You prayed and hoped your ex would return to you, but they didn’t.
You were so sure your prayer wasn’t answered.
But then you turned around and hurt someone else in the exact same way or even worse than your ex had hurt you. You want to deny it, but cannot – it’s just staring you in the face.
What’s happening here?
Or, the once in a lifetime job fell through, even though you created a beautiful ceremony to make sure it happened. You are sure your magic failed.
But then you met your beloved and started an affair that required you to move two states away.
Perhaps, you made ceremony to create real and lasting change in your life…and then had to hold on tight for a wild and rowdy ride.
You think your ceremony didn’t work because your life seemed to become even more of a mess, somehow more disordered.
But what was really happening?
For sacred artists it is all too easy to blame magic for all the times it seems to fall through and fail.
But just as genuine prayer is not merely asking The Deity for stuff (Dear Lord I want a shiny new car…), genuine magic is not mere wishful thinking or wish fulfillment.
For prayers to be answered, for magic to really work, we need to work.
A large part of that work means cultivating a certain quality or frame of mind and heart conducive for that work, and the root of this is learning how to pay or give our attention to our experience – both inner and outer – than perhaps we have ever done before.
The experiences themselves I related above teach us this.
We can learn a lot from our actual experiences, if only we can listen and look…and be patient. Someone who really pays attention to actual experience begins to live more and more by a single rule: expect the unexpected.
In the three cases above, something unexpected happened. Magic happened.
An opportunity happened.
You thought you wanted your ex back. “Nope!” said the Deep Blue Universe. “Huh-uh. You need do some serious soul-searching and get your ‘inner’ house in order.”
You thought it would be so great to get that job, and really wanted it. “Really?” asked the Great Whirling Dervish said, eyebrows raised. “That’s what you want? My, but you really are a little slow. What you want is — Bam! Passion!”
You believed lasting change would be super easy and tidy, like a row of colorful bottles on a shelf you can buy in a store. “Wrong again!” laughed the Wide Sparkling Cosmos. “Here, witness a miracle. Here it is. Right in front of you.”
Why is this a useful way of looking at our magical work and it effects?
Because it is a view that brings more clarity and wisdom, but also wastes less time.
The frame of mind we want to adopt is not only more objective, disinterested, even scientific, but it is also characterized by a sense of learning and a sense of adventure, an attitude of “what’s next!” or “what’s around the corner!”
This is, by the way, what fairy tales can teach us – what it means to cultivate a sense of creative adventure in our practice and life.
This is no bland, anesthetized sort of passive open awareness, but one that is growing, active, wondering, probing, excited and truly open.
It is this vigorous openness in which real magic begins to take shape.
And as it does, it not only changes our external conditions…it transforms us as well.