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?

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.