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The mind is probably the most powerful tool at our disposal. This, to me, is where magick comes from - the ability (learned or natural) to use our minds to manipulate energy to achieve a desired goal. There are many different ways and methods to do this, the way I work is only one of them. What works well for one person may not necessarily work as well for someone else, however I think that most people would agree with me that belief in one's self, plus the ability to concentrate and focus your mind are of paramount importance.
I have practiced magick and witchcraft ever since I can remember, being apparently able to make things happen just by wanting them to (concentrating single mindedly on them) and seeing those things happening in my mind's eye (visualisation). I most probably inherited my abilities from my paternal grandmother, who although a devout Roman Catholic, had certain psychic abilities, a great love of nature, and an open mind. She was an excellent medium, could talk to animals, and was just starting to teach me about the Tarot when she died. She died when I was just seven years old, and I was inconsolable until she visited me and told me that she was happy. OK, I was a little kid - maybe it was a dream, maybe it wasn't, but I have seen and spoken with her since, so I don't think it was. I've always been able to see auras, too, and perplexed my mother by asking her what those lights around people were when I was about five. Mother, who is wary and perhaps even fearful of the occult, doesn't object when I clear a space in the traffic for her to pull out of her street when I'm with her, or find a parking space close to a mall entrance on a busy day, but I digress - as I said, I have always practiced magick - partly instinctively, and partly self taught.
If you don't believe you can do something, then you've failed before you even start. You either "do" it, or you "don't do" it - there is no "try" :-) The word "try" implies that you don't really think you can do it, but you'll give it a bash anyway. Don't bother. Your attitude should be "I will do (whatever)", and you must really believe that. If you don't (really believe), wait until you do before you attempt the work.
So, the basics. First of all, believe in yourself. Trust yourself. You will need to un-learn most of what you've been brought up to believe, and that isn't easy. I'm still learning to un-learn :-) Once you learn to believe in yourself, if you listen to your inner mind, you'll find that you have an instinctive "feel" for what you have to do and how to do it. Listen to that little voice, that inner you, and trust it. It is the voice of many lifetimes of experience and it won't let you down.
Concentration. To be able to focus your mind and keep it focused is not easy - you get an itch, or the cat jumps on your lap, or the phone rings - and goodbye concentration! Try to arrange to have a "quiet time" by yourself somewhere each day. Take the phone off the hook if you have to, and make yourself as comfortable as possible. I like to go and lie on the bed, slightly propped up. Have a crystal close by where you can see it easily, or a candle burning in a safe place (you don't want to set fire to the curtains!) If you're a smoker as I used to be, have a smoke and spend those few minutes allowing your mind to think of anything it likes, from "Oh heck, I forgot to take the steak out of the freezer!" to what you're going to say to the bank manager tomorrow morning about your overdraft. Once you've finished your smoke, clear your mind of all those mundane thoughts and begin to concentrate on your crystal or the candle flame. At first you might find that your mind keeps wandering back to those mundane thoughts, but discipline it away from them and back to the crystal or the candle flame. I use an amethyst about the size of a small hen's egg, so I concentrate on its facets, its colour, and let my mind follow the patterns and flaws of the amethyst right down deep into its centre. Concentrate on the "feeling" of the crystal (or flame) until you can almost see yourself as being inside it; part of it. I would recommend practising this form of concentration for twenty minutes to half an hour each day, though that may be too much for a "beginner", but I wouldn't advise anything under ten minutes per day.
Erm... yeah, but how do you know when you've been "doing it" long enough if you're supposed to be concentrating on the crystal or the flame (or whatever)? Sometimes minutes seem like hours, or hours seem like minutes. Do not set a timer! A sudden, loud noise can be very disruptive. Either get someone to tap gently on the door after the proscribed time, or have a relaxing tape playing softly in the background while you're doing your "exercises" - when the tape finishes, so has your exercise.
You'll find that with practice, you'll be able to slip into this state of concentration at will, even without the use of the crystal or flame. This is where the next stage comes in - visualisation.
First decide what it is you want to achieve, and perhaps more importantly, why you want to achieve it, because this will determine which method you're going to use to achieve your goal. Let me stress at this point that you must never, ever, use magick to further your own ends at someone else's expense, neither must you use it to harm another, or yourself. People (and books) will tell you that it's the intent that counts, not the consequences of the action, i.e. if you don't mean any harm, you won't accrue bad karma if things don't turn out.... exactly as you expected. Not true! I could probably site many, many cases where although the intention is good, the result isn't. Probably one of the most classic examples is: "I want to send strength and healing to someone" - why? "Well, they're dying of cancer, and I want to send them all the strength and health that I can" - can your magick cure them of the cancer? - "Erm... no. It's terminal cancer" - then what are you likely to achieve by sending them this strength and energy? - The strength to suffer a few more days? Is this what you really want? For them to suffer for a few more days? - "No..."
The road to perdition is paved with good intentions - better by far that you should send them the strength and energy to use as they wish - either to let go, or to struggle on for a few more months. Send them the energy by all means, but the decision on how to utilise that energy is theirs, not yours.
