meditation

Why you need patience when doing the work

Patience Over the last month and change I've been doing a lot of internal work around the feeling of regret and how it shows up in my life. I've also recently started working on the Quabala, doing pathworking with the Sephiroth. With both of these workings, its been essential for me not to rush the working. What that means is that I can't focus on the results and what I think they should be. I need to be present with the experience and allow it to happen in the way it occurs. This means that I need to allow the work to occur at the pace it happens instead of trying to put it on a schedule.

For example, I was recently doing some work with Hod, with the Angelic order of it. The first day I worked with them, the impressions I got didn't make much sense. I recorded them and then redid the working the next day and the day after, and so on and so forth. The working wasn't going to happen in one day and I knew that, but I also knew that I needed to take my time and be open to the working taking multiple days to occur, as needed. I needed to be patient with the work and not force something to happen because I was establishing a relationship with that Angelic order as well as with Hod.

Patience is important in magical work. You've got to be patient with what you are doing. When you try to force a result, you lose something in the process. When you stick with the work and do it with the purpose of allowing it to happen as it needs to, you get not just a result, but also the experience of the journey. That journey transforms you, shapes you, and allows you to make meaningful change in your life through the connections you make in doing the work. Patience is needed because whether you are doing internal work or connecting with the spirit world or doing something else altogether, what you are really doing isn't something that always speaks to easy and obvious results. Magic isn't always about manifesting a possibility into the world, though it can be sometimes. Even in that case, I've found that magic is still a process of patience, because you are aligning the variables into your favor in order to manifest the possibility into reality.

So what's the point of all this? Don't be in a rush to achieve a result. Welcome the process for what it is and be patient with what you are doing. Allow yourself to go deep into the work you are doing and let it transform you as it also transforms the world. Let yourself be moved and discover in that movement the transcendent glory of magic as it changes your life. When you do that, you'll know what magic is and you'll appreciate why patience is important.

Magic isn't always Safe

safe This last weekend I gave a talk on the 7 Faces of Alchemy ritual at the Northwest Alchemy conference. At one point, one of the people attending the talk asked what the statement of intent for the ritual was and if I'd had a specific result in mind. I explained that my intention, at the time of the working was that it would function as a purposeful catalyst for change in my life, but that I didn't have specific results in mind because I felt that defining the result too much would have taken away from the efficacy of the working. I wanted to have an experience and I recognized then as I do now that when you have an experience, you necessarily give up some control to have it. You can't have an experience if you aren't open to it showing up in your life in ways you don't expect, that nonetheless brings change to your life.

My answer to that question also prompted me to note something else about that ritual: I didn't want to define the result too much because to do so would have sanitized the working, made it safe in a way that didn't allow for genuine change to occur. Life isn't safe (despite what illusions we provide ourselves to that effect) and I don't think magic should be either. Now I'll admit I've stated that it is useful to define the result and that when you develop a process of magic, it can actually be very useful to define the desired result so you can work backwards. In practical magic, defining the result is very useful because it provides a measurable outcome to shoot for. But there's always exceptions to the rules...

Sometimes you want to do magic to change your life, but you recognize that you need to be open for the change show up in ways you can't anticipate. You recognize that you need to be pushed in order to grow and if you try to control that process you'll just keep yourself stuck in a rut. Sometimes you need magic not to be safe and defined, because when its safe and defined it keeps you where you are...predictable. Sometimes you need to let go of control and be open to the experience, to letting it change and push you in ways you didn't expect could happen.

Magic isn't always safe. It shouldn't always be safe. When I did the 7 Faces of Alchemy work, it wasn't safe magic. It changed my life in ways I couldn't anticipate and pushed me to change and grow. I had a lot of illusions about myself stripped away and I had to come face to face with my decisions and look at what my life really was as opposed to what I thought it should be. It was hard work that humbled me and helped me change in a way that ultimately benefited me. It wasn't safe work though because if it had been safe I wouldn't have faced those issues or been humbled in that way. It was dangerous work that challenged me as a magician and person. By opening myself to the experience and allowing that experience to become part of me, I allowed myself to give up control and accept whatever came my way, with the understanding that it would change in me in ways I didn't expect.

Whenever I do magical work with an eye toward creating major changes in my life, I do so with the understanding that I won't be safe. My life will change and that change will necessarily require some sacrifice on my part that will likely be hard to give at the time I make it. Yet I also know that surrendering to change will bring with it opportunities and if I am open to those opportunities I will end up where I need to be. It may be uncomfortable and painful, yet what I learn as a result will challenge me to grow.

Two Space/Time Magic Paintings

I've been meditating on several symbols I was given during a recent workshop I did with R. J. Stewart and Annastacia Nutt. I found that these symbols are very relevant for my spiritual work, especially with space/time magic and I was told recently that I needed to paint them. Below is the first one: Crossroads

This one is called cross roads, and represents the intersection of the cross roads. As I meditated on the image of the cross roads as it related to space/time magic, it became very clear how much the crossroads can play a role in choosing to manifest a distinct possibility as a reality. The next painting is below:

Sphere of artThis painting is the Sphere of art, representing the the three zeros as they interact to create a precise point of space/time which is removed from the rest. This is something I've been working with since I first started reading William Gray's work. R. J. was an actual student of Gray and has taken the concept and extended it further in his own way and I've found it to be very helpful in my work.

 

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.

