Tag Archives: magic

Redefining Luck

Posted on by

It has been eight years this month since I left the family home I’d made in Sebastopol and moved out to the coast. With little money, a fledgling career, and two daughters still to support, it was a leap of faith greater in magnitude than any I had yet tried to pull off in my life.

The past eight years have been marked by significant losses and hard-won gains. My business crashed in the downturn and I scrambled to build a new one. My father, nephew, and several friends died. As hard as I worked, progress was always slower than I hoped on many fronts.

And yet, I have had tremendous luck. Not the kind of luck that means my worries are over, not the luck that prevents me from having to make hard choices more than once. But a slender thread of luck and serendipity is all we need sometimes to affirm that we are on the right path, doing what we’re supposed to be doing, no matter the risk.

Golden Gate Bridge 75th AnniversarySometimes it’s the small pieces of luck that feel the best, like approaching the Golden Gate Bridge on its 75th Anniversary just as the sun sets behind it. Or catching the most beautiful moonrise by virtue of getting home late after a hard day.

One of the first things I needed in my new life was to rebuild my wardrobe for where I was going, not where I’d been. I had no money for clothes, but sometimes I’d have a sudden urge to visit one or another of my favorite stores. Invariably, the one thing I really needed would be there, in the perfect color and size, at a super cheap price.

Other times my luck was larger and more harrowing, for instance when I had no work for several weeks at a stretch. I was doing everything I could to generate more work, so I took my unwanted time off as a nudge from the Universe to sit down and write that book. Each time, I had just long enough to finish the project before work started flowing in again.

And then there were numerous instances when bad stuff happened in mild ways, or things broke but the damage was minor. At every turn there was something that tested my faith and resolve, and unfailingly the answer came back: Yes. You are on the right path. Keep going.

You don’t pass this kind of luck by. You thank it, accept it, be grateful for it. Gratitude increases both the size and frequency of luck, helping you stay healthy and live longer in the process. It is absolutely my magical tool of choice.

In his memoir, Robert Johnson names this kind of luck “slender threads,” “the mysterious forces that guide us and shape who we are.”

The possibility of the slender threads operating at all times is so staggering that most of us can’t bear it…Life is not meaningless, it is overflowing with meaning, pattern, and connections.

Serendipity, synchronicity, luck, fortune, fate. Call it what you will; it will answer.

I still have grand ideas of the kind of luck I want, and I continually shoot for them. Maybe soon one of those big plays will succeed in a flash of light. Meanwhile, a million little moments of luck glitter on the path all around me, lighting my way down the road no matter what.

Magic is a Way of Living

Posted on by

In September of last year, I posed a question on Facebook about magic:

How do you define magic? What is it? How does it work?
I’ve never liked Dion Fortune’s definition, that magic is “the art of changing consciousness at will.” I’m thinking of writing an article about why it’s so bad, but first I’d like to hear what others think. No pressure, mind you…

Little did I expect such an overwhelming response: 55 generous, thought-provoking comments by a range of brilliant people. Re-reading them now feels like being in the best graduate seminar ever. Needless to say, it has taken me a while to digest it all.

My impetus for asking the question was to continue the work I started in The Baby and the Bathwater, and examine the foundations of my spiritual training. I want to explore what I was taught versus what I now believe about aligning with the elements, working magic, creating community and using ritual for transformation.

This will eventually lead to a bigger work, probably a rewritten and expanded version of my dissertation on the priestess. These days I write books one blog post at a time, so for now I just need to dive in. Defining magic seems like a good place to start.

“Magic is the Art of Changing Consciousness at Will”

I first heard Dion Fortune’s definition of magic in the early 80s, and it has taken me this long to figure out why I don’t like it. It turns out that 30 years is not an unreasonable amount of time in which to fully change our consciousness around a single issue—especially if you apply a great deal of willpower to it.

And that’s the key to why I rejected Dion Fortune’s definition.

The big fallacy in the “focused will” model of magic is that consciousness is hierarchical. The mind sets its goal, you use breath and a bunch of other stuff to clear the channel between your head and all those lower chakras, create a circuit of energy flowing into your solar plexus, then beam out that laser-focused will to activate your desires.

Even if this method works for some people, for me it just highlighted the model’s deeper flaws. Because what happens to the minority report? Sure, our minds can overpower just about any conflicting signals coming in, but is that really what we want?

I reasoned that the proof of this philosophy of magic would lie in studying the lives of those who live by it. Were there any teachers or practitioners out there whose lives as a whole I admired? What were they successful at manifesting, and what were the obvious caveats to their success? Most importantly, did they have healthy relationships? Were their children happy and thriving, or disturbed and struggling?

