Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The miraculous Quality of the Mundane (II)

One of the gifts of being a new father is the constant reminder to really be mindful of what a miracle this life is. It's easy to see that when I look at my beautiful little daughter, but this is a reminder fro me to realize that miracle in everything else I see as well. This miracle is not just in what is beautiful, or beloved or even alive. It is in all the bits and pieces in between as well. It is in the concrete sidewalk, the plastic cup, the rusty hinge on my garden gate and even in the plastic keys that I am typing on. The miracle is existence. It is easy to take this miracle for granted, but stop for a moment – right now – and open yourself to the realization that all of it is miraculous.

Let that soak in a bit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Post-Tribal – not Anti-Tribal

I've had a few people respond to the concept of "post-tribal" as if it was a reaction against "tribal." This could not be further from the truth. While I have great respect for the various tribal traditions, "post-Tribal Shamanism" simply recognizes that, for those of us not raised in a tribal setting (with tribal values, spirituality and internal ecology) it is inappropriate for us to use some of the shamanic techniques that most clearly pertain to tribal culture. The most obvious case of this appears in the relationship between the shaman and his/her patient. In a tribal setting, it is often appropriate for the shaman to act in the absence of the patient, or even without the patient's knowledge, for the good of the tribe. In our modern culture, this action would disempower the patient, causing the power to be projected onto the shaman. This is something we should try to avoid, as this sense of personal power and responsibility is considered essential for people in our culture.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

not generic shamanism

One of the responses I've encountered to Michael Harner's "Core Shamanism" is that it is "generic". I understand the charge. Harner essentially plucks shamanic practices out of the context of the indigenous culture and drops them into our Post-Tribal Culture without much – if any – context. His idea seems to be that when many cultures all do the same thing, that this thing is "core" to shamanic practice and can thus be done by others not of that culture as well. In a sense, it's like he's offering a non-branded version of shamanism.

I wish to differentiate this approach to shamanism from Post-Tribal Shamanism. While "Core Shamanism" extracts practices from their tribal contexts, it is still derived from that matrix. The practice of Post-Tribal Shamanism is often inspired by the practices of indigenous shamans, but is embedded in the matrix of our Post-Tribal culture. It is a non-tribal "brand", but it's still a "brand".

One of the challenges of Post-Tribal shamanic practice is that the context in which we operate is so different from the other "brands" of shamanism. One simple example of this is the fact that we, in this Post-Tribal culture are not brought up with an understanding and awareness of our ancestors or the fact that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Our parents may have something to say about this, but the culture itself does not respect or honor the ancestors. It does not honor or value the Earth, spirit or our own souls. While the other brands of shamans are helping their people to focus on their place in the world and how to function appropriately, we Post-Tribal Shamans must begin by reminding our people that they are part of a tapestry of life that stretches from their ancestors, through them, to their descendants. We must help each individual discover their own balance – the way in which it makes sense for them to live. There are no "brand specific" qualities that easily fulfill this need. Instead, we must constantly improvise in the moment to come up with what is needed to deal with Now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

rediscovering childhood

I'm sure that I'm not alone in having a childhood that is only dimly remembered. My very first memories are quite vague and nothing definite until after my sister was born when I was 3 1/2. So it is fascinating to have a child of my own now and be experiencing the other side of the parent/child equation. With this new experience, it occurs to me that my parents also loved me, doted on me, fed me, played with me and responded as best they could to my every need.

Though I have no memory of it, as I carry my 4 month old daughter around the house, I begin to sense at some preconscious level, that my mother carried me in much the same way. Sang to me, babbled nonsense to me and treated me as parents tend to treat their beloved offspring. With this recognition, other feelings arise, and I wonder if this is not yet another unremarked aspect of parenthood – this rediscovery of one's childhood from a vastly different perspective.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Changes, Constants and Groundlessness

An old and cherished friend came to visit from California the other day. She has known me since the early 80's, when my focus of personal transformation was on western magick. On this visit she asked me what happen with that. Essentially, how did I go from being focused on magick to shamanism. I had to explain that, at least for me, magick was a practice of getting the whole world to respond to my will. It was focused on evolving the ego into something more divine. Shamanism takes a more humble perspective. It recognizes that there are things that are within my control and others that are not. My favorite analogy is the surfer. He has to know what he can control and what he can't. He can pick which wave he wants to ride. He can position himself on his board. But if he tries to control the wave, he just gets wet.

In thinking about this movement, from thinking that I could control everything around me to realizing that I can only control myself and how I respond to my environment, I see that there is a constant as well. One thing that has not changed is the lure of personal growth, realization and awakening. This draws me forward through all my changes, renewing my sense of awe and keeping me from any final, static "answer."

This is the state I find myself in now, today, here: Groundlessness is. That things will change is inevitable. Even what I perceive as constant will be transformed. Shamanism is, and has been for quite awhile now, a good means of focusing the momentary answers that are working for me on this part of the journey. My own personal path, Sheya, has also changed with this journey. It began as a system of magick and is now more of a dharma path or shamanic practice. And yet, the constants are there as well.

