I have returned from the cauldron.
I have been dreaming, transcribing, laughing over the memories,
crying with frustration, reveling in the discoveries and
being prompted by my editor,
again and again, to go further and further.
It is the best of me. It is better than me, for it has a soul.
And from the bottom of my heart,
I wrote it for you.
- Identify your heart’s yearning and turn its message into a pure, ceremonial intention
- Create beautiful metaphors and symbolic language to express your heart’s need
- Invoke and maintain sacred space
- Perform ceremony with effective, safe practices
- Identify community needs and desires
- Empower others to participate in the ceremony-creation process
- Manage large groups of people when the energy is unpredictable
- Hold ethical and safe space for others
You can buy this book in hard copy or e-book at all the major online retailers.
You have come here,
your mind reeling from the city,
mired in the wires of your human ways.
You have come here, out of breathe.
You came parched with soul-thirst.
You asked for healing and we have given it to you.
We want something back this time.
So take it.
Pick up this sacred sword of truth,
the one we gave you when you thought you lost your soul
and we helped you,
and do something right for us.
Speak in your language for us.
Use your human will and score a path for us.
For it you don’t, we are all going to die.
It is time you have grown up
to take your place in the work.
Take the sword and act in this world.
For if you don’t, we are all going to die.
The first draft of this article was originally rejected by the Society for Shamanic Studies in 2011. After working with an encouraging editor to tone down the intensity, their committee eventually decided that it still wouldn’t work for them.
I went on to work with Peter Clark at “All Things Healing” to break it into a three-part series and make it more palatable for an online audience. Their publishing site has gone down, so here is another draft, updated for our times.
Blessing on your path.
I stand beneath the sacred redwood trees
and the power of the ancients nourish me.
I am touched by the precious kiss of mother earth,
I hear the raspy caw of the raven and I know,
I do not need to search for heaven.
I stand before an ocean, rising and falling with plastic with her swells.
Oil slicks drift into the wild.
I look at this and I am sure
that I do not create my own reality,
Rather, we co-create it.
It is no secret that the world is out of balance. There are dams that kill the salmon, clear-cuts that muddy the rivers, over-spending on military that leaves naught for our disadvantaged. There is anorexia, drug addiction, domestic violence, xenophobia and the lack of working class job. The list goes on as you know.
This situation is so commonly known that it has become easy to accept as normal. It tempting to block out these realities and focus only on the good and healing, the ‘love and light’, even though we know in our hearts that we cannot get away. We know it. We know that we cannot get away because everything is interconnected.
As Shamanic practitioners, our foremost responsibilities are to restore harmony and to serve our communities. We specialize in accessing the other-realms in order to find healing for the sick. We have devoted ourselves to our relationships with our spirit friends so that we may bring our clients’ lives back into balance. But what is our part in helping the global effort to restore harmony on the broader scale? How do we open ourselves to do the work without becoming overwhelmed or thrown into despair?
“It is too overwhelming”, I have heard some say. “It is depressing.”
“My empathic nature cannot handle the truths out there.”
In a discipline where we specialize in spiritual solutions, we can get grounded enough to protect ourselves and hold presence for what is going on. Granted, we can’t watch the news every day without some impact on our well-being buy we must find balance there too. Just enough and we may find that our emotional reactions are a great source of inspiration.
In order to help out, we must understand that we are not alone in the mission to bring the planet back into balance. Hand our despair the truth card, which us that there are millions of people who are working towards this end. They know that the only way things change on a global level is when we dig in, reach out for each other and keep moving. As shamanic people, we have a place in that, and it has to do with a lot more than prayer or individual healing. We need an agenda to spiritually address these global monstrosities. And I’ll betchya, knowing our place in the collective is going to be more fun than we might think.
There are organic food farmers, fair trade merchants, tireless community organizers and patient, patient teachers. There are prolific advocates and strong activists, innovative scientists who work on renewable energy projects and brave whistleblowers. Look at this wonderful list! There are progressive songwriters to encourage us and soothe our sorrows. There are documentary filmmakers, independent journalists, impassioned writers and dedicated fathers, in touch with their feelings. There are powerful, brilliant, creative people, inspired and gorgeously diverse.
This vast web of people who hone their passions and abilities create an interlocking pattern of energetic change across the planet. Each role is as crucial as the other, and when we step back to look at the whole, a song emanates from all the activity.
As Shamanic practitioners, our work is a reflection of these movers, changers and growers but on the spiritual plane. What we do there affects what happens here. What happens here affects all other realities. So, should we be down in the protest plaza or in the sacred circle? Or both? For each of us, the answer lies where our individual passions are kindled.
We already know from our inner work that we can’t remain idle on a path towards passion, even if it seems that we must pass impenetrable boundaries. Our initiations have taught us that. It is really a matter of life or death. So what do we do? The answer is found in the songs and the patterns. Follow me here. I want to show you something. We are going to use our shamanic gifts to look together, to listen and watch, to learn and then finally to vision together.
Let’s go back to the web of changers and widen our visual scope to encompass all aspects of society. Now we can see many more patterns, hear more songs as well. There are healing songs and there are songs of sorrow. There are entrancing, manipulative songs and there are songs of hunger. There are symphonies and clashing chords, the music of brooks and pebbles falling off a mountain. Here we can sense the shape of things. We can glean the nature of the forces that want to turn all of Mother Nature’s gifts into money. We begin to understand the mechanism of how these forces take our own individual talents, passions and desires and turn them into tools for their gain.
