Secrets of Magic No. 40: Reach for the stars

Ancient astronomers studied the sky, as we do, to learn about the universe. They were interested not just in the movement of the celestial bodies, but in how they affect our lives on earth. Today the study of the sky does not include the practice of astrology. However astrologers still track the effect of the planets in our lives.

The ancients knew that each planet represents a way of being in the world. The planets weave their effects on the world like threads in a tapestry. When we understand their influence we can work with them to bring their energy into our lives.

Today the art of astrology has separated from the science of astronomy. However astrology still surrounds us. We have all seen daily horoscopes in the paper. These are great fun to read, but they are very general, applying to one-twelfth of the people on the planet on any given day!

Astrology is a marvelous tool to enable us to begin to examine our lives. It’s like a journal entry someone else writes about us. When we study the position of the planets in our chart, we get an idea of the kinds of concerns that focus our lives. The stars don’t tell us what will be, but indicate what forces might affect us, and ways we might habitually respond to them. This knowledge gives us choices about what we do and how we react.

There are two main kinds of astrological charts that contain useful ideas for us. The natal chart, commonly called a horoscope, illustrates the position of the planets in the sky at the time that we were born. Less well known but just as interesting is the solar return chart, one cast for us on our birthday in the place where we live. The natal chart indicates a general tendency of personality, while the solar return indicates issues of immediate concern to us in the upcoming year.

I study the power of the stars.

Practice: Horoscopes

  • Daily horoscope:save the daily horoscope in the paper every day for a week. Don’t read it on the day it forecasts, but instead, read it the following day. Make a note in your journal about how accurately it described the day you lived.
  • Natal horoscope: Have your natal chart cast. Many online services offer this for a very low fee. Look at the position of your sun in your chart. This is usually what people refer to as their “sign”. Another equally useful indicator is your rising sign. Is it the same as your sun sign? Use an astrology book or online resources to study the character of your rising sign and your sun sign. What does each tell you about yourself?
  • Birthday horoscope: Have your solar return chart cast. This is a great practice for your birthday. Study the position of the rising sign and the position of the sun. How has this changed from your natal chart? How might that affect your current areas of focus?

Secrets of Magic No. 39: Remember your dreams

All humans dream. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and a significant percentage of that time dreaming, usually entering the dream state four or five times a night. Dreams help us assimilate what has happened during the day. We use our dreams to solve problems, work out how we feel, and resurrect memories.

Dreams are conversations we have with ourselves. During the day our consciousness directs our attention and largely controls how we interact with the world. At night, as we sleep, other parts of our psyches present to us the observations they have made that consciousness missed. In dreams we explore desires and reactions that we cannot consciously acknowledge. Dreams form a safe space for us to try on other ways of being and acting. The dream world allows us to synchronize parts of ourselves.

We can help that synchronization process by remembering our dreams. When we review dreams during waking consciousness we can begin to integrate the lessons and experiments of the dream world into our daytime lives. Dreams tell us a great deal about ourselves. They spark our imaginations, helping us to dream big. They loosen up our magical muscles, helping us to focus on what it is we really do want, pointing our magic in the direction it needs to go to create happy lives.

Dreaming has its own language. By day, we experience ourselves as a single person, living in linear time, with one moment flowing into another. In dreams, we may jump from being one person in the dream to being an entirely different person. Time may flow forward or backward. We do things impossible for us in the daytime world, like jumping over buildings, walking across water, or flying.

Some images, objects, and experiences happen in our dreams again and again. Dream books interpret symbols as if they will always mean the same thing to everyone. Each of us has unique life experiences that give our dream images meanings that are particular to us. Remembering our dreams teaches us our own dream language. It may be immediately obvious what the dream symbol means. As the image comes back again we may gradually come to understand what it means. Or we can do an internal dialogue, asking the symbol to talk to us and explain itself to us.

Some dreams are exciting, some are pleasant, some are puzzling, and some are downright frightening. Nightmares show us our fears, force confrontations with things we don’t want to admit, and provide warnings about possible events in our lives. As we become more aware of our dreaming selves we learn to end nightmares by remembering we are dreaming and waking ourselves up.

