Fear and Magic

(A post from 2007)

I was teaching at Chapel Hill NC, and a lady asked me about fear and writer’s block. I gave her a slightly flip answer… and then looked at her eyes. She had said she’d traveled hundreds of miles to speak to me, and suddenly my ego-shit went out the window (I love when that happens!) and I was in that “Real” space I get thrown into more and more often these days. So I told her I was going to take her seriously, and give her some magic. Taught her the Fear Removal exercise. A gentleman who had done me the honor of challenging everything I say (I love that, too) had been hovering around, and asked if I had any fear.

I said hell, yes. Ah hah! He said. Then the technique doesn’t work? Sure, it does. But I only use it on fears that are irrational, and that inhibit my ability to accomplish the things that are in alignment with my core values. Why not on everything? He asked. Because it’s not fun, son. It hurts a bit. It’s worth it if you are removing the block to love, or health, or success. But do it on my fear of… I don’t know, say asking strange women to dance. I still have a bit of shyness left over from my geeky childhood, and have no interest in removing it. It’s kinda cute, reminds me of where I came from.

He kept grinding in at me (good for him!) and I mentioned that the technique often has to be repeated, if the fear creeps back: it isn’t permanent. Ah-hah! He said. Then it’s not Magic, is it..?
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And here I realized that I’m living in a completely different world than this gentleman. He got his concept of magic from novels and movies: wave a wand, and presto! An elephant disappears from the living room, in denial of all rules of physics. The universe doesn’t ripple at all, and Mandrake does it again.
Wow. Cool.

Having been around shamans who played very seriously with these things, I am of the opinion that the approach to magic in life has steps that go something like this.
1) First, Clarke’s law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic is not a violation of the laws of nature, any more than airplanes violate the law of gravity. It may seem so to the ignorant, but it ain’t so.
2) Second, one must have a genuinely profound map of reality, integrated at the level of unconscious competence.
3) Set goals and then take actions. Note the gap between the results and your intentions. Learn all you can about the reasons for the failures and successes, keeping both conscious and unconscious channels open.
4) Begin to differentiate between your needs and desires. “You can’t always get what you want,” the song goes. But we generally get what we need. We’re evolved to get our NEEDS from the environment. Otherwise, we wouldn’t survive, and our ancestors wouldn’t have, either. Peeling away the inessential, until we are in alignment with life. Needless to say, doing this in a consumer culture requires both strength and clarity. Most will prefer to remain asleep, trust me.
5) Once your survival needs are in alignment with nature (you have these things at the level of unconscious competence), use prayer, ceremony, meditation, etc. to make your goals, actions, and values all in alignment: you do what you say you’ll do, and you aren’t fighting yourself in the process. In the beginning, it can be hell to achieve this. It is worth the fight.
6) When your inner and outer realities are in alignment, and your reality map is accurate, a bizarre thing happens: you stop wanting anything you cannot have. You don’t set goals that are out of reach. You understand your abilities, and the context of life, so well that your desires never materialize fully unless you have the tools and resources to bring them into existence. You are, in essence, playing with a loaded deck. You say you want to do something, and it happens. To the uninitiated, it looks like magic, while to you, well…it’s just the way the universe works. Nothing special about it at all.
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But do you see the hard, brutally honest work it takes to get there? You have to genuinely calibrate your perceptions, and most people would rather do ANYTHING than expose themselves to truth. It is really sad to watch, when the way to truth is fairly clearly marked: just overlay all major world religions, extract the core teachings, and do THAT stuff with all your heart. Read between the lines. Ignore the teachings of people whose actions are out of alignment with their words. Keep your word to yourself, until truth becomes easier than lying. Somewhere along that path, you’ll notice that you are living a non-ordinary life.

-Steve Barnes

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