.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.")
This picture of me was taken more than 30 years ago, when I did a lot of mask-making work. I named the mask “Mr. Doom.” He was the voice constantly chattering in my mind telling me, “everything you think, everything you say and everything you do has always turned out shitty and it always will.” (Notice the broken circle on top of his head - that was a "mistake" in the mask-making that became Mr. Doom's primary symbol.)
I did a masked dance/monologue performance of Mr. Doom at an artsy midnight cabaret where artists could try out their new work. There were three of us performing that night: a sad-faced love-balladeer with his worn guitar, wispy beard and total confidence that tonight's new songs would get him laid, a 16-year old, straight-spined, icy-eyed, not one hair out of place leotard-dancer, and me: naked except for Mr. Doom’s masked face with a few rags hanging down, and a pear-shaped drawstring pouch enfolding Mr. Doom’s…uh…drumstick and rattles. I don't remember the dance I did or the text, but it was mostly frantic swishing accompanied by guttural shouting about the inevitability of doom and the lie of love.
I didn’t realize until years later that I was doing what superstar spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls “distancing yourself from the pain-body,” and what the shamans call “allowing yourself to be danced by spirits.” In fact, it was a type of movement-based exorcism of my family and ancestral patterns, under the guise of "trying out new work." The idea is to move the chattering voices from the inside where they work in secret, to the outside where you can see them, understand what they want from you and what they are trying to teach you, and then send them on their way.
Tolle describes the pain-body as an energy field that everyone carries within them, made up of old emotional pain. To be human is to have emotional pain (old and new.) It's a fact of life in the body. The pain-body generates a story for you that defines your actions and decisions. And often the pain body generates what the psychologists call your core belief.
The core-belief stories have titles like “No one can be trusted,” “I’m in this all alone,” “I have to fight to survive,” “There is never enough money,” "I am unworthy," “Life will always let you down,” and “I am shitty at everything I think, say and do.” (These are all stories from my personal library that I've worked to release over time.)
The important thing is that these core beliefs are often unconscious and secret, and we are unaware of them as they run our relationships and decision making. They are like the hacker's virus in our operating system.
There is some strange evidence that emerged from trauma research: Survivors of childhood sexual trauma are six times more likely to be sexually assaulted as adults. (The Body Keeps The Score, Besel A. van der Kolk, M.D.) This is an example of the pain body at work. The pain body is constructed through those early traumas, and it establishes a core operating system that works unconsciously to design increased chances of being victimized again.
We build a nicer story for ourselves on top of the secret core belief: "I am a love-filled spiritual being, in communion with all creatures." But, as Jesus pointed out, if that that nice house is built on a sandy foundation of the pain-body-inspired core-belief that the world is out to get me, it's a recipe for wackadoodle daily life full of self-sabotage, wrecked relationships and weird, constant, ongoing "bad luck."
One way to recognize the pain-body is when your “buttons” are pushed-when you overreact to a fairly simple comment or situation, like say, when you open an email from your boss saying you had not included some of her edits in a document so it was a “good thing” she looked it over. Mr. Doom begins dancing wildly, chanting in that guttural croak, “You are found out! You’re shitty! You’re gonna get fired! No one will ever hire you again! It's off to the gold mines in Suriname for you, and that bald one-toothed Dutch foreman with that shiny scar, shouting "Werk! Werk harder! Dig, shtoopid ahnimals, dig fűr ze gold, or no vahter for you!!"
That's the pain-body talking, for sure. Any time you're in an argument with a loved one, or complaining to a friend, and you use the word "always" or "never," that's the pain-body talking.
Tolle says that the majority of our interactions with one another are interactions between our pain-bodies. That is a powerful statement. Think about your interactions. He goes onto say, hauntingly, “You don’t just marry your spouse; you marry their pain-body.” It is our pain-bodies that first fall in love with one another - with one another's pain, with one another's core beliefs. Eeeegh. That explains a lot of my history, right there.
The first and most important thing we can do on our spiritual path is to free ourselves from the delusions of the pain-body’s manufactured, false, tiny, doom-laden reality. The first step in that is to acknowledge the pain-body's existence, and try our best to see it in action. It very much does not want you to do this because simply watching for it, paying attention when you fall into repetitive reactions and repetitive complaint - this is the first powerful step in de-activating the pain body's power.
