One issue for many of us, in this initiatory period we are in, is that our culture can't hold the ceremonial container for us. Our uninitiated elders can't hold the container because they don't know how. So, one solution is to return to the original elders - the Spirits of Nature - to ask them to hold the container for us. This 8 minute prayer-healing-song tries to provide a little of that for you. I hope you'll take the time to settle in and let it do its work on you.
The shamans see what we are going through as an initiation. Initiations serve a purpose: to move us into the next more mature spiritual state of being. Unconscious initiations take the form of disasters, chaos and terror, and this is what we are largely seeing now. Maybe you are filled with dread and anger, confusion and weariness, and maybe your dreams are off the charts in weird and disturbing. This is part of an unconscious initiation.
It's up to each of us to decide what we do with this time. Much of your fear, confusion and frustration at the assholes all around you comes from trying to grasp what is happening through the lens of the rational mind. But my suggestion for you is different. The rational mind simply does not have the bandwidth to carry you through a spiritual initiation. This is why I highly recommend working with the spirits of nature, your helping spirits, and your higher self. So much of this Covid time period is about our relationship with nature, and that's why the shamanic path is so useful as an anchoring practice.
You are only in charge of your own initiation - you cannot force anyone else's, no matter how loudly you talk or how eloquent your Facebook posts are. The chances are very, very good that you will survive the Covid pandemic. If you do, how do you want to be different? What inner energies do you want to raise up and live with, and what old demons (perspectives, decisions, and behaviors) do you want to be rid of? What will this experience teach you about your relationship with death and with life, and with love and beauty - how you embrace each, or hide from any? What does "true work," "true study," "true rest," and "true play" mean to you? Who are you truly, who are your true people, where are you truly from and where do you really want to go? Who are you pretending to be, and what does the pretense cost your soul? Where - and to whom – are you leaking your power and what is the cost to your soul? What do you love the absolute most? These are classic initiatory questions and now is a great time to work with them.
Unconscious culture will do whatever it can to keep you from making this time a conscious initiation. But you can take any of the above questions with you on a journey to your front steps or back yard, to the woods, or the lake. Ask Spirit to help you learn an answer. You can also carry any of these questions to you to bedtime, and ask the Spirit-in-the-Dream to show you answers. Learn to trust that Spirit's answers come in the gust of wind, in the flight of birds, in images, sudden knowing, and coincidences. Remember Einstein's words: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." Open your true yearning and ask one of those initiatory questions to the Great Spirit-in-Nature. When you ask from your honest yearning, Spirit always answers. Give yourself time to ask, and to receive. Impatience assures unconscious initiation.
We are coming up on May 1 – Beltane in the Celtic tradition, the opening of the South on the medicine wheel. Ask the Great Spirit of the Pure Love of Life to come and teach you how to love this life, and show you what your life would look like with that kind of love.
I leave you with the words of the John O'Donohue:
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
If you want to work with me, take my online shamanic journey class, or prayer class, or schedule an appointment.
I hope this six-minute prayer song to the waters helps lift some anxiety from you. Take time to open yourself and allow it to do its work on you.
I may think what I'm wrestling with is a scary virus. I may think I'm wrestling with the sudden obliteration of my income, or the interruption of my ordinary life or career goals. I may say I'm feeling trapped, or abandoned, or that I'm wrestling with fear, or death. None of this is untrue. But all of these are on the surface of life.
I may think I am longing for success, or love. I may believe I am longing for acceptance, expansion or fulfillment. None of these longings are useless, vain or false. But these, too, are on the surface of life.
Below the surface lies a primal power that I fear terribly, and yet is the very core of my belonging to life: the power of uncertainty.
The Irish philosopher poet John O'Donohue says, "Real power has nothing to do with force, control, status or money. Real power is the consistent courage to be at ease with the unsolved and the unfinished." (Eternal Echoes, 195). Our truest fear and our truest longing are both centered on the power of uncertainty.