In the end, out of a few hundred I found maybe a handful of people who I felt were grounded and sane as well as successful at this type of magical practice. So I abandoned that approach entirely and turned to dreams, particularly dream incubation, to see how well that worked.

As I wrote here, dreams are an excellent means for both listening to and integrating that minority report. If there is something I want to manifest, I ask for dreams about it. Without exception, this has helped me be wiser in what I ask for and better able to integrate the changes that come.

What About the Body?

If consciousness is not hierarchical, what other methods can we use to change it? In my experience, transformation starts in the body, as far away from the head as possible, then slowly makes its way into our minds. And because deep wisdom arises in the extremities, the more focused and overpowering our will is, the more difficult it is for this emerging wisdom to register in our awareness.

Dreamwork helps. Trusting dreams means trusting the wild reaches of consciousness, following them and learning their logic. It really helps to do this with a solid group of friends who can help you identify those emerging patterns and keep your bearings at the same time.

But dreamwork can also be very heady. We need a physical practice too, like aikido or chi gung.

Aikido helped me learn how it feels when my will and mind are aligned and in right proportion with the rest of my body. It taught me at a far deeper level than any other practice how to expand my awareness, how to be aligned with the flow of power, how to move strongly with a centered focus that comes from the body as well as the mind. I use it every day.

The Consciousness of Everything

At last, I had found a combination of practices that enabled me to trust both what I asked for, and what I received. It was a much more complicated and demanding process than the one I’d been taught, but in the end felt so much simpler.

There were a number of responses to my original post that took a Taoist view of magic: being in the flow makes things happen. This is true, but it’s kind of like saying that jazz improvisation is easy, when making it look easy is actually the end of a very long process of mastery.

More than anything, magic is a study in paradox. So it was probably no coincidence that the other day I came across a great quote about magic by Carl Jung, a master at understanding paradox:

Everything that works magically is incomprehensible, and the incomprehensible often works magically. The magical opens spaces that have no doors and leads one out into the open where there is no exit. We need magic to be able to receive or invoke the messenger and the communication of the incomprehensible. Magic is a way of living. If one has done one’s best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place. (The Red Book, 314)

For now, “Magic is a way of living” is a good enough definition for me. Because magic is what you see and experience when a whole bunch of other things are finely-tuned and working well. Maybe it sometimes looks like a mere act of will and mindful focus, but the reality is so much more interesting, and rewarding.

Business is Magic

Posted on by

I am not happy about publishing only one post in June, but while not writing I have been very busy mulling over how to make the best use of this space, and all the other spaces I have on the web. Some of you may have seen Jason’s post about the changes at Serpentine Music this summer, to which I would only add that if you want great deals on great music, the albums are going fast so order now!

Serpentine Music was my first business, a start-up back in the home-based business craze of the 1990s. It has been my do-it-yourself MBA, a crash course in music production, publishing, distribution, planning, niche marketing, sales, web design, direct mail, customer service, database management, and small business ownership. Winding it down has taught me a ton about how to carefully assess which pieces of a business should be tossed out for the useful stuff to thrive. Having an objective eye for something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and not being afraid to kill things that don’t work—that is tough, and it is also exactly where transformation happens.

This summer I have also undertaken the birth of a new business, Creative Content Coaching, which combines my experience as an educator and writer with everything I have learned about small business, consulting, and building a public presence. Shifting in such a short time from one business model to a completely new one, while not really shifting the essence of what I do at all, has taught me the biggest diy-MBA lesson yet: business is magic.

Allow me to explain. I have spent years helping people understand the spiritual messages in their dreams, while my dreams were advising me to make all sorts of changes in my professional life (which I followed). Eventually, the spiritual and practical streams in dreams merged for me, and I began doing dream seminars for businesses, while clients came to me looking for career guidance in their own dreams. (It is easy to find once you know how to look.)

Similarly, I started this blog on a whim five years ago, mostly to write on spiritual and personal topics. By hanging in there month after month, I’ve built up a large readership, leveraged it into writing for the Huffington Post, and now know more than most business coaches about the different kinds of web-based writing and how to do it well.

Magic is the art of sensing patterns, following the energy, and doing it all while staying centered and tapped into your creativity. What emerges is total transformation. What can also emerge is a very practical application of all that esoteric stuff, a vehicle through which we can use our whole skill set to bring positive change to the greatest number of people, while living by our core values. In other words, a very cool business. I hope to blog more about magic and commerce in the near future, and meanwhile I welcome your thoughts.