From Stillness, Magic

 My first exposure to unusual practices that one might associate with magic was with the art of Qigong. Which in the greater picture of occult practices, one might term the mastery of thaumaturgy; namely the art of shaping and directing energy with the total power of one’s being. From my experience this is an excellent starting practice for any serious occultist because it doesn’t truly require adopting any particular worldview. At its heart, it is really just the exploration of the potentialities found within the context of the human mind-body-soul complex.
I know that this sort of specificity in labeling and language use seems odd, but I would remind the reader that the very first sorcery that mankind ever conducted was language. Words have power and using them precisely is as important a magic as any I have encountered. At some later time in this over-arching work I will address that statement further, but for now let us focus on this specific topic.
When I first began the practice, like many, I thought that there must be some secret visualizations to master; some secret technique that some hidden few masters knew. Well, there is a technique, but it is not hidden in some visualization, it is hidden in plain sight. You see, all the secrets of magic are found before our very eyes. They exist in the simplest of things and the most basic of practices.
As an example; there is a simple qigong that I teach called Hua Tuo’s cultivation. It begins with the hands in front of what the Chinese call the dantian, which is located just below the umbilicus in the center of the body. It is a field of potential that extends from the center to the front centerline down to the perineum and back to the mingmen, which is a point just below L2 on the lumbar spine. This spherical field is the basis of all of the vital force of being.

This dantian is actually the lower dantian, but when the dantian is referenced without further connotation, this is the one indicated. I will leave off about the other two for now since this is an example and the other two dantians aren’t germane to the study of this particular practice. I have found it curious and interesting that the dantian, and in fact the three dantiens together, find corollary in the Celtic concept of the three cauldrons. Yet again, I am tempted to digress, but the rabbit I currently hunt is slippery and so I shall remain on topic. Rest assured this corollary will also be addressed later, in the over-arching work.
At any case, the hands begin in a palm upward position, and as you inhale, you bring them upward in time with the breathing. The hands arrive at the center of the chest at the end of the inhale. This should neither be too slow, nor too fast. A steady rhythm will be what one looks for; natural and relaxed, but the breath deeply drawn into the diaphragm.
At the pause between inhale and exhale one should turn the palms downward and upon exhaling press the hands down, back to the dantian. There are numerous postural points to address and I shall do my very best to explain them, but realize that the written word is a poor substitute for seeing and experiencing someone who is doing this properly.
I want to apologize for a seeming digression here, but honestly this is important. It is in the experience of this activity that we want to look. Not in our ideas about it. And at first this would seem to be self evident, but my experience is that it is not. You see, when I teach this to people, I always get the same question. What do I visualize? And I truly understand the nature of the question. I asked it myself, often enough. But if you can, please put that aside for now. Not because visualization has no value. In fact, it can have tremendous value. But it cannot teach us, since it is generated from what we already know. And if we haven’t expressed magic as powerfully as we want, then perhaps there is something outside of what we already know, that we can discover, which might lead us to what we are really looking for.
Rather than visualize, what I would do is pay very close attention to the total experience of your being. Breath coordinated with movement, lend the full force of your being to the simple activity and observe intently. There is a lot going on when you have the sense to feel it, the eyes to see it. It is this simple sinking into the practice of it that brings on what we are looking for. It isn’t in what you do, it is in what you are doing. You must lend more and more of yourself to the activity. It is this surrendering the total of yourself into the activity that defines magic. And in the capacity to do this more completely will your magic grow.
Complex formulas and visualizations can only be added to this basic requirement but they do not themselves create magic, and they are not truly valuable until you know how to lend yourself completely to anything. When one can accomplish this, then can one lend themselves to whatever they might visualize and make it so. So, we start with the simplest of movements, knowing that most who see this will quickly want the secret formula, and the formula is its simplicity. And from this simplicity we can create worlds, and bend forces beyond ken.
This seems a denouement to the previous paragraphs and in fact it is. I will address the postural points, and they are important, but the apex of this entire work has been stated. If you missed it, I recommend going back and re-reading before worrying about the particulars of posture. They, like visualizations, are assistants (albeit important ones) to the nature of the practice itself.
The postural points are detailed, but they should always serve to create a relaxed, calm mind and body. If this does not happen, then one has to examine the way in which one approaches creating these postural points. I can recommend not putting your mindstate into the place of being a fixer, but rather an observer that attends to things much as a gardener does.
First one should locate their weight into the load bearing triangle of the feet. This extends from just behind the ball of the foot and to the point of the center of the heel on each foot. We want to distribute weight evenly between right and left feet and be located in that perfect balance point. Unlock the knees and make an equal fold into the inguinal area by unlocking the ball and socket joint of the hip, sinking into the legs. Allow the tailbone to point downward by dropping all holding in the low back. This should give one the sense that they are dropping their entire upper body weight into their quadriceps. This is exactly right, and should one miss this, one should examine why and where the weight is held instead and figure out what activity must be dropped in order to allow this kind of alignment.
One should feel as though the top of the head were suspended by a string that lightly pulls up and the spine should be released allowing the weight to sink into the pelvis structure. When combined with the lower body alignment this should facilitate a deep ability to let go of the shoulders and drop all upper body tension, surrendering it to gravity through the legs and grounding it into the earth.
This practice of standing in this way, observing the invisible but tangible power of gravity and how it flows through the form will facilitate a natural grounding, and can illuminate a good deal about the nature of invisible energies in general, especially ones that can affect physicality. Combining this with a mind resting in the point of the center ensures we can ground energy easily. In time, this becomes so natural to being, that grounded becomes a baseline state to which we return at will from any sort of flights of energy, mind, or spirit we care to take.
My preference when not teaching a class is to do at least 100 repetitions of the hand movements. This allows enough time for me to settle into the practice, quiet the mind enough to observe deeply and begin to sense deeper currents of energy than the obvious ones.
Of course with practice, this awareness and mind state improves, yet more repetitions is always useful. My experience leads me to believe there is no limit to the depth in which these senses can be awoken and deepened. Often, when we would stop is at that point right before something truly amazing is about to make itself known to us. Truly, I have found sinking deeper still into the exercise yields even greater fruit.

