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
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.
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.