The Neglected Skill of Magical Training
When I was a teenager, I had the great good fortune to work with a psychic at a New Age bookstore called Celestial Realms. She was incredible (and I’d love to find her, if she happens across this blog). I remember once I made my first stab at the Bornless Ritual, but being the newbie that I was I quite forgot to banish. I didn’t even realize it until the next day when I went to work and the psychic took one look at me and said “What did you do? You have to shut it down! It’s good, but it’s too much.” I hadn’t said a word to her about the ritual, but I realized what she meant, and remembered that I had forgotten to banish. I finished the ritual in the back of the store.
Anyway, she would occasionally come out with an insight, just a random vision or something. Sometimes it was seemingly weird advice — “You should go by Patrick instead of Pat. It sounds more masculine.” Sometimes it was a vision of the future, and those always came true even if extremely unlikely. I’ve met herds of fake psychics and show-offs and weirdos, but she was the real deal.
One of those random bits of advice she gave me was about the neglected skill of magical training. It’s the one thing that those who wish to learn magic almost always ignore at some time or another, and it’s the one thing they absolutely should not ignore if they want to get good at magic and stay that way.
“Your mind,” she said “is strong, but you’re spending all your time there and ignoring your body. You should jog or something.”
Physical fitness is essential to good magic. I know that sounds weird, even counter-intuitive, but I can’t help it — it’s true. Your body is your most important magical tool. If, like me, you associate exercise with eighth grade gym class, realize that what real exercise is like isn’t at all like that grim twit blowing his whistle and ridiculing you as you stop to walk during laps.
I recommend jogging because it’s fairly cheap and easy, and requires little equipment but shoes. If you pick up jogging, the Couch to 5k program is excellent. It starts you off slow, you move at your own pace, and before you know it you’re running ten miles a week. But anything will work. Physical fitness has three advantages to the magician.
First, you learn “soft discipline.” This isn’t grit-your-teeth and gitard ya wimp discipline, but pushing yourself to do what you know you can, and being gentle when you know you must. I remember during the hardest part of couch to 5k, I kept thinking “I can’t finish this whole ten minute interval.” Then I realized, why, yes I could. It wasn’t my body that didn’t want to finish; it was my mind. “Shut up,” I told it, and did the interval. On another occasion, though, I felt a pain in my ankle — just a little one — but I realized it meant I was pushing. I repeated the previous week’s easier regimen until that muscle got stronger. This soft discipline is helpful for magicians, because it teaches you how to really change your life — not but an inconsistent spurt of main force, but by gently applying pressure at all times, even tiny and seemingly insignificant pressure.
Second, it teaches you your body, where it is and what it’s doing, and how it’s interacting with your spirit. You’ll find that it also helps with various breathing techniques and clearing the mind. It’s no substitute for meditation, but it’s a definite adjunct to it.
Third, it gives you a longer life to pursue the Great Work. Look at your family history: if you’ve got heart attacks and strokes all up and down your family tree, like I do, you want to get your heart-rate up on a regular basis. (Assuming, of course, that your doctor agrees.)
Magicians don’t need to be stick-thin to be in shape, mind you, and physical fitness is different for each person. A disabled magician doesn’t need to give up on physical fitness, just because of a disability. I jog about ten to twelve miles every week, but I’m no movie star. The point is to do something: to take the advice of my psychic, and go for a jog, or at least a brisk walk. It’ll help your magic.