The constant is the essential truth within the whole, which is gradually revealed through time, by the inevitable artistry of change – all on the canvass of groundlessness.

Or at least that's how it seems to me this morning. . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Shamanic Perspective on Belonging

When our soul wants to enter into this world, it requires a means of doing so. To do this, it works with our ancestors to create a vehicle to carry it into and through this life. We call this the physical body. The soul then uses this body and all its senses to act as a lens through which it enters the world. But as soon as it passes through the lens into the world, it becomes caught up in the senses, the information, the overwhelming complexity of sound, color, texture, scent and emotion. What joy! This part of the soul that has arrived in the world is then shaped by the experience of being here, and it gradually forgets that it is only a small part of a greater whole. It begins to believe that it is a separate and unique individual. We generally refer to this delusion of the soul as "ego."

Somewhere along the way, our human community lost touch with the sense of the greater soul and where we came from began acknowledging only the part of the self that was lodged in the physical vehicle. This began to break down the structure of communities that were based on a recognition of the deeper connections residing in the greater part of the self – what we are calling the soul. As we drifted further away from our roots beyond this limited existence, we forgot that the ego is only a delusion of the soul, and that its "death" is nothing more than the soul emerging from a deeply engrossing exploration of this world, through the physical body and its senses. This delusion had developed its own beliefs and valued its existence above all else. It saw that death was a great Mystery and insisted that it not be forced to look into it until there was no other choice.

Since it no longer felt the connection with its own greater self, the ego began to feel a great and insatiable hunger. This was/is of course the hunger to remember the connection with soul, but since to do so would break the illusion of sovereignty, the ego instead finds other ways to feed this hunger. Among other ways, it seeks to "belong." It creates further depth of illusion by assuming that this great hunger arises from an unmet need to feel that it has a place of its own. Difficult, considering its very ground of being is that which it rejects in order to be. (Sartré would love that one.)

From the view of the shaman, there is no NOT-belonging. The essence of existence is being. The rest is all commentary. To heal the wound that hungers to belong, our egos need to be able to recognize that they are part of something much larger, which extends beyond the world of physical senses. There are many paths to do this, and none are easy. Because we have been so long away from the realization of the soul, it takes a lot of personal work and usually some intense crisis to break through the delusion. And even then the ego continues to struggle. Such is life in this world. A great joy and/or great suffering.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Teetering into Balance

Even when we strive toward the horizon, our goal is to be present right where we are standing now.

In some ways, it might be easier to retreat to a monastery or ashram and have less in the way of our search for the infinite now. But that is not really balance. Or it is achieving balance in a very limited spectrum of human experience. It seems to me that the path of the shaman is one of reaching for balance within an ever growing portion of the human spectrum – and then stretching the limits of that as well. Rather than a retreat from the everyday world, it is an engagement and celebration of the whole. It includes everything from changing diapers and washing dishes to regular exercise and sitting meditation. It challenges the mind to open to the soul and stirs the soul to awaken within the mind.

With no goal in sight, beyond the journey itself, the challenge is to remain in the moment – to feel what draws you/me away from this sacred/mundane point in time and space – to turn and face the hunger and the fear – to own it and embrace it, while holding to the balance of the whole. Like juggling on a tightrope, its not so much the one thing or the other, but how they react to one another within and around you that make it so . . . interesting.

This is the challenge I find in pretty much every day now. When I am about to go into Temple for my 30 minutes of sitting meditation and I hear my daughter in the monitor start to wake up from her nap, and I know that she will be heart-meltingly adorable . . . for about ten minutes. Do I postpone my sitting, and possibly miss sitting at all that day, or do I pass up a chance to spend some quality time watching my daughter – time that can never be recaptured? Talk about shenpa! And so I recognize that this is another moment in which I am torn into balance. It seems I can release the thing that is important to my self in this lifetime or I can postpone the thing that is important to my infinite Self – and then I realize: There is no difference. It is not the release of one or the other, but the embrace of BOTH that stirs and awakens the deeper Self. This is the practice. Unhidden. Unveiled. Constantly revealing itself in plain sight. Mindful choice. Stepping outside of karma. Entering heaven with a smile.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Great Flying Ointment PlayShop

Several months ago, I got the idea (from somewhere) of teaching some of my shamanic students how to make Flying Ointment for use in shamanic journeying. This is an herbal salve that helps in journeying by gently dissociating the awareness with the physical body. It turns out that there were quite a few folks interested in learning how to do this, so I put together a "playshop" on Sunday afternoon.

We began by going over the fundamentals of preparing an ointment: What to use as a base, how to determine the necessary quantity and balance of the active ingredients, how to preserve the mixture, and what dosage to use. Then we went up to our Temple room and journeyed to the Underworld, where we hung out with the plant spirits that we would be working with and I spoke with Grandfather about how much of each plant to use.

