Posts Tagged ‘PersonalStory’

Focusing on the Work, Not the Worry

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

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As I think about Healing Lab, doing energy healing as a business, supporting myself with my magick, it’s scary. Is my energy healing good enough? Do I teach and explain magick well enough? Am I ready?

This week, I’ve changed goals: I want to prepare for Healing Lab. That feels safe.

I’m aware of the trap. If “prepare” means you’re thinking about reading about learning those skills, that’s a problem. So I’m preparing by doing them. Healing, so I learn better healing techniques. Teaching, so I learn to explain better. Writing, so I have a book to share, and so I learn to inspire better.

I don’t think anyone outside my head will notice notice difference between preparing and doing. But in here, it lets me focus on the work instead of the worry.

(And I’m writing more. This post, plus progress on my book again.)

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From Belief to Knowledge: Teaching at Pantheacon

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

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Two weeks ago, I taught at Pantheacon. I was scared, not of speaking or teaching, but of testing my magick in front of an audience. And I learned just how subtle resistance can be.

The class was about belief and knowledge. If I believe in something, there’s also a doubt, often deep and unacknowledged. I can push it down, but it’s still there, still impacting me. I’ll avoid true tests, avoid situations where I might discover that my belief isn’t true. It holds me back in ways I’m often unaware of.

Knowledge is different. It’s sure, confident. If I know something, I don’t even realize when I’m testing it, because I just know it’ll work.

My goal was to help students move from belief to knowledge. But even more, it was about moving myself from belief to knowledge.

The technique was simple: There’s a sender and a receiver. The sender builds energy while thinking of a memory, either happy or excited. The receiver moves that energy into their own head, and feels the difference between the two emotions. It uses some fundamentals of Direct Magick, and can be taught in about an hour.

There are two ways to use this: Practice, and Test. To practice, the sender announces the emotion they’re using, and the receiver notices the difference. It’s striking how different the energy feels, which students enjoy. But it’s also safe — you know what you’re supposed to feel, and if you don’t feel exactly that, well, no one ever needs to know.

In the test condition, the receiver closes their eyes and doesn’t touch the sender. They can only feel the energy, there’s no non-energetic communication. Based only on the energy, they figure out which emotion the sender is sending.

I knew I’d want to demonstrate the test condition. You can’t talk about the test then not do it. That’s like a play having a rifle hanging on the wall, but never firing it.

Except I haven’t done this test in years. I hadn’t done it with anyone in the class. What if my partner messed up? I’d look like an idiot in front of the whole class.

It was a fear that came directly from not testing my magick. My lack of testing threatened to hold me back, not in an abstract way at some future point, but by flinching away from teaching the best class I could, right now.

I have a reflex: When I notice something uncomfortable, I look at it more. It’s consciously cultivated over the past decade. And I realized, I’d never really tested the technique at all.

I first taught the class in 2009. Demoed the test condition, everything went great. Taught it again a few times, demoed the test condition each time. But I never sat down with a partner, ran a few dozen trials, collected data to really prove the technique. Just never got to it.

Except I didn’t “just never get to it.” I avoided it. I could have done it anytime over the past 5+ years, but I never made the time. I hadn’t noticed, but my fear had made me avoid testing. Which is why I was still scared.

Well, the class went well. I demonstrated the test condition, it worked, everyone was happy. And I’ve resolved to test this, and many other techniques, before the end of 2015. Because I can’t do what I want to do if I flinch away from demonstrating my magick.

What about you? Do you have doubts that leave you flinching from opportunities? How could you turn those doubted beliefs into knowledge?

Other Highlights

I also taught Hypnosis for Deeper Trance. Over 30 attendees, so much fun to teach, and I’m teaching a follow-on class, “Hypno-Shamanism,” in April with Francesca Gentille. Details coming soon.

I had some great conversations with Taylor Elwood of Magical Experiments, and came away with some inspiration for my book. (It’s been in progress for over a year, partially because I haven’t found quite the right focus. I think I have that now.)

And I discussed the overlap between science and magick with Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds. He had some interesting ideas, and it was great to connect.

