what happens to the neurobiology of a person after orgasm. Certain behaviors make a lot more sense to me now because I can actually track the changes in behavior and recognize a physiological correspondence. And I can also track those behaviors in myself and others from previous relationships as well as observing the behaviors in other people's relationships. The effects that orgasm has on a person's neurochemistry explains the biological part of the drama that occurs in romantic relationships (whether monogamous or polyamorous). So I'm trying something different for a while, and having sex without orgasm being the goal, just to see what happens on a behavior and physiological level.

11-2-2012 It's interesting to me that my first month of working with movement involves dealing with the reality of having some of my mobility constrained due to circumstances not in my control. Nonetheless I find the synchronicity of it useful as does Eros, in terms of really appreciating movement as an element in all of its forms, up to and including the restriction in movement.

11-7-12 Tonight Kat and I had a discussion about my ability to let others spoil me. I've never handled being spoiled all that well. Truth is I've always felt like I needed to give, but part of that has been a way to protect myself from others.If I gave them pleasure whether in bed or in other ways and they were happy, then I could be safe, and maybe even have some control over the situation. Allowing someone else to spoil me has always made me uncomfortable, at risk, perhaps they will really see me, and consequently no longer want me. I didn't say it was rational, but it makes sense in a twisted kind of way. I feel blocked when it comes to receiving pleasure and I see that most poignantly in the fact that I feel it is important to make sure someone else is happy, or that there pleasure comes first. It was ingrained in me early on...do the chores, make sure others are happy and maybe you'll be left alone...or put the pleasure of your lover first and maybe you'll be worthy of being kept for a little while longer. Allowing someone to actually take care of me, pleasure me, spoil me is so different, brings up so much...it takes a lot of patience on my end and the other person to work through all the issues that come up as a result.

11-13-2012 As I've continued to read Cupid's Poisoned Arrow and carefully looked at my sexual history, and weighed it's neurochemical research with the research I've done into neuroscience, I am more and more convinced that there is merit to the arguments of the book. My experiences with Dopamine were of it as a trickster, and it seems born out. If you have an excess of dopamine, you have impulsive sensation seeking, unhealthy risk taking, aggression, sexual fetishes and compulsions, more wanting but less liking of sex. All of that sounds like me at my worst. If you have deficient dopamine it causes low libido, inability to love, erectile dysfunction (or the female equivalent) depression, social anxiety and low energy. I can think of a few people those symptoms apply to. If there is a healthy amount of dopamine there is also healthy bonding and libido, energy and vitality, motivation, sound choices, etc.

Books on polyamory commonly argue that poly occurs because one person can't fulfill all your needs. If you look at the neurochemical effects of orgasm sex, especially in regards to habituation, then this argument makes sense. But if you were to refrain from orgasm and focus on sex as a bonding activity, I don't think that argument holds up. Instead of feeling restless and empty, I feel clear-headed and more focused, happy and satisfied. However having also had orgasms, I've noticed that spending time bonding afterwards seem to really be the key. If you are cuddling and consciously focused on bonding it makes a difference. Maybe the key is simply making time to connect with someone very consciously, which I'll admit is something I never did much of, prior to this relationship.

11-18-12 Today I cleaned out the closet and got rid of about 1/3rd of the clothing and other effects. The space feels better for it. I got rid of some clothes Ive had for over a decade, but I'm not one for meaningless sentiment. Keeping something for memory's sake just weighs you down. If the memories are really worth having, they will still be something you'll recall.

11-19-12 Closing this first month out, I'm struck by the relationship between stillness and movement. One seems to lead into another and neither is necessarily contradictory to the other.  I haven't moved and yet I have moved. I have also been moved even in being still. There is never a time without movement of some kind.

Information filtering and magic

Ever since I read the post from Scarlet Imprint about their choice to leave Facebook, in part due to information overload I've been thinking about information filtering and where it fits into magic. Scarlet imprint makes a valid point when they note that your average person can only handle so much information before s/he is overwhelmed. Back in the days when I taught social media, I saw first hand how overwhelmed most people were (and still are) by how fast social media technology progresses, but also by the sheer amount of information that is shared. It can make your head spin.

My approach to handling information involves filtering information, both in terms of importance, but also in terms of how I process information. It is easier to filter information by importance because you can simply ask whether the information is important or relevant, and recognize that a lot of it isn't. As such cutting out the information that isn't important can be effective for reducing the stress on your cognitive load. But even then you still have to process the information.

