While multicolored dragonflies and hummingbirds cruise the flowerbeds, or deep in the short nights, it's not unusual for me to find myself flying and bridging across time and space. One question that arises is: Who is traveling? Another way of asking is, which body is traveling? We have more than one.
Whether in dreaming or in magical moments in this world, you can feel when the energy body is active. It feels different: very alive, deeply connected, and altogether outside our rational mindset. Reality has new rules. We can't explain it.
One can do amazing things with the energy body, sometimes called the double. Developing the energy body through practices, awareness and intention is an ongoing endeavor, present multiculturally, and definitely part of shamanic practices. I've been newly focused on this work lately, as I delve deeper into my own abilities with some expert guidance, and also revise materials for an introductory group retreat on the subject. Working with my own levels of attention and intention is one area; creating words and dreaming practices for others to explore is another. Both are bringing me surprising insights on the identity constructs and personal coping strategies that keep connecting with our energy bodies – or anyone else for that matter – at arm's length.
The energy body operates beyond the confines of the attributions we place on ourselves and everyone around us in the everyday world. To activate and inhabit your energy body, you gotta drop a lot of stuff. Sweep your islands clean. As I prepare to instruct others in introductory practices, I bump up against my stuff on my islands like icebergs against the Titanic. How can I inspire trust, create safe, nurturing space for letting go, and convey the practices skillfully when I'm uptight about dropping my stuff too? Maybe partially by saying so at the get go.
Recognizing a fabulous opportunity for self-awareness and transformation, again with some pitch-perfect guidance, I get it: clearing the identity decks for greater connection can feel challenging, effacing, threatening. You want me to what? Let everything go and see what emerges? Open to being not what I thought I was at all, but something that requires me to abandon my formerly held notions of self? Merge with a tree until it speaks to me? Feel okey-dokey about lifting out of my physical body in broad daylight, or having everything around me disappear in a a golden light? Because you say it's cool?
When pressed, it is very natural for people to resort to coping strategies that are ingrained from past survival modes. Whether or not it really works for us now, we launch into our prescribed ways. I do it, you probably do it too; then we feel bad about it later. Why did I say that? Well, because we didn't know what else to do and were feeling, for whatever reason, a little pressed. Sweeping our islands clean means letting all that fall off the edge, and though we want to, it can leave us with a new problem. If that's gone: who am I?
This is where the rainbow comes in. The rainbow body is a complex subject I'm not really getting into very deeply here, but, like a rainbow, our energy bodies are here but not always visible. They are a most powerful aspect of our existence, and have therefore been poo-poohed as non-existent by many for a long time. Never mind that. If you're interested, you can develop yours. Your energy body bridges across time and space and feels wondrous to behold. It is your vehicle of light, there if you choose to develop it, to ride it.
The rainbow is a handy phenomena to use as a simile. Who are you when you drop all the coping mechanisms, early adaptive strategies, crusty identity constructs and quick defenses against the other and all the things you fear? You are present. Shining. Reflective. Beautiful. You're like a rainbow. In the world but not of it. Able to be here, and there and there. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Your energy body is impervious, traveling, shimmering. Might even be eternal. It may well be the body you can climb into and take off in when all else is finito. And meantime, with practice, you can develop it for a plethora of wonderful uses. If you're willing to sweep and see what happens. Guidance is important; the rest is up to you. Don't knock it till you've tried it.
I get that my task is to assist in creating safe space for this work, to own up to the dichotomy of self and other and the postures that pervade our reactions, to seek for the key that allows me to transfigure my stubborn bewilderment into helpful insight for others on the path, into compassionate understanding of our dual wishes for freedom and containment. Actually this is exactly what the energy body affords: freedom and containment. Like a rainbow.
ps: the Rolling Stones have a song...you might have heard
I feel like I've just been reborn. That's what happens when you get your connect with the Spirits of Place. And particularly when, like me, you've just moved somewhere and it's extremely magical, and you discover a path you can walk to from your new home that leads through the woods to the Sound. Living on an island, as I now do, water is an important part of the place. I knew I would be doing a lot with the water, but I didn't know I could simply walk down the lane and through the madrone and maple forest on this lovely little footpath and be immersed in a magical connection that feels timeless.