Looking is not easy. It can be overwhelming, but it is a crucial step to applying our skills to these big world problems. To open ourselves and be present with such powerful energy systems at work, all we have to do is use the same technique we use with our clients: shields up, open heart, keen senses and compassion. At first, our intention is only to gather information. The following stage is to use that information to figure out what to do. Knowledge becomes power so that we can shift from a practice of seeing to one of envisioning, or ‘using our vision’.
Vision is not a passive thing to a shamanic practitioner. Vision is a powerful tool which we use for healing. With these tools, we can project a vision of a new future. We hold in our heart-gaze, with unconditional love, people from all walks of life and all situations. Our ability to track energy and see how energetic things function allows us to discover what remedies may offset some of the destructive forces around us.
In order to be part of the stunning web of changers, we need to hold our vision wide. We need to open ourselves and practice the power of witnessing the calamities and genocides so that the suffering do not suffer even more from spiritual isolation. We cannot turn our presence away from them. We also need to learn from what is happening around us.
Let’s turn our shamanic gaze to peer into several interactive systems that are hindering our collective health as a planet. From this we may glean some solutions together. We will start by observing the difference between culture created by people and culture manufactured by corporations. Their patterns are different, as well as their manifestations and goals.
Corporate Culture, Organic Culture
Culture is the unseen stuff that happens when we people spend a lot of time together: our art, our ways of being and our customs. It is the intangibility of a people. It reflects shared values. Culture is powerful and alive, even more powerful than we think because much of it is silent and unseen. Culture can bring joy and close relationships, or silently support oppression. Culture also comes from the shape and natural aspects of the land a people lives upon. The sounds, colors, rhythms and sweetness all express the creatures and plants that we are in relationship with every day.
What happens when we lose our relationship with the land? What happens when many of us don’t stay in one city long enough for it to feel like home? When people value the monetary value that they can get from the land more than the land itself? When we look around, organic culture has been greatly lost in commercialized areas. Much of what we see that is called culture is actually manufactured by corporations.
Corporate advertising creates and perpetuates harmful stereotypes by telling us how we need to look and behave in order to be perceived as attractive or successful. The songs of marketing are all around us. Everywhere we look, someone in some way is trying to convince us to give them our money. We yearn for and wonder how to find our way back to it.
It used to be that the moment some new talent brought his music or art forth for us to share, the corporations would come in and commoditize it, so quickly that it lost its medicine. Now we live in a time where young people, instead of creating new, regurgitate music and art of the past, mixed in with the values of corporations.
“It is what it is,” we say.
We live in a driven, name brand, obsessive, addictive society and as shamanic people we can never, never forget this. We must stay awake. There is only one root value to every expression of corporate culture: financial gain. The myriad ways that corporations try to get money are a myriad of spells that we have to become callous about, but certainly not immune to. We must be acutely aware of how these spells work.
Let’s track it and see it. There is a predictable pattern which has its own song. In our shamanic terminology, we would call it an enchantment spell that has been used over and over, and this is how it works:
- Put someone into a trance with enticing images. (Our guard comes down.)
- Invoke a strong emotion of desire or self-deprecation which creates a need and then,
- Associate that emotion with a product. A logo.
- The logo becomes deeply seated in our psyche and can be used in the future to invoke the spell again and again.
It’s a curse, really. A simple one, greatly overused but very effective through sheer repetition. It doesn’t matter to the corporate marketing machine if we are convinced to buy out of desire or spiritual hunger or shame of one’s own body. It doesn’t matter to the corporations if we are buying products that are created in a way that supports war or if we are buying things we don’t need. All that matters, is that we open our wallets. The methods that are used to persuade us are clear misuses of spiritual power. There are energy patterns in every aspect of corporate culture that insert thought-forms of helplessness, fear, low self-esteem and desire for things that are not healthy. These, we know, are intrusions and enchantments.
As shamanic people, we can help our communities disentangle from these curses. Firstly, we call on our shamanic allies to help us unwind these messages in ourselves and then we find methods that will help our students do the same. Things like, journeying for techniques and ceremonies to help us to maintain our self-esteem and find a positive body image.
We can give workshops exploring our use of media, its value vs. tricks, allowing people to discover their own relationship to the TV shows they are hooked on. We can join with the current movement of storytellers in bringing back its ancient human past-time instead.
We can journey together to see more clearly the different ways that corporate culture encourages addiction. We can look at the energetic nature of social media and how to use it as a tool rather than let it use and rob us of our free time. We can also assist our students in gaining tools to find clear separation from energies they do not want to align with. Together, we can create a movement a movement to unravel these curses, find harmony and weave new songs together.
This is the work that the marvelous web of changers is doing on the physical plane. We can take our intentions and consciousness to do the same work with our shamanic ways.
Bringing Shamanism to Work
In keeping with the participation as global spiritual citizens, who keep our awareness open to encompass both the heartbreaks and marvels of our society, we need to allow our students to process what their work cultures are doing to them.