In Magical Identity I discussed how I have developed a technique where I devote a specific aspect of myself to learning and processing information about a specific discipline. Information about that discipline is directed to that specific aspect and that aspect processes the information, and also comes to the fore when the information is needed. So for example I have an aspect of myself that is focused on processing information about neuroscience. I have another aspect that is focused on processing information about small business development. And so on and so forth.

By creating multiple aspects I can effectively improve my cognitive load and process more information on a variety of topics. I can then draw on that information as needed by simply tapping into that aspect to call it forth. And when I don't need the information, that aspect goes into the background and continues to process information and provide insights as needed. Sometimes I will find myself thinking about a particular subject of interest, and the needed insight will come to mind immediately, provided courtesy of the aspect that I have devoted to that exploring that particular subject. I think of my aspects as background programs that continue to run at all times, helping me process lots of information. As such I have never really found myself overwhelmed by information.

The creation of an information filter can help you with your cognitive load. As you can tell there are different types of information filters. Creating ones that filter and then process information frees up your everyday consciousness to focus on what is important in the moment, with the knowledge that you can draw on a vast store of information as needed.

My Experiences with Demonolatry

I'm reading Honoring Death: the Arte of Daemonolatry Necromancy by S. Connolly. Reading it has reminded me of my early experiences with Demonolatry, in particular with Euronymous. I've written a bit about that work in Space/Time Magic, but that only touches on it a bit. I first found out about Demonolatry, in the later 1990's, when I stumbled across an e-list on the topic. I joined the e-list and learned some about demonolatry and also tried out some of the ritual work as well as adapting it to my own practices. I even have a limited edition of the Book Modern Demonolatry, which has since been expanded and changed (or so I've been told). I still refer to that original copy and it is much loved. I stayed involved on the e-list until the early 2000's and then drifted off thanks to Graduate school, but I continued my work with Euronymous after I'd disconnected from the demonolaters. I'd have to say that Demonolatry has heavily influenced my approach to working with entities in general, and Daemons specifically. Thanks to that tradition I learned to work with Daemons from a place of respect. Instead of doing traditional evocations which involve a lot of coercion and commanding, I have always approached Daemons with respect and an eye toward how we can help each other. This practice has served me well and I'm thankful that my time spent learning about Demonolatry taught me those perspectives.

My work with Euronymous has always focused around death and rebirth, which is appropriate given that he is a Daemon of Death. In that work, there is an element of sex magic included, which makes perfect sense to me as sex can be both an act of life and death all rolled up in one. Euronymous has appeared to me as a skeleton and as a lord clothed in fine clothes, with pallid skin. He has guided me through several death-rebirth rituals and although I'm at a point where I suspect I won't do such for quite a while, he nonetheless is a presence I continue to honor to this day. He has taught me that death is a transformation and a lover and nothing to fear so much as to recognize it for the potential it offers.

I have also worked with Verrier and Verine, Daemonolatric spirits of healing. They have helped me in some of the healing work I've done with others, in particular with some DNA healing, which I think is appropriate given how they represented themselves as serpents. They've made think of Aesculapius and his staff.

I've recounted elsewhere my work with the goetic spirits Bune, Marchosias, and Purson. My work with them has always been informed by Demonolatry and I think its greatly enhanced the relationship I have with them.

I'll admit that I don't incorporate the ceremonial approach that is written about in Demonolatry. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm more concerned about the underlying principles of a given magical act. I figure if the spirits I work with want me to work a particular way they'll tell me, but they've never really seemed to care. What has mattered to them is the sincerity of my desire to connect and work with them, as well as honor them. They in turn have honored me with their presence and work on my behalf.

Book Review: Honoring Death by S. Connolly

This book focuses on Necromancy from the perspective of Demonolatry. I'd have to say that out of all the books I've read on necromancy, I've liked this one the best, especially because of how the author suggests working with spirits and the dead, in a manner that is respectful, much like you would work with a daemon. She also offers suggestions for particular daemons a practitioner can work with when doing necromantic work. If you are interested in learning more about demonolatry, you will also learn a bit about that topic with suggested further reading also offered. Overall all this is a solid, focus book, and the author has done an excellent job presenting the topic and providing methods for working with spirits.