Friday, July 25, 2008

Opening the door of Stillness

One of the most frequent questions I am asked in reference to my work as a shaman is "what technique do you use to go into trance states?" I suspect that many people are somewhat disappointed when I tell them that, though I also use drums, dance/movement, voice and others, I generally rely on simply moving into a deeply meditative state I call Stillness. Just like the Stillness we use in Sheya, this provides me with a very effective doorway to move into whatever trance state I choose. 

Just this morning, in Temple, I went into stillness and then used that as a doorway to move into Lodge and speak with Grandfather. I've been experiencing a drought of clients recently and I was beginning to wonder if I had fallen out of favor with my ancestors or some other spirits. (I have also been working at moving into shamanic body without my hat. That's another whole entry on its own.) I entered the Tree and spiraled my way down into the Lower World and then sat with Grandfather for awhile trying to determine whether I might be in a bad place with anyone. 

In his zen way, GF assured me that I was okay, but that I needed to reconnect with my ancestors here in the Lower World. We went to where most of my Dad's people are hanging out - looks rather like a mix between Kentucky and County Clare - and left them some more offerings. Gave them my thanks. Got hugs from Mom and Dad. Then came on back.

All that began with being able to move deeply enough into Stillness to find and use the doorway at my center. This makes the rest of the journey possible. And the way to get to that doorway is by regular meditation practice. This doesn't mean listening to a tape with pretty music and a guided visualization to take you to your "happy place." It means sitting with your spine erect and allowing your thoughts to release, letting your attention settle into your center until everything else moves away and you can go deeper. 

This is not exactly an exciting process. In fact, the boredom is one of the layers of resistance that we have to move through in order to reach the goal. You need to be willing to sit through all the clamor of inner voices telling you that you have "better things to do than sit here wasting time." You need to be able to release your thoughts and the attachment to your thoughts until they gradually drop away. This takes time. Practice. Discipline. And no one can do it for you - except you.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One Center - everywhere

It would be easy to assume that a shaman is necessarily a dualist - that if you see more than one world, then you also see things in terms of black & white; good & bad. 

At least in my case, this is not true. At least on some days of the week, I am an animist, like many shamans. If you take animism to its natural conclusion, this becomes clear: All is One. If we honor the divine in trees and rocks and animals - even humans - then we are seeing the One in every reflection of that One. 

Perhaps the most important lesson Grandfather ever taught me is simply this: There is only One Center. It just happens to be everywhere. 

This is completely consistent with the idea of the holographic or fractal nature of the universe: That you can see the whole in any part, and that by altering one part, you change the whole. 

If we take this further we discover a doorway to infinity. The One Center is set into an infinite source of energy/Qi and leads to anywhere you want to go. Mind you, I've not figured out how to take my physical body with me on these journeys - yet. The One Center is the doorway between the inner and the outer; the upper and the lower; the One and the Other. It is that which both manifests and divides the One - through what we experience as consciousness. 

The shamanic perspective is at one fundamentally pragmatic and practical while still being intimately connected with the spiritual world of the ancestors and the numinous. What gives this perspective such power is the realization that these are two ends of the same perspective. They are not opposites but rather different views of the very same thing. 

The things is, this unity that we experience as a duality can seem quite complex at times. It can be confusing to the senses, the mind, even to the soul, which can yearn for the illusion and for the real at the same time - perhaps because they are truly one and the same. We can talk about escaping from samsara, but it is here - in the heart of what we know to be illusion - that the real is most immediately available in all it's variety and wondrous chaotic magnificence. 

As a shaman, I see many worlds, and yet, each of these worlds is a reflection of the One. This world I'm typing in is another reflection - or emanation - of the One. It is up to us to chose which reflection we experience. We do this by awakening - manifesting the gift of consciousness - to the realization that we can live in heaven or hell. We can be hungry ghosts or gods. The choice is ours. If only we know it. 