In all, a great conference, and I’ll be there again next year.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Inspiring My 2015: Pantheacon, Healing Lab, and Rigorous Testing

Monday, January 19th, 2015

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This year, I’m teaching, founding a research company, and exploring intimidating work.

Presenting at Pantheacon

Pantheacon is a giant pagan conference in San Jose, CA. I’ll be attending for the first time this February. My goal is to connect with people to collaborate with, recruit for Healing Lab (see below), and practice healing techniques.

Readers: Will you be at Pantheacon? Let me know. I’ll arrange a Magick of Thought meetup!

I’m also teaching:

Hypnosis for Deeper Trance is on the official program. I’ve been practicing and teaching hypnosis for several years, just for fun (unrelated to Direct Magick), and I’ll be teaching hypnosis techniques you can use in rituals. Class description:

We use trance every day. From ritual to meditation, from daydreaming to getting into flow, a trance is any non-drug-induced altered state. It’s one way to separate the sacred from the profane, and it can open the doors to creativity. In this exercise-focused class, you’ll learn hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques to create deeper trances during rituals. You’ll learn to use hypnotic suggestion to create visions and sensations during guided meditation. And you’ll get a few fun ideas for using hypnosis in the bedroom, too.

I’ll also be teaching in the Church of All Worlds suite. Maybe a class on manifesting, maybe a class discussing magick in a materialist paradigm, maybe something else. I’ll announce when I know.

I’ll also be performing healing sessions in the Church of All Worlds suite, as part of Healing Lab (below).

Pantheacon is February 13-16. Tickets are still available.

Founding Healing Lab

Healing Lab’s mission is to combine biofield healing with Western medicine to heal all disease.

The company provides a container for my healing work, and a title for introductions. “Mike Sententia, founder of Healing Lab” feels different than “Mike Sententia, blogger on Magick of Thought,” particularly among researchers who aren’t themselves into magick.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a year. I’ve been intimidated. I’ve felt not ready. I still feel not ready, really, but if I wait until I’m ready I’ll never accomplish anything.

Active research projects:

Energy healing for chronic knee pain: I’ve done this dozens of times on several friends. I have the technique down. Now it’s time to work with 100-ish people so I know it works reliably on just about everyone. I’m hoping to practice this a lot at Pantheacon.

Energy healing for auto-immune diseases: I’ve had good results for my friend with chronic hives. Now, I’m working with a woman who has Multiple Sclerosis. Still in the initial development phase, but it’s fascinating, worthwhile work. Will post about it in the coming weeks.

Creating sensations: I’m continuing the work from last year around creating sensations in non-mages, aiming to collaborate with university researchers and publish the results.

More info on my website-in-progress

Rigorous Testing

Last post, we discussed how I value accurate beliefs, and how much I want to avoid claims that could be debunked by a fourth-grader.

But I haven’t been living up to those goals.

Sensory connections are one of the foundational techniques of Direct Magick. They’re how I look at ethereal structures. I use them for healing techniques, and I get good results, so I know that sensory connections more-or-less work too.

But… more or less? That’s not what I aspire to.

The poor testing impacts my work. I did a distance healing session for my friend with cancer, but wasn’t sure of what I was sensing, and couldn’t do everything I wanted.

It impacts how I explain magick. If I were fully confident in my sensory connections, I’d explain precisely what they do, how they work, and I’d invite a challenge rather than shying away from one.

Good testing leads to good debugging, leads to better results.

Why haven’t I tested? Well, I’ve said I’m focusing on other techniques, and that my sensory connections work well enough.

But if I’m feeling safe and honest, it’s because I’m afraid of finding my sensory connections don’t work as well as I think they do. I’m afraid of that ego hit. I’d rather believe I’m good, I don’t want to discover what I’m lacking and then work to fix it.

And having seen that, I can’t avoid that work anymore.