The Rhythm of Our Souls

 This past Imbolc weekend was illuminating for me in many ways. It was appropriate, of course, since Imbolc is about illumination and the increasing light of the solar fire. What I gleaned most was how drastically my pace differs from the pace of the human world and just how much that pace has shifted in the years of my search for the mysteries that surround us.
In the dark, hidden secret of each moment, there is a silence. It exists between breaths; between beats of the heart. There in that liminal space, we can soar soulward. Only in that stillness; that soundless choir, have I found true communion with the land. It is this stillness and silence, found even in the midst of all activity, that can open us to a kind of magic.
We, in the modernist world rush to our doom. In the frantic pace of goal oriented experience, and our attachment to reason, we omit ourselves from life. This pace, advocated by commercial doings and the surrendering of our will to those that exploit, removes us from the voices of our ancestors, from the song of the earth. It cuts off the wordless singing that surrounds us and calls longingly for our reunion.
Rather than relate the experiences that led me to a particular realization, I thought it would be best to simply relate the insight I had. To do else would be to cast a shadow upon some that are caught in that pace, and hold them accountable for what they did not create. Most of us participate unwittingly, captured by the world we were born into, unaware that there is another pace we can find.
This then, is the magic that flows out from me. I have learned, by methods certainly far older than I, to sink into a different rhythm; to deepen my experience into the moment and in so doing, pull back a shroud heaped upon the senses by civilization. It is this magic, that we so desperately need, that has found me, enchanted my senses and taken me deep into the underworld of our shared earthly experience.
This isn’t just some fancy wording for feeling, or seeing more clearly, though it is certainly that. This is an honest sinking into a world of being that interpenetrates us and all that we can see, hear, feel, taste or smell. This is a magic older than any, and it surrounds us, waiting to be rebirthed into the consciousness of humankind.

So often people look for magic in some nebulous “out there,” when in fact it’s “in here,” in this moment that we are experiencing. But, our pace won’t let us see it. Our pace is a predatory looking, a hungry ghost seeking, to fill the emptiness that commercial interests have enchanted us to believe is our lot. And we have danced to that glamor for too long; so long that most who remember something different have either passed from us or have walked away into that real world, leaving us to our folly and illusion. This pace, so hard in winning, is the pace of the earth, the trees, the wind and the river. This, then, is the magic we must reclaim; the magic of a new rhythm, an old rhythm, the rhythm of our souls.

