Secrets of Magic No 34: Relax

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

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

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

I relax my body at will.

Practice: Full body relaxation.

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

Secrets of Magic No 33: Saturn sets limits

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

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

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

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

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

I exercise the power of limits.

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Magic No 34: Relax

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

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

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

I relax my body at will.

Practice: Full body relaxation.

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

Secrets of Magic No 32: Jupiter conveys authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

I exercise authority.

Practice: Exercising authority

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

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

Secrets of Magic 31: Mars is power

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

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

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

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

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

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

Affirmation: I hold the power to control my life.

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Magic 30: Venus inspires art

Venus is the planet between the Earth and Mercury, the next closest to the sun. Its orbit causes it to appear in our sky at times as the morning star and in other seasons of the year as the evening star. Humans have long found the star near the crescent moon to be beautiful. Over the millennia Venus has attracted concepts of beauty, grace, and inspiration.

The sphere of Venus is artistic endeavor and expression. The desire to create, to make something that others will find lovely, to communicate what we see and feel to the people around us, all belong to the realm of Venus.

We all recognize that some people have great artistic and musical talent. However that doesn’t mean that everyone else has no talent. Every human has the ability to create. It is built into who we are. Our great flexibility, the way we imagine new tools and strive to make our lives better, has made us the most successful species on the planet.

Art doesn’t just mean making images, shaping sculptures, or playing a musical instrument. Whenever we seek to make something new, or beautify something around us, we are expressing the power of art.

Having great talent doesn’t mean that we do everything perfectly the first time. The most talented musicians practice many hours each day. Artists work for years to master their chosen materials. We develop artistic skills over time. Those who have less talent in a particular arena but who practice diligently will create more art more successfully than those who don’t practice, however talented they might be.

Anyone can learn to sing, to keep time, to draw, to sew, to garden. When we reach out to shape the world around us, expressing our concepts and feelings of beauty, we tap into the power of creation to transform our lives.

Affirmation I create beauty.

Practice: experience beauty

Every day for a week, experience something beautiful that someone has made. You might look at a painting in a museum or a book. You might listen to a new type of music. You might visit a garden, enjoying the shape of the paths, the combinations of plant shapes and colors.

Let the beauty you experience inspire you to create. You might cut up pictures from magazines to make a collage, assemble photographs in a scrapbook, arrange flowers in a vase. Have you always wanted to learn to sketch, play a drum, throw a pot? Take a class, pick up a book, find a teacher, and get started!

Secrets of Magic 29: Mercury grants knowledge

Little Mercury circles the sun the most quickly of any planet because it is the closest planet to the sun—close enough that the curvature of space and time near the sun affects the duration and shape of Mercury’s orbit. That quickness suggested to the ancients the same qualities that are suggested by the lightness of air, qualities of speed, freedom, and in particular, the use of the mind.

The ideas of knowledge, order, classification, all cluster around the sphere of Mercury. When we say that magic is the power of the universe, the skill to use it, and the knowledge of how to access it, it is the focus of Mercury that provides the knowledge.

Magic can be as simple as writing an affirmation. It can be so complicated that we spend our lives studying a single facet. Mercury compiles facts for our intellectual comprehension. Tapping the power of Mercury greatly increases our options as we expand our knowledge of what is possible. The danger is that we can become lost in learning, and, like those who favor the element of air, become detached from the other aspects of our lives.

Children study many things in school. Eventually they grow up and graduate, moving out into the world to work, raise families, and explore. Some people think our learning years come to an end when we leave school. In fact humans constantly learn about the environment. We are hard-wired to continually take in and process information. When we pay conscious attention to this process, seeking to learn new things, we keep our minds and hearts flexible and young. However much we know, we all remain students, all our lives.

Affirmation I am always learning.

Practice: Learning

Every day for a week, as you go through your day, be on the lookout for something new you are learning. Did you hear a new fact on the news? Did you notice a new business opening up near your home? Did your body let you know something you hadn’t previously noticed? Record what you have learned in your journal.

Learn something new. This can be anything at all: how to cook something you’ve never cooked before, how to grow a plant, how to dance a particular type of dancing, how to say please and thank you in a new language. Have you always wanted to learn something? Now is the time to try!

Go to a bookstore or a library. Seek out the section which contains books about magic. It might be labeled new age or occult. You might find an entire bookstore dedicated to these books. Look at the titles on the shelves. There are many different magical paths. Read some of the covers. Do any of them call to you? If you have been practicing a particular magical path for many years, be sure to explore a type of magic you haven’t worked with before. What books are available that describe this magic?