When you are stressed, what repetitive pattern do you find yourself doing? Try to see that pattern. In that pattern is buried the core belief. At that moment, stop and address your pain body. Ask it to help you see the core belief that fuels the repetitive pattern when you are under stress. You may be surprised.
This takes effort and dedication and it's super not-fun. But when we do get a glimpse, and then a grasp on it, we find ourselves opening “A New Earth,” an earth wherein we feel connected to everything, can take great pleasure in the smallest things, can shed ourselves of compulsions to acquire things, and can live in the “now”- an earth in which we are viscerally aware of a blessing Presence.
None of what Tolle is saying is new. This idea is as old as human spirituality: that we have a smaller "I" – one that is afraid all the time, and in pain because of that fear, and makes decisions and takes action out of that small, false identity, and creates situations for us in which we can wallow in fears - or as the shamans say, situations where we feed those spirits of fear to make them stronger.
And we have a true "I" – the one that is immense and in full connection with the powers of creation, knows that physical death is part of the ongoing game of our infinite, many-shaped lives, and this "I" can really never be afraid.
DH Lawrence said it like this:
“I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake, and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.
And there's this:
I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.
(Juan Ramón Jiménez, “‘I Am Not I’” from Lorca and Jiménez: Selected Poems. Translation copyright © 1973 by Robert Bly.)
Much of the rhetoric in politics, and most marketing, plays on stimulating and strengthening your pain-body - feeding the fear spirits. So, one core way to work is to simply decline to let those forces manipulate you. That sounds simple, but it actually works.
Our entire species is in the process of working with the pain-body, and trying to create a New Earth. But that’s too big for each of us to think about. So, we need to come home to or own body, our own pain-body, and work with it. We can work with in therapy, which uses the tools of the intellect, and we can work with it though ceremony like shamanic work, which uses non-rational tools of the Spirit.
All of this is work with the Spirit of the West on the Medicine wheel – the direction of "releasing." We are in the West right now, and autumn is a great time to do this kind of personal work to release old patterns, which is another way of saying "free ourselves of the pain-body's authoritarian rule over our reactions and decisions."
So, besides "paying attention" to our repetitive patterns, especially when stressed, how else can we work with the pain body to help discover the core belief and discharge its power over us?
I recommend you go deeper with this work by taking this class which I've offered many times. I also recommend doing this special kind of shamanic healing session that I'm offering this fall.
We are in the time of the dark moon now, as the moon passes through the final shedding of its light, and becomes "empty." For the next two days it's a very good time to make prayers for newness, and your newness begins with cleansing old embedded patterns - with shedding.
We can cleanse or release old energy patterns embedded in us through meditation and therapy, but I am a fan of prayer. Prayer is not like meditation or therapy. It is a wholly different approach. Good prayer is also a meditation and a kind of therapy. Prayer can gets a bad rap from institutional religion when it urges you to mindlessly spout memorized magic words. Prayer also gets a bad rap from popular scientific culture which sees it as primitive wishful thinking - as pleading with a god who you don't really believe in until you're desperate. But I believe prayer helps the brain hit it's inborn delete button.
Good prayer is honest and it comes from the heart. That's a deceptively simple sentence, so I want to type it again: Good prayer is honest and it comes from the heart.
Being honest - with others, but even more so with ourselves - is very difficult. If honesty was not difficult, we'd have a completely different human world. So when you get to the phrase in the prayer below, "I've been in the grip of powers," the hard part is actually admitting what powers are grasping you, what powers are filtering your experiences of life for you, what powers are making your decisions for you before you're even aware.
