This week is awash in gratitude and possibly fraught also with your own personal version of guilt – the other G-word – or a laundry list of what you should do, buy, eat, not eat, say, not say, think or not think. It's a truly complicated American holiday we celebrate, interwoven with family dysfunction, historical misdeeds, and dietary self-loathing all wrapped up in ribbons of Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart perfectionism, copious side dishes and consumer cattle-prodding. What a charged mix!
Some people have happy family traditions and loving bonds, perfect table settings and plenty of exciting achievement news to share over the stuffing and pie. Others, not so much. And some may have really loaded combinations of all of these appearances that in turn create an internal heightening of all that is bewildering about this 21st century American thing called gratitude. And what the heck do shoulders have to do with any of it, you ask?
How are yours feeling these days? Tight, sore, misaligned, over burdened? Stiff from crouching over the laptop, looking up plane fares or recipes or bank balances, or lack thereof? In my practice, I often mention that the word shoulders is spelled should-ers, and that body symptoms in this area can be related to guilt, lack of self-love, pushing ourselves to do what we think we should. All these, by the way, I know from personal experience. When I track my internal dialogue on a daily basis, the amount of shoulds that old conditioning critic rags on about is insane.
In these days of constant internet advice, we are bombarded by what we should do, numbered and listed for us with an urgency that suggests that if we are not doing, buying, thinking, reading, eating, wearing, going or knowing these tips and tweets and lifestyle choices, we, well, should be, and are somehow the lesser for it. And at this particular holiday, when family and tradition, the things that should be in place within our families and country and are, um, maybe not, the inner turmoil and shoulder stuff can really spiral out, leading to possible inner misery along with shoulder discomfort and even acting-out in potential family eruptions.
We may more quietly, although few mention it amid the hubbub, feel bad about ourselves, our situation, even our bounty in the face of our history or present national outlook. We might be wincing or sad as we catch ourselves comparing our scenario with the ones in magazines, movies, posts and blogs or what we hear from others. It's a common enough occurrence, thinking others have it perfect amid your snafu'd existence. And guess what we do then? Feel guilty – even more guilty – even as we adhere to our Things I'm Grateful For regimen.
The photo above I just snapped out in the upper pasture: it's a path made by wild animals. Out for a Connect and Reflect Walk, it struck me as a metaphor for the simplicity with which we can bypass all that and walk our talk. It begins with feeling ok about ourselves just exactly as we are at this moment. Sounds simple, but especially in holiday activation of crazy mode, achieving this state of mind can be challenging, to say the least. It is assisted by allowing, by being grateful first of all for yourself, not in a should sort of way (as in I feel like crap and am facing real problems but I should feel good about myself, so oh well, fine, I'll do that), but just by tuning into what makes you happy, and being happy about it. We sometimes feel guilty about being happy in a way that doesn't really help, as in I feel guilty about doing something that makes me happy because I'm supposed to be feeling grateful about what I have that others don't have etc.
There's a happy, natural balance of loving and accepting self and others that brings us all together in a Oneness sorta deal that allows true gratitude to warm from within and reach out around the world. And it starts with giving thanks to yourself wholeheartedly as a part of the All [your word here].
To achieve and hold balance through the hubbub, I've been told to take time to feed the soul, and to go deeper in. The woods up the road (pictured below) whispered to me to do just that: go deeper in. Then you can find your connect, ground, relax, warm your heart strings, lighten your shoulder load and come from that place, as you drive or fly or buy in crowds, as you navigate challenging living room dynamics or make food for a multitude, or maybe sit alone in a cold room breathing in and out. Hey, enlightened masters spend plenty of turkey days sitting in caves with nothing, doing exactly that, and they're enlightened. We can lose sight of the inner in the glare of pageantry, lovely as it is, and tasty too. Breathing in and out with mindfulness is enough.
The connect with everything that occurs when we activate our inner connect allows us to send out gratitude across the universe, an energy that is truly powerful and transformative, and comes from love (self-love as well as love of others) rather than from fear, i.e. guilt, envy, manipulation, competitiveness, blame, anger, [your word here]. This is felt as a bubbling up of wonderful that reaches all beings and transmits awareness of the perfection of the All, allowing cool stuff to happen without our even knowing it.
From there we are able to reach back through time and thank the people who fed those without food; we can reach across the family history and find something we appreciate amid the maybe-not-so-great out-picturings; we can send light and love to the community, country and world around us that allows good stuff to happen now and in the future, and we can beam light out into the galaxy that can be felt from far far away. And guess what – I'm willing to bet there are beings in the next galaxy who feel truly grateful when they feel that coming from the humans on the little blue planet. All of this we can do while enjoying second helpings and the liveliness of group conversation if we have them, or the quiet of the starry night if not. The universe loves you, the human heart is capable of brave miracles, Food52 has fabulous recipes and stuff, you are wondrous in the simple fact that you exist, and that's a happy deal. Bon appetit. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.
