Friday, August 1, 2008

Trusting the Spirits - a short note

I just have a moment on my way to getting ready to pouring a lodge this weekend. The process has given me an excellent opportunity to reflect. We have received mixed messages from the spirits about whether or not to proceed. After considerable meditation and divining, I am choosing to go forward with the sweat. 

Eventually - even with the best of advice coming from worthy sources - we need to make our own minds up. It is one thing to ask the spirits for their input; to get a different perspective on how things are - it is another to abdicate our personal choices to the influence of the spirit world. There is a delicate balance between a good relationship with our spirit allies and putting them in the driver's seat. Sometimes the spirits will even test us by trying to take over the running of our life in order for us to realize that we are the ones responsible. 

This can be a difficult test. Do you honor the wisdom of the spirits by making a choice that reflects their input? Do you honor the spirits by acknowledging their input and making a choice of your own? Perhaps the most important thing is to remember that you are responsible for the choice made - whatever the advice you follow. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good Teachers, Ego and

I want to write something about how difficult it has been for me to find a really good teacher in this lifetime; how my own ego got in my way and made it hard to accept anything less than amazing master teachers; and, how I have managed to find a few of those - in spite of myself. But it's hot, humid and my brain cells are moving at a perfectly appropriate speed for this set and setting - just this side of completely stopped. So - I will give it a shot. 

As I've already stated, I have found it almost impossible to locate a "good teacher." Most of this was due to the fact that, my childhood being what it was, I hadn't a very high regard for authority or those who felt they had a right to wield it. That cut out quite a few teachers from the start. Then there are my admittedly high-ish quality standards for both form and content of anything I would be willing to take the trouble to learn. I felt I needed to have a true master from which to learn, so - even when I took a class from someone - I didn't really accept them as my Teacher. That would have been admitting that they knew more than I did. And as insecure as I was, that was the last thing I could have done. My loss.

In spite of all that I managed to run into Elisheva; an amazing woman who was at the time - some 20 plus years ago - everything I always wanted to be when - if - I grew up. Or at least that's how it appeared to me. Because of this, she managed to hold my attention long enough to get some core lessons across to me - all without me even noticing. I'm still not sure how she managed some of it. All I know is that I think I was looking the other direction when it happened. She remains my best friend and mentor to this day. 

About 17 years ago I heard about a weekend of Tai Chi workshops being held over in Northern Kentucky and decided to go down and check it out. I had been teaching Yang style Tai Chi in a haphazard way for some 5 years and thought I pretty well had the whole thing figured out. With a strong grounding in Chinese Medicine and QiGong, I knew more than the average Tai Chi instructor.    . . . Master Ting was NOT your average Tai Chi
instructor. After that first workshop I stopped teaching Tai Chi, because I realized that I knew nothing about Tai Chi. Master TIng was like the blind monk who taught Kwai Chang Kane in that old TV series Kung Fu - except that he wasn't blind and he has never taught me how to use throwing stars. At least not yet. Master Ting is amazing. He truly is a Master - both as a martial artist and a teacher - so of course it took me more than a few years to get around to working with him again. Now - at long last I am taking workshops from him a few times a year. Even bringing him to Cincinnati to teach once a year. (You should really ask me about that if you have any interest in excellent martial arts.) 

Finally, there is Heinz Stark. Back in 2001 I was teaching a series of Shamanic workshops in Cornwall as part of a tour I was leading there. (see my book Dance of Stones: A Shamanic Road Trip) My friend Lisa (Soli in DOS) had just been introduced to Constellation Work in Germany and was overflowing with enthusiasm for this new technique. I asked her to show us how it worked and we wound up spending every evening doing constellations instead of what I had planned. I was blown away by the power and possibilities of the work - as was Patricia who was along on that trip as well.

Lisa gave Patricia and I a present of some Constellation Work with some German facilitators on our next visit to Berlin, and we became even more enthralled. We had to find a way to study it - but couldn't see spending a couple years in Germany (though I was beginning to consider it). Fortunately, another friend and one of my shamanic apprentices at the time found that there was an in-depth training being offered up in Racine, WI. We checked into it and it was clearly too expensive and too time consuming for us to do do - so I went anyway. After the first weeklong seminar, Patricia joined - and we have been facilitating together ever since. But that beginning was not easy. I had to look at Heinz, with all his very human foibles, and accept that he had something very valuable to teach me. That was the first time I knowingly accepted someone as my teacher. And I've never regretted it. 

Now I am hoping to find yet another teacher - and hope to be open to whatever adventure they have in store for me - kicking and screaming all the way. 


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neo-Tribal Ethics

Many of us who follow paths of alternative spirituality today are dealing with the need to address the question of what the structure of our communities will be. We no longer live in a tribal setting. What used to be roles within the community that were held be real people who we knew and trusted are now performed by extra-communal, non-human entities like "Government," "Law," and "the Bureaucracy."   

While we are more individualistic, we still have a strong pull toward a "tribal" sense of community. And there has been a movement of spiritual groups to develop a "neo-tribal" structure to their communities. 

At a recent event, Elisheva - Shofet of the Amcha and my long time friend and mentor - offered a workshop on Neo-Tribal ethics. I feel that her input is of great value to the Post-Tribal Shamanic and Sheya communities - as well as anyone else on a similar path. So I will share some of my notes with you. 

This is a list of the values held by the Amcha - which is helpful for any neo-tribal group to consider. 
• Self reliance - Think for yourself, but maintain good connection with the group; adult competence.
• Cooperation - Helping each other.
• Courage - Think and act with integrity - but open to new ideas. Be willing to speak your truth - even when it is unpopular.
• Respect and encourage the moral courage of others 
• Generosity - Give with an open heart. Be generous of mind.
• Honor - Keep your word/commitments, but be open to renegotiating contracts when things change.
• Hospitality - Honor your guests and treat them with respect, but don't invite people who you do not respect.
• Family - Treat your blood family and family of choice with respect. You don't have to like them, but you do have to honor them.
• Frankness - Speak your mind. Say what you mean - mean what you say.
• Friendship - Know how close you are to others and act accordingly. Be aware of the degrees of obligation between acquaintance and friend.
• Moderation - Live with good sense - in balance.
• Simplicity - Use resources only as needed.
• Steadfastness - Honor your commitments.

When considering how these values apply to Sheya, I find that we need to more clearly state and acknowledge our norms - especially to those newly entering the community.