I hope this can help: it is said that "negative" emotions fit into five main flavors. Here they are:
Sadness • Self-critical thoughts • Pessimistic thoughts • Thoughts of loss or failure
Anxiety • Thoughts of something bad that could happen in the future • Thoughts of threat, risk or danger • What-if thoughts
Anger • “should” thoughts • Thoughts of having been harmed, having been treated unfairly • Thoughts of rules being broken
Guilt • Thoughts of having harmed someone • Thoughts of having done something that goes against your own morals • Sense of responsibility for a negative outcome
Shame/Embarrassment • Thoughts that other will judge flaws or mistakes in a negative way
Being honest with the "flavor" of the power gripping you is a good place to begin your prayer. Delving into the qualities of that "flavor" may help being some insight. For example, if I am honest, I find that I am not truly feeling anxious, as I thought I was - I'm feeling angry. I don't want to admit to being angry because I don't like to think I'm an angry person. The anger is because the situation I'm in is unfair - it didn't turn out like it "should" have. I can explore that "should" and I probably will find that I can let go of that "should." (And that's what I can ask Mother Moon to help me with.) Emotions often dress up first as other emotions to hide the truer emotion. So you can ask yourself if you really are feeling that particular emotion, or is it another one of the five. Sometimes your answer will be "I'm feeling them all!" But try to narrow down to one, just for the sake of the prayer. Well, all of this is just to help you be as honest as you can be.
One counterintuitive thing I've learned about being human that has really helped me: While most of my teaching is about "building your power," we build it by understanding that we can't manage human life on our own. We need bigger help. So we ask Spirit for help. Spirit is not the capricious father in the sky, but the living life force found in everything in nature. The living life force that is infused with wisdom from billions of years of being in the physical plane. How many times has the moon "renewed" itself? It's got this, and it's more than willing to help when the ask comes from the heart.
Prayer to the Dark Moon for Releasing
Feel free to adapt the prayer below in any way that makes sense to you. I like this way of making the prayer: read the prayer out loud three times. The first time quietly, the second time full voice and the third time silently. Open your heart center before making the prayer. You can actually put one hand over your heart and say "open" to that place before making the prayer. Give yourself time to truly open the heart before making the prayer.
I struggle with how to use the world of video and internet to present shamanic practice without having it narrowed and, frankly made silly, by the limits of the media. But let's give it a try.
If you're human, you likely struggle with self-deprecation at times. We live in a mentally ill culture that uses self-deprecation to control your behavior, from voting to worship to shopping. All hierarchical systems, from church to family to the workplace to the elementary schoolroom, relies to some extent on using self-deprecation to control people's behavior.
So, we're up against great powers in our daily life, and one thing that has helped me is to remember that the voice of self-deprecation is not really you – it's a voice injected into you by family, church, and culture. It's actually a spiritual parasite that feeds on you. When that seemingly powerful voice comes to you, just try to remember that it's not really you. It's a spiritual tapeworm, and it can be excised.
Self-deprecation is an energy that wants to convince you that you are smaller than you really are. The antidote to self-deprecation is to remember that you are made of pure love - the binding force of the universe, and the substance of Spirit itself. That's who you truly are.
Does that sound silly? Well it is, until you see it as true. When the voice of self-deprecation comes, try this: ask yourself what in this world do you love immensely and intensely. Remember that love, feel it, and summon it into your very bones and synapses - draw its power into you, as medicine against self-deprecation.
One thing I love is the work I've been doing for several years with the plants in the Amazon Jungle. The work is so full of mystery and power, but it's difficult to put into writing much of what the plants and my human teachers there have taught me, partly because the information is so utterly non-rational, like the plants themselves. That non-rationality exerts a great pressure on my western mind, which likes to pretend it is grounded in reason. So my work with plants brings me an ongoing wrestling match against the powers of my own culture, and it has taught me a great deal about the difference between the western and indigenous mind. I can say this: the purpose of working deeply with the plants is to build inner power that goes beyond "belief." And I can say that it has been working.
Let’s explore tobacco a little. It is considered by the shamans to be a most powerful healing plant – perhaps THE most powerful healer. Some South American shamans only work with tobacco and no other plants. Tobacco is the first plant many shamans work with because it provides a foundation of powerful protection against unfriendly spiritual forces. This kind of protection is mui importante, even more so if you are doing healing work. Tobacco is also a profoundly masculine plant, and it's full of fire energy. Those energies are part of its power to reach out and dispel and cleanse negative energy in someone, or bad air (huiso mayanaheubo in Shipibo), because unfriendly energies are often considered "cold," or infused with death force. So the active, hot, life-energy of tobacco is very good at cooking away bad air attached to, or embedded in someone.
