Whenever I undertake work that is close to my heart, that is transformational, I like to invite spirit, both generally and specifically, to be present and to participate. Being old I know a lot of stuff, but spirit knows and sees way more than I ever can. So it is comforting and wise to have friends and allies to hand, working in partnership with me, so I do not have to rely on my own seeing alone.

Here is a prayer I often use, in this form or another, to invite spirit to be near and around me in whatever undertaking I am turning my hand to. Feel free to use, adapt or otherwise modify to suit your own ends and needs, so long as they are rooted and grounded in compassion and a commitment to work for the good of the whole earthly community.

Spirits of the east, you who throw open the gates of the dawn and invite us to greet the sun, you who are the midwives and nurturers of new beginnings, the protectors of the young, the nourishers of all that is new and uncertain: teach us to nurture, protect and nourish that which is new and tender in us; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Spirits of the south, you who are the brightness and satisfaction of noon, the coming to fruition and the brightness and bodily joy of high summer: teach us to wiggle out toes in the green grass, to stop and turn our faces to the sun, to love this life we have been given; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Spirits of the west, you who open the door for the setting sun, who prepare our eyes and hearts with the softening dusk to walk into the velvety dark of the unknown: teach us to be impeccable warriors, unburdened, with no need for enemies in this life or the next; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Spirits of the north, ancestors of our bodily lineage and of our spiritual lineages, you who have the heart to make the epic journey beyond death and return to stand behind and and to our left hand, to teach, guide and protect us: teach us to be aware of your presence near us and of the richness of your contribution to who we are now; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Spirits of the sky, the holy winds and the cloud people, Papa Sol our star, Grandmother Moon, star nations of whose stuff we are made: shine you light upon us so that we see ourselves clearly and the path that we are walking; shower your teachings onto us and around us and open our minds to receive them; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Earth my mother, Earth my mother, Earth my mother, you cradle us now as always; you meet and support us; you remind us that we are bone of your bone, blood of your blood, breath of your breath: teach us to walk with grace upon your skin, to dance in beauty upon your belly, to live in harmony with all your children our relations; join us in this conversation; lean in to us and make your wisdom known.

Blessings on you, my dears, as you go upon your way, as turn your hand to the work you have chosen, as you dream the dream that you are. May you live in beauty.

 

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This a good question to ask about shamanic work in general. I stand or sit or dance or drum or rattle, entering another form of consciousness while doing so. Beings who do not have physical bodies speak with me, show me things, guide my hands in providing release and healing and recovery of self. So far as the western, developed-world mind knows, this is mostly taking place on the field of my imagination; how can it be real?

Which raises the question of what is real, a deep question that anyone in the “developed” world must face who chooses or is chosen by a path that requires faith or prayer or any other relationship with the unseen, unseeable world. Out of my own background with the church I am reminded that Jesus was asked the same sort of thing about the holy spirit. His response was along the lines that you also cannot see the wind yet you are in no doubt that it exists because you see the results of the wind blowing; likewise, those that have eyes to see (a favourite phrase of his) can see the result of the actions of the holy spirit.

The tricky bit for me has been allowing myself permission to develop eyes to see. In this world, there is always the voice (well, certainly in my own head) that says I am just making this up. I am making up the experience, and I am making up the connection to results; the whole thing is a fantasy of a weak mind, a wish-fulfillment exercise in making myself believe I have some power in the world, or my ego playing “I am special” tricks on itself about which I will feel really silly later. Self-delusion on a grand scale. Laughable at its best, cringingly humiliating at is near worst. Soon they will put me on medication and if that does not snap me out of it there is a special padded cell with my name on it waiting.

The bad news is, that for me there is no fighting this voice. The more I fight it the stronger it seems to become. So I have, for years, had to let it run on and on until it slows down and then choose: do I give up here and now or do I just go on with this work that I feel called to and that appears to give at least comfort if not actual help to the person in front of me? Uncomfortable, but effective. The more experience I gain with spirit the weaker the voice becomes. It is a slow process, but effective.The good news is that recently I have found a world view that helps me sidestep that developed-world critical voice. I hope it will help you as well. It is based on indigenous views of reality from around the world taken from The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicine to Life on Earth by Stephen Harrod Buhner….

