Tag Archive for: projections

Spirit Animals: WOLF the WITNESS

Wolf Symbolism

Wolf spirit animals embody a wide range of qualities in the human psyche. Just think of how many stories you’ve read and movies you’ve seen that have wolves or werewolves as characters.

Most obviously, wolf symbolism is about dismantling fears and not letting them control you. When wolves used to roam the habitat around our small towns, many people feared going out at night. Despite the myths, thank you Red Riding Hood, wolf is not a vicious man-eater. It is truly the stories in our heads about wolves that make them much more dangerous than they are. This is the case with other fears we own. They are illusions, blown out of proportion to prevent us from venturing out into the unknown.

Remember the saying, “we’ll feed you to the wolves”? This conjures up images of a ravenous pack tearing us to shreds. Over the centuries, there has been a projection onto wolf as being a malicious, mindless killing machine. Luckily, awareness about the incredibly complex and intelligent nature of wolves is expanding. We now understand their capacity for caring and nurturing young as well as the intricate, subtle communication that exists between them.

Wolf as a Witness

When we think of wolf we often think of him chasing down big prey with his pack. We picture him fighting with a pack mate over a carcass. We imagine him howling at the moon. We don’t usually think of wolf watching quietly in the background, but this is often what he does. Wolf is not born knowing how to behave or hunt. As a pup, he learns by watching and this habit carries over into the rest of his life. He will sniff out a situation before moving in. Wolf will lurk on the perimeter, watching, until he determines the best course of action.

Wolf spirit animal teaches us about the power of detachment. Many of you may have heard of the concept of being a witness in your life. This entails watching your life as if it were someone else’s. If you’ve studied your triggers you’ll know that being a witness means not being triggered by a situation. This doesn’t mean you don’t care or love or feel. It just means that you let go of trying to force a certain outcome. You let go of the need to be right. You stop trying to direct everything to serve your own needs. You stop distrusting others and trusting in the nature of the universe.

Forget the “Alpha”

How many of you are familiar with the term “alpha male” ? A scientist conducting studies on captive, unrelated wolves in the 1930’s and 1940’s developed our notions of pack structure. Many people are now aware that if you’re not an alpha, you’re a beta in the middle of the pack or, heaven forbid, an omega at the bottom. We’ve carried this term over into our own social structure. We see our scraping to get to the top as the natural order of things, and have used the analogy of the wolf pack to justify our behavior.

More recent research conducted on wild wolves has revealed something different. Packs are not dictated by a set of leaders who’ve fought their way to the top. Nor are they composed of a group of submissive followers, but instead packs are family groups that are run by the parents. This paper by renowned wolf researcher David Mech sure turns things on their head: http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/267alphastatus_english.pdf.

Regardless of the true nature of pack social structure, we like to think of leadership as a static position. In reality, leadership in the natural world is a fluid notion that changes by the moment. Leadership seems to depend less on dominating another, and more on earning their following over and over again. The “submissive” member of the pack always has a choice whether to comply in the moment or not. Different leaders have different styles. Some are more quiet, others more gregarious. Leaders can be aloof or everyone’s best friend. We see this demonstrated in the wolf world and in our own.

If you have concerns over your role in a group and are tired of fighting for position, now is a good time to let go of the idea of the alpha. What qualities can you embody that will earn respect of others, and, even better, yourself? Part of being a witness is releasing concern over what other people think. What is your style of leadership? What do you look for in a leader? Wolf spirit animal offers you the opportunity to stop wasting your time thinking you weren’t born an alpha and start practicing the qualities you look for in a leader.

Wolf, The Guru

“At the beginning of the world, the Great Spirit sent the wolves out into the wilderness to measure the earth. They came back to the Great Mysterious One and told of what they had experienced and learned. Great Spirit said, ‘As you have named it, so it shall be.’ Wolves clearly interpret and impart the way to others.” – How to Find Your Spirit Animal by David Carson

“Because they wandered it was believed they knew everything.” – Animal Wisdom by Jessica Dawn Palmer

In many North American tribes, wolf spirit animal is the quintessential teacher. I go a step further an call wolf a “guru” because all great gurus are essentially great witnesses. Gurus are able to quietly watch their students struggle with tough questions and wrestle with uncomfortable truths. They have infinite patience, waiting for the student to come along at whatever pace they may. Gurus are willing to release the outcome and endure immense hardship without irritability. Gurus are also believed to know everything.

Teachers and gurus alike must be able to adapt their style of communication to match the student because not everyone learns the same way. Knowledge must come through different channels to be assimilated. Wolf has three ways of communicating: visual (body language), verbal, and scent.

Discerning Truth from Illusion

Gurus are incredibly good at discerning truth from illusion. To discern is to distinguish, separate and differentiate. My friend Margaret Burkesmith teaches that discernment is, “Sitting very close to something and allowing it to spontaneously reveal itself.”

Wolf has a superior sense of smell, and smell in religious symbology is linked with the skill of discernment. We don’t pass anything into our mouths without smelling it first just like we do not let any idea into our spiritual life without first discerning if it serves our path. Smell is likened to the ability to discern good from evil. Wolf spirit animal teaches us a great deal about the power of discernment.