The lady at the honor farm stand on the road mentioned the path when I picked up some organic greens the other day, or I might not have noticed it. It's an easy saunter out the gravel lane, past some more horses besides mine and his two newfound friends, and across Vashon Highway, which most of the time has no cars visible upon it. The footpath then winds around through the woods, sloping gently down as the sound of the creek increases, the world falls away, and the view of the water grows more visible. Birds and water sounds lull you into an attentiveness that signals the Spirits of Place are aware of your presence. The trees begin to signal, the budding mallow and currants catch the light. Someone, as you can see in the photo, even planted daffodils near the trail by the Sound.
I'm settling in after the chaotic and strenuous labor of moving. My workroom is ready, but I was not. This morning I journeyed for myself, to connect and ground, and was told in no uncertain terms to chill and ground and go connect with the Spirits of Place. I was also advised to renew faith. So I did. I didn't know what I would find, or even if I had the strength for the walk. I've been pretty knackered, as the English say.
But the Spirits of Place fixed that. I don't even remember what the other worn-out feeling felt like now; a feeling of exhaustion I've had for weeks. Instead, I feel deeply connected to exactly where on this incredible Emerald Isle I live. I now know I have the perfect place to wander, for myself, and in which to work with clients who want to heal, train in shamanic practices, or both, to find their connect in nature and learn the ins and outs of interactions with Spirits of Place, nature spirits, water work, tree and flower lore, etc etc.
There's so much shamanic work to do in nature. It performs miracles for the human beings and the nature spirits love it too. They sure rebooted me. I'd be delighted to introduce you, and was so inspired by the trail and where you arrive at the end that I created a new service: the half day island visit. Or heck, come for a daylong intensive and build it into your studies and healing work, a fabulous dinner and deep dreaming sleep.
I wish I had a readout of my energy, happiness and groundedness levels before and after today's meeting with Spirits of Place to illustrate the power of such nature work. And it's not even work. It's a stroll with a natural heightened awareness. It's a giving and receiving of love and gratitude and beauty and delight. There's lots of oxygen involved, sun and shade and clean air, greenery and circulation. And the invisibles do their thing through the natural wonders all around.
For example, I was walking along, discovering it all for the first time, and I thought of a line that I couldn't place right away. Now the way leads to the hill... faintly recognizable, why did it pop up just then, just that little scrap? I knew it, but couldn't place it right away. The path didn't even lead to a hill, it was leading down a hill, but there was something just at that moment that popped it into my mind, so I explored. Then I got it.
It's a line from a very old Joni Mitchell song, one of her early ethereal ones. The song is called I Think I Understand, and I used to play it in my teenaged acoustic folk singer days as well as love to hear her recording. Then I got why it popped up now that I'm on the island. It was a gift from the Spirits of Place. Here's the full verse and chorus:
Now the way leads to the hill
above the steeple's chime
Below me sleepy rooftops round the harbor.
It's there I'll take my thirsty fill
of friendship over wine
Forgetting fear but never disregarding her.
I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones on sinking sand.
Feel free to hear it by clicking on the title link to a YouTube. I haven't thought of that song for decades, nor had I truly tuned into to the level of disconnect and, yes, fear that had sapped my energy for some time. As the Spirits of Place arranged for all of that to coalesce in my mind, body and spirit, the lyrics and melody came back to me and I got the reboot. Boom! Instant, delicate, gentle, complete. Aha. I don't believe that would have occurred were I not in that place.
A hummingbird is swooping and chirping and popping in agreement as I write this. it's another Spirit of Place happening. And I think I understand.
