Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Journey, Story

by Alison Mee
(photo by Sarah Eaton)
I have my story and I realize, indeed, we each come with our own stories. Sometimes, it is the time for the sharing of stories. But this is not that time. This is the time to look in each others' faces and acknowledge and nod and slip quietly together into the whispering hush of trees, the soft openness of water, the deep slow being of stone.

For thousands of years, our ancestors have used the drum to guide us in and out of shamanic journey. Feeling the drum entwine with the pulse of my blood and the sense of this air against this skin, wraps me in an agreement. I will journey, she will drum. Wherever I go, the drum will follow; wherever I go, I will bring the drum. I will not leave the drum and the drum will not leave me, and however far I journey I will return to the drum. I will allow it to call me home to my tribe when my wandering is done. It is an ancient and sacred trust.

With the drum to keep me safe, I drape my body over the rocks by the water. I am the person in the body on the rock in the water. I am the body on the rock in the water. I am the rock in the water. I am the water, lapping rhythmically against the rock, against the body. I am the bright warm star beaming against the skin. I am but the motion and the rhythm of the lapping. The pattern. The relationship of all these things.

I follow one molecule of water as it exits the lake with the lap, lap, lap, lap, rhythm, to lay on my skin for a moment and then rise up in the warmth of the sun. I fly swirling without destination, without focus or care. No concerns, no attachments, floating freely on the breeze. Time and thought recede. Colors wash away and I am without sight. There is only motion and a relaxed dance with the sky around me, as I rise and fall in response to a thousand different rhythms of connection.

(I am unaware of the passage of time and I am without worded thought.)

Awareness reawakens in the knowing that there is something in the distance calling to me. Don't go further, it says. Don't get lost. Return. Return. Return. Return. It is the drum.

My first conscious act is to resist this return. For several breaths, perhaps, I am in dual awareness. I am both this one molecule of water, on a breeze high above the lake, and I am the woman on the land dipped into the lake's edge. I am aware of the reality that from another perspective, all my story is mostly irrelevant. It's just a story. It's just the way humans are. Daughter? Parent? What does that matter, when I am floating free in an eternal rhythm of change, from liquid to gas, back and again...? What of one particular human existence being a bit shorter than had been hoped? What of hope? It's all as distant to me as the lake would be, diagrammed in a textbook, viewed from my human perspective.

Beckoned gently but firmly by the drum, I slip back into my skin, allowing my bones and blood and eyes to close in on me, the air moving through my throat as it does every moment of every day for years upon years. And as my body comes over me, so, shockingly, as plunging into an icy lake, comes grief, and love, and sorrow... comes knowledge, relationship, and sweet, sweet attachment. I am not a water molecule. I am a huge complex relationship of water molecules in living community with metal and stone and oils and bacteria and all the parts of me. Like a wave flowing gently across an ocean until it hits the shore, I crash into being human again, with tremendous emotion and care for not only all beings of the earth, but for some beings in particular, for no reason other than our blessed human connections.

My story matters. It matters to me. And it should. The shift in perspective serves to allow me to return and feel everything with raw edges, like a child again. I am in the love and the sorrow long before I search around in the recesses of my brain where I keep rational thought, where I use logic, reason and stoic resolve to tell myself everything is OK, to frame my story in some way that is easier to sit with, but diminishes it in the process.

By allowing myself the ecstasy of becoming other, I force myself to seek out my self and when I find me, I embody me, more fully than I had before my journey. I shake off denial and pity to find acceptance and compassion. I am grateful for my form of being, being human. Knowledge that my weeping, laughing, desiring, dreaming, dancing, loving, longing, raging emotions are simply my own perspective, makes them truly all the more precious. I am right where I am supposed to be.

[Editor's note: Thanks to Alison and Dick for sharing their experience as members of the Kodiak Clan this year at Twilight Covening and to Starwind for encouraging them. Do these experiences evoke feelings you would like to share, similar experiences or questions? If so, please contribute your comments.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bear Elements

by Dick Huntington
(Kodiak photo by USFWS)
I gaze at the sun
And it tells me,
"Feel my warmth;
Be healed in my FIRE."

I lift to the sky
And it tells me,
"Feel the AIR,
Softly Kiss your face."

I lean on the Tree
And it tells me,
"Come be touched
In places you cannot reach."

I walk in the WATER
And it tells me,
"Be no fountain
When the well you need."

I lay with the EARTH
And She tells me,
"Rest here in me
To be reborn --- again."

And so we came together at Twilight Covening, this time as Bears, or to be more exact, as KODIACS; each new clan-mate arriving from singular and divergent points on the cosmic compass. Under our Clan Leader's gaze, we accepted and acknowledged each other as family and quickly moved into Magical Space. Those of us who had known each other for years and those newly arrived, it made no difference for now we were one, litter-mates, cubs of the same Mother.

All of our Clan Time was spent outdoors in the open, connecting directly with the Elements in pursuit of our pre-stated goal of finding the source of all of our needs for renewal. We worked as individuals and together within the clan structure and even with some of the other clans to extend our connectivity.

The core-central theme of our leader's teaching was that we don't so much heal the Earth as we must learn to interact with it responsibly so that it may heal itself and thereby heal us. She told us, "Everything is about relationship. Learn to trust yourselves, each other and a loving universe." And so too we are connected each and all to each and all.

