Sensing the Subtleties: Part Four

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Taste (Gustatory)

In esoteric and spiritual practice, the use of taste brings us to a place of harmony with the natural world. If we make healthy choices those foods we eat honor the earth and her bounty. In ritual, the blessing and consumption of cakes and ale, signal to the consciousness that return to the mundane world is at hand. Foods and drink given as offerings or libations to Deity are expressions of our gratitude and devotion. And, in specific spiritual practice, certain taste sensations that occur during meditative work can signal transformative changes that are occurring in the physiologic state. Those who practice certain breathing protocol that incrementally open the senses at physical and subtle levels often report a metallic taste in the back of the throat after a particularly deep experience. Scientists, who have weighed in on this sensation attribute it to a detoxification that has been stimulated by the change in brain patterns (commonly occurring in altered states).

Our sensation of taste keeps us healthy and adds to the enjoyment of having a physical body which is used to explore and enjoy this world. The spiritual and physical sensation of taste are intrinsically connected as anyone who is a foodie will attest; with food being a spiritual experience of bliss as it satisfies the needs of the physical to explore the gastronomic delights.

Cakes and Ale

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A favorite component of many pagan rituals is that of the sharing of ‘Cakes and Ale” and the offering of blessing of “May you never hunger” or “May you never thirst”. This simple act of sharing food and drink brings the participants back into a state of being grounded and re-connection with the physical body and earth after rising on the planes of sacred work. The cakes and ale are blessed (often by those representing God and Goddess, or priest and priestess) and given in love and perfect trust.

Food as the Spirit of Celebration

“Throughout the ages, food has been a part of human celebrations, life passages and holidays. We seasonally rejoice in different foods each time of the year and there have been entire festivities dedicated to each harvest.”
Read more here: The Ritual and Celebration of Food by Gina Citoli

We see similar spiritual communal sharings in the taking of the Holy Communion or Eucharist in the Christian practices. The wafer represents the body of Christ and the Wine the blood; thus making the arcane sacred and the sacred the fuel of the arcane.

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Throughout all spiritual practices we see the breaking of bread, sharing of food and drink or offering of special foods as a way to honor the individual, the divinity within that individual and the space of their connection to the Divine.

The Care and Feeding of the Temple

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Image-Artist: David Ho

We eat not only to sustain our life, but also to feed the physical body that is our earthly vessel. To be most effective in our spiritual work, we must be (w)holistically balanced in body, mind and spirit. This concept is the basis of a dedicated Yoga practice. In its truest form this path of spirituality embodies not only the Hatha (physical exercise) component but incorporates the attention given to the foods ingested, the practice of meditation, the work of service performed and more.

Any who have an energetic practice (Kundalini, energy healing, etc..) know how important it is to replenish and feed the body foods that are nourishing and renewing. This is not to say that you have to be on a vegetarian diet or no sugars/alcohol allowed. What is important is that you are fueling your body primarily with those foods that are supportive and the occasional indulgence of a dessert, drink or other treat is part of a general state of temperance and balance.

The other aspect of this practice is that of giving thanks for what we eat. Acknowledging that our food is sacred and thanking the source that provided it. This is the act of envisioning the food as vibrant with energy and life that resonates with the vibrant and living energy that makes up our physical and subtle bodies. When we honor our bodies with the choices of food we make we are honoring ourselves as a Temple of the Sacred.

Arousing Aroma
(excerpted from companion post at Magickally Human)

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What’s the connection between smell and taste?

Most of your sense of taste is really about your sense of smell. Do you think that the spaghetti and meatballs you’re eating taste delicious? Much of the reason is because you like their smell. In fact, you’re doing a lot of sniffing. Not only are you smelling before you take a bite, but while you are chewing, odor molecules from the ground-up food inside your mouth float upwards taking that remarkable smell journey.

And, finally, we arrive at the place where the “nose knows”. Wine, cheese and coffee tasters as know of the pleasure and benefits of having an accurately and healthily working sense of smell. The first line of test before something enters your mouth for tasting is how it smells. You can often discern whether what is cooking will be bursting with flavor and taste just as good as it smells as you are walking through the door at dinner time.

Place this connective experience in the setting of a ritual or contemplative meditation and you have a recipe for re-creating and re-membering the effects of sacred space. The smell of incense and the giving of cakes and ale create indelible memories in the mind’s eye. Using the same incense or making offering to Deity of the same cake and/ale takes you back to the power of transformation.

The Tasteful Memory of the Moment

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“ I remember sitting here on a day just like this six months ago. I was sitting alone and enjoying a cup of my favorite drink, hot chocolate. I was thinking about how it had been an ordinary day and that nothing extraordinary was ever going to happen. The mug was warm in my hands and I lowered my eyes to take a sip when the cup was abruptly knocked from my hand. Hot chocolate spilled over my freshly cleaned white blouse and at first I was too startled to see who had caused the disruption. I looked up, ready to launch a series of tirades at the one who caused this. And, then I saw your beautiful blue eyes that were liquid pools of deep oceans looking at me so apologetic and embarrassed. There was a reassuring gentleness in them and I melted as you stared into mine. We held our gaze for what seemed eternity and then both burst into laughter at the sight of hot chocolate everywhere. You offered your jacket to me and promised to pay for the cleaning of my white blouse. You offered to buy me another cup of hot chocolate, but only if I would stay and let me join you. And, as you lovingly wrapped me in the warmth of it and your wonderful smell I knew this was the beginning of a long relationship…”

As we become more discerning in what we place in our bodies, the taste associated with those foods heightens and becomes the stores of memory of a space of gratitude and space of satisfaction. Taste holds the key to recalling those moments in your life that often become the touchstones of change and growth. The memory of a favorite food and the love associated with its preparation become the holographic image projected with the first bite of that food again. We can use this sense to bring us immediately into the time and setting that was at hand when we first experienced this food.