This idea itself - of tobacco as healer - sends my western mind into conniptions since, for us, tobacco is a plague to be eradicated. The shamans say the westerners stole the tobacco without understanding its spirit, and they did what they always do - focused on how to transform nature into money without ever trying to relate to it spiritually. So, we pay the cost, in cancer and other maladies, of not respecting the tobacco plant, a cost we are beginning to pay in so many other ways in our relationship with nature. This counter-intuitive way tobacco works in healing is just one of the many intense conundrums that occupy my mind while working with the plants. So far I've worked deeply with only six plants and each one has, in its own way, built different skills in me.
I've written elsewhere about my journey to merge with the spirit of tobacco and how it came to be such an important part of my healing work. Right now I want to write about a few specific things I love when working with sacred tobacco.
You can get tobacco rolled into fat cigarette-looking things, called a mapacho. I use these in healing work because they are very convenient. But for most of my personal prayer work, I use loose tobacco in my pipe.
Amazonian ceremonial tobacco can also come in a heavy, dense, tightly rolled log, about 18" long and the width of your wrist. The log is just the big tobacco leaves wrapped super tight, still a little moist, and bound around with a strip of plant material. To get the tobacco useable, you need to slice off thin portions of the log, chop them up - which takes some doing - and then let them dry in the sun. This act of chopping up the tobacco to prepare it is something I love. The act of working physically with the plant in this way, asking it to be prepared for prayer work, is powerful for me.
You dry the chopped up tobacco in the sun not only because it works, but because you are also asking the Sky Grandfather of all life on Earth to sing his power song into the tobacco, so that when you use it, it carries not only tobacco's inherent healing powers, but Grandfather Sun's song of life. Tobacco is a fire plant and carries a great deal of fiery, divine masculine energy, and this is boosted more by the sun song.
And, for that matter, when you have the tobacco outside drying in the sun, you are also asking all the powers of mother earth, sky, wind, water, creatures, and the pure love of the life force - all to come into your ceremonial tobacco. You do have to be clear with Grandfather Wind that you want him to sing into the tobacco, but to sing a sweet Feminine song into it, otherwise, Wind will just end up taking all of your tobacco, in which case you laugh, say "you're welcome," and start over with the chopping. That feminine wind song as well as other feminine energies of the life force helps to balance the masculine energies in the tobacco itself and that Sun song.
You may say, "Ah, this is all poetry and myth, this calling in of these energies into the tobacco." And you'd be right if you want to stay lodged in the western mind which is built on distance and arrogance.
If you want to step into the indigenous mind, though, you'd say that all these powers you are asking to come into the tobacco drying on your table are vibrations that inject physical energy in to the tobacco which stores it to be delivered along with whatever prayers you also inject into it when you use it. It's not myth, it's energy.
And there comes the time when the tobacco is ready, and you put it in the pipe.
Three weeks ago, when I was deep in ceremony in Peru, I got two gentle scoldings from the plant spirits. One was a reminder not to forget to bless the pipe. You always bless the tobacco, she said, and the earth and the stars and the waters and the winds and the directions and ancestors and the teachers - but you forget to bless the pipe, and the pipe is Pachamama – the Great Mother that holds all life in her belly that you are calling on right now. The pipe is the womb that cooks the prayers that have been sung into the tobacco, and then births them into the world, so don't forget to bless and thank the pipe.
The other scolding was from the Fire-in-the-Earth Mother who reminded me to thank her, as well as the sun, for the fire that lights the tobacco. The sun is the flashy one, she said, and he dances in the flame that lights the tobacco, and he attracts your attention because he's such a flirt, but I, too, carry fire in my belly, the center of the earth, she said, and I light the tobacco in your pipe before he gets to it with that dancing flame of his, and if I don’t light it from below, his flame won't take and there's no prayer. (I've seen this happen – the tobacco just won't light, and now I know that it's because I need to bless the Fire-in-Earth Mother, and the womb of the pipe).
And of course, all flames are the visible result of the passionate kiss between Matter and Spirit so don't forget to honor that kiss every time you light your pipe. This kiss births the prayer into the world.
See, this is why shamans have a hard time getting anything done, because they have to make all these prayers all the time. It's also why shamans go on and on and on and on and on when you get them going. And we aren’t even talking about the constant care and feeding of one's own power animals and plant spirits and ancestors, and one's students' guides and ancestors, and the land you live on, and the faeries in your garden and the creatures. (That's tongue in cheek, of course, and for clarity's sake here is a little on why I don't call myself a shaman.)
