Lesson 2) Improving Your Concentration
*The students enter the classroom and find the lights slightly dimmed. In place of the typical desks are cushions. Professor Penrose is sitting on a cushion at the front of the classroom and indicates that students should find a cushion*
I hope you all enjoyed the introduction to dueling you got in the previous lesson. As I stated, there will not be many practice sessions in-class; however, there will be frequent extra credit opportunities to find a partner and complete a roleplay where the spell(s) learned are practiced.
Today we will be working on some basic concepts that can be used to clear your mind and to allow you to strengthen your concentration in order to become a more effective dueler. If you can empty your mind of unnecessary clutter during a duel, you will be less likely to become distracted, which can save your life.
In order to accomplish this, we will be applying the art of meditation to our course. Specifically, we will be using the Buddhist variation, though there are many different types of meditation and I encourage you to do some research and determine a style that works for you. This is simply a method that I have found effective.
Now, I want you to take a seat on one of the cushions. Make sure that you are comfortable, because you will be sitting here for most of the class. Cross your legs, one over the other (as some of you may know it, “criss cross applesauce”) to give your body stability (see image to the right).
The second step is to sit with your back straight. You do not want to keep it so straight that it becomes painful, but you do not want to be slouching, either. This posture will allow the energy to flow through your body more easily. If you want to push out negativity, it needs to have a clear path that it can follow that is not contorted.
Next, take your right hand and place it in your left hand. make sure that the thumbs come together and are touching and that the hands are comfortably settled just slightly below your belly button. In Buddhism, hands coming together symbolizes unity and encourages positivity in the body.
Your jaw should be resting the way it usually does and your tongue should be gently placed against the back of your upper teeth. Your head should be tilted down slightly, to help prevent you from looking around and letting your mind wander. This focus will also be helped by keeping your eyes half-closed. You do not want to leave them completely open, which can allow easier distraction, but you also do not want to completely close them or you risk falling asleep or the mind becoming groggy, which is counter-productive to the goals of meditation.
Finally, your shoulders should be resting slightly above the “slumped” level and your elbows should be held just a little away from the body.
Once you are comfortable in this position, begin to focus on your breathing. Make sure that you maintain regular breaths as you breathe in and out. The body’s natural response is to breathe rapid, shallower breaths; try to control that and breath a little deeper, down to your stomach. Become aware of how your body feels as you inhale and exhale. When you exhale, imagine that all stray thoughts are being pushed out of and away from your body. If you happen to have a stray thought while meditating, acknowledge the thought and let it slide out of your body in an exhale.
Try to keep your mind as empty as possible for as long as possible. Do not get discouraged if, early on, you find that you cannot succeed for more than 15 or so seconds. This type of mental awareness and mental clearing takes a lot of practice. I want each of you to work on this meditation each night. Before you go to bed, assume the meditative posture - either the one I have taught you or one that you find on your own - and meditate. I will not give a specific duration, since I cannot tell you how long you will need. Simply work on extending the time your mind can remain empty. Keep up this practice - it may seem tedious or pointless, but it will help immensely in future years when we start discussing spells that require the full attention of your mind.
I will also mention that processes like this are part of the alchemical process known as the Great Work; for more information, I suggest you take Alchemy with Professor Rosenquist.
The Disarming Charm
Now that we have our minds well prepared, I believe it is time to get rid of these cushions and get back to some spellwork. Today I will only be teaching you a single spell, but it is one of the most useful spells I will teach you. The use of this spell is commonly the way to end formal duels - if you opponent is disarmed, then they have no method of attacking and, therefore, are defeated. The Disarming Charm is a well-known favorite spell of Harry Potter; it became the spell he was most known for using and in at least one incident, it was the spell that identified him among a group of imposters and allowed Voldemort to target him.
Now, for your basic components of spellcasting. The wand movement is a spiral that goes clockwise and ends with an outward swish up and to the left. While performing this wand movement, you say the incantation “Expelliarmus” (ex-PELL-ee-ARE-muss).
The concentration required for this spell is simply to focus on the target (the person you are aiming at) and the effect (removing their wand from their hand). The Disarming spell is a Static spell, so once you have seen the spell take effect, you can immediately begin to prepare your mind to cast your next spell.
The willpower that is required is dependent on yourself and the target. The more willpower you put into this spell, the stronger it will become. Less willpower will cause a soft white jet of light to eject from the wand towards your target; higher amounts of willpower will generate a bright red jet of light. Your goal, normally, is to find a middle ground for this spell that generates a jet of ruby red light that is not too bright, but not too weak, either. This will usually be enough that you can overcome the will of your target and force them to be relieved of their wand.
It is important to note that this spell is more difficult to cast on a person who is expecting it, or is at least aware that an attack is coming. This is because they are mentally prepared and can attempt to resist the effects of the spell. If they are mentally ready, it will take more willpower to overcome their will and, in this case, force them to release their wand.
Continuing our tradition, I will continue to provide you with the spell blocks for each spell that we learn this year. Below you will find the block for the Disarming Charm.
Spell: The Disarming Charm
Incantation: Expelliarmus (ex-PELL-ee-ARE-muss)
Wand Movement: A clockwise swirl ending with an outward swish up and to the left
Concentration: Moderate. Must focus on making the target release their wand.
Which brings us to the end of your second lesson. Your quiz will be associated with today’s material and your extra credit essay will ask you to describe your attempt at meditation. You will need to explain how your first time outside of the class goes. How long do you manage to keep your mind clear?
Until next time.
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