Copyright (C) 2000 by William R. Mistele. All rights reserved.
Travel Guide to Life--A Workbook
The purpose of these brief imaginative excursions is to introduce ways of living life to the fullest. To do this we need to expand our imagination, range of feelings, mental perspectives, and spiritual resources. A Travel Guide shows you pictures and offers descriptions of places you can visit. This book does the same in regard to human experience. It offers brief descriptions and a taste of what is possible.
These exercises follow these themes: 1. They heighten our use of image and symbol. This strengthens the imagination. 2. They introduce various kinds of transcendence, that is, a way of viewing our everyday lives from a spiritual point of view. 3. They extend concentration especially on the five senses. This strengthens the ties between mind, soul, and body. 4. They are useful for solving problems. They demonstrate how to maintain useful attitudes when processing emotions and understanding difficult situations. 5. They present a variety of means for practicing transference of consciousness--that is, a way of seeing and experiencing from another perspective--human, animal, or divine--beyond our own personalities. 6. They introduce direct experience with various kinds of energies found within nature, the soul, the mind, and the spirit. 7. They introduce the highest magick on earth and in the universe which is love--the ability to join with and become one with anything that exists.
These exercises can be done in one to three minutes. You can practice them for longer than three minutes or repeat as often as you wish. I could of course organize the exercises into sections or present them so that one step follows another. But, when it comes to consciousness and imagination, I think there is an advantage in being able to move freely between one state of consciousness and another, combing them or modifying them as you desire. And so I have arranged the exercises in the order in which I wrote them.
Note: My kids were having trouble with math as taught in the public school system. Occasionally they would have a teacher who fell asleep in class or preferred to eat potato chips at her desk rather than teach. So I gave my kids three math problems to solve each day for the next year. At the end of the year, they tested two years ahead in math and I have never had to worry about their math again.
I imagine the same works for magick. If you do a little bit each day over a long period of time you might be a lot further ahead than if you work very hard for a short period of time. The brain sometimes learns more if it is gradually and consistently exposed to new ways of thinking and perceiving. And if you are very relaxed and at ease when you are solving problems, you can learn to remain as relaxed and at ease when you are solving very difficult problems as well.
1. Notice your surroundings. Make a quick mental snapshot or picture of the room or place you are in as if you are using a Polaroid or digital camera. Look at this picture. Now briefly survey how your body feels. Notice any tension or unease in your muscles or sensations from your inner organs. Make on outline in your mind of the shape, intensity, and location of these sensations and tensions.
Have you ever sat down in a hot car baked by the sun? Try it. Picture a car in front of you which has been sitting in a sunlight at a 100 degrees for a few hours. Open the door in get into the car. Feel that intense heat on your face and skin, the constriction in your lungs as your breathe in and your body's reaction to this situation. Stay relaxed. Just notice how it feels.
Picture yourself now in a vast desert late in the afternoon. Feel the heat. The sand is rust red. Reach your hand down and pick up some sand and let the sand slide through your fingers.
Over near the horizon there is a caravan of fifty camels. Imagine you are walking beside one of those camels wearing a turban and your face covered with a black cloth. Smell the camel. The camel walks slowly but its strides are long and you must walk briskly to keep up. There is no wind. No birds are singing. There are no animals calling in the distance. Listen to the sound of camel's hooves as they thump on the sand.
Go a little further into the image. You are a nomad and you only need to drink three cups of water during daylight. Every month you take your caravan on a six hundred mile journey. You respect the desert and it treats you well in return. It offers you peace with its vast solitude. It offers freedom and independence to those who can survive its harsh conditions.
The night has fallen. You have pitched a tent and sit by a camp fire sipping hot tea. The stars circle slowly above you.
Briefly notice how your body feels, How do these images affect you? Are you relaxed and at home with them or do you notice some unease and discomfort?
2. Let's work some more with imagery, sound, and action. Think of two of your favorite movies or just the last two movies you have seen on TV or at the theater. Think of one or two of the most dramatic movements in one of those movies. Now recall several times what happened in one of those scenes. Picture the characters, what they looked like, where they were, and what they said or did.