Secrets of Magic 28: The moon cycles

Next to the sun the moon is the brightest thing in the sky. It lights up the darkness, bathing the world in a silvery glow—when it is there. While we see the sun every day, we do not see the moon every night.

The moon cycles through a monthly pattern, showing at first as a small sliver, growing each day until it becomes a completed disk, then gradually decreasing to a small sliver again. At the end of the month there is no moon in the sky at all. While the moon is growing, we say it is waxing; when it is a disk, we say it is full; while the moon is decreasing, we call it waning; on the nights when the moon is not visible we say the moon is dark.

Many physical phenomena respond to the phases of the moon. The planetoid’s gravitational pull affects the movement of the ocean’s tides. Women of childbearing years experience menstrual patterns of roughly the same duration as the moon’s cycles. Gardeners plant certain types of growing things at different lunar phases.

Just as the tide flows and ebbs, the power of the moon flows and ebbs. When we tie our magic to the moon’s cycle we can ride the energy of the moon to accomplish our goal.

Waxing moon: this energy draws new beginnings into our lives. What do you want to bring into your life?
Full moon: this moon phase brings great power and fulfillment. What do you want to accomplish or complete?
Waning moon: like an ebb tide, this energy washes what we are removing from our lives away from us. What do you want to release?
Dark moon: this phase allows us to make endings in our lives. What do you want to bring to an end?

Affirmation I harmonize with the cycles of the moon.

Practice: Moon practice

Find a calendar that tracks the phases of the moon. Begin to record the moon phase whenever you make entries in your journal. If you are a woman, record where you are in your menstrual cycle—how many days ago did your cycle end?

Whenever you go outside at night, look for the moon. Where is the moon in the sky? What phase is the moon?

Write an affirmation describing a beginning you wish to make in your life. At the next new moon, look at the moon, and repeat the affirmation.

Make an affirmation about an accomplishment you want to make in your life. When the moon is next full read the affirmation aloud.

Describe something you want to remove from your life. While the moon is decreasing, speak the description while observing the moon.

Write down an ending you want to make in your life. On one of the dark moon days read the affirmation out loud.

Record all your lunar workings in your journal.

Secrets of Magic 27: The sun gives life

We owe our lives to the sun. This is one point on which ancient and modern observers, astronomers and astrologers, scientists and occultists all agree. Without the sun the earth would be a lifeless ball of rock. The sun provides all the heat and light in the solar system, and is the source of energy for all the living things of the Earth.

Many of us recognize spirit as the source of life, our own, and the life of the universe. In the Western world we tend to think of spirit as invisible, ghostly, an indefectible presence completely separate from the world. We speak of spirit and matter as being polar opposites. However people in other times and in other parts of the world have recognized the sun as a tangible manifestation of spirit. The sun’s light is visible to all of us every day, the sun’s heat is sensible to all of us every day, always there unconditionally, equally available to everyone and everything.

Many of the world’s creatures instinctively turn to the sun. Baboons sing at sunrise, flowers track the daily progress of the sun in the sky. Humans too love to play in the sun, gravitating to the sunniest places on earth and coming outside in warm weather.

Magic teaches us to tap into the source of spirit through the light of the sun. When we align ourselves with the sun we acknowledge the source of our physical lives. We can turn to the sun with profound gratitude for the forces which allow us to exist.

It may seem strange to us at first to think about expressing thanks to the sun for our lives. After all, the sun would continue to shine whether we thought about it or not. It may be that our gratitude does not matter to the sun, but it matters to us. When we acknowledge the force that sustains our physical existence, we acknowledge the universal power, whether we think of that power as a being, or a process, or a system. Greeting the sun aligns us with every other living thing and reminds us that we are part of the universe and owe our lives to the forces around us.

Affirmation I greet the sun.

Practice: Align with the sun

Look up the time of sunrise in the newspaper. Get up early enough to catch the sun’s first rays. If you can, go to a place where you can see the horizon. If it is raining, do the practice at the time of sunrise. As the sun rises, say a few words of greeting. You can say, “I recognize you, sun. Thank you for my life,” or whatever words seem appropriate to you.

At sunset, take a few moments to stop and enjoy the play of color in the sky. As the sun dips below the horizon, say a few words of farewell. “Farewell until morning, sun.”

As you continue this practice over the days, weeks, and months, you will notice the sun moving in the sky in an arc from south to north and back again. In the winter you can sleep in before the morning greeting, while in summer the alarm goes off too early! You will also notice the sun is higher in the sky in the warm months than in the wintertime. Greeting the sun brings us outside again, putting us in touch with the fundamental forces that allow us to live.

