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
Woke up from a night of intermittent sleep and howling winds to a clear blue sky and thick ice on Sir's water bucket. But in comparison to the extreme commutes I glimpsed on the morning news feed of friends, from my blanketed comfort zone, my work schedule on this blustery cold day is a dream. I'm working right now, in fact, as Alice Sara Ott plays Chopin piano waltzes for the delight of Tigs and Tux, destined to stay in until temps climb to today's high of 30. Mid-20's is quite a bit warmer than -11 currently playing in my hometown back in Illinois. Winter work for me today is centered on clearing channels, residing in open space, working with the energy of light, and learning the healing powers of sound. And writing of course, from a variety of positions. Starting here with the first blog post of 2014. Aloha!
The photo shows one of my main work stations: the pillow on the journey rug in the workroom, with the apophylite and amethyst that often hold the high chakra ground while I work, and are known to be effective in such a position for the work. The word work shows up four times in that sentence, and that's indeed the word for it. Doing the work is a real thing, as is the writing or editing work I'll also do today, from another work station in a comfy chair looking out at the blue. Which is a different kind of real work from the laundry, or the soup stock making also on the docket today. No driving required, no money spent, and I can attend to my old horse, Sir's, hydration by carrying out hot water buckets throughout the day. Simple, but effective, allowing perfect movement breaks. The simplicity and balance of today and today's winter work is a joy, and I am grateful for the myriad small and immense wonderments all around me. The light is phenomenal.
Basically, we're all doing the work of transformation on various levels.. Winter work here today includes turning bones to clear liquid; turning ideas into exchanges that in turn transform into checks in the mailbox; turning blue sky and ice into tankas; turning sound into healing. The foundation of all transformation is open space filled with light, and the different ways we real-ize and work with it through our minds and soul's knowing.
In journeying, I look in and out at the same time, with eye covering blotting out all light. Headphones feed my mind with repetitive drumming by a group of fellow practitioners, keeping the theta waves going in a sound-generated lifeline to this world, the lifeline I literally journey on so I can get back. Doing the work requires being in multiple dimensions at once, going into other worlds or realms at will, interacting with the assistance and guidance of helpers, and bringing back energy to this world. In remote work, that energy gets transported through Middle World to the client wherever he or she may be.
So, as in dreaming, there's a lot of traveling, which is why it's called journeying; a lot of interactions and transmissions. The mind receives an amazing array of information through many channels, visual, audible, sentient, metaphysical; yet to the ordinary reality eye, nothing happens. There's nothing seen, eyes are closed, there's nothing said, and nothing done. A dance of embodied spirit with disembodied spirit that medicine men and women have danced through the world for hundreds of thousands of years.
In meditative practices, such as with the Warrior Syllables I'm doing at present, another kind of relation to open space is happening. Mind is stilled, channels in the body where the chakras spin clear and open, obstacles are removed, and groundedness in space allows positive qualities to spontaneously manifest. Doing this type of practice before journeying, and others such as discharging energy through placing my hands on the crystal clusters set up for that job, readies me for the work. Doing it for my personal attunement is, I'm discovering, essential. And as a practice for healing, it is most effective. I am just beginning to learn this technique. The ability of masters to affect cellular structure through this practice is astonishing and seems miraculous; it is in truth an adept use of open space. For me it is another area of work in progress. To the ordinary eye, naturally, it appears as if nothing is happening.
Which brings me to the famous line by the poet W. H. Auden that poetry makes nothing happen. Nothingness is the primary field of interest in my poetry and critical work. I can't help it, it enthralls me. Here again is the awareness of open space as the stuff of life, what the universe is made of, what we are made of. Looking out on this clear blue sky day, it appears there's nothing happening. The wind moves through the high treetops, and they respond with their own movement and sound. The wind chimes on the porch play a few notes, in tune with Chopin. In open space what arises arises, what disappears disappears. Without open space nothing would happen. Nothing does happen. I love my work: to let the arisings come through, let the open space fill with light, and energy transmit and transform. When I do my work, I aspire to be a hollow reed the wind blows through, creating sound and resonant vibration that affects matter across time and space. I myself do nothing.
Okay, back to work! May your winter work be warming and transforming. Oh, and speaking of those two things, it may be a perfect day for this alchemical medicine: Jane Grigson's Celery Soup, a genius recipe from Food52. May your journey home be magically assisted by helpers in many forms.
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.
