All of last week, I was in quite a temper.
I was in one of those situations that just happen sometimes. You are rolling along, attending to family, work and (in my case) a stringent and entirely satisfactory diet, and a tornado came in and threw everything into chaos and turmoil.
When a freak tornado rips through your heart, you can’t exactly have a dialogue with the funnel to ask it why it came in your direction. And, even if you have access to the best of the best weather analysis in the world, all you can really do is note the specifics of velocity, size and take stock of the damage.
When the tornado hits, if you had no warning or inkling it was coming your way, you are in shock. You watch as the shingles on the roof of your house fly through the air, becoming projectiles.
In my case, with my particular tornado, I went numb for a bit. And then I felt picked on (why did the tornado come at me?), and then I got angry.
I have lived in my heart, and worked consistently with shamanism for 15 years. Don’t confuse the “15 year” statement with any notion that I believe that this is a long time or that I associate the work or the number with any sort of mastery. I don’t.
And when you look at the enormity of tornados, tsunamis and earthquakes ripping everything apart these days, my tornado doesn’t really register on the meter as a even a blip. Still, working to live shamanically, living in conscious reciprocity and reverence, serving the spirits, serving students and clients – these combined have been the focus of my life for 15 years, and anger is one of those emotions that I have really learned to work with very efficiently.
I mean, if you happen to be 60, and you came from a home where as a kid anger erupted out of nowhere and ended in violence and shame for all (not just those perpetrating or receiving the blows), you begin (or at least I did) at an early age to work with anger. And you realize Gandhi was right when he said, “eye for an eye makes the world blind.”
Anger. I have worked with it with the helping spirits. I have worked with it with therapists at times over the years. I have sifted my soul for it, learned to get very fast at catching it, and then owning it, working with it compassionately. I have learned through time that when you are angry, you work it out. With as much compassion as you can muster. Without judgment.
But when this particular tornado hit, and I got angry and I could NOT converse with the thing that slapped me upside the head (I mean, the tornado hit, and was gone; I was just left with nothing but the emotion), anger became lodged in me. Like one of those Chinese finger puzzles. The more you pull, the tighter the grip.
So the spirit of anger came and filled me for days. Five, in fact. And these were five of the most uncomfortable days that I have had in many, many years. I am just not USED to feeling so much anger without working through it. I felt toxic, polluted. I was snippy and, oh my darling husband, understood I was really struggling and just made our container big enough to let this state work itself out.
Of course, the anger didn’t just work itself out. It came out sideways, and I was easily irritated. And I am verbal, which meant that I was not fit company. I am far from proud of all of this. Far, far from proud.
But finally, after cooling down enough to actually receive counsel from my compassionate helping spirits, I had a breakthrough. That word – breakthrough – is what it felt like. I flew so hard against the wall of this cage of anger (I saw it as a red glass cage holding me in), I shattered through to the other side of space where life was, again, serene and calm.
Here’s what the spirits showed me when I journeyed on it.
My teacher took me up above the earth so I could see the planet. He told me to look at it. And what I saw was continents dotted with ugly red, with fiery conflagration. He told me what I was seeing was the anger in the world right now. And it was sweeping like a plague. I could see variants – dull, red pockets just beginning, full fire storms.
The water in the world did not look cool and blue and soft. It looked anguished, the companion of fire. It was the fear, depression, and desperation people are now feeling in response to fiery anger.
It was then that my teacher talked to me about “temper.” That the world was IN a temper, and that it was time to temper our actions and emotions. Being an exacting sort, I looked up temper and found these definitions to be relevant:
4. calm disposition or state of mind: to be out of temper.
5. a substance added to something to modify its properties or qualities.
verb (used with object)
to moderate or mitigate: to temper justice with mercy.
to soften or tone down.
to bring to a proper, suitable, or desirable state by or as by blending or admixture.
to moisten, mix, and work up into proper consistency, as clay or mortar.
Metallurgy . to impart strength or toughness to (steel or cast iron) by heating and cooling.
Once this was shared with me, I was given a choice to make. Did I want to stop where I was spiritually? A literal tornado did not rip through my house. An incident ripped through my heart. Was that feeling -- being choked with anger – one I wanted to adapt to?
Did I want to live in anger? If one incident could get me so worked up, how prepared am I to face the extreme and truly cataclysmic problems we are facing as a culture and as citizens of earth? Problems that can easily make us all perpetually angry if we allow ourselves to slide that way. And I could see this was graduated, this propensity toward anger. A low, low buzz that can start with annoyance rising just a few seconds earlier than it might have ten years ago.
Anger has become a plague. After the journey, I remembered some of the angry statements from people that I love who have worked spiritually for many, many years, and who are being more easily riled by circumstance recently than they would have been five years ago. One dear friend talked about wanting to stab someone who is driving her to frustration. Another, one of my finest and first spiritual teachers, said he wanted to shoot a few members of the tea party. Another friend said he would like to slit the throats of people who are hurting the dolphins.