Each participant got to choose and pick one leaf from the datura plant. When we went back downstairs to the kitchen, while the lard was softening in the double boiler, we placed our intentions into those leaves and then added them, one at a time, to the liquid mixture on the stove.

The seeds of the plant were crushed in a mortar that I had last used for grinding woad, so we left the residue of the woad in which made a lovely blue color (and led to several smurf jokes).

The damiana was added as well and everyone took turns stirring their intention into the mass as it slowly cooked. When it was done, the whole mass was poured through cheese cloth and the liquid carefully squeezed out. This was then replaced in the double boiler and a small amount of beeswax added to add a bit of stiffness to the texture of the ointment, and a few drops of tincture of benzoin to preserve it.

Finally the preparation was carefully poured into the waiting jars and left to cool. This took significantly longer than expected, which may have had something to do with the weather, so we stuck them in the freezer until they firmed up.

Everyone seemed to have a good time and came away with a little jar of flying ointment, so I may even be talked into doing something like this again sometime.

Press Release and Issues with FaceBook and Balance oh MY. . . .

Why can't Facebook let me post pdf files on the Wall? I'm sure there's a very good technical explaination. Probably the same reason I can't post pdf's to my blog here. So instead I'm stuck with posting a jpeg of the pdf, which is small and blurry – see below:
After months of having Dance of Stones over-looked by regular book reviews (while receiving excellent reviews from people who have actually read it), because they don't take small press (much less self-published) publications seriously, I've stumbled across the Midwest Book Review. This one is actually focused on small press and self published works. So - in the past few days, I've put together a press release and am working on a cover letter, then I'll send off my two copies to the editor and see what happens.

SO - when I've not been massaging my brain to come up with a clear, concise and effective cover letter, I've been sitting longer to prepare for the Running and Meditation Retreat that my lovely and generous friends are sending me on over labor day. (I've also been working at getting myself ready for the running part of the program, with less success.) Of course, as soon as I sit down and go into Stillness, my brain begins to offer lots of creative notions that I need to let go of in order to remain in Stillness.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Great Man

As a new father, it's sometimes difficult to keep up with my daily meditation practice - among other things. I'm sure this is not news to anyone who is a parent. (Which reminds me that I am discovering the greatest appreciation and respect for anyone who has ever had children. It is an amazing and overwhelming experience.) Yesterday I had gone running in the early morning with my friend and running buddy, Jeff, and had come home to a busy house where I was needed by my wife and daughter, so Stillness did not happen as I had planned.

The day was not over though. I had been hired to officiate at a funeral out near Seaman, Ohio. Someone was looking for a shaman and found me through my website. At about ten after four, I found myself sitting in my car at the edge of a gravel road leading into the Tranquility Wildlife Area. It struck me that I was about ten minutes early, so I decided to meditate in the car. I was assuming that I would be pulled out of my Stillness at any time by the arrival of the funeral party. It took me awhile to let go of the expectation that they would be showing up at any moment. Finally I settled in and let go of time and place and expectation.

When they did show up, 20 minutes late, I was in a very good place. I followed them down the deeply potholed gravel access road for almost a mile before we pulled off into a small field and parked. The fellow who had hired me was an Army sergeant in dress blues, with his Korean wife and 4 year old daughter. They were joined by some twenty or so family and friends who were there to say goodbye to his father. He recounted briefly the times that his father had brought him out to this very spot to camp. Here he had come to appreciate the power and serenity of nature and to deepen his relationship with his father. The service was short and uncomplicated. I said a few words about the different parts of the soul, about ancestors and about the unceasing love of parents for their children and children for their parents. I asked the physical soul of the departed to enter into some water and then his son poured this water reverently at the roots of a huge oak. We made offerings to the four directions and asked the ancestors to welcome him home. The son scattered his father's ashes, said a few more words and we were finished.

As I watched the tears of those gathered there I was struck by something my wife said recently: that the mark of a great man is that he is surrounded by though who love him. It was clear to me that this was a great man. It was a good ride home.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unlocking the Hidden Teachings

I've been thinking of how I can do more to promote the teachings of Post-Tribal Shamanism to the people who are craving the message that they really can and do connect with the Earth, Spirit, their ancestors and the divine. It's sometimes a little overwhelming, when I look at all the sites on the internet – all the different voices proclaiming a Shamanic Renaissance.
One of the places I've been thinking about presenting is the MidWest Crystal Conference. This presents a bit of a quandary, since I don't use crystals and stones in the same way that "new agers" do. At the same time, I've been thinking about how the Tibetans talk about terma – ancient teachings that have been intentionally hidden, locked away in stones, and space and places of power, to be discovered by realized masters at an appropriate time. It seems to me that a lot of these teachings are being discovered in the current age, and not only in Tibet. There are so many ancient teachings that are re-emerging into active practice in our modern age. I'm confident that it is not only in the mountains of Tibet that such treasures were hidden away for future generations to reveal. I suspect that the teachings of Sheya, that I believed I was "just making up" were actually hidden terma revealed by my explorations.