Focus on one moment of the action. Picture it clearly. Can you hear what the character said? Listen to their voices. Imagine yourself as one of the characters. Why is this moment dramatic? What are you feeling and why are you feeling it? Can you notice where in your body this feeling occurs? Why is this one of your favorite movies?
Recall a actor or actress who has a wide range of expressions and who can easily play different parts. For example, with my kids we imagined Alley McBeal. Now think of five or ten different emotional responses such as excitement, frustration, happiness, joy, love, surprise, tenderness, curiosity, jealousy, anger, boredom, depression, despair, insight, rapture, etc. Imagine how the actor or actress expresses each of these responses--notice the gestures, body language and posture, and voice if something is said.
3. Picture or imagine you are a child holding the string to a helium balloon. The child let's go of the string and watches the balloon float off in a breeze. Think of a song, something light and humorous, to accompany this action.
Another image. You are with a lover beneath a large tree. You listen to the sounds of the leaves in the wind as your lover runs his or her fingers through your hair. Feel those sensations. Again, think of a song that accompanies this mood and image. Notice how your body feels.
Now you are riding in a cockpit beneath a large balloon at fifteen thousand feet as you gently float over the peaks of some mountains. It is near sunset and you watch the colors of the sky changing to orange and red, purple and violet. You look down and also at the circle of the horizon. Someone with you gives you something hot to eat or drink. What is the taste and the smell? Think of a song that expresses the mood of where you are now.
You are in a space suit just outside the space shuttle at three hundred miles above the earth. You are completely calm and relaxed as you gaze down at the planet. You feel so peaceful it is as if time has stopped, as if this moment is something you want to savor and taste and experience for all it is worth. You are completely weightless and the silence is itself like a song, like the joy in all the songs you have heard. Take a moment and experience that beauty and silence.
4. You are sitting by yourself on a beach. You are comfortable. The waves rise and break on the shore. A thin mist from the surf occasionally reaches you falling on your arms and face. You smell the salt in the air. You can taste the salt on your lips. You listen to the sound of the breaking waves, the dull roar and the sound of the wave crest rising and splashing down against the sand on and on.
Someone is walking out of the waves toward you. It is a human shape and since this is an exercise in imagination you are completely comfortable when I tell you it is a mermaid or a merman. The elemental comes over and sits beside you. He or she places an arm around you, a hand on your leg, or else claps your hand.
Feel that touch. No words are spoken. Rather, you suddenly perceive the sea with new perceptions. The sound of the waves are full of passion. And you notice your consciousness shifting. Your awareness of your body nearly vanishes.
You are surrounded by water and dolphins swim around you. You listen to a whales song as that deep resonance rumbles from within its chest. You hear an iceberg breaking free of a glacier. Forty foot waves slam like thunder against mountain cliffs at midnight.
Images flash through your mind. You stand on the deck of a ship beside Columbus, Cooke, or Magellan as they sight new land or islands. It has been a long voyage. You are on a Viking ship five hundred years earlier as it sights England. A thousand years before, you are on a Roman ship as it patrols the Mediterranean. You are sailing down the Nile toward Thebes three thousand years before Rome was founded or Greece established its great cities.
And now you are sitting on a sandy beach a billion years ago long before animals or trees existed on this planet. Relax. We are here through the power of imagination. The waves break. You smell the air. A faint mist gently drifts over to caress your face with its cool, soothing touch. With the sea, time is not really that important. The sea is constant the way it nurtures, cares, and lends support.
"And the sea shall grant each man new hope." What desire or need within you have you let slip from your life because it could find no place to rest, no where in your life to make a home? What would the hope be, how would it feel, if this desire or need was free to return, to make your soul its home and to dwell in peace? The mermaid or merman looks into your eyes and with that looks says, "Those who know the sea are free to dream any dream and explore the depths of any vision."
5. You are walking down a path through a forest. A man is walking beside you. When he was young, he spent seven years in a cave in complete darkness learning songs and histories from his tradition. He also can identify every tree and bush and fruit in this forest using smell and touch alone.
