Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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How Openness to Experience brings you to Presence

One of the values I ascribe to in my magical practice is keeping an open mind. A recent conversation with an acquaintance got me to thinking about what keeping an open mind means to me, and I consequently decided to revise that value to one which I feel is more accurate to who I am and how I approach life. I keep myself open to experience. There is a distinct difference to keeping an open mind and keeping yourself open to experience. Keeping yourself open to experience is a recognition that genuine openness isn't something you can keep in the realm of the conceptual. An open mind might conceptually consider an idea, but not engage it in a fundamental manner that actually enables real experience to occur. Keeping yourself open to experience, on the other hand, moves away from concept. The experience is important because it requires a level of engagement that goes beyond just thinking about something.

In Awakening the Sacred Body and Embryonic Breathing, both authors discuss the importance of maintaining a state of openness to experience. Both books are about meditation and experiences of altered awareness and what both authors recognize is that a conceptual treatment of the topic won't provide the necessary understanding and development of skills that the reader ideally wants. The only way the reader can learn about these topics is to open him/herself to the actual experience of doing the work. Even more important, for the person to get real value out of the work s/he must as best as possible avoid preconceptions that may shape the experience in ways that are less than helpful. Being open to experience means truly being open to the actual experience, allowing yourself to be present without analyzing or categorizing it. That can be hard for anyone to do, because so much of what we're taught is to categorize and label our experiences.

I'll admit that in some of my approaches to magic I do favor an analytical approach which defines and categorizes what needs to be done. But I also see value in having an experiential approach to magic, or life in general, and I think we discount such an approach at our own peril. Openness to experience allows us to get out of our minds, out of our constant analysis, and whatever else is going on in our heads and actually engage in what we are doing. Genuine engagement is where the magic happens. It's you being present, in the moment, connecting with what you are learning or practicing. It's not thinking about it or doing it. It's letting yourself become the experience, merging your identity into the experience so that it becomes part of the ontological expression of you and the world.

I'm doing a lot of work with the element of stillness right now and I can always tell when I'm experiencing stillness versus thinking about stillness. When I think about Stillness, I'm not still. I'm not present with stillness. I'm thinking about it, but also thinking about who knows what else. I'm not opening myself to experience. When I'm experiencing stillness, the thoughts gradually fade away and I'm just still. All that I am is present with that experience of stillness. And what I'm experiencing isn't just an emotion or a state of mind or altered consciousness. It's a way of being, a presence that just is. The same applies to my experiences with movement. I could think about movement or I could experience movement. The difference between thought and experience is significant. The thought keeps me from the experience, while the experience opens the door to presence and consequently leads to a different appreciation and understanding of the state of being.

Changing my value from being open minded to open to experience is a choice I've made because of how much my work has shifted to experience as the foundation of my spiritual practice. Genuine engagement in any type of practice calls on the person to give themselves over to the practice and that can't occur until you open yourself to the experience that occurs as you not only do the practice but become it. Becoming the practice is where you have the experience, making it part of your identity. You are presence in the practice. The practice isn't a concept, but instead is an invitation to go deep into the experience and allow it to change you. When you are changed by the experience you've moved beyond concept. You aren't thinking about the practice. You've become the practice and the change it brings is a change in how you interact with your sense of self and your connection with the others, the universe, etc. Opening myself to the experience is an embracing of the experience. I want to be present with it instead of trying to think about it or categorize it. Try this with all of your practices, magical or mundane, and see what happens when you focus on the experience as opposed to thinking about it.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


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