The easiest time to remember a dream is right after dreaming it. Often we wake up after a dream cycle. We don’t usually remember this because we fall asleep right away. Now that we are determined to remember our dreams, however, we may find ourselves waking up more completely. At first we might only do this once or twice a night. As we work more and more with our dreams, we may find ourselves recording more dreams, up to five or six a night!

Dreams are a potent source of insight into ourselves. Remembering our dreams helps us tap into our own power.

I remember my dreams.

Practice: Send yourself on a magical journey
Put a pad of paper next to your bed. You can use your journal, or a special dream book, or just a scratch pad. The important thing is to be able to find it and write in it.

If you wake up in the morning and you haven’t recorded any dreams, see if you can remember the last dream you had before you woke, and record those. Keep giving yourself the affirmation before you go to sleep.

When you wake up after a dream, grab your pad and scribble a few notes about the dream. If you can’t turn on a light, you can still write, just keep your hand moving. You don’t need to record the entire dream. Focus on a few key words: “Bridge, lake, Tara, watch.” When you reread these, you remember that in the dream you were ten years old, crossing a bridge over a lake, on your way to seeing a woman named Tara, who in the dream was your sister, to give her a watch.

In the daytime you can work on the dream. First, you can record it in your journal with a few sentences. Now you can go back into the dream while you are conscious. The dream ended before you finished your task. Now see yourself back at the bridge. You walk over the lake, find Tara, and give her the watch.

You still aren’t sure who Tara is, and why you are giving her a watch. Ask the Tara in your mind, “Who are you?” and listen for the response. Tara may tell you she is there to teach you how important it is for you to relax. You realize you are giving her a watch so that you stop watching time so closely. You can jot a few notes about the work you have done in your journal.

Secrets of Magic No 38: Take magical journeys

Imagination is one of the great human powers. We use our imagination when we write affirmations and dare to dream. Another way we can use our imaginations is to take journeys into other realms.

The ability to rise beyond the immediate moment and fly to another place is an important safety valve. Each of us will find ourselves physically constrained at some point in our lives. We might be confined to our beds or a hospital room with an injury or illness, or be jailed, or just stuck in a waiting room with nothing to do. When we are trapped by a circumstance we cannot immediately change, we can transport ourselves to a place which provides us with the peace, healing, or stimulation that we need.

Magical journeys allow us to explore realms beyond the physical world. Our journeys bring us knowledge and experiences that transcend our everyday lives.

Taking a magical journey is like making our own private movie, one in which we are the heroes, and we can go wherever we want to go. We can visit ancient Egypt, talk to a medieval philosopher, swim with whales in the ocean or fly with birds in the air, or explore astral realms beyond the physical world.

We start and end our journeys by being present. Tuning into the moment provides us a stable launch for our journeys and grounding when we return. The more we practice being present, the easier it is for us to focus and concentrate while we take our magical journeys.

It is helpful to have a place in our imagination where we can start and end our journeys. We might imagine ourselves being in our calm space when we begin our journey and return to it when the journey is ended. We can also create a special place to act as the launch pad and landing pad for our journeys: a green meadow in a forest, a cozy room with an armchair before a fireplace, or a private temple with marble flooring.

Although it is not necessary, we might find that we have a guide who leads us on our journeys. This guide might be present on all our journeys, or be a different guide for each place that we go. The guide might be an animal, or an angel, or a famous person from the past.

One way to take a magical journey is to find a picture that we like. It might show a road leading along a river, or a bright sunset over majestic mountains, or a group of people having a picnic. We can step into the picture and walk along the river. What happens just around the bend? What do the people having the picnic say to us? Is there a lodge in the mountains, or a cave where we can sleep through the night?

When we seek something specific in our journeys, such as peace, or healing, or stimulation, we can keep this in mind as we take the journey. If we are confined to a bed because of illness or injury, we might visit the healing temple of Aesclepius in ancient Greece. If we are stuck in a waiting room, we can entertain ourselves with a journey. Perhaps we can transport ourselves to a famous moment in the past: the first performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theater in London, the crowning of an Egyptian pharaoh, George Washington’s inauguration. If we want to move awareness away from our bodies altogether, we can shape shift, imagining ourselves in an animal body, turning into a sleek cougar, or a soaring hawk, or a swimming turtle.

Many people have taken magical journeys and written about them. We can learn from the experiences of others, using their descriptions to launch our own magical explorations.

