Sorcerer’s Garden: Plants and Planning

2017/04/25

pots-716579_960_720[1]Last time I talked a bit about the sorcerer’s garden and why to have one and what it might be like.  Now I want to take some time to talk about how to set up the garden.  This will help other people set up their own gardens, but I freely admit it is also to help me think through my garden plan.  A large chunk of this is gardening 101, so feel free to skim until it gets more interesting.

 

Let’s start with the absolute basics: What space do you have to plant your garden?  It seems obvious, but I got carried away thinking about it before, and I’ve seen others do the same in conversation.  Obviously if you live in an apartment or such your space will be very limited to what you can put in some pots and planters, which is fine, it just means you have to be smarter and more selective.  What space do you have to plant your garden?  Then do you want it there?  I have a front and back yard.  My house is near two high schools and a junior public school, so kids walk by or on my lawn frequently (get off of my lawn!), and my postal carrier does too, so I might not want to put my magick garden in the front yard.  Normal veggies and flowers I’m less concerned about, but if your sorcerer’s garden is a green temple you don’t want people traipsing through unaware.  If I fenced it in with some hedges (long term plan) I could reconsider it, but right now there is no physical or visual privacy.  What about you?  Do you want your garden in all of the available space?  What areas might be better or worse for that?  If you have the space don’t sacrifice the functionality of the garden just to make it bigger.

 

Now that you know what space you’ll use for your garden it’s time to look at the environment factors of the place.  What direction is it from your house? (Or what direction is the window if you’re doing it indoors)  This will inform how much light the garden gets.  In general the side closest to the equator gets the most sun.  (So if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the south side gets the most sun)  But this is in general, in my case my neighour’s house, which is rather tall, is against the south side of my property, so it blocks a lot of the sun there for about a third of my property.  East and West both get good sun exposure, but again this is dependent on what casts shade over it, my back yard faces east, and my neighbour’s house on that side is sufficiently far away to not interfere with my sunlight, but I have a huge 50 year old maple tree in that yard which blocks the sun for much of the yard.  The direction farthest from the equator gets the least sun.  (The north side of the house in the Northern Hemisphere).  This is critical because plants evolved enjoy different amounts of sun, so you’ll be able to find something to grow no matter how much or how little sun you get, but not all plants will grow well with lots of sun or shade.  It’s important to know what sun is available before you start picking your plants.

 

The last major environmental factor to consider is your zone.  Sometimes called climate zones, growing zones, or hardiness zones, different countries and groups use different designations.  They’re broad areas that tell you what types of plants you can grow there.  They’re figured out based upon things like year round temperatures, sun light, and water.  It makes it very easy to see if a plant it likely to grow in your area.  (You can sometimes grow plants outside their regions, but it’s harder, you’ll need to take care watering them more/less, sheltering them from the sun, or thoroughly insulating them or their roots for winter)

 

We know where we can plant, and we know the sun and zone for that spot so now we need to figure out what to plant.  This is all up to you.  There are various things to consider: your spiritual tradition(s), your local plants, your family, and your preference.

 

As a Buddhist I’d love to grow lotuses, but can’t with my lack of a lake on my property.  I can grow nettles, juniper, sandalwood, and possibly figs though, so those are on my list.  From a more western practice of ceremonial magick and sorcery there are things like datura, wormwood, and rue I can grow.  I think it’s important to also grow local plants of some sort, it seems odd to set up a garden in part for the land spirits and only grow foreign plants.  For me that might be things like maple, or chokecherry.  Your family can influence what you grow too.  My garden plans to have several of my Beloved Dead’s favourite flowers to be offerings for them, but also as my family is Mi’kmaq I’ll be growing tobacco, sage, cedar, and sweet grass for my Relations.  And of course personal preference is a huge factor too.  What flowers and plants do you like, what colours, what are you called to?  I like blue and black, so most of my flowers are blue or black.  I’ve never felt called to a plant in general so nothing there for me, but I know other people probably have connections they could try to nurture.