You look down and notice thick padding on your left arm. You hold your arm up and you are not surprised as a large hawk lands on your left arm. You gaze into the hawk’s eyes as she looks into your eyes. The hawk jumps back and turns into a woman standing in front of you--a human form but the eyes have the same intensity and penetrating gaze.
The man next to you says, “Her awareness is sharp, ruthless, and commanding and her wisdom is ancient and demanding. She is hidden in every man and in every woman.
The woman speaks to you. She says, “I am a destroyer who is wise and a lover who is kind.”
As you gaze into her face, your awareness flows from your body into her body. You become the woman. And now you look back at yourself through her eyes. She speaks now through your voice as she says, (you may wish to speak these words aloud) “If you had been aware of me, if I had been alive within your soul, then here and here at these crossroads in your life you would have chosen a different way to go. Whenever you need me, I am here for you. I am part of your soul.”
6. It is dawn and there are birds singing. Listen and identify three or four different bird songs. You are in a cafe at lunch downtown. Secretaries, lawyers, executives, and managers are sitting at the tables talking. Identify three or four different voices and listen to what they are saying. You are by a water fall in a small stream. Listen to the sounds of the water falling and the bubbles splashing as the water surges around small rocks.
You are in a large auditorium. It is Las Vegas and the place is packed. There is a standing ovation for the show. You are in a large auditorium but now no one is there. The place is locked and everyone has gone home. Look around and listen to the silence. You are three hundred feet beneath the ground in a large cave. All artificial and natural light is gone and there are no sounds here at all. Listen to this silence also.
You head is against the chest of someone you love. Listen to the heartbeat. Briefly review in your mind the sound of the birds, the cafe, the stream, the auditorium, the cave, and the heartbeat.
7. You are sitting on a first story roof of a Hopi Indian adobe house facing a rectangular plaza about seventy-five feet in length. There is a ceremonial dance. The dancers are in a circle and wear masks, kilts, and have turtle-shell rattles on their ankles. Hopi clowns in brown paint make fun and climb down from a rope next to you to the plaza below. The clowns make fun of the tourists by eating ice cream cones, pop corn, and take pictures of everything they can. Another katchina with an owl mask throws pebbles at the clowns. The owl symbolizes conscience.
As you look at the owl katchina, you find yourself sitting at night next to an owl in a tree beneath a full moon. The owl looks about studying every sound and the movements of its prey. For example, it knows the habits and routines of the mice below better than the mice their own actions. You enter and take control of the mind of the owl. You leap from the branch and with wings of stealth and silence, you gently glide through the forest night. With wide eyes, you see through the dark and observe the forest life and yet not a single thought crosses through your mind.
8. Recall an experience you once had with smell--perhaps the first time you smelled the sea, baked bread, ginger, a pine forest, a barn, a damp basement or a dry attic, smoke from a camp fire, etc. Focus on the smell for a few moments. Recall where you were and how you felt.
Now imagine you are another person--someone you know fairly well. You perform the same exercise recalling a memory of smelling something for the first time smell. Focus on the smell and then recall where you were and how you felt.
9. Recall three memories from childhood which embody for you the best feelings of what a family is. Now hold all three memories in your mind at once or casually move from one to the other so that you sense the life in each memory flowing through the others. At this point, see if you can get a new picture or feeling that brings these three memories together into something new--a new image, recollection of another memory, or an insight into the heart of family and childhood.
10. I did this exercise with my kids. They enjoyed it. Astronomers have begun identifying quasars which came into existence when the universe was only a billion years old. These quasars are at the edge of the universe, around 14 billion light years away. Astronomers are also busy charting all the galaxies in 30 per cent of the sky.
Imagine that you are looking through a telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona or at the observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii. You see one end of the universe and twelve hours later as the earth rotates you look in the opposite direction at a quasar at the other end of the universe.
Now imagine that something like an astronomer you have a picture in your mind of the layout of galaxies and celestial bodies throughout the entire universe. Keep it simple. Just imagine you have the ability to visualize all of them all at once. And further, imagine that you can now see not only every galaxy but every star, every planet, every comet, and in fact every speck of dust as well as all the civilizations on all inhabited planets in the universe.