Month 12 Elemental Balancing Ritual Movement: Focus

Eros 9-27-13 Since Eros brought up that we'd focus on focus in movement, I've been paying more attention to everything I'm doing from exercising and eating to writing and business. By consciously focusing on what I'm doing or how I'm doing it, I've been able to more consciously interact with the movements of everything I'm doing. I've also been continuing to study movement, especially the movements that occur in any given situation. What I've observed is that everything is in motion and yet the motion creates stillness as well. The stillness is the realization of movement, which nonetheless also leads into more movement, which is potential stillness.

9-28-13 I'm taking part 1 of the Oak, Ash, and Thorn workshop that R. J. Stewart offers. It's been a good experience so far, and one where I'm getting a lot from the workshop. I've been given two symbols that relate to my current work. I've also been mediating about tress and how the roots of a tree extend to the underworld, while the branches of the tree extend to the celestial world and the trunk mediates the mixture of under and over world energy in order to manifest reality. What's fascinating is that the meditations have given me some really interesting ideas about where to take some of the movement work. I'm looking forward to seeing what day 2 brings.

10-2-13 It's been a few days since the workshop with RJ wrapped up. Today I made an offering to Hawthorn. I drove out to a place where I'd found Hawthorn leaves and did a brief prayer of thanks and then made the appropriate offering. I felt a brief sense of acceptance and that was that. I'll start work with the next tree tomorrow in my meditations.

As for the second day of the workshop...I got an idea for pop culture magic 2.0 based on a discussion RJ had about iconotropism, which basically involves the understanding of how icons evolve as cultures bring new tropes to them. We also got into a discussion about mediation and its role in magic. Having RJ's works I felt like the discussion shed further light on what mediation is as a principle of magic and how important it is to be open to being moved by what you work with, while also being able to mediate that for other people and even yourself. I also ended up connecting with Puck as an entity, to the point that I ended up mediating him as well as connecting with another entity, of which I wrote a poem/invocation. What interests me the most about Puck is that he's a gatekeeper of the cross roads, a door opener, which is something I intimately relate to in my own work. I found it even more interesting to realize that all of the entities/deities I work with on a prolonged basis also mediate energies of the cross roads, and I've also thought of myself as an opener of the ways (as well as having others indicate that about me as well). I got a third symbol and I need to spend some time working with these symbols.

Beyond all that I've been contemplating focus and its place or lack thereof in my life. I actually recognize that in some ways I have been very unfocused. That might sound odd to some people, but when I consider the last decade of my life, I see a lot of wandering, a lot of drifting. I'm okay with that because I needed it, but I'm also ready for it to end, and I've been giving a lot of thought to what I can be great at and how that can focus my efforts in whatever I'm doing.

10-3-13 I finished reading Good to Great last night and I woke up early this morning with a profound realization: I need to be great at what I'm called to do and what I'm called to do isn't the business coaching. What I'm called to do is the spiritual work, the writing, the classes, the coaching that I can offer through that particular medium. I've felt so scattered, so unfocused because I've tried to do too many things at the same time and because I've bought into limiting beliefs and fears about being an occult author and pursuing this work full time. Some of those limiting beliefs are my own, formed when I first started writing and felt that as an occult writer I'd never be able to make a living from it (obviously there are writers who can and have done it by offering more than just writing). But some of it also comes from other people who applied their own fears to me or showed me in one form or another that they felt I was a burden or a drain and that they didn't really believe in what I could do. The thing is I've lurched from business to business, trying to find something that makes me want to get up and get started with my day, and as I've done this I've learned certain lessons. I've learned that I prefer to be self-employed. I've also learned that I love working with people. And now I'm really taking to heart something a coach of mine said to me: You can't two chase two rabbits at the same time. I've been chasing two rabbits at the same time for a while now. I've got a publishing business I help run, I've got my writing and spiritual work, and I've got the business coaching, but what I've also got is a split in focus with not much getting done at all. I haven't really given myself over to any one thing.

I can't give up my writing or the magic. It's what I live, love, breathe, etc. It's my life, my work, my everything. And the publishing is part of that work, part of the spiritual calling I have, part of something I need to do for the sake of what that publishing represents. But the business coaching is something else. I like it and I'm good at it, but it doesn't call to me in the same way. It never has. It's also a giant time commitment. The amount of networking I do alone eats up so much time that a lot of days I don't feel like writing. I'm peopled out and just want to recharge.

I woke up this morning and I answered this question of what I can be great at, what I know I''m great at. I told Kat about it, laying it all out, the fears, the realizations, everything and she said to me: I support you completely. I believe in you completely. I know you are called to do this and I'm willing to support what you want to do. Hearing that and knowing it's true, knowing that what I really feel called to do is supported and believed in. This made me feel good. I'm ready to really pursue what I am called to do.

10-6-13 In my meditation today Bune came to visit and we had a long discussion about money habits. He pointed out that I needed to make some changes in lifestyle and really focus in on the long term vision of where Kat and I want to be. It's easy to get so caught up in now, but he's got a really good point and it really struck home to me, especially as he reviewed how I've handled my business money and made some suggestions on things I could change. After my work with him, I went to the crossroads and discovered that the next tree I need to work with is Oak. There's some interesting ideas I'll share eventually in a separate once I've connected with all the trees.

10-7-13 I'm reading Make Magic of your Life by T. Thorn Coyle. She makes an interesting about obsession and how it consumes you. My own experiences with obsession certainly validate that perception of it, whereas she considers desire to be something that runs deeps and speaks to what we really want. Working with desire is uncovering what we really want and making it part of our lives, while obsession is running from what we want, getting lost in something, but not being honest about what we really want from it. When I apply this to myself, I see the obsession show up in my relationships and the driving need I've felt to fill up the emptiness within myself. I still feel that on occasion and I'm still figuring out as a result what my desires are and what my obsessions are, but as I've learned to mediate the emptiness and not run from it, its made it easier for me to focus in on doing this internal work and helping me uncover my desires, while also letting the obsessions go.

