Truth is a pathless path, reminded Krishnamurti in his 1929 speech to dissolve the Order of the Eastern Star, a worldwide organization of thousands for whom he was the World Teacher. His speech gently but firmly and in no uncertain terms declared his considered opinion that following anyone would not get you where you signed up to go: to Truth, that is.
As a Power Animal, Cougar medicine means to lead whether or not anyone is following. This relates to Krishnamurti's point. Throughout indigenous wisdom and learned philosophy – east west, ancient, modern, religious, secular – the pathless path reappears, or rather continues to be present by its inscrutable invisibility. The spiritual path, the path of heart, the way, the soul's path, your life path, the path to Truth, to freedom, to enlightenment: all, um, sorta pathless, truth be told. Unlike the photo at left, which is quite a defined path, with very old hawthorn trees lining the way home.
This is the road to the Manor at Water Eaton, a path I was delighted to walk each day for nine months, in all weathers, in and out to Oxford for my studies a few years ago. While there, I studied many works of literature from the categories mentioned above. I walked many miles, carless, through well-worn paths in the ancient city, around the stone circles in Wiltshire, and in pursuit of the Pictish stones in the Scottish Highlands. In wider scope, my life is a series of pathless paths that I don't know I'm on before I find myself walking them. Where do they lead? This is a question each of us wants answered.
What Krishnamurti was getting at is at the heart of a leadership dilemma, and also a point of ethical consideration for people who help others, through many positions and modalities, including shamanic services. This little blog post can't fully fathom it, but it is something I'm contemplating. It's one of life's little whammies, so I say in a line from a recent poem. In this day of amassing followers, the ascendency of the very terms followers and following to new heights and ascriptions, there is a swirl of expectation and perception no less befuddling than in 1929. Leaders may run the risk of being defined by numbers of followers, by thumbs up or clicks or stars, by books sold, numbers charted, venues filled. With this comes the imperative to help others by creating titles and programs that promise results, that vow to give the secrets to individual freedom, success, and happiness in a nutshell, or, in the wildly popular numbering game, ten easy steps. A few sessions. A course. Krishnamurti begged to differ. Ain't no way, he said. I'm paraphrasing.
In working with a teacher, and in working shamanically, there can be a tendency to endow that position with a key they cannot possibly possess. With this often comes a wish to be approved and a giveaway of our own abilities. We do this also in love, in relationship, with world leaders, even with deities. To promise or be promised a path that is guaranteed to get us there, when there is no path. There are sign posts. There is experiential knowledge and knowledge transmitted through thoughts and words, through energy and received information; these can be very helpful for each of us walking the pathless path. That, and creating space within which truth can be found from within, is the work.
As a penniless young girl in the wilds, I would leave the campfire to make my way into the forest to the treehouse where I slept. I wore no shoes, and carried no light. The forest was thick and dark; there were animals who lived there and hunted at night, like the cougar. I had to walk slowly, using my bare feet for eyes. The footpath, made by deer, was very narrow and long, going up and down hills a quarter mile or so. I developed my 'night eyes' and ears, and calmed the fears darkness can hold. It was simple, really. Because of my bare feet, I knew, instantly, when I stepped off the path.
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!