"Your path is to be shared...It will be called The Golden Thread Road"
~White Buffalo Calf Woman

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Taste of My Own Medicine

A little over a week ago I experienced a major disruption and challenge to my confidence in my shamanic abilities. My fiancé Valerie and I were on our way to do a house-clearing for a new realtor acquaintance who had a house for sale that had a particularly strange and troublesome energy to it. I did some prep work, journeying to my guides to see what I would need in order to help clear and heal the energy of this space. I received such instructions as burning Lavender and Jasmine along with the usual Sage, to fill the space which was neutralized and cleared by the Sage with Calm and Beauty. Synchronistically, 4 Sisters Holistic Remedies, my local Apothecary and location of my personal office, had just gotten Jasmine in that day. I was also instructed to get a bar of Selenite which I was to break by dropping it onto the front walkway and then bury the pieces in the various directions of the property. This and the fact that Valerie just happened to have with her her special wand that she uses for healing and clearing, seemed to me to say we had a go from the spirits.

We swung by 4 Sisters for our supplies, joking about how our Saturday Night Date Night consisted of a house clearing as I sang the Bay City Rollers' Saturday Night, then headed on toward our destination. We briefly stopped for some dinner which we ate in the car in the parking lot. I turned on the radio for a little Classical dinner music. When I went to start the car about twenty minutes later I was shocked to be met with a rapid succession of clicks. "What the...?!" That should not have been enough time to have drained the car battery. 

Not thinking too much about it we called a friend who was there in about another twenty minutes to jump start us a get us on our way. We texted the realtor letting her know what happened and that we were on our way again. "This house really doesn't want you to show up!" She replied. "Pffff!" I thought and carried on. 

It was about fifteen minutes later, after resisting the GPS's directions to get on the freeway, we were driving through a residential area. I was on a straightaway with a series of crossroads that all had stop signs for the crossing traffic. As I approached one crossroad I slowed down because there was a motorcycle approaching the corner and I wasn't totally convinced he was going to stop. He did. His partner who came roaring out of nowhere in the night did not. All I saw was the blur of a headlight as he crashed into the front panel of our car, totaling it in the process. Fortunately we were both alright and the motorcyclist, though in obvious excruciating pain, suffered only a broken femur. 

The rest of the evening was a disjointed blur of police, paramedics, bikers hating on us even as we were sending reiki to their injured brother, and somewhere in all of it, our realtor friend found us and escorted us home, telling us of some of the other weird, paranormal occurrences that had centered around this house - things that had I known I might have reconsidered or at least called in my friend Kelly of Haunted Healings who is more experienced in this specific area. 

Still the questions abounded in my mind. Was the dead battery a sign from my guides to stop and go home? Why didn't I recognize it as a sign and check in again at that point? Why did my guides give me such specific instructions if I weren't meant to go? Why didn't they just tell me I wasn't meant to do this clearing? Did I actually hear the instructions earlier or did I just make them up? Was the 'accident' my guides preventing me from going or was it malevolent spirits of the house threatening me? Should I even be doing this work? Am I too naïve? Not good enough? Just fooling myself with all this shaman stuff?  

Then I remember the Goddess Isis' direct words to me during the graduation ceremony for the two-year teacher training I spent with Sandra Ingerman: "Your confusion is just a distraction. Let it go and step into your power."

 


So, to move through the confusion and questioning, upon arriving at the local metaphysical store where I do readings every other Monday, I pulled cards for myself to gain better clarity on the events of the past couple days... 



 

The first thing I see in this Medicine Wheel spread before getting into the context of each card is a particular pattern - Three upright cards horizontally, indicating to me emotional (West) and mental (East) stability. The earth (North) and fire (South) being reversed, held by the stabilizing factor of East and West, like wings, suggests to me shifts and changes - A deepening of experience rather than something wrong that needs to be corrected. This point is accentuated by Boar's place in the center, being kind of the Sentinel of Initiation. 

Heron in the East represents self-reliance, stillness, and looking into one's shadow - Which is exactly what I'm doing by just pulling these cards. Like Heron, my feet are embedded in the earth, yet I confidently stand above the emotional waves (water) to discern meaning by gazing into my own shadow, which is what Heron does - the fish being drawn to the coolness of his shade then providing him with his nourishment. 

Grandmother Spider in the West reminds me to drop into my heart where I know all things are connected. Ironically, there are no accidents and every occurrence carries purpose and meaning. No matter how chaotic, this is not a random event and I am still at the center of my reality. It is up to me as Heron to unravel the seemingly tangled threads of Grandmother's web, to decipher the lesson and gift of the "accident."

Again, Boar at the center of these two adds an extra depth to all of this, but I will get to that in a bit.

Turkey, reversed in the South, the place of fire which is passion and action - Or in this case inaction - speaks of  "Following your bliss," as Joseph Campbell says. Turkey is known as the 'give away bird' emboding the principle that you must see to your own well-being in order to share and see to the well-being of others. Being reversed in the South reminds me that unless my heart is in something, unless I feel a spark drawing me forward, do not take action. It must feed me as well as whomever I am working with, or it benefits no one. Then I am just a martyr. If it is not a win-win, mutual benefit, non-zero sum experience, then it is not for me to do. If it does not call to me then there is someone else who will benefit more by stepping into that role. 