I take magical journeys whenever I desire.

Practice: Send yourself on a magical journey

Decide on your journey place, the space where you will start your magical journey, and where you will return when you have completed the journey. This can be your calm place, or a place you use only for magical journeys. Choose the focus for your first journey—a picture, a place elsewhere in the world, a time in the past.

Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie on the floor or on your bed. Take a moment to be present, noticing the room around you, and tuning into how your body feels.

Go to your journey place. Say, “I take a magical journey to” and name the place you have chosen. See yourself stepping into the picture, or stepping through a door into the place or time you have chosen. Are you on a road, or in a building? Are you alone in the place, or is there a person or other being waiting there for you?

Put yourself in the picture. What are the colors in the place? What sounds do you hear? What smells does the place have? Is the air cool or warm?

Time to explore! What’s farther along the road? Is there a door in the room that leads elsewhere? Is your guide beckoning you onward?

If your mind wanders, return to the last place on the journey you remember. You might be becoming tired, or some part of you needs to assimilate your experience. You might also need to build up your ability to concentrate. It’s okay for your first journeys to be short ones. You may find that you can take longer journeys as you become more experienced.

When you are ready to return, take yourself back to your journey place. You can walk back along the road you have taken, or simply find yourself transported back to the place where you started.

Now bring your awareness back to the present moment. Look around the place you are in, notice the colors. Feel the temperature of the air on your skin.

Finally, make a note in your journal about the journey you have taken. You can describe it in detail, or just record the date, the place you went, and one word describing the journey.

Secrets of Magic No 37: Be present

Many spiritual disciplines teach us that living in the present is a source of great calm and peace. Much of our emotional misery stems from focusing on the past or anticipating the future. When we bring our awareness to this exact place, this exact moment, we can leave behind the pain of the past and the fear of the future.

It is a great joy to come to our senses. Being present means looking through our eyes, hearing with our ears, feeling what is happening with the body right now. We tune into the beauty of the world and our enjoyment of being embodied.

The world presents so much information to us that we normally screen out almost all of it. We are so used to doing this that we are completely unconscious of this process. When we shift our awareness to what is going on around us right now, it can feel as if we are being swept away in a stream. It’s hard to grasp the totality of our immediate experience. We find consciousness shifting from one sound to another, narrowing down to one thing in our field of vision, noticing the temperature of the room without being aware of the tension in our shoulders.

We may find that there is something in our immediate experience that is very difficult for us to handle. We may be carrying physical pain, or be limited in movement, or living with a nearly intolerable stressor. (If the stressor in your life threatens your health or safety, look at the section on emergency help.)

Breathing exercises can help us handle immediate discomfort. Breathe deeply, expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs. Now exhale deeply, breathing out the pain and stress. Inhale again, breathing in white light and comfort which fills your entire body.

When we are truly present, we notice many things that had previously escaped our attention. We really see the people around us. We tune into the energy that surrounds us. The entire world can seem brighter and sharper, filled with a new light and energy. Being present helps us to focus. It is one of the great sources of our power.

I move my awareness to the present at any time I desire.

Practice: Be in the now

Wherever you are right now, check out your environment. How many colors do you see? How many sounds can you hear? What is your body doing right now?

Practice coming to your senses every day for a week. You can write a journal entry about what you experience.

This seemingly simple practice is one of the hardest secrets to master. We come back to it over and over in our magical lives.

Secrets of Magic No 36: Build a calm space

Tension is more than physical, it is also an emotional state. We carry clouds of anxiety and depression around with us. Learning to release emotional tension and live in peace and happiness is a major goal for many religions, therapies, and philosophies.

One of the real secrets of magic is learning how to manage the energy of our emotions instead of letting that energy manage us. As we do magical practices, and follow the magical path, we find that we harness our emotions to form a source of energy for our magic.

A good place to begin is to create an interior place of serenity. This can be a memory of a perfect place you have visited, like a Mexican bungalow, or it can be strictly imagined, like a cabin in the woods on a cliff by the sea. Whenever you are anxious or agitated—at work, in a conversation, trying to sleep at night, grab a moment of privacy to relax, take a few deep breaths, and enter your calm space.

I enter my calm space at any time I desire.

