Excerpted from "The Twelve Wild Swans" by Starhawk and Hilary Valentine, with permission from HarperSanFrancisco.

When we begin our magical training, we are often exhilarated to discover that the range of human consciousness is far broader than our culture has led us to believe. As our skills advance, we must first learn to recognize the psychic/emotional states we tend to fall into, and then learn how to make choices about them.

Anchoring is one of the key "magic tricks" we use for moving in and out of particular states at will. We first use a meditation or physical exercise to evoke a particular state of consciousness, and then create a visual image, a word or phrase we can say, and a gesture or place on our body we can touch, to associate with that state. Anchoring is a concept used in hypnosis, but it is a far older technique. In fact, it is key to the effectiveness of much ritual, particularly of those parts of ritual that are repeated. If we always use the same words to end a ritual, they become an anchor to the shift in consciousness we make when we leave sacred space and return to ordinary space and time. If we use the same grounding meditation again and again, in time just a breath and a memory of the image will ground us.

Bringing in three different sensory modes means we are speaking three different dialects that Younger Self understands. Some of us respond more powerfully to visual images; others are more kinesthetic or more auditory in the way we take in the world. When we lead an anchoring exercise for a group, we incorporate all three modes so that everyone, regardless of their sensory orientation, will find the exercise effective. Often an anchor works most powerfully through a sense that is not our primary mode of experiencing the world. A highly verbal person may find that touch shifts consciousness better than words; a visual person may find that a magic word or rhyme works best.

A strong anchor and a deep sense of our core worth can help us stay grounded and centered regardless of how others perceive us.

The other key concept in this practice is the idea of our core worth. In the Goddess tradition, each one of us is valued simply for being who we are. Core value is not something we have to acquire, achieve, or prove. It cannot be ranked, and no one has more of it than anyone else. We may make mistakes or commit wrong acts, but we still are creatures of worth, part of a larger whole. This recognition of the inherent value of every being is the foundation of our nonhierarchical tradition. We try to teach, work, and plan in ways that honor the core worth of every person involved.

When we are in touch with our core worth, we are firmly grounded in our own inherent value as human beings who are part of the living Goddess. We are in "neutral"--relaxed, at ease, comfortably ourselves, not trying to impress anybody or project any image of who we are.

In our larger society, we often expect leaders, teachers, or celebrities to come from a place of self-inflation, to project a strong image that may or may not reflect a core reality. Our politicians spend millions of dollars on image creation: our entire advertising industry is based on "selling the sizzle, not the steak."

Think of inflation as "false glory," the consolation prize we are offered in systems of domination when our true worth has been taken from us. The flip side of inflation is deflation and self-hate.

The more we grow in personal power, the more strongly our state of being impacts those around us. Just as the queen's ill wish affected her universe, our own energetic state sets a tone that creates a resonance in each person we encounter. If we are inflated, other people respond unconsciously by puffing up, contracting down, or simply resisting our control. If we are deflated, others may shield themselves to protect their energies from being drained, or respond with boredom or with irritation. And so, in teaching, leading, and priestessing, we try to avoid inflation or deflation and remain connected to our core worth.

Whenever we step out on the Outer Path, whether as a writer of books or a teacher of small classes in our living rooms, we open ourselves to the force of others' projections. A strong anchor and a deep sense of our core worth can help us stay grounded and centered regardless of how others perceive us.

In this exercise, we will create an anchor to our core worth. .

In sacred space, sit, stand, or lie in a relaxed position. Breathe deep, and let yourself think of the times and places in which you feel most relaxed, most yourself, when you are in touch with your inner power but don't need to use it, when you can truly let your hair down and just be who you are. Pick one situation, one place, and slowly let it fill your awareness. How does the air feel on your skin here? What do you smell and taste? What do you hear? What do you see around you? How do you feel in your body? How are you holding your body, and where is your breath coming from? Make this situation, this state or being, as real as you can.

Is there a place in your body you can identify as holding this state--or a posture you can take, or a gesture you can make? Touch that place and breathe into it.

Pick one image, one thing you can visualize from this place. Hold it in your mind's eye as you touch that special place on your body.

Find a word or phrase you can say that reminds you of this state. Say the word, touch the place on your body, and hold your image in your mind.

When you do all these three things together, you have created your anchor. You can use your anchor anytime to bring you into this core state of being. Breathe into your anchor; tell yourself that the more you use it, the stronger it will become.
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