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.


Nine Purifying Breaths: Basic Form

2016/04/05

I want to talk about one of my favourite Buddhist energy work techniques. Personally right now my system is a bit sluggish, and considering I’m doing a retreat and spending the next three weeks pretty much living in temple with my Rinpoche I need to be at my best, so I’m doing this a lot. Also a few weeks ago I was at a party and a friend asked about clearing out her system, and I wanted to do a write up for her and forgot.

The Nine Purifying Breaths (དགུ་རླུང་བསངས་ gulung sang) is a great technique, it’s simple, it’s effective, and it has the potential to be really complex and powerful, but doesn’t have to be. It’s also a fairly popular technique. Without even pausing to think I can come up with three books I’ve seen it in. The “trouble” is the way it’s written about differs, I’ve learnt it from four different lamas in four different forms. There is a Tibetan saying (according to my Rinpoche, google came up with nothing) “Every lama has his own rituals” which basically means everyone does things a little bit differently.

This post will be a little bit different from all the times I’ve been taught it, or read it, but I’m going to write it in a way, that will allow people to “scale up” as needed and able. What I mean is the practice, as is most traditionally taught relies on a fair amount of Tibetan Buddhist symbolism, but if you aren’t familiar with what red or blue or green symbolize, or what a snake or chicken symbolize the practice will be more bizarre than helpful. That said it’s a practice that I’ve effectively seen simplified by teachers to make it accessible, and those of us with more of a foundation in tantric practices can add in more as we go.

The Nine Purifying Breaths is pretty much what it sounds like, a set of nine breaths that purify your energy system. They do a lot more than that, especially in the complex forms, but at the basic level it’s a great way to get energy moving and cleared out. It’s practiced in all the schools of Vajrayana Buddhism, and as far as I can tell historically it predates them and comes from the Bön tradition. (I can find historical mentions of the practice, but never any mention of who came up with it, which suggests it came from Bön)

Before we can even begin you need to have a sense of the Energy System we’ll be working with. First disclaimer: If this doesn’t match the way you see your energy body that is fine, these things are our codification of abstract stuff beyond our understanding, so just practice it this way with these visuals and then you can go back to your own system, that does work. What is described here is a model, not ultimate reality.

Pay attention to the placement of the channels, don't worry about the colours or the other shapes.

Pay attention to the placement of the channels, don’t worry about the colours or the other shapes.

The practice will focus on the three main channels: The central channel which opens at the crown of your head runs through the spine (or just in front of it) and opens out the base of your spine, and the left and right channel which open at the nostril go up behind the eyes over the skull and down the side of the spine and then curl up into the central channel just above the base of the spine. There are traditional colours associated with the channels, but they differ occasionally, and aren’t important for the basic version of this practice. The central channel is about as thick as your thumb or index finger, the left and right channel are a bit thinner than your pinkie finger. Some other practices and systems have the left and right channel swirling around the central channel, or looping at certain points, in this case they just go straight down. Do not worry about your energy centres and how these channels do or don’t interact with them, it’s unimportant at this point.

Onto the actual practice: Sit in a proper meditation posture, if you can do the Seven Point Posture I recommend that. This is one of the few practices where I feel the need to stress sitting on the ground in some form of crossed legs. Getting it to work properly in a chair is a bit of extra work, though it might not seem like it, because how the subtle channels interact with the physical body it is important.

In both hands place you thumb firmly against the base of the ring finger and keep them there until the practice is done. Raise your right hand and with the ring finger press it against your right nostril to close it. Take in a slow deep breath through the left nostril. As you’re breathing in picture radiant clear light flowing in with the breath, into the left nostril, up the left channel behind the eye and over the skull, and down beside the spine, and then finally into the central channel. Don’t worry if you can’t “fill” the central channel, you’re not trying to, you’re just trying to put your breath into it. Pause holding the breath and move as much of this light into the central channel as possible. Move your right hand over, and using the ring finger block your left nostril. Breathe out your right nostril. As you breathe the light moves from the central channel into the right channel where they connect by the base of the spine, travels up the channel around the back of the head over the skull, behind the eye and out through the right nostril. As the light moves through this channel it clears out the obstructions, the negative/stagnant energy, the gunk and crap stuck in that channel, the breath that comes out isn’t the clear light that came in, but instead is a thick oily smoke. You can guide the smoke to either settle into the ground where it is absorbed by the earth and carried deep into the planet to be purified there, or it can spread out into space like smoke would and as the light and wind catch it it is scattered and purified into nothing. Repeat this two more times.