10-10-13 The past half week has really drawn my awareness to the fact that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to focus. While I manage to get a lot done, I can be fairly scattered in my approach to work and life. I think in some ways I've been scattered because I've been focused on several different directions. That and realizing how much networking I've been doing and how exhausted I am from it. I'm realizing how much of an introvert I am and this in turn has helped me see how much I need to focus my efforts toward my projects and writing over anything else.

10-16-13 Since I last wrote in this entry I've been examining my focus or lack thereof and come to a few conclusions. I've decided to cut back on networking events for the business coaching, and I've also decided to only check e-mail and social media twice a day. Implementing these actions has already made me feel better and more focused than I was before. I'm getting to some of the writing I've been wanting to do and even planning a class for some time in the future. It's funny how certain situations have to come to a flash point where the arrival at such a point forces you to evaluate what you're doing and how you're doing it and provides you a way to make changes that frees up some of the mental and emotional space you were investing elsewhere.

10-18-13 One of the most important lessons I've learned is that acting on impulse can create a lot of problems. Since the realization I had a few weeks ago about what I'm great at, I've really just focused on thinking about what actions to take, which I've written about above, but ultimately I came to the conclusions that tossing the baby out with the bathwater (i.e. stopping business coaching altogether) isn't a good idea. I do like business coaching, and what I realized I really needed was to evaluate my time and refocus on the writing, but still keep the business coaching, because it is a business that is continuing to grow.

I've always been an impulsive person and it has rarely served me in a good way. My impulsiveness has seen me make life decisions that I've ultimately regretted because they put me in situations where I ended up more miserable than anything else. So spending some time really thinking about my choices and what I want to do has been really helpful and a useful application of focus. I don't need to be scattered and floundering every which way. I've done enough of that already, but being focused and really being present with a given decision...that's something I'm going to keep doing.

10-19-13 Writing is its own magic, a feeling of flow and creative application that turns into manifestation and action on the part of writer and reader. When I write and I am really into it, it feels like the heart of the universe has opened up to me and revealed its secrets, allowing me to be a medium that in turn shares those secrets with anyone willing to read the words I share. Writing brings me to life in a way that almost nothing else does (only magic makes me feel the same). Writing is a reality in and of itself, an altered state of consciousness and identity that causes the rest of the world to fade away in the clatter of keys and the connection to the creative urge that speaks the words of the universe through me.

10-21-13 It's my birthday. I am 37 today, the age my parents were when I was born. That's a bit mind blowing in and of itself. This last weekend Kat took me to Astoria for as a birthday gift. We visited the Flavel House, Cultural Museum, and the Jail where they filmed the opening scenes of the Goonies. Each place was interesting in its own way. At the Flavel house, both Kat and I felt the presence of the ghosts on the property. The town itself is an interesting place with a lot of history.

On Sunday, when we got back, we went for a walk and made offerings to Oak, Ash, and Thorn, followed by the offering  make to Dragon. I felt a bit frustrated in regards to the trees, because I'd had trouble identifying them, so Kat pointed out that I just needed to let myself feel as opposed to think about them and she was quite right. I'd been too busy intellectualizing them. This morning, when I meditated, I let myself reach out to them and I connected to them. They told me the symbols I'd gotten during the weekend workshop were symbols I could use in the space/time magic work I'm doing, and were also meant to help me connect with them. I'm going to meditate on those symbols over the next couple of days.

Usually at this time of year, on this day of my birth I transition from one element to another. I've chosen this time around to stick with the element of movement for another year. There's a lot more for me to experience with that element and I'm open to discovering whatever it is I learn.

Happy Birthday to me!

How to deal with depression in a spiritual community

depression Teo Bishop recently wrote a post where he discussed how he was dealing with some depression. He decided to take anti-depressants to help him deal with it, but noted how one of the issues that surrounds depression was one where the spiritual community itself argues that if you're spiritual enough you should be able to handle depression without needing anti-depressants. The problem with this argument is that it assumes that spirituality has the answer to depression and that by having it, you will be free of depression. It's similar to the law of attraction idea that if you don't think you'll get sick, you'll never get sick. It doesn't work. When spiritual communities argue that spirituality alone should be enough to handle depression or anything else along those lines, what they are arguing is that spirituality should somehow solve all problems. But that's not the function of spirituality, and it also ignores the simple fact that each person must develop their own solutions with all the resources they have available to them.

One of my favorite books, Relaxing into Your Being by B. K. Frantzis, demonstrates this understanding. The author explains numerous times that meditation doesn't heal depression and that in fact it may end up causing more depression because of what you are dealing with. He suggests that meditation may not be the best solution for dealing with depression and that therapy and/or medication might be better and that if you are going to use meditation for dealing with internal issues, that you should do it in conjunction with therapy. And I've found, from my own experiences, that such advice is well worth following. Back when I was doing the emptiness working, it became apparent very quickly that I needed therapy as part of the necessary work in order to deal with all the issues that came up around emptiness.

The truth is that when you just turn to spirituality as the solution, you aren't using all the tools at your disposal and you aren't considering the impact it can have on people around you, when they have to deal with you and your issues on a regular basis. Spirituality isn't a universal salve or cure all. It can provide answers and tools for working through things, but its wise to recognize when you need to draw on other resources such as therapy or medication. I also think it's wise to examine your reaction to the feeling of depression. Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with depression that causes people to shy away from acknowledging that they feel depressed. I wonder how much easier it might be to simply acknowledge that you do feel a particular way.