Practice: Creating your calm space

Spend a few minutes each day building your calm space in your mind. Is it indoors or outdoors? Big or small? If it’s indoors, how many rooms does the space have? What is the furniture like? If it’s outdoors, are there trees and plants, is there a view? What is the weather like in the space?

Now walk around the space. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?

Secrets of Magic No 35: Breathe deeply

Breathing is so automatic that many of us never think about it. We can fall into bad breathing habits, sitting slumped, breathing shallowly, breathing through our mouths. Tension pools at the solar plexus, tightening our breathing.

Deep breathing brings oxygen into the body. Taking a big breath and letting it out helps to release tension. During relaxation practices, inhale while you tense each muscle, and then exhale as you relax the muscle.

We can time our breathing to the beating of our hearts. Find your pulse, at your wrist or neck, or wherever it is easy for you to feel. Breathing normally, count how many heartbeats it takes you to inhale, and how many it takes you to exhale.

Cyclic breathing is a basic tool of magic. Besides helping us to breath deeply and to relax tension, it serves as a marker that we are doing magic. Over time, when we do cyclic breathing, we automatically and quickly move into a magical state of mind.

I breathe deeply to relax and practice magic.

Practice: Cyclic breathing

Each day this week, do one of these breathing practices. You can switch them each night, so that you do the four beat breathing on the first day, six beat breathing on the second day, ten beat breathing on the third day, and then on the fourth day start over with four beat breathing. On the seventh day, you can do all three!

You can do them in bed at night. You can also sit in a chair, or sit in a yogic posture on the floor. Wherever you do these practices, make sure to keep your back straight so your diaphragm can move easily.

Four beat breathing
Feel your pulse to establish your rhythm. Inhale for four heartbeats, hold your breath for four heartbeats, exhale for four heartbeats, and hold your exhalation for four heartbeats. Repeat four times.

Four beat breathing helps us to learn to breathe consciously. It is a good starting rhythm for doing magic.

Six beat breathing
Feel your pulse to establish your rhythm. Inhale for six beats, hold your breath for two beats, exhale for six beats, hold your exhalation for two beats. Repeat six times.

Six beat breathing helps us to learn to breathe deeply. It gives us energy to do magic.

Ten beat breathing
Feel your pulse to establish your rhythm. Inhale for ten beats, hold your breath for three beats, exhale for ten beats, hold your exhalation for three beats. Repeat ten times.

Ten beat breathing helps us enter a trance state. It aids us in doing affirmations, visualizations, and energy work.

If you find it difficult to quiet your mind while doing breathing practices, try repeating the affirmation while you do the practice.

Secrets of Magic No 34: Relax

We can get so tense about achieving exactly the result we want that we get in our own way. The first step in using magic effectively is to learn to relax. This is very easy to say but sometimes hard to do!

Many of us work at jobs that stress our bodies. Office workers sit for long stretches. Keyboarders use the same motions repetitively. Cleaners, construction workers, wait staff, all work hard physically all day long. Whatever we do, whether we move a lot during the day or hardly move at all, we can all benefit from taking a stretch break. Stand up, bend over, take deep breaths. Many of us carry tension in our shoulders, jaws, clenched stomachs. Shaking ourselves out can help loosen that tension.

Magic starts with tuning into our bodies. Try checking in with yourself several times a day. Are you tired, hungry, cold, hot? Check your tension trouble areas, and tense and relax those muscles, releasing the tension.

I relax my body at will.

Practice: Full body relaxation.

Each night this week as you lie in bed, do a full body relaxation. Lying on your back, tense each of your muscles in turn, then relax them. Start with your toes, then move through your legs, back, stomach, chest, arms, hands and fingers, shoulders, neck, and face. See how many muscles you can move individually. If you find that your mind wanders during the practice, try saying the affirmation while you do it. This practice can help you relax into sleep too!

Secrets of Magic No 33: Saturn sets limits

Saturn is the last planet the ancients could see. The next planet from the sun after Jupiter, Saturn too is a gas giant, one surrounded with spectacular rings, photographed by the spacecraft Cassini-Huygens during its exploratory mission beginning in 2004 and ending in 2017.

As the slowest and farthest planet known to the ancients, Saturn seemed to define the limits of the universe. For that reason the sphere of Saturn has been considered the sphere of structure, endings, and even death.