All human beings long for solid ground to stand on. But the core truth is that there is no solid ground, but only temporary ground we construct for ourselves, often calling it, with gleeful relief, solid. The earth is not truly solid ground, as both mysticism and quantum physics seem to agree. And the earth itself is not on solid ground, but afloat in a vast, undulating sea.
Celtic shamanism teacher, Tom Cowan, says, "Disasters lead us back to that primordial consciousness out of which shamanism emerged, that consciousness of being small before a grand and frightening Universe…" (Read his lovely current piece on despair at Society for Shamanic Practice.)
And here is the hardest thing for me to grasp, yet I truly can glimpse it if I allow myself to: Even my current despair is on the surface of life. Below the despair is what O'Donohue calls "the signature of the divine."
It is common in meditation and ritual to advise me to send an imaginary root out from me, deep into the earth for "grounding." This is a very good practice that can provide a channel for anxiety to flow out of the body and into Mother Earth, who is more than willing to help us. But this grounding, too, as helpful as it is, remains part of the surface of life.
The taproot of the soul goes not into the earth, but through the earth, beyond the surface of life and into the eternal sea of divine uncertainty.
We are culturally trained to strive for bigness and independence. Our "cowboy culture" has embedded an aspirational story into us of independence from, and control over, the powers of nature. My money and machines will keep me safe. Even in my personal world of mysticism, shamanism and New Age woo-wooism, we tell each other that our core identity is as radiant as the sun itself, and that we are as big as Spirit.
But the virus has has brought us into our human smallness and vulnerability. If we allow ourselves to fully enter this smallness, it can – can, if we let it – open in us the immensity of the present moment, which is the divine sea, which is always "unsolved and unfinished" or, rather "always becoming." Our thoughts and actions dedicated to the surface of life are almost entirely about the future and the past. But now, we have been given the terrible gift of the mirror of our smallness, and we are filled with the irritation that comes from the rubbing that polishes the mirror. The signature of the divine is found in our vulnerability.
I'd like to offer you three kinds of practices you can do during this time.
Practice 1: Classically called "the lament prayer," this is a prayer that expresses powerlessness. (More on lament here.) We want to be good people, so we say "I'm doing okay, and I'm so much luckier than…" (fill in the blank.) Gratitude is nice, but it can also bypass the divine discomfort of the rubbing that polishes the mirror. As Scott Berinato lays out so well in a recent article on grief, one uncomfortable but valuable practice you can do is feel what you feel, honestly. Set a timer for five minutes, remind yourself that all feelings are temporary, let yourself feel whatever rises, and name each one. The fear that you'll be consumed by these feelings is just one of the feelings that is temporary. Then go outside and "ground yourself." Give it all to the Great Mother, who is a happy to digest these energies and compost them into food. Thank her for this gift of healing.
Practice 2: Make prayers for the surface of life: protection, healing, and the restoration (or new creation) of normal, prayers of gratitude. Prayers summon beauty, and beauty is the antidote to despair.
Practice 3: Imagine your soul's taproot plunging down into the earth, and then beyond all surfaces, and into the eternal –however "the eternal" may appear to you. Draw power up that root and into all the layers of your body: the physical, energetic, and luminous layers. Do this for a few minutes after your lament prayer, and I hope it will help in polishing the mirror.
Stay calm. Love One another.
Jaime Meyer is president of the Board of Society for Shamanic Practice and a full-time shamanic practitioner in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Check out his upcoming online class on Shamanic Prayer.
Joseph Campbell said the mystic and the psychotic are in the same waters but one is drowning and one is swimming. I tell you this, my sisters and brothers, you do not need a "spiritual life." You already have one. It's called getting out of bed every damned day and putting one foot in front of the other.
If you believe your soul came here to learn something, or to unlearn something from a past life, or to experience life in the body, it's doing that right now, and all day long, whether or not you learn how to call down the infinite light through your crown chakra. You are already "just doing it." If you believe life is an ultimately meaningless conjunction of eukaryotic chemical interactions, it certainly is. You don't have to fix your life, you don’t need New Year's resolutions. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the core sacred scriptures of Hinduism, says each one of us goes to the heaven we imagine while we are alive. So stop worrying!
