For this exercise, you will need a piece of white sketch paper, a dark lead pencil, some soft meditation music, a candle and a secure, private room. Light the candle and extinguish all electric lights. Play some soft meditation music and settle into a comfortable, upright, sitting position.

Part One

Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply.  Use every inhalation as a chance to check your posture; your spine should be perpendicular to the floor, with your neck and head erect/  Inhaling deeply from the diaphragm, between the navel and sternum, will help your spinal posture.

Exhale completely, pushing out your breath from the diaphragm.  As the air escapes your lungs, imagine that tensions melt away with it.   A few repetitions of this deep breathing will begin to put you into the proper relaxed, yet alert state.

Once your posture is aligned and your body relaxed, concentrate on slowing and evening your breath.  Inhale while slowly counting to four.  Pause, comfortably holding your breath for another count of four.  If this is uncomfortable at first, aim for the count of two, slowly increasing the count on subsequent breaths.  As your body relaxes further, this becomes easier.

Now exhale for the count of four, waiting for another four counts before inhaling again.  After a few repetitions, your body will begin this rhythm without conscious commands:  you will find that during your pauses in breathing, your mind becomes clear of thoughts, as it should be.

Now, light the candle and begin staring into its flame.  Allow critical thinking processes to end; if thoughts arise in your mind, let the, quietly float away.  Become aware of the candle flame and the shadows it casts about the room.  Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing yourself to see only the patterns of light and shadow.

Still staring at the candle flame., begin to sketch the interplay of the light and shadows you can see without casing to gaze at the flame.  Don't doubt your artistic ability; just sketch the patterns of light and shadow present in your immediate visual field.  Once you have finished, look at what you have drawn.  Take a few moments before extinguishing the candle and returning to normal awareness.

In becoming aware of the overall patterns and not the individual pieces, we realize that all life is an interconnected whole.  There is no dividing line between the ground we stand upon, the bird that we see soaring through the skies, or the plants growing in our gardens.  Nature forms a symbiotic relationship in which everything feeds, grows, and depends upon everything else.

Imagine being truly disconnected from the environment of earth, air, water and fire.  In spirit, perhaps one could survive under such conditions, Physical form, however, must follow physical law.  The Earth below us provides stability and the foundation for all other elements to exist; within Her framework an ecosystem of vast proportions has developed.  Some elements may be dispense with and cause no immediate harm; but over long periods of time no one really knows the implications of destroying a subspecies of blind shrimp found in a marine cave off the coast of Bermuda.  Nature forms relationships which support and build upon each other; to take away from the pattern is risking destruction of the whole.
Our greatest limitation as humans is that we often fail to perceive the overall pattern, the big picture, of all things.  Once we have truly become aware of patterns, not just individual threads, we are still limited by our inability to take in more than one part of the pattern.  To illustrate this point, repeat the Becoming Aware exercise in a different part of the same room, preferably the area that was originally behind your back.  Once completed, compare the two patterns.  The center of the sketch where the candle was remains the same; it will be a large area of light.  The remaining shadows, shades and area of darkness will take on different forms and shapes.

They do, however, both exist, the two patterns are different parts of the same whole.  If we "had eyes in the back of our heads," we would be able to perceive the larger pattern they share.  In this exercise, the candle represents our focus, our path, our point of concern, while the varying shade represent how the remainder of the environment falls into place around our focal point.  Considering this, one may see how different opinions on one subject exist; different ideals, religions, governments and political views flourish and crumble side by side in the same world.  Are any right or wrong?  Not necessarily, as they are all viewing their part of the whole pattern and interpreting it according to their own biases. Perhaps if our world leaders could learn to use this point of view ...

To take in and understand more of the patterns of existence we must use more than our sight; all five physical sense must blend into one another and be operative together before the sixth sense, our psychic awareness, opens up.  By experiencing the present with all our physical senses, we learn to balance our experience and process material on a more intuitive level.  Call it intuition, ESP, or "the sight" this inner processing of experience moves us toward the subtle realms where the big picture, or overall pattern of things, may be experienced on a broader level.

Part Two

Use this exercise to become aware of the interplay of the five senses - the five separate ways one may perceive physical reality. For this exercise, we need the materials from the first exercise, plus an aromatic fruit such as an orange or grapefruit.

Repeat the first exercise.  Once you have slipped into the consciousness of patterns, pick up the fruit in your hands.  Try to feel the texture as you gaze at the orange, as opposed to rationalizing it with your mind.  See the fruit and allow the awareness of its reality to transcend either the sight or the texture; feel the two modes of awareness becoming one.