So, in the video here, all of these prayers are loaded onto the tobacco before the video starts. And in the video, I load on more prayers to tobacco to come and dissolve and cleanse your self-deprecation, to open new pathways for Spirit to work in your and through you, to open blessing, to open the roads for the new song of power to make its way into you.
I hope, even in the limited form of the video, this can be a little help for you.
The first of May – called Beltane in the Celtic tradition - is the first kiss of summer. On the medicine wheel, we pass into the direction South – the direction of fullness and delight, of revelry and sensuality. The Celtic shamanic tradition exuberantly embraces what I call the sensuous divine. Let the well-dressed Sunday sinners sing for mercy from the judging father. We caress the drum with warm hands. The frame drum is the Divine Vulva and the drumstick (or the hand) is the lover who sets her vibrating with the thrill of living in this body, in this earthly life. Erotic energy is bursting out everywhere around us now as that master lover, the sun, caresses his beloved, the beautiful earth, and she cannot help but sigh in delight. The radiant new leaves, the cerulean skies, the first blooms on the crabapples, forsythia, and magnolia, the sparkles on the water, the bird songs – these are all her sighs and moans of delight. What happens in nature happens in us, so I encourage you to let the sun caress you, and the breeze run its fingers across your skin. Behold the emerald leaves emerging and the flittering twitters of the birds. Let your new leaves unfold like a sigh, and let yourself moan in delight along with the earth. You want to change the world? Begin moaning out loud at this sensuous earth unfolding around you – at the lake, on the sidewalk, in parking lot. Yes, try it. Wahoo.
The Song the Sun Sings On the First Of May
Now, Love, at last I come
In fullness rising over you.
Let there be new trembling under the cold-hardened earth
at the light play of my fingers
And sighing in the valleys.
Let there be the song of unfolding within your hidden petals
At the caress of my warm breath
And undulations in the warming estuaries.
Let the winged ones return to sing
among your greening branches.
Let there be heard swirling
Up to the joyous stars
and over the newborn land
Your aching, fiery song of
Dear Drummers on the Warm Skin of Human Life,
What does it mean to trust Spirit? This question is with me all the time.
Trust is not the same as faith. In classic theology, faith is an "intellectual assent," meaning it's really an act on the mind – and often it is a forcing of the intellect to agree to something that feels wrong to it. So there's a constant tension in faith, a wrestling with the intellect. And so there's constant doubt, and we tend to focus a lot on the doubt, which is really a distraction, and it leaks our power. If you're in a religious tradition that shames you for your doubt, then you have a whole toxic soup of repression, veiled rage and bizarre excuses for how your hateful actions match up with your love-based religion.
Trust comes from experience. We trust Spirit because Spirit gives us uncountable experiences that are evidence for its ongoing work with us. Most of these experiences are so mundane that our drama-loving western minds miss them. Like the delicious clarity of the air at dawn these last few days. Like the return of the robins and cardinals, and the high-flying geese singing their way home. Trust is really all about feeling the mysterious wonder of life itself. This is what the shamans mean when they say "medicine is everywhere." It's actually all quite simple, but our culture of distraction continually leaks our power out of us while urging us to ignore these simple forms of medicine that actually build our power. So, the simplest thing you can do is stop for moment - on you way to car, as you're standing in line, and feel your way around for the mundane evidence of of the life force, of Spirit working. It's not intellectual, and not psychological.
There's a poem from Antonio Machado, the great Spanish poet from the early 20th century:
Mankind owns four things
That are no good at sea:
Rudder, anchor, oars
And the fear of going down.
For me, this is a poem about the trust of Spirit. The four things are the ways we control our ordinary life each day. In order to get food into our mouths and make sure the animals don’t eat our children, yes, we do need to direct our actions with these four things.
But when we set sail on the spiritual sea, each of the four items become a kind of mistrust. We try to define our own direction (rudder), we refuse to submit to the pull of wind and tide (anchor), we say we will provide our own (will) power, and we will certainly not hold still in calm waters (oars). And finally, that giant fear of being overwhelmed by mystery, of being “taken” by the Powers.
