I've been reflecting on my experiences at the June SSP Conference. There were many intriguing aspects of what we did together that continue to stir my imagination. For me, the days were characterized by a deepening awareness of the power of shamanic community. I continue to reflect on our evolution together - and how the present maturation of our shamanic community can be the very resource that will enable us to respond to the troubles in our Present Age.
For example, the extent of the damage in the Gulf of Mexico... a result of our obsession with oil... could easily lead to a general malaise as day after day, we see the waters and marine life suffer or die. The contrast between a few oil booms and the dark liquid, spewing forth vigorously, is huge, leading some to claim Earth is
taking back her self from us while the Well & Waters seemingly mock our puny efforts.
Yet during our SSP weekend, I participated in a community that summoned forth its healing Spirit Canoe... traveled to the waters of the Gulf, and rendered aid and healing vigorously. Upon our return, the room itself felt hot and smelled of fumes as the Canoe docked and we arrived back to Here. While transitioning from the Gulf to Santa Cruz, WindWoman carried a very soft message saying we had, for that time, extracted the toxic substances from the Gulf of Mexico and while so doing, we were giving some time and space --- or breathing room --- for those directly present in that injured, perilous, thickly poisoned area.
Stepping out of the Spirit Canoe, my left hand briefly touched the MotherDrum that accompanied our journey. I was touching to say 'Thank You.'
However, She was still vibrating... played by an Unseen Beater... creating floating rhythm. Someone else might label these as after- vibrations'. I knew differently - She was letting me know that MotherDrum is holding the beat and rhythm until another Spirit Canoe forms for another journey to the Gulf Coast region --- bringing more tending from human hands and hearts. And just as the space seemed infused with the departing shadows of Powers and Helpers, I knew too that They, and their Kindred, could be readily summoned when the Calling Prayers were sent.
For unlike some types of intervention, this healing work is not a one-time focused session; the wound is nasty and vigorous, as it keeps tearing the very fabric of the Gulf Community. And since we live in a related-ness Web, strands from the Gulf thread themselves to all they touch. Just like people wash off the oil coating birds, marine animals, and the grasses themselves, so too these
threads must be washed and cleansed, lest toxic energy spreads thread to thread while smearing more and more of the Web.
As with any profound wound, we keep tending day after day as long as necessary. And part of tending is to develop patterns of living that honor the integrity of other living forms, and walk with feet that leave healthy ground for those Beings coming through hundreds and thousands of years from now. We may not be able to see those faraway descendants but each of us holds some knowing about what's needed for life sustaining behavior. The wisdom that each of us holds is woven together 'till we see the Vision and the Way calling for our response --- AND we respond --- this is what it means to live in conscious shamanic community.
A Child shall Lead
And a Grove of Redwoods Teach them...
There are two primary images from the weekend that seem to be informing my understanding and reflections on shamanic community: our Prayer Tree and a Grove of Redwood Trees. Both of them are connected with generational features of community. Both can possibly teach us how to see and listen across generations. Both may assist us as individually we assume the challenges and responsibilities intrinsic to each generation --- by so doing, we evolve a ripened shamanic community. Individuals within such a community are IN-FORMED by a collective mind-full-ness whose purpose is sustaining and flourishing the larger Earth Community.
we are now capable of doing this... we are at that stage where the seeds have been sown... we have begun flowering in a way we could not do until until the ground work was done. Now will appear images and visions to assist us into the future coming now.
As we were planning this conference, we wondered how to do our work of tending sites in Santa Cruz, that bore the signatures of previous traumas, while at the same time not ignore the disasters in other regions and countries.
This concern for both Here and There led to having a Prayer Tree in our midst so that we could make prayers for concerns that we were not addressing directly during this weekend.
In my last newsletter and at the SSP website, I wrote about Prayer Trees and specifically the Prayer Tree for this conference. Now I want to share a different teaching from this
Prayer Tree that is related to the focus of our healing and tending work.
