Daily Practice: Train for Success

Daily Practice: Train for Success April 20, 2018

Training in magic will change your life. Of all the things that we might conjure, the most challenging and most important is real, lasting change. If you want to live a life of success, it takes more than just knowing the right path forward.

Sometimes, we think about our path in life as if it were a series of choices. We like to pretend that the way it all turns out all depends on finding answers that are simpatico with our own nature. We imagine that just being ourselves should somehow be they key to everything.

But as much as life can be a piece of performance art, it is also often a contest of power. That means that success requires us to be more than one-dimensional.

Hadrian's Wall and path, section near Crag Lough
Hadrian’s Wall and path, section near Crag Lough

“Everyone” knows that we need to be smart and educated so we can understand the everyday world. But we also need to cultivate wisdom so we can understand the real world. Cultivating oneself – developing self-discipline, equanimity,  and depth – opens our eyes to the geography of the real.

We also need to be tougher. By cultivating spiritual strength, resilience, and flexibility, we can better stand against the buffeting winds (and shiny distractions) of life.

The surest way to develop this power inside ourselves is through daily practice. Talking about this power will not make it grow. Set a time, start a habit, and let it blossom into a discipline.


Finding Your Way

About half the time, we measure our success by those around us. The other half, we find ourselves guided by powerful internal forces. Sometimes we feel like we might go mad from trying to keep a hold on both the inside and the outside. To make it worse, most of the “advice” we will get is that we should pick between the two. It’s terrible advice.

What alternative do we have? It sometimes seems like we have an either/or choice. On the one hand, we can listen to that voice inside, whether we name it the subconscious, the soul, or the Holy Guardian Angel.(1) On the other hand, we can listen to the cacophony of the outside world that tells us a million contradictory things. Are we are infinite and powerful? Are we are only what we see, here and now?

There is a way to thread the needle — to listen to the inside and the outside at the same time. Such a path is not impossible. It requires three things: acceptance that neither is more important than the other, self-awareness so that you can listen to yourself, and the power not to get overrun by the larger world.


Know Thyself

It is a truism that we all have to start from where we are. It is one of those things that we all know but also all seem to lose track of in the bustle of everyday life.

We live in a world where “identity” is often taken to be a key component in the trajectory of our lives. As people, we define ourselves by where were we born, to whom, and with what resources. In relationships, we bind ourselves with others based on who we love, how freely, and with whose permission. In society, our worth is measured by how well we get along  with others, who are they, and what we have to contribute.

On the surface, we are the sum of our experiences. But as practitioners of the Art and followers of the Path, where we point ourselves is just as important as where we came from. It makes no difference if we are driven by deep internal forces or by the rule of cool. We get what we seek.


In the Beginning

I was always a weird kid, and quit was never in my dictionary.  When I was about eighteen years old, I was asked what I wanted to do with my life. “To know the answers to the impossible questions. To know what happens after death, and if there is a God or what. To understand life, purpose, and meaning.”

“There are no such answers,” I was told. “Any answers anyone else has,” it was explained to me, “would be be useless.” That made it, in their eyes, a waste of time. “What else do you want to do?”

Zen archery with Master Jaan - (c)2009 by Polly Peterson, used with permission
Zen archery with Master Jaan – (c)2009 by Polly Peterson, used with permission

“Well, nothing.” I mumbled something and did what I was told. For a while.

It has been a few years since then, and I can say that devoting my life to those questions, and the questions they spawned, has been as challenging a path as one could imagine. There were times I could hardly move under the immensity of my task, but hey, I signed up for it. 


Setting a Course

What does success mean to you? Where does that come from? Defining success is the place where we separate ourselves from the herd. Everyone works hard on making their life into what they want, though hard work is no guarantee. While I have found that more of life is under our control than we think, I do not fall in with the “your life is entirely of your own making” crowd.

Whether we consider ourselves witches, magicians, priests, or shamans, one thing that sets practitioners apart is that we take a different level of responsibility for our lives. Where the everyday person can rail against bad luck, we at least try to seize it, deflect it, transmute it, or (if all else fails) learn from it.

For the practitioners, luck (by whatever name) is a tangible part of life. We start with the same luck as everyone else, and through hard work and practice, learn to flex the spiritual muscles that can protect ourselves and others.


Take Action

It is a big universe out there, and there is nothing we can do that will completely protect us. But we don’t need some silver bullet solution to all the ills of life. We need practical paths to growth, a better relationship with our goals, and a sense of purpose to carry us through the dark times.

A labyrinth at the Theosophical Society of America
A Labyrinth, No Bull

If our goals are too much from the outside, success will never fill us up. But if they are too much from the inside, we will find the wold infertile ground for the metaphorical seeds we are looking to plant. Managing this balance requires a strength that we can develop.

Leaping out madly into the world is a sure way to change, but often a good way to land on your face. By focusing on education, awareness, and resilience as first steps, we set the tone for the long path to success ahead.


(1) Not all internal forces are the same. Someone who spends a year on the Abramelin operation does not have the same perspective on internal forces as someone who spends years in psychotherapy. Both, however, will have a leg up on someone who ignores internal forces entirely.

About Christopher Drysdale
Christopher Drysdale is an animist, martial artist, shamanic practitioner, healer, psychopomp, and meditation teacher. He’s been pagan for more than 30 years, has a master’s degree in anthropology, and thinks “making the world a better place” is a pretty good idea. He makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more about the author here.
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