Not that there's anything wrong with dressing up and eating chocolate. More on that later. Tonight, as we all know, is All Hallow's Eve, a powerful night by any name, including one you might have seen and likely have mispronounced: Samhain. You wouldn't be alone in saying Sam Hane, like it's some dude, but the Celtic word is pronounced SOW-hen. And blessings on all who get that right! What's with the blessings part, you ask? Isn't tonight about scary zombie types?
You might know all this already, but if not, and are interested, let me refer you to Celtic seer and author Caitlin Matthews, who explains Samhain in full on her Soundings blogspot for us today. You may be familiar with her work, hyperlinks to which are found on my Resources page, and the About page. I've used her books and decks and divinatory tools for years in my work and personal life, had the honor of being a member of the Company of Hawkwood in 2008, and benefitted from private ancestor work with her in Oxford. Her insightful scholarship is eloquent on the subject, freeing me to do my thing here more willy nilly. And get to the chocolate part.
Being a liminal zone walker between worlds, tonight is totally in my comfort zone, and optimal for the work. This year is particularly outrageous because of the nearness to the New Moon on the 3rd, which is also a Solar Eclipse, meaning this whole deal here is a major power time of new beginnings. As a Triple Scorpio born at sunrise on the New Moon while Mercury was in retrograde (as it is again now) three score years ago, it's triple-y so for me, in all senses of the word. Creating new beginnings out of the release of the old, having a lot to do with dead people, is very much the thing at this time in my orbit. Maybe you are doing a new beginnings, old releasings thing yourself. Humanity is kind of pretty much doing that right around now, come to think of it, and there's lots of wonderful help coming from invisibles through the veil. One online channeling session that you can participate in is certain to be transformative: Paul Selig's Know Your Worth workshop. Yes! Tonight!
The veil between the worlds is indeed thin at this time, as you may have heard mentioned once or twice. In fact, this morning I awoke from a very powerful dream where I was talking on the phone with two people, in two ears from two different places, and realized when I woke up that one of them was dead. While I was listening to their mindblowing comments, the 'waiting room' I found myself in was filling up with people, one of whom answered her mother's impatient we've got to get out of here with a gentle it's about love I think, we just need to be patient. Along with the rest of the dream, including sifting through a box of old, brown crystalline stones and realizing they were valuable, I've already had one of several visits through the veil.
The crystal in the photo, below the Pictish Double Disc and Z-Rod symbol from the Scottish Highlands, found me in Arcata and called from a neglected bottom shelf behind a door of a tiny shop that's gone now. As soon as I walked in I heard it (or would never have seen it) say THERE you are! I've been waiting for you. It cost all of $8 and is my personal crystal. No one else touches it, and I only use it for my personal work. It usually lives in the medicine tools cupboard, but as you see, it is out and ready to work today. It knows more about our long association than I do, and tonight it will tell me more about what we are doing together through time and space. It shapeshifted into the group of brown stones I was neglecting in my dream to get my attention.
In my view, the diversions of this holiday, now complete with paper plates and greeting cards, are all fine and dandy. The guy from the bank in Newport Beach, California, who just called to thank me for being such a longstanding customer, completely out of nowhere, like one of the dream callers, is apparently dressed as Austin Powers today, baby. It's all good! But for me, this night has been, for many many years, about the work. This, for me, includes honoring the ancestors, which I do by toasting the family portraits and thanking them for all they did and went through, for surviving and for my DNA and my life and all the bequests. Some of these, as in all families, have been in need of transformation, disentanglement, soul retrieval, extraction healing, the work of Isis, and a lot of cord and imprint wrangling. This work goes in both directions, helping the ancestors in the past, me in the present, and future family folk. Which, who knows, could be us again. I express love to those who left this mortal coil abruptly. We all do the best we can, and as the girl in the waiting room told her mom, it's about love I think.
So, I'll do that, and also will acknowledge the spirits of place around here, where I will be visited not by trick-or-treaters, but by wild animals and other beings. Coyote, elk, owls, eagles, who knows. A communicative crop of new amanita mushrooms sprouted by the fir circle near the barn this morning, and are powwowing with the trees as we speak. Yes, mycellium do transmit info to the forest in which they live: fact! Check out Mycellium Running for more on that amazing phenomenon.
And, I will journey with and to my old friend, the etched Smoky Quartz crystal, and receive the transmission and do the work that is to be done. Past-present-future are in full swirl, the invisibles are near, and come to think of it, that room filling up in my dream is no metaphor.
