There are a great many exercises for developing specific magical skills, often difficult or requiring close supervision, and many are oath-bound within certain traditions. It is surprisingly rare to find simple exercises that are easy to understand and don't require iron discipline, yet are genuinely transformative. While there is a discipline to magic, the role this discipline plays is often misunderstood. When something becomes a chore it is a clear sign that inspiration has fled.
The exercises given here require no routine, and despite their apparent simplicity are very powerful and potentially vastly transformative. They merely require the conscious adoption of certain attitudes, but the resulting effects are far wider than what you might expect; they are also necessary foundations for advanced magic:
- Honesty: One of the most powerful techniques for developing understanding of the subtle processes of reality is to paractice being as honest as possible at all times, avoiding false appearances and even white lies. This can be a daunting undertaking, however after a certain transition period of "setting the record straight", you'll find things become far simpler than they were. Surprisingly the most striking changes are not external but internal.
- Empathy: The Christians say "love thine enemy"; the Buddhists preach compassion. While we don't necessarily hold with turning the other cheek we recognise the seed of wisdom here, for compassion and empathy are the keys to understanding, and without understanding we are limited in our ability to alter a situation or influence others. It is possible to empathise even with those who wish us harm; the key is to realise that every person always does the very best they are able, without exception. (If this statement doesn't make sense to you, stop and think a little deeper on it: every action has a cause; every choice has a reason behind it.) It is of course equally true to say that people often do things they know are not right, and that when given a choice they sometimes choose badly. Both perspectives are "true", however the first is far more useful. While the latter lends itself to the off-hand dismissal of some behaviour as "bad", the former inclines one toward understanding the causes of that behaviour. And understanding brings power.
- Responsibility: This is not merely taking responsibility for your own actions, but for the actions of everyone around you. Your first response to an unpleasant situation is no longer "that person should have known better", but rather "what could I have done better?". This doesn't mean shouldering the guilt of others, and in fact you probably won't find guilt to be a very useful emotion. It merely means that instead of feeling impotent frustration at others' stupidity and replaying the scene in your head, you consider what you could have done to prevent the situation, or how you might affect things in the future. And you do it. And whatever is truly beyond your control, you don't worry about. The only thing you ultimately have control over is your own actions, and even if those actions involve chastising someone else, they are still your own actions. It is your world; take control.