“While containing numerous variations, themes, and differences these nonindustrial epistemologies do contain a basic framework that is very similar in a number of areas. Most assert that:

  • At the center of all things is spirit. In other words, there is a central underlying unifying force in the Universe that is sacred.
  • All matter is made from this substance. In other words, the sacred manifests itself in physical form.

  • Because all matter is made from the sacred, all things possess a soul, a sacred intelligence or logos.

  • Because human beings are generated out of this same substance it is possible for human beings to communicate with the soul or intelligence in plants and all other matter and for those intelligences to communicate with human beings.

  • Human beings emerged later on Earth and are the offspring of the plants. Because we are their offspring, their children, plants will help us whenever we are in need if we ask them.

  • Human beings were ignorant when they arrived here and the powers of Earth and the various intelligences in all things began to teach them how to be human. This is still true. It is not possible for new generations to become human without this communication or teaching from the natural world.

  • Parts of Earth can manifest more or less sacredness, just like human beings. A human being can never know when some part of Earth might begin expressing deep levels of sacredness or begin talking to him. Therefore it is important to cultivate attentiveness of mind.

  • Human beings are only one of the many life-forms of Earth, neither more nor less important than the others. Failure to remember this can be catastrophic for individuals, nations, and peoples. The other life in the Universe can and will become vengeful if treated with disrespect by human beings.”

This gives me a different place to stand, one that pre-dates the voice in my head and seems to confuse and render it powerless or, at least, less powerful. That is because it have stepped sideways from a world view based in the material. It says, “First there is what is solid and can be touched, tasted, smelled, heard with the ears, explored with instrumentation. This is real. Out of it arises everything that is intangible and, therefore, ephemeral and not to be trusted. Not real. Not important.”

The indigenous world view says, in short, “First there is the intangible, the sacred intelligence. This is real. Out of it arises all that is tangible and measurable, still imbued with sacred intelligence, able to relate to humans who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”

You will have to make you own choice in this matter, – and you do get to chose because it is part of your inheritance as a human being to co-create your own reality with spirit; you are doing it already by accepting the reality your own culture hands you when you are born, and you may have to develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear – but as for me, I choose to stand in the non-industrial reality. It is painful because what we are doing to this beautiful, wonder-filled sacred-intelligence-imbued physical earth is painful to see, but it is a place that gives me access to healing for myself, my family and the world. That is what I came into this world to do, so clearly this is the place for me to stand. It may be helpful to you to stand there as well, particularly if you have arrived at this blog because that probably is an indicator that you have come here to heal and serve as well.

Only you can know that.

Home is that place where,

when you have to go there –

and you have to go there,

foot-dragging

face sagging

through the gate

up the path

knuckles brushing

the reluctant door

so long forgotten hidden lost

until the homing urge

reawakens

scratching yawning farting

pushing back the duvet

with imprecations, muted

or otherwise

flinging open the door

bleary-eyed

unwashed

to find yourself on the road.

Come home.

Home is that place where,

when you have to go there,

they have to take you in

to their hearts

to their lap to rock and dandle

to their arms to wrap

to their shoulders to comfort

to the hearth side to belong.

If you come into a house

with no heart

no lap for cradling

no arms for wrapping

no shoulders for leaning

no place at the hearth,

then

no matter what their names

or their claims

it is not home.

Shake their dust from your toes

clap your sandals together

in their faces.

Find your feet again upon that road.

Come home.

The shaman in each of us knows that “as within, so without”, that we are all so intimately interconnected that transformation of the world around us is rooted in transformation of ourselves.

It is clear that we are called to transform the world; the world is crying out for transformation, and who else is to do it? So, then, surely we are called to transform ourselves as the foundation of this work of transforming the world. And in order to transform myself I must know myself.