Apparently, these hidden treasures can be found almost anywhere. Could it be that there is an abundance of realized masters in this age, or is it that the wrathful guardian demons who protect these teachings are feeling the need of our world and allowing the teachings to be set loose for our healing? In this time of both great danger and great wealth – huge awakening and great ignorance - what better time is there than now?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cross Pollination

As I watch my daughter (8 weeks old and counting) growing larger, smarter and more engaged with her surroundings, I have been reflecting on the amazing world we live in today. I often liken it to "life in a science fiction novel," because there are technological wonders and social meanderings that would have been considered too strange to be believed even 50 years ago. The upside of this is that we have a tremendous wealth of resources, not only material but intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic, with which to play. Because of the way we can overlap the maps from one system to another, we also have a wonderful opportunity for cross-pollination – applying the wisdom of one discipline to the problems of another. One good example of this is a bit that I encountered in my Tai Chi/QiGong practice that I applied to my sitting meditation practice.

In Tai Chi there are a series of fundamental teachings that apply to all movements and postures. Among these are a few gems that work equally well for sitting postures. The corollary to "stand as if sitting" is "sit as if standing." When sitting on your cushion, extend your legs (in your mind) down into the earth so that it feels like you are standing. The admonition to have your head "rise toward heaven" and your feet "sink below the earth" applies as well. As does the instruction to "expand your body to fill the space around you effortlessly." This is not alway an easy direction to follow. It actually helps to have practiced Tai Chi or QiGong first and have a good foundation, and then apply it to sitting. However, this can still work.

When you take your seat, be sure that your knees are even or lower than the crest of your hip. Now imagine your body like a tree; roots plated deep into the soil, limbs reaching for the sky. Trees have no tension and yet they are very strong. They are "relaxed like a tree." This is how to sit as well. Next, imagine that your whole body is gently expanding from within, like a balloon. Feel the internal force of the expansion holding your body effortlessly erect. Now your energy will flow more easily through your limbs, allowing you to sit for much longer without your legs falling asleep. Try it!

Working with plant spirits

I'm currently putting together a short "playshop" for some of my students to learn how to make a flying ointment – a salve that assists in leaving the physical body to journey otherworld. As much as I'm looking forward to working with the plant spirits, I'm really going to enjoy puttering around in the kitchen with my friends for the afternoon. That said, it occurs to me that I need to start reacquainting myself with the necessary spirits so that I am ready to do the work. In the past, I've found to my chagrin that spirits are much like people in that they don't appreciate it if you only come calling when you want something.

Once I get back in touch with the spirits of the plants, I will need to begin exploring the specifics of the recipe, which tend to vary from one batch to the next. The quantity of each herb in the mix depends on the strength of that plant when it is harvested, relative to the other ingredients. This is further complicated by the fact that the main active ingredient is being cultivated by one of my apprentices rather than in my own garden. So I think she will have an opportunity to get to know that one a bit better before our kitchen encounter.

I have a somewhat strange sense of anticipation about this – possibly because I've never mixed up an ointment with a group. This has always been a very internal and solitary part of my practice, and in a very real way, the person I was when I last did this no longer exists. So this will be new in more ways than one.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Word on Shamanic Training

As many of you already know, one of the things I do as a part of my livelihood is teach weekend workshops on shamanic practices. There is a series of workshops that forms the foundation, and then there are other intermediate, advanced and master tracks for those that want to take it that far. In addition, I do take a very few people on as apprentices. This could easily give the impression that I believe that an individual can be trained to be a shaman. So – let me be clear: No workshop - or series of workshops - can make you a shaman. What it can do is train you in essential skills that you can apply either in your own growth and healing or in service to others.

The work of a shaman is to serve community, and individuals within that community, at a soul level. We no longer live in traditional community, and so this can become problematic. What is the community the shaman serves? This question has many answers. Sometimes the shaman's community consists of his or her extended family and close friends. In other cases, the shaman's clients and students create a community through the work they do together.

If the circumstances of your life and the substance of your spirit are such that they provide you with the foundation and the desire to become a shaman, than this might be a good way to begin or continue that journey. I have a few students who have gone on to become apprentices and are working toward practicing shamanism in their own right - in their own way. But this is the exception to the rule. Most who participate in these trainings simply find that the experience benefits their own life and the lives of those around them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More from Sirius Rising

I just returned from Sirius Rising and it is clear to me that it was a good thing that I went – in spite of my resistance and missing my family. As with most years, the experience brought greater awareness of the personal growth I've achieved over the past 12 months and opened me up to further growth as well. While the workshops I taught were rather short (I got 1 hour slots for both) I made some excellent new connections and also deepened some existing ones.

