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.