This year, I’m going to rigorously test my sensory connections, find out where they work and where they don’t, learn where I see accurately and where I’m influenced by my expectations like a sommelier fooled by cheap wine in an expensive bottle. It’ll be emotionally hard, but it’s the price of getting where I want to go.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Spirituality for an Athiest Rationalist (My Work January 1-9)

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

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Two friends were praising flexible beliefs. Seeing a storm or a bird as a sign. Believing in karma, since there’s no way to know it’s false. Drawing a tarot card, and believing it was meant specifically for you.

If you’ve been here long, you know I’m not spiritual. Science and rationality, Bayesian atheism with a belief in spirits-as-artificial-intelligences, that’s where I live. My friends and I had, well, not an argument, but a discussion more focused on winning than on connecting.

Growing up, my father would denigrate spiritualists and psychics and healers. I’ve tried to shed that, but our conversation showed me a place where I still have that disdain, and how it will prevent me from connecting and collaborating with some really awesome people. So this week, I explored spirituality and how it relates to science and rationality.

This isn’t a definitive answer. This is me thinking through my own prejudices and ideas. I’m hesitant to expose this work-in-progress to the internet, but I also want to share my work. I hope you enjoy it.

Debunked by a 9-Year-Old

Here’s where I started:

Scientific belief is about accuracy. Evolution is true, creationism is false, that sort of thing.

I went to a Therapeutic Touch class a few years ago. This is the NIH-approved energy healing, used in hospitals, taught by nurses for medical professionals. If anyone should be scientific about energy healing, it’s these guys.

Explaining energy, the teacher said, “If you bring your finger so it’s almost touching your other hand, you’ll feel tingles. That’s energy.” And indeed, we did feel it.

But it took me less than a minute to debunk her claim: I closed my eyes and had a friend choose when to almost-touch my hand. I didn’t feel anything. Which means the sensation is proprioception, not energy.

You know who else debunked their claim? A 9-year-old girl. When your claims are debunked by fourth graders, you can’t gain credibility for the work that really is worth studying.

(Could a skilled mage create sensations with energy? You betcha. But that’s not what the teacher claimed.)

Accuracy and Meaning

Here’s my quick definition of science vs spirituality:

  • Science starts with, “Is this accurate?” Then it tries to find meaning within the accurate. This is where I live. For me, meaning is in helping my fellow man (through energy healing and exploring magick, mostly).
  • Spirituality starts with, “How can I find meaning here?” Then it discards overly-inaccurate beliefs that would interfere with daily living. Spirituality also seems to accept special cases, like “this storm means something, but storms in general do not.”

The Secret and Cancer

You remember The Secret, right? Choose what you want, act like it’s already true, and it will happen. Great advice for people trying to start a business or find a job: Dress and act the part, and you’ll probably find success.

But some reader said, “I have cancer. But if I didn’t have cancer, I wouldn’t go to the doctor, I wouldn’t get treatment. So I’m going to act like I don’t have cancer, and by the Law of Attraction, my cancer will disappear.” Details here.

In other words, that reader took what should have been a domain-limited temporary belief, and applied it like a scientifically-accurate belief.

We all do this. It’s pleasant to believe I listen well, so until recently I didn’t put in the work to become a better listener. And I decided that fashion doesn’t matter, because that was easier than learning about it.

We all let pleasant beliefs trump reality sometimes. The only defense I have is to reflexively reject a belief as soon as I notice it’s untrue. I’ve trained myself to do that, not always, but often. I think that’s a virtue.

But if someone doesn’t reflexively discard false beliefs, I don’t want to consider that a vice.

God Doesn’t Cause Breakups

On the subway, the woman next to me is reading a facebook post: “When a relationship ends, maybe it was God deciding it was time for it to end, that this was best for your growth.”

No one thinks God causes breakups. But that’s not the point. The point was, this woman was in pain, and finding this meaning in her suffering helped her get through her day, get to work, make money to feed her kids. (I read Viktor Frankl in college, it’s stayed with me.)

Finding meaning only in accurate beliefs is good. But who am I to deny that woman her comfort?

I’m lucky enough to have the right sort of intelligence and background that lets me find meaning in a scientifically-accurate world, but someone born without that type of intelligence would have to choose. How can I fault them for choosing meaning?