Peel the fruit, listening to the subtle sounds this makes.  Add this to the whole experience.

As you peel, the soft citrus aroma will permeate the area around you.  Four senses are now involved in the experience:  sight, sound, touch, and smell. Integrate these experiences into one.

To complete this exercise, eat the orange slowly, one piece at a time.  Feel the stickiness the juices create on your fingers.  Smell the aroma.  See the naked flesh of the fruit.  Feel the silky softness of the flesh.  Finally, taste it.  Internalize these sensations into one until you can arrive at a complete, here and now experience of the orange.

What Is The Purpose Of These Exercises?

Once we perceive the big picture, once we can temporarily alchemize our experiences into one pattern, we have found the frame of mind needed to cast our circle and slip between the worlds of reality. Leaving our separatist, divide-and-conquer frame of mind behind in a trance state that embraces patterns, not individual pieces, we move into a state where we may work powerful magicks.

Our magick may appear to give us the perfect freedom to do what we wish at first, but we quickly realize that by removing or changing one thread in our material designs, the others change to compensate,.  Throw a rock into a pool of water, and ripples spread out from the point of impact, disturbing the stillness of the water.  The mass of the rock itself causes a slight rise in the water level' the larger the rock, the larger the disturbance. Ripples cease, but until the added mass is removed, the water level remains the same.  In removing the rock, we again disturb the stillness of the water's surface.  This is true of the Law of Karma - anything we do will influence everything in the area.  There is no good or evil considered in it; only cause and effect.  Sometimes even the best intentions have devastating effects.  Patterns once altered, are never truly the same again.

This defining of space and creation of a spiritual body of sorts is comparable to the choices we make before birth; those of parentage and general life circumstance.  Before we create our vortex, we are limited in our working space; a room or portion of a room is used,  Likewise, those of us here on earth are here because we have to be here (unlike an avatar); however, each of us chooses our parentage and general life circumstance. Choosing the magickal vehicle (body) while working within a temple (earthy) is a decision left up to each of us before stepping into the world. We each come with a goal and a purpose.

Likewise, before stepping (incarnating) into the magickal circle (body), we enter with a specific goal in mind, whether it be to worship, share, or work magick.  The space becomes a magickal body for us to use during our operations.  While operating within the sphere, our attention turns inward to the center of the circle, an act that symbolically represents us turning inward to ourselves.

In spite of what one may have read or been taught, there are three necessary steps in casting the circle:  dedication, purification, and invocation.  In dedicating our circle, we begin by announcing the space as sacred, giving our subconscious  a call to attention.  Physical boundaries are delineated; we realize that the astral forms follow the physical designs, and thought begins the process by which we open our space.  Critical and analytical functions are set aside; disbelief is suspended for a time.  We also realize that the outer forms are not important.  In casting the circle, it is what happens within us, on the inner realms of consciousness, that creates our vortex.  As we do will, so mote it be!

Next comes the purification of the space.  Moving in a deosil (clockwise) progression, we further enforce the circle's boundaries as we continue to cleanse it of negativity.  Becoming our magickal body for a time, as the circle is cleansed, so are we.  Water, incense, earth,  and fire are carried about to purify the space with the four elements.  We release negative thought forms and energies from ourselves.  Vibratory rates are raised, and the general area is cleansed.

Finally, having prepared and strengthened our vortex, we call the Mighty Ones into the circle.  We proceed with the four elements, and finally call the God/dess.  This gives us the chance to call on aspects of ourselves specific to the work that we are doing.  Our operations are done with the higher parts of our beings, not just the purely human part.  Magickal operations done only with the human part require more effort and often fail. Operations done under divine guidance are rapid; they become true art forms, apt to succeed.  We invoke the powers and they resonate within, awakening aspects of ourselves that normally remain hidden from everyday consciousness.  The circle becomes a living mandala and we are finally centered within the self.

To begin casting the circle, we must first develop the new awareness that accompanies it, a sort of twilight vision where we can see the holistic pattern and reality behind all things, not just the individual identities. For within the circle we stretch our consciousness to become one with the powers around us; the traditional separateness we feel in everyday life must be suspended for a moment so we may transcend that reality.  Once we attain that awareness, we must begin to channel that new consciousness, the energy that lies within the pattern, into the form called the magick circle.

~ from Maat's Book of Shadows

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