And Here Comes the Child to Lead Them:
As our Prayer Tree was set up and prayers attached over the days, there were times when I would see the five year old boy who, while walking with his Grandparents, found and chose this tree for us.
The child offers us the Tree:
"This is your Tree... Please Pray for Me
I want to be part of this".
As the Tree began blooming with prayers, I became conscious of the many generations represented in those blossoms... from the small children who died in the 1982 Santa Cruz mudslides to whole families in the in Haiti. While tying on a prayer, one participant turned to me and said "This is for
those Pelican eggs in the Gulf that didn't hatch." Given that the prayers attached were for disasters around the world, there were generations of other species and the elements themselves being tended here. Indeed our Prayer Tree spoke for the Cosmic Tree of Life.
At the end of the Conference, some of us wondered "What shall we do with our Prayer Tree?" for it was actually a small dead Tree, planted in a stone filled container, now blooming with prayers. Its very weight and size required strong hands to lift and an ample space in which to plant.
At some point in these deliberations, it seemed so obvious that the Prayer Tree should be taken by the Grandmother and given to her Grandson who was the original Finder of the Tree. Thus in his daily life, and other children who might be visiting with him, lived our promise to the next generations---a constant reminder to him and to ourselves: You
are not forgotten---we shall make pathways of health and harmony for you, your friends, and the young ones of the whole Earth Community. Grandmother said they didn't have space for the Prayer Tree, but as is the way of Grandmothers, she spent a few minutes musing only to announce "We will just have to find the space."
A day after returning home, I received 2 iPhotos of Ian and PrayerTree. The first photo captures Ian's expression when first he sees the Tree (now blooming with prayers).
The second photo captures Ian after he had made his own Prayer and is tying it on the Tree. When I inquired about the photos, his Grandmother tells me that a few minutes after seeing the Prayer Tree, he disappeared only to return after finding a feather on the road and makes a prayer bundle to tie on the Tree.
Something important happened within this 5 year old boy. Just look at his expression in the first photo--taken when he first sees the Prayer Tree. For me, the smile in his eyes and his mouth and the hands held gently together speak of a 'knowing wonderment' that he is processing at that very moment. There is the suggestion in the soft, gentle smile of recognition ('This is the tree I found for them') while in the second photo he steps forward as a full member of the Community with his own age-related understanding of what that means.
Seeing and hearing this, I consider that this is the way stories and initiations are formed in real community. This is one way children learn traditioning---it is a way we become Keepers of Tradition. It is also respecting that children can see the 'many worlds' that we adults speak of as nonordinary consciouness. They do see
and they respond from their own age of perception-the perceptions of the whole collective create the World View or Shamanic Map of the Village.
I realize how VERY interested I am in the development of this young boy for his Grandmother walks with Bear - she stories has shared with him. He is hearing about journeys on the shamanic path.. He does not yet live in a shamanic community but he partakes in forming shamanic community.
We shall be fully shamanic community when our children become participants in our some of our gatherings and they will become the next generation of the Keepers of Tradition - the ones who pass on the stories... shamanic stories heard from the tongues of their parents or their parents' extended shamanic family.
I wonder: "Are we conscious of these
opportunities to tradition with our young, our children?"
"Are they hearing the stories of the great adventures the grown-ups have when they undertake shamanic journeys; when they travel to the many realms, and bring back treasures to be shared?"
"Are their times when they drum with us, play the flutes, use the rattles, and dance to the beat or dance with the animals that empower them?"
I have heard comments to the effect there are times for learning shamanism and it's not when one is a child. I'm inclined to think this reflects more on the separation of our own worlds than the separation of the child from the shamanic worlds. Granted there are tasks pertinent to different age-related rites of passage -- but given opportunity, there is a natural ability to live according to the reasoning and imaginative capacities of our different ages. And it might be instructive to let the children lead us... or teach us... what they can and wish to absorb.
We are just beginning to discover what full shamanic community might be - and let's not make distinctions or separations until we perceive how best we flourish and by what means.