Many people work in toxic or dysfunctional environments where it can feel next to impossible to maintain a sense of groundedness and connection. Instead of allowing our students to hold an escapist framework toward spiritual activities, we can allow a place in our circles for honest talk about on-the-job issues. We can talk and journey to identify the energy signature of our work environments and then find practical ways to create separation from it. Or perhaps find a subtle song that can begin to shift it in some positive way.
Corporate work culture can be so overwhelming that it is important to teach and discover forms of protection in environments where we do not have very much power. There are many different kinds of ‘hidden altars’ and protective fields that can be put up, without interfering with our colleagues’ personal space. Talismans that bring our beloved world view with us throughout the day can soften the blows enough to make the day manageable.
I hope I am inspiring you to find some new ways of serving the community. In shamanic journeys, we tap into our personal medicine. We let out our power songs. We witness each other. We ‘see’ each other with our strong vision and we are able to stay aligned when we go back to work.
Shamanic Teaching Structures and their Effect on Diversity and Community
It is important, in any community, to be able to have discourse about the ways we have collectively chosen to do what we do. Industrialized society has near killed organic community. There are few public squares or gathering spots that do not cost money. More people live alone than ever. The family system has greatly fallen apart. Spiritual students crave community so much that they are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to fly to another city and take a class they have already taken and don’t really need, because they are lonely for human contact with others that share the same values.
In order to maintain integrity and care for our communities, we need to keep our eyes on how people come together and why they go away. Do people feel welcome? Is this community or class, really? Do we know what healthy community is? What patterns do we notice happening again and again? Are they working – not just for the health of the teaching organizations but for our students once they leave us and go on with their lives?
Let’s use our special vision to look at the structures we create for our spiritual classes. The most prevalent structure being used in many spiritual offerings for advanced training is based on week-long workshops and 2-3 year apprenticeships. Though the intensity of these classes is important, their format creates an economic barrier to receiving shamanic initiation. Realistically, most people either cannot afford to go or can afford it but don’t have enough vacation time to spare. Not only does this structure limit the student pool to the upper-middle class and rich, it limits the diversity of expression and experiences that are shared in the classroom.
When students come from around the world to meet, vital connections are made and still there is not enough time to truly birth community. Deep community is what happens when people live and love and grow together. When they stay together long enough to run into conflict and then pass through it. It requires locality and stick-to-it-ness. Alongside with our craving for community there is a fear of it, as well as over-idealized notions of what community might be. So, we can see there is a lot of sticking around we need to do in order to feed our hunger, get through these issues, and find each other.
Spirit does not discriminate when it chooses a shaman. The call will strike anyone from any country, race, economic class, gender or sexual preference. Therefore, knowing that teachers are scarce, we need to find ways to allow low-income apprentices to work with us. When we look at what happens when someone gifted misuses their power, we must admit that to not teach a power-filled apprentice poses a danger to that person and everyone around them.
These are some problems we have seen. It will be fun to dream up new structures and try them out. If the shamanic role is to serve and tend community, then it becomes important to find ways to offer gatherings for free. Or at least next to free. I’ve seen one model in which there is no charge for classes. They are considered ‘priceless’. Each student decides what form they wish to return the energy of teaching back to the world. They can give time, service, money or gifts. They can give to anyone they please.
In Seattle, I ran Spirit Jams for almost ten years. They were open to everyone: African drummers, ecstatic dancers, spiritual seekers and practitioners of many different modalities. People came with their djembes, frame drums, rattles, didgeridoos, Native American flutes, and we all had a great time. There was singing allowed with no words so no one person’s spiritual orientation would impress upon another’s. In the summers, I organized open public ceremonies in the parks. These were free, and like the Spirit Jams, structured to be simple enough that anyone can participate at the level they need to. At these events, there were always flyers for Shamanic Journey workshops, which were short and cheap, to allow anyone to meet the basic prerequisite for local journey circles. The deeper journey courses met once a week for 8 weeks. In such an experience, there was time for the opening of an intimate space where people could practice and share more profoundly.
The free events were regular enough that people came to expect them. A core group evolved, and friendships were being made just because an arena had been created for people to commune. Making them open to everyone engaged the broader alternative spiritual community. We joined hands with light workers, shamanic practitioners, pagans, yoga teachers, environmentalists, Buddhists, midwives and sexual healers, therapists and activists and sound healers. We shared our gifts and held each other in light.
I am not offering a single solution but rather an experience and social experiment to share with you. This sacred circle eventually did run its course, partially because all things come to an end but there also because I gave too much and became out of balance with myself. There were ceremonies filled with many volunteers and a lot of beautiful power and joy and there were other times when I just gave and gave and went home tired. It was not ok for me to continue when I was tired. I hope that you can learn from my lessons about the necessity of energy exchange. The work of bringing balance must fore-mostly happen at home before it works on a broader scale.
I do find great joy in the knowledge that many lasting friendships were forged through the space that we created together. Community is not being in the same room together for a short amount of time and never seeing one another again. Community is all about relationships, with the thrills and the difficulties, the frustrations and discoveries. It is memories shared and stories told.
Part-time and Full-time Spiritual Practice Structures
Another structure, which is comes right from our over-culture, is the notion that one must make a living from what one is passionate about in order to be taken seriously. However, anthropologists have taught us that traditionally, most shamans do not work full-time. They work the everyday tasks of surviving with everyone else and do their healing in their off time. Modern experiences of being a part-time or a full-time practitioner hold separate challenges that we can observe.