My teacher says the soul chooses one of seven kinds of humans to become: king/queen, warrior, priest, server, sage, artisan, or scholar. I'm a sage and the core marker of this kind of human is they want to have fun and want to spread fun to others. So it's very like me to say this: Don't make your New Year's Resolution to "work" on your spiritual life. Rather, do it because you want more fun in your life. If your spiritual life doesn’t deliver delight, what use is it?
Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Christianity, said, “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”
Don't get me wrong - "Having fun" doesn’t mean things are easy or without pain. Having fun doesn’t mean all-day masturbation followed by eating chocolate covered cherries (unless, in some way, you have identified that as exactly what your soul came here to learn.) I think about people who play football, or do gymnastics, or devote themselves to the cello. There is great discomfort in all of it. I say to you, brothers and sisters, see the discomfort as part of the fun, not as the shit-covered barrier that you will someday climb over and leave behind. (Because guess what: there is never a point where the spiritual life is without discomfort, and if someone promises you something different, I suggest you do not give them your money or time.)
A spiritual path is for one thing: to allow you see life through a bigger lens, including your own suffering. (By the way, this is the point where many people bump up against that big rock in this stream of thought, the rock that threatens to rip a hole in their canoe of delight: "No, No, No! Spiritual life is about easing my suffering!" So if you've hit that rock, good on you - it means you're on a strong spiritual path.)
Another way of saying the paragraph above: A spiritual life is for one thing: keeping you from being called into the Camp Of Despair, as one of my teachers says. Or as the poet Rilke says, the spiritual life is about revelling in the experience of being defeated, decisively by constantly greater beings.
If you are drawn to building a bigger, deeper, more lovely or interesting spiritual life or practice, it's because your soul made you this way. You are, right now, the way your soul wanted to be. This yearning you feel in you for the kind of fun that spiritual practice delivers – the bigger lens, the re-framing of suffering, the new view of purpose - this is the way your soul wanted to be this time around, as it wends its way through this cotton candy-laughing-puking carnival ride called human life. So let it be joyous, because you're doing it right.
My practical approach to New Year's Resolutions:
Wishing you a potent and practical 2020!
.I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life studying God, in many names and costumes. If I’ve only learned one thing- and it is quite possible that I’ve only learned one thing - it is what so many have said: humans are pumped full of fear. The role of God is to move us out of that fear. When fear freezes us in that small place, God makes God’self known, coaxing us out of the fear and encouraging us to remember the bigger truth: that we are made just as much of love as we are of fear. If God ever weeps, it’s because we choose fear again and again and again. If God ever rolls God’s eyes at us, it’s because we spout eloquent words about God and love and yet still live from fear. If God ever angers, it is because we encourage others to act and live in fear and call that faith. If there is a single phrase that I think the teachings of Jesus try to get across to us, it is this: Fear not. On this day that so many people celebrate the teachings of Jesus, I send my profound wishes, hopes and prayers to you that you can feel the presence of love in this world, whether it be through the touch of another human being, or from the caress of the wind, or from the majesty of the silver stars appearing each night. I wish love to you, around you, and washing through you, today and always.
What do the plant spirits of the Amazon jungle, the 12th Century European "Black Madonna," The Celtic "Old Bone Mother" and the Great White Reindeer Spirit have in common? They are embodiments of the "Dark Divine Feminine." And what they have in common for me is that they are all present in the Winter Solstice Blessing, which opens in two weeks.
The "Dark" feminine refers to a type of energy. Life needs both light and dark energy to exist. One driving metaphor of our culture thinks that darkness is lesser, and is tied to evil, and light is greater and tied to purity. This has left us with all kinds of "light pollution," a state in which urbanites literally cannot see the stars because of 24-hour-a-day lights.