First mystery: why do I have a photo of a rufous hummer here when the title of this blog post refers to Raven? Well, partly because as I was typing the title a rufous hummingbird zoomed up to the red feeder, and practically into my face, for the third or fourth time today. I didn't have my camera handy, but this handy public domain image came to my aid. Raven flew by some time back, before I did today's personal shamanic journey and also received some serendipitous, magical assistance from several intrepid authors, both noted for their awareness of what I like to call How Things Happen. You guys know I write blog posts on Daily Totems and blog posts on How Things Happen, but today it's all happening, so I'm coloring outside the lines. As you'll see, it's all part of the plan.
So, first, Raven flew across the sparkling blue sky during morning coffee, croaking loud and long. Wait - before that I woke up from my Night Shift dreaming with Paul Simon singing these are the days of miracles and wonder in my head, so I pretty much figured it would be one of those days. I'd already been clued in to the Four Dignities of the Warrior, Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, and had been directed by the universe to a book I had in the workroom: Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by the late Chögyam Trungpa, founder of Shambhala International, Naropa University, and a departed legend. I love getting prompts to open books I have, and wasted no time in doing so.
In a nutshell, the Four Dignities are: meek, perky, outrageous, inscrutable. A warrior cultivates these dignities or principles in his or her vibe. I'll stick with the feminine pronoun for this bit. She wants to be four kinds of warrior: a Warrior of Meek – which Rob Brezsny mentions translates maybe more meaningfully for us (for whom meek makes us think of weak rather than not arrogant) as possessing a relaxed confidence, a Warrior of Perky, a Warrior of Outrageous, and a Warrior of Inscrutability. It's all in the book, which I've read before and will now be reading thoroughly again. Exactly the readings I need. Hey you! the universe says. You are this. You need this. You can practice this. And you already have the info. There's your assignment. Miracles and wonder.
So, as I'm grokking Raven's message, hummingbird's overseer capacity, the timely Scorpio info from Rob with the tip off to the bookshelf, I open the book to a random page (86), to read the Rinpoche's words of wisdom. "Whether things go well or things go badly, whether there is success or failure, he [the warrior] feels sad and delighted at once.
In that way, the warrior begins to understand the meaning of unconditional confidence. The Tibetan word for confidence is ziji. Zi means "shine" or "glitter," and ji means "splendor" or "dignity," and sometimes also has the sense of "monolithic." So ziji expresses shining out, rejoicing while remaining dignified." (87)
Are you with me so far? The Raven shining out, and the hummer, the miracles and wonder. The exact qualities to cultivate and all the info I need right here to do that right now. It's a shining, glittering day, a splendid day for miracles and wonder, for Raven's shiny wings and Hummer's glittering gorget. Nevermore so. I had to do that.
To back up the lesson for the day, in comes the email notification that the irrepressible author, Pam Grout, has let fly a new blog post. if you don't know of her or her new book, the blog will inform you. She's working with energy in cool ways and invites you and the whole world to try it too. My own energy experiments, long before, during, and after reading her book, could take up pages and probably will. Such interactive endeavors have created the bio that trails my peripatetic wanderings and will feature in the esoteric mystery school project currently incubating. But the salient thingy here is there on her blog in full, and encapsulated wonderfully in this, the Quote of the Day, which Pam herself gave me permission to give you right here, right now. Ready? Here it is:
Spiritual principles are meant to provide joyful, big-ass fun,
not a bunch of rules and regulations.
– Pam Grout
Anyone who knows me knows that this is how I roll, in work, in love, in life, in writing, but it bears repeating, and Pam's powerpacked nugget of truth is a kick-ass way of doing so. I think this was the gist of what Raven was talking about this morning. It's my modus operandi simply because I don't know how to act otherwise. Laughing out loud in church was an early sign of this. Using sign language in my college orals board was perhaps another. Using colorful language while relaying divination info, making a joke during a crisis, things of this perky, inscrutable, nature. I'm a shamanic practitioner, sure as shootin', and a dignified warrior – or practicing to be a more full time dignified warrior. I'm serious, sure. But seriously serious? Do we have to? Nah - in fact, I can now say with relaxed confidence that it's part of my intentional warrior dignity to be outrageous. It's How Things Happen, baby!