Black Panther reversed in the North (Earth) directly opposite Turkey, echoes her message of heart as the director of my path while adding a more adventurous note to the meaning. Remember you are the sovereign of your life, and do only those things that empower you. Life is not a pyramidic hierarchy but a circle, so whatever empowers you empowers the whole circle. Embrace the unknown, celebrate the mystery, ally yourself with the darkness as the creative force it is, being the cosmic womb wherein all possible and probable realities are conceived. Most of all let go of structures, expectations, and especially obligations which nullify your power and deaden your energy. If there is no heart in it for you, there will be no heart in it for anyone else. You are in new territory and there are no structures to guide you, especially the constructs that got you to this point. Put your faith in the unseen and trust your unfolding.  Your path is being created even as you walk it. Feel the exhilaration of that creative force and the excitement of making it up as you go along.

And finally, in the Center anchoring all of these together is Boar, with whom I have a pretty intimate relationship, always carrying a boar's tusk in my pocket as a way to honor my 'Body Protector' spirit guide who is a boar. Boar is perhaps the fiercest animal on the planet, so fierce that a tiger would rather turn tail and run the other way than chance to tangle with him. Because of this, in multiple indigenous cultures world wide, it is the killing of a wild boar which is the rite of passage to adulthood. As the aforementioned Goddess Isis once said, "If you knew you were going to survive then it wouldn't be an initiation." Boar is about facing your fears, particularly fear of death.

As we grow we have fears that exist around the perimeter of our reality, like the old medieval maps that designate that in certain areas "Here be Dragons" - Areas always on the very edge of explored territory. This is Boar's realm, and through those fears - such things as not crossing the street unless you're holding the hand of an adult - keep us safe, holding a space for us like a seed casing which allows us, as the inner part of the seed, to develop in an appropriate and protected area. In this way Boar is actually a Guardian. 

At some point the seed has to burst through that same seed casing if it's going to survive, and so it is with us in facing that barrier between the familiar of childhood and the unknown of adulthood. We have to face those fears and recognize them for what they are - artificial constructs - if we are going to grow and evolve. So we face Boar, who embodies our fear on the very edge of our comfort zones, and despite possibly shaking in our boots, we reclaim our personal power realizing that those fears have no power other than that which we give them, and, as we stand our ground, those fears become the seed of courage. And, like the illusions they are, those fears fade in the light of our truth. At this point Boar shifts from Guardian to Gate Keeper, making sure we have truly evolved with the necessary skill set and consciousness to move beyond the known into the unknown (Remember Black Panther from above?) before we are allowed to pass.

So this entire 'non-accident' was that initiation for me, passing from one comfortable realm to a more expansive unknown realm, and I can honestly say that I have grown from the experience. My trust in the Universe and my protection in it has deepened, along with my faith in the unfolding of my path and the miracles that support it. Everything from the speeds of the vehicles to the timing and positions where we collided, and everything that got us to that place in space and time was perfect for the outcome we experienced. Had anything been off by just a fraction of a second, the results could have been horrendously worse. The next day after the non-accident I received a text from a dear friend telling us she'd just bought a new car six months ago and had been holding onto her previous one, which was still in great shape, to give to someone who needed it. ...to GIVE to someone who needed it! Within a day, Valerie miraculously had a new car. And, if possible, she and I bonded even deeper with each other, facing a life threatening event together with a new sense of mutual love and support.

So my lesson is something that I am constantly telling others - Follow your passions. Do what brings you joy, what feeds and lights you up, and by so doing you benefit everyone around you. I need to focus my energies on doing just the things that call to me. Just because, as a Shaman, I can do things such as house and energy clearings, doesn't mean I have to, or should, do them. If I spread myself too thin out of a sense of duty or expectations, I unnecessarily expend energy, my energy, depleting and dispersing my reserves rather than tapping into the inexhaustible Universal flow of energy, which is that feeling of upliftment and excitement, that then carries me - And because I'm tapped into that Universal energy and allowing it to flow through me to heal the world, it also heals me. Win-win, non-zero sum, mutual well-being.  

A taste of my own Medicine.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Somewhere Over the Whirling Rainbow


A couple weeks ago, on a seemingly random thought, I googled someone I considered one of my greatest teachers. She has been a teacher to me through my spiritual life since the 80s when I got my first deck of Medicine Cards, the cards that thirty-some years and countless decks later have become the backbone of my own shamanic business as I do readings for clients to connect them to the wisdom of the Animal Spirit Guides. Then I discovered her other deck, the Sacred Path Cards, which touched me even deeper, and it was through that deck, and reading her book Dancing the Dream, that Jamie Sams became a North Star for me. The power that I felt coming through her words and teachings always soothed me back to my center and realigned the bearings of my own compass.

Lately I've found myself again looking to her for guidance and as a voice of authority. With the overdue rise in awareness around Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color rights finally coming to to the forefront of mainstream culture in a needed wave of change in consciousness has also come a subject that I still wrestle with with mixed feelings and self doubts - Cultural Appropriation. I won't go into the ins and outs of that right now because that's not what this post is about, but as a nonindigenous Shaman this has been a tricky subject for me and has fueled much soul searching and prayers. And it has been Jamie Sams who has provided many 'Golden Lasso moments'* for me, particularly through her writings about the Whirling Rainbow Prophecy.

