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.