To do this knowing of myself is to wrestle with  a great, slippery shape-shifting mystery. How do I come to know myself when myself is forever hiding from my conscious mind, camouflaging, playing the internal chameleon?

One way is to learn to recognise my reflection in the world around me.

reflection-3

Many shamanic traditions state outright that the way the world appears to us is a direct reflection of our internal state, our self; other traditions take that to be so obvious as not to need stating. Whether or not this is actual, verifiable fact, taking that point of view can be very useful in terms of coming to know myself, so I would ask you to try it on for size and see what you can use it to generate.

In using this viewpoint as a tool, the easiest place to start is likely to be the aspect of your world you find most affecting, that stirs up the strongest emotional response in you. The emotion it provokes in you can provide extra energy for the hunt – because you are hunting. You are stalking your true self, just like an expert hunter stalks her prey.

“Most affecting” in this case could mean most annoying, most frightening, most enthralling or any other most that pops up uninvited as you go about your daily life and grabs hold of your attention, spoiling your mood and maybe even your day – derailing you from your normal, automatic daily routine.

reflection-5

I (and many others) would assert that whatever it is you and I are finding most affecting is that affecting because it is reflecting into our conscious mind an unacknowledged aspect of our truest self, or of the habits, ideas, patterns, etc. we carry along with us and which hide our truest self from view.

Once the uproar in your head settles down, please read that last sentence again.

In outward aspect, you may indeed be nothing like that aspect of the world that is annoying, frightening, enthralling you. Now take a deep breath. There is, however, something about that aspect of life which illustrates to each of us some aspect of self, or of the baggage we are carrying (frequently mistaken by us for our selves, as we are so used to it and find it so familiar).

Take a quiet moment and sit in your own mind with that affecting aspect of life; allow it to be just as it is, and ask the question:  What is it about this aspect that I find so annoying / frightening / enthralling? Try not to grab the situation by the scruff of its figurative neck in order to shake an answer out of it; just let it be there with you witnessing it. Then go about your business with the question echoing; “be in the question”.

At some point when your deep mind has processed the task you have set it, an answer will float up into consciousness. It may occur as a random thought picture, or as a dream or perhaps as words that float into your ear from an overheard conversation and suddenly ring like a bell. Whatever form the answer takes, you will know it, it will “ring true”.

reflection-4

Or perhaps the answer will not come, as the tides of everyday life sweep over us again and wash the affect and the question from our consciousness.  Not to worry; that aspect of self will show itself again, soon, in another guise. Then once again your job will be to notice it, let it be what it is, and live in the echo of the question.

Now here is the tough news. You may very well not like the answer. It is possible this reflection is showing you an aspect of your self you have tried to hide from view, something that you do not think worthy or something which runs contrary to your chosen values and your idea of yourself. Once again, not to worry. This is aspect of yourself is not part of a spiritual conspiracy to do you in. Allow it to be.  Do not fight it; do not give over to it and give it license. Just hold it in your heart and allow it to be.

This allowing, without judging or justifying, is what turns you from a hunter into a warrior, full of the right kind of power, able to transform the world by transforming yourself.

As you are still and allowing, this aspect of yourself will gently transform, sometimes without any effort in that direction by your conscious self, and you will have taken another step along the path of becoming whole.

Breathe deep, wiggle your toes and turn your face to the light. Enjoy.

Even now the world is adjusting your reflection. Your next step awaits you.

reflection-7

 

(NOTE: If at any point this gets to be too much for you and you are unable to function in your life as a result, seek help; there is no shame in that. Find a therapist or a shaman or some other powerful, compassionate healer and work with that person to become whole. Lean on someone else for a while until you are stronger.)

One of the ways that Jesus taught was, like many – perhaps all – rabbis, through the use of parables.  Some of them were fairly straightforward to understand.  Others leave us – or at least, me – to puzzle, trying this interpretation and then that, often for years.  Not without tea breaks, I must add.