I cannot fully explain just why but I know this composite image of
"The five year old child pointing to the dead tree and saying "This is your tree... pray for me"
The same child, five days older,
seeing prayers tied on the tree he found and gave us...
immediately runs away only to return minutes later with feather,
cloth, and says "Tree, this is prayer from me."
In those two frames, side by side, are we blessed to see the essence of shamanic community - of traditioning - through the eyes of the Child.
Grove of Redwoods Shall Teach Them...
I was in the small group that was assigned the site called the Henry Cowell State Redwood Park. During our times of scouting potential traumatized sites in Santa Cruz, this place appeared in a journey. After scoping the site itself, we journeyed to see "why this place?" for there were no visible or invisible signatures of trauma that would indicate there was tending that needed to be done.
Spirits indicated that every region had at least one Place of Power which functions as the Keeper and Provider of health for the whole area. Within such a place live the Elders of the Region. The Elders themselves manifest the powers and health of that Place, that ecological niche in the greater Web.
Grove... and Redwoods themselves... hold this type of Power. Given their lengthy lives, they have seen and experienced MORE of what has occurred in this region than any other living Being. And with their far-reaching, lofty stature, they can over-see beyond the edges of the Place's Boundary. Thus they can be forecasters of that which is approaching the Place. Examining their annual rings of growth can provide details of how disease, weather, and human behavior impacted the health of the forest itself.
As a long-standing member of the community, they have memories of how the region survived in times of disaster and can inform our plans for proactive health measures.
What we surmised through our scouting and journeying resonated with what this group of shamanic practitioners experienced close-up and in direct touching of both the Redwoods and others in this forest community.
function as Elders was expressed in one's woman's comment: "Now I know why Buddha was enlightened beneath a Tree". And another women spoke of deep serenity and their power as the Sheltering Ones.
The Grove itself manifested community. Beside the Elders the next generation was growing and fulfilling its function. Two trees over, a sapling, around 20 years old, was healthy; and beside it, a newly born just emerging from the soil.. It was quite clear, that the young were sheltered in their growing by their proximity to the Standing People surrounding them who had participated in 2,000 or more years in the creation of this forest community.
Redwood Spirit made clear that to be a Redwood is to BE community. A Redwood Tree is one of many beings in communion with each other within this forest landscape. In this communing they share of their roles with each other. Through their long, tall, branching
Being they provide, not only shelter, but also a regenerative environment of air, ground, and water. Thus do the Redwoods provide for the growth of other trees, shrubs, and grasses which altogether provide food and home for a large variety of other species.
Listening to the sharing within our human group, and the communing within the Redwood Grove community, it became very clear to me that one of the reasons this site was calling us, as a Place of Power, was because it both knew, and manifested, the Power of Community. It not only manifested the Power of Community but it could teach shamanic practitioners the "ways" involved in forming shamanic community; that is, what is involved in both creating and sustaining a community whose memberships is rooted in the practice and culture of shamanism.
After this weekend, I know that should I ever need to directly experience being in community, I can take myself to the Redwood Grove. Or even better, I can take
my self to the Child and Grandmother of the Prayer Tree and move from there to a walk in the Grove for together these are community.
Whisperings from an Elder Redwood
When a community matures... or an individual being... there comes a time when the world outside one's immediate environs becomes the source of deep and sustained attention. Our immediate environs could be described as our human community and our tasks presumed to be to offer healing within this community. And the human community was the primary recipient of our shamanic work for many years. Working with the greater Web was initially relegated to a weekend workshop titled the "The Spirits of Nature".
This workshop focused our attention to the spiritual consciousness we share with other beings in the natural world. Yet even the very
title "Spirits of Nature" can imply a 'Me' and and It (Nature) or an us-and-them paradigm. We moved more easily with shamanic methods that focused on humans and our life passages or challenges. This could be human dis-ease or the dying and death journey we must each take. Certainly a major purpose of early shamanic training was twofold: for the apprentice to develop their own connections with Spirit and Helpers and to use these connections on behalf of another person. Within this focus, the training model offered various shamanic methods of individual healing and prospering.
