Secrets of Magic No 48: Love is all that matters

Love is the most amazing substance in the universe. Love binds people together like glue and washes away problems like a solvent. With love, we can survive the most grievous accidents, but without love, even in the richest house, we can perish of loneliness.

When we are alone, when we have not been cared for by our families, or when we have been betrayed by a lover, spouse, or friend, we often contract around that pain. The act of loving itself seems to be dangerous, exposing us to the risk of being rejected, or the exposure of our most vulnerable needs and fears. We protect ourselves, vowing not to show affection until we receive it, until we know that it is safe.

This is an example of the secret that to get, we must first give. When we give love, we get love. We don’t have to start by loving people who have hurt us or do not mean us well. We can start with the people who do love us. Let them know how we feel.

If we are not connected to others, we can take the first steps to establish connections. When we explore the power of Mars we learn to join social groups as a volunteer. This practice brings us into contact with others. The more time we spend with people, the greater the likelihood that we will establish a meaningful relationship with one or two friends.

There are many people who are lonely and in need of friends and companionship. These include our most vulnerable groups, the very young and very old. We can connect with children through big brother and sister programs and volunteer youth programs. Nursing homes, assisted living centers, and senior centers are always in need of volunteers to interact with the many elderly people who have few or no friends or family members to visit them.

Love is the foundation of all our magic. The most important thing we can do is to learn to love ourselves. For some of us, this will be easy, as we grew up well cared for in happy homes. Others of us who experienced more difficult childhoods and faced greater adversity may find it harder to embrace ourselves. By loving others, caring for their well-being, we learn that love is possible in our lives, that we can receive love in return, and we can give love to ourselves.
I love and I am loved.

Practice: Sustaining connections

Who do you love? Do they know that you love them? Tell the people you love that you love them. It may be hard, or seem silly. Surely they know by your actions? The practice of making yourself speak the words, giving them physical presence in the world, makes the connection tangible and unmistakable.

If starting with people is too big a step, w practice loving an animal or a plant. Tell the pet or plant about your feelings of affection.

Is there someone in your life you would like to be your friend? Do they know that? Your overtures might not be obvious. Invite them out for coffee or tea. Let them know you are interested in spending time with them. Then, spend the time!

Secrets of Magic No 47: Accidents happen

Life isn’t fair. Sometimes the bad guys win, bad things happen to good people, and justice is not served. We do not always get what we deserve when we deserve it. Things happen to us that we did not expect and did not invite.

Every major religion and philosophy in the world struggles to explain this. Humans want to make sense of our environment, to understand the patterns in the world, and to live lives that have meaning. When accidents happen to us, they can send us into a tailspin. Why this, why me, why now? The more we learn about magic, the better we get at making things happen in our lives, the harder we are hit when bad luck comes our way. Could we have done something to invite this? Could we have avoided this if we had taken magical precautions?

Whatever our philosophy or religion, however we understand the workings of the universe, we admit that we do not know everything about the world. Events that we do not understand are part of a pattern that we do not comprehend. While it is hard to accept that we may not ever understand exactly why the mishap occurred, it can be comforting to realize that we have not caused this event. Sometimes accidents just happen.

While we are not responsible for the accident, we are responsible for how we respond to it. If we become bitter, angry, or discouraged, we weight ourselves down and prevent the free flow of energy in our lives.

We can prepare ourselves for accidents by practicing to survive. We can prepare ourselves to face natural disasters, sickness, financial setbacks. When accidents do occur, we can fully experience the emotions that arise, and then let them go at the appropriate time. Just as every failure is a chance to learn, every accident is a chance to get stronger, connect with others, and use the new space that opens up in our lives.

I practice magic to survive and thrive.

Practice: Practicing to survive
What accidents have happened to you? Are you still carrying emotional weight from these accidents? Work with the secret, “Let it go.”

Make a list of natural disasters that have historically happened in your area. Do you live in a place which has seen earthquakes, floods, hurricanes? Prepare a disaster plan for yourself and your family. Fill a backpack (or even a plastic bag) with food and spare clothes for each member of your family and keep it where you can get to it.

Every house faces the risk of fire. Make sure your house has smoke alarms with functioning batteries. Practice evacuating the house quickly.

Secrets of Magic No 46: Overcoming failure is part of the process

The world is complex. Magic teaches us a great deal about the forces that govern our lives. When we align ourselves with those forces we greatly increase our chances of obtaining our goals. However, even the most powerful, rich, healthy, and well loved among us do not always get what we want.