One of these long-term puzzlers (for me) is the parable of the bags of gold (or talents, if you were raised with the King James Version). If you cannot remember the story itself, you can find a version here for revision purposes: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14-30%2CLuke+19%3A12-27&version=NIV

I have always thought that this parable had to do with duty, obligation and not much fun. And the failure to live up to some secret, unspoken but stringent requirements for spiritual acceptability.  As you can imagine, this could only add to my tendency to step back from organised religion and keep my own counsel.

Recently, however, another view has begun to dawn on me.  Probably you have already figured this out.  If so, just put me down as a slow study.

Nearly every culture, in the story it tells about being human, has a thread that runs like this: Before you are born, the energetic/spiritual source of who you are splits off part of itself which incarnates and becomes you.  When this body dies, that part of the energetic source return to its original home.

Some of us come in to this bodily life with riches already, full of talents and the fire of life.  Others are less generously blessed. However you came into this life, though, throughout your life you are continually becoming; at any point you are the sum of what you came in to this life as and all of the choices, helpful or not, that you have made from that moment on.

All of those choices have an impact on who we are, on the riches we carry along with us, on who we become.  Am I becoming someone who is larger than the person who came in, who has a greater capacity for living, loving, seeing clearly, learning, teaching, blessing, celebrating? I hope that I am – that is certainly my intent.  I be becoming that by choosing to act as if that is who I am at each crossroad I encounter: the momentous ones ans well as the ones which seem minuscule and of no import at all. Or, when I do not choose wisely, by learning from that and making a better choice for me at the next one.

And when we die, we take that improved, expanded self back to our spiritual origin, whatever it is, as our gift to the whole of life. Whatever we have gained – freedom from fear, capacity for love, ability to forgive or be compassionate, clarity about ourselves – all of this comes back at our death to the source of our life and, therefore, to all that is.

So not only are we a gift of whatever degree of delight (or not!) while we are here on this planet, we are a gift ultimately to that which gave us life itself. A chance to say “thank you” with our entire being.

 

How do I bless myself? Let me count the ways….

It is so easy to identify what we do not want and what is doing us harm.  Not so easy to identify and put into words” what is missing, the presence of which would make a difference” – a difference that is good for the expression of my truest, finest self here in this life. So, here are a few examples to get you started.  There are loads more around, books of them in fact, but do be cautious.  Blessing speaks someone more whole, more free, fuller of life and light.  If what you are reading or saying contains words like bind or tie, or negatives like not and no, then that is not blessing.  It may indeed  be prayer, but not blessing.

Blessing speaks things / conditions / situations into being, so it does not bother to exclude. When your blessing find expression in physical reality it will occupy all the space with its fabulousness; anything else fades away.

Here is my favourite blessing on bees, which can use all the blessing available – please feel free to join me in this daily well-wish for these caretakers of the earth.  I live in a valley that faces the sea; hence the first line of this blessing; feel free to change it to suit, or to make up your own!

Bees who have this valley under your care, and bees who have this planet under your care, may you be full of light.  May your queens be strong, long-lived and fecund. May your drones sing mightily.  May your young rejoice.  May the air of your homes and your hives breathe health to you.  May your maidens be wise and capable. May they find nectar, pollen, propolis, water and minerals in abundance, and may the wind be always at your foragers’ backs, coming and going. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Currently I am closing all prayers and blessing like this one, followed by a sharply exhaled breath, to seal the prayer or blessing with my own intention.

Here is a short blessing I use for friends and siblings in general, sometimes on a daily basis whenever I sense that they need support in finding and walking their own path (and who doesn’t, really?

May _______ this day find her feet upon her soul’s true path.  May she have the eyes to see it, the ears to hear the invitation, a mind that is clear and calm and a heart that is free to make the choice that is best for her. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

 

And here is the blessing I use on myself at the end of each day.

