Routines can be hard, especially when we don’t see results. A lot of people stop exercise routines because their gains are too slow, or they don’t track their progress and thus don’t see what results that they are actually getting. Magick routines very much fall into this trap. I don’t know of any daily ritual that produces overwhelming fast and major results, so a lot of people let routines fall aside. I mean if these daily rituals did produce overwhelmingly fast and major results, every sorcerer would achieve apotheosis in a matter of weeks. Much like exercise though, results tend to be slow, steady, and subtle. Also much like exercise, in the long run you probably benefit more from small consistent routines than you do from sporadic intense bursts, though both definitely help and have benefits.
Another trouble with routines like these is that since the results aren’t necessarily obvious, when life gets tough they’re often the first thing to be dropped. If you’re low on time and energy, why would you commit it to meditation and magick that doesn’t seem make things different, when you could use that energy to try to keep the rest of your life afloat? Unfortunately the time when a regular routine would be the most helpful is exactly the times we’re likely to push them aside.
I’ve long advocated for daily routines, and I freely admit, I sometimes drop mine, and right now my daily practice isn’t what I’d like it to be. I know a lot of talented magick folk, I’m blessed with great friends who are sorcerers whose abilities I can respect and appreciate. Yet often when we get together (for we’re scattered across the North American landmass) or catch up in online discussions at least one of us will says “I feel a bit rusty, I haven’t really kept up with my stuff the last few months or the last year.”
Again, I’ve been there, I totally sympathize. I have a physical form which doesn’t always want to cooperate with…well living. I have depression which when untreated or flaring up can really drain me of my ability to function. I have a rich and busy life between family, friends, lovers, and temple. I know it can be hard, but it really does sadden me when people feel that they’re rusty or falling behind because they do not keep up with a daily practice.
Over the last fourteen years, I would say I have probably kept up some form of daily practice for a good 95% of that time, even if it wasn’t as much as I wanted. So I would like to share some of the routine activities I’ve found helpful, especially for the times when you feel it is hard to keep up a practice. I would also love to hear from you my dear readers what routines you’ve found have helped these tough/rusty periods and what you’ve found easy to carry through these times.
It will surprise no one I’m sure that the first thing I will advocate is meditation, it’s almost like I’m a Buddhist monk. Specifically though meditations that are either centred on mindfulness, which I consider the best choice, or meditations that are connected to purification. Yet I admit meditation is one of the hardest things to keep up of my following suggestions. The results are slow and subtle, and it can be hard to convince yourself to prioritize even fifteen minutes a day to sit and “do nothing.” Yet I think more than anything else, this will help you through these periods because regular meditation helps you identify, and control your thought processes more than any other practice. Also I really do recommend 15 minutes. Various research has shown that meditation tends to hit “peak benefit” with a plateau around 10-12 minutes. Unless you’re going for a marathon session of over an hour, 15 minutes will get you what you need from the session. It’s really hard to deny we have 15 minutes to spare a day, especially when it’s so important to our wellbeing.
My second suggestion is simple “prayer.” Prayer can be vague, and some of us, myself included, might have baggage with the concept. Prayers don’t have to be long, they can even be a bit routine if that’s all you can manage, but they’re great for these times when it’s hard to do anything else. You can pray to a god if you like, to your HGA if you’ve made contact, to angels, spirits, ancestors, whatever. Prayer doesn’t necessarily have to be the begging image we often have of it, it can be prayers of thanks, or prayers of embodiment. For the last six years, I’m made daily prayers to the planetary angel of the day. It’s nothing major, just a request that I be able to embody their traits, be blessed with their nature. Pray to the angel of Mars for strength, vigor and vitality, the use of the sword of Mars. It doesn’t have to be much, but prayers are easy to do, can be done quickly, and help keep us connected with our spirits, and our spiritual side.
Another practice that I’ve found useful in times when it’s been hard to maintain a ritual is Resh, known as Liber Resh, or the Four Adorations. I prefer the Thelemite version because it has a long evocation/hymn at the end, but the version from Regardie is good too. The ritual is a fairly simple evocation and praise of the Sun in four different forms as four different gods at four times throughout the day. Ra as it rises, Ahathoor at noon, Tum at sunset, and Khepra at midnight. At first the idea of having to do a ritual four times a day seems counterintuitive to ritual work when it’s hard to maintain a practice, but it’s actually rather easy. The ritual requires no implements other than you, can be done anywhere (preferably outside or able to see the sun, but it’s really not required), and it’s rather short. The advantage to Resh is that it is time bound. The two most common excuses for not doing a practice is that you don’t have time, and you’ll do it later. But when you have to do the ritual at certain times during the day, you can’t say you’ll do it later. When it’s noon, it’s time to call on Ahathoor (Hathor), you can’t keep putting that off. So by having set times it’s actually easier to do in many ways. (Also while it ideally should be done at these times, I’ve found there is practical wiggle room. If the sun rises well before you wake up in the morning, then salute Ra when you wake up, if you go to bed before midnight, then salute Khepra before laying down, if you’re in a meeting or working at noon, do it as soon as you can. In university one year I had a three hour lecture from 1100-1400. Sometimes the prof would give a break around 1230, but if she was in the zone and barrelled through I’d just get up to go “to the washroom” and step outside, do the ritual, and come back.) The structure of Resh also really helps develop the habit of a magick routine. You get used to being able to stop your day for magick, making it easier to follow up Resh with another ritual.
My last suggestion, which is less than ideal, is hypnagogic rituals. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my hypnagogic rituals, I have three that are part of my nightly routine. I don’t think they’re ideal on their own, but if you have trouble making the time for anything else, at least doing something as you drift off the sleep is better than nothing. You can do lots of things while falling asleep, basic mindfulness meditation is great at that point, prayers can be good but make sure it’s to an entity who won’t be offended if you drift off midprayer. Other good recommendations are the elemental purification meditation, or any of the preliminaries of Dream Yoga. Again, these things work a lot better if you have more of a routine, but last ditch effort, if it’s all you’re willing to make time for, it’s a start.
What about you? When you are in those hard to practice periods when your magick routine just sucks what do you find helps you get through it, or get out of it, what practices survive that?