So it was that this seemingly random thought occurred to me. In the past months since the pandemic started I had fulfilled a couple of long-held wishes, being able to finally take classes directly with two others who have been great inspirational teachers to me, Lisa Williams the renowned psychic/medium and Martha Beck the regular Oprah guest, life coach, and author. All of a sudden it hit me, "What if I could take a class with Jamie Sams?!" And so I excitedly googled away, searching for any kind of current calendar of appearances or classes that might allow me to connect with this woman who had so influenced my life. 

News was scarce and redundant, and I was starting to get frustrated when I breached a source of previously unread information. My heart dropped. Jamie Sams had actually just died the previous month in December of 2020. It hit me harder than I would have thought, tears rolling down my cheeks, my breath coming in incontrollable sobs. I had entered full blown grieving for someone I hadn't actually known, but the loss was felt as surely as the death of my father 5 years ago, or the two teary farewells of my beloved feline companions. 

In our nightly, bedtime video call I tried to express my feelings to Valerie, my fiancé, and her first question was, "So, did you connect with her then?" "...Oh yeah! That's right! I'm a shaman! I can do that!!"

Fittingly it was Imbolc night, February 2nd, the first day of Spring on the Celtic calendar, when I did connect. I was in the middle of a pipe ceremony for myself and, feeling perfectly appropriate considering the situation, I humbly asked her to come smoke with me. Instantaneously, to my surprise, she was there, sitting opposite me wrapped in what looked like a blanket of gold out of a Klimt painting and with feathers in her hair, grinning across my little altar at me. With tears in my eyes I started telling her how much I appreciated her and how much she'd influenced me and how I wished I'd gotten to meet her in person and... And she stopped me with a smile and said, "I know who you are my dear brother, and I am grateful for the work you do and the presence you bring to the world."

I think I kind of stuttered then, asking how she could possibly know me - Shades of Charles Schulz appearing to me in a meditation and my questioning the seeming convenience of such an encounter. "That's how the Universe works, on resonant frequencies. The fact that you resonated with my teachings means we have always been connected. Maybe not consciously until I was in spirit, but I do know you now."

I'd been crying pretty much this entire time, and as she fell silent we just sat there for a few moments until the silence weighed on me and I uncomfortably blurted out, "I feel like I should say or do something more to honor you..." Again she stopped my stream of thought with a smile. "Your presence is enough." And feeling my resistance she repeated her words... Twice.  "Your presence is enough... Your... presence... is... enough..." Smile. Always that enchanting smile. 

So we sat in silence for quite a while. when a thought floated into my mind. "Will you give me a blessing? Please?"

"Of course! It is with deepest gratitude that I celebrate and honor your work in the world and the presence of light you bring to it. I am blessed by your journey, continuing forward with the seeds I have planted. I am always with you."

Sometimes it is difficult for me to share such things, at the risk of sounding boastful in a 'look how special I am' kind of way. But that is not the spirit in which I report these things. Long ago I made a commitment to White Buffalo Calf Woman during a vision quest to share my path. As I come to terms with so many aspects, changes, and revelations along the way of my growth and unfolding, experiences such as this serve only to humble me. "Holy crap! That happened to me?!"   




And so I end this small tribute with more tears and widening cracks in my breaking heart, as well as with a video from a weekly Sacred Pipe Ceremony that I do, this particular one including a tribute to Jamie Sams. Deepest gratitude to you my beautiful Rainbow teacher. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. 

   



"Golden Lasso moments" refers to a scene in a JLA graphic novel entitled A League of One where Wonder Woman, to assure her integrity and accountability, places her golden lasso of Truth around her own neck.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Bear With Me

Lately I have noticed a certain pattern unfolding in my spiritual life and journeys. It actually started a while back but since then has seemed to have gained momentum as time progresses. One night, maybe a year and a half or so ago, during a Sacred Pipe ceremony I became aware of a great brown bear spirit sitting next to me. 

Now my connection with Bear goes way back, having been raised on television shows such as Gentle Ben and Grizzly Adams, and having actually seen a black bear come out of the Minnesota woods while camping with my family as a kid... 

"Hey Dad! Look at that big dog!"

"...That's ...not a dog."

And so here I was about a year and a half ago, performing a sacred pipe ceremony when I became aware of this large, brown bear sitting next to me in spirit. I hadn't been aware of any specific Bear spirit guides or totems, usually chalking up any appearance of bears in my experiences to the presence of Artemis, my Matron Goddess, whose personal totem is Bear, and whose actual name, at least the "Art" part, means "Bear." This time seemed different, though, so I had to ask who she was and why she had appeared. "I am a totem - not personally yours but inherited from your ancestors." I hadn't really ever thought about hereditary totems before, totems being passed down through the generations, but that made sense. Not only are our ancestors literally present in our very blood, but also the accompanying totem animals that guided the clans and tribes of our grandmothers and grandfathers. For as long as I have been on this spiritual path, I still get as giddy as a school boy when I get to learn new things!