The olfactory region of nasal cavity in wolf is 14 times that of humans and his nose is 1,000,000 times more sensitive to odor than humans. Wolf has somewhere around 280 million olfactory receptors. When a wolf stops to smell the marking of another wolf, he can tell how long ago that wolf was there, who exactly the wolf was, the gender of the wolf, and countless other things.

Now is a good time to pay attention to your own power of discernment. How much do you know, really, about what is going on in and around you? Can you take more time to sit with it and know more?

We so often picture gurus sitting cross-legged, in meditation for hours. They are allowing truth to reveal itself. Wolf spirit animal, our guru of the wild, watches quietly from a distance doing the same.

 

ONE WAY TO HELP THE WOLVES:
At Wolfwood Refuge in Ignacio, CO, I had the great fortune of meeting and interacting directly with wolves. Not only are wolves in the wild hunted and harassed due to misunderstanding, but wolves and wolf hybrids raised for domestication are continually discarded, mistreated and abused. Paula and Craig Watson offer these abandoned and mistreated animals a forever home where they have the chance to live outdoors in big enclosures with others of their kind. If you live nearby you can visit yourself. Anyone can donate to help out. http://www.wolfwoodrefuge.org

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide

 

The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey (Part 2)

In Part 1 of The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey we explore the trials the hero goes through to reach the ultimate boon.

The Ultimate Boon

When we embark on a shamanic journey we have so many expectations for what is to come. There is a climax to this story we are certain. We will come back with a new power, a supernatural gift, a better life. The promise of riches from this journey are so compelling that we can become obsessive, even mad, in our quest. Our motivation to attain this goal is what helps us overcome the most nasty and devastating of obstacles. We are willing to give up what keeps us safe, long-held belief systems, and ego barriers. We are willing to face our deepest fears. Where does this expectation of a boon come from? Myth of course.

This is the stage of the hero’s journey where after much trial and striving that he reaches the ultimate boon. In many stories it is often a literal boon such as Jack’s golden egg, Jason’s golden fleece, and Prometheus’s recaptured flame. We are used to seeing the hero depicted in movies and books coming home with a great treasure, a mystical diamond, a magic staff or sword. In mythology this object is what literally makes the hero’s life better. This direct thinking can present a problem with the shamanic journeyer causing her to expect to be able to return with some THING that will improve her life. We know it sounds ridiculous at the time, but this is a difficult expectation to shake.

We are so oriented to stuff and things, and the shamanic landscape can look deceivingly like our own. When we ask what gift the power animal or soul part is bringing back, they can show us an object (a flower, a wand, a crystal, a stone). I can’t tell you how many years the magical child in me secretly fantasized about finally being able to bring one of these objects back. It is an obvious leap to make even though we know the laws of physics are against us.

I always encourage those I do soul retrievals for and those I teach to journey to watch out for the pitfall of taking this object literally. It is a slippery desire. The gift is in the simplicity of the metaphor. The way we bring this gift into our ordinary, everyday life is to assimilate the deep meaning of the simple truth that is coming through. It is easy to understand the object literally and it takes a heroic transcendence to understand it symbolically. It takes time, sometimes years, to understand the vast resources of this seemingly simple gift. This is why this is actually one of, if not the, most powerful and mystifying boons to receive.

Other boons are not objects, but climaxes and accomplishments. Joseph Campbell tells of sacred marriage with the goddess and gives numerous examples of the male hero coming to and marrying the divine feminine. In today’s world, what this looks like is the intellect marrying the heart. This is the coming together of action and receptivity. This is the sacred marriage. At this time in the shamanic journeyer’s progress they meet their anima or animus and are joined with them in the journey. This is the beginning of the end to the split between reason and feeling. The two come together in the journeyer. The coming forth of the “other” side allows the person to become fully integrated. The polarization between right and wrong that causes so much suffering in us is absolved in this moment, and no longer does disharmony rule the consciousness like it once did.

Now the journeyer has access to congruence. The form of congruence depends on the journeyer. It could be a new found decisiveness, a new found ability to hear one’s intuition, or a indescribable sense of peace. This is a coming to peace with one’s life and the process of birth, life, death, and rebirth that is inherent in the goddess. Often we would place the divine feminine as the heart in this exchange, but Mr. Campbell explains her as wisdom which is beyond intellect. “Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known… The hero is the one who comes to know” (p. 97). The shamanic journeyer comes to know what is needed at any given moment as she gains full access to her intuition. Without any preference for life, death, or rebirth – holding all as potential – true knowing can come through.