 

Once you know what you want to plant, research it.  Can it grow in your hardiness zone?  Can it grow with the amount of sun and shade you could provide it, or the amount of rain?  As much as I’d love to grow a Dracaena cinnabari tree (Dragon’s Blood) not surprisingly something that evolved to live in the Arabian Sea can’t handle Canadian winters.

 

Finally if you can grow it, the ultimate question for the magick garden comes up…if you have the freedom how do you want to arrange the garden?  In the end the main priorities will be the plants and environment themselves, but what can you do in that?  Do you want to divide your garden for magickal purposes too?  Plants are associated with planets and elements…do you want a garden divided along those lines, so you know if you need a spark of fire for the ritual, that all your fire plants are together?  What about divisions based upon tradition, if that’s important to you it could be worth keeping them separate.  You could think about it in terms of chthonic, terrestrial, and celestial plants.  Plants for the dead and the living, and other spirits.  Really if you have the freedom to go wild with the arrangement it could be satisfying to think about that in the planning your garden, though that might be the ceremonialist in me.

 

Next time we’ll think more about the actual raising of magick plants.

Advertisements

Sorcerer’s Garden: Thoughts and Seeds

2017/04/17

pexels-photo-296230[1].jpegAlternate title: Don’t just keep green thumbs in jars.

It’s been two years since I talked about Local Spirits, and longer since I’ve talked about my Sorcerer’s Plant (and more on it here)and now I want to move farther.

For a few years I’ve wanted to make a magickal garden, so I’m hoping if I blog about it that will help keep me on track, and I’ve already bought a lot of supplies and been reading and rereading relevant books.  While I don’t think I ever frame myself as an expert, let me be clear: I’m a good gardener, but other than my Sorcerer’s Plant and eir “cousins” I haven’t done magick gardening before.  So what I’m going to discuss in my Magick Garden blog posts will be hypothetical, book based, and/or limited experience.  I hope no one ever takes what I say as gospel, but especially not this.

I like gardening, in the spring and summer I enjoy fresh herbs, spinach, lettuce, and a variety of tomatoes. While the roses and tigerlilies on my property (they when I moved in) get used magickally that’s just because they are there, that wasn’t their intent.  But I’ve wanted for a while to make a garden that is for magick and in a lot of ways is magick.

If I grow my own magick plants, I can craft my own incense, potions/tinctures, oils, fetishes, tools, satchels or whatever.  By growing it myself I can be sure of its identity and quality, something admitted harder to be sure of with a processed/dried plant, but I also get to know the plant and the spirit of the plant more intimately which will allow me to do more.  An ally is more beneficial than a tool.

A consciously planned and quickened garden can be a thing of magick too.  I’ve cultivated a few wild places to be places of magick, or enhanced it in some cases, but something that I can work with more closely will be that much more I believe.  It’s not just about having fresh ingredients, it’s about having a collection of plant spirit allies, but plant spirits aren’t the only ones that benefit from a garden like this.

My local spirit will benefit from this, it’s a cultivation of their life energy, and will be enriched giving me another way to work with them.  Think back to all the other spirits I mentioned that aren’t really local spirits, but get grouped as them: spirits that inhabit a place, shades of the dead, nature spirits, fae-type things, they will all get more of a space on my property when a magickal garden is made and they’re given space.  Other spirits that I work with can be given space.  When you have a place with ensouled tools, items of magickal power, it develops its own energy and presence, a sense of that place with a unique warping that aids your magick.  I suspect a garden of plant spirit allies will work in much the same way, not just a magickal grove but something a bit deeper.   In essence a quickened and maintained magick garden becomes a living temple for me to work in.  This is some of the what and why, next time I’ll talk about the how some more.

So far the two books I’m working with are Viridarium Umbris (my favourite book on plant magick) and The Witching Herbs (only half way through reading).  If you have any recommendations on gardening books from a magickal perspective, please let me know.


