[caption id="attachment_184" align="aligncenter" width="327" caption="Povera Bowl by Don Hazeltine, www.donhazeltine.com"][/caption] In my life as a shamanic journeyer, a practice spanning fifteen years, three teachings stand above all others. They have been the most dramatic and seminal, and the most challenging to fully understand.
The first came when we lost our sacred home in Monroe, WA, which was (did not feel just like, but really was) my ancestral home, and the spirits said this when I asked them why I had to leave it:
They replied I had to lose my home because you need to know what the indigenous people feel when they are ripped from their homes, and all of you, all of your people are wandering without homes. You are all homeless.
When asked how I could endure the suffering of being homeless, the spirits said:
All land is sacred if it is loved, and I was shown that the mission was to somehow (somehow being the trickiest word) understand and reforge the ceremonies, rites and cultural connections that it takes to be home, even without knowing your ancestors and ancestral rights. And by ancestors I am speaking ten generations ago, not two or three.
Over the years, I have begun this work and it is difficult work because so much is involved. How do I relate to the air I breathe? To understand how to walk on the land on which I live? How do I create relationship to food I have never touched except to prepare it for consumption? How do I honor water that is shipped via many pipes and through processing before I drink it? What are the daily ways to move to not reach the rather odd goal of being in shape for the sake of being in shape (our way of not necessarily living more fully, but delaying death), but as a way to move through life as a bear does or a chipmunk or a bat -- all at home in their animal nature. How do I become animal human?
When I asked the spirits, "How can people move into this place of the sacred creating real home?" the spirits said:
You are all one tribe only. Your divisions of nationality, religion, race, sex are all the means of your suffering. You must live as one tribe. These are beliefs that you all hold that create separation where none exists. Once you know this, the ability to create home and resonate with your ancestral homes will be fluid.
These are all lessons I have lived with for many years, trying to coalesce and integrate them, knowing that these teaching are not meant for me alone.
This suffering, of the wandering we all do is what makes other cultures' rites and rituals so seductive. We know home when we feel it, and we want it, and believe we can have it if we simply practice what others who have homes practice (indigenous people have homes that have been theirs for so long that they have the grace of always walking where their ancestors walked).
It is a truly innocent and deeply seductive desire that leads us to desperately attach ourselves to a culture that is not our own, and just means we have not yet found our own natural way of being in deep spiritual relationship with life. It is what these cultures presence that draws us, and that culture could be any indigenous culture from any continent. It all depends which one we find first, and run toward.
This claiming other cultures beautiful and sacred rites as are our own never really works, and we end up with a source of comfort that is, and must be, limited, because what we have been drawn to looks tribe specific , but it really universal (which, by the way, does NOT mean that we cannot learn from these cultures or seek healing from them). We have such longing to give shape to our yearning that when we see it in other tribes, we immediately feel, "That's it! This is what the sacred home is! This must be my home!"
Our entire culture suffers from this, and I believe the pain of this homelessness is so pervasive that is has cut us off from all of nature, all of life. How can we respect the sovereign right of a bear to live freely in his home and natural state if we have no idea what home or freedom really is?
And it makes us wander and wander, going from house to house, state to other state, country to other country, in search of a way of life that we crave. The way into this life is through our elders, and we do not honor our elders, but keep them separate because we are so afraid of death.
These rites of initiation on how to live and to die are learned from elders and ancestors, not from our peers. Yes, we can hold hands and walk together as we work, and yes, many of us who have worked with the spirits for a long time are called to our own way of remembering home and our ancient rituals, ceremonies and animal nature. Without naming it, I think this is what we are all looking for: home.
This is all why I practice shamanism for myself. My calling to serve through being a practitioner and teacher are my ways of passing on the gifts that have been given to me. The two -- personal and service -- are obviously merged, and the press of one lends power to the other.
To understand my place and to know my ancestors who may or may not be of my lineage, but who step forward as my ancestors. Animals and spiritual teachers are my lineage and my ancestors. My best home is with this family of elders, even though I am blessed with a remarkable husband and friends who are such good, big people that I cannot fathom the grace given me. How to bring the elders into daily minute-to-minute life by the way I see, feel, smell, move is the real work.
These very deep quandaries are calling me now as they never have before. As anyone who has worked with shamanism for some time knows, we are called to new initiations and new teachings when we are ready.
Imagine my utter shock when I saw Stephen Jenkinson in a film called "Griefwalker," and heard him say the EXACT same things the spirits have been saying to me.
Right now, shamanically and in ordinary reality, I feel a new current and powerful flow. A new circle is beginning, and an old circle is left not behind, but around me, holding me warm with her knowledge. Grief has been the theme for the past seven years, working through loss of home, bankruptcy, complex and severe family illness, deaths of beloveds.
Grief does not disperse like sugar in water if not attended. It forms its own ocean, and you use all of your life force to try to create a dam to hold it back. It is not possible. One way or another, grief will presence itself, and, trust me on this, you need to learn how to WELCOME grief if you are going to work with it. Let the ocean run through your eyes and heart. Fighting it is useless, and will usher in worthless suffering that is only there because you have not dealt with the original pain.
I understand this now first hand, having paid the price of not grieving. It took a long time to understand that although I was hurting from the shifts in my life, I had not grieved them. There is a difference. A big one.
So, finally, what does this all mean? It means I am being called to new work shamanically. It means I again enter the mystery, and look for bread crumbs. For me, Stephen Jenkinson is a bread crumb. I am going to work with him, see what he knows (which appears to be quite a bit), and work with my helping spirits to understand and see the other bread crumbs I must follow.
If you want to hear a bit of what this man is about, here's a link: http://www.columbiancentresociety.com/prfcontent/353_october_20_2011_sm.mp3
Meanwhile, stay tuned. There's a new tiger in town, and I am holding onto his tail. Thank the Spirits that they are with me. Last time I went through such a big circle, it was to discover shamanism as my calling. It took 11 years of searching, and living in the dark night of the soul. I was afraid of mystery and not-knowing then. Now, I welcome it, knowing I am safe in the dark.