Then about nine months ago, after pretty much forgetting about her, during another pipe ceremony, I suddenly saw the huge top view of a bear head filling my inner vision. Again I asked who she was and why she had come. "You called me. I am your Grand Mother -- The grandmother of your grandmothers." It took me a minute to remember that I had actually called to her in the previous months, wanting to know my ancestor's ancestors and my grandmothers' grandmother, then instantly feeling embarrassed thinking about how vast the roots of my family tree were and wondering how there could be only one grandmother. "Duh!" Bear was THE Grand Mother. She was the first Great Mother Goddess worshipped by humanity, as evidenced by her skull and bones buried along with the humans in the oldest known burial graves. My conversation with her is still ongoing, which, translated, means I keep asking for more information and she keeps telling me to rest. I drew a comic about our initial meeting that you can read on my Drawing Breath Comic blog. 


In a previous post in this blog (Bearing It Well) I spoke about my experiences with the great Ponca chief, Standing Bear, how he replaced Siting Bull as one of my guides and how he has worked with me, so I won't recount that here. Suffice it to say he has helped me to regain my bearings (teehee!).

This past August I was doing pipe ceremony on the river with my fiance, Valerie, when another Native American chief appeared to me. I wasn't sure if he were a local Ancestor of the Land or from somewhere else, but his first words to me were, "You do us proud." I asked who he was and I got the name "Skinny Bear" with the sense that "skinny" was meant as in starving. As I drove home Valerie googled him and couldn't find anything about a Skinny Bear, but interestingly there was a "Lean Bear" who was also sometimes known as "Starving Bear." This Lean Bear was a Cheyenne Peace Chief in the 1860s and a member of the Council of  Forty-four, which was a tribal council devoted to maintaining peace with the encroaching white settlers. 



I returned to the river that evening to smoke with Lean Bear, to reconnect with him and basically find out if he were showing up as a guide for me or just stopping by. He replied that he had come to work with me because of the resonance between us as peaceful warriors, and to help me as a negotiator of Peace between seemingly opposing peoples. I saw in this too, along with his first words to me, a hint of my path in the near future - a path that had recently come to light through the guidance of a dear shaman friend, but which I will await another time and post to elaborate on. He did, however, further validate that path at our next meeting.

At the little beach on the river where I'd been doing my pipe ceremonies, I kept getting a vision of a stone Medicine Wheel there. Finally I just went ahead, collected all the necessary river stones, and laid out a small medicine wheel in the sand. Once I completed it and smoked at it, Lean Bear came through and thanked me for following through on the vision I'd been given, saying that these traditions are meant for all people. Those that hold to the specific traditions are not wrong, but neither are they totally right. Traditions are meant to change, evolve, and expand. They are to be shared. When clung to exclusively, for the sake of the tradition, the value of the individual person suffers. The traditions and objects, such as the Medicine Wheel, are filters or lenses through which to connect to the Divine with the human heart. The power is in each individual, not the tradition or object. The point is to move into the awareness of being one people, one tribe. The ways should be shared and taught to bring people together rather than another excuse for separation and division. Then he thanked me for being part of that healing force by respecting and honoring the old ways at the same time I adapt them to fit today's people.  


Through all of this my focus has been on being the bridge of peace and unity between people and things in the outside world. So in the last couple weeks Lean Bear came to me to help me focus on settling my inner battles and becoming a united front within myself. This is still an ongoing process but I have been making great strides which have reflected in my inner and outer worlds significantly. 

It just fascinates me, the patterns that unfold and the threads that flow and intertwine through my life, particularly when it involves an animal, and I am able to at least partially decode some of the underlying currents of influence that run beneath the surface, breaching into the light of day in form or name, and then submerging deep until the next appropriate moment to resurface. Bear is one of those influencers on my unfolding path, and I am so grateful to finally be able to recognize and appreciate her for all she does for me - My dear Grand Mother!


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Service Animal Spirit Guidance For The Changing World

I put together a list of 13 Animal Spirit Guides and how they can help us through this time of the pandemic as the world turns topsy-turvy. It is not a complete list by any means of the spiritual guidance, animal and otherwise, out there to help us thrive in these changing times, but these are a few of the ones I've personally worked with that have helped me, and who had specific attributes to face things that people are experiencing at this time. They can help steady our shaky steps and smooth the bumpy ride into a new reality.  

Call upon them as you would a friend or a loved one. Find a place and time when you can sit in silence. Imagine yourself surrounded by white light. Call in one, or more, of the appropriate guides and ask them for their strength and their wisdom. You can ask specific questions such as, "What is my next step to get through this?" or "Can you show me this situation from your perspective?" You may receive words, or images, or feelings. You may also notice nothing, but trust that you have been heard and help is on the way. Perhaps they will answer your questions in a dream or a in sudden flash of inspiration when the timing is right. Thank your Animal Spirit Guides for their help, imagine the white light dispersing, then return fully to your body and continue with your day, knowing that what you need will unfold in the coming days.

You can also simply call on them as you feel the need through out your day when you start to feel wobbly or in doubt. They are here to serve and guide us, and their method is always Love.


SNAKE: Shedding the Old. You are literally outgrowing your old reality. As snake sheds his skin, we are shedding the ways of life that no longer fit or support us. The old world is ripping to shreds, leaving us uncomfortably itchy and unsupported, and the new world has not solidified, like the soft and tender new skin. You are more sensitive right now, so nurture yourself. Know that the old skin would not be falling apart if the new skin were not pushing through to replace it even bigger and better than before. Also, while shedding Snake is blind, his eyes being part of the old skin. This is a time of retreating, nurturing, and building faith, knowing there are no accidents and that there is purpose to all of this. 