At the climax, the hero can finally come into confrontation with his father. Joseph Campbell calls this “atonement with the father” and artfully translates it into “AT-ONE-MENT” (p. 107). At ground level, this can be a confrontation with a male figure in one’s life that seems to always sit in judgement of our actions. At the spiritual level, this is the belief in a wrathful, vengeful, or just God that sits in the sky delivering judgment. Zeus is a perfect example of this projection, but regardless of the name of the male God, this is an imprint in our consciousness.  Atonement is about coming into oneness with divine will, letting go of all the judgements and justifications we use for holding on to our ego. What this looks like in the shamanic journey is coming face to face with our righteous selves and the reasons we use to justify our arrogance and vengeance. The final trial is a transmutation, a purging, of our ego.

The mystagogue (father or father-substitute) is to entrust the symbols of office only to a son who has been effectually purged of all inappropriate infantile cathexes – for whom the just, impersonal exercise of the powers will not be rendered impossible by the unconscious (or perhaps even conscious and rationalized) notice of self-aggrandizement, personal preference, or resentment. Ideally, the invested one has been divested of his mere humanity and is representative of an impersonal cosmic force. He is the twice born: he has become himself the father. And he is competent… to enact himself the role of the … sun door, through whom one may pass from the infantile illusions of “good” and “evil” to an experience of the majesty of cosmic law” (p. 115).

The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands – and the two are atoned.” (p. 125).

In the shamanic journey this can look like a battle with a great force of darkness. It can be struggling against a black tsunami or facing off with a fire breathing dragon. It can be encountering a frighteningly giant snake, spider, shark, or squid. Always the opponent feels malicious, all-powerful, and wrathful only to find that we are able to come to peace with them. We do so by releasing the need of our ego to triumph and replacing it with the call of our soul to atone.

The final boon that Joseph Campbell outlines and that the shamanic journeyer may encounter is apotheosis which is defined simply as “the elevation of someone to divine status”. This is where we experience the cosmic law that “what is in one is in the whole.” This boon is of the more rare kind in my experience, and something we are lead to. This is not a boon any traveler can make happen no matter what obstacles they overcome. This is God coming to the hero. Absolute dissolution into the sacred is hard to come by and is only accomplished in unplanned encounters that are fleeting. These are the possessions by the divine as explained by St. Theresa of Avila and other great mystics.

In a journey, apotheosis is proceeded by a dismemberment experience. Apotheosis for the shamanic journeyer is when one’s consciousness completely dissolves into white light, when one is completely taken over by a divine being, and when one all of a sudden takes in the world and all of its suffering at once. We inherently open our lives up to the possibility of this life changing experience by following the hero’s journey in our own mythology. Oftentimes God hears us and comes. Ultimately, our small, personal mythology is a reflection of the large, collective story of what it is to be human. What is in one is in the whole.

Read PART 3 of the Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey

fate free will and karma

Fate, Free Will, and Karma

Most, if not all, of us have a desire to know our futures. A testimony to this is our media. There are so many movies, books, and TV shows that are based in the future. Then there are those that explore the concept of predicting the future and these stories either include an the oracle (think The Matrix) or a time traveler (think Back to the Future and The Lakehouse). There is an entire workforce of psychics that thrives on our need to know what is going to happen. Mostly we’ve explored the theme of one special person or small, elite group of people who get the opportunity to foresee or visit the future. If this person is gifted (as with the TV show Medium), a brilliant scientist (such as “Doc” Brown in Back to the Future), or a layperson (like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is up for grabs. Clearly enough of us wonder what it would be like to be one of these oracles, that a host of characters has arisen to fill that fantasy.

Just recently, I finished a TV show that ran for one season on ABC in 2009 called FlashForward. This show was unique in that it asked the question, “what if everyone saw the future?” No one had a choice to see their future or not, as the opening credits announce “The planet blacked out…The whole world saw their future.” Each person got a glimpse of 2 minutes on the same day a year into the future, unless they were dead by that date. Then they saw nothing. What happened when everyone became their own oracle? They went mad with trying to figure out their vision if it was unbelievable, to make it happen if it was amazing, or prevent it from happening if it was disastrous. All of their choices leading up to that date were based on their relationship to their own vision. By observing the future some people were able to change it, while others made happen what may not have come to pass. They were all exhausted and living on doubt and adrenaline.

Why in a blog about shamanism am I sharing stories from pop culture and mass media? I think it’s important to bring this traditional practice into perspective of the modern era. In nomadic times, shaman were sometimes known as the oracles of their tribe. They would toss bones, sort through entrails, crack eggs, or watch the clouds to receive a glimpse of the future. Divination is a branch of shamanism many current day practitioners engage in. Since shamanic practitioners are often caught under the umbrella with other healers, clairvoyants, and energy workers we are asked regularly to help people make decisions by giving them information about the future. I have never been fond of the idea of acting as an oracle on someone’s behalf. I understand how much weight is put in that vision, and I am acutely aware of how much power people give to such predictions. My goal is to empower people. By glimpsing the future, people most often come out of the present which is a loss of power. Spiritual illness is a result of not all of us being in the current time and space. Soul loss happens backwards AND forewords (see definition of soul loss), and in this day and age we are spending way too much time out ahead of ourselves.