The Dark Feminine - like, for me, the shamanic path - calls us away in nearly every way from the spiritual assumptions and foundations that have been taught to most of us our entire lives. She calls us to re-sacralize what has been de- sacralized by American culture.
She calls us away from our addictions to small and shallow things, and toward our depths - the darkness of dreams, intimacy, imagination, creativity and compassion. She reminds us that life is the marriage of grief and praise. She calls us away from tribalism and anthropocentrism, and she awakens in us a cosmic perspective.
Before you misinterpret that to mean she calls us to "bliss out" and "escape," she also calls us away from capitalist exploitation of all bodies - the bodies of the poor, of women, of indigenous peoples, and of the body of the earth - and into communion with the Great Mother of creation. She calls us into biophilia - the love of creation - and not only a love of it, but a commitment to protecting and nurturing creation, sacrificing our whims and desires on Her behalf. She calls us into being rooted in wonder, she calls us into the soil of discipline, she calls us to compost our envy and fear. (Read Matthew Fox's long piece on the Black Madonna for more.)
My several years' work with power plants in Peru has been a long swaying dance back and forth between working with Dark Feminine plants and then Dark Masculine plants. This balancing of energies has been very powerful for me. But the vast majority of my spiritual work for 35 years has been with the Feminine Divine.
At this charged time in our history, where fear, confusion and sorrow are so abundant - and where these energies are used to manipulate us - the Divine Feminine is calling us to reinvent our world, to renew it, to re-capture what has been stolen from us, to re-awaken our birthrights of beauty, compassion, creativity, connection to Spirit, and joy - for all, not the few. So many people have written me lately expressing that they feel they are in a fight. A fight has two aspects: what you are fighting against and what you are fighting for. If we forget what we are fighting for, or if we don’t articulate it clearly enough, we're just fighting. In this time, I'm trying hard to remember the vision that is worth working for, and worth fighting for, and I hope my work can help you with that also.
More than twenty-five years ago, the reindeer came to me when Ailo, a noaidi ("shaman") from the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, ceremonially stabbed me in the chest with a reindeer antler, as a way of inviting and installing the Reindeer into me. I will never be able to explain fully how or why, but that ceremonial act blew open an energy center in me and the Reindeer danced her way in.
For me, the Reindeer Spirit carries and delivers the power of new vision, the power of protection from confusion and the power of connection to Life. As a 70-year old woman of Sami ancestry told me in an email, the Reindeer also wraps herself around us in the storm to mother us and keep us warm, so we can survive the night. That is why I've done this solstice event for so many years.
Well, there is another reason I present this event: the reindeer asked me to "untwist her story" for my people. "Untwist," meaning guide people into the depth and healing power of a spiritual story far more magnificent and helpful than "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "my people," meaning whoever shows up.
Ailo said urban westerners seem to spend a lot of time obsessing on our failures and traumas. He said we ride our traumas like horses, everywhere we go. He said we spend so much time tuning our instrument to disharmony because we haven't been taught to listen to the harmony and tune ourselves to it. Even our religious traditions tune us to the disharmony of guilt and shame and obedience and failure. And I want to be clear: often, we are manipulated with disharmony in order to keep us weak, so we cannot stand up and allow our "bones to turn to dark emeralds" as the poet James Wright says. Well, all of this is why Ailo stabbed me in the chest with the antler, so that the Great White Reindeer could have an opening to dance into.
So I heartily invite you to the annual Winter Solstice Blessing. No one gets stabbed with an antler, I swear. And even though right now I'm may be sounding awfully spiritually serious, I also guarantee many laughs during the evening, great ideas to chew on, and everyone plays drums! Yes! Dancing, glee and ecstasy are allowed, but not required. Here is an opportunity to get re-tuned and protected for the whole winter.
Wahoo, dear Humans. Wahoo indeed.
Click here to get tickets.