I think intelligence is a blessing, but I don’t think that people born with less intelligence are somehow morally inferior. And seeing this, I felt my science-as-a-virtue moral superiority start to fade.


You know a strawman, right? That’s where you present a weak form of your opponent’s argument so you can demolish it.

Steelman is the opposite. It’s a technique among rationalists, where we make the strongest possible argument, even if our opponents aren’t actually making it.

Here’s my spirituality steelman:

Meaning creates happiness, confidence, and health. It lowers stress and improves the drive to create. It is a goodness.

Accuracy is also a goodness. Accuracy gives us vaccines, airplanes, science and technology.

Meaning provides short-term value, accuracy provides long-term value. We need both.

A placebo works even if you know it’s a placebo. So shouldn’t we allow ourselves to find false-but-non-harmful meaning, while still knowing deep down that it’s false? Can’t we adopt a belief but flag it as “not-true,” and still get the meaning-centric benefits?

Reflexes and False Beliefs

That argument resonated with me. If you do a steelman right, it usually will.

I still don’t trust false beliefs. We can’t know the true cost of a false belief. And it’s so easy to believe pleasant fictions. I don’t want to train my brain toward accepting fictions.

(That reflex, to turn toward painful-but-accurate beliefs, is what drove me to explore spirituality, after all. It would have been easier to just look down on my friends than to examine a value I learned as a child.)

And yet, I can see how an intelligent person could choose differently, not through logical errors or flawed thinking, but through having different goals. And I can respect that.

Gandhi’s Not Lazy

The next morning, I woke with a sentence in my mind:

Spirituality is the lazy man’s philosophy.

But that’s not fair. Sure, spirituality can be a lazy man’s philosophy, but that’s true of anything. You’re supposed to use rationality to update beliefs and change behaviors, but plenty of people use it to justify the stupid things they were already doing. And you can use scientific terms without understanding the actual science. (New rule: Anyone proposing Quantum anything must be able to calculate Schrodinger’s equation.)

There’s a lazy form to everything. That’s not unique to spirituality.

But Gandhi’s not lazy. He did spirituality right, used it to motivate hard action and real change.

And I find myself wondering, is there a set of spiritual practices, focused on finding meaning, that also support a scientifically-accurate worldview?

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Palliative Magick for a Dying Friend

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

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A woman I love is dying of cancer.

We lived together. Grew together. Dreamed together.

We shared almost a decade.

I broke her heart. She’s monogamous, I’m not. I didn’t know that when we started dating.

We haven’t spoken in over a year. A few emails, a birthday card, but no window into each others’ lives.

I’d imagined us reconnecting, years from now, after her pain faded. Imagined a deep friendship.

Today I gave up that dream.

My study turns to palliative care. Magick to reduce pain and nausea. Magick to ease sleep, or increase energy. One final gift for one of the loves of my life.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Creating Time for Magick (My Work Oct 25-31)

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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Every Friday, I discuss what I learned that week. Lost? Read the archives.

Priorities aren’t about what we do. They’re about what we cut.

This was my first week at my new job. Last weekend, I helped a dear friend teach a class. Zero days off.

I can’t just say, “Magick is important.” I have to say what I won’t do to make time for magick.

Evenings are about seeing people I love. I’ve seen someone important to me each evening this week, and I’m seeing several of them tonight. I’m not willing to cut that. But I get home at 6, and if I choose to work instead of relax, I can get an hour in before dinner. Like I’m doing tonight, to finish this post.

I can also do an hour on the bus. Half an hour in the morning, doing magick practice. Tonight, half an hour in the evening, doing the first draft of this post. I’d rather read, but if I don’t do this now, it won’t get done.

I’m also learning to track my food. If I don’t have a snack at 6, I don’t have the focus to work, but I have plenty of focus for games. Not good…

So, prioritizing magick is about cutting leisure time during my fully-awake hours. It’s not something I can add to my day at 10pm. It’s something I do instead of relaxing at 5pm. And if I’m honest, this is creating good habits for when I’m doing magick full time again.