The reason why soul loss happens foreword in time is because we commit our efforts to creating or diverting a specific moment in time that we believe might come to pass. We leak an immense amount of energy and power to trying to control the uncontrollable. As we see demonstrated in so many films, we have no way of knowing the consequences of all of the choices we make. This is known as the “Butterfly Effect”. We make thousands of choices even in just a couple minutes. Will you have orange juice or tea? Should you wear a green or black shirt? How long will you run the water when you’re brushing your teeth?

Humankind has contemplated the nature of free will versus fate for centuries. Though many have presented “truths” in regard to this, there is no overlying agreement on the power of fate over free will, thus the prevalence of this inquiry in our culture. In the Middle Ages, the myth of the goddess Fortuna and her wheel of fortune (Rota Fortuna) was a common way to explain how fate works in our lives. Fortuna is often depicted wearing a blindfold and spinning the wheel at random. There is everything from great wealth to utter poverty available on the wheel. In this myth, one’s actions do not determine where the wheel lands. A man who does good deeds can be labeled a criminal and a thief can become a trusted aristocrat.

Then there is karma. What we put out there will come back. There are consequences to the actions we take. These consequences, good or bad, accumulate over time to also steer the course of our futures.

There is evidence to show that all of these laws are at play in our lives: free will, fate, and karma. It is incredibly simple to see how we can get stuck in the future, even when we try to manipulate the future through just one of these cosmic laws. We can get caught in a mire of reasoning trying to figure out what are the “best” choices to make to get us where we’d like to go, what karma we need to clear to ensure the optimal outcome, or how we can best prepare for whatever fate is thrown our way. All three of these options serve to pull us into fear and out of the moment. We are no longer acting from our authentic selves. Indulge in entertaining a combination of two or three of fate, free will, and karma and you’ve left your body altogether. There’s just too much for one person to manage. There is no way we can control or steer cosmic forces. Yes, we can make a choice, but we cannot choose the outcome of that choice. That is entirely impersonal.

In the end, it is your job to concentrate on getting here, in your body. Just as we have so much effort focused on releasing and moving on from the past, we must put an equal amount of effort on releasing the future. From the present moment you have the most power to love and to heal.

I once had a shamanic practitioner retrieve a soul part of mine that was me as a healthy, elderly woman. When I saw her in the journey I was so relieved to find her again. I knew I’d allowed her to wander off into the future out of my belief that I couldn’t be a wise crone until I was physically old. My longing for her before the soul retrieval resulted in all consuming questions like: What if I never get old (fate)? What if I take the wrong path and never make it to her (free will)? What if I don’t heal enough to become worthy of her (karma)?  Out of my intense desire to become her 40 or 50 years from now, I was draining my current resources with strategies on how to get to her. I was not in the now. Just like we can ruminate on the past and make decisions to prevent old wounds from happening again, we can obsess on the future and make choices that to feed the destiny we crave. It doesn’t matter where the prediction of the future comes from, the Gods, a psychic, or your intuition. I don’t care if the prediction is right, wrong, or highly probable. It still has the same capacity to corrupt the moment and bleed you dry. Consider setting aside the temptation to get ahead of yourself and instead settle in to yourself. Call the fragments of you home, at last.

Attending to our present-moment mind and body is a way of being tender toward self, toward other, and toward the world. This quality of attention is inherent in our ability to love.”
– Pema Chodron in Comfortable with Uncertainty

character courage and commitment

Character, Courage, and Commitment

March is women’s history month and the theme of the month for 2014 is: Character, Courage, and Commitment. This is an interesting set of words, two of which I wouldn’t be inclined to usually study. Typically, I’m interested in words like compassion, kindness, honesty, integrity, and, yes, courage. It was a helpful to spend some time with the theme for the month that includes character and commitment and gain a little more insight into what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Each section ends with some questions to help you explore each aspect of the theme yourself.

Character

“You don’t handle the world, you handle yourself in the world.” – Caroline Myss. The definition of character is a person that focuses on handling herself a larger percentage of the time than she handles, or more so attempts to handle, the world. Caroline Myss talks about the importance of conscience and how we rarely use that phrase in our society anymore. These days we talk about understanding our shadow side and researching our unconscious, but we don’t talk enough about how to stop these parts of ourselves – the pieces that gossip and resent and resist – from taking over. That is where conscience comes in. Women of character have a deeply felt and realized list of values, an active conscience, that guides their actions on a moment-to-moment basis. We can’t just decide to be “good” when others are watching and secretly allow our minds to berate our loved ones for not doing the dishes. This resentment weighs us down and prevents us from acting in a loving way. To have character means to throw out our addiction to toxic thoughts, underhanded comments, and strategic manipulation. This is not easy because we build up these mechanisms to cope with past pain and safeguard against future loss. This means that to have character you must have faith and trust on your list of values.

What are your values? How well are you living them? What percentage of the time are you handling the world compared to handling yourself? How do you feel about this? What would you change?

