The idea that the innocuous gestures of the everyday and the experience of life as a whole mutually influence each other can be found in various guises in different epochs and cultures. Practices repeated daily seem to be most effective in this regard: spiritualism through routine, you might say.
Such practices have caught the attention of Sarah Shin and Ben Vickers, who are active as independent curators, authors, and publishers. Together they run Ignota Books, which they describe as “an experiment in the techniques of awakening.” The independent imprint’s catalogue boasts an impressive range including, among other titles, a collection of occult poems of the twenty-first century, a treatise on the self, ecology, and intelligence written with the help of an AI, as well as Ursula K. Le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. Most recently, the Ignota Diary 2022 was published, which includes a – practical – calendar of magical and sacred dates from around the world. The Diary also features guides by a series of authors that introduce their readers to daily practices inspired by astrology, tarot, the production of plant-based medicines, and a lot more in between.
In the context of our theme focus on Crafts, we co-publish a revised excerpt from the introduction to the Ignota Diary 2022 in collaboration with Ignota. The contribution on V/A offers a first glimpse into the interweaving of spirituality and the practice of the everyday. Additionally, it functions as a prelude to a series of audio works by artists in the collaborative penumbra of Ignota, which we will be publishing over the coming weeks.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built.”
– Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
The establishment of a daily practice, a devotional rhythm in life through ritual and routine, can have transformative effects on your consciousness, health and general well-being. Setting aside a moment each day to practice gratitude, for example, offers the possibility of weaving a sense of meaningful relation into the fabric of the everyday.
The focus and nature of one’s personal path can create significant differences in the range and structure of a daily practice. It’s important to construct a series of rituals that make sense to you, complement one another and can be built on easily over time. As this process of self-realisation begins to unfold, guiding you inward, you may experience a shift in the way you perceive the world and its challenges.
This guide to creating your personal practice is intended as a starting point for self-enquiry and an invitation to experiment and do further study about various traditions and schools to deepen your relationships with the sacred in the world around you. Cultivating consciousness in this way means that every circumstance becomes an occasion for practice: off the mat, while doing the dishes, or dealing with a conflict.
“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”
– The Bhagavad Gita
Fundamentals of Basic Daily Practice
- Tracking progression: as transformation is incremental and subtle. A journal is helpful to reflect upon your gradual development.
- Consistency and discipline: a daily practice can seem difficult to maintain in contemporary life. The key is to start with a simple and small commitment in the spirit of devotion, rather than discipline. For example, rather than attempting to begin with an hour of meditation each day and failing, start by aiming to meditate for five minutes.
- Sadhana: the Sanskrit word Sadhana means “conscious spiritual practice.” Unlike a fitness routine, deepening your practice involves a dedication to learning and spiritual growth. The intention and actions you set out in the world should be about more than individual gain, and they should attend to the relationship that you bear to the collective.
There are many different traditions that can provide a starting point for a daily practice. The following two examples suggest how one can weave a practice into the fabric of everyday life. Knowing where to start can be challenging, but selecting two or three of these individual actions every day can provide a good foundation for further development.
Daily Yogic Practice
- Asana (20-30 minutes): adopt an asana (physical postures or movements) sequence from a chosen school of yoga to practice each day, preferably in the morning.
- Pranayama (5-10 minutes): cultivating breath control to access the subtler dimensions of prana (life-force) has many benefits, including pacifying the nervous system. Samavritti Pranayama is a good place to start, but consider what your own body and mind need and adjust accordingly.
- Morning Meditation (20 minutes): there are many methods and aids to meditation, such as focussing on a mantra or observing the breath. You may use mala beads to help you count mantras. There is no such thing as good or bad meditation: the most important thing is to start and to sit down each day.
- Sacred Ritual (5-10 minutes): ending your seated meditation by creating a space to set your intentions for the day ahead and to honour the sense of something greater than yourself is very powerful. Make a loving offering of flowers, food, water or light to honour the divine, or follow a practice of attunement to the qualities represented by the four cardinal directions.
- Blessing Food: Ayurveda teaches that how we eat is as important as what we eat. Take a moment before eating to give thanks and bless your food. You may hold your hands with the palms facing down above your food, bringing your awareness to the energetic connection between the meal and your breath.
- Evening Meditation (10-20 minutes): before rest, settle the mind with an evening session of meditation.
- Gratitude: cultivate gratitude, stillness, surrender and love – the path of devotional or Bhakti yoga – as the final act of your day. Practice a short heart-opening asana sequence, or chant a devotional mantra, or take a seat with your hands in Anjali Mudra (bring your hands to prayer position at the heart centre and lightly press your thumbs into the sternum) and allow gratitude to arise within you.
Daily Magical Practice
- Opening Magical Space: before and after meditation utilise the invocation and banishment rituals of the pentagram and hexagram as described by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
- Morning Meditation (20 minutes): meditation is the first practice one should undertake, because without concentration and stillness of thought, there is no magic.
- Daily Tarot: following meditation, with eyes half-closed, draw a single card from the deck to guide your day.
- Offerings: at your altar, light a candle and make a simple offering with a cup of water to the deities or spirits from which you seek guidance and power.
- Book of Shadows: before breakfast, make time for reflection in your journal.
- Contemplation: during the day, take a moment to pause in silence and observe the natural environment around you, whether appreciating the sun or walking in a park or forest.
- Study (1 hour): serious dedication to practice requires regular study of a range of subjects.
- Prayer: at the end of each day, return to your altar and dedicate your energy to those deities you are committed to serve.