SAD, Depression, and Woogity Support

2017/01/03

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. Close in numbers would be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and of course there is some overlap. (If you’re unfamiliar SAD is essentially a temporary form of depression brought on by reduced sunlight in winter months)

Before I go farther I’d like to make two things clear. Depression is a mental health condition, it is an umbrella for a variety of neurological conditions where the brain cannot produce or process certain neurotransmitters most commonly associated with happy moods and motivation. Depression isn’t feeling bad or sad, it’s not just an emotional funk to snap out of, it’s a literal physical condition in the brain. You can no more cure depression with thinking happy thoughts than you can cure anemia by thinking iron-laden thoughts. Secondly what I will be discussing is not, in any way, meant to supplant medical treatment. What I discuss can help manage depression in some cases, deal with the edge of it, but it will not cure it, and shouldn’t be assumed to be a replacement for proper medical treatment. Like any medical condition you can do magickal workings to help support it and the medical treatment, but a serious condition will not be cured by magick alone.

I’m part of this statistical group. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and have for almost 20 years. I deal with it better now than I did even a decade ago due to three things: light therapy, medication, and woogity. I want to share what techniques I’ve found work the best for me, and while these are more specifically how I manage SAD, I believe they may be of some relevance to people with depression.

First and foremost the best technique for managing depression I have is my meditation practice. Specifically anapana/vipassana meditation. While part of a bigger rant, let me say that all meditations are not equal, and not useful, and in this situation anapana has what we’re looking for. Anapana has a variety of benefits not found in more generic meditations but this is overlooked by pop-science articles that claim colouring books are just as good, as they they measure things like heartrate and brain waves, ignoring the point of the meditation. Relevant to SAD/Depression anapana helps you identify thoughts, chains of thoughts, and where they come from. This is very important because sometimes when in a depressive episode it’s hard to know where a thought comes from, do you really not want to go to that party cause you won’t have fun, or are you thinking that cause you’re depressed? Anapana can help you see where that thought comes from. Anapana also teaches you to catch distractions and thoughts as they form and redirect your focus. Again this is useful for a depressive episode because it is common to get caught in depressive loops, and not necessarily realize it or be able to break it. This helps you learn to catch the mind, and redirect, if only for a little bit. There are a lot of great resources to learn about anapana, I’ve written about it before and there are of course youtube tutorials.

The second technique I use is Pore Breathing and Compacting. This goes to the cause of SAD, a lack of sunlight. Sit comfortably somewhere you can see sunlight, if you can sit in the sun that’s best, and in a pinch you can do this with artificial lights and connect to the Sun energetically, but doesn’t seem to be nearly as potent. Perceive your body as empty and hollow, it’s like a clear crystal vase, no muscles, skeletons, or organs inside, no channels or energy centres, just a clear crystal surface in the shape of your body. Now as you breathe in, draw the light into your body, it travels in with the breath but also through the surface, it remains inside on the outbreath held in by the crystal and your will. Repeat this, increasing the intensity of the light until after several minutes you are as radiant as the sun yourself. For you first few times, I recommend stopping here, just breathe normally for a bit, and open your eyes and go about your day.

For a more advanced version once you’re radiant it is time to compact that light. On each in breath the light contracts, pulling into the centre of your chest a little, staying there, slightly smaller, as you breathe out. Each breath pulls it a little bit more into the heart centre, and a few minutes you should have a radiant brilliant pearl in your heart centre. Leave it there, and over the day it will dissipate slowly letting solar energy into your body.

A small warning with this technique though, Solar Energy can make it a bit hard to sleep, at least until you get used to it. So you’re better off doing this in the morning or early afternoon.

As said, these are in no way replacements for proper medical treatments, but I’ve found these very useful to supplement my medical work around my health, and perhaps they can be beneficial to some of you.

If you have any recommended supplementary techniques that have worked for you, I would love to hear them, and I’m sure they might benefit other readers.


Be Mindful of Wishes

2016/11/14

One thing I often tell people is: when doing magick be specific.  Now I don’t mean addressing people’s fear that if they do a money spell and don’t specify where it comes from their Grandma will die and they get the inheritance. (Not to say that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen either though) More that having a clear goal, and preferably a clear path of manifestation, is what will help you get what you want.

I bring this up because last time you joined you hero I was talking about a ritual I helped lead that unexpectedly got me a job.  Now, I will freely admit that as I was focusing on running the ritual, I only put the most basic thought and intent into what my goal was -a job- and I got it.

