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.
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!