Shearing the Willows

 

I wrote this poem a few years ago when I passed this ancient willow in the town where I grew up. Someone had decided to cut the ancient lady down, and as I saw them preparing to make the first cuts a powerful wind blew up and carried much of her ‘hair’ away, to be blown about the workmen. A deep melancholy filled the air, as though in pause, the whole of the land were bidding farewell.
I, too, was swept up in this moment of remembrance as images from my childhood and the sight of that tree merged. I remembered driving past it so many times as a teen, not noticing it in my haste to be where I was headed. I remembered being driven past as a young child on my way to my grandparents house and watching the tree fade, wondering why it was so much bigger than the others that grew near. And I remembered that many years later, when I first returned to the area of my youth, passing that tree and smiling because it was still there.
I was overwhelmed with the autumnal feeling of letting go, loss, and a deep melancholy. So powerful were these feelings that words came swift but short, taking my breath and squeezing from my eyes the tears that the land could not shed for her.

 

Golden tresses blowing
flowing in the breeze
Little yellow locks
falling where they please
Covering grasses
in masses
of coins, fallen from trees.
And yesterday is gone
And tomorrow’s never here
And today is covered over
With Autumn’s last shear
And today is covered over
With Autumn’s last shear…

Hope in Dreams

Late in the evening before father’s day, after our son had finally settled to his rest, I watched Susan slip quietly into her own slumber. To watch the stress she carries melt away, as she let go, was its own sort of gift.
I spend many days watching the two of them in their dance; he testing every boundary, and she weaving a tapestry of patience and safety for him. It is these quiet moments between their needs that I find my own repose. I reflected further upon my role as a father, as a husband, as the me I have found in both and the me I am in these unobserved moments, when I can let go of my own spell that I weave.

Cool clouds settle upon the evening; a wispy blanket for the moon,
whilst peeping stars flash symphonic in a quickly fading sky.
And you slumber, again spent by the patient spell you have woven.
Beside, our son wrestles with fancies, and promises of fresh hewn grass.
 
On the morrow, you will wake and likely wish me well,
never realizing the gift you have already given in your silent sleep;
that peace glimpsed upon your brow.
What wonders you wear, when you dream.
and I wonder, do I trip as often there?
Or is that the place where grace finds my tongue?
One can hope. One can hope.

Transcendent Lies

 

After spending most of a day wandering the hills and woodlands of the Monadnock region I sat beneath a languid moon. Illumined by the night sky and not much else except for a candle, I spent the evening in repose and contemplation. Struck by thoughts of what it must have been like before we made all our “progress,” I began to lament what we have lost when we began to believe that there was some “out there” to aspire to.

Later this inspired me to rites of connection; a reclaiming of what has been left in the stifled shadows of our cultural awareness. That, as they is, is a tale for another time. This is about what inspires my search and work in the unseen world that sits squarely before and around us…

 

 

Majestic moon, take hold

in me, make bold, and fire the soul
freeing spirits, old and young. 

Once sprung from dark forest, 
the dead best speak. 
From owl’s beak and frost’s rime, 
breaking bonds of time and fate’s troth. 
How doth I listen well? 
Speech, fair and fell, of tomorrow’s days. 
In night’s gaze, I wander lost, 
and wonder at the cost we pay 
for limitless play at ether’s games.
Whilst forgotten names of old Gods fade 
in dusty shades of forgotten tomes.

Our ancient homes and circles broken.

Leaving only token words, easily blown
and covered; o’er grown, and tossed.
Considered dross by modern eyes,
taken in by transcendent lies.

Peace is pieces

Back when I was training to be a Taoist priest, when I thought of myself in that framework, I was asked to contemplate peace. As was usual, and what distinguished me as so very much not a typical monastic, this contemplation took the form of a poem. In the spirit of Li Po, I give you peace is pieces.