I made more money at that job than I have at any previous job, not by much, but still more…It was also the least money per hour I’ve made in a long time, so the fact that I was making more was the result of horribly long hours and long weeks.  This isn’t mentioning the emotionally unstable micromanaging boss.

Lesson: Be specific in what you ask for, cause I got a job, I got a job making more money than I had been making, but in the end it was a horrible job that affected my health and ate up so much of my time that everything else seemed to drop away.

So between working five and a half days a week, at eleven hour days, and being in the most stressful and draining job I’ve ever had, things like this blog just got dropped because I didn’t have the time and mental resources for it.

But fear not faithful audience, for I’ve switched jobs, and while I don’t know how long I’ll be at the new one, I have a lot more time and energy to myself now, and getting BlueFlameMagick up and running again is on my list of priorities, hope to see you all soon.


Ritual: Breaking The Cycle

2016/05/23

Last weekend I was at “Gather” which is the unofficial name many folks use for the House Kheperu Open House. It is by far my favourite magickal convention; I literally start planning for the next year on my way home. It’s run by some friends of mine and I help out in some minor ways, and I’ve been attending and teaching there for over a decade. Like any convention there are some awesome folks, and some folks we wish weren’t around, but overall it’s probably my favourite crowd too. Magickal conventions often a niche, which is excellent, but creates a bit of an echo chamber in some ways, Gather though…Gather pulls people from everything. Vajrayana Buddhists, Zen Buddhists, Greek Polytheists, Norse Heathens, Satanists, Kemetic Pagans, Santeros, witches from pre-Gardnerian trads, atheists, neo-Pagans, Jewish Qabalists, O.T.O. and Golden Dawn folks, Christians, even a Catholic priest, and so much more. You have skill ranges from “I read a book on magick, and I’m curious” to “I literally wrote the book on this.” In terms of intelligence there more people with psychology and science degrees than I can shake a wand at. (Not that I believe degrees are the end all be all of intelligence, but these serve as good markers that I find lacking at a lot of other conventions. It’s also the only magickal convention that when people see me compulsively solving Rubik’s Cubes people ask if I have more, so they can do them too) Yet at Gather, everyone meshes, and we hold conversations across these huge divides to a degree I haven’t really seen at other events.

This Gather I ran two rituals, one solo and one with two friends, and I wanted to talk about the latter.

We called the ritual “Breaking the Cycle” and to be honest that title was (if I remember the conversation right) more or less a place holder until we thought of something better, and we never got back to that. Though we do have a new potential title I’ll discuss at the end. The idea was to allow people to release something from their past, embrace or work on something in their present, or move toward something in their future. Yes, that’s a bit vague, but when you’re doing large rituals broader goals that can be personalized are more likely to be useful.

The basic schema is the ritualists embody Past, Present, and Future, and open up a sacred space of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey allowing us to work with the participants on things at any point in their timeline. In this ritual I was the Past. The sacred space is cast in a triangle, representing Past-Present-Future, rather than more traditional circles using elements/directions. The space casting idea is based upon one that appears in Casting Sacred Space, an excellent book on different methods of opening ritual space.

The style of ritual my friends and I work with in this case is a fairly spontaneous one in terms of speech. There is a lot of embodiment, and letting the force and the spirit or whatever talk through us, so the script I provide is only the loosest of indications of the type of things we might have said.

To perform this ritual you need three ritualists, three cauldrons, three sterno cans (or another source of fire that fits in the cauldrons), flash paper (enough small pieces for everyone, the size of a business card works), and pens.

Everyone has their piece of paper before the ritual begins, and pens are provided in the centre of the space.

Arrange the three cauldrons with the sterno cans lit at the edge of what will be the space, the ritual will be performed inside the triangle formed by the cans, so make sure they’re spaced far enough that all the participants can fit inside the triangle. To start with though all the participants are outside of the triangle, only the ritualists are inside it. Before starting the ritualists are to think of what it is they want to work with, and a single word to represent it, and then write this on their piece of flash paper. The person representing the Future selects something in the present they want to work on, the person who is the Present selects something in the past they want to let go of, and the person who is the Past selects something in the future they want to work toward.