On days like this when the sun comes out after days of cloudy rain, the river calls and I walk on down the road. I just took this snap of the Sandy River coursing down from Mount Hood fresh with rainwater and snow. Yesterday's big rain had it churning brown when I drove over the high bridge where I stood today to take this shot, now transformed into its frothy jade green look. Two ravens circled high above, giving an oracle that I heard interpreted as keep going, and variations including perseverance furthers, and go with the flow.
The Incredible String Band's Water Song came to mind and I sang the line wizard of changes, teach me the lesson of flowing back to the river, as I often am impulsed to do around flowing water. Being in flow as part of All instead of sitting on the bank with your worries feeling out of flow is an image I've received from others who work with invisibles, with assisting self and others in raising frequency, transforming fear to love, trusting and participating in flow. The way we assist each other, encouraging, inspiring, and sometimes directly transmitting information or energy through and to each other is reflected by the mirror all around us. Just then, the message from the ravens, the sound of the river swollen with yesterday's rain, the resonance of what I was watching with the metaphor from the written material on flow, and the welcome rays of the sun did their stuff and I received the benefit in mind, body and spirit, helping me sync with flow.
In doing shamanic work – and in many other modalities of healing, lightworking, wayshowing, channeling, dreaming up – part of the assist comes from the practitioner's connect, gifts, and medicine, certainly. But a lot of what is going on is in the connect in us all: the connection of the people working, but also the connect that happens within the person receiving the work. What information, inspiration, guidance, helpers, wisdom, energy, power you personally connect with that was needed, to return to flow and raise your hum.
Sometimes I describe shamanic work as energetic jumper cables from one human battery to another. Sometimes each of us needs a jump to start up again and get back on the road, so we can go with the flow. Sometimes we need encouragement, support, information, affirmation, or a key energetic component we don't feel, can't see or locate. News we can use. The receiving of that is deeply connective and reflective, awakening parts of our soul that were fragmented, lost or sleeping, freeing shadow parts from the dark shameful closet we've locked them in. Helping each other through our helpers, our shared fragility, our innate insight and gifts, our connection happens in each moment, all around us in nature and beyond, throughout the universe.
When we're in flow, the universe flows to us and through us. Our brains light up and we feel that sense of group belonging psychological experts tag as essential to a person's well-being. We can each connect with flow and allow it to flow through us as we travel through our day, in traffic, at the store, at work, with our peeps, or in nature, seemingly solitary as I often am, but never alone. When you're in flow you can feel you are one with Source, and things are easier, simpler. What you're looking for turns up, whether it's a parking space, that thing in the junk drawer you need, the name of the guy you were supposed to contact, or the next step in your career, home, or relationship situation. The phone rings, the email pings, the eagle flies by overhead. Ideas come to your writing or project and revisions are obvious, delightful.
Living so close to a river is an excellent mirror, or flow chart if you will, and I've been fortunate to find myself living near several through the years. Each day the river is different and fluctuates wildly. Each drop of water is unique and different than any before or after it. Yet it's all river, and all rivers flow to Source. And from the source, come to think of it. Conditions affect flow but flow continues, sometimes more than we think we can handle, sometimes less than we think we need. Learning the lesson of flowing is the work of many lifetimes, but in essence, simplicity itself.
If you are feeling out of flow, what will help you return? It might come through stillness, movement, silence, or sound; words or dreaming or nature or love. It might be all of the above. How do you restore your connect? If you need a jump you feel I can assist with, let me know. Our work might be in the Lower World, in water flowing underground [yes, cue the Talking Heads], or emanating in Middle World from an ancient water bubble in a crystal, from a waterfall in a past life, or from a few drops of a flower essence, or from a celestial Upper World wash of light that jumpstarts your cells into resonance and healing. We might actually be working at river's edge in an intensive nature training session. Or you might be on the other side of the world. Maybe a part of you returns, carrying the heart medicine you lost in an estranging event, re-lighting the fire in your head after a bewildering situation, renewing your thirst for life.
Wherever we are, may we be going with the flow, awash in the ever-present universal glow.
What's up with the photo? It seems to have orbs floating in the sky, a tilting old building, and some kind of swan cloudshow. I took this photo at Hawkwood in December of 2008, looking out the window of the big room where The Company of Hawkwood had just finished a meditation as part of the weekend mystery school with Caitlin Matthews, John Matthews, and professor-author Ari Berk. Just today, Caitlin Matthews posted about this longstanding annual event on her blog, Soundings, where you can be guided to everything you need to know, and even still make reservations to attend this year's weekend, if you so desire.
I bring it up because she brought it up because it's coming up for me big time as I create my own mystery school musings. Today I mention it not only because of the Company of Hawkwood energy, but because of world events, as a way of thinking about what my particular mystery school concept encompasses. As I synthesize How Things Happen into areas of potential inquiry, as I develop the scope and discuss it with colleagues, questions arise, and it's helpful for me to articulate answers to those questions. People ask, what sort of stuff will you do there? The scope is wide but small, far reaching but quiet.