VULTURE: Sterilization. Clean up your space and your mind. Let Vulture consume what is dead and decaying in your life, the clutter of things and thoughts that support dis-ease in your life and prevent you from moving into your power and best life. Vulture sterilizes the environment to make it safe for other life to thrive. Raise your wings to the Sun and let what is toxic in your life be burned away by the light of Truth of who you truly are. All is well in your world.


BAT: Rebirth/Initiation. When the world turns upside down, it's time to shift perspectives. Cling to the ceiling of the cave rather than the floor in order see things differently, and in ways you never imagined. Know that no matter how scary, there is purpose in every change. Use this time in darkness and stillness to see with more than your eyes. Reach out with your feelings and intuition and trust what you receive from your non-physical senses. The cave is the womb of the Cosmic Mother. You are about to be reborn.



BUTTERFLY: Transformation. We are crossing a threshold where life will never be the same. Scary, right? But if you as Caterpillar knew you were destined to become more than you are now, to be given wings to fly rather than being stuck to a single branch, to become Butterfly, would you be afraid? Right now you are in the cocoon. As Caterpillar you are being broken down into genetic soup and your very DNA rearranged. There is nothing solid to hold onto, including your very identity and essence. Surrender to the process. There is purpose and you are meant for greater things. Don't be afraid. You were born for this.


DUCK: Calm. When the currents get too rough, fly to calmer waters. Float above the waters, the emotions, by finding those activities, or inactivities, that help you feel calm and centered. Take a break from the world, from the news, from the things that hold you down and unable to breathe, and nurture yourself. When you know you can swim, and naturally float on the water, none of the emotional turbulence can hold you down or overwhelm you. You can let it all roll off your back. 



TASMANIAN DEVIL: Appropriate Aggression. There is nothing in this world that can stand in the way of your purpose here on earth. Nothing. Even if you are sick, Tasmanian Devil can help you find the will to live, the will to heal, the will to break down any obstacles that stand between you and your purpose. It is various unrecognized and unfelt emotions such as anger and fear that can stand in the way of your health and well-being, and Tasmanian Devil can help swirl those into a tornado, utilizing their power constructively to burst through anything holding you back from living your best life.


FROG: Cleanse. Take a salt bath. Nurture yourself and release anything from your life that is toxic. Take a shower and as the waters rush over you, allow them to not only wash away the physical grime, but the emotional and mental grime that keeps you feeling small and worthless. Consciously introduce those things into your life and environment that feed you, nourish you, and make you feel whole and centered. Any thoughts and fears that make you feel small or worthless are intrinsically untrue. Practice through affirmations replacing those toxic, belittling thoughts with thoughts and words that validate and reinforce the Divine Being you truly are. By thus becoming your purer self you clear your channel to Spirit, and open your voice to be added to the chorus of the world.


BLUE HERON: Self Reflection. This time of stillness is a gift. Rise like Heron over the waters of emotion, and look at yourself. It is the coolness of his shadow that draws the fish to him, so it is by looking at his reflection that Heron is able to feed himself. If you are flopping around in the water you are stirring up the mud and scaring the fish. Let Heron lift you on his long legs above the waters, your stillness allowing the waters to still and clear, and give you the perspective to observe yourself without judgement or attachment, giving yourself the power to move on and change, and to find those tidbits that only make you stronger.  Be still and observe. Sit with your feelings and allow them to abate. You are a Divine Being, part of the same source energy as everyone and everything else. There is nothing in your shadow to fear.


DOLPHIN: Breathe. Like Dolphin you are a creature of two worlds -- Think of Air as Spirit and Water as the World. It is the air/spirit inside of you that allows you to swim the the water/world, so use this time where things are shut down on the outside and venture into your inside. Explore meditation. Find your rhythm of surfacing into Spirit, taking a deep breath, then diving again, allowing that spirit to infuse you as you navigate the depths of this world. You might find yourself smiling more, and you may approach things more playfully. Breathe. Trust the ebb and flow.



COYOTE: Laugh/Play.  In times such as these, humor is especially vital. Constant fear and anxiety take their toll on your system and laughter reverses all those effects. It brings fresh, restorative energy to you, body and soul, and a place of renewed mental clarity with which to better access your circumstances and move forward effectively. Look at things through the eyes of your inner child. Find ways to play. Turn even your challenges into a game and you might find new and creative ways to remedy them. Find things to laugh about. If you don't, Coyote will bound after you, nipping at your ankles, possibly even tripping you up, to make you pause and laugh at yourself.



PELICAN: Resilience. Joy is your natural state of being. Love is who you are. You are intrinsically a high frequency being. Your spirit is buoyant and, like Pelican, no matter how deep you dive into the world, you will always rise back to the surface. Your soul is like a beach ball. It actually takes energy and effort to hold it down because it's natural inclination is to ascend. It is when we relinquish control and let go of the things that hold us down - our thoughts and worries and fears - that we naturally rise above it all. Surrender to who you truly are. Know that you are already whole. You are an eternal being in an impermanent world. This too shall pass..