So Machodo's poem becomes a sort of recipe for trusting spirit. You can ask yourself which of the four things has become, for you, a form of mistrust of Spirit.
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This leads me to another short poem by Rumi:
On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.
And this reminds me of that line from Rilke's poem: “…So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp.” (http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-walk/)
And so springtime unfurls her perfect air, and the hidden life slowly emerges into the new sunshine, and soon the forsythia will spread its arms out, announcing in a chorus of yellow blossoms - its charming pomposity - that, once again, it is the first in the garden to trust this gorgeous new world emerging. It dares you to join in, to unfurl your sail and let the air take you.
Blessings of the new air of spring be yours,
Blessings of the Forsythia be yours,
Blessings of the trust of Spirit be yours,
Blessing of the the trust of Spirit.
This winter has taken a toll on all of us. Beyond the obvious, I think there's a deeper reason why it's hit us so hard. The wild weather is just one more version of powerlessness pervading our daily life. There are so many things that seem out of our control nowadays. People are getting worn down by the carousel of confusion that we seem to have boarded.
What used to be mere annoyances and irritations have crossed over into rage, or its ugly wife, cynicism, or their malformed child, depression. Just to be clear: Rage is the lid we jam on top of our true grieving that comes to call us into our true love. Cynicism is the cold we apply to the fire of anxiety that is calling us back into our true power. And depression is a twisted form of devotion to the infinite.
Well, those are some big statements! I can't really unpack them all the way right now, or this article will suddenly veer to the left and never be seen again. But I'll say this: the paragraph above is about how our sacred power gets twisted - and so is the rest of the article below.
Look around at how much powerlessness is being expressed in every direction. The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements are about calling those with inherited power into a conscious use of their power. Inherited power most often seduces us into unconsciousness. And when we exercise our power unconsciously, it brings great damage.
Whenever unconscious forces, whether they are personal or collective, are called into the light of consciousness, they raise a great ruckus. I like to call the forces dragons - the forces that urge us to stay in our lowest consciousness. They wish to remain unconscious because in the dark, they can feed, without our awareness, upon our sacred power – the life force that connects us to all of creation. The result of their feeding is our sacred power is drained, we believe we are smaller and less holy than we really are, and we perpetrate that smallness on the external world through or decisions and actions.
Light kills these dragons. So, when the light begins to shine on them, they get very active in their defense of the dark. So we have the stupid backlash of All lives Matter and we have Trump, and moronic grinning goons with torches in Charlottesville, and we have the cable TV parade of every conceivable form of people competing for the biggest victim prize, and we have the breakdown of truth, because the dragons are masters of confusion. How to transform your dragons.
The literal translation of "the apocalypse" is "the uncovering." So, yes, we are in living in the "uncovering." In tradition, what is uncovered, or opened, is an injection of pure power from creation. This is the time you chose to be born into. Fantastic, yes? What's more, you were born with the power to do the work that is needed. The dragons tell you every moment that you were born weak, you were born sick, you were born diseased, that your traumas have destroyed you. But if that is true, why do they choose you to live inside? Why are they eating your sacred power?
So we keep pouring light down into the tangled forest of the unconscious. This is one of our main tasks right now as human beings, this is the time we came into and the work we are called to do.
It's important to pour light down into your own forest, first, or you become part of the problem. Unhealed healers bring damage. Undarkened social justice warriors add to the feast for the dragons. They just create new karma. Facebook, by the way, is the playground for the creation of new karma, so be careful, please - your next lives depend on you using social media wisely.
I've worked with four indigenous shamanic teachers in my life, and each one has said, "First, you must build your power." Every bit of my teaching focuses on this simple sounding idea. What does it mean to build your power?
In essence, there are two approaches. One is to look at what is draining (or blocking) your power, and stop the leak (or unblock the flow). The other is to identify the ways you can call new power into you, and call it in, hold it, and use it. This is an ongoing process – a life-long pursuit, a long journey with unexpected twists, and also with surprises so radiant they cannot be put into small human language. I – like you – like all of us – are working moment by moment on "building my power."