I've had to deal with depression a lot in my life. As I wrote in Inner Alchemy, I did find a way to work with my neurotransmitters which helped me solve an electro chemical imbalance in my brain, but it doesn't mean depression just went away and I never experienced it again. It just means that I no longer had an electro chemical predisposition to being depressed all the time. Nonetheless I still feel depressed on occasion. Even on Friday of last week, I woke up and was in a bit of a funk initially. How I handled it involved first acknowledging that I did feel that way and that it was okay to feel that way. And that's an important first step, which I don't think many people take the time to do. It's ok that you're feeling depressed. There's nothing unnatural about it or wrong with feeling depressed. It can and does effect your functionality and productivity, but maybe that, in and of itself, is worth looking at instead of automatically trying to change it.

One of the problems that people face when it comes to emotions is learning how to sit with those emotions and feel them. We act them out a lot of times, but acting them out isn't necessarily the same as feeling them. Learning how to feel them involves learning to acknowledge that you are feeling the emotion and allowing yourself to feel it.  A lot of people will say, "I don't want to feel depressed" and I can certainly appreciate not wanting to feel that way, but I think so much of the approach to depression is focused on avoiding it that we don't always allow ourselves to fully recognize when we do feel it or consider what it might be trying to tell us.

There are different ways to handle depression. Anti-depressant meds are one way, as therapy is another. I think meditation can be helpful with depression provided some type of oversight is included in the process. I've also found that physical exercise helps me when I'm feeling down, because its causing me to do something that gets me out of whatever mental rut I'm in. Whatever you do to handle depression, just remember that it is okay to feel it, and that acknowledging that you feel it doesn't make you weak, but rather is the first step toward helping you work with those feelings. And don't be afraid to reach out to others who are qualified to help with such feelings, because they can help you make sense of what you are experiencing.

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.

Some thoughts on Applying Process to Meditation

meditation I've just finished reading Working on Yourself Alone By Arnold Mindell (See Review below). He takes an interesting approach to meditation, breaking it down into a process and actually showing different types of meditation processes that a person can work with. What I like best is that he shows how to achieve meditative states of awareness using different channels of experience. This is not something usually addressed in works on meditation because the focus is on teaching meditation within a specific cultural context, but the value of this kind of approach is that meditation is approached as a process with specific steps that can be followed and broken down as needed, in order to determine what works or doesn't work.

Meditation as a process isn't confined to one way of doing meditation. There are different types of meditation and different results. Pathworking, for example, doesn't work with the body in the same way that a breathing meditation would work. Perhaps what most interest me with this book is that the author claims that its not pain that motivates people to change but rather a mixture of love, self-discipline, and enlightenment. I think there's some truth to that, but I think that pain can be a good motivator toward change. Certainly it causes us to be aware of who we are and how we experience life. However, I'd say that following through on sustained change is where discipline, love, and enlightenment come into play. These keep us on track, while also informing us of the progress we've made with our work, and even in meditation there is a need to see some kind of result (though how that result manifests is something that can only be experienced as opposed to predicted or defined).

Meditation as a process does, for the most part seem to be applied around the body. What this means is that the body is an essential element of the process. The body needs to be factored in as an essential element of meditation that be examined to understand what is stopping someone from effectively meditating. I think that the mental chatter should also be included in that examination as a symptom that can be explored to discover root issues that the person needs to work on. I've used mental chatter or monkey mind in my meditations to discover or explore issues that are stopping me from being fully present in my meditation and this in turn has lead to internal work that has allowed me to process and heal from those issues. Some of that work has also involved movement, which the author touches on at some length. Movement is an overlooked component of the meditation process because of the usual stereotypes associated with meditation, but even in those stereotypes movement is a component that has relevance to meditation and its effectiveness or lack thereof.

I like to apply process to everything I do, because understanding the activity flow and components helps you understand what works or what needs to be changed. A given technique becomes much easier to change or replicate once you understand how it works and what components define it. You can strip away the non essentials and still get something significant to happen because you understand the underlying principles that inform how the process works.

Book Review: Working on Yourself Alone by Arnold Mindell

The author applies a process perspective to meditation, explaining how different meditation techniques work and how to achieve meditation by switching techniques. I found it to be a useful book, especially as he demonstrates it through his own practice. He shows how to switch to different meditation modalities and also shows how to strip the technique of cultural context. One downside of this is that he is stripping away certain contextual information that might be useful for the meditation practice. Nonetheless the author does a good job of exploring how meditation works and what can be done to more effectively meditate.

Zhine and Dream Work

zhineI've been having a lot of vivid dreams lately, which have been helpful for doing some internal work, specifically in relationship to some deeper issues of conflict I've been feeling out within myself. Part of what I've been doing during the day to prepare for the dream work is a form of Tibetan meditation called Zhine. Zhine involves maintaining awareness of something around you, without thinking about it, studying it, or anything else. You are simply aware of it.

I have found this to be a challenging exercise because simply being aware of something without thinking about it can be hard. It's a good discipline exercise that challenges you to continually focus on just being aware of the object. Every time you think about it, which includes looking at distinct features or thinking about the color, you have shifted away from awareness and gotten caught up in the reality of what you are aware of. The point is to be simply aware, noticing it, but not thinking about it.

One variation of this exercise that I tried recently involved being aware of a fork that a person was using to eat. I was always aware of where the fork was, but I focused only on the fork as opposed to the person or how the fork was being used.