Now repeat the same process, but switch sides. Taking your left ring finger block your left nostril and breathe in clear vibrant light through the right nostril, up the right channel, down the channel, and finally into the centre. Move the left hand over and block the right nostril. Breathe out the left nostril, having the light drain from the central channel into the left channel through the connection by the base of the spine, up the channel, clearing out the gunk as before, then finally releasing the oily smoke through the left nostril. Repeat this two more times.

Place both your hands on your legs near your hips, palms up. Press down with your wrist putting a bit of pressure on your legs, your wrists should be over your femur. (I’m going light on the more technical/physical instructions, but I feel this is a good practice even in the simple form) Breathing in through both nostrils draw in that radiant clear light into both the left and right channel at once, up behind the eyes and over the skull, down the back and curling up into the central channel. Pause holding your breath for a moment to draw as much of the light into the central channel as possible. Now continuing to press down on your legs, slowly start to bend over from the waist as you breathe out. While the breath is physically leaving your nostrils, the light is actually going to travel up through the central channel, as before clearing and purifying as it goes, and out through the crown of your head as that oily smoke again. You don’t have to bend all the way over, but as far as you comfortably can. When you’ve finished breathing out the black smoke from your head sit up straight and repeat two more times.

This post is becoming longer than expected, so I’ll have to explain the more complicated/detailed elements in another post. For now practice it this way.

I will give some advice though. If it’s your first time doing it, or the first time in a long time, only do nine breaths. It might seem simple, and you might want to try again, don’t. Give you system time to adjust. After a day or two you can try doing the nine breaths twice in a row if you want. You should never do more than three sets of nine even if you’re used to it. That’s a general rule I see, and I find trying to do more will leave you more light-headed and open than is useful. You can wait a few hours and do another set, just avoid doing them too close together. Also I’ve been told you’re never to do more than three sets of three in a day, but I’ve never done that many, so I can’t say if that limit is symbolic or there for a purpose, but I can think of several reasons why it would be unwise.

The way I put it here has you do three breaths on one side, three on the other, and then three for the central channel. Another way to do it is to do one breathe on the right, one on the left, back and forth until you’ve done three each, and then do the central channel. I find that is less effective in the simple form if your system isn’t clean yet, you’re pushing some of that energy gunk back and forth, rather than slowly pushing it out of the system. If your system is in good shape though and you don’t have much to push through, then it’s fine. I find it’s less effective in general with the more complicated forms, probably because you’re doing more complex visualizations and energy work, and switching energy types and visuals back and forth is less productive than the repetition.

Since this is something I’ll have to revisit soon to explain more, ask questions and I’ll try to incorporate them into the following posts.


Welcome to Your Mind (Part III)

2012/07/31

(This is part three of three based upon a workshop I did. The first entry was on anapana. The second entry was on maitri meditation.)

So this meditation, Jung wa thim rim, has less of a clear background compared to the other ones discussed. It’s a Vajrayana technique though it may possibly be Bön in origin. The basis of this meditation is found in the terma text of Lama Karma Lingpa, the Bardo Thödol or commonly called ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead.’ According to the myths this text was left behind by Guru Padmasambhava, called by some the Second Buddha, a famous Tantric Buddhist master in the Tibetan tradition.

Now this is a bit more of a complex meditation, and many would argue you need to have a developed level of focus to be able to do this properly. I agree to an extent, I also know that some of us have better abilities in some areas over others, and to some who can’t hold the focus of anapana initially the complexity of this meditation may keep their mind engaged. It’s also a great meditation because it can be done very simply, and then you can “scale up” the complexity as you get better at it.

Jungwa thim rim is the Dissolution of the Elements. Our bodies; physical, mental, spiritual, whatever are made up of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. These elements permeate the entire body, but they are also localized in structures and functions. Earth is Bone, Water is Blood and Bile, Air is Breath, Fire is the Nervous system and digestion. The elements are also located in the five lower chakras. Now the Tibetan chakra system is slightly different from the Hindu tantric system that people are familiar with (at least a bastardized version of…), there is one less centre. So they are the Root, Navel, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, Crown. The Naval and Solar Plexus are considered one centre, though if it is above or below the navel is an argument. Really you can use whatever system you’re used to though.