Journey of the Senses

Down Memory Lane

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This is a simple exercise meant to heighten your awareness of the connection between taste and memory. You will follow the same protocol for three days, selecting a different food for each that you have had before and associate with a specific memory.

Day One: Select a food that you strongly associate a pleasant memory with.

Day Two: Select a food that you strongly associate a negative memory with.

Day Three: Select a food that you would like to hold the memory of an experience you create while in contemplative space.

Begin each session sitting in a space where you will not be disturbed. Take a few deep and cleansing breaths to relax and center yourself. Pick up a piece of the food and with your eyes closed slowly chew it, savoring each bite. Become aware of the taste and texture of the food. Take another bite and now open your inner visioning to recalling the memory that is the focus for this tasting. Again, chew the food slowly, engaging all of your senses in this process. Finish the food and allow the memories to move through you.

When you feel complete in the experience spend some time recording your experience in a journal. Use the same protocol with the other two memory foods. When you have completed the cycle, read through what you have written. This information can be used to actively create specific memories with food.

Resources:

Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter by David Buchanan and Gary Paul Nabhan

Food As Medicine: How to Use Diet, Vitamins, Juices, and Herbs for a Healthier, Happier, and Longer Life by M.D. Dharma Singh Khalsa M.D.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

Companion Post:
Magickally Human
Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Taste

About this Series:

Our spiritual work relies on our physical and subtle states of being working co-creatively and collaboratively. We engage the senses in this work continually, but rarely give equal importance to them all. The sense of sight is commanded into presence through practice of visualization techniques. Sound is stimulated with drumming, chanting and toning. Touch is engaged as we handle tools, light candles, and more. The sense of taste is only accessed as a means of grounding with cakes and ale. And, we are alerted to awareness and being fully present in ritual space or meditative practice as the heady scent of incense and oils purify and set the stage for the work at hand. There will be collaborative posts speaking to the Physical experience of each of the senses in the Magickally Human Blog.

Next Post:

Sensing the Subtleties
The Sense of Hearing (Auditory)

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Exciting News from Robin!

I am happy to share with you some exciting news about some articles that have been published and new blogs launched!

Circle Magazine– Current Issue 117- “Re(de)fining Your Magickal Practice”
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Available at Circle Sanctuary online or local bookstores

 

Sage Woman Magazine– Issue 86- Review of The Dreaming Girl Tarot
Shipping Soon! Available at BBI Media online or local bookstores

 

The Portal Magazine, UK – Summer Solstice 2014- Issue 6- ” Me,Myself and I-Developing the Magickal SELF”

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Available here: The Portal

and if you’ve not already checked out the Solstice article and poem available on WitchVox– “Mother’s Flowering-The Summer Solstice”

 

New Blogs:

Magickally Human

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Exploring all that it means to be human and the magick of that gift in spiritual work. We are currently exploring the gifts of the senses with companion posts in The Sacred Vessel

 

A Witch’s Sacred Journey

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A blog of experience on the Path of the Witch. We are currently taking the first steps with A Year and A Day on the Witch’s Path online course.

 

The Sacred Literary

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Suggested readings and discussion of select books. We are currently exploring the Hermetic text, The Kybalion by the Three Initiates.

Ongoing:

Womb of Light- The Alchemy of the Goddess at Sage Woman Blogs
Currently writing a series of articles about the Nine Muses

Temple of the Cosmic Spheres
We are currently exploring the Temple of the Sun and Solar Year just transiting into the astrological sign of Cancer

The Enchanted Gate
Photos and poems of the Natural world
And, as always, I welcome comments and suggestion about to better serve our community with writings, content and posts.  Have a blessed day!…Robin 

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Sensing the Subtleties: Part Three

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Touch (Somatic Sensory)

In esoteric and spiritual practice, the use of touch is closely connected to the principles of vibration and rhythm. A pebble dropped in a pool of water sets off a visible series of vibration. A hand reaching out to touch another, although emitting no sound (something we usually connect with vibration) sets off a series of vibratory responses. Everything that is composed of energy emits a specific rhythm of vibration. When in the process of touching something, the two fields of each independent source come in contact with one another. Even in the gentlest of touches the energetic field that surrounds the recipient of that touch will respond.

The Principle of Vibration

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Ripples of sound
Waves of form
Hovering-undulating
Shaken to the Core
Stirred, quickened and stimulated
By the Cosmic touch.

Grid of matter- interwoven and formed
By friction, movement- displacement
Whose resonance gathers the discord
Of harmony back into itself.

The chord is struck and its echo
In frenzied activity darts here and there
Reverberating in a cavernous chamber
Nautilus-like paths guiding the
Arcing trajectory of unrelenting motion.

All appears silent and still of form
Until microscopic probes of light and energy
Reveal the seeming chaos of matter
Each moving in concert with the other
Creating the illusion of solidity and
Opaqueness of Light.

The chord is struck again
And all play a game of musical chairs
Each rushing hurriedly to claim a new
Crevice, pocket or fold in the web of time
Reshaping and reforming.

Re-creating the illusory mask of
A calm sea in a field of matter
Pointing towards the horizon
Of emboldened manifestation.

The Kybalion states that:

Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.

This principle states that all of form is in a constant state of movement. Inertia is the non-movement form that remains vibration of a sort, nonetheless. Resonating with similar patterns of vibration attunes us to the subtleties held in each increment of dynamic. Vibration produces sound. Sound permeates our worlds. And it is the vibration of a sound that we respond to physically, energetically and etherically. Our breath and the subtlest of our movements disrupt the waves of vibration surrounding us as it sets into motion its own pattern of vibration.

The Principle of Rhythm

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1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3
The metronome strikes out the beat
The perfection of rhythm
The movement of feet.

Release and contraction
As above, so below
Measure upon measure
synchronicity and flow.

The silent strings that are plucked
~ lips moving in rhythm~
Sound with not a single word and
The pause carefully paced between breath.