If you do this long enough and consistently enough, something very interesting happens. Your experience of reality changes subtly. What you are aware of seems less real, more of an image than actual reality. It's there, and yet what is there isn't real. There is a vividness in this experience which lends itself to dream work and makes your dreams more lucid and you more capable of remembering them. This has proven helpful in doing the dream work I've been involved with of late. You can learn more about Zhine by reading about Tibetan Dream work. I recommend the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.

Non-attachment and desire

HarmonyI've been re-reading Relaxing into Your Being by B. K. Frantzis and redoing some of the exercises. I find that it can be easy to take exercises for granted if you do them long enough without really checking in on the source material you drew them from. In my latest reading of this book, the author made a point about how you can cultivate non-attachment and still feel desire and passion for life. I thought it was an interesting point and he further clarified by explaining that when you feel attachment to specific outcomes, what you feel is a reaction to the attachment, something that is obsessively pursued for the sake of the attachment as opposed to genuine appreciation or passion. And I find from my own experiences that this is indeed the case. I have been obsessive at times in my pursuit of specific experiences, in a reactive, non-reflective way that has been more about trying to satisfy an urge as opposed to really being present and understanding the urge. And my pursuit has always left me feeling unsatisfied and more empty than before and yet I have continued on as if the next experience will somehow be different. It never has been.

This is why I've made some changes in my life that I never would have entertained before a couple of years ago. I've come to recognize over time that so much of my behavior has been habitual behavior focused on trying to satisfy an attachment. And all this as really provided me is a sense of loneliness and emptiness that has left me more hungry, more starving, like a Hungry ghost, with a tiny mouth and a bloated belly that can never get enough, and is compulsive about trying to get something, anything, into its belly, without really savoring what it is having. I have recognized these behaviors in my sexual appetites and in my eating habits, and I haven't liked the results or the person I have been.

My choice to recognize attachment and obsession for what it is and then to step away from it and cultivate non-attachment hasn't been easy. It's been on-going work for almost ten years, and in all that time I feel like I've only really begun to make progress in the last couple years as a result of making some lifestyle changes. And yet I find that making those changes hasn't deprived me of the joy or passion that I can feel. I still love to write and paint and practice magic. And I still enjoy food and sex. If anything I enjoy them more because I am no longer pursuing them obsessively, but instead I am choosing to be mindful, to appreciate my experiences, but not be attached to the feelings around the experience. And I am continuing to cultivate non-attachment because it is helping me be more mindful of of my environment and other people.

I don't associate passion with attachment precisely because it is possible to feel passion and not be attached. When I paint a painting, I feel passion for the act of painting and enjoy it as an expression of creativity. I don't feel attachment because it's not something I feel a "need" to do. And I recognize that if I feel a "need" to do something that I should examine that need closely and ask what it really is. Is it a compulsion, something I am doing to try and fill something or is is it a genuine need that needs to be addressed? There is a distinct difference and understanding that difference helps immensely when dealing with attachments. And I recognize that passion, when healthy is a joyful expression of life that doesn't drive a person so much as it supports him/her in the experience.

Questions of the Week Answers 1-2-12

questionEach week, on Facebook and Google plus I will ask people if they have questions and if they do I will post answers on my blog during the following week. I was asked two questions this week. The first one is: Are there any effects from yoga practice upon the magic development? I think with any form of physical exercise or activity there is the potential for it to apply to magical development. In the case of Yoga, it can certainly help you improve breathing, body posture, etc., as well as help you learn how to meditate using different poses. In fact, I'd say one of the chief benefits of Yoga is that it gets you out of your head and into experience of the moment. It can be hard to think of lots of other things, when you need to focus your attention on holding a pose. A deeper exploration of Yoga can also reveal spiritual benefits in terms of allowing you to access internal energy reserves as well as build up those energy reserves. I think the same applies for Eastern Martial arts, but also any form of exercise you do consistently. Exercising requires you to focus on your body, and it can consequently reveal internal reserves, as well as places of tension and stress.

The Second question was: What do you think on psychedelic drugs in use of magic? Do they help for growing up"?
I think of psychedelic drugs or entheogens as crutch, as opposed to being useful for magical or spiritual development. I think there are exceptions, so for example the use Ayahuasuca in South America for Shamanic rituals could be seen as a genuine practice that contributes to the development of a person's spiritual power, but in that case, that kind of spiritual work has been done for a long time under very specific conditions and with specific practices. From what I've observed in general about the use of entheogens, its an exception, rather than a rule that entheogens will help with the use of magic or growing up. In my opinion, its better to learn how to meditate and do all the other work without relying entheogens to get you there. If you are going to use entheogens, bear in mind that you aren't really in control of the experience, and that makes it harder to do magic.

The Value of Refining your Spiritual Practices

While I am an experimenter, I also believe in learning different spiritual practices. All of the practices that I study are subject to revision and I'm excited when I'm able to learn more about a tradition that will help me refine the practices that I'm doing. I'm reading the Six Yogas of Naropa right now. It's a book that is providing me insights into how I can refine the Tibetan shamanic techniques I've been practicing. Short of working with an actual lama its the best resource I have available.

I think its important to continue your practice. You can't afford to be complacent, because there is always something you could learn that will change how you practice it. A while back I was reading a book on core breathing practices for Taoist meditations and it changed my understanding of my breathing practices and how I practiced them significantly. While I was already getting a lot out of those practices, learning how to refine them and learning more about some of the context that informed those practices helped me understand what I could do to improve my workings and helped me appreciate what I was doing.