The ritualists meet in the centre of the triangle of cauldrons and sync up their energy. In our shared tradition this is simply just holding hands and running energy in a circle between us, bringing us to a more harmonious state. The ritualists then go and stand at their cauldron, facing out from the triangle. The ritualists take a moment to connect to their Temportal Aspect, to root it in the cauldron, and invoke it into themselves. For me this involved me taking a moment to feel myself moving forward in time, and then throwing my mind down the stream the other way, I mentally linked myself to a past life, not because of any inherent trait of that life, but just to anchor myself into going backwards, to root myself in the Past and going that way.

Past: “Ancient of Days, Forger of Time. I call upon the Past, the Bedrock upon which everything stands. Let the Past move into the Present.” The embodiment of the Past turns to face the centre of the triangle.”

Present: “Life ever-birthing the World, Master of the Dancing Moment. I call upon the Present, the river which flows through all things. Let the Present open into the Future.” The embodiment of the Present turns to face the centre of the triangle.”

Future: “Dreaming Ones, Weaving Ones, Bright Child Unborn. I call upon the Future, the open sky in which all potential rests. Let the Future become the Past.” The embodiment of the Future turns to face the centre of the triangle.”

The three Times pass their traits in the triangle, connecting to the other Times, and creating a triangular flow and space.

Future then approaches Present.

Present: “What do you bring me?”
Future responds. Present takes the flash paper from Future and burns it. Future returns to their corner, and Present approaches Past.

Past: “What do you bring me?”
Present responds. Past takes the flash paper from Present and burns it. Present returns to their corner, and Past approaches Future.

Future: “What do you bring me?”
Past responds. Future takes the flash paper from Past and burns it. Past returns to their corner.

((That part of the ritual is designed to further reinforce the variant flow of time within the space. Up until this point everything has gone from Past to Present to Future, but here it goes from Future to Present to Past to introduce a counter-current into the space.))

Past: “The participants are now to enter the Triangle, through the space between Past and Present.”

The participants walk into the triangle, in single file, and spiral toward the centre of the triangle until everyone is in the space. We assigned someone beforehand to lead everyone in and out of the space, just to make it flow better.

Past leaving the cauldron circles the participants in the centre of the triangle: “I am the Past. Everything you have ever done resides in me. Every action that has made you who you are, I contain. I am the foundation upon which the present and future are built. Come to me to release your pain, your regrets, your patterns of thought. Give to me that which holds you back, that which keeps you in the past, not in your future or present. Through me find freedom from what has been.”

Past returns to their cauldron. Present then circles the participants: “I am the Present. Every moment you experience in me. I am the moment that is eternal. Your past is always behind you, your future is always ahead of you, but I am always here with you, in every moment. Come to me to build who you are, to shape your life and your self. In this moment of eternity I am here, give to me that which you want to embrace and nourish, or that which weighs you down. Through me find power in what is.”

Present returns to their cauldron. Future then circles the participants: “I am the Future. Everything that ever happened to you leads into me. I am what you will become, I can be beautiful and terrifying. Come to me to grow, to change, to become. Give to me your hopes and your dreams and I will bring them to you, let me know what you want and I’ll make it so. Through me find glory in potentials.

Future returns to their cauldron.

Present: “You’ve heard our Voices, now decide. Are you here to let something go, to embrace something, or strive toward something? Distill this idea into a single word and write it on your paper, pour your heart and energy into the paper, and then take it to the Time who rules it.

The participants write down their focus and take it to the Temporal Avatar. Each of us did this in a different way, I’ll describe mine.

The participant approaches the Past which is me. I held out one hand and took their paper from them, and with my other hand I held their hand, and clasped both with my hand holding the paper. Each person got a unique message from me at this point, what follows is made up, but vaguely like the things I said. “I am the Mother, and I am the Grave. As the Past I hold everything that occurred to you. As the Mother I love you, and as the Grave I can take this issue of yours and -“ I light their paper in the cauldron “and I can let this die so you are free.”