Like an orphaned child, Nature received the least direct attention and/or was the backdrop against which our activities occurred. For example, it was important to learn certain plant spirits 'because' their medicine might be the source of healing for some individual. The idea that we
are Nature and do not exist inseparable from nature was a premise by some but it was not mainstream shamanism at that time.
Over the last ten to fifteen years, however, we have slowly come to realize that our work must be grounded in doing whatever it takes to to honor, heal, and preserve the Earth Community and help sustain its diversity of Beings and its very wildness.
This was one message from the Elder Redwood too and a related message concerned the division of labor within our Shamanic Community. By labor, I mean the work we do from love of others and love of the Whole.
As we undertake to apply our shamanism on behalf of the troubles within the Web itself, we still have the obligations to continue teaching, mentoring, and growing ourselves as humans within the Web. Hopefullly there will always be people arriving to shamanism and our community will be representative of the
various ages and stages of human life. But it may be time to ask of our Elders to make commitment to offering and doing work that focuses, not on individual human growth but on projects that have the Earth community as their focus. Obviously there are individuals doing this already but that is different from our shamanic community making this an intrinsic part of our studies, training, and practice as walkers of this path.
There are certain practical implications in making such a choice. Each area of study and teaching requires time from those so doing. And as individuals take up new areas of exploration, they cannot be expected to continue doing all their previous work. But equally important there are other individuals who can assume these prior functions involved in teaching and mentoring the basic studies that introduce individuals to the shaman's path.
Such division of labor carries no special status to our different roles and functions yet each
role has special value within developing community.
Our society tends to add value and prestige to different jobs and is built on a competition model. It's unavoidable to encounter these values within our community but through our shamanic practice, we can transform them. We are colleagues and walkers together... responding to each other from this perspective is the only way we will endure.
In a mature community every generation is represented - every generation's needs are considered and addressed. As with the Redwood Grove community there is simultaneously present the seed, the infant, the child, the adolescent, the adult, the elder. And each of these offer both challenges and gifts to the community. If one is neglected, others are diminished. If one is overvalued, another is possibly undervalued.
There are questions and issues that arise as we mature and differentiate. And it is this differentiation that was so clearly present in
the Redwood Grove. And these issues began rising while experiencing myself in the Conference human community. At one point, I imagined future conferences or gatherings, focused on this 'shamanism without borders' work. Meditating thus, I considered that we are called to also change the borders within our minds, the boundaries we place around one another, and even the very 'bordered structure' called workshops... or conferences... or retreats.
Here are some questions I am asking myself -
Like the Redwood Grove and the child with the Tree, we have individuals who are Elders, Beginners, and a range of ages between them. I do not speak of chronological age, though there may be some overlap, but of stages of development as shamanic practitioners. Together our ages reflect a dynamic, growing, sustainable
If we are to be that which we do---and to do that which we be... then our very structures must allow for and promote this diversity. The issues and questions rising in me have to do with change at both the individual and the collective level. Certainly we as individuals grow and transform ourselves - yet I'm not sure our collective activities manifest the changes required for a fully matured, or maturing community. So one issue becomes how do I, as an individual, participate in being Changing Community. Sometimes we refer to ChangingWoman as one of the powerful shamanic archetypes. I am speaking in a similar fashion to being ChangingCommunity.
The questions and the answers may seem obvious... almost not even worth raising. Yet I think if we examine the patterns that have emerged over the last 20 to 30 years, we will find a repetitiveness in function, roles, and learning opportunities
that fail to reflect a growing, dynamic community. I do believe we are changing because we sense there is need for change but I think the more we are conscious of how we are creating community, the more possible will we grow one that sustains evolution in its core practices. Some of the questions rising for me are:
Will teachers be able to see themselves as colleagues with former students--full partners on this journey...
Will students be able to see their teachers as their colleagues.
Will we know we are in pursuit together and be able to release the ideologies that create 'the learned' and 'the learner'... and know we are both.