On one hand, it is difficult to carve out the time to maintain consistent deep sacred space when holding a full-time job. It is also a challenge to keep one’s own system clear when spending our days in a work environment that may not be healthy. What is nice though, is avoiding the potential stress of being an entrepreneur. It’s also nice to have health benefits and paid time off in order to relax. Relaxing enhances our spiritual path.
On the other hand, depending solely upon shamanic services to pay the bills can create a dangerous equation, where primal needs for food, shelter and clothing are dependent on client and student numbers. This can create subtle compromises that might not even be a consideration if basic needs were already taken care of. Working full-time as a practitioner can be nice because allows us to have more control over the environments we live in. We are shielded from the realities that the many people who come to us live with every day. This is a blessing and at the same time it can create a gap of misunderstanding – even an unrealistic expectation from the shamanic healer that people should be able to navigate dysfunctional environments with more ease than is realistically possible.
We need to be realistic about what we are up against, create honest dialogues about these elements and support each other in our journeys to strengthen our healing structures.
Commoditization of Our Sacred Spaces
Continuing our envisioning work, what is the shape and song of consumerism when it enters our sacred spaces? This is a useful thing to journey on. Here are some affectations that I have noticed when the consumerist mindset seeps into our work.
People start taking classes faster than they can digest the material. It can be tempting for someone to pay for classes out of an underlying sense of loneliness or need for personal healing that is not being dealt with. It also can be tempting to rack up a resume of training with known teachers in order to earn some sort of respect. But taking many classes in succession is counter-productive, as no one can push the river when accessing wisdom. Growing takes time. There’s no way around it. When we look at the broader pattern of consumerism, these activities are understandable: there is an awful lot of outside pressure to fill empty holes in our lives with purchasing. Sadly, when this happens, shamanism becomes a commodity and it has lost its power.
As teachers, how can we encourage our students to stick with the inner path and not jump too far ahead? How does a full-time teacher’s need for sustenance compromise their ability to be discerning about who may or may not be ready for an advanced class? What is ‘advanced’; how is it defined? These are difficult questions which have many diverse answers depending upon the teacher and the class, but nonetheless they are important questions to ask.
Genuine Relationships and Marketing
Then there is marketing. In traditional cultures, people knew who the good healers were based upon reputation. Word naturally got out through local relationships. This still can happen, but in urban areas, strong networks might not be there. In response, some practitioners use the mainstream model of heavy marketing, using the same tactics described earlier in this article and resume posting. What does an emphasis on resume building do to the practice itself? Where is the line between getting the word out, giving our background and boasting, which diminishes the integrity of our work? Putting too high a value on who one studied with and from which country can overlook the power and truth of one’s relationships with the spirit teachers. At the same time, it can be risky looking for a good healer. How can potential clients find out about who we are?
People come together based on relationships, trust. If we can create spaces that nurture these things, then students will naturally come our way. There is a place for journey circles and public ceremonies and there is a place for formal training. Ideally, all these activities feed each other.
Shamanism means that we walk the sacred Wheel of Life. We have learned to love and respect every part of it, rather than only the highs and lows that modern media wants us to thrive upon. Our presence in people’s lives brings attention and honor to the ‘almost’ places, the juicy in-between places, the trudging-up-the-hill times, the relieving fall into the process of death when death is due, the wonder of the unknown. This is true journey. We who are seasoned in the ways of journey offer this as our gift to the world. When we place our knowledge of the Wheel besides the mental construct of corporate culture, our work in the broader network of changers is clear to see.
Our lives are dedicated to sharing, tending and building rather than consuming, glamorizing or competing. Our power is in self-love and nourishing pride, not in participating in a system built upon greed or the preying on the shame and weaknesses of others. We hear the cries and dreams our activist friends put forth: from alternative energy sources to banishing corporate campaign contributions, from labeling genetically modified food to universal health care.
We know the power of dreaming too. We can help hold up the collective dreams of all of us. The time of the charismatic leader is over. We connect, we pray and we sing the global healing song.
I stand in shamanic circle
aware that people here come from the same land as me
where isolation is more common than communion.
I honor the courage it took
for them to show up.
As we drum, we sing.
We open and the dance begins.
I hear a chorus under the drums
coming from the great, compassionate spirits.
I’ve never posted the story of how I found a secret, ancient Redwood grove last summer because though the adventure was epic, part of the lesson I learned was how easy it is for the smallest of footprints made in utmost of earnesty could harm the delicate and precious floor of the forest, especially one made up of trees whose root systems grows wide, rather than reaching down.
I just didn’t want to encourage anyone else to go there.
But now there is finally an effort to raise money to build boardwalks and open it to the public. My heart sings and I encourage you to support these honorable forest protectors, in turn making this utmost sacred grove open to all to experience it’s glory. Even if you can only give ten dollars, please, I beg of you, consider looking here. https://redwoodparksconservancy.org/save-grove-titans
Standing in the Grove of the Titans was heaven come to earth. It was like Lothlorien. It was majesty personified.
In my journey to find this magical place described in Richard Preston’s “Wild Trees”, I discovered that that it was not inaccessible to a middle aged woman with periodic knee issues. I didn’t believe at first that I would find it, which made me less attentive, so I spent a few days hiking in the wrong areas, on unrelated trails.
