Bellows Breath

Bellows Breath is an active meditation that can be used to increase conscious awareness and raise energy in the body. Practitioners of Kundalini Yoga may recognize this as what they call the “Breath of Fire.” It can be used to release stuck energy in the body, oxygenating the blood, and expanding lung capacity.

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Begin by sitting with your legs crossed. Then focus on the energy in your body around your navel.
  2. Keeping your mouth closed, begin by inhaling and exhaling rapidly through your nose. The in and out breaths should be equal in length, but as short as possible. As you exhale, push the air out of your lungs quickly, similar to a bellows used to start a fire. Try for between 2-3 breaths per second.
  3. After a few minutes, you may start to experience a warm energy rising from your navel up to your head. Try to experience this rising energy without any judgements or assumptions about you are feeling. Just feel the energy spreading in your body.
  4. You may choose to imagine that as the energy rises, it is clearing away physical or emotional blocks in your body. You can visualize this fire energy moving through your body and burning away any toxins, negativity, stuck emotions, or past behaviors, leaving only a healthy body and mind behind.

Roasting Cinnabar

A good Calcination ritual to start with is known as Roasting Cinnabar.

This meditative process is related to the work done by alchemists in the laboratory, working with real chemicals.

In this process, alchemists would would roast the mineral known as “Dragon’s Blood,” or Cinnabar, which is a red-colored sulfide of mercury. When roasted over an open flame,  drops of pure liquid mercury are released from the cinnabar and fall down into the ashes.

The purpose of this meditative process is to get us in touch with our mostly unconscious judgements and reactionary behaviors that serve to protect and enhance our egos. We must become aware of these forces within our psyches before we are able to release them to make room for our true or higher Self.

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Start by entering a state of relaxation, one in which you feel detached from your worries and daily concerns or problems. You can do this by focusing on your breath, by noting the “in” or the “out” breath or by counting each breath as it passes. You may also use a mantra of your choice to bring your attention inward. When you find you are relaxed, move on to the next step.
  2. Slowly count backwards from 10 down to 1. While counting down, continue to relax each part of your body, starting at the crown of your head and moving down to your toes. Take care to make each breath slower and deeper than the last.
  3. Visualize brilliant red cinnabar roasting over an open flame. As you do so, let your mind travel back to any moment of your life where you felt humiliated or enraged by someone else. Try to notice the true cause of your intense feelings—they are typically tied up in a sense of losing control, of not having any power over yourself, and of your ego or sense of self being diminished.
  4. Observe your thoughts as they stream through your mind. Notice the ways in which you reacted to being hurt. This can include such things as promising yourself you will never be vulnerable and risk getting hurt again, or lashing out at someone else to soothe the ego’s pain. Re-evaluate how you responded to these painful circumstances. Ask yourself, is this the best way to respond? How would my higher or wiser self choose to respond instead?
  5. Most importantly, allow yourself to experience all of your difficult feelings. Avoid suppressing and repressing your pain. It never truly goes away, and there is much wisdom to be found in the depths of your own darkness.
  6. Notice all of the insights and wisdom that come up as you do this. Picture this to be the mercury being released from the cinnabar. Imagine yourself gathering up all of this precious mercury into a glass bottle as it is released from the rocks of cinnabar.

This mercury, this purified thought, is now yours to use as you wish.

Calcination

There are seven operations in the process of alchemy, the first of which is calcination.

This is the process of burning through the dross of the ego we have built up over the course of our lives, so that our true self may be released and expressed.

This is not an easy experience to go through, which is why so many of us avoid it. It often seems safer to cling to our egos, no matter how much suffering they may cause us, than to face the delusions we have accepted and the lies we have built into our personalities.

This process requires us to go through the fires of hell in order to emerge renewed. We must experience all of our pent up anger, frustration and rage before we can move past this stage.

We are forced to come to terms with some of our most difficult emotions in a process which has been referred to as “the death of the profane.” The false self must die in order that the true Self may live.

For there is no room in the psyche for two rulers. The false ego drains our energy, asking us to focus on superficial qualities or objects. We may focus on our physical appearance or have an obsession with material possessions and financial success. All of which obscures our essence, our higher self which is in touch with something greater than ourselves, and out of which meaning and purpose are born.

Some alchemical practices for working with our egos and moving the calcination process forward are Roasting Cinnabar, Bellows Breath and the Dance of Sulfur. It is important to recognize that alchemy is not an abstract, theoretical mental discipline. It involves all the dimensions of our being, and as such is something that much be practiced.