Everyone goes up to the appropriate Time and has their focus thrown into the cauldron.

Past: “You have touched your Past”
Present: “Your Present”
Future: “And your Future.”
Past: “Now you can be Free”
Present: “Now you can Grow”
Future: “Now you can Become. *Pause* We now ask that you leave the triangle through the space between Present and Future.”

People are led out of the space through that boundary. The Times uproot their Time from their cauldrons and walk to the centre of the triangle. Joining hands they release the Time from the space and themselves. ((This is fairly easy, the closer these Time traits are to each other the more likely they are to fall apart))

That was the ritual, in some ways very simple, very short, but it was also very potent. We had a few folks in tears, a few that took a bit to come down, but it was really beautiful. It also seems to be very effective. That ritual was performed on Saturday, I came home Monday night and had a job interview on Tuesday, and by Thursday I had started my job. My focus for the future was getting a job. My friend who was the Future is finishing up a highly specialized medical degree, and she loves her placement, unfortunately there are no jobs open at that place…well, there weren’t, as soon as she went back she was told someone just gave their two weeks, and everyone there wanted her to apply for the job. My friend who was the Present has been doing an externship at a place they enjoyed, similar story though, no room for them, but they found out the week they returned that a space would be opening up. Though those two weren’t focusing on jobs directly the opening of the career paths are connected to their focus. Two of the ritual participants also have gotten jobs in the week after the ritual. Of course, not all the results or focuses were job related, people have reported things moving forward in their various arenas.

Due to the amount of people getting jobs right after the ritual though we’re thinking of renaming it from “Breaking the Cycle” to “Do you want a job?”

I wanted to share that for two reasons. First I love Gather and the friends at it, so thought it would be interesting to give people some insight to the type of things that might happen there if you ever decide to check it out. Secondly I want to talk more about what I’m doing on this blog. I share techniques, I talk theory, but I want to post every once and a while with more of an example of “If you followed me around magickally, this is what you would have seen me do this week.” I find I learn just as much knowing what other people are doing, as I do from listening to more theorizing on magickal practices.


Wednesday Webshare: Smashing the Wall of Jericho, History, and Buddhist Humour

2016/04/27

We have found a large underground city, perhaps the largest ever recovered. I love hearing about these discoveries for multiple reasons, and a big part is it helps unsettle our historical narrative. Also I’m of the camp that believes our estimates for these cities are far too conservative. I might sound a bit like dear Gordon (but I’m in good company if I do) but our history is more complex than we realize, and when you look at the mythologies of this area, the idea of ancient people living underground opens up some fascinating possibilities.

Humanity was more advanced in a lot of our early received history than most people realize. Just recently it came to light that Babylonian astronomers had developed a pre-cursor to calculus. Their spiritual pursuit of their gods led them to understand the sky and chart the world in ways most modern historians don’t realize. Part out of a notion of prestige and lineage, we like to trace great accomplishments to people “like us” so the Western view of world history often ignores how often our great ideas and accomplishments were done somewhere else first. Another part of it is it’s comforting to assume we’re much more advanced than those who came before us, but in reality we don’t want to see where we came from.

There is also a huge Judeo-Christinizing influence on history. I’ve seen it colourfully referred to as the Wall of Jericho. (I should pause here to remind readers, or inform newer readers, that I’m not just a person babbling about history, I have an Honours Bachelor degree in history from one of the best history departments in North America, and part of my early degree focused on Ancient Near East History. So I’m a slightly qualified person babbling about history) Basically there is a lot of pushback against historically dating things outside of the Biblical time line. Even though most people think Creationism is a joke, it’s hard academically to get consensus that something involving human civilization happened before the year 4000 BCE. Slowly we’re pushing that line, but each time we do, the Biblical timeline shifts too. Most notably our dating of the walls of Jericho. Despite the fact that we can disprove essentially every part of the history in the Bible before King David, not that we lack proof, we have proof its wrong.