BLACK PANTHER: Embrace the Unknown. The dark is but the womb of the Cosmic Mother. In the dark all possible realities exist and the Universe is waiting for you to make a decision on what future you desire. With hear dark, shimmering coat Black Panther is the reflection of the night sky - the microcosm of the macrocosm. As above, so below. Set your intention of the reality you wish to create then move confidently in that direction knowing that the Universe has your back and reflects your desires. It is a great hologram where every piece contains the whole, so within you exists the entire universe. The answers are literally within you. There is nothing in the dark to fear.



OWL: Seeing with the Heart. There is a reason Athena, the Goddess of Justice, has Owl as her totem. Owl's eyesight is as good as Eagle's, but she sees in the dark. Owl brings the ability to see with the heart and cut through the smoke and mirror illusions of this world. She can help navigate through the unknown and the uncertainties of the world, aiding in connecting with your own heart to see the rampant fears and anxieties for the illusions they are. Even when everything is dark around you, she will guide you from love rather than fear. And she is fierce, a winged-tiger. Be bold. Trust your heart. 



Thursday, March 5, 2020

Bearing It Well

It was in a Vision Quest about 10 years ago that I met Sitting Bull. I had just been having a nice sit down conversation with Jeshua (Jesus) when suddenly this great chief appeared with out warning. He told me who he was and I, just a little star-struck, stammered, “THE Sitting Bull?!” Taking it in stride he simply went on to thank me for honoring his traditions and for adapting them to my needs and my path (I lost count of the number of times my Lakota mentor facilitating this Vision Quest said, "If my teachers saw this they would kill me."), telling me traditions had to evolve in order to become accessible and applicable to more people. Then he said something that has stuck with me ever since -- "We may not be your Ancestors of Blood, but we are your Ancestors of Spirit." That was the only time I'd heard that phrase until it was validated a few years later in a class with Tom Cowan, the Celtic Shaman, when he told us of the three kinds of Ancestors -- Blood, Story, and Spirit

For several years afterwards Sitting Bull accompanied me on my path, popping up at different times, particularly during the Sacred Pipe Circle I attended every week. Most of the time he said very little, if anything, but just feeling his presence was comforting. When I saw him in my mind's eye or felt him sitting with me, I knew everything was right with the world. Even if I were going through some heavy emotional trials or something, with him nearby I knew I was still on the right path no matter what inner turmoil I was experiencing.




One day at Pipe Circle things changed. As I passed the chanupa to the person next to me and settled in to receive any messages or visions, there before me I saw Sitting Bull, but it was different. Normally he appears to me extremely close up and looking eye to eye. Instead I saw his entire buffalo blanketed form sitting a small distance in front of me, and he was turned to the right. "Huh..."I thought, "Wonder what that's about." Then I realized there was another figure standing behind him, another Native man with arms folded against his bare chest as he stared into my eyes, his face seemingly etched in stone with no hint of emotion. I think I gulped. "What is happening?" Silently sitting bull faded away leaving the tall, stoic stranger looming in front of me. From somewhere the name Standing Bear floated through my mind. That's when I realized this was basically a changing of the guards. Sitting Bull had fulfilled his purpose with me and now it was Standing Bear who would take over guiding me. Then I almost laughed out loud, struck again by the subtle humor of the spirits. Of course Sitting Bull would be sitting and Standing Bear standing. Okay, I could work with this.

I knew nothing about my new guide, and in his stoic demeanor, Standing Bear was not forthcoming on who he was or why he was there, so answers would have to come through research. I had never heard of him, that I remembered, so I started with his name to see if he were actually an historical figure. I did find a few Standing Bears through history, but before I could even question how I would know which one he was, I saw a photo and instantly knew, "That's him!" The same quiet strength and composure with an intense determination in his eyes.



He was a famous chief of the Ponca people, originally from Nebraska. Long story short, his tribe was forced into their own Trail of Tears on foot from Nebraska to Oklahoma, during which many, including Standing Bear's eldest son, died. Because his son was afraid the Ancestors wouldn't be able to find him and lead him into the afterlife so far from home, Standing Bear promised to return him and bury him in the land of his birth. This he did with a small group of tribal members, only to be captured and arrested in Nebraska for venturing off their reservation.

This led to a trial in 1879 where Standing Bear sued the United States Government --And won! What he sued for was habeas corpus - recognition as a "person" under the law and entitled to all its rights and protections. He was the one who so famously said...

"That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a Man."

And that is where it suddenly made sense to me. One thing I have always struggled with is self-worth, self confidence, and just standing up for myself. Then along comes an individual standing up in front of an entire government and nation who denigrate him and his race to little more than dirt, to declare unflinchingly "I am a man!" Words can not do justice to how much this resonates with me and what strength it awakens in me.

Since then he has stood sentinel over me - an ever-present stoic guardian, huge on presence and small on words. I have to admit being at least slightly intimidated by him, and at the same time so grateful he had decided to come and stick around. For a long time that was enough for me. But just recently, after years of his silent and protective companionship, I finally asked what he'd actually come to help me with in the first place.