The lowest centre is Earth, above that Water, above that Fire, above that Air, above that Space. This is the order of their density or solidity. These elements make us up, and they sustain us, but if they get out of balance, corrupted, or stagnant they can mess us up, energetically, physically, mentally, and emotionally. When we die these elements break down in three sets, dying, death, and decomposition, but they also dissolve to a lesser degree when we go to sleep, or astral project. By deconstructing the elements we break down these imbalances and corruptions, and can let a proper balance and flow re-establish itself.

Each element has a shape and colour associated with it. It also have physical sensations and mental images connected to it. To start with you only need to be clear on the shape and colour, use the 2D shape if you need to, but try to work up to the 3D shape.

Earth is a yellow square/cube. Water is a white circle/sphere. Fire is a red triangle/tetrahedron. Air is a green half-circle/half-sphere. Space is a blue dot. These are stacked up in the five lower centres. They will dissolve upwards into the element/centre above them. The more understanding and meaning you can invest in the process of dissolution the better. So if you start off with just thinking Earth/Yellow/Cube that’s fine, but if you can really understand everything that is Earth about you dissolving, that’s better. So here is the basic meditation.

The Earth Cube dissolves, like crumbling brick and blowing sand it moves up into the Water Sphere, and with it goes all the associations of Earth in the Self. The Water Sphere dissolves, it dries up and evaporates and moves up into the Fire Tetrahedron, and with it goes all the associations of Water in the Self. The Fire Tetrahedron dissolves, it burns itself up and the smoke rises up into the Air Half-sphere, and with it goes all the associations of Fire in the Self. The Air Half-sphere dissolves, it simply dissolves spreading out into infinite space until there is nothing, and with it goes all the associations of Air in the Self. Now rest in Space, relax in meditation and avoid mental chatter as long as possible.

Now, from here you can let the elements reform on their own, they’ll naturally re-establish themselves after a while, though you may feel a bit out of it for a while as they do. If you want more control, or need to do something afterwards without the woogity feeling, you just reverse the process to construct the elements. Air condenses, Fire springs up, Water condenses, Earth forms.

If you want to complicate it a bit when you’re better at it as I mentioned the elements are associated with physical sensations and inner sights, which you can include in your meditation in order to make the process more intense.

When Earth dissolves it is accompanied by a lack of strength and a sinking sensation. The inner vision is that of a heat mirage, vision becomes wavy like over hot cement in the summer. As Water dissolves it becomes harder to hear, the mouth goes dry, and your emotions become still. The inner vision becomes cloudy like it is filled with smoke. When Fire dissolves your breathing becomes slow, and a bit difficult, smells fade, and thoughts become harder to focus on. With it comes the inner vision of sparks, like looking over the top of a bonfire as sparks of light just from the fire. Lastly as Air dissolves breathing becomes slow and still, and your body is unable to move. The inner vision is like light from a candle, gentle, warm, and wavering. When you reach the point of resting in Space it is accompanied by a physical and mental stillness, but also a vastness that your mind and body aren’t limited in themselves, but are far larger spreading out into infinite space. The inner vision here is clear brilliant light dawning on and through all things.

So you can see how this meditation can be done on a more basic level, but with work and focus it can become a more intense and complete experience. It’s great for a lot of general maintenance and wellness, but for occultists who do practices requiring inner clarity, such as Traditional Japanese Reiki, channelling/mediumship, skrying, and the like, it’s a great way to clear things out so that you’re not interfering.

Hoping this works on WordPress, but my final cliffnotes.

Element Colour Shape Sign Vision
Space Blue Point/Flame Mental and physical stillness and vastness Clear dawning
Air Green Half-circle/sphere Slow/still breath, unable to move Candle light
.Fire Red Triangle/Tetrahedron Slow/difficult breathing, lack of mental clarity, smells fade Sparks
Water White Circle/Sphere Emotional stillness, hard to hear, dry mouth Smoke
Earth Yellow Square/Cube Lack of strength, sinking sensation Heat mirage

Review: Chöd Practice in the Bön Tradition – Alejandro Chaoul

2011/07/07

Chöd Practice in the Bön Tradition: Tracing the origins of chöd (gcod) in the Bön tradition, a dialogic approach cutting through sectarian boundaries – Alejandro Chaoul, Forewards by Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak and Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Snow Lion. 2009. 116 pp. with appendices. 9781559392921.