Let’s talk magick studies. Here’s what I’ve done this week:


I’m getting decent results just dumping energy into my outer aura. But I’ll get better results if I target specific parts of the recipient’s ethereal body. (Inner aura and paths to mind, specifically.)

This week, I confirmed that hunch with a trainer, then practiced connecting to people on the bus. Didn’t do any effects, just learned to connect properly. The problem is, I can’t precisely feel where my aura is going, what it’s connecting to. I can do that with sensory connections, but not with my aura. The solution: Make normal connections, find the ethereal structures you want to target, then let my aura follow those normal connections like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Also, what’s special about aura that makes it so much better at transmitting energy than a normal connection? If I understand that, I could potentially make aura-like connections at distance, make them more precisely, or make connections that are even better than aura at delivering energy. The key seems to be connection density: Each bit of aura is made of tons of connections, all reinforcing each other.

(I’ve had some success extending connections like this, but haven’t yet done anything more than connect to people and verify that it feels right from my end.)


I also finished learning level 6 communication. Nothing unexpected here, just put in the practice to get reasonably proficient.

Fiction Recommendation

I’m reading during downtime at work. Through the author notes on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (which you should definitely read), I found a fiction about magick as a branch of physics, explored as a science. Thoroughly enjoying it.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Erotic Energy and Easy Communication (My Work October 6-17)

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

You found my old blog. Thanks for visiting! For my new writing, visit

Every Friday, I discuss what I learned that week. Lost? Read the archives.

Three developments in the past two weeks: Useful techniques for erotic energy, an easy improvement to my communication, and (sadly) a one-year relationship coming to an end.

Erotic Energy

Remember last month when I updated my energy meditation? That made it easy to build and move energy while I’m distracted. Well, it’s continuing to work well.

A few notes:

I can produce different types of energy by focusing on different things. Thinking about arousal vs love vs supporting someone all produce different energies that feel different to the receiver. If you want to try, just bring that emotion into your focus as you build your energy.

Previously, I’d sent energy by moving it to my aura. But if I just think about sending energy to my partner, I notice that my aura opens. It seems there are paths in my aura that are normally closed, which open when I think about sending energy.

(Why are they closed? Probably for my shielding. I’ll connect to some other mages this week and see if their aura paths are closed, too.)

Once my aura is open and I have energy inside my body, I can just touch the person. That’s all it takes to send energy. So, touching their head, chest, genitals, wherever, it becomes easy to send energy.

From looking at my own aura, it seems like there are three parts:

  • Where aura connects to my body. A few months ago, when I was exploring [L]how aura connects to nerves and my mind, I was exploring this layer of aura.
  • The part that opens and closes, to either shield me or let energy out. That’s what I’ve been working with for the past few weeks.
  • A part that goes out several feet. I’m not sure what to do with this part, though, or even certain it extends the way I think it does. I’ll be working with this coming up.

So, a bunch of new results with aura that will hopefully lead to new techniques soon.

Easy Communication

The next chapter of my book is about communicating with ethereal software. (Will be posted Monday.) To write it, I got training in beginner communication techniques. And as some of you have pointed out before, communication is easier if you build energy first.

(Feel free to crow in the comments.)

I’d doubted that in the past. It just seemed like more energy would mean more noise, making it harder to read the subtle changes in energy that happen as the person thinks the message. But it turns out, the right energy amplifies the signal.

What’s the right energy? A moderate amount, with a stable signature, matching the normal signature of your head. Anything else actually makes it harder to read the message.

Why does this help? I think that, without the energy, all the ethereal structures around the brain are a little hungry and absorb some of the signal. But with the energy, those structures are full, so the full signal is available to be read. Just a guess, though.

And holding energy doesn’t just help with beginner communication. I’ve been using it for all my communication, and everything is a little easier. Simplest improvement I’ve had in a while.

Relationship Ending

More of a personal note than a magick note, but sadly, a relationship ended recently. As sometimes happens in polyamory, two awesome people simply couldn’t find a relationship dynamic that worked for both of them. Nobody’s fault, and we’re still close friends, but there’s also been a lot of sadness on both sides. That’s why I skipped last week’s update, and why book progress has been slow.