Will each of us take on responsibilities we heretofore placed in the hands of others... assuming ourselves not yet 'up to the task'... not proficient enough.
Will we each be able to shift paradigms, to listen closely to the necessity for embodied shamanism for it is our own body, our very own Beings -
listening together - that will be the source for knowing how we as shamanic community can contribute towards preserving the health of our planet. Can we practice an incendant, as well as transcendent shamanism...plunge into our "Earthiness" while transcending our bondage to Earth too.
What forms for learning and applying shamanism will we evolve that are not workshop or teacher-centered? How can we weave computer-generated methods for global shamanic community while not sacrificing direct, physical communion. The Earth community teaches us that it is a collection of Beings communing together - this can be side by side like in the Redwood ?Grove or very distant as within the Waters between the continents.
What structures can we create, allowing our community to be and work together, that are not financially costly and/or provide participation for different ranges of income among
Will we offer opportunity for new voices and changing leadership to emerge within our global community. Will those who previously held the 'visions' for the young shamanic community be able to see the changes needed. Will they be able to both see and support the new voices rising. Will those who are given vision of the new ways have the courage to speak them even if the community is not ready to hear them.... and walk with the confidence that comes from trust in Spirit.
These questions are threaded together by my concern that we may not be fostering the diversity among us and that our structures are characterized too heavily by the teacher - student model and not enough sense of collegiality. This is always true in the early stages of forming purposeful community but we are in a different stage of growth now. What struck me most during the Conference was the wide range of formal shamanic background and experience among us. We were able to draw
upon this rich mixture, focus on some joint endeavors, and place ourselves in service to the Earth community.
Now is the time to turn our attention to conscious community building: to see each and every Being as having place in the Communion of Beings - and know that the Web is this communion of Beings. Perhaps this is one of our challenges and opportunities now: to have conversations and explorations about Who we are and How we are as Shamanic Community. We shall always be students but we are now called to be teachers, colleagues, and full time partners in the evolution of shamanism.
We will continue with our individuated practices but we must add to this, the commitment to community building; that is, to the establishment of a sustainable global shamanic village.
Buffalo Woman Comes Calling
Buffalo Woman has come from out of the mist several times during the last fifteen years. Her sighting has been witnessed in workshops, on hillsides, reported dreams, in Buffalo Dances taking place, and in the face of White Buffalo Calves. The legacy of promise She left with prior generations was that She would come when the world was so out of balance that the life of all Beings was in jeopardy and action needed to be taken by the 2 Leggeds (Humans) in order to restore harmony. From what I hear about Her recent appearances, She is not arriving for one meeting in Council with the People. She seems to be alerting us that danger is increasing and calling us to take council among ourselves and with other Beings.
A year ago, Susan Gilliland and I committed to teaching a workshop in
Philadelphia at the end of this July on "Bear and Buffalo Medicine." I did not realize at the time that this specific focus was seeded by Spirit as a continuance of learning how 'shamanism without borders' might drawn upon ancient understandings derived from our Ancestors for they, too, lived through periods of profound shifts within their inhabited worlds.
There were periods of dispersion within which the experience of the community was diminished. Other times arrived within which the individual alone was not sufficient to the tasks at hand and the Call went forth for a gathering of the tribes. From these Gatherings, emerged some of the fundamental rites and initiations, agreements and covenants, that became the basis for Ways of Being and Becoming by the Collective of Humans within the Web....our ancestors understood we are nearly always undertaking some form of ChangingCommunity.
From this perspective of changing community, our Present
Age can be viewed as movement from our Bear-ness (within-ness, individual, hibernation, etc) to being People of the Buffalo Way; that is, people who collectively use their wisdom to walk with Mind-fulness and move on behalf of the Whole).
Another example of tending more widely is the workshop in September that I am teaching with Dan Jordinelli. This particular workshop is at an animal shelter in Los Angeles and is offered in response to the cries for help coming from those whom we call our "animal companions." Whether we be talking about habitats of the wild ones or habitats of our companions, the suffering other species are experiencing requires response from us. We move from holding each other in love and compassion to holding the greater Community of Beings. Without them shall we die; without us shall they die.