But I was possessed with the desire and call to go there, so I persisted, not knowing if my story might end with my body shutting me down.
I dreamt about it. I was empassioned. But I could not find the trail. Instead I used hints from previous travelers online and figured it would be a hidden trail. So I went off, over rotting logs, onto soft moss and at one point I stopped and with dread and regret, looking around me at the pristine land, knowing, seeing that every step I took left a mark. I thought “What have I done?” But I knew I was close and I was going to cause as much damage if I went back, so I continued forward.
Then crossing a small dry riverbed, I saw it. It is difficult to take in an Ancient Redwood because you cannot turn your head in any way to see the whole thing at once. Redwoods can grow to be over 300 feet tall so it’s like standing under skyscrapers of trees. Walls of trees. It’s impossible to eek out even a glimpse of the rare ecosystems that reside up in the cloud. Every tree is unique as a snowflake, or a human, each angle speaking, sharing a universe of spiritual mystery. It is an emotional experience, a humbling one at the very least. Each time I visit these forests, like any true pilgrimage, there is a long internal integration for me afterwards.
So there I was. I lavished. I listened. I revered.
But no. I had heard that there were trees that most people never saw because the grove was kind of spread out. So what did I do? I had to follow a trail, that went up a 30 degree slope up to.. no where. I almost killed myself. I made track marks on the hill. I was completely possessed. It was too steep to go back down so I had to bushwhack over to a fallen giant and walk down it, but there were bushes growing over and I had a small pack and there was a 25 foot drop and I really almost killed myself there.
I couldn’t stop myself from such tree crimes and I was the biggest, baddest, bad tourist from out of state with selfishness and destruction in my two footed path.
And then I found the proper path back to the main trail, where a sign was waiting for me, reminding me of the damage I had done. There should have been someone there with handcuffs to send me to tree jail.
I could barely walk anymore so when I got back to the road, I hitched a ride back to my car, at which time I found that I had lost my cell phone. Ugh. Arrghhh!!! It was…no where! No in my car, not in my pack.. I drove back to the trail head and barreled back up the trail even though my body had previously called it a day until it was getting dark and I had to go back.
The next morning, an older guy with a Harley at the campground let me use his phone to call my phone and I discovered that my phone was still on and ringing. Incredible, as most areas where out of signal reach. Some nice folks in an RV (those RV retirees are an interesting and likeable breed of their own) let me use their phone to learn all about the horrible iterations one must go through to cancel their account and get a new phone. aaa. Not ready yet.
I forced myself to get a burner phone from the one store where I have never purchased anything – the store that does so much damage to so many people, towns and ecosystems – Walmart.
Then the trials of getting the damned phone registered and running. And charged. I went back to the trail. The burner phone lost signal. I started playfully asking every creature I saw if they would help me find my phone. “Hey Mr. Frog! Hey Ravens! Hey! Can you help me find my phone?” I was desperate. I also believe in these sorts of things.
I had to go back to that bad place where I had gone off the trail and walk again in the area where I never wanted to walk again.. ahhh!!! I immediately found a food wrapper – you know the kind that you see in the woods and you think “who in the hell would litter in a place like this?” – that had fallen out of MY back pocket. My pocket! My pocket had a major hole in it! Going further, feeling like a complete idiot for being there at all, I knew this was senseless.
But a miracle happened. My eyes just fell on my hat, that I didn’t even know I had lost, and my phone, a few feet away. In the middle of NO WHERE. Where NO ONE would have EVER found it, in a million years. (well maybe 6 months now that I know what’s been going on) Wow.
It was over half-way to the trees, so I saw them again, travail over and was able to relax a bit. I actually saw them 3 times in a few days because one of the trees, my favorite was incredibly hidden only 50 feet off the main trail.
On my way to camp, I spent a significant amount of time trying to make the entrances from the main trail look hidden. Then I sent messages to the bloggers who have posted their clues, begging them to remove them. It was such turmoil, such embarrassment, such a jaw-dropping, awe-striking experience to be there. But I did return that useless burner phone back to Walmart.
And then it took me a good amount of time to digest the whole experience.
So I never told anyone. Well, I told my mom. And some close friends, but I didn’t tell them where or the name of the grove. These ancient ones are literally being loved to death.
But now there is a way to help them, so my heart sings with joy as I entreat you to join me in preserving this gem. This place on the planet like no other that can never be recovered in a thousand years. That is how old these trees very possible could be.
Even if you can only give ten dollars, please, I beg of you, consider looking here. https://redwoodparksconservancy.org/save-grove-titans
Much love to you and the trees.
The time is here. The place is here.
We are the Protectors. If it is not us, who will it be? We must protect our Mother.
And I speak directly to those that have committed their lives to the shamanic path.
I hope to meet you there.
Why go to a rally? A lot of people ask. Does it really make a difference? Is it worth it to go? The unequivocal answer is yes. Yes! Always, yes! Even if it’s a small rally or it’s a rally in a liberal town where you feel like you’d be ‘preaching to the crowd’, the answer is yes.
But aren’t activists a bunch of angry people? I don’t want to be part of all that anger and conflict. The answer is.. not really anymore. People working for positive change come in as many flavors as there are people. It is true that the “father of political organizing”, Saul Alinsky, developed and proliferated methods of bringing people together based on tapping into their anger but Saul Alinsky died in 1972 and we are stronger than that. Lots and lots of people are acting out of love and now with the Standing Rock movement, prayer and the sacred have become a perfectly acceptable, long needed aspect of political change.
