Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Your Wand Talks, You Should Listen

Well, there it is… my wand, in all its glory, still incomplete after two years. Around two years ago I purchased the wooden dowel from Magicians-R-Us (aka Walmart) and dedicated it to the Art at 3:00am under a full moon on a particularly auspicious morning. It was later coated with a consecrated white paint (purity of will/ intent/spirit) and then covered with a consecrated red paint (action/fire/will). At the time, red was suggestive of the strength or force needed to banish. At one end I painted the colors of the four elements and drilled a shallow hole down the center of the wand. It was my intention to place some type of fibrous material that had been soaked in water that had been charged with the four elements into the hole and then to seal the hole. It was also my intention to paint the other side of the wand with the planetary colors and place some water charged with the planetary powers in that end as well. To complete the wand, it would have been sealed with polyurethane. Then I would have a duel functioning wand. By rotating the wand I could banish either the elemental powers or planetary powers by whichever end pointed forward. Alas, intentions alone seldom deliver.

For whatever reason, just as I was drifting off to sleep the other day, quite out of the blue, without any prior thought to my wand, I had a vision of how my wand should look. It was a VERY SIMPLE design. I was utterly astounded by this vision and began to question why I should scrap the old design in favor of the new. My wand gave me the answer. Here is what it said:

One of the reasons I remain unfinished after two years is not because you are lazy, but because you are not motivated. You do not feel any pressing need to use me or any other magical tool. You have discussed your inability to want things in a prior blog post (the post my wand is referring to can be read here). However, you only scratched the surface. What you need to realize is that I am incomplete because you are quite comfortable with your life in spite of your inability to admit it to be so. You fight against yourself, unwilling to acknowledge your happiness in order to avoid feeling as though you have “given up.” If you need proof that you are more content than you realize, just look at me and ask why I remain unfinished.

The other reason I remain a work in progress is on account of something that runs very deep within you. You have nearly always been a seeker of God, Truth, a spiritual path, etc. Yet you have never found any belief or belief system to call your home. When confronted with a given philosophy/religion/belief you say, “Yes, maybe, but….” Now, I need power to be effective. Because you lack an external source of power you must find the power within yourself to construct and empower me. Because you have no roadmap (an existing system) to guide you, your choices concerning my completion will require much time and deliberation on your part. But when you do complete me, I will be as powerful as any magical tool ever created.

I might also add that you tend to make things more complicated than they need be. I have given you a vision as to how I could look. Are you able to let go of your need for complexity in order to posses me?

What can you, the reader, take away from all this? You will probably take very little, as my wand’s comments were for me alone. But what about your wand, or any of your magical tools? What do they say to you? I would be inclined to pay special heed to anything they say in unison.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cages And Liberation

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were trapped in a cage, where you had limited maneuverability and were unable to escape? I think we have all felt like this at one time or another. It is my view that such situations feel like cages (and can be recognized as “cages”) because one dislikes the situation in which one finds oneself. Perhaps the “cage” is too small or is constructed from unappealing material. Perhaps the “cage” keeper is neglectful and you don’t get fed regularly or perhaps you are trapped inside with an unpleasant cage-mate. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that some situations become unpleasant “cages” from which you hope to be set free. What is not so obvious is that situations we seek out, enjoy and strive to preserve are no less “cages.” These situations are seldom seen as “cages” because they are willfully self-generated. Such “cages” may be constructed from the finest of materials, spacious, comfortable and intentionally entered, but they are “cages” none-the-less. They limit one’s arena of activity and determine one’s behavior.

This not-so-novel realization came upon me in full force this past weekend. I realized with a great deal of clarity just how much of a “cage” I had been building by pursing an academic career (you can read my laments about my failure to finish the “cage” here and here). An academic career did not appear to be a “cage” at the time I was joyfully pursing it, but I can now, in retrospect, see how such a career would have circumscribed my life. What is more, this realization was accompanied by an intense sense of freedom (more like euphoria) at the thought of being free to pursue avenues of interest and behavior that would never have been “permitted” had I completed my gilded “cage.”

So, the moral of the story is:

“Cages” can be unpleasant. Liberate yourself from them if you can. “Cages” can be pleasant. If you like your “cage” and want to remain in it, you might want to increase its size to allow more maneuverability. If you find that the “cage” you have been trying to build won’t stand, consider and rejoice in the freedom that you have.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Continue To Pursue Magic?

In my last blog post I discussed why I began to pursue magic. That post can be read here. Currently, I have been plagued by one question – Should I continue to pursue magic? As I have already discussed in my previous post, I hoped to use magical techniques in conjunction with my efforts to become more engaged with mundane matters. Again, as I have already stated, somewhere along my life’s journey a concern for matters of a practical nature fell to the wayside. I am fairly sure that my spirituality is primarily responsible for bringing me to this point. However, rather than viewing this as a positive state, I found it (perhaps erroneously) to be an extreme- I had gone too far in the spiritual direction. Again, magic was to play a role in redressing this issue. But magic, at least magic that is effective is hard work. Much time is needed to learn about magic and a great deal of time is needed to do magic. The more I learn and practice magic the more my spiritual side screams out…”magic is a distraction to what is important.” So I find myself in the middle of a battle between my perceived need to willfully engage the world and the cry of my spirit to abandon mundane concerns. So, is magic that is used for practical issues a distraction that should be set aside?  Maybe it is so for me now, as a neophyte magus who needs to exert a great deal of time and energy to learn the Art. Perhaps magic will become less of a distraction as I gain familiarity with its use. Like the Buddha, I seek the Middle Path here. Unfortunately, that path is covered by undergrowth and hard to find.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Pursue Magic?