The call of Will to action
That with physical ears is not heard
Still moves in crescendo and climax
Inspiration created in the womb of exhale.
Limitless space at its birthing
Spirit of humanity extending
And moving beyond its SELF
To part the veil that holds time.

The Kybalion states that:

Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides;
all things rise and fall;
the pendulum-swing manifests in everything;
the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.

I see this as the companion to vibration and to some degree a subset of the Principle of Correspondence. Rhythm provides the container or boundaries (or the lacking there of) and vibration provides the quantifier or needed disruption to produce the resultant cyclical rhythm. Expansion requires a state of contraction (as the necessary point of tension) to enable it to expand anew. Either state if held too long, would result in over compensation of the other, causing a new cycle of rhythm to be established. Stillness or inertness is simply an illusion; which relates back to the connection to the Principle of Vibration once again. The illusion is that of non-movement, which although it may appear unable to be measured is a lower and longer wave of motion or rhythm that may not be perceptible unless we are in resonance with its rate of vibration.

For more about the Hermetic Principles (aka The Universal Laws) check out our current book study, The Kybalion at The Sacred Literary blog.

Ephemeral Touch

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These are the principles that explain the energy that is felt when holding a specific type of crystal, magickal tool or even holding a book that has been infused with the reader’s energies. These are the laws that govern the response of touch when placed upon flesh or any other object of focus. When an energetically charged amulet is put on and comes into contact with the skin of the wearer it sends a signal of vibratory response that triggers a specific mind-set or rhythmic mental wave pattern that is released towards the work at hand. As we sit in devotion and the energetic presence of the Deity, guide or other being we wish to connect with fills sacred space, we often respond by getting goosebumbs or feeling the sensation of hot or cold across our skin.

In healing work, the ephemeral touch is the vehicle of sensing and re-directing the flow of energy within the patient. The healer senses the areas of discord and dis-ease within the meridians and subtle bodies and moves through each in turn as adjustments are made in accord with what is being felt.

“Touch is used in most of the healing and therapeutic modalities. Reiki and Therapeutic massage are just two of the ways in which touch is used to promote health and well-being. A massage can be just what is needed to relax or to energize you in a more productive manner.

Within the practice of Nursing, Therapeutic Touch has become a process of intervention for more than 30 years. Although its roots are in mysticism, the medical community is now looking at various alternative and holistic practices, including the premise that specific forms of touch can engage the energetic body of the patient and be changed to promote healing. Reiki and other related healing modalities are now incorporated in the treatment of Cancer patients as part of their regular regimen. Doctors of Osteopathic medicine are trained in Osteopathic Manipulation techniques that relieve patient pain and realign the skeletal and muscular system with care provided by a licensed physician who can address the related medical needs of their patients.”

Excerpted from: Magickally Human Companion Post

Although there is the purely physical component employed in this type of healing touch, the core principles and primary reasons for its effectiveness are found in the ephemeral and subtle fields of energy applied.

Feeling Your Way

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The sense of touch, like no other, reminds us of the unity of the physical and Divine aspects of ourselves. We experience the physical world both in tangible form and at the many levels of subtle energy that collaborate in informing the responses to that experience. We experience the sacred as flesh comes in contact with the presence of the Divine and thrills and is excited by that touch. The lesson of this earthly life is to greet all of the worlds with the joy of a child and the anticipation of the returning tide flowing over firmly planted toes.

Journey of the Senses

The Experience of Purposeful Repeat

A simple exercise meant to heighten your awareness and sensitivity to touch is to sit with a variety of items, explore them through touch and then record your experiences.

The First Day:

In a quiet setting where you will not be disturbed lay out 6 random items that easily fit in your hand.

For the first pass, with your eyes open, select an object, each in turn and use your fingers and hands to explore its surfaces. Spend 3-5 minutes on each item. After you have finished with a particular item, set it down and record in a journal as much information as you can about that item. Make note of its texture, dimensions, weight, etc. Be sure to include any energetic information you experienced as well. Perhaps it made you feel jittery, or your hand became warmer than usual while holding it.

The Next Day(s):

Using the same items, select one to begin the exercise.

Now, as you hold and explore the object, KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED. Allow whatever information or sensation wishing to present itself to come easily to you. As you did the day before, after finishing with each item record everything you experienced. Repeat this same process for each of the remaining items. When you have finished with all go back and read through and compare what was written about each item over the two days. Some questions to consider would be:

Did you process more information by having your eyes open or closed? Was there a consistent thread of information that was more easily gathered when your eyes were open or closed? And, which of the objects did you feel most connected to?

This type of work strengthens your ability to make the connections between sight and touch as well as opening to new ways to enhance the information you wish to convey or receive if there is no overtly visual form attached to the process.

Companion Post:
Magickally Human
Engaging the Senses: the Sense of Touch

About this Series:

Our spiritual work relies on our physical and subtle states of being working co-creatively and collaboratively. We engage the senses in this work continually, but rarely give equal importance to them all. The sense of sight is commanded into presence through practice of visualization techniques. Sound is stimulated with drumming, chanting and toning. Touch is engaged as we handle tools, light candles, and more. The sense of taste is only accessed as a means of grounding with cakes and ale. And, we are alerted to awareness and being fully present in ritual space or meditative practice as the heady scent of incense and oils purify and set the stage for the work at hand. There will be collaborative posts speaking to the Physical experience of each of the senses in the Magickally Human Blog.

Next Post:

Magickally Human
The Sense of Taste (Gustatory)

choc-mousse-cake

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Sensing the Subtleties: Part Two

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Sight (Visual)

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Sight is defined as:

the sense through which a person or animal becomes aware of light, color, etc., by using the eyes; the ability to see; and or the act of seeing someone or something.

and the physiological actions of sight provide …

the process, power, or function of seeing; specifically : the physical sense by which light stimuli received by the eye are interpreted by the brain and constructed into a representation of the position, shape, brightness, and usually color of objects in space.

