mindful awareness

On the value of Inner Alchemy

I'm copy editing a book for Immanion Press called Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot: A Troubleshooter's Guide to Magic by A'Miketh, and I'm really impressed by what I'm reading, because this guy has managed to explain some complex concepts in fairly approachable language, and more importantly he's cleared stated the value and need for doing external work before getting into all of the flashy external magical work. And I have a lot of respect for that. I was chatting with Bill Whitcomb earlier tonight about how change occurs in society, and we both agreed that change takes a long time to occur when it's done right, because the best way that change occurs is through changing the internal reality of yourself and modeling that change to others. It's not nearly as dramatic or active as trying to protest political rallies or trying to throw a revolution because you dislike what other people are doing. It's a much slower form or change...it takes time and some effort to create change in yourself that brings you to healthier patterns of behavior and communication.

But I would take that kind of change over the change of a revolution, because a revolution inevitably only replaces the previous oppressors with the people revolting against them. That is to say in a revolution the only thing that changes are the people in charge. What doesn't change is how those people treat other people, because for a revolution to usually be successful, it is violent...and that same violence twists the people who beget it, so that they become what they hate, because having overthrown a previous government, they quickly begin to fear that the same will happen to them. The French revolution and the Bolshevik revolution and revolutions in China (both in the early and mid twentieth century), and to a lesser extent the American revolution are good examples of this process, where change is promised and a government is overthrown and ultimately what replaces it is more of the oppression that the revolutionaries claimed they fought against. This incidentally is one of the reasons I'm skeptical about the so-called good intentions of the activists...I see them as just another form of political extremism and should that extremism replace what we currently have, I don't believe it will be any better than what it replaces.

I favor instead a revolution that comes from within a person...a fervent desire to change the self, to recognize that to change the world around us, we must first be willing to take responsibility for our own actions and thoughts. Instead of blaming others for the woes of the worlds, we should take responsibility for ourselves and what we can change...our attitudes about others, our actions toward the environment we live in and do it in a manner where we model how we want the world to change, but without trying to force that change down everyone's throat. I imagine that may sound idealistic, but in copy-editing this book and reading this person's thoughts on how to create a system of mindful awareness and internal change mechanisms in western practices of occultism, I see more than idealism...I see a methodology and practice that can make it happen, but ultimately requires a voluntary to make it occur. I turned to Taoist and Buddhist breathing and meditation techniques to develop a system for internal work that was also mixed with Western techniques for pathworking, but in reading some of Dunlap's ideas, I also see some hope for Western occultism developing some of those same internal practices without having to borrow as much from Eastern practices.

It seems to me that when a culture or society doesn't have a system of some sorts for developing reflective and consciousness awareness of emotions and reactions and triggers, it is very hard for that society to change. And really, for this kind of internal work to really bear results, you need everyone in society doing the work...not just some monks in a mountain hideaway. This is why I hope such practices will continue to become more prevalent in this culture...so that people can really be aware of what sets them off and work on deprogramming the bad triggers, while also figuring out who they really want to be and how they want to manifest that to each other and the world at large. I think if such practices were more prevalent there would be much less violence, much more cooperation, and also much more of a sense of connection to and with each other as well as an awareness of the responsibility we have to each other, to ourselves and to the environment we live in, aka, to the entirety of this Earth and universe.

The process of internal work

I think the hardest aspect of internal work is when you face the root of the issue that you're working on.. On one hand, you now know what you're really dealing with. On the other hand, you're also faced with the question of, "Now what?" I was thinking of that today as I walked around the local park, working through an issue that I've been struggling with the last couple of weeks. I generally find in doing internal work that there are four stages that occur. The first stage is a sudden realization that something is bothering you. You can't quite pinpoint what it is that's bothering you beyond dealing with the immediate experience that you're involved in. That immediate situation is really just a symptom of the actual problem. It definitely needs to be addressed, but chances are it's based on a behavior pattern that can really deep into the past. It's a reaction to the original core issue...but you don't know what that issue is yet...you can identify characteristics...I feel jealous about X or this made me angry, which comes in handy later on, but the symptom is just that...it's a symptom...it's pain's it's something sending a message that something is wrong. Once you've dealt with the symptom, you still have a ways to go.

Stage 2 is digging. You start comparing the characteristics of the latest situation with the characteristics of previous situations where you suspected you acted in a similar manner. For instance, if you found yourself competing with someone because you felt jealous, you would look in your past for related incidents with other people. By finding a relationship, you could then begin to trace the issue back to the root cause of it.

Stage 3 is discovery of the root cause, or if you will the root emotion. For instance, just because you feel jealousy in incidents where you compete with someone, you shouldn't assume that jealousy is the motivating emotion. Remember, it's a symptom, so while jealousy is an emotion in its own right, it may just be a symptom of what you're feeling at your core. Perhaps, for instance, you are competing and feeling jealous because you really want to feel acceptance from other people. Acceptance is definitely not the same emotion as jealousy, but it can inspire jealousy depending on how acceptance is obtained. Once you know what the root cause is, you're at the now what stage. You've identified the root problem, and you're consciously aware of it. Congratulations! But now you have to figure out what you will do with what you've discovered. This can be hard to figure out, because you're also facing what really motivates the behavior you want to change and facing that root cause can be a bit of a doozy.

Stage four is figuring out what you'll do now that you know what's motivating your behavior. You've got a few options:

A. Do nothing. This might seem like the easiest, but unless you are completely comfortable with the behavior and the consequences that result from it, this will come back and bite you in the ass until you decide to really make a change.

B. See a therapist. Working with a therapist can help you explore these issues safely with another person present. Also the therapist will to some degree hold you accountable to make a change. This option can be combined with option C

C. Utilize a form of mindful awareness to consciously monitor yourself. This is greatly enhanced by pathworking, meditation, energy work, or some other form of internal work. This can be done without option B, though I'll note this can be tough work and will challenge you because as you dissolve the issues, you also leave room for more subtle issues to rear their head. I recommend that if you choose to do only this option that you also make sure that you know you can stop and see a therapist at any time. Don't go deeper than you are comfortable with. I will note that using meditation and mindful awareness for the last three and a half years has definitely helped me dissolve a lot of unhealthy behaviors, but it's been intense work and sometimes fairly wearing. I know what keeps me focused on doing it is the awareness that as I continue to do this work, I am getting healthier and happier and I consciously know what informs my choices.

I am still doing a lot of internal work. The stages I described here, are pretty accurate to the kind of work I've been doing. Internal work isn't necessarily glamorous or something very overt. It doesn't require much in the way of magical tools, or sigils, but the payoff I think is that you are more conscious of your choices and can control yourself more readily...and the need to do magic to solve problems actually goes down because you're no longer acting out your unhealthy behaviors.