"Fortitude," was his single word answer. It instantly rang true and I understood, but at the same time I found myself asking, "What exactly does that mean?..."

      fortitude
               /ˈfôrdəˌt(y)o͞od/

                  NOUN
                           courage in pain or adversity.
                           "she endured her illness with great fortitude"
                           synonyms: courage · bravery · strength of mind 

Holy Crap! How appropriate is that? In a word that is exactly what Standing Bear embodies, and what he is awakening in me. Indeed, this past year has been exceptionally trying, especially these last few months as I am continuously, and seemingly increasingly, challenged to rise to higher heights and release all the things I mistakenly took on as my identity. Not that I am not also in the best place I've ever been in my life. My lucid moments of connection with the Heart of Goddess are beyond words. I have a firmer faith and conviction in my true identity and purpose than I could ever previously have dreamed of. Perhaps that is what makes these times in my growth such a challenge. The distance in the fluctuations between ecstatic Divine connection and lying broken on the floor incapacitated by fear and anxiety are unimaginably vast. To quote Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space." 
And traversing that mindbogglingly big space through the mental debris field of old beliefs and identities takes courage.

Just the other day as I was driving to my day job after struggling to get out of bed and muster the gumption to stagger through another day at a job that, though I am grateful for everything it provides me, does nothing, nothing, to feed or even support my Spirit, I heard Standing Bear say, "This. This is the birthing ground of Fortitude." His loquaciousness made me pause and realize this was important.

A past version of me might have interpreted this to mean that life is a struggle and I must foster the fortitude to continue to fight my way upstream because that's the way it'll be until the day I die, fighting a hopeless battle but denying the hopelessness of the situation because that is the noble thing to do.

However, spending a great proportion of my time in non-dual reality gives me a different perspective. Yes. The battle is hopeless. Every battle is hopeless. That's because life is not a battle, and the value of fortitude is the ability it gives to walk through the mental and emotional structures based in the duality of the old world and step into the reality of non-duality -- the Oneness that lies behind everything. Fortitude is not banging your head endlessly against a brick wall. It is recognizing that the wall doesn't even exist and it is walking through the wall despite what you're senses may be telling you. It is the courage to recognize yourself as Divine Energy no matter what the world may be telling you you are. It is the grace to live as a butterfly in a world of caterpillars.

And so I am blessed beyond measure to have this Brother of Spirit standing sentinel for me, an unwavering beacon to light and guide my way. Thank you Standing Bear. Aho.

*

Epilogue -- 

Tonight, after finishing my blog post, I did a chanupa ceremony and as soon as I finished the initial blowing of smoke blessings to all the directions, Standing Bear was there, and for the first time in the years we’ve worked together, I saw him smiling. At first you might think it was because he was happy that I wrote about him, but what I felt was more of a “you finally got it!” feeling. It was pride, but not in himself. It was the approving smile of a teacher seeing his student succeed.

"You've been on your own Trail of Tears you know."
Thinking back over the past year and the recent months, I nodded. 
"No, not now. It was coming into a world you didn't understand and that didn't understand you. Now you are on your way back to your origins, as I was with my son. The journey is challenging, yes, but the return trip is laced with the joy of coming home."

Oh how I love this man.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

We All Make It Home

I was walking down to my spot on the river -- Actually "shuffling" is a more accurate description, kicking up the leaves and listening to them crackle and crunch. As I crested the little hill down to the bank I paused at the sight. The river was flowing very high, swollen with the rain that has deluged us in the past weeks. None of the normal, sandy beach was visible and, in fact, the place where I normally sit was about 20 feet out into the water.

As I approached the water’s edge I couldn’t help exclaiming, “Oh there you are!” I had had a small paper bag full of loose sage that I’d misplaced, having combed my apartment looking for it and having no idea where it could possibly have gone. It must have fallen out of my chanupa bag in the dark when I left here a couple nights previously after another pipe ceremony. And here it was, almost intact but for a small hole, despite the heavy rain that had soaked it. As I reached down to retrieve it, I realized I wasn’t alone. Right next to my sage bag, camouflaged in with the color of the leaves and earth, was a dead salmon. I felt honored that my unintentional offering had apparently been reciprocated by an offering from Grandfather Salmon. Picking up some of the sage that had spilt from my bag, I sprinkled it on the departed fish, saying something like, “I honor you Grandfather Salmon and thank you for the gift of your presence. I am sorry you did not make it home.”

Instantly I heard Grandfather laughing in my ear. “My son, we ALL make it home.” And I witnessed the image of this beautiful salmon swimming right out of its body and into the realm of spirits.



I found a spot just down river from where Grandfather lay, and made a comfy place to sit, spreading my blanket on the colorful leaves and wrapping my cloak around me. I had hoped to see some live salmon swimming upstream but the water was dark and rough so, other than just a couple feet out from shore, I couldn’t see beneath the surface. I performed a pipe ceremony, sending smoke blessings to the salmon lying on the bank, and calling out, “Grandfather Salmon come smoke with me!” Hoping to entice a live salmon to join me nearby in the river.

I smoked, and prayed, and cried, and sang, for a good hour or so until I noticed the clouds darkening, not only because of the encroaching night, but from the density of the water they held. I closed my pipe ceremony, thanking Creator for my life and my path, but then instead of releasing the directions as I normally do, I began to go right in to wrapping up the bowl and stem in their separate little cloth bundles. As I was doing this I happened to look into the water and there, just a couple feet from me and directly in front of me hovered a salmon, pausing in his swim. I almost burst into tears. It was such a blessing and honor to be visited, especially after I invited him to smoke with me. It was perfect.

