I spent my teens and most of my twenties (okay, and some of my thirties, too) searching for someone to teach me the secrets of the universe.
I was certain there was a manuscript hidden in the rare books room of the university, a hidden mentor, some place I needed to travel to or an adventure I had to have.
Words like “initiation” and “vision quest” perked my ears and sent me sniffing down the next dead end.
At the same time, I was hearing the usual axioms: the answer lies within, and you already know everything you need.
So I continued my search for my personal Yoda or Mr. Miyagi.
I’d forgotten another popular axiom: be careful what you wish for.
You remember The Karate Kid, right? The Kid goes to Mr. Miyagi to learn karate.
The kid—Daniel—thinks karate is a good way to keep his butt from getting kicked by the neighborhood bullies. To him, karate is about being powerful through muscle strength. Mr. Miyagi has the tough job of teaching him that it’s about being powerful with inner strength.
Mr. Miyagi has The Kid painting a fence. And the kid is annoyed, pissed off, ready to call the whole thing bunk and bullshit.
This is the school of sage-craft that I come from, too. It’s the chop wood, carry water— or, in my case: dig roots, pluck berries—school of wisdom.
And it’s frustrating as all hell.
I think about this often as I navigate the ins and outs of guiding Witch Camp and Sage School. Students come searching for secrets—the secret of happiness or health or wisdom or power.
What they want from me is a reading assignment or a lecture that will get them there. But readings and lectures merely give information—head knowledge—which is pretty different from wisdom.
Heart knowledge, body knowledge—now that’s a harder path. It involves things like chopping wood and carrying water. Or painting fences. Or digging roots when it’s forty degrees and raining incessantly.
Our culture encourages us to learn in a linear fashion; we do something once, and it’s “been there, done that. What’s next?”.
But you don’t get to do these things once and declare mastery.
Think about it: how much more would you see if you sat in the woods every day for a year versus for an hour one afternoon? It’s easy to do once, feel mighty proud of yourself, and move on to the next thing. But think of all the sounds you never heard, the wind that never brushed your skin, the scents of spring or summer or autumn that you missed.
Which means we skim the surface of lots of stuff but rarely go deep.
To most minds, repetition = boredom. And yet repetition is a necessary component of pretty much all the Mystery Schools, from Kabbalah to Karate.
On the surface it’s about discipline. Disciplining the body and disciplining the mind. Minding your teacher even when it all feels like bunk and bullshit.
But it goes deeper than that.
If you can get your mind to stop chattering about how annoyed it is, how much you paid to attend this school or training or class, how your back hurts and your nose is running…
If you can quiet that chatter, something else begins to happen.
You come into your body.
You come into knowledge of the world around you.
You come into relationship with the elements pulsing under your fingertips.
And this is where true power lies.
Because at heart, every school of witchery is about your will, your intent. It’s about being able to taste truth in your bones and envision realities yet to exist.
It’s about knowing yourself so intimately that you know what is not you… so when you hear a voice rising from the jumble of your being, and you know quite clearly it’s not yours, you can then look around to see what out there in the world is trying to communicate with you.
And in that moment, life is glorious.
But then the noise rises up again…
… and it’s back to chopping wood and carrying water, performing the daily discipline of communion.
Tell me: how do you discipline yourself to come into communion?