Chöd is a fairly obscure practice from Tibetan Buddhism and it also appears within Bön, the pre-Buddhist “shamanic” religion of Tibet. It is generally conceived as a Buddhist practice, framed in Buddhist imagery and philosophy, and the mythology places it firmly within the realm of Buddhism by use of its founder Machik Labdron, a Tibetan Buddhist saint. Yet in Bön the philosophy and mythology are a bit different though the practice is largely similar. So where did chöd come from?

Chaoul makes, what he believes, to be the first real study of chöd within Bön tradition. The book based upon his MA thesis at the University of Virginia, where he tried to find the interconnection between the two chöd practices. He did not focus on trying to find an origin for chöd but instead focused on how the practice has been shared and exchanged and developed between the two traditions. One tradition was not viewed as more legitimate or superior, instead Chaoul states “that the beauty of this rich, intricate, and often misunderstood practice, is to be found in the coexistence of many different views, which can expand beyond the traditional horizons delimited by social, academic, and sectarian boundaries.” (4)

I find this a curious and interesting case; as a perfect example of what he was studying Chaoul included in the book the sadhana called in English “The Laughter of the Dakinis” which is a sadhana within my lineage as well, even though his source is Bön and my lineage is Buddhist. So there I find not just the general sharing, but a specific ritual within both traditions. Personally it was a great book to read because of my lineage, my lama taught me (and understands this) through the Buddhist perspective and it was great to see the other, less common, perspective.

In fact in my initial chöd training I learnt that chöd had incorporated aspects from Bön, as it had from tantra and sutra traditions and even Hinduism, but I was unaware that there was a full chöd tradition within Bön. Most of this book made sense, and I could see the exchanges and changes, and some parts had me really wondering. For example when describing the tools the damaru (drum) is described as being made from two skulls (53) whereas I was taught, quite emphatically, that the damaru is to be acacia wood and the skull drums are from an unrelated tradition but due to similar appearance get associated with chöd, but should never be used for chöd. (Sidenote: The damaru shown on the cover is quite clearly not made from skulls) Things like this intrigue me, I want to learn is this a difference between Bön and Buddhist chöd, or is this lineage specific and my lama was speaking from his bias?

This book is highly academic, as mentioned it was based upon an MA thesis, it has 299 endnotes (to help make the point), so if you’re looking for an easy read, this isn’t it. This book is not appropriate for someone curious about chöd or looking to learn it, too much of the knowledge, history, mythology, and philosophy is chöd specific. For those studying chöd the complete sadhana of “The Laughter of the Dakinis” is included and “intended for use by those who have received transmission and explanation from an authentic lineage holder” (69) and if you are a chödpa (Buddhist or Bönpo) with an academic or bookworm leaning, this book is an excellent read and resource.


Dissolution of the Elements and Dreaming

2010/10/03

Lying on your back, take a few deep breaths and relax. See a yellow cube within your lowest chakra, it is the Earth within your body. Slowly the cube crumbles apart; as it breaks Earth leaves the body. Your joints grow stiff and your body feels heavy, and you feel as if you could not move if you tried. The cube crumbles apart completely leaving nothing behind. In the centre above the root see a white sphere, the Water within your body. Slowly the sphere evaporates, as it does so Water leaves the body. Your heart slows as the Water leaves, the blood slows, and the mouth relaxes and dries. The sphere evaporates until nothing is left. In the centre above see a red tetrahedron, the Fire within your body. The pyramid cracks, drifting apart like sparks from a fire, as it does the Fire leaves your body. The heart slows even more, and the internal heat of the body dissipates leaving a chill in the bones. The tetrahedron sparks until there is no trace of it. In the centre above see a green bowl, the Air within your body. Slowly the bowl wisps away like dry sand caught in the wind, as this happens Air leaves your body. As Air leaves your body your breathing slows down and grows shallow. The last vestige of the bowl is blown away.

The above is a really simple meditation I’ve been doing before bed for the last month and a bit. My Lama was discussing dream phenomena in passing a while back, which led to a conversation about dreams, dream yoga, magickal use of dreams, and lucid dreams. I mentioned that dreams have always been a challenge for me, little recall, and little control, not much of use for me. I had to make a construct a few years ago to help me finally remember my dreams, and she works wonders -as long as I remember to call her before I sleep.

My Lama suggested that I may be too attached to my body, not in the traditional Buddhist sense, but a physical grounding/attachment, and that my mind is trapped in the physical arena when I sleep. I agree, I’ve had personal experiences to confirm this, and my Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor told me the same thing years ago. Based on this advice my Lama gave me the above meditation to do before bed, I’ve been doing it for different reasons for probably two years now, but never before bed.