Why did I pursue magic? One obvious answer might be that I did so in order to attain my desires. While this may be a common motivation for many individuals, I now think that initially I began to pursue the study of magic in earnest not to get those things I desired but, somewhat paradoxically, in order to get those things that I did not yet desire. For whatever reason I thought magic would be a valuable tool to assist me in evoking or manifesting things in my life. Learning to evoke was important because I had reached a point in my life where I just accepted every turn of fate with no resistance. Whatever happened…happened.  My path in life had functioned like a banishing ritual where the motivation to strive for or accomplish anything had been expunged from me.  Some may say that this state of being is the true goal of the mystic or contemplative. For me, however, it was what is known in Buddhist parlance as an extreme.  It was an extreme of the unconcern for practical matters. I realized that I would never be a hermit or recluse; the vows I held precluded my withdrawal and kept me bound to the world. As such, my lack of concern with practical issues needed to be redressed.  For whatever reason I chose magic as the tool that would help correct this imbalance.  To my dismay, however, my will to evoke has not increased in proportion to my magical knowledge and I now find myself with a set of untapped skills. I find myself hard put to unearth ways to employ my magic. In many ways it is easier for me to identify those things that I do not want as opposed to those things I do want. I don’t want harm to come to my family, for example. I suppose turning such negatives into positives might be helpful. The desire for safety for my family might be something I could work with.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Road Trip Meditation

I have found that many books on meditation, especially those designed for beginners, advise the reader to set aside a certain portion of the day to meditate and to meditate at this prescribed time every day. Working one’s meditations in this fashion is helpful in that it provides a structured schedule for meditation. All too often daily life can be very demanding of one’s attention. Without a schedule, or by practicing willy-nilly, one may find that the day (or days!) passes without having turned to one’s zafu.

Despite its advantages, scheduled meditation has its drawbacks as well. Firstly, it limits one’s meditation to the time set specifically aside for practice. If one’s mediation session lasts an hour, one misses out on 23 hours of potentially available cultivation time. Secondly, one may become so accustomed to one’s meditation schedule that one comes to feel that meditation can only be done during the prescribed time.

While a meditation schedule can be helpful, especially for the beginner, I would suggest that as one becomes accustomed to meditation that one allows one’s meditations to permeate the day. In my case, I have more-or-less abandoned any form of scheduled practice. My mind has become so attuned to seeking out meditation that I meditate at every available opportunity. I meditate before going to sleep, taking a shower, while waiting in the doctor’s office, during TV commercials, etc. In other words, I seek out meditation whenever and wherever possible. Keep in mind that meditation is a mental exercise. One does not need to be burning incense or be sitting in the lotus posture to be engaged in effective meditation. If you engage meditation in this way, your day will (more-or-less) be filled with the cultivation of your mind and no one will suspect that you are doing anything out of the ordinary.

Recently, I have incorporated the act of driving into my meditations. Usually, one is advised to avoid meditating while operating a motor vehicle. This, I believe, is sound advice if one’s mediation takes one’s thoughts and awareness away from the task of driving. My method of driving meditation does quite the opposite, however. I limit my thoughts and awareness exclusively to the task of driving. Of course, I do not always succeed. My mind often slips and I am mentally a thousand miles away from my Toyota Highlander. If anything, my mediation has shown me how mentally absent I generally am when I get behind the wheel (I do not mean to suggest that I am an unsafe driver, which I am not. While my awareness remains centered upon the task of driving, my thoughts tend to wander. I suspect most people share in this).

My driving meditation is simple, yet difficult to perform. The task is to train the mind so that no thought unrelated to the task of driving will arise. When an errant thought does arise it is, once noted, expunged from the mind. To aid myself in this meditation I fill my mind with “driving thoughts” in order to help block stray thoughts from entering my mind. I now do this mediation whenever I am driving and am alone in the vehicle.

A typical “driving meditation” might read something like –

My speed is 30 MPH… I am approaching a stop sign so I need to slow down….stepping on break…slowing…stopped…nothing to the right or left…stepping on the gas… accelerating…no one behind me… people crossing the street ahead…(errant thought)… it is becoming difficult to see because of the rain that is starting….turning on windshield wipers…(errant thought)…there is a red light ahead…slowing down… stopped…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light…waiting for the green light… (errant thought)…etc.

*I believe this mediation is safe to undertake while driving. In fact, it may enhance one’s safety since it forces one to keep one’s thoughts on the task at hand – namely, driving. However, these are my personal opinions. Should anyone choose to meditate while driving, they do so at their own risk. I take no responsibility for any ill effects caused by meditating in the fashion described above.