There are many different kinds of change that happen at rallies. There is political change. There is physical change. There is personal and spiritual change. There is emotional change as well. There is also intellectual change. Don’t forget the change that happens to everyone who has been touched by those who have changed. They change. No matter what the rally, something positive is happening on at least one or two of these levels, all of which contribute to larger change.
There are different kinds of rallies. Some are one shot deals, meant to make a statement period. Some are designed to meet a goal in a broader campaign. Some are vigils. Some are directed at a target – for example to launch a boycott: marching to a bank and trying to convince customers to divest from it because it is supporting a destructive industry. Some are not rallies at all. They are actions. We’ll get to that later.
One of the wonderful things about putting yourself in front of people who are leading progressive movements is that these people have really thought things through and are able to verbalize what we may just be feeling. These speakers, their brains are not following popular memes. You might find yourself hearing people talk about issues ways you hadn’t considered. It can be a truly freeing experience. You don’t have to agree, but it gets the brain going and it feels good. So here another way that change is made. All those people starting to think differently; it’s going to change the memes.
Rallies are also great for the heart. We get to be in a crowd of people whose values we align with on an important issue and my goodness that feels so good, our whole body starts to hum. We might even find it easier to talk to people, because of this feeling of unity and community that so much of our society has lost. The vibe lasts long after the event. Having our energetic system plugged into a collective is nourishing, as we are all focused on something positive together. This stuff is contagious. It’s not a football game. It’s not a concert. It’s real life and we are really showing up.
Then there is exposure. If the event is big enough, or if people have done the right preliminary outreach and press releases, the press will be there. With designated press liaisons, we can do our best to get a clear message out to people who are watching it on the news. Even if they do not agree with our intentions, the cause is put into their consciousness. They are thinking about it, which is better than having an issue buried and not thought about at all. Ultimately, when mass consciousness is conscious, changes start to happen.
A rally might have a direct action portion. Direct action is when people take things into their own hands and physically try to do something that needs to be done, because waiting for the establishment to do it might leave us waiting forever. Direct action often includes breaking the law in some way, resonating to a higher law of human rights, common decency and caring for one another and the planet. People who do direct action typically go through training, so they understand what their rights are and how to behave in ways that will mitigate potential police violence. The majority of political activists are dedicated to nonviolence. When you see the news talking about riots, often the riot is happening on the police side, as they throw tear gas canisters and such. Not the activist side.
Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be. The media is prone to focusing on conflict and pictures of iconic 60’s looking people – this is intentional. They are trying to turn you off of political participation. Go down there and find out for yourself what it’s like. If you read the flyers and invites, you can get a pretty clear understanding of what is going to happen. Even in the case of events that include direct action, if you want to support the cause but don’t want to get arrested, you can just stay in the back. Most of the time. It is also possible for the police to just start randomly arresting people. It depends upon the event. Read the vibe and get out if you need to. Or go the rally part and not the direct action part. They are usually separated.
If you want to have a big influence on the nature of the rally, get creative. When people make their own signs, when they come up with creative chants, wave huge beautiful banners and wear costumes representing their ideas in street theater format, it colors the culture of the event and makes everyone happy. They notice the time and energy spent in preparation and they feel it. In a good way.
Bringing your children to a political rally shows them that we have a voice. That we can have collective power. We can be creative and have fun making positive change.
You don’t need a reason to go. You don’t have to be a die hard activist. You can go just because you are curious. You just want to put your body next to the bodies that are standing for something you believe in. That’s power. Or maybe you want to expose your brain to some new ways of thinking so you have more to think about later on. You don’t have to be angry. Be something else. But you can be angry. Anger is healthy when people are being oppressed and the land is being destroyed. It’s a good thing to draw a boundary and say no sometimes. It’s all in how you want to express yourself. If you have an alternative idea you want to present rather than saying no to something, make a banner. Offer that up for thinking. Give room to people who are being angry and be yourself. Diversity is the whole point. There are many ages, stages and experiences being represented. We hold space for the vibrant, wonderful humanity that we are and we are stronger for it.
Political action a powerful, beautiful thing. It’s the hallmark of our country. Public demonstration is our right here, and the reality is, the longer we go without exercising that right, the more likely we are to lose it.
People have had their entire lives change course after experiencing working with other people for positive change. I’ve seen folks quit their jobs, move across the country, start writing. All sort of wild and crazy, magnificent things happen when our passion is ignited from our deepest values. Who knows what might happen to you.
You have Power. The Power to make Change. The Power to love. The Power to put others at ease. The Power to support people who are doing things that we cannot. The Power to Sing, to Bake, to Coordinate, to Draw, to Take Care, to Learn, to Reach Out and to Protect our Mother Earth that needs us so much.
Using that Power does not mean you have to be someone you are not. It does not need to lead to burnout. It doesn’t mean you have to confront others with your anger. It means that you count. You matter. We matter. And we need you to make things right, as our race as humans has made too many mistakes. If we do not undo them, together, we will not be here on this planet much longer.
Step into the River with us. We need you. We love you. We want to Dance with you. We are Moving together, Praying together, Speaking out together and as things are constantly changing, we will find our way. We Will Make it Right.