For the chocolate bit, I'm making organic, vegan Almond Joys! I have to thank Amanda Hesser's genius Food52 again, for bringing a recipe from April into view just now. Check it out here! Mush pulsed-up honey, coconut, coconut oil together into the classic shape, push in an almond or two, chill them up for a half hour, melt the chocolate, dip each piece into it on a toothpick, let set for half a minute. Done. Yum.
Whatever you're up to tonight, have a blessed, big-ass fun, deep power time, and circulate that love thing through time and space, through and to all beings everywhere.
I'm not sure I just saw an albino dragonfly float directly past me, but I did. I just don't remember ever seeing one before, and I've seen many dragonflies of various colors, shapes, sizes, and wing patterns. Dragonflies are big with me. They've embossed letterhead and business cards for my practice. My house is full of them, in cloth, metal, china, stained glass, beadwork, you name it. People see I have dragonflies and give me more dragonflies.
Clients and friends call me up and say I visited them as a dragonfly, riding around crowded fairs on their baseball caps, or appearing in the desert where there aren't dragonflies because there's no water. As a shapeshifter, it's one of the things I guess I do.
So when dragonfly appears, such as on this beautiful fall afternoon after days of cold hard rain, I take it as a sign. When this white dragonfly appeared and disappeared just now... well, that's some big medicine. Dragonfly medicine. White Dragonfly Medicine. Whew. Let me explain.
Dragonflies are being studied scientifically because of their brains, their eyes, their wings, their having been on the earth for so long. They have powers that astound, and endurance that prevails. And yet they live most of their life under water, without wings, as larvae. Imagine being able to see all around you at the same time, and to instantaneously fly in any direction. They seem to dart in and out of visible reality because they don't have to travel in one direction or turn around. They don't think, 'Oh, wait, what was that over there? Am I going the wrong way?' They simply go, as their inner guidance system directs. I don't imagine they do much second guessing. I bet they don't keep mental lists of what they didn't do, where they didn't go, mistakes, and the like.
As a totem, they remind us that we create our own reality. Repeat after me, 'I create my own reality.' And we might as well get really good at it, and create lives that are fabulously us. This requires some alterations to the stuff that created our neural pathways and early adaptive strategies before we knew that much about what was going down. It's a people thing. Largely subconscious, pretty unavoidable, fairly resistant to change. But, with attention, intention, and practice, possible.
And boy howdy, that's exactly what I'm doing. And, if you're like me (and I know I am), sometimes during the process of creating a new chapter from scratch there are moments of such uncertainty it can seem impossible. And then dragonfly pops up, nonchalant, easygoing, just cruisin' on by, saying hey. You got this. I'm impossible, friend, but here I am.
Dragonfly has been a special power animal teacher since an orange and blue one came up to me by a wild river and gave me one of my early songs, when I was seventeen. But I've never seen an all white one until just now. In this present moment, I am doing some personal work akin to surgery, removing old blocks, burdens, and bindings that are acting like sea anchors. It's time to rise out of the water, grow wings and fly in any direction, and act natural. Okay! Let's do this.
Are you in transformation mode? Are you re-inventing yourself, changing old mental patterns, releasing entanglements, searching for what's next, your purpose, your lost energy, your creative zazzle? In journeys we fly through time and space without the encumbrance of time or space, effortlessly shifting direction with the energy. Sometimes this happens in dreams. And sometimes, with dragonfly's help, in ordinary reality.
The Pacific Northwest has been drenched for several days, during which time I had to drive hundreds of miles through the downpour. I returned home safely, with much change to orchestrate, like the storm. The rain abated for a bit, and there they were. The elk in twilight, appearing as if out of nowhere.
OMG I said to the Stone Giver, who I was talking with on the phone. The elk are here! And, for the first time in the three years I've lived here, the herd of women were accompanied by a majestic buck with a huge antler rack. Although it's really too dark and this photo is zoomed as much as possible, you can just make him out on the left, looking up at me from grazing. He felt me aim the iPhone at him from far away inside the house.
Elk medicine! Just exactly what I needed. Native wisdom on this sacred totem animal speaks of their medicine gifts of strength, endurance, protection. People with Elk medicine don't give up easily. They see a long ways ahead, and go there, even when there is no road, and no visible means. Elk medicine gives the strength to see long projects or plans through, maintaining energy for the long haul. Elk people avoid discouraging energy, and rise above feeling discouraged themselves.
Elk medicine is also about the protection of women, and feminine strength. This venerable old buck is protecting his women, certainly, but they are also protecting him. It's hunting season, and this twelve-pointer is a prize hunters literally kill for.