That’s part of a bigger rant, but it’s why I love Gobekli Tepe, it’s undeniably the oldest monument we’ve discovered, and due to evidence around it, it’s impossible to shortchange its 12,000 year history. We’re still studying, but we’re restoring it too. I sincerely hope as we study it we’ll really break the Wall of Jericho and realize humanity’s history is longer and more interesting that people generally think.

Another step in uncovering our histories is the discovery of a large body of text written in the Etruscan language. As we work through it we may begin to learn more about this surprisingly powerful culture that we actually know little about, and since the inscription is from a temple we might learn more about their gods.

In more recent times regarding recovering lost history, the occult books of Heinrich Himmler have been found. Apparently 13,000 books. While I’m sure many of them are run of the mill, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nazis found some more unique books in their rampage, and I can’t wait to hear more about what was uncovered.

Switching gears:

There is a new blog, that I cannot recommend enough, but I suggest folks head over to The Perfumed Skull. It’s a blog on anthropology, esotericism, and a large dose of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s not a casual read, the entries are long, dense, and academic, but if you’re looking for a more critical historical/anthropological take, this is definitely worth following.

I first “met” the author when he linked to my post on tulpas in his great piece (on another site) analyzing the role and change of the tulpa idea in Western thought. And was polite enough to call my tone merely exasperated.

Following Buddhism in an irreverent way, facebook memories reminded me of my Buddha Name Shindan Maker I made a few years back, thanks to Polyphanes pushing me. At the time I was reading the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is not a Buddhist text I suggest anyone read unless it’s a really important part of your path. Part of the book is essentially a catalogue of all the Buddhas across different “world oceans.” They all have fantastic and bizarre names, that follow a simple pattern, so I put in the common words, and let this program spit out names that are hilariously close to the original. I, in case you were wondering, will be the Buddha Adamantine Light of Razorlike Compassion. As someone who repeatedly says “I will shank you with loving-kindness” razorlike compassion is very suiting.

Speaking of irreverent Buddhism, spirit houses are a common fixture in Thai Buddhist cultures. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) many cats assume any boxlike structure is for them. So here is an adorable collection of cats cramming themselves in spirit houses

Lastly, after the big Japanese tsunami lots of taxi drivers reported giving rides to ghosts. While it’s hard to trace the validity of these stories, it’s interesting to me that it happened en masse. If it was just a single driver, it would be easy to say it’s made up or imagined, but a bit harder with several reporting similar events.


Nine Purifying Breaths: Physical Forms

2016/04/09

I mentioned in my last post why I was doing the Nine Purifying Breaths, but I didn’t make it too clear on the other reasons people should practice it. As much as I hate the panacea tone behind it, it really is one of those exercises that is pretty much good for all occasions. In general though it is great for clearing out the mind before another practice that requires focus and clarity, like meditation or skrying. It is also good before doing a lot of energy work, as it gets the channels cleaned out and primed. If your mind or energy seems to be out of balance, and you’re not sure why it can help bring your system either back into balance, or redistribute the energy so it will balance itself out soon enough. I also recommend it as a daily or weekly practice (despite the fact I let it drop recently) as a way of keeping things moving and in shape, mental and energetic preventative maintenance. Also as I get into more complicated forms of the practice you can see more specific uses.

In talking about the physical side of this practice there are a few assumptions readers will have to work with. First there are energy channels in the body, secondly the carry different types of energy, one of those types of energy is the type you’re breathing in, it’s connected more to the breath than anything, and these subtle energetic channels can be affected by physical posture and pressure, especially the ones connected to the breath energy.

“All lamas have their own rituals” as discussed last time, so the descriptions of the physical actions that go along with this practice are varied, though many of them share the same logic or symbolic purpose, just expressed different. Before I discuss the version I favour there is a variant I want to share.

Previously I mentioned physically blocking the nostril to direct the breath and energy into the appropriate channel. I have read instead of lifting the corresponding arm up. So for instance if you’re drawing energy/breath into the right channel, instead of blocking left nostril, you would reach your right arm out to the side at the height of your shoulders. This raised right arm opens the right channel, makes it dominant. It doesn’t prevent energy/breath from entering the left channel, but it makes more enter the right. For exhaling though you would still block the nostril to force the energy out the other channel, but if that isn’t an option you can raise the opposite arm to open the corresponding channel. I mention this alternative form, because while I don’t prefer it or find it as effective, if you do this practice regularly there are times when inhaling through one nostril will be impossible/uncomfortable; cold, allergies, sinus infections, deviated septum flaring up. This way you can breathe normally if you can’t do single nostril breathing.