A magician should always be curious about the magical practices s/he does. No matter how much you know or who or what you've learned those practices from there is always room for refinement and improvement. And the magician who accepts that there is room for improvement spends time learning those practices and looking for more information to refine them, as well as experimenting with what s/he is already working on.

The current book I'm refining has filled in some missing pieces and provided me a way to improve the efficacy of my tumo practices. Undoubtedly as I continue to read other books and incorporate the information into my practices, I'll refine what I'm doing even further. My desire to improve what I'm doing is what helps me make the practices personal. I'm turning what I read into an experience that improves the experiences I've already undergone and improves my awareness and connection with the magical forces I work with.

Refining your practices also teaches you a lot about how to experiment. You carefully examine what you are doing, discovering the underlying principles that make your practice into a process that generates results. You test what you do, comparing it to what you already have done and evaluating it what the differences and similarities are. In short you develop a careful approach to your magical practice that helps you when you experiment because you know that you have to understand what you are doing to make the experiment repeatable and verifiable by others.

Be curious...never settle for what you've already done. Take your practice to the next level by looking for how you can improve it, and for what you can learn that informs what are doing.

Some thoughts on Daily Practices

The other day I was asked about the daily practices I do and when I do them. It was a good question to ask. My daily practices consist of a mixture of physical exercises and meditations. I think that physical exercise is an absolute must and I've always been puzzled that its not something implemented by more magicians, but I suspect that in such cases the people simply haven't realized that physical exercise is spiritual in its own right and that the importance of taking care of your body can't be understated, as your body is the medium by which you experience this world.

My physical exercises consist of Stretches followed by several Tai Chi practices, and then followed up with 5 sets of ten push-ups, 2 sets of 10 Sit-ups, and 2 sets of 10 leg-ups. I also walk on 3-5 times a week, depending on my schedule and the weather. It's not the most rigorous exercise I could do, but it keeps me in shape, and my body seems to genuinely like it.

My meditations consists of Attuning with Reiki each, Raising Psychic Heat in my body, and doing the Zeroing Meditation combined with a Taoist Breathing meditation. I also do an evening silent meditation with Kat. In the past I have done other daily practices. I change my daily practices on occasion to keep me focused and disciplined.

I find it helpful to do daily practice at specific times of the day or when specific events occur during the day. For example, Kat and I typically do our silent meditation before dinner each night and I do my daily practices in the morning, when I first wake up, or soon thereafter. Keeping on schedule helps me stay disciplined and makes the rest of the day more enjoyable because I've followed through on the daily practice.

If you do a daily practice long enough you will find that you crave it and that the days you don't do it will be days where you are less collected and focused. A daily practice brings stability, a focal point, and awareness of a person's space and time in the world.

The occasions where you don't feel like doing your daily practice are occasions that you must push through and do the practice anyway. You will always feel better afterwards and you'll know that by being disciplined you'll have accomplished the single most important thing you can do that day: You took charge of yourself and chose to be responsible in caring for yourself enough to do the daily practice you needed.

If you aren't doing daily practice in your magical work I recommend it. A daily practice builds reserves you can draw on when you need them and helps you stay focused in times of trouble.

Book Review: The Spiritual Dimension of Music by R. J. Stewart

This is a fascinating book that explores how music and magic can be brought together from a musician's perspective. The author discusses how you can use your voice, but also touches on musical theory and even types of music and instruments best suited for music magic. If you don't have a background in music some of the material will go over you head, but there's still a lot you can get from this book that can be applied to your magical practice. The author also provides some useful exercises that help implement the theories he presents. If you are a musician who practices magic I recommend this book, but if you also want a different perspective on magic this book will open your eyes and ears!

The power of thinking big

One of the business books I'm reading right now is the Magic of Thinking Big. While I definitely think its a book that applies to business, it's also a book I'd recommend every magician read. Reading it has been insightful for me in terms of recognizing just how much I already employ the concepts the book discusses in my magical work. The power of thinking big, as it applies to magic, involves the recognition that your thoughts can either limit or broaden your awareness of possibilities. As magicians we use magic to bring possibilities into reality and one of our greatest tools is our ability to envision those possibilities. I've always found that an approach based on positive thinking (which the book espouses) is useful because it allows you to find possibilities as well as question what is laid out before you.

My approach to experimentation has always been based on possibility, specifically seeking possibilities out. While I have a lot of respect for the ongoing traditions and currents in magical work, I also think its important to examine how magic can evolve with the times and needs. Applying positive thinking to my magical work has always allowed me to see what could occur with my magical practice provided I was willing to explore what might seem like even the most outlandish ideas.

There have always been a few people who've argued that such an approach is fluffy or that someone like me is being so open-minded that their brain has fallen out of their skull. Yet I don't think that is the case. The choice to be open-minded and embrace possibilities is liberating because it allows a person to intentionally explore what might work or might not work. There is no right or wrong answer, not when it comes to spirituality and spiritual practice.

I suggest that being open-minded, thinking big, can be just as valuable a skill for your magical practice as any other skill. You may discover a way of looking at the world and your place in it that drives you to make changes that truly help you embody your desired possibilities. You may discover possibilities you never would entertain if you didn't choose to look at the world and yourself in terms of the possibilities instead of the obvious realities. the obvious realities are only as really as we invest ourselves into them.

 

Inner Transformation

In Magical Identity, I discussed at length the importance of internal work to the magical process, and to creating an empowered identity for the magician. I also noted that at least in Western Magic there seemed to be a tendency to gloss over the internal work in favor of achieving practical results. Or on the opposite end, the focus would be on a model such as the Tree of Life, but with little focus on doing internal work. I've found a couple of exceptions, and one of those is R. J. Stewart's work. Actually reading him, in some ways, is like reading William G Gray's work, which makes sense when you consider that Gray was one of Stewart's mentors. But I think the difference I see is a much more articulate focus on internal work.

