Mana is a witch’s energy. In fantasy, if a witch tries to cast a spell without mana, nothing happens except the sound of a sad trombone. The same is true in our world if you — as a powerful, creative being— try to accomplish anything larger than yourself without first refueling your artistic energy.
This artistic energy is your “mana.” You restore your mana by sitting quietly and watching your breath. It’s a lot like meditation, except it’s more fun because it’s called “charging your mana.”
Charging your mana reclaims energy from thoughts you don’t need. Every thought is a bit of stray energy, shaking its ta-tas and dancing in circles, like, “Look at me, look at me — I’m something stupid you said in 8th grade, pay attention!”
By watching these thoughts as they pass, we release them and absorb their energy.
You don’t need a lot of time to charge your mana.
I don’t have kids, but for reasons that continue to perplex me, some of my best friends do. These people have told me that self-help advice that starts with “Find a quiet place to sit for 30 minutes,” drives them crazy because if they had a quiet place to sit for 30 minutes, they wouldn’t be desperate for help in the first place.
I hear you. So take seven minutes to charge your mana instead. Seven is a fun number, and seven minutes is enough. For seven minutes every day, find a quiet spot to sit alone.
If you’re childless like me and have the luxury of a cushion and a closed door, great! Go to that room.
If not, just take extra time on the toilet. Seven minutes with your eyes closed on the porcelain throne work just as well as those on a silky pillow.
(If your kid follows you to the toilet, you have two choices: tie him up outside like he’s your horse, or close your eyes and accept that he’s one more distraction you’ll overcome. Either way, it’s only for seven minutes.)
Here’s how to refuel your mana every day.
Wherever you’re sitting, close your eyes and breathe in.
Watch for the point right before your in-breath turns into an out-breath. At the end of your in-breath, say to yourself, “One.”
Now breathe out. When you get to the very bottom of the out-breath, say to yourself, “Two.” Breathe in — “Three.” Breathe out — “Four.” Then, start over at one.
Do this for seven minutes. Notice how often your mind pulls your attention from the breath to thoughts or external distractions. The cool thing about refueling your mana is that it’s basically practicing failure — you lose track of the breath and come back to the breath.
The magic is the moment you realize you’ve lost the breath, you’re already back. No need to shit-talk yourself or recall a video montage of all the other times you sucked at stuff people who were dumber than you could do. Just watch those thoughts dance while you focus on the breath.
Stagnated emotions sustain themselves on artistic energy.
While you’re breathing, you might notice strong emotions show up. Sometimes these are relevant to your current life situation, but for me, these are often old emotions that have grown stronger and taken on a life of their own.
These types of emotions need to be released because they’re a constant drain on your mana. They have no energy of their own, so they must draw from your daily well of creative energy.
Stay alert for sudden feelings of anxiety or sadness that don’t have a clear explanation. Underneath, there may be a stagnated emotion that has been disturbed and needs to be released.
Stay a SAIN witch.
I use the acronym SAIN to help release old emotions. You can use this technique whether an emotion comes up during your daily sit or as you’re trying to go about your day.
S — Slow down what you’re doing. Focus on your breath. In — “One.” Out — “Two.” We push away painful emotions by default because that’s what we learned to do when we were kids. Slowing down and focusing on your breath gives you a chance not to do that.
A — Allow the uncomfortable emotion to be. Notice how this feeling sucks but isn’t killing you even though subconsciously you were sure it would? Just watch the emotion. Give it permission to be there. You can literally welcome it if you feel like it — it’s good that this emotion has shown up, not bad. Suppressed emotions are bad for our health and our magic.
I — Investigate the emotion. What does it feel like? Is it most like sadness? Anger? Or fear? Those are the primary colors of “negative” emotions. Where is the feeling? If it had a color, what color would it be? Pretend you’re describing the sensation to an alien or a chatty psychopath who’s never had a feeling.
N — Nonidentify. See how you aren’t the emotion? If you were, you wouldn’t be able to stand outside of it watching. You aren’t any emotion or thought you’ve ever had. I love that.
In the end, return to the breath. Thank the emotion for coming up to be released. You might feel better or you might not. Old wounds can be like tattoos in that sometimes it takes many sessions to fully remove them.
This is a maintenance exercise. Do it multiple times a day as needed. If you find it useful, the podcast The Healing Feeling Shitshow by therapist Rachel Kaplan has more great tips like this on how to go about releasing old pain.