If we think about the function of sight and the components that engage this action, the esoteric implications of the visual sense of sight and its potential offer the gift of greater clarity. When we engage ourselves at a spiritual level the sensations we experience are often those of light. More importantly the vibrations and energy that we sense are the direct products of our response to the patterns of light that surround, whether we have our eyes open or not. I particularly like the definition as one of awareness. Just as we are continually surrounded by various smells (as we discussed last post), the amount of visual stimuli we receive on a daily basis is profound both in its quantity and in its scope of effect. Even behind the lid of closed eyes, we are able to visualize within the initial darkness that sends the signal to the brain that rest and reflection are at hand.

This is the cue that you are removing yourself from the physical world and its visual distractions. As we further relax into this intention, patterns form in this darkness and beads or bursts of light or color, albeit very small at times, begin the dance of wave and motion. We may discount these as floaters resulting from over used and tired eyes. Sometimes this is true but when you simply relax into the paintings that arise from mind and consciousness to inner screen, you soon become aware that this is the precursor to a journey of sleep, meditation, a simple daydream or a revelation of clarity opened by an unknown inner vision.

Inner Sight and The Esoteric Path

The eyes are often thought to be the “Doorways to the Soul”. They are indeed the gateways through which information is sent throughout the brain and nervous system. Having crossed the threshold of physiologic response this information is then processed and interpreted via the specific states of consciousness you are focused upon when receiving this information. During deep states of meditation or trance work, what is seen and then perceived and interpreted is often not what can be seen with physical sight. The illusory veiling of the physical world is parted as consciousness and awareness have shifted and the resources for interpreting what is coming through the lens of eyesight are from a much deeper reservoir of information than would normally be drawn upon in a normal state of consciousness or awareness.

In our personal practice we learn to trust what can be sensed in this inner landscape and use the imagery of our waking and conscious mind as the library from which we find the book of mystery that lay hidden as a waking dream. As our perception of both the physical and inner worlds changes the images that we encounter evolve and expand in accord with the adding of more points of visual reference. This is the cycle that moves us forward in growth. The aperture of our inner camera opens wider and wider, letting in more light as the worlds of the astral and ethereal sit at the periphery of what we normally take time to notice.

The Third Eye

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The Awakening of the Third Eye is a concept used within the context of mystical and esoteric pursuits as a means to enlightenment and stimulating the intuitive senses. This Eye of the Wise is placed at the Ajna or Brow Chakra and sits roughly at the space between the eyes externally and the pineal gland internally. This is the seat of energetic fuel for those who have “Second or inner” sight. When we strive to open to this place of inner vision we are connecting to the storehouse of images that form the language upon which our interpretation of those intuitive “knowings” may be expressed. Sometimes, this information will play out on our inner screen, similar to watching a movie run through the visionary landscape of our dreamtime.

Great care is taken in the development of the Third Eye in most mystical practices. Specific meditative and visualization techniques may be employed to encourage the opening and healthy flow of energy through this particular chakra point. One of the keys however is in the focus on all of the chakras. Those rare states of awareness where we feel completely at one with our Gods and the world are those when the flow of energy through our chakras is running in a smooth and complete circuit connecting us to all parts of ourself and thus enabling our deeper connection to all that is around us. Additionally, as we move upwards in the line of chakras, the upper centers work in tandem with one another. Developing our intuitive nature also requires that our heart center (where compassion and understanding arises) and throat center (the way in which we communicate through the breath of word) are in sync so that we work from a place of integrity, especially when the need arises to share an intuitive vision or insight. As this inner sight opens information is received from the Crown Chakra and intuitive insight has now risen to a place of Divine wisdom that parts the veil even further for us to peer into the mysteries we seek. this is the wellspring of simply “knowing” and not having the need to explain what or why you know, you just are in a state of trust and flow.

The Pineal Gland

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Our pineal gland is located deep inside the middle of our brain. René Descartes was a French philosopher who believed it to be the seat of the soul. This simple crystalline like structure within our brain is thought to have been exposed at one time, enabling those earlier versions of ourselves to interact directly with the cosmos and the beings that inhabited a much different type of world than we know now. As humans evolved and our physiology took a form that was more conducive and in alignment with the evolving physical world to which we were to inhabit, the skull thickened and covered this gland which lay dormant awaiting a new awakening. It, of all of the glands is the least known as far as how it relates to daily physiologic functioning. All of the glands within the physiological body have specific areas of focus to insure health and vitality. Stimulating the glands through specific spiritual practices to enhance and awaken their ethereal properties ( much like the comparison of our physical bodies that have specific intent and the subtle bodies that work in response to the ephemera around us).

The pineal gland, until recently was one that scientists were unclear regarding its purpose. Scientists have now found that it produces melatonin, which has an affect on sleep patterns. The Medical profession describes the pineal gland as being:

“a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain that produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions. Its shape resembles a tiny pine cone (hence its name), and it is located near the center of the brain, between the two hemispheres, tucked in a groove where the two rounded thalamic bodies join.”

I find the pineal gland’s regulation of the circadian cycle as an indicator of the deeper levels of importance it has on the subtle physiology. The patterns of waking and sleep are also the states of consciousness that allow us to move through the “other” worlds. Our attunement to the seasons and the waxing and waning of the Solar year’s light- our Sun- and the impact of solar energy on our nervous system and spiritual centers are all states of awareness and function that are key to spiritual practice.

 The Inner Screen

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Our inner screen is the space of consciousness onto which we project the images we have stored, created or just seen. As we sit with eyes closed we enter our own personal internal space, upon which we may imagine, create and visualize the experience we wish to have. It is from this portal that we may then move our consciousness to the inner planes or astral levels to receive or retrieve information.

