Lesson Three

Relaxation of One's Mind

While it may not sound like it, information in this lesson will be one of the hardest to master. There are many relaxation techniques and not all will work for you. Different individuals have different methods of relaxation and there is only so much that I can introduce or teach you in a span of one lesson. Therefore, I will present here the most common relaxation techniques and after that it is up to you to find one that is working for you. It may even be one that is not presented in this lesson.

So, as you may have gathered, this is the practical lesson. There is not much to Occlumency, unfortunately, no spell that I can teach you, no specific set of steps that you can master. Depending on Occlumens' knowledge of this magic branch, practical part is split into two; first part is emptying your mind, and the second is visualization and changing of memories. The latter is only practiced by the advanced students.

Before we get to the practical portion of this lesson, I would like to emphasize that what we will learn today is not only useful for Occlumency. To put it very generally, using relaxation techniques reduces levels of stress, pain, anxiety or anger and therefore helps to increase a person's health. The techniques can be used for addiction and anger management, nightmares, insomnia, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, high blood pressure and general well-being to name a few.

As I mentioned before, there are many techniques, some performed alone, and some with the help of another person. There are two main types; formal and passive relaxation exercises, which are usually performed while sitting or lying quietly with minimal to no movement and movement-based relaxation techniques, which incorporate exercise and some forms of bodywork.

Now that we got the less enthusiastic part down, let us go to some practical work! First, we have to empty our minds.

The goal of Occlumency is to achieve a state called yoga nidra, or yogic sleep. This is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, where the mind is completely empty and body relaxed. Occlumens is in a state of light pratyahara, or withdrawal of senses, where all of senses, except hearing are withdrawn. The hearing is needed in order to still connect to the outside world and to see whether we are still under attack by a Legilimens. Yoga nidra is one of the deepest possible states of relaxation one can achieve while still maintaining full consciousness, which is exactly what we need.

We will start with two most basic passive exercises. With the first one, you simply close your eyes and start breathing slowly and deeply. Concentrate on one word, like 'magic', and start to repeat that word slowly to yourself. For the purpose of being sneaky and not wanting to alert a Legilimens that you are trying to fight their intrusion, I would advise you do not repeat the word audibly, but only to yourself. If your mind wanders off, do not worry, just simply come back to it. If you are not a particularly wordy person, you can substitute repeating a word with imagining a sensation. Close your eyes and imagine that a weight is going through your body. As it goes through it, it takes away all the anxiety, feelings and emotions, completely emptying your body. You can slowly imagine it passing through various parts of your body, starting at the top of your head, pushing down to your eyes, your chin, you neck, then going to your arms, torso, hips, legs all the way to the toes. The feeling might be similar to a Disillusionment spell, where you have the sensation of an egg breaking on your head and flowing down your body.

While we will not practice them here, we all pretty much did movement-based relaxation exercises at least once in our lives. Included in this group are walking, gardening, yoga, T'ai chi, Qigong for solo exercises and massage, acupuncture, myotherapy and reflexology for the exercises that require the help of another person. Because we cannot use movement-based exercise during an actual Legilimens attack, we will not go in detail about them during the lesson, but I thought we should at least mention them, so you know other relaxation options exist.

Now that we covered the part where we empty our minds through relaxation exercises, we will touch upon the more advanced part of Occlumency; visualization and changing of memories to make it extra hard for a Legilimens to get to information he or she wants.

The visualization is different for everyone and depends largely on what you enjoy doing or something that has meaning to you. If you are a writer, you might imagine a big book, with thousands and thousands of pages, where true information is hidden among meaningless passages. A Quidditch player can imagine themselves on a broomstick, flying away from the Legilimens. However, if you do not have a hobby, passion or interest in something that could help you with fighting Legilimency, a simple mental barrier might be enough for a beginning. Here, the only limit is your imagination. Most common are stone or brick walls, moats of water, poison or lava, a wall of fire or lightning. Best bet would be to devise a maze or, alternatively, to use a mind palace.

Now, some of you must have heard of the latter, especially if you ever watched Sherlock, Hannibal or even Criminal Minds, very popular Muggle TV shows. Now, mind palace, also known under the name method of loci, is generally used for memory enhancement, but since Occlumency primarily deals with memories and information associated with them, it is useful here as well.

How to use this technique? First, visualize a complex place, one you are quite comfortable with. That can be someone's childhood home, a store, a library, it can even be a road with multiple addresses. It is important that you use places you can easily visualize, where you spend a lot of time, so you have a really rich representation of the place. If you use a house, link every room with a memory you want to keep secret and lock it tightly. Then, to make a Legilimens extra confused, you can use other rooms for meaningless memories, or even made up ones. Advanced users can also put jinxes and curses on the doors to important memories, or even give an extra layer of protection around the house in the form of mental barriers we mentioned above. Do remember that even if you put a Stinging Hex on the doors of your mind palace, this will not have an effect on the Legilimens in the physical world, unless you subconsciously used it while under duress.

That is pretty much it for this lesson. I gave you a lot of options on methods of clearing and relaxing your mind and extra protection of your memories through visualization. It is your job now to find something that works for you and practice extra hard if you want to master Occlumency.