Secrets of Magic: The Planets

Most of us learned in school that there are nine planets, all revolving around the sun. Tiny Mercury is closest to the sun, followed by Venus, then our own planet Earth. The red planet, Mars, is next, about a third of the size of the Earth, and the first planet which has moons like our own. Next come the big planets, the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Finally there is the little dark planet Pluto at the edge of our solar system.

Today we explore the solar system with remote sensing vehicles as well as our eyes and telescopes. Exploration vehicles bearing cameras and a wide array of sensing devices fly by Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, heading for the outer planets, sending their readings and photographs back to Earth. Astronomers comb pictures of the night sky seeking the faint movements that might lead to the discovery of additional objects even farther out from the sun.

The ancients viewed the planets differently. We say now that they believed the planets revolved around the Earth. It is perhaps more accurate and certainly kinder to say that they observed that the sky appears to revolve around our planet. We know, intellectually, that this is because the Earth is spinning. However ancient science still describes our observable experience. To our eyes the moon does rise over the Earth’s edge, the sun sets into the night sky.

Through the centuries the definitions of planet and the number of objects counted as planets has changed. Today we classify the sun as a star, the moon as a satellite of a planet, and Earth as a planet. Now we recognize three classes of planets—rocky planets close to the sun, gas giants farther away, and dwarf planets at the edge of the solar system. The discussion about whether Pluto is a planet seems destined to continue for years to come.

The unaided eyes of the ancients detected the inner rocky planets and some of the outer gas giants. They saw Mercury, Venus, and Mars, which seemed as red to them as it does to us. They saw bright Jupiter, and even faint Saturn. For them, the term planet also included the sun and the moon, all classes of objects that spin in the sky.

To ancient cultures the planets embodied deities who affected their lives. Modern science has rejected that religious viewpoint. We no longer think of the planets as literal deities, as we have learned to measure their movements, and have taken increasingly more detailed photographs of their surfaces.

However the planets served more than just a religious purpose. The ancient philosophers also used the planets as a classification system. Each planet acts as the focus to study and understand one of the forces that make up the universe and the way we build our lives. These ancient observations have become some of the secrets of magic.

Secrets of Magic 26: Balance the elements

Air, fire, water and earth together make up a whole system. Air surrounds the globe of the earth. Water runs on the face of the earth, burrows deep beneath the surface, circulates from sky to ground and back again, and sits at each of the poles in the form of ice. Fire flares unpredictably across the surface of the earth, and makes up the molten center of the world, emerging at times to erupt up into the atmosphere.

The power of earth, fire, air, and water combine to make up our physical being as well. Most of our body is water, although when we remove the water, an irreducible salt remains. We circulate air constantly. Just as the earth has a fiery core, heat sustains us at the center of our bodies.

The elemental powers affect us on a spiritual as well as a physical level. These too work best when they come together as a system. Many of us have an affinity with one or two elements and find the other elements less attractive. However, each element has its negative side when it is emphasized over the others.

Air: we express the power of air when we approach the world with a childlike spontaneity and playfulness. Air also describes the power of our minds, which can soar in flights of imagination. However, when we develop intellect without grounding in the physical world, we can become detached from the sources of our life.

Fire: We describe our passions as fiery. We touch the spirit of fire when we are filled with enthusiasm or energy. At times though our passions escape our control, consuming us with rage or obsession.

Water: helps us to touch down into our emotional selves. Our tears wash away our sorrow and express intense joy. When there is too much water in our lives we risk being swept away in the flow of excessive emotion.

Earth: grounds us by wicking off excess energy or emotion. Earth focuses us on physical reality and on being dependable. Too much earth though can leave us rigid and brittle.

When we turn our conscious attention to the action of the elements in our lives, we can act to bring them into balance. We develop our intellects, fuel our passions, let our emotions flow freely, and remain grounded in the physical reality of our lives.

Affirmation I balance the elements in myself.

Practice: Exploring the elements
Think about the four elements. Which of them seems most comfortable to you? Which is least attractive? Collect all four of the colored affirmations you have made for the four elements. Which worked well? Which would you like to rewrite and try again?

If you have many journal entries, you can re-read them to look for the actions of the elements. Count the number of entries which seem intellectual or airy, passionate or fiery, emotional or watery, grounded or earthy. If you have used the list of questions in the practice, there is one question relating to thinking, one to passion, one to feeling, and one to the state of your body. Which of the elements do you write about most often, and which least often?

Make an effort to connect with the elements that seem less attractive. If you are too grounded, try doing something spontaneous. To ignite fire in yourself, think about the last time you were really excited, and let that suggest a practice for you. If you discover you are ignoring water, try writing a sentence about what you feel emotionally each day for a week. To ground yourself, pay attention to your body, for example by doing gentle physical stretches each day for a week. With each practice, make a record in your journal.