Visual artists instinctively use this inner screen as their metaphorical palette of inspiration when creating a new piece of art work. They are able to “see” the finished or in process project and then transfer this image to whatever medium they are working with. Our inner screen is the space of consciousness onto which we project the images we have stored, created or just seen. As we sit with eyes closed we enter our own personal internal space, upon which we may imagine, create and visualize the experience we wish to have. And, it is from this portal that we may then move those images of our consciousness out into manifest form through the act of creativity.

Visualization

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One of the basic practices for successful spiritual practice is cultivating the ability to clearly and accurately visualize within the landscape of the mind. If your practice is a path of magickal work, visualization is a requirement. And, apart from its use in the spiritual realms, being able to visualize the events of a business meeting, the route that was taken to get from point A to point B or the faces of those you’ve just met in a social setting is a very handy tool.

Candle gazing or similar focus of attention on a select object is a very good exercise to enhance and strengthen your abilities to recreate on your inner screen what you see in manifest form. The goal is to eventually bring the exact replication of what you have stored in your visual memory into clarity of form and shape on your inner screen without having to have the object in front of you. It is actually very similar to the process of having a “photographic memory”, and can prove to be very useful when trying to remember something that had been written down. You imprint the memory of that paper in your mind’s eye, recreate it and then retrieve whatever the bit of information is that you need.

Journey of the Senses

A Basic Practice to Develop Visualization Skills
Candle Gazing

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Sit comfortably with a lit candle approximately 18 inches away from you. A tall white pillar candle works well for this or a taper in a 2-3” candle holder. Try not to use a tea light or flat candle as you don’t want to have to tilt your head and gaze down while doing this exercise. Relax with a few concentrated breaths and allow your gaze to soften while staring at the candle. Begin by taking the entire candle and its holder. Then, draw your gaze in and up towards the lit wick and the blue white flame. Hold this point of gaze for several minutes. Then, close your eyes. You should be able to see the outline of the flame and light. Try to hold this image on your inner screen as long as possible. In the beginning, it is natural for it to dissipate, but with practice, you will experience a lengthening of the time you can hold the clear, bright image behind closed eyes.

When you have mastered doing this with the candle in front of you, begin to practice conjuring up the image without the candle being there in physical form. How much of the image can you bring to life? You can move on to a variety of objects, using the same basic principles. Have fun and remember to relax while doing this exercise. Relaxing puts you in a more receptive state of mind, which translates to drawing more of what you see into the storehouse of images.

Companion Post:
Magickally Human
Engaging the Senses:The Sense of Sight

About this Series:

Our spiritual work relies on our physical and subtle states of being working co-creatively and collaboratively. We engage the senses in this work continually, but rarely give equal importance to them all. The sense of sight is commanded into presence through practice of visualization techniques. Sound is stimulated with drumming, chanting and toning. Touch is engaged as we handle tools, light candles, and more. The sense of taste is only accessed as a means of grounding with cakes and ale. And, we are alerted to awareness and being fully present in ritual space or meditative practice as the heady scent of incense and oils purify and set the stage for the work at hand. There will be collaborative posts speaking to the Physical experience of each of the senses in the Magickally Human Blog.

 Next Post

Part Three: Touch (Somatic Senses)

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Sensing the Subtleties: Part One

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The Five Senses

Our spiritual work relies on our physical and subtle states of being working co-creatively and collaboratively. We engage the senses in this work continually, but rarely give equal importance to them all. The sense of sight is commanded into presence through practice of visualization techniques. Sound is stimulated with drumming, chanting and toning. Touch is engaged as we handle tools, light candles, and more. The sense of taste is only accessed as a means of grounding with cakes and ale. And, we are alerted to awareness and being fully present in ritual space or meditative practice as the heady scent of incense and oils purify and set the stage for the work at hand.

Note: There will be collaborative posts speaking to the Physical experience of each of the senses in the Magickally Human Blog.

Smell(Olfactory)

In esoteric work, stimulating the sense of smell takes many forms. This includes the careful selection of incenses to awaken the senses, fragrant blends of oils used to anoint and purify, flora and greenery from the natural world and a myriad of human scents added as energy rises and celebration, working and altered consciousness take hold. All of these scents act and react with the emotions evoked and the desire for goal that is fueled by the emotional need. Even the scent of a fragrance filled candle or recently extinguished candle trigger a variety of emotions and thoughts.

Breath and air are key players in energy practice and with the inhalation through the nose all the senses are alerted that spiritual practice has begun. There are multiple scents that we are completely unaware of at a conscious level, but are nonetheless part of the sensory experience. With that thought in mind, carefully choose where you engage in your meditation or ritual practice. If possible, try to find a place where the air is clear, if indoors and not near a heavily traveled area if outdoors. Nature settings are preferable for a variety of reasons, but the scents that surround you will be supportive in allowing you to engage all of your being in the practice.

The Pituitary Gland

The seven endocrine glands are vital components in developing spiritual awareness. Each of the glands has a specific function and contribution towards the overall evolution of spiritual progress. Just behind the bridge of the nose sits the pituitary gland, the master regulator of all the glandular system. A symptom of a Pituitary tumor is decreased sensation of smell confirming the relationship of this sense with that of the endocrine system.

This gland is stimulated by the use of incense and specific oils during meditation and ritual work which in turn signals to the nervous system that sacred work is at hand. Many of the incenses used in ritual work, such as Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal have been used in this manner for centuries so the energetic inroads have been laid in opening the user to latent memory and spiritual action. Bundled Sage is the scent of choice for shamanistic work and purifying space of unwanted negative energies. It is for this very reason that most seekers on a spiritual path incorporate some sort of olfactory component into their work.

Begin your own exploration of smell and make note of what impact certain scents have on your spiritual work. Try different incense or oils as you sit in meditation and see what different emotions are evoked. See the mediation below to get you started.