Spend a few moments and get a feeling for what this is like. Imagine there is nothing you can not understand and nothing you can not see unfolding from the beginning of the universe until its end. It is always nice to show appreciation for something that is so wonderful and beautiful.
11. Visualize a rabbit and a bobcat. The bobcat is chasing the rabbit somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. As the rabbit hops, it zigzags keeping just out of reach of the bobcat’s claws who every now and then lunges where he thinks the rabbit will be next.
Imagine you are the rabbit. Your ears track the bobcat’s movements but your eyes are focused on where you are going next. Get a feel for hopping. You are running for your life.
Now imagine you are the bobcat. Your instinct is not flight. The adrenaline in your body heightens your predatory determination. You are running to get the food you need to stay alive.
Now take another step and imagine you are both the rabbit and the bobcat at the same time. You can do this by imagining first the rabbit running and then the bobcat chasing the rabbit and alternating back and forth. Then hold both images in your mind kind of like doing something different in the same moment with each of your two hands or watching two different TV sets at the same time
12. Put your hands in a large bowl, a sink of cold water, a stream, or a pool. Feel the cool water on your skin.
Gently move your hands and feel the water flow over your fingers and palms. Now extend your mind into the water. Make that small shift--carefully, very carefully, let your awareness become the water that holds your hands. Let your mind be both your hands and the water. Finally, as you bring your hands out of the water, try to sustain the sensation of cold water surrounding them.
13. Letting water flow over your hands or placing your hands in a sink or bowl of water, visualize the sources of this water--clouds and rain over the nearby mountains, etc. Imagine further the many ways in which water is present on earth--water dripping from the leaves of trees and running into streams and flowing over falls and also sinking down into the water table. Imagine fog, mist, pools, lakes, oceans, rivers, the ice caps, etc. As you visualize or think about the various ways water is present, imagine that your hands are there in the mist, the rain, the river, the lake, and the ocean.
14. Recall or imagine a situation in which there is conflict or difficulty communicating or solving problems between individuals. Now imagine a sphere of energy extending ten feet around yourself. Imagine further that this sphere of energy empowers clear and effective communication and a speedy resolution of any problems. Try imagining having this energy field around you as you recall or imagine a difficult situation again. Try imagining this energy field around you when you are in a situation in which communication and solving problems are difficult.
15. I was at Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit standing amid a group of individuals discussing marital problems. I gave a demonstration of this exercise as a brief summary of a three day seminar on communication between couples.
Imagine taking ten minutes once a week to listen to an intimate partner or someone you are close to. You do not try to problem solve. You do not interject your own thoughts and feelings. You just listen. At some point, you summarize as accurately as you can the other individual’s thoughts and feelings.
Notice how the other individual talks, the tone of voice, the diction, the intonation, the choice of words, the body posture and gestures. Notice the lips, the eyes, the facial expressions and anywhere you notice tension in the other’s body.
Now imagine you are the other person and that the other’s voice, body language, thoughts, and feelings are your own. Stay with this until in your body you register some feelings, sensation, or impression of what it is like to be the other person. You are after a physical response in yourself of what it is like to be within the other individual’s body, soul, and mind.
The basis of love and empathy is to feel the other individual’s experiences and what is within the other’s heart. In my experience, most divorcing couples lack empathy for each other--they can not feel or imagine what the other individual is experiencing. This kind of exercise destroys such separation.
16. Imagine your consciousness is a mirror perfectly reflecting what it is before you without distortion or error. Neither your thoughts nor your feelings in any way interfere with the clarity of what you see. Then visualize an image from nature or gaze on something from the natural world around you. Let yourself be this mirror so that the only thing within your consciousness is this image of what you are seeing. Notice after a few moments or minutes if you can sense a feeling, impression, or sensation within your body which derives from this image in the natural world.
17. Zen Buddhists practice sitting to attain a state of emptiness. In Tibetan Buddhism, Prajnaparamita or primordial emptiness is considered to be the mother of all Buddhas, of all perfectly enlightened beings. Zen sitting is sitting with an empty mind. Enlightenment is consciousness which is free of any kind of fear or attachment. Its power is to see the world as it is.