Saturn’s orbit lasts for 28 years. It takes that long to return to the place where it was located in the sky when we were born. With each orbit we celebrate what astrologers know as a Saturn return, at age 28, 56, 84, and 112 (although very few humans live so long!) At age 28 many of us have left the concerns of youth and established ourselves in our adult lives. By age 56 our children have grown, our bodies are changing, and we re-consider the direction of our lives. Age 84 is in the area of the life expectancy of people in the developed world. Improvements in health care strive to increase this to 112!

The ancients considered Saturn to represent a grim power. Although the power of limitation can be frightening, it is structure that provides us with the support we need to live our lives. In this way the power of Saturn is similar to the power of earth: heavy, dark, but stable and solid. Saturn’s power also resembles the power of the dark moon to bring situations to an end.

We use the energy limits when we decide to take care of our health. We might limit our intake of certain foods, require ourselves to exercise, set a bedtime to ensure we get enough sleep. When we exercise authority we often set limits for others, setting scheduled, assigning deadlines, and establishing rules. The power of limits also helps us to defend ourselves, by determining a threshold for the power others exercise over our lives.

I exercise the power of limits.

Practice: Saturn return meditation
Have you experienced a Saturn return? Think about the events that happened to you during that year. What things ended, what new things happened in your life? If a Saturn return is coming up, how might your life be changing?

What limits do you set on others when you exercise authority? Are these limits often perceived by others as rigid? You might need to loosen the strict grip of Saturn. Are your limits often ignored? You may need to bring a little more Saturn into your life to enforce necessary limits.

Do you feel constricted by the limits others place on you? You might use a little more Mars energy, exercising the power to run your own life, and claiming Jupiter’s authority over yourself.

Write a journal entry describing the foods you do not eat, either because they are processed or high in calories, or because you have discovered they are not good for you. Are there foods you eat often that you know you should eat less, or not at all? How much sleep do you get and how much do you need? Setting a bedtime and sticking to it can help you get the sleep you need.

Is there a situation that you know you must bring to an end? Write a journal entry describing this. Once you have defined the circumstances, you can bring the secrets of magic to bear on the situation, to set limits, resolve the situation, and bring it to a conclusion.

Secrets of Magic No 34: Relax

We can get so tense about achieving exactly the result we want that we get in our own way. The first step in using magic effectively is to learn to relax. This is very easy to say but sometimes hard to do!

Many of us work at jobs that stress our bodies. Office workers sit for long stretches. Keyboarders use the same motions repetitively. Cleaners, construction workers, wait staff, all work hard physically all day long. Whatever we do, whether we move a lot during the day or hardly move at all, we can all benefit from taking a stretch break. Stand up, bend over, take deep breaths. Many of us carry tension in our shoulders, jaws, clenched stomachs. Shaking ourselves out can help loosen that tension.

Magic starts with tuning into our bodies. Try checking in with yourself several times a day. Are you tired, hungry, cold, hot? Check your tension trouble areas, and tense and relax those muscles, releasing the tension.

I relax my body at will.

Practice: Full body relaxation.

Each night this week as you lie in bed, do a full body relaxation. Lying on your back, tense each of your muscles in turn, then relax them. Start with your toes, then move through your legs, back, stomach, chest, arms, hands and fingers, shoulders, neck, and face. See how many muscles you can move individually. If you find that your mind wanders during the practice, try saying the affirmation while you do it. This practice can help you relax into sleep too!

Secrets of Magic No 32: Jupiter conveys authority

Jupiter, the next planet out from the sun after Mars, is the first of the gas giants, planets composed primarily of gases rather than rock. Recent exploration vehicles have sent home more information about this planet. In 1994 the comet Shoemaker-Levy collided with Jupiter over several days, causing spectacular explosions captured by the spacecraft Galileo, the Hubble Space Telescope, and by many large telescopes around the world.

Jupiter’s long orbit suggested majesty to the ancients. Such a stately planet could only be described as royal. The sphere of Jupiter came to represent the realm of authority.

Authority is closely linked to power. When we exercise power over others, we are wielding authority over them, and when others have authority over us, they have the power to affect our lives.

Each of us has places in our lives where we exercise authority and places where we are under the authority of others. Parents exercise authority over their children, an authority which is shared with other adults in our families, schools, and governmental agencies. Even children can exercise authority, over other children, pets, and their own impulses.