Courage

“It’s ironic that I’m the most afraid when I’m being brave. Vulnerability = Courage” – Brene Brown. As women we can find that we have to strive especially hard to “man up” and be brave. We’re taught that women are inherently emotional and weak, that they need shelter and assistance. We fight against these stereotypes too much in our lives. How liberating is it to realize that you can be scared AND brave at exactly the same time? In fact when you are absolutely terrified is likely when you are the most brave. I have found this to be true and disorienting in my own life. When I first heard Brene’s words so much finally made sense. Now I understand why I’ve made such good friends with adrenaline and fear. I’ve tried a lot of new things. I’m always pushing the envelope. My envelope is not one of thrill-seeking, sky diving, or mountaineering, my envelope is living my truth. This involves a lot of risk.

How do you view fear? Do you feel ashamed or angry or beaten when you’re fearful? How can you help yourself better weather your fear?

Commitment

When I think about women and commitment I must admit, I am absolutely hard pressed to think of a woman I know that ISN’T committed. I know committed mothers, committed business owners, committed counselors and therapists, committed scientists, committed friends and spouses. Commitment with them is not about being a martyr or putting on armor and being a warrior through the difficult times. Commitment is not doggedly sticking to a path regardless of the obstacles. Commitment is a way of staying optimistic and connected to the whole, the big picture. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded to great women like I am or to even know one or two of them, you don’t need to find an expert or study a famous person’s teachings. All there is to do is to go and watch a committed friend for inspiration. Ask her how her day was or what her new project is. Listen to how she stays at her goal with courage and character, in line with her values. Understand how she forgives herself for failure and uses the mistakes to enhance her creation.

Who do you have in your life that is a model of commitment? What do you see in them and their practice that you could bring into your own life?

Spirit Animals: MAGPIE the MYTHOLOGIST

Magpie goes about her business, chattering to and fro. Both of the old world and of the new, she wears her black and white costume with her brothers and sisters going on about life as if everything were normal. Then a ray of sunshine glimmers over the tips of her wings and tail and a burst of royal blue radiates. She knows this and she is clever. She does not worry if the rain will come or go. Magpie is the rain and lightening. She is the drought and wind. She carries on as if neither were of consequence, full of joy and mirth, warning of nothing and foreshadowing everything. Magpie knows that she and her tribe are bigger, louder, and brighter than the others, and she knows stories about the others. She is an artist at knowing these stories.

The Rebel in Biblical Lore

Magpies are found around the world from the western half of the United States to China to England and Africa. Their association with humans goes back a long time as they followed nomadic people scavenging leftovers from hunts. There is a story from biblical lore that survives today that the magpie would not go into Noah’s Ark, but instead insisted on riding out the storm on the ridgepole of the boat, chattering the entire time. There are some references to the fact that the magpie either did not attend or refused to mourn Christ’s crucifixion. This pairs this cunning corvid with the archetype of the rebel.

Magpie spirit animal reminds you to ask: What beliefs did you adopt that now act as blocks in your quest to find your divine self?

Magpie Funerals

These birds are related to crows and ravens and are a member of the jay family. They mate for life and are dedicated parents. A pair can spend up to 40 days building a large covered nest and they often are seen in small groupings of 3-5 birds as they travel about in their undulating flight looking for food. “One of the most notable Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called ‘funeral’—when one magpie discovers a dead magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of raucously calling magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.” [1] This speaks of the ability to call on the help of your tribe in times of mourning.

When studying the meaning of magpie symbolism, it may be time to watch how you congregate with your kind and remember how others can help you with a death. This could be a death of the ego, the self, a way of life or a loved one.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

Magpie Helps with a Healing

This September, I started to see two or three magpies with my horses on a regular basis. My horses would cock a back hoof so the magpies could clean the underside. The magpies would jump up and cling sideways to the horse’s legs to pick bugs from their fur. Other times the birds would be perched atop my mustangs cleaning bugs from their ears, manes, and backs.

Cherokee and Legend seemed to enjoy the attention. I was absolutely caught up in the beauty of the scene. I started working with what the birds’ appearance meant in my life and began to discover a link between their presence and my process of breaking down myths I held about other people. We all attach stories, judgements, beliefs and meaning as to why other people are who they are and what they represent in our lives, but ultimately these myths keep us from truly connecting with people. The myths stand in the way of us truly seeing them and truly being seen. I started to notice the birds every where: at work out the window, on my drives home, at my house, and with the horses.

Then, last week Legend, my white mare, feel gravely ill. A large portion of her colon had flipped 180 degrees and gotten stuck between her kidney and spleen. I went on a three day mission to save her life and the magpies were no where to be found. But, I felt their presence still haunting me and haunting Legend.

Magpie Omens

In British and Scottish folklore magpies are believed in different numbers to foretell death, a funeral, and bad luck. I learned the popular saying about magpies: “One for sorrow. Two for mirth. Three for a wedding. Four for death (or birth depending on the origin)”. [2] 

As is the way of things, Chinese folklore portrays magpies of omens of good luck and sometimes I had seen the fortuitous two or three birds at a time, so I tried not to be overcome with foreboding. I waged an inner battle with my fear and superstition.