There are many reasons for this. One reason is that we are not alone in the world. There are millions of other people around us who also trying to get what they want. Some of their efforts conflict with some of ours. We learned this as children—sometimes our playmates got to call the game, sometimes we did.

Another reason is that our understanding of the world will always be imperfect. However much humans learn about the universe we are constantly discovering new things. There are many forces that we do not understand. No human will ever perfectly comprehend the universe. There is a saying that the map is not the territory. A map that completely explains the territory would have to be as big as the territory, an exact duplicate of it. If any one of use completely understood the universe, we would be the universe! There will always be things we don’t know.

Sometimes we don’t know what we want. Sometimes we haven’t done the groundwork necessary to achieve what we desire. We might be pushing too fast, taking steps that are too big, or we might not have cleared sufficient space for what we want to happen in our lives.

Most importantly, we fail because we are built to fail. It is how we learn. No one draws a perfect picture the first time they try. We need a great deal of practice and many false starts before we master a new skill or learn something we didn’t know before.

It is only when we attach negative feelings to failure that it becomes a liability instead of an asset. When we are afraid to fail, we are afraid to try. We stop learning, freezing up, rigidly protecting ourselves.

Failure is a great gift we give to ourselves. When we fail, it means that we have been stretching beyond the comfort zone, trying new ideas, new ways of moving in the world. Instead of closing up around failure, magic teaches us to forgive ourselves, laugh, and try again. Failure is the necessary groundwork for success.

I will continue to try until I succeed.

Practice: Examining failure
Think about a time you failed in the past. What did you do? How did you feel about it at the time? What did you learn from it? How do you feel about it now?

The next time you catch yourself thinking, “I blew that,” remind yourself that failure means that you are still learning. Examine the lesson that the failure taught you. Then you can apply that lesson when you give it another try.

Secrets of Magic No 45: Make friends with your shadow

Nobody’s perfect. This is a truism precisely because it is true. Even the most saintly among us have flaws. Every virtue can also become a vice. Those of us who pride ourselves on having integrity can sometimes be inflexible and unforgiving. If we are accommodating, we might fail at times to draw appropriate boundaries for ourselves and our loved ones.

Every living person experiences negative emotions as well as positive ones. They’re built into our body chemistry. We all feel anger, hate, and envy at times. Our human ancestral heritage includes the struggle to survive, to protect ourselves, to better the lot of our families. Our bodies experience hunger, pain, lust.

Each of us has a blind spot in our character where we cannot see ourselves. This is exactly like the place in a car that the rear view mirror cannot reflect. Psychologists call this blind spot our shadow. The shadow contains all the parts of ourselves we don’t want to admit are there, including our animal natures, the drive to survive, negative emotions, and our flaws.

We all want to think well of ourselves. Our culture, our families, and our own expectations shape our vision of the good human being. We don’t want to admit that there are ways we aren’t living up to that vision. We flinch to look in our blind spot, to admit that the shadow exists, and those impulses, drives and emotions are actually part of us.

All of us have made mistakes. We hurt people, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes out of a stinging need to strike out. We find ourselves doing things that we regret. We don’t live up to our own expectations, let alone the expectations of others. The memories of those mistakes, and how we feel about ourselves, drop into the shadow, where we hope we will not have to face them.

The driver who fails to check the blind spot runs the risk of a damaging accident. Failing to check the blind spot in ourselves is also dangerous. We think that looking away from the shadow will ensure that we don’t act out what we think of as our basest desires. In fact, the refusal to look at ourselves runs our lives. We twist ourselves into strange shapes to avoid having to admit our flaws. We think we are controlling the worst parts of ourselves by denying them. In fact, the shadow runs our lives, as we maneuver what we do to avoid admitting our mistakes and our imperfections.

Conscientious drivers know that car mirrors don’t show everything and glance over their shoulders to make sure the road is clear before moving the car. We can turn to face our blind spot as well. We can admit that our bodies have needs, that we experience a full range of emotions, that we have made mistakes.

It can be frightening at first to turn and face ourselves. When we admit our mistakes we might be overwhelmed with shame. We might release long-buried anger, admit to hate, or discover a suppressed desire that would change our lives if we acted on it. It is at the least startling to discover the range of our flaws.

Many of us find a therapist can help us with this work. Therapy isn’t just for when we are in trouble or something is broken. Therapy can help healthy people become happier. A therapist can act as a life coach, mentoring us through the process of facing the shadow, releasing what we have repressed, and integrating the new understandings into our lives.

For many of us the initial confrontation with the shadow may be uncomfortable and unsettling, but once we have worked through the first rush of pent-up emotions and ideas, we experience a sense of relief. Yes, we have made mistakes, we have animal natures, we are imperfect. When we stop denying these things we drop an enormous burden and free up all the energy we were using in avoiding that knowledge.

We discover that the shadow doesn’t just contain the things that shame us. Our blind spot hides power from us too. Sometimes our anger is justified, and when we admit to it, we can begin to make positive changes our lives need to move forward. We might discover a desire that frightened us, because others might disapprove of that desire, or because it did not fit our expectations of how our lives were supposed to be. Admitting that desire might bring that change that allows us to straighten up, stand tall, and find fulfillment.

Of course the shadow contains those impulses and emotions that, if we unleash them, would hurt ourselves and those around us, and cause great harm. That’s one of the reasons we refuse to look at them, because we are afraid that if we admit these impulses, they will take over. However, when we confront the shadow, we don’t put the shadow in charge of our lives. In fact, it is just the opposite. When we look at the shadow, then the shadow stops running our lives. We still make decisions about what we are going to do, but now those decisions don’t have to be built around the need to deny half of who we are.

The great lesson of the shadow is that we cannot cut ourselves in pieces and throw away the parts we don’t want. When we stop rejecting our darker selves and turn to make friends with our darker selves, we take a huge step toward becoming whole human beings.

This work teaches us to connect with others and in particular to accept help. One thing friends and spouses do for each other is to help each other through the process of self-discovery. Talking to the people who love us can help us to understand our failings, provide us emotional support as we look into the darkness, and reassure us that we are still loveable and loved.

I make friends with my shadow.

Practice: Look over your shoulder
Journals, dreams, conversations with friends, and therapy, are all ways we can begin to get to know our shadow. You can move slowly with this work, giving yourself time to integrate new understandings.

Here are some first lines that you can use to start journal entries to explore the shadow:

  • What frightens me is…
  • I am angry about…
  • Characteristics I dislike in myself:
  • I regret…

One of the questions in your regular journal entries is, “If I could do anything I want, I would…” Ask yourself that question and listen quietly for the answer. You might catch an answer flitting by that you automatically repress. Give yourself time to think about this. If you really could do anything at all, what would you honestly want?

Reread your dream journal entries. What images have most greatly disturbed you? Are there images you habitually do not record because they do not make sense to you or upset you? Renew your commitment to recording your dreams as they happen, without editing. The things we are reluctant to record often are messages from the shadow.

Secrets of Magic No 44: Mind and body are one

We have all heard the phrase “mind over matter.” We think of ourselves as being minds which have bodies, two separate things, with mind ruling the body. In fact mind and body could not exist without each other. Cartoons and movies show heads talking without bodies, but in real life, none of us has seen a mind without a body. Similarly, a body without a mind could not feed itself or keep itself safe from harm. Both mind and body are necessary for human survival.

We view the body as suspect. We fear that if we pay attention to the needs of the body that they will rule us, so we deny the body, and ignore its needs. We are uncomfortable with the scents of our bodies, with body function, and with normal life processes like death and birth. We retreat from awareness of our physical natures, living inside our heads, literally!

Rejecting our bodies is the source of much unhappiness. When we do this, we lose touch with the signals our body gives us to let us know what it needs. We do not recognize when we are hungry, tired, or in pain. We allow our minds to drive us in physically and emotionally harmful ways.

When we allow ourselves to be fully aware of our bodies, inhabiting our skins, we tune into its marvelously sensitive feedback system. We eat when we are hungry, sleep when we are tired, permit ourselves to heal when we are hurt. We move our bodies through space, running and dancing, riding the wave of sheer joy in being alive.

I know my body.
Practice: Moving awareness
Most of us think of ourselves as living behind our eyes. This is where we place our conscious awareness. Try placing your conscious awareness in other parts of your body.

• Move your awareness to the center of your body. Are you balanced?
• Bring your attention to your hands. Pick something up. What do you notice?
• Place your awareness in your feet. Can you feel the floor beneath you?

Do this practice every day for a week, moving your awareness to different places in your body.

Re-read the journal entries you have made about the state of your body. Do you see any patterns? Do you need to get more sleep or avoid eating a certain food? Is there a specific problem, a pain or stiffness, that you have been noting that you should investigate?

Secrets of Magic No 43: Let it go

Christians call it forgiveness. Buddhists call it detachment. The wise people of the world have taught us that it is important to learn to let go.

Many of us have heard the story about the monkey and the jar trap. A monkey found a sweet fruit in a jar. He put his hand in the jar to pick up the fruit but when he tried to pull his hand out again, he was trapped. The knot of his fist together with the banana would not pass back out of the mouth of the jar. Only by dropping the fruit could he set himself free.

Sometimes our magic can’t take off because a weight we are carrying blocks it from manifesting. That weight may come in many forms: clinging to happiness, negative emotions, expectations, wanting it now. Whatever the weight we are carrying, when we put it down, the energy that was tied up in carrying it is suddenly available to us. We can direct that energy to any of the changes we are working magic to make in our lives.

Clinging to happiness: Life’s constant changes pull us away from the moments of calm and fulfillment we wish could last forever. Contracting around happiness works in the same way as contracting around deprivation. Whatever it is we cling to, that clinging itself stops up the energy of our lives. Any knot halts the flow of magic.

Negative emotions: All of us bear the scars from life’s blows. Even the smallest child has experienced disappointment and loss. The effects of our negative experiences begin to weigh us down, accumulating over time, tying up our energy and emotion.

It is important for us to let ourselves fully experience life. No emotion is bad in and of itself. Anger gives us the strength to endure in the face of opposition and to change what needs to be changed. Grief acknowledges the consequences of deep losses. Even hate points to the places in our life where we need to protect ourselves.

At times though the feeling has outlived its purpose and is holding us back. There comes a moment in every experience, bad or good, when it is time to move on. The change has happened and the anger is no longer necessary. The grief lessens, making way for new connections to others. The hate has served its purpose and begins to sicken us.

Expectations: Sometimes what we need to release is an expectation. We realize we are not physically able to realize a youthful sports dream, or to have ten children, or to climb Mount Everest. No inheritance or lottery is going to come along to solve all our money problems. That person we loved desperately won’t return that emotion no matter what we do.

Schedule: Another kind of block is the requirement for something to happen on our timetable. What we need in that case is not to release the desire, but just to release the impatience, and let the event unfold in its own time.

Lust for result: Sometimes when we work magic we contract around the desire for the magic to be accomplished. We think about it, want it, worry at it constantly. In that case the energy of the magic may be tied up in fulfilling our emotional need for satisfaction or reassurance instead of going out into the world to make the result we want to happen.

I release the old to free energy for the new.

Practice: Open your hand
What weight are you carrying? What blocks do you see in your life? Are you holding onto old anger or expectations? Do you push your magic to happen when you want it to happen?

Write a sentence describing the block you need to release. Close your hand in a fist. Speak the sentence into your fist. Now turn your hand over and slowly open it, releasing the block. Take a deep breath, hold it, and release it. Speak the affirmation out loud, “I release the old to free energy for the new.” Make a note in your journal. Then do something nice for yourself—take a hot bath or shower, indulge in an afternoon nap, make yourself a pot of tea. Give yourself time to recover, relax, and get used to the new you!

Secrets of Magic No. 42: To get, give

Often we think of life as being like a pie. Each pie contains a limited number of pieces, and if we share our piece with others, there will be less for us. We contract around the sense of deprivation. Giving to others seems as if it will harm us, especially when we really are desperate, struggling to find the money and energy and time we need to support ourselves and our families.

Magical energy acts less like a pie and more like a stream. The more flow there is in our lives, the better our lives become. Giving even a little money or time or emotion to others helps get the flow started. It breaks the knot of contraction, like opening a fist, letting stuck energy out and inviting new energy in.

Giving connects us to the world around us. When we donate even a little time or money to others, we begin to feel wealthier, stronger, more powerful. We tap into our kinship with other humans and with the other creatures on the planet. The stronger our connections, the stronger the net that supports us. The friends we make when we give of ourselves will in turn help us when we are in need.

It is a great secret that everything we give to others benefits them but helps us more. When we give things, we make space in our lives for new things. When we give money, we claim the power to act in the world. When we teach we always learn. When we give love, we demonstrate to ourselves that love is in our lives.

I give to others.
Practice: Connecting with others/strong>

Categories of giving include objects, money, time, and emotion.

To give things: clean your closets. Clear out your kitchen cupboards and donate the food to the local food bank. Buy blankets for your local shelter.

To give money: what work do you think matters most to make the world better? Protecting animals, helping the homeless, curing disease, funding families or businesses in the undeveloped world? Find an organization that supports this effort, by doing a web search, or even looking in the phone book. Many stores offer the option to donate even one dollar to a charity–let the cashier ring the dollar up!

To give time: investigate the groups and clubs in your local area. Are you interested in sports, religious groups, parks, kids, libraries? There is certain to be a group that is helping to support those activities who would welcome any assistance.

To give emotion: who do you love? Have you told them? Let the people around you know what they mean to you. Is there someone you want to be your friend? Let them know that you want to connect with them.

Advanced secrets

The first secret of magic we employ can change our lives. Each new secret we learn opens up whole new ways of thinking and of experiencing the world. We can spend many happy years exploring the new possibilities magic opens up for us.

There may come a time when we hit a plateau. We’ve done all the practices, worked hard, applied new knowledge, but nothing has changed for a while. There might be a problem that has been particularly hard to solve, an area of our lives that stubbornly refuses to move, or we might just be out of new ideas.

The advanced secrets can get us moving again. These secrets help us achieve magical maturity. With this experience we can gain confidence and step up to the next level of magical power.

We’ll begin working on advanced secrets next week.

Secrets of Magic No. 41: Ask the cards

If we can have only one tool to make magic, the tool to have is a Tarot deck. Tarot cards are an excellent introduction to the magical forces of the universe. Their symbols and pictures depict the entire world and human experience in a compact form. They combine the elements and the planets. The cards illuminate our understanding of ourselves, and give us ways to think about what is happening in the world around us.

There is no one correct Tarot deck. There are many decks on the market today. Almost every bookstore has a deck or two tucked away in the store. Each has a particular perspective. Many practitioners of magic own more than one deck, using different decks depending on our moods. Some people collect decks, for their historical value, or because they like the art on the cards.

Almost every Tarot deck follows a general pattern. There are four suits, called in most decks wands, swords, cups, and disks. These correspond to the clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades of a regular playing deck. Tarot decks also have a version of the court cards, King, Queen, Knight, and Jack. In the Tarot the court cards usually depict one older and younger man, and one older and younger woman. These are often called King, Queen, Prince and Princess, although the names for each of these vary from deck to deck.

Taken together, the suit and court cards are called the Minor Arcana. They contain symbols for the elements and for the planets. Each of the suits relates to an element. In most decks, Wands are fire, Swords are air, Cups are water, and Disks are earth. Some of the number cards relate to the planets. Threes are Saturn, Fours are Jupiter, Fives are Mars, Sixes are the Sun, sevens are Venus, eights are Mercury, nines are the Moon, and tens are Earth.

More complex decks may include the astrological signs and other magical symbols on the Minor Arcana cards. Many, although not all, Minor Arcana cards have pictures which portray the meaning of the cards. Sometimes they may also have names for each of the cards.

The Tarot has another set of cards that is not contained in a regular playing deck. These are called the Major Arcana, and are numbered from 0 to XXI, beginning with The Fool, and ending with a card sometimes called The World and sometimes called The Universe. The Major Arcana depict powerful forces that can affect our lives.

Many people ask the Tarot cards a question. Often our questions are really requests for reassurance. We are saying to the cards, tell me it is going to come out alright, or tell me that I will get what I want. A more effective question might be, what do I need to do to get the outcome that I want? Sometimes the best question is just, what do I need to know?

The answer the cards give us is not necessarily what will happen in the future. Like our dreams, the cards are a way for parts of us that are not conscious to let us know what we already know. The cards might also point out to us the real roots of the problems that we are experiencing. They might point out to us several possible paths we can take, to solve our problems, or to bring different outcomes into our lives.

Many people use Tarot cards to begin a magical journey. We can look at the card, and then imagine ourselves stepping into the card. This can teach us a great deal about the symbols on the cards.

The cards provide us a lot of information that is immediately accessible and gives us room to grow in understanding and skill. We can start to use them from the moment we buy our first deck, and yet, we can still be learning new things about the cards decades later.

I understand and use Tarot cards.

Practice: choose a deck
Picking a deck can be great fun. Look through all the styles available until you find a set of images that speaks to you. Traditionally, the deck should not have been touched until you touch it, so used decks are bought for education only. Pick a deck that is still in its shrink-wrap. It’s nice to have a bag to put the deck in to keep it clean and set it aside as a magical tool.

When you first get the deck, look through all of the cards in order. If you like, you can leave them in order, learning about each of the cards in turn. You can also shuffle them so that you begin to draw cards at random.

Pick one card. Look at the image on the card. What symbols are on the card? What colors? What do those symbols and colors mean to you?

Now take yourself on a magical journey into the card. Imagine yourself stepping through the card. You can talk to the beings and symbols in the card as you talk to the beings and symbols in your dreams. Ask them what they are doing in the card and what they have to say to you.

Remember to bring yourself back to the present moment when you have finished your magical journey. You can jot a note in your journal about the card you picked and what you learned.

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?