Elk hang out in groups of men and women. Elk medicine people are very comfortable in such groups; there is no feeling of competition. The vibe is comfortable, friendly, warm, cooperation in community, with a natural ease and grace that allows these huge, heavy animals to move as if they are weightless.
Another aspect of elk medicine is that they show how to live magnificently with duality. Things are and are not as they appear. The invisible is where a lot happens, and contrary to popular belief, creating 'something' out of nothing is an everyday occurrence. The way the elk suddenly appear and disappear in the field reflects that.
Just now five or six young elk ladies have gracefully walked up the field to graze all around Sir, my 33-year-old horse. He loves it when the elk come, but is respectful of males, keeping his distance in a friendly way. He too is deriving strength and community from their presence.
Nobility, stamina, feminine power, balance of male-female energies. Seeing a project through to completion. Watching these ladies and young elk girls flank Sir in the field as Tigs and Tux (the cats) watch through the windows with me, I am filled with calm strength and loving feminine energy. The whole herd is coming up into the field again. The warrior even is coming closer. This is getting interesting. Time to wish you well and take up my binoculars. Peace.
This is the second in a How Things Happen series of blog posts.
As a kid, I constantly asked How come? I've pondered and studied the subject enough to know that once you understand, you can make things happen very effortlessly. Lao Tzu's statement that by doing nothing everything gets done is a clue to the value of examining How Things Happen. So, like how do they?
How Things Happen is an area of inquiry at the heart of the examined life. Socrates famously said the unexamined life is not worth living, but it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to examine the invisible. Which is precisely what you're looking at when you examine How Things Happen at the root level. Like when you're cooking up something new.
Creating new forms, re-inventing yourself, coming up with an idea for a story, a song, a poem, a work of art, a new project ... the list includes discoveries, inventions... has several stages, like a recipe. Much of the stuff of the finished product happens in the abstract, in the invisible realm of thought, emotion, imagination, sentient awareness, spiritual connection. In the quantum field. As if it's out there somewhere. Or in here somewhere.
Sometimes you see it before you know what it is; sometimes other senses ping first with a feeling of knowing. The saying, it's on the tip of my tongue is an apt metaphor: while we are not quite ready to actually say the thing we're thinking of, the tongue already feels its presence as the mind works on the information it is organizing, retrieving, bringing forward. Our desire, intention, need to know initiates the activity; our attention to the tip of the tongue helps pull the remembering into the physical, to re-member or make it appear in the now in the form of spoken representation.
Another, less abstract analogy for How Things Happen is cooking. We say we're cooking up ideas because it's a metaphor we can access easily. Cooking's part of everyday life, keeps body and soul together, and is a sentient pleasure as well. It can be easy or complicated, intuitive or totally mapped out in instructions and procedures. Either way, the results can be unpredictable. Ingredients, procedures, tools, heat sources, and timing are involved: materials and conditions. But what comes before those things? The recipe. And the inspiration for the recipe.
Genius is an interesting word: a person with exceptional abilities of creativity, imagination, intellectual ability. Many have thought processes that are quite extraordinary, tapping into the unknown in an uncanny way. Many think about How Things Happen big time, or not at all, and simply let it happen. Wikipedia says research into what causes genius or mastery is still in the early stages. Imagine that.
But the word itself is ancient and has not changed a bit from the Latin genius: the guiding spirit (of a person, family, place). These spirits and the word are connected to the verb to create, or to bring into being. So, since ancient times, How Things Happen has involved guiding spirits to help bring things into being, from non-being. Sorta like magic.
Maybe you're cooking up new forms from the invisible, with guiding spirits helping the realization of the intention and the desire – the genius recipe – the first stage in creation. Energy follows thought; they are both invisible forces. This abstract stage is one of winnowing, focusing, identifying, envisioning, dreaming, and choosing. Did I mention huge amounts of uncertainty? Part of the recipe. Along with childish curiosity, trust, abandon, fearlessness, courage, support, and ways of following your knowing, of connecting with the genii and powwowing.
It's okay if you don't know every detail, don't have all the ingredients, don't have the recipe all worked out before you begin. What are you cooking up? Take the thing that's on the tip of your tongue and let it tantalize your senses until you can taste it, use all that vast space of uncertainty as a playground. Throw your ideas out there to the genii and ask that they play ball with you, toss a few ideas around, pitch some possibilities. Mix up metaphors and ingredients, free associate. Creative directors do it all the time. Then, someone gets a genius idea.
Oh, and creating from scratch can make you hungry. For that, there's Amanda Hesser's Genius Recipes. Yum. Leave a bowl out for the genii. And set a place at the table for the unknown.