When I am at Sirius, I camp with Elisheva and Karen, together with Jan & Tom, Wolfy & Harold, and – usually – Hacksaw, we make up Camp Sashu. A federation of many different traditions, we borrow our name from an ancient Egyptian record of cattle-stealing barbarians that plagued their borders and may have been an early manifestation of the Hebrew tribes. This fits well with us, since Elisheva is shofet of the Amha, a reconstruction of pre-rabbinical Hebrew Earth spirituality, which I am also aligned with. This year we got dinner invitations from both an Asatru group called Manaheim, and the Druids (ADF) Camp Sashu has been hosting potlucks for Manaheim for the past few years and it was a pleasure to have our hospitality graciously reciprocated. The ADF feast the next evening was kind of a surprise. It began raining about the time we started preparing to head up to their camp, so I ran ahead to make sure it was still going to happen. I found a very well organized camp with lots of dry space and chairs and a warm welcome. We mixed in with folks from the other tribes and I got to chat with Nora, who has invited me to present some workshops out at Desert Magic, in Tucson, AZ next May. That led to her asking Elisheva to come as well. We both agreed and I'm looking forward to that trip already. I hope to be able to set up a Family Constellation workshop the weekend before or after in Tucson.

One thing that became gradually more clear to me over the week is the extent to which Elisheva has been more than just friend, mentor and chosen family, but one of my very few teachers as well. And I don't use that term lightly. There are only three people I would put into that category: Elisheva, Master Ting and Heinz Stark. It feels like it is especially important for me to recognize these people as I begin to develop my own students to advanced levels.

It was good to be able to read aloud from my book during the first of my workshops at Sirius. I wouldn't have thought of it if not for Patricia's suggestion. I think it worked well. And it seems that every copy of the book that I sell adds more momentum to the work I'm doing. It makes my soul smile to feel this happening. Even with the Warrior Shaman workshop, where there was no time to read anything, I felt like the people there were really getting something worthwhile. Always a good feeling!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From Sirius Rising

This festival has been an annual milestone for me for many years. This year is no exception. With my wife and daughter at home, my usual yearning to be there with them is more intense than ever. Still, I have done some good work here at Sirius over the years, and I suppose I have a somewhat superstitious sense that it would not be a good idea to break this tradition.

I could tell that I was having a lot of resistance because it took me so long just to pack my car and get on the road yesterday. The six hour long drive did it's usual work of gradually shifting me into an altered state that deepened further when I arrived and set up my tent. I had promised my lovely & talented wife, Patricia that I would make good use of the time away from her and Meghan, so I began sorting through my plans for how to make the most of the next few days.

This morning I folded brochures, made notes for my workshop and missed my girls at home. What I had not reckoned on was that persistent state of altered consciousness we sometimes refer to as "festival space." It's a light trance that doesn't really make its self known until you try to function as if you were in ordinary space. Then you run into the trance haze and have to slow down and become very deliberate about each task. As I packed things up for my workshop today, I made sure I had the brochures, the video camera, my marked up copy of Dance of Stones along with a box of 40 copies (unmarked).

Almost as soon as we started the video camera battery died, but otherwise things went well, though I only sold one book after the workshop. Just another opportunity to let go of my lust for results and recognize that I am doing my best – even when it doesn't accomplish as much as I would like.

And I have managed to drive back into town this evening and find a place with free Wi-Fi to make my blog entry, so . . . not bad!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Off on the road again

Sirius Rising has been a regular annual milestone for me over the past ...many years, and I am usually excited to be headed there. This year I have to contend with the strange magnetic draw I feel – not only to my beloved wife (as usual) – but to my new little daughter as well. This makes it rather difficult to pack and hit the road with my usual speed and coherence.

I do hope to send in some blogs from Sirius. I'll have to see if there is internet access this year.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Moving beyond thought

In many Eastern philosophies there is the teaching that there are realizations that simply cannot be grasped by thinking. What this means is that, while our physical brains are very effective at operating our bodies and interacting with others in our ordinary consciousness, they balk at realizations of a reality beyond the confines of the physical world. It is only by bringing certain types of energy within the body to critical mass that we are able to make the leaps of awareness into what is often referred to as "enlightenment." This is a type of naturally occurring energy that is capable of sustaining consciousness outside of our physical bodies. 

There are many maps for this process. The Chinese map of QiGong is quite an effective one, as is the map of raising kundalini to shakti. This same process shows up in my shamanic map as the Medicine Body. This is simply the human aura brought to a conscious level of awareness. When we build up this conscious energy and begin to think outside the body, a great many things become obvious that would have seemed impossible before. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

About Love

I used to think that love was about the mutual recognition of souls and the awakening of our true selves – that it was something beyond the touch of our everyday lives and a Mystery that transcended our capacity to describe it. Now I see that I was right . . . AND that love is about remembering to change the laundry over, seeing that the table needs to be wiped down, because you know that that will make your beloved a little more comfortable and relaxed when she sits down to breakfast. It's about letting go of stubborn notions of who you are, because someone else really needs you to be a better, more responsible and real person than you would be capable of being without them. 