But life goes on. A couple weeks later, I’m feeling much more together, back to learning magick, and back to writing.

New Job

And one more note: I have a one-year computer consulting job starting this week. It’s local (daily commute), interesting work I’ll be good at, and I’m pretty excited. I’m committed to keeping this blog going, though — expect me to continue posting random thoughts every Wednesday and a weekly update every Friday / weekend, and expect Monday chapter postings to happen at least once a month.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

For Evil to Triumph

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

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A friend told me of a profound energy healing she did. Years ago, she met a woman with chronic hand pain. My friend, Francesca, had a psychic inspiration to walk across the room, rake the woman’s hands, and channel healing energy. The woman recovered, and was amazed. Francesca is still a pagan priestess, but she rarely performs healing sessions.

I asked, “Haven’t you ever wanted to understand how that energy healing worked, so you can bottle it and get it to more people?”

Her: “I’d worry, if I learned to harness that power at will, about what else I might do. If I can heal, I can harm, after all.”

I thought a minute. I’ve wrestled with this, too. There are no police around magick, and indeed, it’s easy to turn healing techniques to harm. And yet, I feel a duty to develop magick and energy healing into a science we can harness.

I said, “The saying is, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.‘ The concern isn’t good men trying to do good and occasionally slipping up, making bad decisions, harming someone in anger. The concern is doing nothing. And knowing you, I know you would do a lot of good, a lot of the time.”

I’m sharing this because it’s my current thinking about harnessing this power. And because, if any of you are paralyzed by the same fear as Francesca, hopefully this will help you get moving. And also because this was my week of rest, as I typically do once a month.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

Serenity and Focus (My Work August 2-8)

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

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Every Friday, I discuss what I learned that week. Lost? Read the archives.

This week, I realized how important it is to have a serene social life.

A friend blew up at me last weekend. It was over me asking her to be quiet in a movie theater. Yes, I kid you not. Most likely, she was simmering on something else, and took any excuse she could find. There are more details, but this blog is about magick, so I’ll leave it at that.

For most of the week, I didn’t have the focus for much magick. I did some healing work on myself, the calming effect we’ve talked about. I did some manifesting. I wrote a little. But I didn’t really accomplish anything.

Working in an office, there’s a social structure to force you to work. It also has busywork for you to do when you can’t focus. My magick practice has neither.

Smaller versions of this have come up before. A lover who gets upset over small things, a friend constantly in trouble. In the past, I’ve only been unfocused for one day at a time, so I’ve ignored it. But those days add up. And I’m seeing the difference between a friend who needs some support, vs a friend who takes their stress and unhappiness out on you.

Four years ago, I chose a career path offering lots of free time, so I could focus on magick. Now I’m realizing, I also need to choose a serene social life, surrounding myself with calm people. It’s the only way I’ll accomplish what I want to with magick.

(Friday, I also learned more fundamental skills for the sensation technique. I’ll post about those next week.)

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Ritual as Social Glue

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

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When I see a magick ritual, I often think, “There’s no way that the laws of physics have a special case for human lips forming those words, or human hands moving in human-recognizable shapes. That’s just not how physics works. Whatever the underlying mechanism, there has to be a faster, more precise way to trigger it.”

Usually, I think that as I’m getting bored.

But at a recent no-particular-tradition pagan ritual, it occurred to me: This ritual isn’t about altering the external world. They mean something different by the word “magick,” something closer to, “Engaging psychological phenomena to build a community.” They want to optimize for that, not for efficient manifesting results.

Going a step further, some friends use “magick” to mean “Maslow-style peak experiences.” Others mean “Anything non-medical that makes me feel better, from placebo to herbs to energy.” I like my more precise meaning, but it’s worth remembering that not everyone means the same thing by “magick.”

When I’m at rituals, I find I get less frustrated by remembering that we’re solving for different problems. Then I can learn about building community, rather than focusing on how inefficient their magick is.

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