Here is when I realized that my fear of my loved one’s death was keeping me from my ability to channel healing for her. I had adopted the myth that “I can’t really channel healing that makes a difference on a physical level” because I feared what would happen if I surrendered myself fully to grace and had her die anyways. I didn’t know how I would recover from that kind of grief, but I couldn’t both protect myself from utter devastation AND surrender to divine guidance. As I broke this myth down I went through waves of intense fear, doubt, and suffering. I showed up for Legend to channel the healing power of grace in a way I never had experienced before and she survived.

Less Myths and More Meaning

On the morning of the fourth day, I checked Legend over endlessly to absolutely convince myself that she was okay. A single magpie came to her corral and landed on a fence post. As the black and white bird with a long tail looked at me with her shiny black eyes, she christened me back into the world of the living, a new world with less myths and more meaning.

Seeing one magpie is supposed to be an especially grave occasion as the popular saying goes “one for sorrow”. I knew the death and sorrow had happened in me.

I was a different person now. Legend was well and healthy. I opened the gate to let Legend out onto her pasture and life went on.

The Mythologist

This is why I have come to think of the magpie as a mythologist. Magpie spirit animals can help us study myths we have about spirituality, the universe, others and ourselves. Magpies are known for eating anything as is indicated by their scientific name “Pica“, meaning to crave things unfit for food, and they remind us how we can crave and eat odd stories that aren’t true in an attempt to secure nourishment and safety or to feed the small fears that protect us from the big fears.

Ultimately it is not important to know why we adopted those myths in the first place, but to understand the role of myths in our lives and to treat them lightly. There’s no need to crawl inside the ark and hide away from the storm for the storm of fear and suffering is of our own making. We can light upon the ridgepole of the boat and find humor and humility in the art of rebelling against that which we thought we ought to always know.

I would like to finish by quoting a favorite song of mine by Neko Case that takes on a deeper meaning now. It’s from her album Middle Cyclone and is called Magpie to the Morning. I have to say that Legend was always the closest to death in the mornings…

Magpie comes a calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarm
And wake up child
Let this be a warning says the magpie to the morning
Don’t let this fading summer pass you by
Don’t let this fading summer pass you by

You can listen to these lyrics on her website: http://nekocase.com/music/discography/middle-cyclone/

References: [1] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-billed_magpie/lifehistory [2] http://www.wisdomportal.com/MagpieNotes.html

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

 

 

How to: Blessing Food

“Through the earth, the creator brings us the food that will nurture us. When we do not receive the offering and gifts from the creator, we dishonor the divine source of all life, implying that we reject life.” – from Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins by Sandra Ingerman

Recently, I became very inexplicably sick. For six weeks I had a terrible, awful, wretched cough that no amount of herbs, homeopathics, or meditation seemed to be able to touch. I wrote a list of everything I tried in the course of six weeks and literally came in excess of 50 remedies. I continued to pray for healing, to invite the healing light of grace into my lungs, and to practice patience. My best friend yerba manza and beloved buddy osha root had no effect. My trusty standbys kali bichromium (potassium) and pulsatilla (pasque flower) couldn’t help move the illness out of my body. This is the gift of a wounded healer – the chance to know so many remedies and their actions -, but this wounded healer could not find relief. I was shaken awake at 3am gasping for breath, the cough choked me so badly that I was brought to the point of vomiting, and my voice trembled like I would break into tears at any moment. It was embarrassing and humbling. I was at a complete loss.

Then came the shift. A doctor muscle tested me and found numerous food allergies as well as a candida overgrowth in my gut. I was furious. Really? A life sentence of distrusting my food, refusing meals, and just waiting for the next spasm of my gut? I was NOT going to do it, no way, no how. But, what was my way out? As I drove the hour home, I started transmuting my rage into activism. Here is the central question that changed absolutely everything for me:

How can I be separate from that which is grown, prepared and blessed with love … that which nourishes me?

I knew this, beyond everything else, to be true, and I focused my entire next 60 minutes of contemplation, prayer and driving around this one sacred truth. Here is what I learned:

The muscle testing was true for that singular point in time. The projection of that momentary message from my body into the future was the distortion. Even the assumption that my body was saying “no more” of these foods was false. My body was just communicating what it knew to be true, that it was having a hard time digesting life. I was not able to receive the gift of nourishment from the creator. With this understanding I started to watch how I was eating, and allowing my body the opportunity to talk about how it felt. I wanted to hear her messages directly. This is how it should have always been, but I needed the gross perversion of the doctor’s projections to make this apparent. Sometimes our messengers are not the purest, sweetest souls, but if we’re willing to pay attention so much can change.