In Living Magical Arts, Stewart discusses the following about transformation: "Magic begins by changing yourself, but eventually it changes the whole world if enough selves partake of it." He goes onto to note the following about magical symbols (which would includes physical tools such as your cup, rod, sword, wand, etc.: "The main, indeed the only, real function of magical symbols is to transform the magician." This is where he reminds me of William Gray, especially in Magical Ritual Methods, because Gray discusses at length that for the magician to master a tool, s/he ultimately needs to make it part of his/her consciousness.

Now on an aside, one of the reasons I favor a paintbrush as a magical tool is because there is a level or practical work that can be done with it that goes beyond being a symbol. A paintbrush or pen for that matter is a more potent tool and symbol precisely because it offers a level of transformation that goes beyond the symbolic. There is something very magical about touching a pen on paper or a brush on canvas and consequently transforming something into something else. In fact, there's a level of internal work that occurs in such artistic expressions (more on that in a later post).

But getting back to the original topic, I think that magic becomes truly effective when you understand that it fundamentally involves change through intentional transformation, and when you also realize that the most effective magic works by changing the internal reality of the magician first, and then changing the environment around him/her. Results based magic that doesn't factor in the needed internal work is typically reactive magic, done more as a reaction to a problem and as an attempt to solve said problem. Results obtained through a reactive approach to magic don't last long. The magician will sabotage him/herself because some part of his/her internal reality doesn't agree with the obtained result.

To truly understand transformation and change, you must be willing to shape yourself as well as shape the environment around you. It might even be argued that you need to be willing to be shaped by the magic, in order to truly benefit from it. Fundamentally what is being asked is: "Are you truly ready and willing to handle the responsibility of changing your reality?" You can only answer yes when you've done the internal work that allows you to critically examine your place in the universe and willingly change that place by changing your internal reality. Place, or space isn't just a physical placement...it is a metaphysical, emotional, and mental place as well. It is the embodiment of your relationship with the universe. To change your place, work from within, and let it manifest without.

In the majority of the magical work I currently do the focus is on embodying the magic, starting from within, or bringing the desired possibility into my space, and choosing to become it and letting it move me accordingly. Genuine transformation is the understanding that you are moved by the magic and by your own commitment to doing the necessary internal work that paves the way to the new expression of reality that expresses your connection with the universe and the space you embody.

Meeting the author through writing

I can't say all writing does this for me, but I've had a few experiences in my life where I've felt that reading the books of a given author has put me in touch with that author directly, in a way that I'd think of as spiritual transmission of sorts. It's actually happened with four different authors, although I've only actually met one of those authors in the flesh. The first author it ever happened with was William S. Burroughs. He was dead by the time I read his books, but reading his books put me in touch with the Old Man on the Mountain. Burroughs was there in the text, ready to come forth if the right person read his works. It's no surprise to me that his work has influenced my own approaches to magic, both in terms of textual magic and design and in other forms of practical magic. Even though I never met him in person, my encounter with him via text was one I've never forgotten. He is always there, ready to be found in his writing.

The second author and the only one I've ever met is Storm Constantine. I read her Wraeththu series and while it was a fantasy series, it was one that nonetheless felt channeled. My encounter with the spirit of Thiede, who became a permanent part of my pantheon was a powerful one, and subsequent books in the series have continued to embody that. But I also got a sense of Storm the writer and when I contacted her via email there was an immediate connection between us that is sustained to this day in the work we do together via Immanion Press. It's fair to say that Storm is one of those people I needed to meet in order to move forward with my calling and spiritual process.

William G. Gray is another author who's spirit I've encountered via his books. It's fair to say that there has been something of a spiritual transmission, at least in terms of how I approach the process of magic. Gray, in his own writing, is very systematic in his description of magical processes and I've felt his presence as I've read the books. In discussions with several people who actually knew him, I've described his presence and they've indicated it was an accurate description of him. I don't feel his presence as much now, because I think I've gotten the gist of what he wanted me to know via his writing, but as with Burroughs I can still sense his presence when I read his works.

The last author is one I've recently started reading, and I'm not sure if it's so much a spiritual transmission from him or just the fact that I can pick up something of William Gray's influence in the writing. I haven't met R. J. Stewart at this point, but when I read his writing I feel a sense of familiarity with it, and with the systematic descriptions that he provides, and it turns out that at one time he did study under Gray. So with this one I'm less certain as to whether its really a spiritual transmission or just the fact that there is some resonance in the writing that reminds me of the spirit of an author I have encountered.

I've met many other occult writers and read their books and I've gotten a lot from their works, but this kind of intimate connection is something that has been rare for me to experience. Have any of you had such experiences?

Embodied spirituality and liberation

I posted this recently via my various social media accounts:

An embodied spirituality recognizes the value of the material world and celebrates it and experiences as an inherent part of a person's spiritual evolution. When the body is discarded as dirty or something to be left behind, and desires are perceived as unacceptable or attachments that hold us back, the person loses an essential perspective that is necessary for genuine transformation. The body, desires, etc, ground us and provide a way to experience the immediacy of a situation and learn from it. The body is not a shackle...it is part of our liberation.

Recent conversations I've had around enlightenment as well as a continued practice of Tantric philosophy and spirituality prompted this observation. I genuinely believe that the body is an essential part of human spirituality and that the denial of it is a dysfunction brought about for reasons that are related to either over population or to a fixation on an ultimate reward that involves transcending the body.