You can choose to do one alchemical practice at once, or as I have done, combine several into a longer calcination ritual. I will describe the practicalities of these processes more in depth in coming posts here.

Richard Tarnas on the Planets in 2021

Last week I had the privilege of attending an online talk led by Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche, on the astrology of 2021. It truly an honor to be in the presence of a man who is widely recognized as one of the great minds of our time.

During his presentation, Tarnas chose to focus on three of the most significant transits of the past and current decade:

  • Uranus square Pluto, lasting from 2007 to 2020
  • Saturn conjunct Pluto, from 2018 to 2022
  • Saturn square Uranus, from 2019 to 2024

The Uranus-Pluto square brought to the surface many of the things which lay in the collective shadows. According to Tarnas, Trump was a potent symbol of the shadow side of this Plutonian energy—he gave permission to other to express many of the things which lay beneath the surface in our society (racism, misogyny, etc.), bringing them into open expression.

The Saturn-Pluto conjunction, which also aligned with Jupiter last year, was one of the most significant of our time. This triple conjunction saw discovery and proliferation of COVID-19, as well as a host of other dire effects. Whenever Saturn enters the picture, it brings with it a great heaviness and seriousness, during which judgements are made and there are consequences.

According to Tarnas, the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto in Capricorn was in many ways an initiatory crisis for us. In many ways, it provoked a moral crisis, an awakening which asked us to die to our old identity and be born into a life of meaning. Tarnas spoke of this on a collective level, but I also have felt this to be true on a personal level during the past year. By confronting death, I was able to see life more clearly, and was forced to find a way to live it more courageously and with much more integrity.

The two transits mentioned above are all coming to an end, and we are now left with the major, definitive transit of 2021, the Saturn-Uranus square. The transit will be exact on three dates this year: February 17, June 15, and December 24.

This is not an easy transit. However, Tarnas believes there is still more room to maneuver here than under the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of last year. The energies are now fully engaged, we feel less trapped and are more inspired to face the challenges directly. It’s as if we have gone through a near-death experience, and the life that remains has been imbued with greater preciousness and significance. We are willing to fight for the changes that we need to make in our lives.

Uranus, the unconventional, rebellious planet of change, will meet Saturn, the wise but severe taskmaster of the sky several times through this year, leading to an energy which is great for making creative structural changes in order to permit wiser living and greater freedom. It would be well-advised to make prudent changes slowly and gradually; if we choose to ignore the lessons imparted by Saturn and Uranus, we may find that a sudden break or collapse may occur when we least expect it.

As challenging and disruptive as this may be, the Saturn-Uranus squares of 2021 have the potential to be a sacred marriage of the past and future. If we use this time wisely, we may be able to carry forward what is most valuable from the past, discern what is most promising of the future, and together bring both into structural embodiment.

These crises can be opportunities for us to reconfigure our moral values and make creative, structural changes that will serve us well for years to come. Like with any difficult transits, the more consciousness, creativity, imagination, and courage that we can bring to bear on this situation, the better.

The Maze & the Labyrinth

Many of us consider a maze and a labyrinth to be one and the same thing, but there is actually a subtle difference.

LABYRINTH is the term used when there is only one fixed, or unicursal, path to the center.

A MAZE, on the other hand, refers to a multicursal path that may contain dead ends or different ways to reach the center, and where the possibility always exists to become lost within.

For example, the structure built by Daedalus to hold the minotaur in Ancient Greek mythology has usually been referred to as a labyrinth, but today we might all this a maze, as it was clearly multicursal, with many complex paths and dead ends meant to trap the minotaur.


The unicursal labyrinth is powerful symbol of spiritual transformation. The labyrinth was a symbol which combined the circle and the spiral into one symbol of wholeness.

The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

To move from the outside starting point of the labyrinth to the center, and then back again, is symbolic of the spiritual journey to the center of the self and beyond.


I found a lot of insight into the symbols of the maze and the labyrinth in the words Marion Woodman, renowned author and Jungian analyst:

“A maze is a puzzle to be solved. It has dead ends. You may get lost in a maze. You run into a minotaur and be killed.”

Marion Woodman

Like Woodman, I spent many years of my life feeling like I was trapped in a mazed, living as if in fear of a deadly minotaur, and confronting dead end after useless dead end.


“A labyrinth looks superficially like a maze, but it’s different. There are no dead ends, no traps. There is only one path, and it takes you by a circuitous route to the center.”

In her own life, Woodman found that when she at last confronted her deepest fears and faced death, she was also able to realize the perfection of her life experience and see the purpose of her path.

