Your conscious mind and physical habits are important for magical practice, but so is your subconscious. This is where it starts to get weird, and also my favorite part.
The subconscious is associated with the element of water. Everything here is deep, fluid, and hard to pin down. It can be a bit scary to get started with this work if you tend to want to explain everything, but once you dive in you may find that you can swim better than you ever expected. In the meantime, here are a few tools that I find helpful for navigating the depths.
stream of consciousness journaling
We’ve done a little journaling already, but now I’m going to suggest something fairly specific. Write or type continuously for up to three pages, fifteen minutes, or 750 words. Start wherever you want. It doesn’t matter what you write about, and the writing isn’t supposed to be any good, though you might come up with some interesting ideas. Try to journal every day, especially since you’ll feel the least like writing on days when it might be the most useful. Get as fluid as you can with it, and just keep writing without taking any breaks. Experiment with writing things that don’t make any sense, and even things that you don’t think are true. See how it feels.
acknowledge uncomfortable thoughts and feelings
Some systems of magical thinking encourage you to avoid negativity at all costs. I couldn’t disagree with this approach more. I do think it’s a great idea to put energy and intention toward what you love most, but the problem with avoiding thoughts is that they get stuffed down into your subconscious, and your subconscious is incredibly powerful. In some ways, it’s more powerful than your conscious mind. So, pay attention to what’s going on in there. The free-writing is a powerful tool for this. Be careful not to avoid uncomfortable topics when they start to come up. In fact, when I notice that there’s something I would rather not write down, I try to go straight toward it. If you’re incredibly uncomfortable having a written record of those thoughts, you can always burn or erase it when you’re done.
pay attention to your dreams
Dreams are another great way to learn about what’s going on with you subconsciously. Practice writing them down first thing in the morning. Even if you don’t remember anything, write something down – how you slept, or what you woke up thinking about. If you’re getting enough sleep, you’ll probably start to remember more soon. When you write your dreams, include as much sensory detail as you can. How did you feel?
watch for synchronicity
Karl Jung coined the word synchronicity to refer to a coincidence that feels meaningful, for example if you have a powerful dream about a butterfly, and then the same type of butterfly lands on your arm while you meditate. It’s not always that dramatic, but you will start to notice strange coincidences, especially as you practice these other exercises. If a certain topic comes up again and again, or you suddenly get an opportunity to move in a new direction you’ve been considering, keep in mind that it could be an important message.
if you’re moved emotionally, move physically
If something meaningful happens in your life, don’t let that energy dissipate – act on it. If you’re moved by something you read, hear, see, dream, or notice synchronistically, put it into action right away. Try out the thing you read about. Get in touch with someone and start a conversation. Act out your dream, paint about your synchronicity, jump on the unexpected opportunity. It doesn’t matter so much what your response is, as long as you get in the habit of allowing the energy to move through you in some way.
experiment with process arts
Another interesting way to pay attention to the way this fluid energy moves through you is to practice process art. This could take almost any form, from improvisational music to painting, but the basic idea is to get absorbed in the creative process without any intention about the subject or results. Try not to worry about whether you like what you’re making or not – just feel into what sort of colors, movements, or sounds are inspiring you in each moment. Even doodling can be a form of process art, but try to be intentional about each mark rather than getting into an autopilot trance.
journey and talk to guides
There are some big ideas in this section. Whole books have been written on process arts and journeying, and some of them are definitely worth reading if you like that sort of thing! But speaking of trance, guided meditation to explore your own inner landscape and meet your personal spirit guides can be really informative and helpful. There are probably at least a thousand different ways to do this, but here’s a reasonable introductory video. It’s good to practice and also a good fallback for any future situation where you’re not sure how to proceed. Need some advice? You can get it from yourself any time.
play with creative ritual
You might have noticed that there hasn’t been much in the way of physical spell-casting in this series so far. Intention-setting is a type of spell on its own, but bringing it into the physical realm with action is definitely a powerful practice. Set aside certain times or places dedicated to creative magical work. For example, set up a meditation corner, or imagine a portable circle of energy around you as you get ready to start your ritual, or meet up with friends specifically for magical purposes. Enter these times and places with an understanding that the rules are different than they are in ordinary life.
A ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle to represent an intention, drawing a few tarot cards, charging a magical item to carry around with you, or creating an altar display to celebrate the season. Don’t be afraid to experiment, though. Use symbols that are important to you. Incorporate lots of sensory detail, like sounds, tastes and smells to engage your subconscious more fully. Leave the space with intention and gratitude when you’re done.