Monday, July 21, 2008

Re-entry from Sirius

Long time - no blog. 

I just got back from a week at Brushwood Folklore Center near Sherman, NY. I arrived late yesterday after driving pretty much non-stop except for gas, with my forearms hennaed with symbols of the work I've been exploring at more depth over the past week. I go there every year for the week before Starwood. Starwood is a really, really BIG neo-pagan festival and generally chaotic gathering put on by ACE of Cleveland, that has grown a bit TOO big for my personal taste. Sirius Rising is a smaller and more spiritually focused gathering that is sponsored by Brushwood and is smaller, quieter and more digestible. 

I spend most of my time there in Camp Sashu - an encampment of folks from various traditions who have been pitching our tents together at the north end of the main field for quite a few years now. We are anchored to the east by Karen's "Crone's Nest," the only permanent structure in camp. We have a series of old pavilions set next to one another creating communal space and surrounded by our personal tents. It's a very comfortable and welcoming space with good people and stable, safe energy. 

From time to time I emerge from this comfortable cocoon to wander the rows off merchants, get something to eat at Phill's Grill or the CafĂ©, take a shower and hang out in the hot tub solving the problems of the world. 

Somehow I managed to teach a workshop, lead a ritual, attend Elisheva's workshops and an Efa Misse (?) ritual, all without keeling over. 

The workshop on Post-Tribal Shamanism went well; good attendance and interesting people. There was a fellow shaman there - with quite a different background. His name is Jase and he comes from the North American Medicine traditions. He seems like a solid fellow, with some good teachings to pass on. I'm afraid I may have stepped on his toes a bit, asking too many questions, but it's rare that I get to interact with someone else who is doing this work in a sincere and effective manner. I didn't get to chat with him nearly as much as I would have liked.

The Post Tribal Healing ritual went well - as far as the participants were concerned. The healing work went well and was received, however I felt unhappy about the work, because I had been up late the night before at the Efa ritual and so my energy was low and somewhat sluggish. I think I was also remembering how powerful and effective the ritual I did there last year was and I was hoping for a movement forward from there. I suspect that I did make a step forward. It just didn't look like I expected or like I wanted it to. 

I won't say much about the Efa rite, because it's not my story to tell. I passed along some messages that were well received and also some that were less well received. It didn't wrap up until after 1:00 am, so I was a bit crispy for my own ritual the next morning. 

Eli's workshops went well and I got a couple intuitional breakthroughs that feel important to me. One was during the workshop on the secrets of the Menorah. Essentially it was a connection between Asherah/Ashrat who is symbolized as a pillar; the legend that the Asherah was present in Solomon's Temple; the description of the two pillars - one black, one white - which stand at the entrance of the Temple; and, the fact that the columns were "named" Boaz and Joakim, for which there is no other reference. A cover up for the presence of the Hebrew Goddess who later became the Black and White Madonna? The other insight came during the Neo-Tribal Ethics workshop, when I realized that the traditional elements of the communal ecology still exist in our post-tribal culture, they have simply become de-personalized and abstracted into "government" and "the bureaucracy". (Yes - obvious - I know.)

It was wonderful - as it is every year - to reconnect with various friends and acquaintances made over the years, and to make a few new connections with other fellow travelers. But the heart of it was - for the first time in many years - the fire. I used to be able to do tremendous work around the nightly fires at Brushwood, but for the last decade, the fires have been taken over by hordes who want to party and grope, with no interest in spiritual growth. This year was an exception. The drumming was much more focused. The energy was cleaner. And the whole setting was more supportive to doing work. I was actually able to trancedance around the fire for over 3 hours on Friday night. As I wandered back toward camp Sashu afterwards, I came upon a fire by the north pavilion which was clearly designed to be a more spiritual fire, but it had too much chanting and "performance" energy for me to really rest into it. Never-the-less I went to sleep happy that night, and I came home deeply satisfied and ready to hang out with my lovely and talented Beloved and her cats.