May my heart be pure and turned toward Spirit. May my wellsprings of creativity be clean and free-flowing. May my eye be filled with luminous intelligence, and my my feet always find my soul’s true path. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Often I touch the bodily part in question: heart, belly, third eye, feet and I speak this blessing.  It is comforting and powerful to bless yourself.  I cannot urge you enough to give it a try and to go on and find / make up blessings of your own for the circumstances of your own life.  It can be a mental puzzle to figure out what to call in.  It is certainly an adventure worth having when you do!

 

May the light eternal illumine your heart and mind. May your body pulse with the joy of life. May all who meet you befriend you, and may your feet always find your soul’s true path. So it is; so it shall be; so be it.

Recently, I was listening to a fellow healer describe with considerable excitement an unusual healing experience which had happened to her that day.  It was a spontaneous healing and extraction that her spirit allies had undertaken on her behalf.  As a result she felt transformed and a bit disoriented, an effect really deep healing work often produces. In summing up her experience, she said, “This is the sort of thing that happens around So-and-so!”, naming a world-renowned shamanic healer. Clearly not the sort of thing one would expect to happen around an ordinary, run-of-the-mill practitioner like herself!

The Shamanic healer in question is a strong personality, deeply flawed (as are we all) and utterly human.  Yet profoundly powerful healing events happen around this person routinely.

Perhaps it is the strong personality.  Shamanic healing requires focus, that one holds an intent firmly throughout the work no matter what happens. A strong personality helps with this, no doubt.

Maybe it is the completely fallible humanity.  Awareness of oneself often leads to humility, very helpful – crucial, in fact – to the undertaking of shamanic healing.

I would conjecture, based on my own practice, that folded in with these qualities is the flavour of the healer’s relationship with spirit. And of her relationship with herself. This is difficult to measure, but easy to see.  If the healing work is going well, the relationship with spirit is healthy, green and springy and full of life force.  The healer is given to spirit. Here be miracles.

If the healing work (or just life itself) is not going so well, look to your relationship with spirit. It may well look a bit dry and dusty (or often post-apocalyptic in my case, but I am given to internal dramatic hyperbole, so take that with a grain of salt). In this case, pick up the thread in the dustiest, most post-apocalyptic place and follow it back to its source. There you have the chance to look the monster in the eye and offer acceptance, an embrace, true spiritual nourishment. For the source is very likely to be in your own soul somewhere. And it is rarely “other”, and very likely to be an under-appreciated and under-nourished part of yourself. I realise you know this, but think it is worth saying again.

My advice is that you follow the thread. When this process begins to feel risky, do not give up, but do enlist help. A friend, fellow healer or shamanic practitioner can offer you the protection and support you need in order to face what feels like monsters in your self, your life, your relationships – wherever they may raise their heads.

Persevere, and persevere wisely. Here be dragons, that is true. But here is the truest, deepest, finest work of human being. And here be miracles as well.

That all being said, and your relationship with yourself being just fine, a relationship with spirit requires nurture, and that implies some sort of discipline. This is the part I do not particularly want to write because I am so flawed in this area. I hate having to do the same thing every day. But I have to admit that having some sort of spiritual discipline, something that I do which reminds me on a regular basis that I am part of a greater whole, something that reconnects my consciousness with nature and with my friends, allies, teachers and guides does green up my soul, re-open wellsprings of joy and cause life to run at least in a more interesting fashion.

It is not enough to think about spirit. I must do.

It is not enough even to intend; I must act, speak, dance, sing my way back into awareness, back into expression of my own truest, deepest, finest self.

When that expression is flowing due to regular practice, the ground is opened up for the miraculous.  Which brings me back to my fellow practitioner.  This person has been forced by conditions in their own life to take the time given on a lengthy daily commute to and from work to reconnect. This happens five days a week as the practitioner speaks with the clouds, the winds, the landscape – thanking them for their gifts, seeing them with an open heart, and blessing them with a lively and full imagination in play.  This is like digging the soil in a garden, adding compost and manure, carrying water as needed.  Anything planted there springs into life.  As does the seed of a request to be whole and fully alive when planted in the soil of this dedicated soul.

Small wonder, then, that miracles seem to spring up unbidden in this person’s life!