“I was finally able to surrender to life, because at long last I KNEW there was a center and that if I kept listening, opening, and walking forward, my path would lead me to that center.”

I am finding that the same is true for me. I am going to keep walking. I know the center is there, ever present, just waiting for me to open my eyes to it.

The Age of Horus

On December 21, 2020, a Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn occurred at 0 degrees of Aquarius.

For some, this marked the official beginning of the Age of Aquarius. However, others debate this and assert other dates as being the true beginning of the age and the resetting of the cosmic clock.

Regardless of the exact date, I think many of us can feel there is a certain something in the air that shows there are indeed noticeable shifts happening.

The Age of Aquarius is lauded by many as the beginning of a New Age of progress for humanity, when the people will take control of the Earth, truth will be revealed, and a huge wave of individuals will experience great shifts in consciousness and expanded awareness.

However, others believe that in this age, religion (as in the Age of Pisces) will be replaced by knowledge (or facts or data) as the main tool used by secretive, powerful elites to control the masses.

But my favorite explanation of this time is found in equating this time with the Age, or Aeon, of Horus, as pictured here in the Aeon card of the Thoth tarot.

As the son of Isis and Osiris, Horus represents the Child archetype, the salt of earth which combines the qualities of spirit and soul from both sides of his lineage.

This fact points to the importance of what precedes us, and the legacies which we have inherited. To move into the Aeon of Horus, we will have to transition out of the Age of Osiris, or the time of the Father, with its patriarchal perspective and value system. It was an age concerned with control and dominance, as well as counterbalancing themes of sacrifice, suffering and death.

Before this, came the Age of Isis, or the Mother. During this time, matriarchies ruled the Earth. The land herself, and the beauty and pleasures of the body, were then the object of worship.

The Aeon of Horus is expected to be an age of alchemical transformation, in which the inherited qualities of previous ages are integrated and wholly embodied in our selves.

Creating the future does not involve a rejection of our past, but a careful examination of our full inheritance along with choices made of what we will choose to embody and carry forward.

As a feminist, I strongly believe that creation of a new world does not involve rejection of the masculine in any way. The feminism I believe in rejects only the patriarchy and its rigid systems of dominance and control. It is this rigidity that keeps both men and women locked into our respective roles, living as one-sided attempts as human beings.

Integration of the masculine into the feminine, or the animus with the anima, is the only way to create new life, and a new world.

As a result, we are being called to embody our inheritance in a way that honors the fullness of our humanity. That integrates our thoughts and our feelings, our spirits with our bodies, the forces of Eros and Logos, drawing strength from both chaos & order, structure & freedom.

It is only when we have integrated our dual and complementary ways of being that we will know that we have arrived. It is then that we may experience the joys promised by the initiation of this new age.

The Sophists

The Sophists were among the first teachers and theorists of rhetoric in Ancient Greece.

They made their living traveling from city to city, teaching the citizens the art of argumentation.

Having experienced a wide variety of local habits and customs during their travels, they saw truth as being relative in nature. They rejected any idea of objective truth or eternal values, favoring instead the position that “truth” was negotiated through language and determined by culture.

As a result, they were looked down upon by their now more famous contemporaries, Plato and Aristotle. This meant they would be regarded with similar contempt by students of philosophy during the many centuries to come.

However, recent decades have seen a renewed interest in the Sophistic movement. As Susan Jarratt, a respected researcher on this subject, notes, the Sophists anticipated the contemporary rhetorical theorists’ recognition of the gap between the sign and the signified, or the word and what it is supposed to mean.

Gorgias especially was ahead of his time in his understanding of language and reality.

I personally am a big fan of Gorgias, especially this famous quote of his: 

“Nothing exists; even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.” 


So what’s the point, then? Why even bother talking anymore? Should you just stop reading this now?


Well, I can’t say I actually know what Gorgias meant. 

But I’m not sure it’s meant to be taken 100% at face value.

And I think that’s the entire point. It is meant to inspire humility around our use of language. 

I don’t believe it’s wise to be a fanatic believer in any truth or dogma. Unlike Plato, I believe the world is too complex, too infinite to be limited to what we can say in words.

We can’t let ourselves get hooked on the belief that we are in possession of the only Truth, of the one Right way to think or be. It’s dangerous. This arrogance of thought is at the root of all zealotry and much of the world’s violence.

The point is not to reject all attempts at understanding, but to recognize them as just that: attempts, not absolutes.

Total Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius

Today there was a Total Solar Eclipse earlier around 8am this morning.