Even the use of that word, power, can be terrifying to people (it has been to me, and to many of my students) because one symptom of the inherited illness that we call Western Culture is that power is misunderstood and used very poorly. Power without sacred love of life brings destruction. (Love without power is mere sentimentality, which happens often in New Age spirituality and smiley Christianity. And love and power without wisdom is just spiritual farting. Wisdom is the breast milk of the Dark Mother of creation that brings you the power to sing healing into this world. Well, that’s another strange phrase that I don't have time to unpack at the moment.)
I hope I never give anyone the impression that I believe I'm oh so powerful and magical because I talk about these things. It's just that, for some reason, I've spent an ill-advised amount of time, money, tears and pain on learning as much as I can about all of this before I pass from this lovely earth, and I've been unbelievably blessed to seek out and meet beautiful teachers who have helped me grasp and use these ideas and practices. Those teachers have included human shaped ones, as well as the teachers shaped as mountains, rivers, crows, and many plants and animals - on and on they go. My deepest love is working with all of this and teaching it.
Which brings me to the Celtic story, the Coming of Angus and Bride. It seems to be a pleasant little story about the transformation of winter into spring. But that inherited disability we call Reason has, for too many generations, tried to convince us to shrink the power in everything that comes from nature. The shamans know that stories about nature are a form of powerful healing medicine, because they know that what happens in nature happens in us, because we ARE nature.
(Okay, one more digression: Reason is not, in itself, a disability. Reason is a profound gift and tool for human beings. But, reason easily slips into arrogance, and when it does, it becomes a disability. The story of western culture has been like taking a lover with a great body and a full bank account but no heart. The Earth Mother has now become keen on where this relationship has been going.)
The Coming of Angus and Bride is one of the most powerful Celtic stories that exist. However, it's easily overlooked by the western mind because the story invites you into the mythic heart, and the medicine of nature. This is why I've made the story the center point of my online Spring Equinox shamanism class that I just put out a few days ago. The class takes you very deeply into working with the imagery – otherwise called divine forces or High Frequency helping spirits – that inhabit the story. It's a great way to use this Equinox and transition to spring a vehicle for spiritual growth.
The Coming of Angus and Bride
Note: Bride (Bree-ja) is the Scottish name for the goddess Brigid. Beira (BEER-uh) is also known as the Cailleach. The Scottish Angus is the Irish Oengus.
This is a story of the transformation from winter to spring. It is the story of winter wants nothing more than to hold its icy grasp on the land, and how spring comes and pries those icy hands loose. As the sun arcs higher and higher in the sky bringing more light, and the promise of the new world about to emerge in spring, we tell this story at this time.
This story has been told for a long time in Scotland. It's story that take place a long, long time ago. Or maybe this story takes place right here, right now. Maybe this story takes place on the land where you live right now. Maybe this story takes place in your inner landscape, inside your heart. And maybe this story is always taking place in you.
In Scotland she is known as Beira, the queen of winter. But she's no ordinary queen. She's also called the Cailleach – the mother goddess who put all the mountains and rivers into their places. It is said that was a one-eyed giantess with white hair, dark blue skin, and rust-colored teeth. She built the mountains of Scotland using a magic hammer. What's more created Loch Ness when she transformed her negligent maid Nessa into a river, which broke loose and made the loch.
In the Scottish tale, all the long winter Beira, holds captive a young woman named Bride. Beira was jealous of Bride's light and beauty. And she hated hearing that girl sing those – perfectly lovely songs.
Beira gave Brigid ragged clothing to wear, and put her to work both inside and outside that the castle doing the dirtiest, meanest tasks. And no matter how well Bride did the tasks, Beira scolded her, calling her lazy and worthless.
Each night at sunset, Bride was made to return to the castle to be locked away in her dark room. Bride did not have the strength to resist or escape.
As winter progressed and the sun began arcing higher in the sky each day, Beira became even more demanding and cruel.
One day in midwinter, Bride returned from her task outside the castle, and in her hand she carried a small bunch of white snowdrops – the first flowers of springtime. Her eyes sparked with delight looking at them, and she showed them to Beira.
Beira took one look at those flowers and became furious and demanded to know where Bride had gotten them.
Bride explained that… well, as she walked along, and as she might have been doing a bit of humming, and maybe a little bit of singing, the flowers sprang up under each of her footsteps.
Beira erupted in rage, snatched the flowers from Bride's hands.
"Why were you humming? You know I hate humming."
