This is always a difficult one to explain, especially over the internet, but being able to use and manipulate energy is an absolute cornerstone of powering a spell. Energy has to come from somewhere. When you light a campfire, a spark is added to wood, the wood is consumed and in return you get light, heat, energy and ashes (the remains). Spell work is a lot like that. You need to be able to apply that spark, and also to direct the resultant energy toward your goal. To do that, you need to be able to manipulate energy. That is the basis of Witchcraft and working magic.
The fire analogy is also a good one, because it can also give a sort of feedback that you are beginning to succeed. A candle flame has its own energy, but if you feed energy into it, or draw back from it, then you can often see the flame respond to you. The flame may rise super high, or it may dance or lean as you play with it. Most people practice gathering the energy in their hands and pushing it outwards, but others prefer a more ‘mental’ push.
The question is ‘How do you learn to generate, feel and direct that energy?’
Feeling and Directing Energy
Many people start with meditation and visualization.
Another good place to begin working with energy is with the everyday items that you come in contact with. Try to sense how different items, locations, or people feel to you. I am not saying to be invasive in other people’s physical or psychic space, just a quick, energetic, ‘Hey, What’s up?’ nudge. Does that heirloom item that you own have a certain ‘feeling’? Do you ever just feel ‘dirty’ even though you know you took a shower? Ever gone to a craft fair or thrift shop and were about to approach something that peaked your interest, but then went, ‘Uhh, Nope.’ These are the instincts and feelings that we are trying to encourage. Using them in these seemingly mundane circumstances allows you to get a better feel for your environment and the way different energies may feel for you.
Early on in our training my husband and I would work on feeling the energy the other was producing. We could do the exercises, but he is definitely more projective and I am more receptive, which makes a lot of sense. One exercise we did a lot was to pool energy in our hands for the other person to push against, or to feel.
If you are just starting out and are alone, you can do this on your own. I find it is easier if I close my eyes. Take a deep breath and pull your energy up your body and down your arms into your hand. Let it start to pool in your hands, and then gently manipulating your hands, pushing them gently toward each other, sense the resistance between them. Roll the energy gently until you form a ball of energy between your palms. What does it feel like? How big can you make it? How dense? Can you pull that back into your core? Can you repeat the exercise?
*I suggest that you have a snack and drink nearby, especially if you are not adept at grounding yet. This will help you to restore your energy and your blood sugar after energy manipulation. This is also part of the reason Cakes and Ale are part of formal ritual.
Once you start getting an idea of how energy feels for you. The next step is centering and grounding – feeling and balancing your own energy. Many practitioners practice centering and grounding together, but they are two practices that can be done independently.
Centering is balancing your own energy within your body. I see it as inhaling and drawing your energy up from your fingers and toes and down from your head toward your core, or wherever your magic naturally pools. Let it mix/swirl together, and then exhale and let the energy flow back down to your extremities. Repeat the process a few times, through a few slow, deep breaths, so that each part of your body is not too energized or too weak.
Grounding is a way to draw in external energy to mix with yours, and then let off any excess, or balance any deficiencies in your energy pool. The most common way I see this described is to make like a tree. Center your energy to wherever it feels most comfortable to you, and then let it flow down your body to your feet (or your butt), or whatever feels best, or works with whatever position you are, and feel it unfurling slowly like roots spreading out through the earth, like little tendrils digging in, reaching out. Then, slowly draw in the energy around you, where you are connected to the earth, and draw it back into your body, from your roots to your center. Let the energy of the earth mix with your own core, exchanging, balancing, filling in any gaps where you might not have enough, and siphoning of what no longer serves you. Send the excess back down your roots and down into the earth. Relax into this.
You can do this cycle once, or just let it flow back and forth between you and the earth until you are done. Let the last of the excess return to the earth, and draw back your roots, back into your body, separating yourself from your ‘tree’ self to your present self.
Another common addition to this type of grounding is expanding the canopy of the tree as well. The branches and leaves will reach up and expand into the sky, or the universe, and will add another source of energy to blend and mix with your own. Sky above, earth below, you between. The rest of the process is the same as the grounding, except you are receiving and sending energy from additional outlets.
Once you start to get a feel for the world around you, the next step is to ‘see’ it. Visualization is partly a misnomer. If you can make and ‘see’ pictures/images in your head, then that is visualization. Not everyone can do this. Some can develop the skill, but others have to develop an alternative way to ‘see’ the energy, such as describing it in minute detail using their words.
A common exercise is to take a common object that you are familiar with, such as a piece of fruit and begin to “see” it in your mind. How accurate can you get? Do you have a rough picture? Does it have texture? a smell? How many senses can you engage to make the image in your mind’s eye as real as possible? Try oranges, apples, bananas? whatever your favorite is.
The next step is things with movement/action. Our teacher used a lighter. He set it out in front of us for us to examine. Then, he demonstrated the lighter working. He then asked us to ‘picture’ that lighter in our minds. Could we still see it? How real was it? Could we light it?
Advanced Energy Manipulation
Now, you can start to understand the techniques that begin to form more advanced techniques, such as circle casting. Can you feel and direct your energy? Can you hold it to a specific shape? Is it an actual boundary, or as thin as a soap bubble that will give at the barest pressure? Can you hold it while thinking about and doing other things? Can you let it go when you are done with it? Most importantly, can you accomplish these things without feeling like you have been run over by a truck?
Reiki and Energy Healing
Reiki is one form of energy healing in which someone who has gone through a reiki attunement uses gentle hand movements and directed energy to reduce stress and promote healing in themselves or another person (or animal). You are aware of your energy, and you send it out (to another person, or the area you wish to heal) directing it to (with their permission) work with their energy to accomplish the best result. This is one of many forms of advanced energy manipulation that you can accomplish once you can sense and manipulate energy.