September 24, 2010

On Isolating Variables: Mugwort, Flu Season, and the 5 Tibetans

OK, so I'll admit that as a scientist, when I have what seems to be a good idea in my head, I'll go ahead and forge through a project, ignoring some of the smaller aspects of good practice, in the hope that everything will pan out nicely and I'll get an awesome result.

Doing the same thing with magic? Not such a good idea, as it turns out.

Sometime last week (what was that about keeping a notebook?) I decided to brew up some mugwort tea I'd gotten from my local botanica, as I rarely ever remember even the tiniest scrap of my dreams. A tablespoon of the stuff in two cups of water, boiled for about 20 minutes or so. Put the cup to my lips and... oh dear god, I almost retched. I had to throw a tablespoon of spearmint leaves and a truckload of sugar into the damned thing before I could even get it down. Details you don't read on websites. Bleh.

Deciding to wait for my ladyfriend to get home before hitting the sack, I spontaneously decided to run through the 5 Tibetans exercises, also for the first time ever. Twenty-one repetitions of each (except number 5, that shit's hard, and I'm out of shape since I quit fencing) later, and I was feeling good, although a little off-balance. Went to bed and passed out promptly.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from the mugwort; I definitely had 6 or 7 dreams, but they seemed fuzzy and far away upon waking. Given that I normally don't remember dreaming at all, I suppose this was a success that warrants further experimenting. Sitting in bed pondering this, I realized I was freezing. Not turn-up-the-air freezing, but soul-chilling freezing. And my my muscles ached (expected). And my... skin ached? Fuck, the ladyfriend's roommate had the flu last week, didn't she? Goddamnit. I expected to be huddled inside for the next three days, popping massive amounts of psuedoephedrine (God's gift to Man) and ibuprofen.

Except 24 hours later, I was fine. What the fuck? Having a medical background, I know that the idea of a "24 hour flu" is crap (most cases actually being food poisoning), so what had just happened? Was I experiencing the "Mugwort Hanover" that Harry talks about? Are my subtle bodies so out of shape that a few simple exercises "blew out" a meridian? Did I really get a flu that wasn't covered by my flu shot, and antibody cross-reaction just got rid of it quickly?

The world will never know, because I didn't separate my variables. Want to know how something effects you? Don't try it out on the same night as something else. Or if you do, don't be mad if you get your ass kicked.

But of course, like a good scientist, I'll be getting back to experimenting with both, along with some clary sage (if I can ever find the damn stuff). But separately this time. I'll keep you posted.

September 6, 2010

On Strategic Sorcery and Black Swans

So, as my hastily-written bio will tell you, I've recently joined the third cycle of Jason Miller's Strategic Sorcery course. Working through the first four back-lessons over the past week and trying to set up a daily practice schedule has been interesting, given that my "day" doesn't run on a 24-hour schedule and often ends with me passing out on the softest available surface.

Now, not having any sort of outline for the course, I found myself wondering this morning when I'd start seeing or feeling the work cause tangible changes in my day to day life. I put the thought out of my head and went ahead with my morning practices. Cue synchronicity.

After a 20-minute meditation at sunrise, and making offerings of water, patchouli, and candlelight to the local spirits I settled down to do the Pillar and the Spheres exercise and a cut-down version of the Microcosmic Orbit while the incense burned down. Soon after I dismissed the spirits and poured out the water as a libation (I do hope nobody ever stands under my balcony). All uneventful.

It wasn't until I got into the car to hit the supermarket that I noticed that I felt awesome. I'm not ashamed to say that when Take It Off came on the radio, I was jamming the fuck out. At 8:00 in the morning. But I let this pass with a smile and didn't take much notice. I went ahead with the day's plan of heading to the local teaching zoo with my girlfriend and her roommate. It wasn't until halfway through the guided tour that I noticed it looming in front of me: four feet tall, wings spread, and thoroughly ready to peck the shit out of me to defend its territory.

A motherfucking black swan. I didn't even bother trying to explain to the girls why I was laughing my ass off at a pissed-off bird. I get it, Universe; I'm doing something right.