So, you see, it's not always the intent, it's the result that matters. Think very carefully before you begin to work magick, and be fully prepared to take the responsibility and any resulting consequences, yourself!
Enough of the lecture, back to the exercises!
For the purposes of this particular exercise, we're going to use an apple :-)
Yes, an ordinary apple. Slip into your concentration mode and picture in your mind an apple. Any sort of apple, it doesn't matter what kind. Look at it. Reach out with your "mind's hand" and turn it around. Examine it from all sides and from top and bottom. Really see that apple. Touch it with your "mind's hand". Feel it. Feel the texture of its skin. Wonder at its waxiness, and at the many different colours you can see in what appears to be a uniform colour from a distance. See and feel every blemish - look, there's a bruise beginning on it there, where you dropped it on the floor... it has a tiny stalk on the top, brown, and with a tiny, tiny leaf still hanging off it... Turn the apple upside down. Look at the tiny little remnants of the flower it once was... Become intimately familiar with that apple! (not that intimately familiar! (smile)) but see it and feel it so clearly in your mind that your physical hands can almost feel it too.
Practice this with other things too - a loved one's face... your cat... the tree outside the window - anything. Learn - teach yourself to be able to visualise just about anything in great detail. When you come to use visualisation in working magick you will find that the greater the detail, the better your work will be. With no visualisation details to work with, you're virtually working "blind" and that makes whatever you're trying to achieve very difficult indeed!
Don't be fooled! The above exercise sounds simple and easy... It's not, believe me! It takes a lot of practice and a lot of concentration, and it takes quite a bit out of you. If you're doing it properly, by the time you can really "see" and "feel" that apple so clearly in your mind that you can virtually physically feel it, you'll be pretty drained.
Which brings us to the subject of energy. From the raising of energy to the sending of energy to creating an energy shield. Almost any High School kid can tell you that energy... "is". Everything, from the air we breath to our own bodies, is energy in one form or another. You can never destroy energy, you can only change its appearance/form from one form to another. That being the case, it therefore follows that we can "take" energy from one thing and "put" it into another form or put it to another use. Energy is something like "The Force" in the Star Wars universe. It surrounds us, permeates us, and binds the universe together. Energy itself is neither good nor evil - it is true neutral. This also means that it can be used for "good" purposes and "bad" ones, so be careful that you have thought things through before you begin to use it. There is another interesting thing about energy. The more you use it, the more of it you will be able to use, and be able to use it to do more things. Try to examine your motives as honestly as you can.
O.K., so what does pure energy look like? Answer: whatever you want it to look like! (visualisation - always visualisation!) Decide what you want "energy" to look like. I visualise it as a sort of spiky pale blue/white-ish light, but that's just me. You can visualise it as looking any way you like, only you must be consistent!
Back to concentration/visualisation mode... Look around you - energy everywhere! Trees, rocks, people, buildings, cars... you name it, are surrounded by a hazy sort of nimbus of energy. Look down at your body - the energy you see radiating out of it is your aura, and the energy surrounding your cat, your car, the tree outside, even the bricks or wood that your house is constructed of - they're all auras. All auras are coloured - mine is pale, pale ice blue around my head, shading to pale mauve and pale pink on the way down to my feet. Auras can tell you a lot about a person's state of health and emotions, so pay attention to them, but more on that later. Back to the topic! :-)
The energy I told you to visualise before is "unused" or "raw" energy and may be used by anyone. Never, ever try to tap into or steal energy that is already in use by someone (or something) else. There is plenty to go round. You may take, in limited quantities, energy from the earth, the air, fire, water, and in even more limited quantities, from your own bodies. You can generate energy - (sex is good for this, (but only with your partner's full knowledge and consent!)) so are prayer and concentration. Have you ever had an uncomfortable, prickly feeling when entering a church or temple? This is because of the energies raised during a service that haven't been properly discharged and which are still "hovering" over the area like a pall. Many people can raise energy unknowingly or unconsciously, or simply don't know what to do with it once they've raised it, but once again, I'm getting ahead of myself!
An energy shield will not shield you from physical harm (though it has been known to lessen the effects); it will shield you from negative energies, psychic attacks, and shield your mind from stray energies that may cloud or obstruct your magickal work - in other words, it acts as a sort of psychic force-field.
Your personal energy shield knows no boundaries other than the ones you set it, even over vast distances. Size or distance are immaterial. "Size" and "distance" are only physical limitations we humans have set for ourselves - they are an illusion psychically! So how do we create this energy shield?
Visualise a small ball of glowing energy. See it clearly... Make it grow... bigger... bigger... big enough to step into and be completely surrounded by it - above you, around you, below you. Fix it in place in your mind, then tuck it away somewhere in your subconscious (the "set and forget" method). You have created a personal energy shield. Have a look... is it still there in your subconscious? It should be... if it's not, repeat the process until it is so firmly fixed that you just have to "glance" mentally into your subconscious to be reassured that it's there. Now you can consciously bend, stretch, and mould it to cover whoever or whatever you like, as well as yourself, and it will stay that way until you consciously change it again.
Thus endeth today's lesson. Keep practising diligently and perhaps soon I will add another chapter of exercises for you...
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