And we will restore love in places where love has been lost.
You matter. Your power is right here, right inside you. It might be covered up by many things, but it is there. And there are ways to express that power that are going to make you feel fantastic, not frustrated or depressed. Not even burned out. A lot has changed since the 60’s and if you haven’t been in touch with any sort of movement in the past 10-15 years, you are going to be really excited when you do.
Let me describe to you an amazing, nourishing and inspiring web of life that you can be a part of. We get to tap into this gorgeous ecosystem of humans contributing to positive change that spans this entire planet. It is dynamic, always changing and infinitely creative. It includes petition signers, carpenters, scientists and lawyers. It has great cooks, healers, midwives, parents and carpenters. It includes advocates, political organizers, direct action participants and teachers. It has artists and writers, dancers and speakers, coordinators and lovers. Every walk of life and every continent. It holds all faiths and sings heart-stilling prayers. There are spiritual activists and political activists and gratefully, a growing number of people who are both. We have our environmentalists and labor unions, wonderful storytellers and a whole lot of people who just show up where ever they are needed.
When we forget about this magnificent web, it can be very hard, but luckily, these days all we need to do is go online and search for it and we are connected again. We read and we watch and sometimes we shed tears of empathy with those people are working for. We sometimes weep in joy for what is truly happening, which is an ever blossoming of beauty and a passionate expression of life. We say thank you. Thank you all. You feed me. I am a part, too. I do my part, no matter how small, it is big. Bigger then you anyone can imagine. Because our state of being, our actions, our choices and our words ripple out to everyone that touches us, as we are changed by everyone that we touch.
So, what is your precious gift? Are you the one that can bring yummy food to the next volunteer event? Food nurtures community. It reminds people to take a break. It creates a space for socializing and relationship building. It makes people feel cared for. Did you notice that the word isn’t getting out about a great event coming up? Post it around, ask people to invite their friends. Take pics and post them later so our collective consciousness can be part of the good stuff. Are you good with tools? Look for a group that is building homes for the poor and homeless. Are you an artist? Bring forth the spirit and song of what we are all feeling to us in a beautiful way to feed our spirits as we move forward. Lawyers can represent our political prisoners. Networkers can connect people whose gifts coincide. I could go on, endlessly, because the gifts that we hold come in an endless variety.
Some of us know what our gifts are. Some of us need to just show up and put our bodies next to others and say,”I care.” Eventually, we find what works for us. If you want to soul-search for your gift, think about what you have passion for. The element that brings out your power is your passion. Most of us care about an awful lot of things but some things just make our whole bodies react. There need be no explanation. This is where our power is. It is a deeply personal, deeply powerful expression of who we are. Underneath the fear, the apathy, the cynicism, the powerlessness is always passion. Passion that when, ignored or kept down, will make us sick. When we let it out, energy is allowed to flow and the world changes.
Activism does not mean anger. It means active, doing. We can no longer be inactive because those that are actively destroying the planet never stop.
Nobody wants to burn out. That is why we focus on what nourishes us the most. When we see people doing things that we care about but don’t have passion for, we are grateful for them and proud to be part of the family. When we see people doing things on a level that are beyond our capacity, we say, “Wow. Look at that. Thank you. What can I do to support you?” Supporting a front line activist is invigorating because they hold a lot of transformative fire. Sometimes just being around them changes us and makes us think of things we hadn’t thought of before. They often are channeling powerful visions for us as well. These people do ride the line of burnout, so giving them your time helps them to stay strong. Sometimes we need to make sure they are eating. Sometimes they need someone to hold space for them to speak their feelings. Always, we can find the little things that they can’t do because they are overwhelmed with the bigger things. These little things are not little. They are the platform from which others can do their work.
And then we go home and take care of ourselves. Our weaving interacts with other weavings as we make this world we live in together. We create our reality together.
Love is what we all want. Loving communities, policies that care for all peoples, leaders that make informed decisions and allocate resources in ways that provide healing to our planet.
We are this planet.
OK, I can’t resist referring to Merry’s speech to the Ent and to Pippin in the Two Towers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXgWZyb_HgE
It makes me cry every time I see it.
This can be done in a moment. It can be thought of as a state of mind. It can also be done in ceremony, taking time for each part of this process to deepen and develop.
1. Think of Donald Trump. Visualize him just as you see him. Don’t worry about doing anything right now. Place him in a golden circle. Place the symbolic vision of his more enthusiastic supporters in the circle as well.
2. Think of all the people he reminds you of. People in your life. People you have witnessed in the media. Even fictional characters. Put them in the circle as well.
3. Think of the parts of yourself that get angry and closed down. The parts that are quick to call people names, to want to be better than everyone else, that parts of you that are capable of saying mean things to other people. Put all of that into the circle as well.
4. Now breathe and keep looking. Just look. Notice the rhythms and patterns that are in common of all of what goes through this circle. This is an archetype. Or many archetypes. The schoolyard bully. The tyrant. The abuser. The rapist. The bigot. This can be male and it can also be female.
5. Keep breathing. Witness. Hold space. What is in the circle is no longer specific to any person but the greater over-arching energy signatures that govern this scary, assaultive, bigoted, behavior. Just keep watching and breathe. Give yourself nurturing love and know that witnessing is a powerful, powerful form of healing. Just hold space in silence and watch. Try not to react. Try to learn and hold space.