It's not a problem. That's the realization of love. There is no need to hold on to the things that you used to think made you the person you were, because if they did, then that person you were is worth growing out of. That's the amazing thing about this deeper love. 

I realized the other day, while listening to my little daughter's angry cry, because her digestion is very apparent to her right now and she hasn't realized that there really isn't much she can do about it. . . . my realization was that "there's no room for me." For a moment, it was a panic thought. "There's no room for me! I'm going to be squeezed out of my own life!" and then it sunk in. . . there's no room for the old me – for the self-centered, self-absorbed child that I've been for the first 50 years of my life. I now have someone who is absolutely dependent on me. I cannot be less than what she needs me to be. There's no room for less. 

Monday, June 15, 2009


Over 2 weeks now, since Meghan was born. I spent those first two weeks in a bubble with her and Patricia. Now I'm back to work with clients, classes and a workshop coming up this weekend. It's good to be "back" and at the same time, I'm not. 

Just as Patricia went through a process with labor that was both spiritual and organic, it seems that I've been going through one since delivery that is more spiritual and less organic. I don't have the clear, physical contractions, but instead I find myself reeling from time to time with the emotional, spiritual realization of this transformation. 

My brain feels like it has blown a gasket and can't seem to maintain adequate pressure for long. Thus it's quite difficult to do things like catch up on my blog. However, I have gotten email from an old, dear friend indicating that she has been reading these entries and I don't want to leave her without more to read, so. . . this is me trying my best to keep up. 

After two weeks of paternity leave, I went back to work, providing shamanic counseling and medical qigong to my clients. I had thought it would not be too bad. After all, I had been working pretty much around the clock for two weeks, so it was almost a break. It was good to be back among other people, but I missed the bubble that we have created at home. 

Strangely, I find that my fears are being realized. This morning one of my fears about being a parent surfaced strongly (again). "there will be no room for MEEE!" Suddenly it hit me. That's right. There will be no room for my old narcissistic ego. I will need to let go of that as well. Ah! Parenthood as a spiritual practice?!??

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Playing catch-up

As it occurs to me that it's been a couple MONTHS since my last entry, I thought it might be a good idea to spend a little time getting caught up. There is no way to record all the wonderful things that have happened over the past months, but I can hit some highlights. 

First off is the wonderful introduction to another of the great Mysteries of the human experience: My wife and I are pregnant with our first child carried to term. Pre-labor has begun and it is . . . not boring. It's hard to put into words how everything changes. It's not just Patricia who is seeing the world in a different way now. And it's amazing how many newborns you run into when you are expecting your own. It's like we are entering a Mystery cult. You don't know what the initiations are going to be like. People can describe them in great detail, but they remain beyond our understanding. We await the initiation with great anticipation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the scent of the wierd

SO – here I am, in a whirlwind of endings and beginnings and I start smelling . . . cotton candy? It's maybe two weeks ago. Things are already on the verge of boiling over. I've had to postpone a workshop, we're juggling four separate baby showers, LumensGate is heading for the showers and the cat insists on pooping on my carpet. I'm getting into my car to head for the office and I smell. . . cotton candy. At least that's the closest I can come to identifying it. I get in to my car and drive to the office, the odor gradually fading. I let it go, thinking I must have picked up a whiff of something in the neighborhood. 

This smell comes up again, pretty much every day. Fleeting and elusive, it appears at the edges of my perception and then flits away. I begin to wonder if I have a tumor pressing on a sensitive part of my brain, causing olfactory hallucinations. 

Yesterday, I am searching for my good luck coin (a gift from my beloved wife) in my monk's bag. I begin to smell the cotton candy again, more strongly now. I wonder if it is somehow connected to spirits telling me where to look for the coin. I begin to dig things out of the bag, turn it upside-down and shake. A fountain of white powder pours out, followed by a fluttering packet. No – not heroin. It's a package of EmerganC®, and electrolyte mix that has come open in my bag. Is it connected to the coin? Well, yes, in a way. It was given to me by a woman who was at the conference where I last saw the coin. . . .

Ah well!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Catching up

It's been a busy month, and I've obviously not kept up with my blog. I'm hoping to get caught up a bit over the next few days. It looks like I'll have the weekend off as well, since the workshop I had planned on teaching is being cancelled due to low registration. Not a problem really. This will give at least two more people the chance to join us when we do make it happen. 

So – to catch up on a busy month: I'll begin with Pantheacon. Pantheacon is probably the largest Neo-Pagan gathering out on the West coast. It is held at a Hilton and has been going on for quite a few years. I first presented a workshop there a few years back, and had a pretty good experience. However, I decided to wait until I had my book published before I returned, so that I would be able to promote it there. 