On the medicine wheel, we are moving from the West into the North. The Celtic tradition often calls the North the direction of "battle" or a somewhat softer version: "rough times." The north is our ally in hard times because it is the direction of the most raw, unfiltered, unsubtle, fierce power. The winter calls forth the death force, the forces of anti-life, and the North is what helps us stand up against it, to fight it, to endure, to stay alive, to survive. As we move into the north on the wheel, you can ask the North for strength and endurance.
At this time of year, there is a strong pull to move inward. We may think that’s all about the temperature outside the house. But in shamanic terms, it's also because the North is the womb.
In the West – the autumn - the Old Bone Mother moves through the land, collecting all the things that need to be taken down into the womb of the earth to be cooked into the next shape. She takes the green force inside the leaves, and the warmth of the air, and she takes all that has died, or all that needs to be removed from the body of the living world, and she carries it down into the womb of re-creation.
In the Celtic shamanic tradition the cauldron is a primary image, and it is always overseen by women, most often the old woman who cooks the brew of life, the soup of wisdom. The cauldron is also an image of the womb. For us, the world is dark and cold in the winter, because the life force is being re-cooked down below, in the womb of life, cooked into its next shape. (Like so much else, the patriarchal tradition twisted these images of the goddess and the cauldron into the wicked witch making spells in her cauldron.)
My teachers say the north is the "place of power." Of any direction, the north is the place of raw, unfiltered power, power without any pretense. This is why the North is such a good ally in rough times or in times of struggle – it cuts through any pretense, any clutter, and it just delivers raw power. You can work with the North in this way – you can ask it to come and cut away the pretense, any naiveté operating in you, any false identity, and just give you strength.
I can't think of anything on earth more powerful than the womb. The womb is the place where Spirit marries matter. It’s the place where Spirit puts on the clothing of this world. So the woman’s womb the most powerful thing on earth.
The womb of the human woman that creates the next generation of human children is powerful, but that womb is in everybody, whether you are male or female and whether you have children or not. Each of us has that place in us that is the womb of spirit, the place where Spirit enters matter. And this happens each night when we dream. It enters in the times of our life when we are in a personal North – when we are struggling because we are in between identities.
The direction West comes to deconstruct the current shape of things, exposing us to the next larger truth that we are ready for. The autumn comes to remind us that things always change, because it is the nature of creation. The West comes as the dusk, each day, when the seemingly solid blue sky that feels so protective and sure, is evaporated slowly by the West. Each day must let go of it’s constructed reality, but there is that moment in the indigo light - that kiss between day and night, between South and West on the wheel - that the first star appears and we once again realize that we are citizens of the immensity beyond our comprehension.
In the Celtic tradition, the Old Bone Mother wakes up at this time of year to move through the world, deconstructing the current identity, the current shape of things. We see this happening all over the world today, and inside each of us. The Old Bone Mother is with us in big and small ways. “Letting go” is rarely easy. It can sometimes be joyous, but deconstruction is often filled with fear and grief. The Old Bone Mother comes to take away what needs to go. We have to take off the old clothes before we can put on the new clothes, and in that moment of initiation into our next shape, we are very vulnerable.This is the challenging and beautiful thing about working with the West.
Here is a song I just made for the Old Bone Mother. (Use headphones)
The West is also associated with the daily time of dusk, and one of my favorite images of the West is that moment when daylight wants nothing more than to hold onto the blue sky that it has created all summer long. The dusk comes and slowly evaporates that constructed reality. I imagine the Daylight being like us – crying out in grief and defiance over the dismemberment of our current reality. But then there's that moment when the first star appears, boring its way through that hard shell of dissolving blue sky, and, perhaps like us, Daylight stops and gasps a little as it realizes the true immensity beyond the small shell of blue it has created for itself. Star after star begins appearing and as the poet Jimenez says, "We find ourselves standing on a new shore."
So, in these days you can call on the west to be merciful with its deconstruction. But the best way to receive that mercy is to embrace the change, and ask the North to pour its new song into you. Tell it that you are ready to sing a new song (or ask it for help – for the raw power - to make you ready.) Then be patient, because things need to cook in the cauldron. Spend the winter seeking prayer forms that call power into you. Be with each other and tell mythic stories. Bless the winter for its gifts of clearing away naiveté and pretense.