Journey of the Senses
An Incense Meditation from the Daily OM

Mexicali-Blues-Imported

“When we focus on incense sticks during meditation, we move into a mystical space that is both physical and spiritual at once. Like us, the incense stick is earthbound with an ember that burns for only a finite time, but the diaphanous spirit it releases is unbound by time or space. Rather than shutting down our senses to focus on an inner realm, incense involves our senses as we follow whirling smoke upward and outward while we take its scent into us, filling us as we breathe”…… Read More

Companion Post:
Magickally Human
Engaging the Senses:Part One

Next Post
Part Two: Sight (Visualization)

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Our Physical and Subtle Anatomy: Part Two

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An Overview

In the last posting we discussed the mechanics and physiology of our physical form. Now we will consider the components of our energetic and subtle anatomy that surround, interpenetrate, inform and enliven that physiology.

Our Subtle or Energetic Anatomy is composed of three major divisions:

The Subtle Bodies (Bodies)- Expand and hold energy
The Chakras (Vortices)- Filter, receive and disburse energy
The Meridians and Nadis (Channels)- Control and direct the flow of energy

Each of these components works in connection with the other and all are important dynamics that insure the health and well-being of our physiological state. In fact, the state of dis-ease usually begins within the subtle bodies and eventually works it way out and into our physical level becoming manifest as a disease process. This is the underlying principle of the mind being able to heal or produce the state of health we choose as our focus. The mental working in tandem with the emotional is potent in its ability to manifest, both positive and negative energies within our physical body and each impact and interact with our subtle energy.

Another component of our energetic physiology is that of the impact these subtle energies have on the physiologic Endocrine system. The seven glands, often referred to as the Seven Stars or the Seven Gates play a major role in spiritual development in accord with our ability to stimulate and engage them at a spiritual and energetic level. Notably, in the spiritual practices of Tibetan Buddhism and Egyptian High Alchemy, specific exercises and/or sound are used to stimulate these centers: the gonads, the liver and spleen, the adrenals, the thymus, pituitary and pineal glands. We’ll take a look at these in future postings.

The Subtle Bodies are sheaths of energy that surround us. Depending on the system you adhere to there are seven to twelve subtle bodies, each forming a layer of energy that is composed of the densest to the most refined of energies as the layer extend out and beyond the form and shape of our physical body. The seven layers are thought to be a reflection of the universe and represent the overlay of our energy as part of that of the Universal whole. See the picture below:

Subtle Body Man

More about the Subtle Bodies in a future post

The Chakras are the conduits through which universal energy flows in and through us. They are represented as wheels or vortices that are positioned along the etheric central column pathway that parallels our physical spinal column. These gateways contract and expand opening and closing like the petals of a flower. They are often compared to the Lotus, each having a specific number of petals in accord with the vibratory rate they emit and respond to and in accord with the level of refinement.

There are seven major chakras that are the usual staple of reading and energetic practice, however, there are hundreds of minor chakras. Each chakra has a specific color, elemental and function associated with its energy. See the charts and figure below for the basic information relating to the seven major and Transpersonal chakras:

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Additionally, each of the seven chakras have a specific tonal quality. The chart below lists the Hermetic tone and the Eastern Bija mantras that are associated with each chakra.

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Chakra Man

To read more about the chakras please see my articles posted in The Magickal Pen:

Chakras: The Vital Organs of the Subtle Bodies- Part One
Chakras: A Renewal Practice-Part Two

The Nadis and Meridians: Specific Energetic Pathways

The Nadis and Meridians are highly specialized energetic pathways that run in multiple directions throughout our body. It is these pathways that Chinese Medicine, Accupuncture, Accupressure and other healing modalities make use of by way of stimulating the flow of Chi energy to move in a non-restricted and healthful pattern.

The Nadis are highly specialized and localized pathways that align with the Chakras and act upon the energy flow moving up the central column, inclusive of the spine, spinal fluid, and the nerve bundles. In the Eastern Kundalini Yoga practice the Nadis and the rising of the Ida and Pingala coiling up the Sushumna is the serpent fire that opens the awareness of the practitioner to union with his/her Higher Nature.

Nadis

The Ida is the lunar (Feminine) energetic path and the Pingala is the solar (masculine) energetic path. The union achieved at the Crown chakra is the product of the combined polarities of moon and sun, feminine and masculine giving birth to the Divine Child of your Higher SELF.

The Meridians are the pathways of the body that help to regulate and maintain a balance of flow from organ to organ. Each major Meridian or channel is responsible for a specific organ and their surrounding structures. The Meridians play a major role in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the treatment of dis-ease, thought to be cause by a disruption of the natural flow of the Chi within the body.

There are 12 major meridians in the body:
• Lung meridian
• Large Intestine
• Spleen meridian
• Stomach meridian
• Heart meridian
• Small intestine meridian
• Bladder meridian
• Kidney meridian
• Pericardium (Circulation/Sex) meridian
• Triple Warmer meridian
• Liver meridian
• Gallbladder meridian

More about the Meridians in a future post

Exercise:

Let’s begin with a very simple exercise to run pure energy through the chakras

A Chakra Renewal Meditation

Turn your focus and attention to your breath. Allow your consciousness to move with the rise and fall of your chest and the filling and release of the lungs. Continue in this manner for several breaths, allowing each to become softer, smoother and slower. Now, shift your awareness to visualize seven clear glass spheres within your energetic self, each aligned with a specific chakra point along the central column. And approx. 7-8 inches above your head is an eighth glass sphere. This is the transpersonal chakra; the gateway between your parts of Self and the Divine.

Beginning at the root chakra, visualize the sphere filling with ruby red energy and light. As it continues to fill it becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with vivid orange energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with sunshine yellow energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with emerald green energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with sky blue energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with indigo blue energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

Visualize this sphere filling with amethyst purple energy and light. As it continues to fill the sphere becomes larger and more brilliant in color and form. When it has reached full capacity, turn your awareness to the sphere just above it.