I left at 7:00 am to drive up to Dayton, where I caught the flight out to San Francisco – via Detroit and Atlanta, I believe. I arrived at 7:30 pm and was met at the airport by my good friend Amy who was kind enough to let me crash at her house before heading down to San Jose the next morning. Even on the flight out I was wondering how I was going to manage to make it back to the airport for my 5:40 am flight on monday, especially after the workshop they had scheduled my to give at 11:00 pm on Sunday night. After a lot of consideration, I decided to take the BART back to the airport from Amy's the next morning, as she hurried off to work. There I picked up the car I had rented the night before via the internet. I got a great deal on it, considering that I wouldn't have really needed a car where it not for the inconvenient timing of workshop and flight. 

Let me interject here that I had – very responsibly – mailed a full case of my books out to my friend Keter's address the week before, in plenty of time so that Keter could bring them with her to the conference. I checked with her from the airport and they still had not arrived. So it looked like I was going to be going through all of this and I wouldn't even have any books to sell beyond the two copies I had crammed into my suitcase as an afterthought. 

So there I am in the airport, lugging my bags to the rent-a-car and then driving down highway 101 to San Jose. That part went quite smoothly. I had brought my Nuvi (GPS) just in case and it came in handy. But I had forgotten to bring along the car charger, so I had to keep turning it off to save it's batteries. I arrive at the hotel and go to register only to find that they have me in a room in a different hotel a few blocks away. This turned out to be a very nice room, all to myself. But it was cold and rainy the whole weekend, so the five minute walk was a bit uncomfortable at times.

By now you have a feel for how the weekend was going for me. It was friday. I was at the conference, with no books, with no workshops to teach until sunday night. My potential book signing on saturday came and went with no books. I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't inadvertently irritated one of my ancestor spirits who had chosen to return the favor many time over. 

Strangely, in spite of all the little mishaps and timing issues, I was having a good time. I was in a light and open mood. I remained engaged and open to the folks I knew there; got a chance to hang out with my best friend and long time mentor, Elisheva and to help out with one of the things she was offering – so I wasn't completely wasting my time. I began to wonder what was going on though. This was feeling kind of . . . spooky. 

Sometime saturday afternoon I found out that the books had arrived – in San Francisco – and that the place that was holding them would be closing by 6:00, so Keter and I jumped in my car and drove back to San Francisco, got lost, got found again, and managed to pick up the books minutes before they closed. I got the case into the back seat of the car and thought, "I could have sworn that box was a lot heavier." When we got back to the hotel, I opened the box to find that only half of them were there. Somewhere in transit the box had been opened and 23 books had gone missing. This was getting a bit ridiculous. 

That afternoon I was cruising around the hotel looking for a familiar face and came across Don Kraig sitting with a couple of women in the bar. I joined them for awhile, which was a nice break from wondering around on my own. We sat and chatted for awhile. I tried to order a drink but they were out of Jamesons. Finally settled on a G&T, then wandered off without paying my bill. The two women were both very interesting. One was a Gardnerian High Priestess, Lady Raw, who seemed quite down to earth. The other was apparently a coven mate of hers, a very charismatic woman who insisted that people were having a problem with her threatening to take her clothes off. 

Sunday was a bit of a blur. I managed to do a short book signing at noon, while most everyone was off eating lunch. I think I sold 2 or 3 books, but had a few nice chats. Then I started thinking about what I would do for my workshop. There had been other things on my mind up to then. Somewhere in there, the two ladies from the night before invited me to dinner and as I was heading out to join them I noticed my car was missing. I went to the desk and asked if a car had been towed away recently. Then I called the police, but refused to file a report right then, because I had to meet my new friends for dinner. I rushed back to the other hotel and up to Lady Rae and Paula's room. They suggested I go back and check in the lot again. Now, mind you, it was raining and dark. When they drove me into the lot, I saw my car right were I left it, sitting beneath the harsh yellow light that magically turns red cars into brown cars. One mystery solved to my ecstatic relief. 

The night rolled on – culminating in the workshop entitled "the Shaman's Dance with the Divine." I had planned on using some of the techniques from my workshops to offer an experiential introduction to animism. Now I wasn't sure that there was going to be anyone showing up for it, but there were. Ten people showed up and it was a good group. Rather intimate for such a large room, but great people. We did some shamanic trance work, evocation of spirits and such. A good time was had by all. 

Then it was back to the (other) hotel. Mad packing; a short nap; a 3:00 am alarm; quick shower and another drive back up the 101 to the San Francisco airport for my morning flight. I made that with no problem.

With all that, you would think I had already had enough – and you would be right. But, after flying from San Francisco to Cincinnati (where I couldn't get off because they had my luggage and my car was parked in Dayton) to Detroit and then taking off for Dayton, we turned back after we were over halfway there, because of a "maintenance issue." We were on the ground for another three hours in Detroit before flying out again at 8:40 pm, arriving in Dayton around 9:45 where I finally picked up my car from the economy parking lot and wearily drove home. 

