The difference between magic and magical thinking

Magic is a concept that gets thrown around sometimes, especially in new-age circles. Since one of my biggest priorities is to keep my work grounded, accessible, and relevant both for everyone — for those who don’t wear crystals and for those who do—- clarifying my use of the word “magic” feels important.

Magical thinking is very common in pop-culture memes and spiritual jargon lately. Certain catch phrases may encourage us to dissociate a little (or a lot) from the power of the present moment or from our lived experience. We might talk about “manifestation” without tracking how that mechanism has functioned in our lives every single day. Worse, we might use misguided notions of karma and “co-creation” to victim-blame ourselves or others, saying for instance, “you manifested that for a reason.” Oversimplified talk about choosing happiness is often a way to bypass discomfort and gloss over trauma or systemic dysfunction, as though perpetual joy is a simple decision everyone should make during yoga class. When we get lost in memes, we might forget that the broken-hearted person in front of us doesn’t need advice about how to “raise their vibration:” they need real compassion. Disguised as personal growth, magical thinking can take us out of our bodies, out of the intuitive knowing we feel in our gut, making us ignore red flags or justify bad behavior. It can be another way to numb out, keep ourselves from being vulnerable, or avoid the diligent practice of living well.

The kind of magic I’m interested in exists already, without my need to manifest it. All it requires of me is genuine attention. When I make an effort to be present, quiet, and soft-hearted, I’m more likely to have the awareness of magic. For me this happens in ceremony or ritual or time with friends in beautiful places. But there’s no other effort or manipulation required. I don’t need to make something magical or special, or make myself a more special person.The magic isn’t out there somewhere in the ethers. It’s right here, right now, in the sound of the rain, the taste of the coffee, the hug, the breath, the sensations of being alive in this moment. Magic is simply the awareness of our connection to the Divine.

The magic of the everyday can be experienced simply when we are truly present for it. Engaging the world with all five (or six!) senses, we can feel an embodied appreciation for this moment. You may have felt this appreciation or wonder for yourself, perhaps on vacation somewhere beautiful, watching beloved kids run around, experiencing great art or music, or participating in a special ceremony. You may remember how it feels to be transported while standing still. In these moments, our hearts fill with sweetness and we can’t help but smile and feel grateful.

We may benefit from healing work to clear the distractions and triggers that keep us out of our bodies. Dissociation and depression are often symptoms of trauma, and there may be other complicating factors like ancestral patterns or poor lifestyle habits, and all of these things can make it harder to access the peace and beauty that already exist. (Please reach out to me for a session if that rings true for you.) But this sort of healing can be like tending a garden rather than clear cutting a forest. We don’t have to radically un-do ourselves in order to feel some sense of loving magic. We can heal. We can remember. The wonder is available to us in every moment. Which is itself, magical.

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