This is real human magic, true Earth magic; useful, sustainable and necessary; brought to us by competent and caring masters of the mind - body - spirit connection.

My deepest thanks and fondest regards too all at EarthSpirit, the hard working staff and leadership and to all my newest family members. WOW! A family wherein you get to pick your relatives. Will wonders never cease?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Of Crows and Rain

by Tracy Wharton
photo by Moira Ashleigh
I was invited to write something for this blog back in May and I thought what could I possibly have to say that would have meaning enough for my community to spend the time to read? What of my life carries an important meaning that should be shared? What lesson would I pass on?

As I stood in the medical tent at the Occupy Detroit rally, putting together health kits, listening to a squawking murder of crows complain about the rain, I finally got it. What my friend Chris Lafond calls the “universal clue-by-four” (you know, that piece of wood that slaps you upside the head when you just aren’t seeing the obvious).


Now, to be clear, I’ve never been part of Crow clan. I’ve been many things at Twilight Covening: Sphinx, Panda, Butterfly, Tiger, even aspired to the as-yet-mythical House cat clan, but I’ve never been a Crow. For those who haven’t had the experience of Twilight Covening yet, the long weekend is arranged around small group study and activity and each clan, animal themed, takes on a different intensive topic. The Crow clan is about service to community. The Crows hold space for us while we journey and make sure that there is space for us to return to from our travels, both in and out of the world. They enact spirituality through holding the community strong and safe.

To those of us who attend the activities of the Crow clan are mostly out-of-sight and we generally have no idea what they are doing most of the time. But they are there, doing what needs doing. This is what suddenly struck me.

There are many in our community who are great and wise voices in the world. There are a number of us who bring artistic beauty into the world, or stand and advocate and build bridges in a world too often fractured by artificial lines in the sand. There are those of us who teach and build the skills of others so that we may grow our communities, both in our home places and in our tribe. But there are just as many of us who simply live our lives, going about the place and doing what needs doing, usually without any attention or fanfare and generally out of sight and not thought of by almost everyone who isn’t directly involved.

I have said for over two decades that I live my life in service to others. This, for me, has manifested in both artistic ways, giving a break to people’s reality for a while and literal ways of service: as a social worker, a therapist, a human services manager, a researcher, a teacher, a priestess, a crisis worker and whatever else I might be doing at any given moment that gets some kind of nifty title. There have been hundreds of times when I’ve felt so small in a great sea of need, when I’ve wondered how my one small contribution could help change the world, or do anything at all. As I sat in the med tent, I thought about how I wasn’t carrying a sign, or laying down in the road for the police to carry away, or camping out long-term in the park like so many of the brave people who were genuinely taking a stand. I challenged myself about my convictions, how much I really believed in what was happening around me and thought long and hard about why I was there. Then I saw the crows and I realized that my belief in the nature of the world, my spirituality and the very fabric of what I am made of, is grounded in what I was doing and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was exactly what I needed to be doing and exactly where I needed to be when I wanted to stand and be counted.

You see, when the protesters that we see on tv call for a medic, someone usually appears. There is always someone who steps forward with water, tissues, bandaids. In disasters, there are those who appear with food, with mops, with fresh garbage bags, with tarps and hammers and chainsaws. When the tornadoes hit my hometown of Tuscaloosa, people came from around the country with trucks and chainsaws to help clear trees and debris and haul away the mess so it could be rebuilt. They just did what needed to be done and that act gave space to those who needed it to do what they needed to do.

My point is that sometimes carrying our spirituality out in the world isn’t a grandiose thing. Sometimes it isn’t sign-posted and sometimes it isn’t even clear that it’s what’s going on, but when we stop and do what needs doing for the greater good or in support of something that we believe in, we are enacting what we aspire to. We have a chant we sing in EarthSpirit that goes like this:

Carry it home to your children, (NB: many of us sing “Carry it on to the city” for this line)
Carry it out on the street.
Carry it on to the ones you love,
On to the ones you meet.
Carry it light on your shoulder,
Carry it deep in your soul.
For we have been blessed with magic,
And the magic will make us whole.
(by Betsey Rose)

As I listened to the complaining crows and the sounds of rain on blowing tarps, I realized that “it” is what I was doing. I carry my spirituality deep in my soul and carry it everywhere as I go about doing what needs doing and right then, I was carrying it, literally, out to the city and the streets, as I put cough drops into little baggies so that people could soothe their throats after shouting and spending the night in the cold damp park. And that is the point, isn’t it?

Our lives are woven of small actions. It is the interaction of all of our lives that forms the tapestry of what we experience as “Life.” Just as the web that we weave each spring is made up of a thousand little knots and ties, our lives interact with one another to form the whole of what we experience. Some people hold the great spokes of the web and some people dance underneath and weave. Some people march on the front lines of the journey and some people stay in the tent and hold the space to keep them safe. One cannot survive without the other, both are needed to make something happen and there is space in our lives to take a spot in both places, sometimes in the front and sometimes not, but not all at once.

What is the lesson that I would pass on to others? That carrying it out into the world may mean that you do something huge, but sometimes it is a small act, something done without fanfare or credit. Sometimes we are called to hold space, to support others, to protect their journeying and that is every bit as important and valuable as any other role. The web doesn’t hold together if you start pulling out strands; our lives only become the tapestry that we want them to be when we hold all the strands as beautiful and valued. It is our interaction with others that gives life meaning and that is worth passing on.