The basic theory behind the meditation is twofold. First off, the body is composed of, and contains the four elements, and these elements are rooted in the four lowest chakras. From the bottom up they contain Earth, Water, Fire, and Air; the order starts with the most solid to the least. Interestingly enough, this order is the same across most yoga traditions, even if the chakras are not, so in a tradition that has five centres for example Fire moves from the Solar Plexus to the Heart, same order just a different placement. Secondly, as the body goes to sleep it goes through the same process it goes through at death, but not to the same degree. That process is described most famously in the Bardo Thodol, and involves the elements dissolving in the body, like the meditation above.

Since I’ve been performing this meditation my dreams have been easier to recall, more vivid (even when they are boring dreams about analyzing poetry for meter, rhyme, feet, and rhythm), more numerous, and I even fall asleep quicker. It is too early to say what benefit I’m getting, but I am noticing results. Since the meditation is very simple and not based on an esoteric teaching I thought I’d share it here for other people to try out. It is a safe practice, the body goes through the dissolution and reintegration of the elements on a daily basis, just some of us need a bit more help. When you wake up in the morning the elements reconstitute within the body, you’re not in danger of loosening yourself too much through this. I just run through this meditation when I lay down for bed, and often drift off right afterwards, sometimes I repeat it, and if I still don’t fall asleep I just stay there, relaxed. It’s a simple practice but helpful.

 


Review: The Sorcerer’s Secrets – Jason Miller

2010/09/29

The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick – Jason Miller
New Page Books. 2009. 224pp. 9781601630599.

With his second book Jason Miller sets out to “provide a field guide for working with magick, not just a massive collection of every ceremony, spell, and trick that I know” (187) specifically regarding what he often phrases as real magick, and practical magick. I’d say he does a pretty good job of this, he doesn’t discount magick as a tool for growth and insight as spiritual beings, in fact he encourages it, but he also stresses it can cause real affects here and now (9). The style of magick he synthesizes is largely drawn from Ceremonial Magick (pre-Golden Dawn mainly), Tantra and Bön; so not surprisingly it is a system I took to it quite well and enjoyed.

In some ways the book contains what you see in a lot of introductory magickal books, breathing exercises, gazing exercises, theories about how our reality is divided/shaped, basic meditations. While a few exercises were interesting, nothing in this part is really that new to a magickal practitioner, after that though he starts getting into more uncommon stuff. An example is a meditation ritual combining a Tibetan Elemental system within the body and a Ceremonial Magick Godname, the ritual I found interesting not just because of the combination, but the elemental order is different than what I’ve learnt in both systems, though he explains quite interestingly why this order of the elements works.

He deals with the practical use of divination in order to help you plan your magickal acts. The chapters in the second section of the book all contain good information drawing on the systems I mentioned along with hoodoo, European folk magick and other things. The chapters aren’t just instructions on magick, but contain sets of questions for the sorcerers to consider in order to help them with their work, basic yet critical topics of thought for the sorcerer to use to be successful. Miller emphasizes “success in magick depends upon working the magickal and the mundane aspects of every situation” (92). He balances magick with life planning, of course this division is a touch artificial, and he concludes with a similar thought. “Though there is certainly a lot of classical magick in the book there is also a lot of information that isn’t typically thought of as magick. I want my readers to stop thinking in terms of what is magick and what is not, and instead start thinking in terms of what is successful and what is not” (207).

The book is written in an order I think would be conducive to someone just getting into magick, and is structured that new or seasoned with magick we can easily find what we need to work with. His style of writing is easy to follow, his tone is rational and humorous and I challenge anyone to read about his binding and expelling of people without laughing at his method (in a good way). An aspect I found enjoyable was his use of references, and encouraging people to research more into the topics. He provides a very simplified method of dealing with a Goetic Demon, but then suggests to the reader that if they like the system and the results to look into how it is traditionally done. There is also a section on working professionally as a sorcerer/magickian. This is a topic too few authors (or even practitioners) are willing to broach so it was refreshing to see it. As someone who has worked doing the “magickal odd job” it was nice to see it addressed and get another outlook.

Miller walks a fine line between tradition and innovation which is hard to do. He encourages creativity and personal creations, but stresses the necessity of research, experience and results. While I don’t know under what category I’d recommend this book to people, I definitely see myself recommending it. Also for those interested Jason Miller runs The Strategic Sorcery Blog which I’ve found a provoking and enjoyable read.


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