Emptiness is also a quality of the primordial feminine archetype. And this archetype is so scary, few religions on our planet dare to even speak of it aloud. But there is really nothing to fear when it comes to cosmic beauty or the beauty of the universe which is what the cosmic feminine is all about.
Exercise. Imagine you are the oceans of the world and you have given birth to all life on earth. Become wet, watery, cold, deep, with currents and tides, fish and life, including the ice caps also.
Not imagine further that you are the emptiness of space which contains all the stars. This emptiness is not jealous of the radiant stars and galaxies which shine so bright with light traveling to the end of time. No, this empty consciousness is so receptive, open, and void of content that it contains and offers support for the entire universe without asking anything in return. The fact is that in containing, being receptive, and offering support it is perfectly and completely one with its opposite.
Become acquainted with this unusual state of mind. Make it a friend. However you regard it, this is a state of mind and heart which is everywhere without beginning or end. It is a part of everything that exists.
18. Imagine or visualize three strong male individuals that you have met, admire, or have seen for example in movies. This is completely up to you. You might consider individuals such as Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwartzenagger, Antonio Banderas, Bruce Willis, etc. Consider the actions, voice, body language, and personality characteristics for each of them. Now combine these images. You can visualize someone completely new or you can take one individual and slowly add the qualities of the other two to this person. Compare the final version to the previous individuals.
For example, if you take the soft, gentle voice of Bruce Willis and combine that with the vibrant and resonate voice of Sean Connery, you want to end up with a combination of the two--something resonate with underlying power but still sweet and gentle. And finally think about these new image you have created and whether it is appealing, threatening, etc. and why.
19. Repeat the above exercise for women. Consider examples such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sharon Stone, Alley McBeal, Salma Hayak, Cindy Crawford, etc. Who you imagine is completely up to you. Combine these images one at a time and then notice the result. You are after a composite. You want an image of feminine energy and consciousness which is condensed and intensified. Finally notice how you respond to this image and consider why you have such a response.
20. Imagine you have just fallen asleep in the arms of someone you love with all of your heart--you can just let go and feel safe and whole.
21. Imagine holding in one hand all the pain, suffering, and loss you have ever felt. And hold in your other hand all the joy, love, and kindness that has touched you and flowed through you. Do this while remaining completely relaxed and feeling free in your heart. Be like an indestructible jewel that can clearly reflect every nuance, shade, color, and feeling that is a part of being alive
22. Gaining inspiration can be as simple as asking yourself what is missing from your life. Now imagine the desire is satisfied, the need fulfilled, and the vision attained. See, touch, hear, smell, and taste it. Dream it and enter the dream. Drink it in. Take a few moments to live within this dream.
23. A Sufi saying is that “God is love, lover, and beloved. Behold the world through God’s eyes.” Take a few moments to recall and feel again someone you have loved and who loved you in return. Gaze upon this individual in your mind. Notice what you are feeling and how the other looks to you.
Now imagine you are the person looking back at yourself. Again, notice what you feel and what you see. Finally, become the love itself that is between and within the two of you and all that you experience with each other. Simple relax and open yourself and imagine you are this love.
24. Once again, recall someone you love--the voice, face, gestures, manners of speech and behavior. Imagine this person is right in front of you. Now notice any impressions, feelings, or sensations which arise in your body due to this image. Some would say there is an automatic exchange of energy and telepathic rapport which occurs whenever you think about a lover or friend. Try this: greet the other person with a gesture of affection. Feel that the love and kindness immediately flows back to you as if there is a free circulation of physical vitality and feeling between the two of you.
25. Now imagine further that you belong to a community of individuals who serve high ideals, who freely love, and who are deeply inspired. The nature of this community is completely up to you. It can composed of three or more individuals or it can encompass millions. Whoever is a part of it, this community is a place where you feel you belong. Its members feel like family and when you are with them you feel like you have come home. Everything you need, wish to know, or desire to accomplish can be attained through them.
Now in this moment, offer a gesture of affection and love to all those who are members of this community. Feel that this love flows out to them, through them, and circulates back to and through you as one continuous flow.