Bride explained that recently she had been dreaming of a radiant young man. And those dreams had filled her joy and song.
What she didn’t say—but what Beira knew—was that this radiant young man would bring the end of Beira's cold reign.
Beira demanded Bride return to her dark room – and no more humming!
Beira summoned her eight hag sisters, the winter storms.
"Sisters, we are in danger! Ride to the north and ride to the south, ride to the east and ride to the west, and I will ride forth also. Smite the world with frost and tempest, so that no flower may bloom and no grass blade survive!"
The Storm Sisters mounted the backs of their black, shaggy, wild-eyed, flying goats and rode forth to smite the land. Beira flew forth also, grasping in her hand her magic hammer. With every smash of the hammer on the ground, ice and snow appeared.
Now there was another reason Beira kept Bride prisoner. Her fairest and dearest son, whose name was Angus-the-Ever-Young, was in love with Bride. All winter long Angus lived on the Green Isle of the West, which is also called the "Land of Youth." And recently he had been dreaming of a most beautiful maiden who walked in a frozen land, with tears upon her cheeks. Angus's heart was broken open by such a site and he decided he would go and find her.
But when he tried to make his way across the sea, to Scotland, the waves of the sea and the cold winds lashed violently at him and his white steed, for the eight sisters were out smiting the world with more winter.
So Angus reached across the wheel of life and borrowed three days from warm August. The cold waves fell quiet, the wild eyed goats ridden by the Storm Sisters would not fly, the sun shone peacefully over the land, the air warmed, and all the creatures and people rejoiced.
Then Angus easily rode his white steed across the sea to shores of Scotland.
Beira and her hag sisters pelted him and pummeled him with storms and ice and rain, but up and own the land rode Angus, searching, searching.
Then came the day when Angus and Bride met - in a forest away from the castle, unseen by Beira or her Sisters.
Angus said to her: When I first saw you in my dream I thought the stars were falling from the sky but it was just your tears falling, and wherever they touched the earth, blue violets as beautiful as your eyes sprang up and danced in the warm breeze."
She said to him: When I first I beheld you in my dream, I thought a great fiery heart was riding the winds of heaven across the black waves, but it just your face shining over the winter land in beauty and power.
Said Angus: This is a day of great joy.
Said Bride: A day of great joy for all.
And as they spoke, and as their eyes sang to one another, new shoots of grass and delicate flowers sprang up around them and began to spread across the land.
Beira knew the two had met finally and she was filled with what looked like wrath, but was actually terror and grief over the knowledge that her time as queen was over.
And she once again called on her eight sister hags to ride forth in ferocity to smite the land with storms. And so the delicate blades of new grass were smacked by ice, and the new buds on trees were ripped away by winds. And the little blue flowers were drained of blue by the cold.
But Bride would respond by singing a melody over the land and the green would return again and yellow primrose would pop up. And Angus would reach out his hands and as flames danced from his fingers, the ice would become water flowing. The wild ducks began rising from the reeds quacking and the lambs sprang from their mother's bellies.
And Beira and her hag sisters would blow black whistling winds that swept the land for days and killed half the lambs, and killed the ducks, they would smash the primrose with their hammers.
On and on, back and forth it went between Beira and her hag sisters trying to prolong Beira's reign, and Bride and Angus singing new life into the land, getting stronger each day as they gazed into one another's eyes and spoke poetry to each other.
And then at the spring equinox, Beira knew her time was over. She had become so weak and so tired. She threw her terrible hammer under a holly tree and that is the reason why no grass grows under the holly trees.
She fled to a mountain top on the Isle of Sky, and watched, as Bride, resplendent in her radiant green robe, sang the tulips and the daffodils up out of the dark ground, and Angus sang golden light into the seeds.
Beira wept tears of sorrow, for she, too, loved the land in her own way, and she loved reigning over it. But her job of cleansing the land was done. When night came on she travelled westward over the sea to Green Island. She was so tired and so old now, and she barely made her way to the well at the center of the island. As she lifted the cup of water to her lips, the equinox sun broke over the eastern horizon. The old hag of winter sipped the water from the well of life and fell into a deep sleep from which she would not awaken until autumn.
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Jaime Meyer is a writer and Shamanic Worker living in Minneapolis.