You might know what these are. They are native artifacts, more specifically, pestles. These were chosen for their shape and used in stone mortars to grind things. Each one is from a different property I lived on while walking this practitioning path. One is from Encinal Canyon in the wild north of Malibu (home now to Daryl Hannah), one is from the North Bank of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Brookings, on the beautiful Southern Oregon Coast, and the littlest one is from an elk field near the wilder part of the Sandy River, between Portland and Mt. Hood. But how they came into my hands (and hence this photo) is the real story here.
So, I was apprenticing with my shamanic teacher during the Malibu years, knowing little to nothing when I arrived during the wildfires of November, 1993, and rocked by the Northridge earthquake starting off 1994 with an awakening jolt. I was starting over at 40, and during the next 8 years I would grow into my new hoop, new life, and new vocation. I don't remember the exact year the Malibu pestle came to me; probably c. 1999, as I was completing the apprenticeship, in deep relationship with the spirits of the land and the little stone cabin I called home.
Only one room, the cabin had big windows looking out at the live oaks, the creek, the tiger lillies, and the coyotes who would parade down the dirt driveway at night as a family pack. Cougars, bobcats, deer, owls, redtails and hummingbirds were regular colleagues, in ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Sitting on the wraparound stone porch at night after journeywork, a large ceanothus moth came and sat on my hand, furry as a winged deer. Rattlesnakes and scorpions had their own wisdom, but that's another story.
I was journeying one day, on the floor by the window looking east. I don't remember the details. When I finished, I stood and looked out the window. There was the first pestle, lying on the ground. It was a bare gravel/dirt area, cleared and part of the parking area by the cabin. The pestle had clearly not been there before, and could not have dropped from above, nor unearthed itself from below. I received it as a gift with honor, gratitude, and wonder.
Things appearing out of nowhere were becoming more of a thing during the Malibu years, which led me to buy the Brookings farm in 2001. The farmhouse had a workroom with a separate entry, perfect for the full-fledged practice I intended to begin there. Each day as I settled in, I'd go into the workroom and journey to ask, What am I doing here? What do I do today to further the work and why I am here? I received very specific instructions to find places I'd never seen, up river, on the coast, in the redwoods, and would follow up. Clients began to appear, retreat ideas would materialize with help from contemplating Mount Emily across the river from the property, and one thing led to another. That it would lead me to Oxford was unknown then, but that's another story.
That property had a spring that was part of the hillside spring system that provided water shared by several homes around. The little spring in the forest near my pump house was clearly sacred, and I would often go to pay respects and honor it. Springs, you know, are kind of a big deal multiculturally as places of reverence and spirit dwellers. I loved that tiny secluded watery magical spot, one of many wonderful spots on that property, all of which imbued the work with extra potency. The lingering spirits of the native people played a major role in my years there, I would come to find out. Their energy was palpable, and much respected.
So one day, I go to the spring to say hello. There, lying pristinely, on the wet muddy back part of the little spring, was the second pestle. Clean as a whistle. Dry as a bone. Placed on oozy saturated mud; everything around it wet and muddy. No prints or marks anywhere around it. Its similarity to the Malibu pestle was remarkable. I don't quite remember which is which.
The smallest pestle turned up when I returned to doing the work fully in Sandy, after nearly 7 years of academic focus with lessened shamanic practice. Reconnecting fully with the work, the crystals and stones, and the energy of remote and in-person transformative assisting felt revivifying, powerful. While there elk, bear, deer, owl, redtails and geese were frequent cohabitants. I visited the native museum in the Columbia Gorge and felt the presence of spirits in the woods and waterfall areas where they'd been so heinously ousted. I gave them sage offerings, said prayers, wrote poems, and studied the anthropological and geological details of the area.
Rattling and drumming and smudging and using feathers is not about pretending to be Native American, or a ritual that must be enacted to make stuff happen. Core shamanic practice draws from many cultures, respecting all. But as an empath, I feel what's around me, and who's around, and what they feel. The energy in much of Oregon notes the sorry way things went, and it wasn't long ago, less than 200 years.
Anyway, again, one day I finished my work in the workroom and went out to rake Sir's area near the barn. He had a big pasture to graze in and share with the wild herds when they roamed through, and then a dirt area by his water and shelter which I kept cleaned daily. There are no trees there, just bare earth that sprouts camomile and buttercups in summer and gets muddy in winter. There, lying on the bare earth, was the third pestle.
What prompted this post today was this morning's journey work, which led me to open a basket to see what was in it, which was another found stone, another native artifact, used for scraping hides as seen here. Chosen for its initial shape and moulded by the fingers gripping it and the hours of scraping, the human presence is still very much intact. I put it on my heart and journeyed about gifts, tools, work, and things appearing out of nowhere. It's the deft combination, under grace, that allows such transmissions, transformations, and materializations. I am grateful. Hoy ya hey!
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.
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.
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.