Eclipses usually signal a powerful and even disruptive beginning or end. It’s effects can often be felt for the next 6 months, until the beginning of the next cycle.

This eclipse is conjunct the South Node in Sagittarius. The South Node signifies what we need to move away from, what has been mastered and must be transcended. To continue to engage in a way typified by the South Node is ultimately draining for us, and disempowering.

It is much better for us to move toward the North Node, also called the Node of Destiny.

Sagittarius typically represents the themes of philosophy, religion, and foreign languages or travel. Ruled by Jupiter, it can also mean idealism and expansion.

Gemini, on the other hand, is more about communication, logic, the mind, and our thought processes. It can also be the spoken and written word, as well as our local community, siblings and neighborhood.

🌞

This eclipse perfectly encapsulates the themes that have been on my mind in recent weeks.

With the South Node in Sagittarius, I am looking to move away from my decade-long focus on higher learning, philosophy and spiritual ideals.

However, I won’t be abandoning it or leaving it behind completely.

Instead, I will turn my attention toward the North Node in Gemini, and my focus will shift to how I can communicate what I have learned to my community.

I view this eclipse as my opportunity to shift into greater connection with those around me through my writing.

What would you like to shift during this eclipse season and beyond?

The Caduceus, or “Staff of Hermes”

The Caduceus is one of the most well-known symbols in the world today. However, the true story and significance of this symbol remains obscured to the vast majority.

Most of us will recognize the Caduceus as a symbol belonging to the medical community. If asked, most would likely say that this symbol was adopted by doctors and other medical professionals as their symbol representing the power of healing, and that its origins can be traced to Asclepius, the ancient Greek physician.

Others, however, dispute this theory, arguing that in reality, what we know as the Caduceus is of much greater antiquity, having been traced back even further to the Greek legend Hermes Trismegistus.

There is a Greek legend which tells the story of how he came to possess what has also been called “the Staff of Hermes.”

It begins with a Greek seer named Tiresias, who discovered two mating snakes in the middle of the road on Mount Kyllene. When Tiresias went to separate the snakes with his staff, he was turned into a woman. He remained a woman for seven more years, until again he encountered and separated another pair of snakes.

The powerful staff, together with the snakes, was then hidden in a cave on the mountain; it is said that it is here where Hermes would eventually be born, and would make his home.

It is often thought that the snakes represent the life force, or inner creative power within man (and woman). Some even speculate that, since the caduceus looks quite similar to the double-helix structure of DNA, this could be clue hinting at the possibility that Thoth/Hermes may have somehow manipulated the structure of the human genome to advance our progress and hurry us toward the future evolution of humanity.

These are all interesting ideas, but the possibilities are not limited to these two options. I believe there are many ways of reading this myth, especially in light of certain alchemical principles.

I have my own inclinations when it comes to interpreting the symbolism of this mythic origins story, but I’d love to hear what you think.

Do the snakes and staff (and wings, in some versions) have any personal significance for you? What does it mean to heal or be healed, and how does the symbolism of the Caduceus represent that?

What is Rhetoric?

According to Aristotle, rhetoric “is the art of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion.”

Most modern and contemporary definitions tend to take this classical definition of rhetoric as their starting point.

For example, Kenneth Burke, one of the 20th century’s greatest rhetorical theorists, gave this explanation of rhetoric: “it is rooted in an essential function of language itself… as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.”

Here, we can see three of the core elements which comprise the field of rhetoric today. In contemporary theory, the study of rhetoric is not contained to persuasion or argumentation, but also encompasses ideas regarding the nature of language itself.


THE 3 KEYS OF RHETORIC

What is Rhetoric?

  1. SYMBOLIC

It is representational. It uses symbols such as letters, images, gestures, etc. that stand for something else. There is not always a direct, 1-to-1 relationship between the symbol and the meaning behind it, with different people perceiving different connotations and meanings for a given symbol.

2. COMMUNICATIVE

It expresses thought or opinion. It may be used in an attempt to express truth or to persuade and convince others.

3.SOCIAL

It occurs in the interaction between people. It involves a rhetor, or speaker, and an audience who will receive and evaluate their message.


So why study rhetoric and magic?

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the phrase “thoughts become things.”

It is a well-known concept that you attract what you think about [known as the Law of Attraction].

“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”


If you believe in magic and manifestation, it is wise to also examine your thoughts and the words used to express them.

Human beings are something like a projection machine, and the words and images inside of us are the film. The outer environment is simply the screen that holds the pictures we have chosen to display in front of us.

This means that the study of language and rhetoric can help us become more conscious and intentional about our words and what we will create with them.

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