More catching up to come.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Invisibles – Things we Take For Granted

A few years ago I was visiting some friends in Germany and we were going for a walk along a nearby nature trail after lunch. There were five of us trooping along; my wife, our host, his two adult daughters and myself. On the whole, I don't think we looked too disreputable. You need to understand that walking after lunch – or dinner – is a very common activity in Germany, and there were various other people on the trail as well. I noticed a middle-aged couple walking towards us on the trail, with their pet Dachel (Dachshund) tagging along at their heels. I was looking forward to meeting the dog and getting a quick pet fix. I've been partial to these sleek little dogs since owning one as a youngster. However, as we came closer I realized that this was not going to happen. The couple kept their gaze stolidly a head and completely ignored us as we passed each other. To be fair, the members of our party kept up their own conversation with no indication that they noticed the other people on the path. Only the Dog seemed to give us a quick sideways glance before hurrying after his humans. 

Glancing at my wife, I wondered if she had found anything curious about the lack of polite exchange, and she returned my look with a shrug. As I waited for a break in the conversation to ask why no-one had responded to the other people, a younger couple came towards us on the path. They were in an animated conversation of their own, but they also offered no acknowledgement as we passed one another. Curiouser and curiouser. Just as I was going to break in on the discussion of what was and was not appropriate to decorate a Christmas tree with, yet another person came walking towards us. This was a middle-aged man, who immediately hailed Detlev – our host – and proceeded to introduce himself to us and exchange pleasantries with Suzanna and Lisa. "Ah!" I thought. "I see! It is only people they already know that they greet." 

Finally, when we arrived back at the house, and Detlev had told his wife about them running into Herr what-ever-his-name-was, I asked them why they didn't greet the other people we passed. Detlev's only response was an almost offended "But that would have been rude!" I didn't pursue it, but it did teach me a valuable lesson. It really hadn't occurred to me that something as simple and seemingly obvious as nodding "hello" to a stranger could be perceived in such different ways by different cultures – especially ones that seem, at least superficially – to have so much in common. 

This of course can be taken much further. There are so many things that are embedded deeply in our minds, so that we don't question them. For instance, we take for granted that "grass is green" and "sky is blue". It doesn't occur to us to questions something that is so "obvious"; something we learned so long ago that we no longer remember learning it, and yet there is grass that is not green and there are skies that are not blue.

We humans have a great capacity to screen out what would otherwise overwhelm us. Our limbic system takes in the huge amount of data from our senses and then passes onto our conscious awareness a small part of that data which we experience as information about our surroundings. If we had to deal consciously with the fullness of all our sensory input, we would probably not be able to function very well. It seems that we have a means of doing something similar with other data as well. 

I think that's about far enough on this train of thought for now. There's a big snow storm blowing in tonight, and I may have lots of time for deep thoughts tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Intoxicated by Life

Driving my beloved wife to the airport last week, to fly down to Florida for a silent retreat, we were talking about her expectations for the retreat when she said something like "I don't like poetry because poets are just drunks expressing their intoxication." To which I replied, "well, at least some of us hold our liquor better than others." 

Apparently I've been keeping my intoxication to myself too well over the past few weeks. I will try to remedy that and provide more for the blog readers to scan.

A very Happy New Year to you all!



Friday, January 2, 2009

Post Holiday Catch-up

A lot has happened over the past few days (weeks?), some of which has excellent entertainment value. It was great having Lisa visit from Germany. It had been six years or so since we had last seen her, and eight since she had last visited here. So she got to meet our new house and many new friends. We had some of those friends over for dinner and I overheard one of them saying to Lisa, "Oh! You're Soli!" to which she replied, "no - I'm not. I'm Lisa." Her tone was quite deadpan, but I wasn't too surprised when I later heard her threatening to write her own version of our trip through Europe and come up with her own version of me as a character in her book. Now THAT could be entertaining! (See if you can pick out Lisa in the photo above.)

As I said though, it was great to have Lisa here and we were sorry to see her go. It's hard to really keep in touch over such distances, but you can tell the real friends by the way you can pick back up even after so many years and have such comfort with each other. I hope it won't be nearly as long before we have the opportunity to spend some more quality time together.

It is clear that I've had a bit of writer's block - again. This time
it took out the whole of the holidays - from solstice all the way through New Year's - pretty impressive. So now I will do my best to make up for lost time -and maybe even make it worth you're while to keep checking back in for updates. 

We really enjoyed Lisa's visit, but we are far from her only friends here in the states, so we had to share her with her good friend Marcie down in Tennessee, and then with Tyler and Gary in New York. She took a bus down to Tennessee about a week after getting here, so the jet lag had worn off by then. On the way back she was serenaded by a group of girls singing Christmas carols. Unfortunately they didn't know all the words and so the woman sitting next to her would chime in over her knitting with the final verses. 

I will throw in a quick announcement here too that Patricia and I are officially expecting a girl to join the family in late May. So far, her name is "Peanut" but that will probably change at some point . . . then again.