A better approach would be to recognize the role of the body as a mediator of physical existence and spiritual identity. Additionally, people who take this perspective would also carefully consider the consequences their choices have on the environment and each other and thus would question consumerism and explore what it means to have enough vs what it means to live in excess.

True liberation isn't found in deprivation or excess but in a balanced perspective that celebrates the glory of life while also cultivating it for future generations. Thus tending your own garden where you grow food is a spiritual and practical activity. It teaches you the value of cultivating life, the recognition of death as a transformative agent that is also part of evolution, and the necessity of using resources wisely instead of wasting them.

Your body is part of your liberation, and the sensual experiences it provides is a part of that process, but equally as important is learning how to take care of yourself. Thus exercise is just as liberating as any other activity, and eating a healthy diet is important for cultivating your life. These activities can be just as spiritual as meditation provided we apply a mindful awareness to them.

A desire can be liberating both for the experience of it and the choice to not experience it. Longing is as much a celebration of desire as is the experience of the desire, and longing can teach patience but also liberation in terms of recognizing the true value of a given desire. The experience of desire can be a liberating experience provided we know how to enjoy it without allowing it to enslave us. Thus the need for balance and consideration of the body as a spiritual teacher which allows us to embody our desires but also uses them to teach us from experience how best to truly find liberation in our experiences and in our choices to sometimes delay having the experience to know its true value.

Where psychology fits into magic

Jason recently posted about some of his thoughts on where psychology fits into magic. He and I share a similar opinion about the perspective of treating magic as just a psychological phenomenon, but I agree with the point he makes: There is a place for psychology within magic. In Magical Identity, I discuss different psychological methodologies and how they can be applied for magical work, especially for internal work.

One of the areas that I personally feel is neglected far too much by magicians is internal work, i.e. working with your internal values, beliefs, attitudes, and dysfunctional issues. Meditation is one method for doing internal work and when it's combined with psychology, it can be truly dynamic. I've made some amazing breakthroughs using meditation as well as working with a therapist, and applying psychological perspectives to my work, which in turn has allowed me to achieve greater clarity and focus in my life, making the living of it much, much easier. I've actually found that the need to do more overt acts decreases when you do internal work.

Before I did internal work and underwent therapy, I was a mess. I could practice magic as effectively as any of them, but my use of magic was mostly reactive, used to solve a crisis or problem, but with little thought put toward understanding my role in that crisis or problem. Choosing to do internal work freed me from a lot of unhealthy behaviors and provided me the opportunity to become much more proactive and focused in my magical work.

Aside from that psychology can provide a useful avenue of exploration in terms of understanding your magical process and how specific techniques work. It's fair to say that my background in social sciences informs my magical process and some of that background is related to psychology. Where I make a key distinction is recognizing the limitations of using psychology to describe magic. It's a different discipline and where there are insights, there are also limitations.

 

 

If I had only one technique I could keep it would be...

Meditation. Jason Miller said much the same thing in the Strategic Sorcery Course. I think meditation is the most crucial skill a magician can have. It's something I do as consistently as possible. Occasionally I miss days, and I can always tell when I miss a day because I'm less focused. Meditation is similar in benefit to exercising on a daily basis: It keeps you toned.

There are some magicians who will say they can't meditate, but I don't buy that. They can meditate, but they're unwilling to discipline themselves enough to do so and they've likely bought into the popular idea that meditation is just about emptying your mind (that's one form of meditation, but not the only kind). The key is to accept that if you do have random thoughts arise, you don't give up. You note them, maybe even follow them, and then return to the breathing, letting it carry you deeper and deeper into an altered state of consciousness. It takes some work, but if you are consistent about it, you'll succeed eventually.

I think one reason people say they can't meditate is that they are so distracted by every thought and emotion, and perhaps even afraid to face those thoughts and emotions. Meditation does give you the chance to work through thoughts and emotions and sometimes its not fun. But doing it frees you of those thoughts and emotions. It gives you clarity, focus, awareness, and perspective.

Meditation teaches you to sort through the chaos of your internal reality. It's doing the internal work, so that the external work of living your life and manifesting your magic is a lot easier. Certainly in taking up a dedicated practice of meditation I have needed to do less overt acts of magic, save on the rare occasions where its really warranted. By doing the internal work, my life has gotten much easier. It didn't happen over night, buts it a cumulative effect if you are consistent.

So that's the one technique or practice I'd keep. What about you?

Appreciation for the moment

One of the most mindful practices we can do each day involves finding appreciation for the moment. Appreciation for the moment is really the ability to take everything in without having to filter or label it. It just is. You are one with the environment around you and within you. It's a practice that can be done each day, but it takes discipline to do it, because cultivating such a mindset isn't something that comes naturally to people. Monkey mind is always active, chittering away about random incidents from the day, or wondering when something will happen or who knows what else.

An initial approach is to enjoy something beautiful, like a view of the sky or a natural feature such as a mountain or the ocean, something so large that it can create an appreciation for all of you. But you won't always have access to those features. So finding appreciation for the moment can also involve simply taking in the everyday and appreciating it. A walk in your neighborhood can be an opportunity to practice mindful appreciation, or spending time in your garden or doing chores. Allow the activity to define the reality and appreciate it as an opportunity to be in the moment.

Meditation that's focused in this way involves taking in the world as part of the meditation. You allow the activity to take over for your thoughts. You let the scenery become part of your sense of self. Everything is a reflection of your relationship with the world and with yourself. Te simplest way to practice is to simply take it all in. Let it fill you, lose yourself in the moment.