Mystery schools, like all other institutions, come in all shapes, sizes, and persuasions. Today's post touches on one of the ways I envision the work could potentially positively benefit the world. Which has to do with the super Typhoon Haiyan which just struck the Philippines. What could we potentially do about such things at the mystery school? Ring bells and wail at the sky?
I'm going to keep this simple. One glimpse at the news headlines and the words devastation, horror, shock, death, lethal force, etc. run riot on the brain, doing little to positively affect a sense of helplessness, victimhood, fear and dread at nature and the world that sells papers in an old school format. Superstorms increase at a rate relative to our action movies about superstorms. Worldwide, we argue about cause and effect, global warming, climate change, the data that shows how superstorms increase from the warming of the seawater and the manufacturing pollution that exacerbates this phenomena. Much is being done from many approaches to both help and hinder our understanding of and our role in the delicate balance that allows us and other life forms to safely inhabit the pretty blue planet. It's major. So what does this all have to do with the mystery school thing? It's such a touchy topic, people strap on their mindsets in an either-or mentality, sparking friction at the table, or the comments section. But what about another possible approach? Not in place of, but in addition to, all the other approaches.
Picture this. Take the knowledge of atmospheric scientists, climatologists, oceanologists, and study it. Take the research of scientists such as Dr. Emoto, who studies the change in water crystals as a result of resonance and positive or negative articulation, and add it to the data. Take the wisdom and experience of practitioners such as Sandra Ingerman in shamanic environmental transformation and radical ecology, mentioned in an earlier blog post, and add it to the mix. Don't get bogged down in superstition, balderdashedly indignant refutation of invisible power, the negation of the energetic component, or any religious dogma about comeuppance or somesuch. Basically, steer clear of old school paradigms which separate wisdom and compassion in favor of some authority being all hopped up.
Rather, combine the power of information, intention, group effort, co-creation in the quantum field, a high degree of skill and words in working with the elements. Not in a last ditch, oh please don't whomp on us fear-based appeal to a judgmental punisher. Neither a 'just think good thoughts' halfheartedness nor a system of experimentation that disregards the power of human thought and heart energy in interacting with physical outcomes, such as evidenced in the transformation of water crystals. Bring the information together into a synthesis of directed thought, speech and action that eliminates lack of harmony with the elements from the source that is creating them.
You gotta be practiced up in this stuff so you can do the thing when it's time, which in the case of the typhoon, would have been when it began to form, in effect stating its intention. Taking it as an extreme example, a natural weather event that was being monitored scientifically, the data was available and could be addressed in many ways. The intention for the work would not be to make it stop, but to see what was going on, to listen to it, discover what was possible and what was needed and how to honor that, perhaps in a way that could then create less volatile, destructive force; a way it could 'live' that could be distributed differently, transmuted, redirected. A middle world journey straight into the eye comes to mind as a possible shamanic approach, and who knows there may have been many shamans doing precisely that.
Naturally, like in all schools, the thing is to start small, perhaps with a glass of water, a puddle, a harbor, a shower, or interacting with a sudden spiral that spins the leaves in the driveway. Providing instruction and space, developing individual skills alongside group intentionality, knowledge sets and levels of practice builds capabilities. What initially sounds impossible later proves to be the new discovery.
In all choices, support systems and materials that don't pollute; mitigate, reverse and transmute past damage, and use the power of words, sound, intention, and resonance in the now to communicate with the world, the universe, directly, energetically. Put it all together. I'm getting at a way of living powerfully and harmoniously with the elements of this world and the energies of the universe which utilizes an informed synthesis of abilities and knowledge to interact with nature in a positive, transformative way.
It's not a new idea, nor an original one. It's simply a multi-pronged approach to living in this (and other) world(s) that connects on a lot of levels for the well-being of all. Working with the elements from wisdom rather than fear, from a sense of empowered co-creative communication rather than victimhood or attack-defend strategies, addresses the manmade causes of imbalance on the planet even as it sends immediate energies that could potentially affect more than the minds of the participants. It utilizes the best experiential wisdom we have from shamanic and other practices and from scientific data with a quantum dash and heart.
Shamans have worked with weather conditions for the good of the people multiculturally for millennia. An integrated awareness of ways to live without disturbing the delicate balance of nature, lessening such cataclysmic events and restoring harmony on the planet includes what we create on the material as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual planes. Put them all together and see what is possible. And hey, collect the data, compile evidence where possible, to add to the field of knowledge. Thank the spirits, honor the wind, the water, the ocean, the earth. Help each other not create conditions that harm each other as well as send help after such cataclysmic events. Learn how to do all of this at a mystery school by developing your powers and increasing your awareness of a lot of stuff. That's the idea.