And suddenly I saw how very odd and dangerous these statements are from people who are VERY conscious. Statements that I hear more and more often – not always quite as extreme, but still different. The term “righteous anger” is alluring considering our times. Are we right to be angered by the travesties that are now a part of daily life? And isn’t it really this larger anger that is fueling our propensity toward becoming angry at the daily stuff more easily? More quickly? And what does that do? The continual acceleration of moving into anger more and more easily?
And if these questions are asked, another question is inevitable. How do we accept anger as a teacher and not a dwelling place?
Because, even if it takes a bit of time to move from the anger to another state, anger is finally a choice. It may grip you and have you for a bit, but if you rail against the discomfort and poison of it, you will move through it if you choose. Choice is the essence of empowerment.
My own choice on how to do this is to go deeper. To become more discerning and less reactive. Not less human. I am not talking about never getting angry, which would be a silly goal indeed. But to not get rattled by it, especially when there is no possible way to work it out directly with another individual.
For me, I want to take the foundation I have built, and make it wider, and more substantial. With the intention of learning how to live in a world where crises, political shifts and naked examples of the disintegration of our world have long been apparent. And are now becoming jaw-dropping, daily events of such lunacy that EVEN I become speechless.
To go back into a state of unconsciousness is not a choice at this point. In my journey, my spirits opened my arm and lifted a vein, pulsing blue, and asked me if I would consider giving it up. Or giving up air.
This reminded me that I made a life-changing choice a very long time ago, when they asked me if I wanted to exchange hearts forever, if I wanted to partner with them, allowing them to shape my spiritual education. Anyone who has gone through something like this knows there are few words to describe that particular road. “Yeowza” is my word for it.
Inherent in that choice was knowing that I would have to adopt spiritual evolution as a way of life for the rest of my life. For me, that choice was the seminal choice that was made a very long time ago, and I am ready to renew my vows. And I can be a slow study.
Every choice we make has a cost, and this choice has cost me. I know I have to see spiritual evolution and tests, opportunities for growth, no matter how inconvenient or painful, no matter how I might rail, as callings. I can be clumsy and cranky as I walk these paths; not a flattering thing to admit, but true.
And knowing all this, there is no other good choice for me than to set intention to go deeper.
The question is, how to go deeper? And the answer, for me, is to retake the FSS Three-Year Training. This is where the spirits and I have danced in the cauldron, and where I can go again to learn what the next phase of my work will be. Huge initiations take place during those three years. The Three-Year is the most astounding and life-changing work I have ever done; I am not alone in this, and I am not speaking in hyperbole. Lives change. No one completes the Three Year without fundamental and life-altering changes. It is the most beautiful work I know, and because the spirits support your intention to change, you are buying a ticket to Mr. Toads Wild Ride.
Taking the Three-Year again will not be a repeat of taking it the first time. Initiations can occur at many different levels. If I set my intention to go into the Three-Year again to become stronger, more discerning and compassionate, I will get teachings from the spirits on that. I am a different person now than I was more than when I took the training the last time.
After my journey, I feel the best thing anyone can feel. I feel like a beginner. In truth, I do not know if I can go deeper. I don’t mean in theory. I mean, am I capable of going deeper? I honestly don’t know if I have the capacity. And if I don’t, that would mean that I am a 60-year-old woman, who works in concert with helping spirits to serve as best I can. If the manner and way in which I am doing that now is deep enough, so be it.
Still, I hope that is not the case. I sense a place I have not seen, and feel things stirring that I cannot quite identify. I think of my godchildren – Keir and Beth. I think of Tadg, my beloveds’ son. I think about my puppy Lily. I think of the faces of the children I see on fb all the time – the children, and grandchildren.
There is so much to make us angry now. The children are growing up surrounded by anger, powerlessness and frustration at so many things. The way in which we seem to be carefully planning our own extinction. The way in which money matters more than life, and how every day the visceral examples of this politically, socially, and culturally become more extreme and volatile. Certainly, the vision of the planet both burning up and weeping is not hard to interpret climactically.
What, oh what, must the children feel?
And as our climax intensifies, and more suffering (and unlooked for joy) arises, how will I stand? Where will I stand? It is so easy to become furious these days. Anger, at such times, feels righteous, but that's a damn dangerous position. And not when seen in the metallurgical definition of “temper -- to impart strength or toughness to (steel or cast iron) by heating and cooling.” Perhaps our anger is not to be endured, but to be sculpted, used to make us more elastic, and stronger. I do not see joy here, but I do see a kind of satisfaction, a rightness. Anger as pure fuel, as pure power to support time banks, community projects, new ways of embracing all the many ways to be conscious and local.
In this way, anger may serve as fuel for greater empowerment for our culture. A way of not only feeling compassion, but a way of discerning compassionately as we saddle up to change the way it all works.
I could not have written this last week. And I have no idea how the next knock on the head from circumstances I cannot control will affect me. But I do know that all spiritual change happens in reciprocity or it stalls. What I know to feed the compassionate helping spirits is love and the willingness to go forward even if the path is uncertain.
I hope that I have the ability and courage to evolve. And that the spirits will – as they so often do – surprise me. Perhaps the way through will not be sharp, as I fear. Perhaps they will lighten my path with feathers.