After thanking the spirits and releasing my sacred space, I gathered my things to beat the rain. As I passed Grandfather Salmon lying on the beach I whispered, "Thank you Grandfather and welcome home!"


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Gator Aid



A few months ago I took a few days to myself at a friend's little cabin in the woods. It was a wonderful spiritual retreat and I spent the entire weekend meditating, napping, and connecting. I worked quite a lot with my chanupa, performing several sacred pipe ceremonies each day, and probably the most thrilling thing that happened was the introduction of a new Power Animal during one of those ceremonies.

Power Animals are those Animal Spirit Guides that usually come into our lives at a specific time for a specific purpose, to guide and help us in a particular direction or with a particular task. It is especially exciting to me when they pop up of their own accord rather than my journeying to seek them because there's a certain amount of validation that comes with a guide showing up before you even knew you needed someone to help you in a certain area. If you weren't looking for someone in the first place you don't have to be concerned with the whole "I'm just making this up" mind set. 

Of course with new Spirit Guides, especially ones that just pop up, it's always a good thing to double check and make sure they've got your highest good at heart, so I always run them past Nathaniel, my stalwart reindeer companion, for his approval. Another fun way to do this is to ask them to tell you joke. If they really have your highest good at heart, have no other agenda, and are of a higher frequency, they are going to have a sense of humor, so if they can tell you a joke you're pretty safe. 

The joke this guide told me:

Why can't ducks ever be experts?
Because they're always dabbling!

(In case you don't get it -- non-diving ducks are called "dabblers")  

But I'm getting ahead of myself... So there I was one evening in the middle of a Pipe Ceremony, negotiating a deal with the Mosquito Nation in order to keep from being bit (which they mostly upheld) when I became aware of a presence. Whatever it was I knew it was reptilian. When I am in Non-Ordinary Reality, things tend to look similar to what the world looked like to Frodo when he put on the ring and became invisible (between the worlds) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it sometimes takes time for the shadows of figures to solidify into recognizable shapes. Even then they can morph back and forth between different forms. 

Then it raised its massive head and began breathing fire. "Mike?" I asked, referring to my dragon power animal, "Is that you?" But there was no immediate answer. Another dragon perhaps? You can never have too many dragon friends! But as the flames faded the form solidified into a giant albino alligator. Leave it to me to have something as unusual as a fire-breathing alligator as a spirit guide. As he stood there looking at me he began to glow from the inside. (...Make that a giant, albino, fire-breathing, glow-in-the-dark alligator). While we sat there staring at each other, the name "Ansel" floated through my thoughts. Really?! What is it with my power animals and alliteration?!

So I had a nice conversation with Ansel, asking what his message was for me, and how we were going to work together. Seemingly building on the insights I had earlier gained from my meetings with Sekmet about anger, Ansel was to help me learn when it's appropriate to 'breathe fire'.  And he was to help teach me how to dial it back to keep just enough flame burning inside to radiate the light, my inner light, to be a beacon. Again the message repeated through my spiritual history: I am meant to be seen.

With that, Ansel turned, very smoothly for his great size, and, with barely a splish, dove into a river I hadn't previously noticed but from which he had apparently emerged earlier. He sank quickly beneath the dark waters, his radiant white silhouette, propelled by his gracefully weaving tail, in stark contrast with the black currents as he descended, diminishing in size until swallowed by the darkness. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.


It wasn't until I'd returned home and was doing a pipe ceremony down at the river that it occurred to me how appropriate Ansel's appearance was. Taking a long drag into my mouth, holding it for a second, then blowing it out, I suddenly realized I was literally breathing fire. Clever gator! The fire-breathing wasn't just about expressing anger, it was working with my pipe. He was here to help teach me how to work with my chanupa! 

Then another insight hit me that caused me to giggle out loud. Alligator is actually an exceptional mother. She doesn't just lay her eggs then disappear. She regularly tills the nest, turning the soil and stirring the eggs so that they get equal portions of warmth from the sun and coolness from the earth. Then when the babies hatch, she takes them in her mouth and carries them to the river where she teaches them to swim. Here I was, at the river, being taught how to swim, so to speak, by an alligator. 

It still amazes me how these things build on themselves, how something that seems relatively mundane at the time (at least as mundane as an albino, fire-breathing, glow-in-the-dark alligator can be) continues to unfold with deeper and more profound threads of meaning and connection. 

For instance - Even as I was writing this it occurred to me that Ansel is modeling the fact that I am the chanupa. I watch Ansel breathing fire and keeping his inner flame lit in the same way the breathing back and forth through the pipe keeps the embers in the bowl, the heart of the chanupa, alive, and just as it is my smoking the chanupa, breathing in and out, that helps keep the embers of my own heart lit, staying in alignment so I radiate more of my inner Divine light. 

I am finding that the more I work with my chanupa, the deeper I go (another river metaphor) and the more I'm walking in my own light, not afraid to step into the darkness and face it, or light it up. Like they say, "You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine."

So I now have a Spirit Ally ally-gator...  An animal spirit guide to help be my navi-gator... A power animal to help discover my deeper mysteries as my investi-gator...

Okay. I'm done. See you later...

...never mind...