You have reached the uppermost sphere, that of your transpersonal space. See this sphere fill with brilliant white light. It pulses radiant light and seems brighter than those below it in clarity and intensity. When it has reached capacity, see all the spheres equal in size, perfectly transparent and filled to capacity with colors that are clear and vibrant. Allow this image to permeate your being for several minutes. Feel the strength and power in each of the spheres and connect with this enlivening energy, engaging all of your sensations.

Visualize a line of energy moving upwards from the ruby red sphere of the root chakra. This energetic pathway is the same hue of red as that contained within the sphere itself. It moves, and swirls and as it reaches upwards it blends and mingles with the orange energy within the sphere of the belly chakra. Allow the integration and synthesis of this energy to build and circulate.

Now, extend this energy and visualize it moving upwards towards the yellow of the sacral chakra. Allow it to blend and merge creating an energetic column connecting each of the three spheres in turn. Each, feeding one into the other, merging and unifying into a singular stream of vibrant and pulsing energy. Continue in this manner moving up through each of the chakra points rising all the way up and ending at the transpersonal chakra.

When reaching the transpersonal chakra, allow the brilliant white energy of the transpersonal sphere to pulse, infused with crystalline luminosity. As this energy builds it becomes brighter, fuller and more expansive. Allow this energy to grow and expand until it is overflowing and spilling down, pouring its energy into each of the spheres below it. Each, in turn filling with the brilliance of Light, the vibrancy of their individual colors fading and folding into the density of a brilliance of white. This transformation continues downward through each chakra and when it returns to the root chakra allow this energy to circulate, moving up and cascading down through each of the chakras for as long as is needed.

When you feel energized and have a sense of balance, beginning at the transpersonal chakra, see this energy slowly dissipate as each globe clears and returns to a state of transparent glass. Move downward from one sphere to the next. Each in turn fading in brilliance, returning to its resting state of transparency and size.

When you have returned to the root chakra and the spheres are once again clear pure transparent glass, chant a sustained “ OM “ to complete the working and coalesce the rate of vibration within each of the chakra columns in each of the subtle bodies.

The Next Post:
Sensing the Subtleties

If you’ve done the meditation above, or something similar, various sensations were sure to arise. Learning how to maximize the physiological sensations as tools of information received from the spiritual experience is a necessary point of focus if you want to gain greater insight. This next group of posts will focus on the five overt senses and their function in esoteric work. A companion post will be available in the Magickally Human blog that focuses on the physical presentation of these senses and the awakening of their awareness to be fully present in both mundane and spiritual endeavors.

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Our Physical and Subtle Anatomy: Part One

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Our physical bodies are a wonderful and grand vessel of complex and varied capabilities. Most of the functions that sustain our life are transparent in their process and automatic in their function. We breathe, our heart beats, we move in coordinated and purposeful mechanics, we feel, we think, we react. All of these physiological components are used as vehicles of anchoring in the refinement of our spiritual and subtle nature. We are humans in corporeal state and as such our level of response to spiritual and energetic action is through the vehicle of physical being. Even those experiences that we cannot articulate or are unaware of their potency and impact move through the state of our physical being and often become the eventual place of manifestation.

This posting will focus on the physical anatomy and in its briefest form will offer some basic information to get us started. I am using the elements as some additional correspondence to the form of energies I associate with these physiological systems. There are many overlays that can be used and some may find other attributes more relevant in description or assignment. Formulate your own opinions and see the analogies in whatever way you resonate most soundly with. As you work with and through these systems over time, everything you thought you knew about their function will change in perception and new perspectives about how they work in collaboration with a strong personal practice, magickal working and spiritual growth will evolve.

A Disclaimer: I am neither a healthcare professional nor a professional scientist. The information I have pulled together is the result of my personal experiences as both a professional dancer and practitioner of Eastern and Western Hermetic protocols. I have read and filled in what was needed of the basics of physiological anatomy to gain a deeper understanding of how to make better use of the energetic protocols and results and strongly encourage those who wish to become more effective in their workings to do some research and formulate their own foundation of understanding about the inner workings of the greatest tool we have in our own spiritual development- our physical state of being!

EARTH
Flesh and Bones
Our skin, the largest organ in our body, acts as the interface between what surrounds us and how we respond at a tactile level to those surroundings. The sense of touch evokes emotional and mental reaction and the sensitivity of our skin to multiple layers of stimuli is often one of the first points of engagement we have with our world.

Our bones form the structure that holds in place and protects the bodies we inhabit as corporeal and physical beings. Our bones connect us the most deeply to the earth and the mineral life that is composite in the formation of the planet itself. Our bones serve as the upholders of our physical action and are the scaffolding of what is our outer appearance and make-up.

The Muscular system
The muscles are responsible for movement of the bones and work in conjunction with the brain, nerves and sensory systems. There are three types of muscle:

The Skeletal Muscles- sheath the bones connected via tendons and are responsible for reflex actions and giving shape and form to the skeleton.

Smooth Muscles- these are found in the organs and work automatically to ensure the continued function of their specific organ. These are controlled by the autonomic nervous system and regulate such things as digestion, elimination and breathing.

Cardiac Muscle- constantly works pumping the blood in and out of the heart and is stimulated by the electrical impulse generated within our body. This muscle is directly responsible for the function of the circulatory system.

FIRE/AIR

The Neurological System
The nervous system is the master communicator, receiving and distributing the information received throughout our bodies and is the most complex of the physiological systems. The Central Nervous System includes the Brain and spinal cord and the Peripheral Nervous System acts to initiate changes inside and outside of the body. This information gathered is sent to the CNS and reacted upon.

It is through the nerve endings in the skin that the sensorial feed-back is transmitted to the brain. These neural networks of fibers are often interconnected to tissue and blood vessels. Additionally, it is through this system of communication that the development of language, motor and thinking processes is set into motion.

