February 12, 2005

Exercise : Five-by-Five.

In addition to essays on doctrine and other ponderings, I thought I'd include in this blog some fun exercises, games and/or projects to share with you. If you're just starting out along this path, they might give you some ideas about how to get your feet wet in the Craft. If you're an old pro, then hopefully you can find something new here, or at least you might enjoy reading about variations on technique. Since we're all growing and learning no matter where we are along our journey, there will always be more to share!

This first exercise is based on a poetry free-writing exercise that I learned a few years ago. I thought I would begin with it because, as I've mentioned before, I have been writing most of my life and it was through writing that I came to the Craft. You don't have to use this exercise just for the purposes of poetry, however. It can be helpful just as a practice in developing our awareness of the concrete, physical world in which we live and its relationship to the abstract realm of ideas and belief that we often spend a good deal of time in (especially in this "Information Age").


Get a piece of paper.

Choose an abstraction and write it at the top of the page. What's an abstract? Any word that has no definite physical form. Things like: love, justice, God, loneliness, essence, joy, death, success, sacredness... Any emotions, states of being, fleeting thoughts, or non-concrete adjectives. Choose one that speaks to you, reflects your mood, begs for your attention. Underline it. Circle it. Put little stars all around it. Contemplate its meaning.

Write each of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) at the top of five columns across the page.

Now, for each sense, try to write as many phrases, words or images as you can. The only rule: they cannot contain any abstractions at all. Each phrase or image must be entirely physical. Fill the page with concrete, sensory details. If you have chosen GRIEF as your abstraction, ask yourself: "What does grief look like? What does it smell like? How does it taste?" Don't censor yourself--even if the images don't seem to make any sense, write them down! Allow yourself to be creative, to make connections. Challenge yourself--try to come up with five phrases or lines for each of the senses (hence: five by five).

Finally, if you're feeling up to it, go back after a little while and see if you can make a poem out of what you've written. Look for connections among the senses. Stretch for metaphor.

This exercise highlights the role of the five senses. In the Craft, we not only pray silently to ourselves or think abstractly about our beliefs--we actually incorporate those thoughts and express those prayers in our actions. If you've read my bit about "ritual as physical poem" on the Pulse Like Water website, you already know what I'm getting at here. Some ritual theorists compare the symbolic "language" of ritual activity (and, in our case, magic too) to the use of metaphor in poetry. We "translate" abstractions into the physical world in ways which, logically, may not seem to have much connection. I can't explain, for example, why annointing myself with lavendar oil each morning keeps me calm and peaceful throughout the day. In our magical and ritual "language," the lavendar plant has calming, healing properties. Who can say if this is physically true, or if it just speaks to our unconscious somehow? The point is, we can train ourselves to pay more attention to those connections; we can bring them to the forefront. And I think that this exercise helps us do that.


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