6. Now focus on the weaknesses of this archetype, this way of being, these patterns. Notice the pain and the loneliness, the private misery and the fear. See the bleeding. Acknowledge the bitterness. Hear the inner crying, so, so deep that those the hold it cannot hear it themselves. Be present to witness the extent of it, for as long as it takes.
7. Witness the gifts of this archetype. Notice the passion. The energy. The quickwittedness and humor at times, even if used to harm others. Notice the willingness to act, even if the action is violent. The willingness. The readiness. It’s nature as well the fact that it is misplaced. Notice the yearning to be in community. To belong.
8. Hold space and begin to generate love for the circle of gold. If it is difficult for you, call to your spiritual guides for assistance. Sing if you feel called to. Drum and rattle. Play your music. Even dance. See the humanness with all it’s gifts and foibles, pain and pride inside the golden circle and say,
“I believe in you.
You are welcome in our family.
There is a place for you when you are ready.
We will welcome you home.”
and continue until you are finished. Say only things that you can say sincerely. Don’t force yourself to say something you don’t feel.
If you can do it with complete sincerity be sure to say, “I love you.”If you were able to say the other things, it will be true.
9. Bring yourself back to everyday consciousness. Ask for a blessing to keep you strong on the path and go on with your day without looking back.
10. Repeat as necessary.
When we do this work, we are shifting the templates from which people behave on a primal level. Hatred and retaliation has always brought more hatred and retaliation. Since ancient times people have used their knowledge and mastery in magic and shamanism in violent and retaliatory ways (as well as in healing ways). Now is the time to collectively recall the signatures and patterns of Power With from the deep wells of nourishing, raising its form, deliberating its complexities and rejoicing in its creative offerings.
But first, we must call our wounded home. Or at least let them know they are welcome. As much as we are capable.
Blessed Be and Much Love to you.
Shamanism is a Path of Love and as all in paths of love, it requires the kind of courage that our leader Martin Luther King had. Shamanism is not about how far you can get out there to meet the spirits but what you bring back for your community, how skillfully you can bring it back and how effectively you can deliver the medicine with love. It is a path with concern for the health of community.
This is why I encourage you, even in the rooms where spiritual people go to seek peace, especially there, to speak your truth.
In the alternative spiritual subcultures, spiritual people can sometimes be so afraid of conflict that silence opens the door for the old illnesses of the dominant paradigm to take root in our sacred settings. But believe it or not, conflict is a sign of healthy community. Conflict allows deep passionate differences to be clearly seen. Without it, there is no true growth. In political and spiritual circles alike, it is extra important for people to be aware of the value of conflict because in political and spiritual circles, conflict is inevitable. Why? Because in both politics and spirituality, if we are true to our path we are being motivated by our deepest values. When our deepest values are crossed, it causes strong emotional response. It’s kind of like math.
If you have tried to speak your truth and experienced being shut down with words like “you are being negative” or “you create your own reality”, don’t let this push you into a place of self doubt. Even if you were not entirely correct in your words, that sort of response only means that you are pushing up against people’s fear.
Every movement, whether spiritual or political comes with its rhetoric. When the rhetoric is used without context or insight, it becomes dogma. Dogma is often used to control others. The rhetoric of positive thinking and positive speaking has become dogma in many corners of our subculture and our nation. It is sounding a lot like the old “don’t rock the boat” of other oppressive cultural ribbons of the past.
Conflict is a place where people are outside their comfort zone, in a place of vulnerability and risk. It is when social interactions are not all tied up in a bow over a neat package. It can be scary, a place with high stakes, where bridges are easily burned…or deeper understandings made or where trust and growth can be forged. Without this risk we cannot learn about each other.
This is the practice of love. Love for the self requires speaking one’s truth. The cantankerous process of speaking one’s truth is more healing than the silence of covered wounds. Don’t let anyone pacify you with that “everyone has their own truth” dogma (remember that dogma is good rhetoric used in ungrounded and out of context circumstances, often as a way to wield power). We have a common truth, too. We CO-create our experiences together and in order for us to live together we have to negotiate. Truth is “what is” and if “what is” is not working for all, rather than shut each other down, why not break the box open? What’s the worst that can happen? Burned bridges and the old familiar isolation? Isolation is the prison of the developed countries. It is long due that we break out of that prison.
Have faith. Courage was explained to me as not a circumstantial thing like bravery but a way of living. Take heart. Truth is inevitably more healing than the silence of covered wounds. The courage to be oneself will allow others to do the same.
None of us has this stuff down all perfect. This essay is not perfect. It’s just a draft. Perfection is the enemy of love anyways-we all, so beautifully imperfect. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to wish we were able to say things differently. I do. But better to say something imperfectly than to not say it at all. There is not enough time to worry about being liked. If we are silent we will drown.. as gay activists around the world know too well, silence is death. Death of the soul and for many death all around.
Thank goodness we live in a country where speaking does not mean death. This gives us extra responsibility to speak when so many others cannot.
Let’s co-create our realities for common cause to bring more love and healing in the world for everyone, not just our friends and people like us. Let’s tune in today to the massive power behind the speeches of Martin Luther King and allow ourselves to be infected with that fire, to be inspired to do whatever it is that we are called to do.