WATER

The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is similar to the nervous system in that it relays information and acts as a signal system. The nervous system uses blood as the conductor of the electrical impulses and the endocrine systems uses the blood vessels as the channels of transport.
The endocrine glands release specific hormones that regulate the bodies growth, metabolism, development and more. These secretions are released directly into the bloodstream, carried by the blood vessels and act upon the specific organs and their functions. These hormones are vital for the body to function optimally and grow in a productive healthy way.In spiritual practice the endocrine system is one that can be attuned to enlivening and reforming the physical body’s responses. The seven master glands act one upon the other stimulating and opening the subtle spiritual centers.

FIRE/WATER

The Circulatory System
Our circulatory system uses the electrical current of fire and the flow of water to maintain our life’s spark. The pumping of blood through our bodies and its transformation within the chambers of the heart and then ultimate release back into circulation throughout our bodies is a statement of efficiency in use and flow. The heart is the central core responsible for multiple functions and the related by products that keep us healthy and alive. Mind and heart have long been the components of spiritual growth and deeper understanding. The scientific parameters of the heart have shown that the heart ‘s electromagnetic field is 60 times greater than that of the brain and that it is capable of performing some brain-like functions because of the continual energetic flow between heart and brain in an exchange of cellular information. The spiritual term “Intelligence of the Heart” takes on new meaning when we have this scientific knowledge and provokes a new way of thinking about how our emotional and mental interactions may better serve one another.

AIR

The Respiratory System
The intake of breath is the sustainer of life. The air that moves in and through us serves to oxygenate and maintain the life force that runs as current throughout our physical form. The lungs become the great bellows expanding and contraction; response and reaction to the flow of air that is taken in and then released.

FIRE- WATER – EARTH

Reproductive System
Held within the polarity of the reproductive organs is the mystery of creation. The womb of the female becoming the place of quickening for the life that will, if viable reach full term and be replicated as human and physical being. It is this combination of earthly form serving as vessel and the seminal fluids of the male quickening the ovum of potential that the fires of creative outpour are produced. It is the movement and flowing of these waters held in the birth canal that offer up the fires of contraction and expansion to release this new life into being. At a purely physiological state, it is the healthy functioning of the reproductive system that ensures the continuation of humanity. These urges to create further provide ground for interpersonal connection engaging mind and heart in the selection of the fittest and physiological response in the secretion of hormones that will attract.

FIRE

Digestive System
Our digestive system is the furnace that acts to assimilate and effectively distribute what we take into our bodies as nourishment that becomes the fuel to keep us running. It is through this system that the foods we take into our physical structure are broken down into more digestible particles; nutrients and what will enliven are extruded and the transformed products are then eliminated before stagnancy can set in. Our digestive system is also largely responsible for the immunologic responses of our bodies.

This information is brief in its content as each of these systems is vastly complex and can be further categorized in sub-systems. The important consideration is that each system is dependent on the other either directly or through the bridge of another in producing the necessary life force to keep us alive. When we consider the complexity and precision of this life force and its active components that keep us functioning it truly is a profound and deeply humbling analysis. These same structures apply to every living thing in their own way of specificity and in larger scope to the entire universe. It is for this reason that our first point of connection to that which is part of, yet independent of ourselves is through the knowledge of our own smaller universe that is our physical being. Once we begin that exploration we see the broader picture of our connectivity to all manner of life and how work on the self, produces far-reaching effects beyond that self.

The exercises below are suggested to make you more aware of the pulsation and vibrancy of your body. Most often we do not really feel the movement of the blood and beating o our hearts unless we are engaging in a physical activity beyond what our normal resting state would be.

Physical Exercises:

1. Engage in a moderate from of physical activity for at least 5 minutes. Enough to raise your heart rate. This should be in accord with your state of overall physical condition and what limitations you may or may not have. This activity could be climbing a flight of stairs, dancing, marching in place, etc..

Standing or sitting, turn your awareness to the pace of your heart rate, and the feelings of blood moving through your body in response to the exerted effort. Try to completely engage with this sensation and make note of the fiery nature and pulsation of heart beat. Stay in this state of awareness for as long as you are able. As your pulse returns to its normal rhythm, remain conscious of this shifting and “cooling down” period. When you have returned to your normal state of activity, make note of how this differs from what you just experienced. Make note of how much more alive you feel as the release of the endorphins lifts your perspective. This similar type of feeling can be noted in the raising of personal energy as byproduct of an energetic protocol or practice.

2. Sit in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Take a few very deep breaths of inhalation and audibly sigh into the exhalation of each. Do this for several breaths, each time listening more deeply and opening to the physical feelings produced in the expansion and contraction of your chest and lungs.

Continue breathing in a relaxed way with no emphasis on inhale or exhale (no sound). Listen more deeply and make note of the sound (inner) of the air passing into your lungs. Really try to hear the gentle whoosh in and the long extended soft sound of exhale. Send your complete focus to the sounds you are hearing for several breaths.

Now, shift your awareness to the physical, rather than audible sensations as you breathe. Make note of how your skin stretches softly in expansion on inhale and the gentle and elastic pulling in on the contraction of exhale. Try to consciously expand your skin just slightly further and contract more fully in for a few breaths. Send your complete focus to this action of physical sensation for several breaths.

Return your awareness to simply breathing, giving no more attention to the audible or the physical sensation. You should be feeling very relaxed and more expansive as you complete this exercise. We forget to breathe deeply and with intention because of the fast paced nature of our days. Taking time to acknowledge and consciously breathe opens your clarity of focus and anchoring to your physical state.

The next post will take a look at the correlates of function of our energetic anatomy.
Our Physical and Subtle Anatomy: Part Two

References:
Emmet B. Keefe, Introduction to Know Your Body: The Atlas of Anatomy (Berkley, CA;Ulysses Press, 1999)
Cyndi Dale, The Subtle Body:An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy (Boulder, CO:Sounds True Inc., 2009)

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