Peace is
pieces;
a little of this
in quietude, that.
Filling a vessel
while it empties in cracks.
Desperate to hold
a limitless view,
yet where is the person
you think of as you?
Peace is
the pieces
woven with mind
yet shatter the vessel
and what do you find?
Peace is
the pieces
you make of a life,
thinking is conflict
and being is strife.
Where are the pieces
that create a peace?
Peace is pieces
Make your own relief

You asked me why I love you…

One night after a particularly difficult discussion, where neither Susan nor I were at our best, I decided to sit and give this question a thorough think. Susan had gone to bed, probably as aching from our difficulty as I was. We try to make our relationship about communication, and there are times that our various wounds, and uncertainties, and fears make that communication hard, and filled with growing pains.
In the course of my think this is what I came up with for an answer to her question. I hoped it would help the healing process…

You asked me why I love you.
I could tell you that you are the finest person I know, and it would be a good reason.

Yet, even when you are not your very best self, I love you no less.
I could tell you that you are beautiful, and it would sound sweet.
Yet, I have seen you at your worst, early morning moments;

your hair defying gravity and making no sense of itself.
And I love you no less.
I could say that I was drawn to your kindness, your patience or your compassion.
Yet I have seen you angry, at me and at others and lose all of these.
And I love you no less.


So it seems to me that my love defies reason.
One might as easily ask;
Why do stars love the night,
or flowers, the sun?
They were made that way.
And so was I made; for loving you.
It is as simple and pure as that.
I need no reason, though I have many.
My love for you does not depend upon how you fulfill expectation,
For I have none.
I love you as you are, for the anger and the joy.
For your moments of beauty and your moments of disarray.
I love you, because I must. Because I choose to allow myself to.
Because the stars shine in the night, and because you are you.

Widdershins Walk

    This was inspired by my work with the writings of Robin Artisson, particularly The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill. There is a deep current that runs through all his work that inspires me to explore the shadows that go unnoticed; to make reversals of usual awareness. This brings me to a deep state of dreaming awake that allows me to clearly see in the space that hides between what is and what is possible, and betwixt what is hidden and what is simply subtle. Sublime when I can get there, undistracted by myself.
Twice around the willow wand
and once around again.
Widdershins, I walked,
when I went around the bend.
Across the stoney field,
and o’er the forest’s edge.
Between the Wild and the Wood,
I rode the thorny hedge.
Into the blanket night
without stars, nor even moon.
I listened to the toad,
and the owl began to croon.
First, it was the crickets
that silence fell upon.
Then it was the wind,
and I wondered how far I’d gone.
Cavorting shadows crept
and fed upon my fear.
Whilst my mortal heart, it wept,
and I knew that she drew near.
That unseen pallid beauty,
whose footsteps no ears can hear.
But I felt her fiddling fingers
at the heart of my deepest fears.
The supple queen of elfhame;
sovereign of the dark.
That lady of the air
had woven, on a lark,
a spell on mortal man
who’d gone further than was wise.
She blessed him with a curse,
and opened up his eyes.
Now, when the moon is dark,
and when it is full, gleaming;
Mortal lands and mortal hands
seem nothing more than seemings.
To darkened fanes and verdure bowers,
transfixed in glamour’s hand.
Wide eyed, I wander hours
into the shadowlands
Along the thorny hedge,
betwixt the wild and the wood;
I wake and wonder when I’ll find
the master in the hood.

Forever Days

  Today I spent an afternoon playing with my son in giant piles of leaves that we had together raked. A nostalgia for my own early childhood sidled up beside me with the crisp scent of autumn and the chill that wove its spell on us both. The abandon of play is something that it is so easy to forget, and in this, it is he that leads the way.
      Time wafted by us; one of those forever moments that hangs and waits for you to catch up. His laughter filled our yard and told me that today, at least, was a day to remember.

 

 

Winter’s hand holds hard to Autumn.
When crystalline lace whitens the pale morning,
I remember loss in the days when hours were months;
a farewell to color for the ages.
 
Now, as years have both dulled and enhanced my eyes
I gaze in wonder upon innocence at play.
Looking forward seems easy
when all you have is forward times.
The endless yesterday but a dream,
giving minimal form to the moment.