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.")
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.
Jaime Meyer is a writer and Shamanic Worker living in Minneapolis.