Every method I’ve read or been taught that mentions the position of the fingers in the hands says the same thing, thumb pressed against the ring finger. Oddly though I cannot find a reason why this is done, while the fingers represent different elements, those meanings shift from teaching to teaching, and no combination really seems that impressive.

For actually bringing up your hand to your nose I’ve learnt three methods (or two plus one). The first is the plus one, in that case, it’s simply just put your finger on your nose, don’t be fancy. The other two methods are fairly different in posture and purpose. I would practice the basic form without worrying about doing anything fancy with the hands. Once you understand the practice you can experiment.

The first method raise the arm out to the side on the same side as the channel you are going to clear right arm for right channel, left arm for left channel. Then bending the elbow and twisting the wrist bring the hand in to block the nostril on the same side of the body. As you bring your hand in you draw a loop in the air. Imagine you’re drawing this symbol þ in the air, but rotated so the straight line is on the top, you’re drawing a loop hanging from a line. As you make this spinning motion you’re gathering in a cloud of radiant light to inhale, pulling this cloud in front of your face. Then you simple move the finger to the other nostril to block it for the exhale.

The second method focuses more on the channels and physical practice. Starting with both your hands pressed against your legs as described last post, put your hands into fists (still holding the thumb against your ring finger). From here draw your fists up your body, roughly inline with the inside of your shoulders, between the side of your torso and your nipples. (I’m going to describe the procedure for clearing out the right channel, because it’s easier to explain one way, and reverse it. So this would be inhaling through the left nostril, exhaling through the right.) Once your fists are more or less level with your shoulders shoot your fists out to your left. Your left arm should be stretched out completely, your right arm will be bent across your chest, and you want to push your fist just on the inside of where your left armpit is. There is a muscle there, it’s the part that “frames” the shape of your armpit when you raise your arms up. Press your fist into this muscle. Bend your left elbow and block your right nostril, so you are reaching across the body. Breathe in as described previously, and then move your finger to block your left nostril and breathe out. This posture does two main energetic functions, first what you’re doing with your right fist by the armpit is pressing down on the channel connected to that arm and the breath, this prevents you from drawing the energy into the arm and forces all of the energy into your channel. Also because the right arm is held up during this movement, it’s physically opening that channel a bit more to make the expulsion more efficient.

Last post I recommended the seven point posture, this is for two reasons. First sitting up straight, without supporting your back forces the channels to be upright and open, leaning against a chair can put pressure on the channels or muscles that close it a bit. Obviously if you need to use a chair, do so, but if you can sit upright without one for a while that is the better choice. Secondly sitting cross-legged forms a loop in the bottom of your energy system. While some energy can flow out the base of your spine, or out from the soles of your feet, most of it will flow down one leg, and then get reabsorbed back into the other leg. It’s not about avoiding energy loss in the sense of you only have so much or anything, but more about keeping the internal pressure constant. If you’re trying to force energy out a channel through your nostril you don’t want any “leaking” out your feet because that will mean there is less force pushing out from your system.

I also described pressing your wrists against your legs for the last three breaths. You want to push on the “highest” part of your femur, which if you’re looking down at your crossed leg tends to be around a third of way in from the outer edge, the part of leg facing more behind you. Like pressing on the armpit, this is pushing down on the physical analog of the main energy channel connected to breath and your legs. This is again to help “seal” the pressure when you exhale through the crown of your head. The reason you bend over is a similar purpose, as you breathe out you’re bending over at the waist to close that channel behind the outflowing energy, so none of the gunk can sink back down. My one teacher described it like the way you fold or roll up a tube of toothpaste to force everything out. The channel reopens completely when you sit up.

The physicality of the practice also went a bit long, so next post I’ll begin complicating the energetic/spiritual practice.


%d bloggers like this: