Secrets of Magic No 52: You already know

We humans create filters for ourselves. We narrow down our observations of the vastness around us to just a few places, people, things. We build thought structures which we inhabit, mistaking them for the whole of reality, restricting what we know to just a few ideas. When we learn to be present, to open our eyes and ears and tongue and skin to the stream of information around us, we are amazed at how much more we have to learn than we thought we did, and how much larger the world suddenly becomes.

We humans create worlds for ourselves. We avoid what makes us uncomfortable, creating boxes, limitations which we do not realize we have created ourselves. We build up beliefs about what we can do that encompass a small percentage of what we are actually capable of achieving. When we step outside our comfort zone to try new things we are surprised to discover how much more we are capable of achieving.

We humans create worlds for each other. We make laws, philosophies, and customs. The structures we create help us to care for and support each other, but they also become prisons, restricting our thoughts and movements and choices. We design expectations for each other that lock us into limited life choices. When we kick open the doors of our lives we can begin to explore who we really are in the world.

We build up our views of the world from the things we were taught as children, the messages the adults around us gave us, the messages we still get from the people we know, from our employers, from the media. We listen to those messages even when they contradict our own experience.

Magic teaches us to listen to ourselves. Our bodies tell us when we are hungry and need to eat, when we are thirsty and need to drink, when we are restless and need to move, when we are tired and need to sleep. When we listen to our unconscious minds and to our dreams we tap into the reservoirs of our stored memories, skills, and unrealized potential. Those of us who dare to face the darkest parts of ourselves become stronger and more whole human beings.

Magic teaches us to listen to the earth. When we look at the color of the sky, listen to the songs of the birds, take a deep breath of air, we connect with the energy that sustains every aspect of our existence, and begin to recognize our place in the interconnected web of life.

The deepest secret of magic is to learn to listen to ourselves and listen to the world around us. When we relinquish our preconceptions and approach the present moment with the attention of a child, we get out of our own way, and let magic happen in our lives.

I know what I need to know.

Practice: Expanding expectations
Think about the expectations you are carrying. What does your family expect from you? What expectations do you have about the life you should lead? How have those changed in the last five years?

Think about your life five years from now. What will remain the same as the life you are leading now? What do you expect will be different? If you could lead any kind of life at all, what would you be doing in five years? Record this in your journal. Are there steps you can take now to begin to realize that dream?

Secrets of Magic No 51: Magic is play

The words we use to describe how we do magic seem grim and laborious. We say we make magic, we work magic, we practice magic.

This language reflects the needs that magic fills for us. As adults we have serious concerns. We must take care of our bodies, making sure we eat and sleep and exercise. We need to find a place to live, work to support ourselves, and some purpose to make our lives meaningful. We establish relationships. We take care of children, the sick, and the elderly. We might be sick or elderly ourselves. The first concern of magic is to help us with our life-supporting tasks.

As children we did not work to support ourselves or find ourselves a place to live. We spent our time learning about the world. It seemed more plastic then, because our lives were more open, filled with potential. Magic was not just a tool to help us get by, but a rainbow of story, making the impossible possible.

Magic does more for us than to help us with our adult labors. It returns us to that childlike state where everything is possible. Once again we learn new ways of being in the world. Everything is plastic, open, fluid, filled with choices we have not yet made.

When we recover our childlike natures we unleash our magical potential. We can release our urgent focus on the goals we seek, relax, and have fun. The best word to use to describe how we do magic is play.

I play with magic.

Practice: Awaken the inner child
Do something fun. Play with a kid’s toy. Color in coloring book. Take a swing in a park. Read a children’s storybook. Turn in circles in place until you become dizzy.

Playing with children is one of the best ways to unleash the inner child. Ask the kid to pick a game and play with them. This should not be a video game, but a board game, or a game of imagination. Go out into the yard or a park, away from the TV, and let the kid be in charge. You might end up infiltrating a villain’s lair, flying spacecraft, or looking for fairies in the shrubs.

Every day for a week, write a journal entry that begins, “The wonderful thing today was…” Stay alert throughout the day for the wonderful thing. It might be a sunset, a bird in a tree branch, a photograph, a child’s smile, a new piece of music you heard, a penny you found on the street, a cup of tea shared with a friend.

Secrets of Magic No 50: Cherish peak experiences

Peak experiences are those moments when we know the intensely pleasant excitement of a great success. We often feel this when we pass through one of life’s milestones, such as graduating from school, getting married, birthing children. Performers experience the satisfaction of connecting with an audience. Athletes know the rush of accomplishing a goal. Travelers seeing a great sight for the first time, or eating a wonderful meal, or talking with someone from the other side of the world, treasure these moments of delight.

As fantastic as these moments are, we cannot live our life as one ongoing peak experience. They are special partly because they happen so seldom. They also require a great deal of effort to achieve. Performers practice alone for many hours. Athletes train continually. Travelers save money, research their destinations, learn a language, and endure the discomforts of transit and of unfamiliar places and customs.

One of the dangers of peak experiences is becoming addicted to the adrenaline rush and the attention. The desire for celebrity is partly a desire to remain in that spotlighted space where everything revolves around us.

We plan our lives around peak experiences. We might spend years thinking about our wedding, or working toward graduation, or happily anticipating our wonderful trip.

Sometimes though we stop ourselves at the brink of accomplishment. Peak experiences involve the most intense emotions we encounter in our lives. The strength of the excitement might be hard for us to bear. Since we are often the center of attention at those moments, we might develop a form of stage fright, or stumble over the fear of failure.

We might also develop the fear of success. Peak experiences often mark the transition from one phase of life to another. Graduation means our school days are over. Marriage is a significant commitment. The performer has worked for many hours toward this performance, and now it is about to happen and be over.

Peak experiences mark the goals we direct our magic to achieve. The secret is fully immerse ourselves in the experiences when they happen, and then allow ourselves a period of quiet and calm, assimilating the experience, and preparing ourselves for the next moment on the peak.
I treasure peak moments.

Practice: Exploring peak experiences
Think about the peak experiences you have had in the past. Make a list of your top five moments. How did you prepare for these experiences? Did you feel excitement, nervousness, fear, joy?

Now think about the peak experiences that lie in your future? What moments are you looking forward to with anticipation? How are you preparing for these?

Secrets of Magic No 49: You will succeed

Magic works. The secrets of magic give us the power to change our lives. When we speak the affirmations and do the practices, we accomplish whatever it is we set out to do.

Surprisingly, success can be as difficult to handle as failure. Every change brings stress, even very positive changes, like passing a test, winning a contest, or getting a raise. The more change that happens in our lives, the higher our stress scores become. That’s one of the reasons why it is important to take it in steps, moving from one stage to another, instead of trying to make all the changes we want in our lives at once.

It helps to give ourselves time to assimilate a change. Every movement we make in our lives has consequences, both positive and negative, some that we expect, and some that are surprises. We need to work out the ramifications of each change. When the affect stabilizes we can figure out how to point our magic toward the next step in the process, both to avoid the negative consequences of the last change, and to build on our success to gain even more ground.

We may discover that we are afraid of success. It can be disorienting to discover that we have the ability to affect our own lives in such significant ways. We might even be tempted to think we are invincible—we’ll just use magic to solve every problem! Fortunately there are failures and accidents in our lives to remind us that we are not the only power on the planet, the world is full of other people, and there are patterns and forces around us that we can tap into and admire but may never completely understand.

We might even reject success. Every change we make confronts us with the fact that we are responsible for our lives. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to our circumstances. Sometimes it’s easier for all of us to blame the world, or other people, than to figure out what we need to change in ourselves.

Success removes our excuses. Almost everyone has thought at some point “if this happens I won’t have any reason not to do that.” For example, if I pay my bills I won’t have any reason not to donate to charity. Or, if I clear my schedule I won’t have any excuse not to go back to school. In these cases we might ask ourselves why we don’t want to donate to charity, or go back to school, and work on those issues, rather than using unpaid bills or clogged schedules as a shield. We can still pay the bills and get some time without having to spend our free money or time on the “shoulds” on our list.

Success challenges us to figure out what we really want to do with our lives. The more we accomplish magically, the freer we become to express who we are in the world.
I embrace success.
Practice: Defining success
Think about a time that you succeeded 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?

Write a journal entry beginning, “Success is…” What does success mean to you? Do you think you are successful when you accomplish something? Does making friends mean more to you than getting ahead in the world?

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!