Because we live in societies composed of cooperating individuals, very few humans on the planet exercise absolute authority over themselves or anyone else. Those who do are regarded with deep suspicion and disapproval by the world community. The rest of us fall somewhere on a continuum between having absolute control over our lives and having no control. Even those in prison exercise some control over our circumstances.

Since magic teaches us to exercise power, it acts to increase our ability to affect our lives. Magic moves us along the authority continuum toward self-sufficiency and independence.

I exercise authority.

Practice: Exercising authority

What ways do others exercise authority over you? Of course police and judges enforce the laws of the government. You might be living with someone, renting a house, working at a job where you are supervised by a manager. Write a journal entry describing the authority figures in your life. Are you comfortable with the power they exercise over you? If you could increase the freedom in your life, what would you choose to focus on first? Do you want to own your own house or run your own business? Record this in your journal. Once you decide where to focus your energy, you can start using the secrets of magic to achieve the result you want.

What ways do you exercise authority over others? You might exercise considerable power as a manager or a teacher. Even if you don’t have a position of overt authority, you might teach a class, act as a babysitter, end up closing a store at night. What do you like about your style? What would you like to improve? Have you learned the lessons of cooperation as well as competition? Many of us hesitate to put ourselves forward as people with authority. Write a journal entry beginning, “I would like to have authority as…” Think about the steps you would take to achieve that position.

Secrets of Magic 31: Mars is power

Mars is the next planet after ours from the sun. In many ways Mars seems like a smaller sibling to our planet. This planet may have housed life at some time. It has an atmosphere something like ours and bears evidence that seems to indicate that the planet had water in the past.

The red color of Mars attracted ancient conceptions of war. Today most of us do not think of war in a positive light. Many humans seek to end war on our planet, making a safe and happy life for every one of us.

Mars embodies more than just the force of arms. The red planet points to the exercise of power. Because many of the world’s cultures prize competition rather than cooperation, we have come to understand power in to mean the domination of some human beings by others. Often the people around us who have power use that power to gain advantage for themselves and their families and friends, sometimes at the expense of others. Too often power means the ability to hurt others and get away with it.

Because vying for power means competing with others and hurting them, people often become frustrated and decide to give up power altogether. Sadly, being powerless can mean leaving ourselves and our families vulnerable to those who have no scruples about trying to control our lives.

Fortunately there is another way to think about and use power. Cooperation is more effective than competition. Competition determines which human in a group is the strongest, but when humans combine their muscles, brains, and hearts, the group is much stronger than its strongest member. Many neighborhood coalitions have discovered that a committed group can accomplish major changes, challenging the power of governments and large corporations, and banding together to build parks, save schools, and rescue families in distress.

Magic is the power of the universe. Mars is our will to use that power. We decide that we will take control of our lives. We can choose to compete, at athletics, academically, or in the workplace. We can also choose the cooperative path, volunteering, joining existing organizations, founding new groups, and committing ourselves to living in harmony with our neighbors. Happily, we can choose to compete in some times and places while cooperating at other times and places, moving from one mode of exercising power to another.

Affirmation: I hold the power to control my life.

Practice: making it happen
Think about times you have competed for something and won. You might have applied with many others to rent a house, gotten a job over several others, earned an A in a class graded on a curve, won a race or a game. What factors allowed you to win? When you did not win the competition, what factors contributed to the loss?

Think about times you have cooperated with others. You might have had a team project in school, built a house, joined a sports team, sung in a choir. What did you enjoy about this experience? What did you dislike? Were there ways that the group could have cooperated more efficiently?

Write a journal entry beginning, “I have always wanted to compete in…” List the steps required to engage in that activity. Try writing affirmations that would support you in a bid to compete in the activity you have written about. If competing makes you uncomfortable, you are in very good company! Most of us hesitate to enter into the competitive arena. You can build your competition stamina, for example by playing games with your friends and family.

Now write a journal entry beginning, “I have always wanted to belong to…” List the steps you would need to take to join the group or organization that you have written about. Make some affirmations in your journal that would help you link up with the people you have written about. If social occasions make you nervous, know that almost everyone is shy in new groups! You can start with an easy group. Many volunteer clubs welcome any new members with hands willing to pitch in with the work.