Below are the words to the audio recording above:
Flowers sweet and garden bright
Do you hear the geese in flight
Time to lay down for the night
And rest beneath the quilt of white
And rest beneath her quilt of white
Oh my heart is aching so
The time has come to let you go
The darkness falls, cold winds will blow
Time to sink down deep below
Time to sink down deep below
She comes to take the summer’s gleam
And sunshine’s glitter from the stream
She’ll slice the stitching on the seam
And pour us into winter's dream
And pour us into winter’s dream
Oh my heart is aching so
The time has come for letting go
The dark will rule, cold winds will blow
And we will sink down deep below
And we will sink down deep below
Here's wishing you a powerful journey into the north this year.
More about Jaime Meyer
The Hindu mystic Osho urges us not waste our time asking questions unless the answer will change us into a different person. Don’t ask abstract intellectual questions that won’t change your life. Ask only questions upon which your very life depends.
Humans are always masked. Persona, from which we get the word personality, is Latin for “the sound that comes from behind the mask.” Every time we speak, it's from behind some kind of mask.
Halloween is coming. The common question is: "What mask will you wear this time?" Make Osho proud by asking that question twenty times a day, as you enter each room. Becoming aware of the mask you are wearing at each moment is the first and most important thing you can do on your spiritual path.
Our early life is all about being taught to craft and wear our masks. Then we spend our adult spiritual lives learning to take them off one after another - to find out which ones are false for us, or, if we are truly adventurous, who we really are under them all.
Sometimes our mask is pried off (or ripped off) through losses like divorce, illness, or job loss, or when we enter a deeply intimate and honest relationship. Intimate relationship puts great pressure on the mask we learned to wear, which is why 70 percent of couples break up by the nine month mark. The mask wins; it won't be removed for this person. Many relationships continue as a long term agreement between masks.
What do I find when I take off mask after mask? What is under all those constructed layers in me?” This is a question Osho would like.
The psychologist Carl Jung tells a story of meeting a “venerable personage,” a seemingly perfected soul. He spent four days and nights following the saintly man, watching him closely and never once did the saint exhibit a single human failing. Jung’s sense of inferiority grew steadily by the hour in this living saint’s presence. On the fourth day, the venerable man’s wife came to Jung for a private session. She was an absolute wreck. Jung saw how when we don’t see our own mask (in this case that mask of the “perfected human-saint” worn by the venerable man) we radiate unconscious toxins into our environment and they are absorbed and then manifested by those around us.
So today’s life-changing question for me is “What is the mask I’m wearing right now?” Asking that twenty times a day can change your life. And the follow-up question is even better: “What is this mask covering up?” This is a question you can take into your daily meditation or into shamanic journey work. Ask your helping spirits to come and remove the current mask and show you what is under it. And under that. And under that...
One of Jung's most chilling ideas is that the biggest influence on a child is the "unlived life of the parent." Children carry the weight, the (unspoken) grief, or the poison of the parent's unlived life. The masks we are taught to wear are very often designed to cover up the life we want to lead, the person we want to be. In your prayer work with the West, you can ask Spirit, or the Spirit of the West - the spirit that releases us from the past illusion, releases us from the poisonous, shrunken story of ourselves, to give you the courage and discipline and support to live the life that shines from under the mask.
Blessings of the West be on you.
If you are interested in doing the work described above, take a look at my class "Unblocking Power."
(Osho was an Indian mystic also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. A controversial, figure, he argued that socialism, communism, and anarchism could evolve only when capitalism had reached its maturity. Rajneesh emphasized the importance of meditation, mindfulness, love, celebration, courage, creativity, and humor—qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition, and socialization. In advocating a more open attitude to human sexuality, he became known as "the sex guru.")
Jaime Meyer is a writer and Shamanic Worker living in Minneapolis.