Here are the steps I took to find healing:

  1. The very first step I took was to start sitting with, holding, and blessing the food. “I bless you in the name of the Mother. I bless you in the name of the Father. I bless you in the name of the Spirit who moves through all things.” Other lovely blessings included “I am one with this nourishment. I am one with the divine. I am one with the Spirit that moves through all that is, was and ever will be.” I sent prayers of gratitude to the land that sheltered the food, the air, water and wind that nourished it, and the humans that raised and harvested the food. I channeled love and light into the food.
  2. Second, I stopped doing anything else but being with my food. I stopped working in front of the computer. I stopped watching TV and reading books. I stopped talking if I could help it. At the very least, I stopped heated and hurried discussions over my meals. I eliminated anything that came between me and my food. Instead of polarize away from it, I moved in and entered into an intimate relationship with it.
  3. Third, I moved in even closer and I slowed way down. I paid attention to how the food interacted with my mouth, my tongue, my throat. I found that I was eating WAY too fast. I nearly choked on my food every meal. I chewed and chewed and surrendered to the beautiful nuances of flavor that extended past the first encounter of the meal in my mouth. I felt the way my mouth talked to the flavors and then I sensed how my stomach received the nourishment. One of my dear friends reminded me, “put down your fork in between bites.”
  4. I began to watch not only my digestive tract but my entire body. I saw that I was sitting cross-legged and hunched over as I ate. I was twisting and compacting my gut. I was contracting and retreating from the experience. Now I consciously put both feet flat on the floor and feel the circuit between me and the earth close. The energy flows freely and I feel flushed and rejuvenated. It is like being steadied by both of a friend’s hands on my shoulders after getting off a rocky boat.
  5. Last, I listened to my body for the entire meal, listening closely for contentment. I found I was blasting way past contentment, into “full” and then into gorged. There is a quiet, comforting communication from the body that says “thank you” and settles in to the nourishment. The first time I heard it I understood how I had missed it all along. There is no quieter or more still voice. It’s like the silence of the moon setting on the horizon.

The result of this ongoing practice is that I now eat 1/3rd the amount I had been. I’ve lost a lot of weight, but feel more content with food than ever. My cough and mucous in my lungs is gone. I am eating all foods in rotation. My body asks for a variety of foods so I am sure to not go into auto-pilot when choosing my meals. Most importantly, I feel more connected to that which nourishes me as well as that who needs nourishment, my body. Some pretty healthy side effects! I would love to hear about your relationship with food and how you practice blessing the food. Please share in the comments below.

Projecting Emotions Shamanic Healing

Where Do We Project?

Judgements and projections show up frequently in our experience as humans, but there is a pattern of places they more frequently surface. Judgements occur most commonly around or about where there is an inequality of authority. The very first place we experience them is in the parent-child relationship. Here the parent has the power and the child struggles to exert their own. The parent can obviously be despised by their child when setting a rule, and the child can be resented by the parent for disobeying their requests.

One of my teachers saw most relationships we experience in adulthood as a continuation of the parent-child bond. She was extremely talented in finding the ways in which we can project our frustration or issues with our parents onto other relationships in our lives. She really felt this way when it came to the employee-boss association. In my work with her, she identified so many instances of me projecting my parents on her that eventually I had to walk away. It was too much and began to repel me from my current, adult bond with my parents.

Then came life’s test or, actually, two tests. I had a succession of two terrible bosses. Since I had walked away from the Freudian world view of my teacher, I gave myself free reign to project on to these people that were making my life and my co-workers lives miserable. It felt good to act out, spread gossip and generally hate these bosses. I loved that after the vigorous, over-examination of everything I did to have a place where I was free to be stinking mad.

To give myself credit I was not nasty full-time. I spend too much time in my own unconscious to stay well and be mean, but I allowed myself more license than my conscience would typically allow. It was liberating to not have to be polite all the time and, rather than being a victim as I had been previously, I was an empowered rebel. It turned out that I had to learn the Herculean task of sending love rather than hate to the first boss before that relationship could end and, as for the second, that ended as a result of me finding that my dream and reality no longer met in that position.

Fast forward a couple of years and now I find myself in an interesting situation. I adore who I work for and I am now in a position of authority subject to the unconscious projections of others. And, wow, did I take those on! I felt and heard all of their judgements and gossip coming my way. When my friends would criticize their own bosses I would feel that too. I hit a state of over-empathy with people in positions of power and out of my guilt for what I had done to my previous managers I let a most of it stick. Luckily, I have friends who know how to do extraction and I was able to clear the projections out of my field and start again with a clean slate.

So, what now? Having been on both sides of the coin in recent history I realize that I have a new paradigm in which to frame these relationships. This has little to do with our parents because they become just another place to project. Instead, it has everything to do with us. When we project onto others it is our unconscious pointing to what we need to shift. If we are mad about our bosses shutting us down we should be looking at where we are afraid to speak up and how to gain the courage to do so. If we feel like they are making our lives miserable it’s time to look at how we need to shift our perspective so we can be happy. Sometimes this means leaving the job and other times it means taking responsibility for our own experience. In the end, it’s up to us to decide.

(In this Photo: Like this drake mallard duck that decided to nap on my frozen pond this week, it’s important to remember that there is a time for self-reflection about where we project and a time to rest on a frozen reflection of who we are and just accept who is.)

suppressing anger

To Suppress or Express?