Just as we tend each other in our dying and death time, we can tend our
fourlegged, finned, and winged in their dying time. We enact our obligations and the consequences of our activities on fundamental, soul levels. We are profoundly transformed when we are able to hold another dying being and acknowledge, "We brought or assisted your coming into a World only to find there is no place for you"---and---"I am here as we consciously extinguish the life in you and send your soul to Elsewhere." Although this characterizes some of the shamanic tending in an animal shelter, it also characterizes human-animal interactions across the planet. Yet here again, I see such healing as a very resource for igniting our souls, and energizing our very beings, to the great work calling to us----work that requires our efforts as a Community of Shamanic Practitioners.
Thus, I am just now starting to understand what She meant ten years ago when she communicated "the time is arriving for
each of you to be White Buffalo ((men and women))." Namely, we have had the growing years to form lasting alliances with our Helping Spirits and Powers; we have been soaked in the wisdom from the OtherWorld; and we have had time to refine our healing ways with the suffering who seek our help. In this way, we are prepared to act on behalf of the troubles characterizing our times. I feel so inspired by the synchronicity between the 'worst of times' in the greater Web to the 'best of times' for shamanic practitioners to be challenged and called to action. We are prepared!
In collaboration with our Helping Spirits and the eternal Compassionate Powers, there is no 'trouble' we cannot help transform. We are neither powerless or ignorant; we are not naïve or undeveloped. This is a wonderful time to be doing shamanism and a propitious time to be building shamanic community. This is the development stage we have reached and it requires of us to
continue building a community that is rooted in Spirit and has individuals providing the necessary roles and functions required by any intentional Collective.
To really see this... to grasp how profoundly true this is... means knowing that there can never be another Age of the Individual. That paradigm may have been true at a different stage in our evolution but that stage is gone. That doesn't mean there are not times when the individual may take center stage but we now know that the Rights of the Individual and the Rights of the Community of Beings are inseparable.
These are a few reflections triggered by the June Conference. And as July arrives with Summer Sun, I take such joy in the work we are doing together and welcome the challenges with us.
I look forward to going to Grandmother's home, to visiting with her Grandson and our Prayer Tree. I anticipate walks in the Redwood Grove. And I know
there will be times of all of us being together or waving to each other as we ride our Spirit Canoes to troubled Waters and Lands---
Blessed we are to be living in these times.
Please make note that my email address has changed. I no longer can received email at my old AOL address.
My new address is:
We now have audio versions of these newsletters, read by Susan Gilliland, available on the Shamanic Circles web site.
Note regarding future workshops:
My 2010 Calendar of Workshops can be found at my website. The Calendar is under periodic revision so I invite you to check there mid-Summer for any workshops added or changed since January. The website includes other shamanic resources.
These workshops are limited in enrollment.
If you wish more information or to be on a workshop mailing list, please contact the coordinator Pirkko Miller at email@example.com. Unless specified otherwise, Pirkko coordinates all my workshops. Registration is also available at my website: www.shamanicvisions.com
Carol's Workshop Calendar for July - Oct. 2010
July 18 - 23
Bridging East and West: Bear Roams the World
This is a workshop I will teach with Hideki Hamada (Japan) and Cheryl
Ban. The workshop will focus on Shamanism and BearMedicine. This Supreme
Wilderness Physician is the Tutelary Spirit for both Western and
Eastern shamanic peoples. Complete description.
July 29 - August 1
Medicine for our Present Age: Powers of Bear and Buffalo Medicine
This year's workshop will focus on the powers, methods, and ways that are found in the practice of Bear and Buffalo Medicine. Complete description and registration form.
Sept. 11 - 12
Shamanism and Our Sheltered Animal
Companions (Tending Our Kindred
Los Angeles, CA
This workshop continues with a shamanic focus on animals in shelters that Carol and Dan began two years ago in Los Angeles. Complete description and registration form.