As some of you know, I have been steeped in homeopathy lately. My dear friend Susan Nemcek of Willow Farm Healing Arts is mentoring me in the art. I’m treating a couple of horses homeopathically. The good news is that this week they developed hoof abscesses. This follows Herring’s Law in homeopathy that says a cure is forthcoming when the disease moves down and out of the body and into the Earth. Besides my work with them, the horses are also treated by an allopathic veterinarian. I am a huge proponent of veterinary advice and would always steer folks that direction. The vet put the horses on antibiotics. Being a novice in treatment of hoof abscesses I’m glad that the vet saw a clear course of action and that the horses are receiving relief.

As a student of homeopathy my reaction is more reserved. This prescription drove my treatment to a screaming halt. Antibiotics suppress and homeopathic remedies express. Susan warned me that we cannot ask the body to do both at the same time and that I would have to wait to continue treatment once the course of antibiotics was complete.

So, while I’m waiting for the course of treatment to finish, I’m considering this metaphor in my life. In the past couple of weeks I have had some major buttons pushed in big ways by close friends. My initial reaction has been anger then rage. There is quite a bit of crossover in these relationships so I cannot express how I feel without jeopardizing other relationships. I’ve weighed my options, chosen to suppress my anger, and worked on finding center during the process. At times like these i can’t help but think of my dogs, they have this magical ability to remove any stress I ever have. Pet owners know what I’m saying. I wanna share where I get my Dogs food , cause it has changed their life.Here ya go : http://mysweetdogs.com/dog-food-for-rottweiler/

The path to spiritual enlightenment is typically pitched as one of true expression in the world. This dogma is so much so that I’ve realized how much guilt comes along with choosing not to express. The more days that pass without expressing the more I realize how entrenched I am in this belief system. If expression is enlightenment, then suppression must be denial. In many circles, denial is the root of all things ugly in the world. What, then, is the ugly in me?

Mercury retrograde, which we have been in lately, is commonly viewed as a time to delve into our own darkness and face our demons. This time around, I have been given the opportunity to examine my belief system surrounding my own darkness. Rather than wrestle with my own shadow I’ve been invited to rest in under the shade tree and accept that the sun still shines. This, it turns out, is much harder than I thought… (continued in “The Art of Being Angry”)

art of being angry

The Art of Being Angry

We as a culture despise anger. We put anger in a very tight box. Clearly war and murder are unhealthy ways to express anger, but typically outward rage is only condoned when a logical case of righteous defense is made. When is emotion logical? When boundaries are crossed we give ourselves permission to act out of rage, but how far across others boundaries can we act without committing the same crime?

In sitting under the shade tree of anger we begin to ask interesting questions. When we do not allow ourselves immediate action and take a time out, we start to doubt. Am I suppressing who I am, who I have a right to be in the world? Will this suppression cause disease? Have I lost my way on the path to enlightenment? How can I feel shame for the beautiful self that is me?

This is the key, the beautiful self that is me. Anger is an emotion. Emotion is part of our human experience, our human experience that is beautiful, that is love. This is why the shade tree is such a curious metaphor. The tree has the power within it to fuel a raging fire, but only when we set a match to it. On a warm, summer day we love the coolness cast by the branches. The tree comforts and soothes us. Imagine that this could be the action of anger allowed. Imagine that when truly accepted for the unpolarized experience that it is, anger could be soothing.

I propose that it is not anger itself that causes so much discomfort, but the actions from it or the guilt from lack of action out of it. All in all, the disease comes when we see the anger as something ugly and cruel. We turn against our own nature by casting light where there should be shadow. By taking our turn under the shade tree we are allowed the time to look upon the lit world around us.

Anger serves the lovely purpose of casting us outside our experience for a time. We become so entrenched in its grasp that we are pulled outside of our daily lives. This allows us the chance to breathe, rest and look out at all the spectacular creation we’ve manifest in the world. So rather than fight it or fight out of it, let us drink in the cool, fresh air of the lesson that is anger.

lost wilderness of being

Lost Wilderness of Being

There’s a lot moving these days and the opportunity to shed projections and identities is abundant. The chance to move out of judgment and into our truth comes with what can be considered a high price tag. Just when we think we’ve let go of every pre-conception and belief that was important to us, the guard at the gate of our happiness ups the toll. In my own quest for joy and peace I came across the following stream of consciousness that has offered me comfort and contemplation:

Even though I did not know where I was going I still feel I have lost my way. I have lost my certainty of being me. There was no one to tell me I was long forgotten lost… forgot and lost the railway… imagination lays the tracks… tracks go one way. Steer the imagination and you are hopelessly lost.

Lost hope, lost will, lost self. In this state even the will of union seems too rigid. For in the end it’s a concept along the tracks that lead one-way to nowhere. In releasing to the process the process becomes no more. First the process becomes God, then compartmentalized, then loved, then lost… lost and forgotten.

The age old adage of “why?” Well then, “why bother?” To be free of the shackles, shake loose of the locks. But, this is not a revolution of expression. The cage door is opened, the bars are extinguished, but the bird remains. “Why?” This is not living out of hope or hopelessness. It’s just living in the lost wilderness of being.