Several years ago, I discovered a relationship between Bear's hibernation and a specific shamanic method for re-membering one's self.
Both Bear and shamanic practitioner have a Space or Place within which to be Re-membered. This is not connected with the shamanic journey of Dismemberment within which one might be put back together (remembered) after being torn apart. Rather this is the process whereby both Bear and Humans enter a bio-spiritual space, or place, within which outer activity ceases, all pauses, while in our most "withiness" we Re-member ourselves. There is nothing necessarily taken away from the person when he or she goes to their Place of Rememberment; rather all who one is becomes Re-membered in the Knowing of One's Self as a Being living on Planet Earth.
our outer motions cease, we attain a state of profound Rest. In this special Resting state, who we are and our true purpose is birthed again into our conscious being. Having re-birthed ourselves, we move from this special Place of Rest to engage with the larger world once more.
This experience of Rememberment can occur at any self-chosen moment and is not measured by ordinary time. Our reference is the time-lessness of shamanic experience that is measured by the completion of the intended Journey.
Whether from inner or outer perspective, the outcome is that one of us steps forth after having experienced essential Rest and Re-memberment. We may emerge with cub, vision or with footsteps now more certain, steady hands, clear minds, and heart-beat strong enough to carry us through our next cycle of Walkabout on Earth.
And, as with pregnant
hibernating Bear, something may be added or birthed into the World following our times within our Place of Rememberment.
And Therein Do I Remember Me
...and from There do I go forth once more
Just as Bear selects her Place for hibernation, so too we are invited to find our individual Place.
For Bear, the Place provides shelter within stormy winter; safety and support for giving birth in the Time of Darkness upon the Land; and finally, a Place that offers complete rest. Coming to resting is a necessary and essential activity for all Beings. And I am not referring to sleep but to 'rest' that can occur in moments of great activity. There are times of engagement when our very Body informs us we are close to the edge of depletion rather than fullness; times when we encounter the
unexpected and to respond...before pausing...might lead to unwanted consequences. Such a Place might be where one steps within when engaged in extended shamanic activities - such as healing work or trance states like prolonged shamanic dancing.
In essence, we are offered a Place that re-turns us to the inner knowing that we are held in the strong embrace of Spirit. Having moments of such re-membering - we can continue whatever we are doing with openness, steady hearts, re-freshed Self. Then are we able more clearly to ascertain a situation, connect with our Helpers and do that which is appropriate to the given situation or to our current unfolding.
I came to call the search for such a Place as 'finding one's shamanic Sanctuary.' The initial finding of one's Sanctuary is done through a journey whose purpose is for the shamanic practitioner to "find his or her Sanctuary." Initially this is a place best known by how one feels within it. Such a place
should offer one almost complete rest followed by an infused sense of well-being, safety, and nourishment.
In the Beginning, there was no Resting Place...
...and then there was Moon Bear...
The notion that such a place might be available to each of us was planted in me through a BearMedicine Story that depicts how Earth came to be populated with pieces of the Moon.
In this story, the Earth was once only water and all Beings had to constantly swim with no place of rest. As MotherBear became GrandmotherBear and then Great GrandmotherBear, she worried herself unceasingly about the fact her children had not one single, stable place upon
which they could rest. Their paws knew nothing but constant movement...and only a few Cubs lived beyond two or three seasonal cycles because their bodies became too depleted from unceasing movement.
According to the story, frequently did she lift her great head in plaintive prayer for her children. Once while praying, She notices this great Silver Ball in the Sky which to her faraway eyes seems to be solid. She wonders if perhaps that Silver Ball would come to Earth and give resting surface for her many children. But Silver Ball is far, far away with no trail from Below to Above...
Midst her anguished worrying, one night She notices a Stairway of Lights appearing...
(later do we call this the "Aurora Borealis" or the Northern Lights).
With great hope fueling her steps, She climbs this Stairway of Lights to Silver Ball, and...
for the first time...in her life...
... her body KNOWS the experience of
With great intensity, She summons her power into her right front paw...
sculpts out a piece of Silver Ball and tosses this chunk to Her water world below.
She is rewarded by noticing that one Cub's paws appear from the water, slowly stretch up and over the surface of this chunk of Moon
the Cub's whole body shimmers with joy,
as for the first time in Earth history, 'rest and support' is known
Grandmother then walks down the Stairway of Lights back to her Home Below.
As the story unfolds we see her, month after month, watching for the Stairway of Lights...when Stairway appears, we see her climbing up to Moon, and tossing another chunk of Silver to the World Below.
After many demanding excursions, She looks above one night only to see that Silver Ball has almost completely disappeared!!...
...and She wonders with horror on her face just 'what have I done to this Great Friend
of my Children?"
And She weeps...
And She weeps...
...and sends her prayers of both remorse and gratitude to Silver Ball ...for in desperate intention to save her Children, she never thought to ask if taking parts of her was okay with Silver Ball...exhausted from her grief and her travels, she collapses into her Winter's sleep.
Stirring in the Darkness one cold night, She drags to the edge of a chunk of Silver Moon on the water, lifts her head and sees Above the Friend of her Children...except Now Silver Ball is full and round and complete.
And in the whisperings between the two of them that night, She learns this Emptying-and-Filling and Emptying-and-Filling Mystery Is the very Person she calls Silver Ball and that the Above Star People call Moon.
On that night of whispering, agreements they are made. These agreements include Journeys on the Stairway of Lights and sending pieces to the Down Below so her Cubs might rest...and in
that Ancient Agreement, did Grandmother Bear promise to tend all the yet-to-be-seen Mysteries that would emerge from the bodily chunks of Silver Ball sent to the World Below.
So now the story continues with the Dancing Stars, and the Stairways of Light, and the sculpting out chunks of Silver Ball, and the increasing of surfaces to the World Down Below. Surely, surely over time Earth comes to have many places of solid land...Grandmother's Cubs and her Cub's Cubs and their children, too, come to know Rest and furthermore, new green growing Beings keep emerging as do many colored four legged, finned, and feathered appear. Her joy quite simply is beyond measure.
Seasons come...seasons go...come, go, return...while GrandmotherBear is exceptionally old and unbelievably weary in body...every limb aches and even She will admit that She has come to dread these endless journeys to her Great Friend in the Sky...but go She must for as more and other Beings now
appear, more resting places are needed...so once again She resumes her trekking the Stairway of Lights up to Silver Ball. She tosses down another large chunk then turns to climb downward to Home.
In her turning downward, her weary legs stumble and she collapses on to her right side. Her arms are too tired to push her up, her paws too worn to get a grip, her neck too heavy to even lift her head and get her bearings as to just where She is...with a long, extended sigh She shudders and releases her body into the arc of Silver Ball.
Through eyes now dim she peers below, breathes a long cloud of knowing Love and sees it traveling down the Stairway to those below. The taste of her Love changes the color of water washing over all her Children and they look upward, shimmering with their Love as she finally, finally releases her last breath and falls into the Circling arms of Silver Ball.
This is why, the Elders say, on a Full Moon if you look
upward you will see in the right side of the Silver Ball, a large outline of MotherBear curled and resting in the rim.
Full Moon celebrations, for those who remember, always involve singing and dancing our gratitude to GrandMother Bear who underook these arduous journeys so that all her descendants might have places of rest, of pausing, so they can flourish on Mother Earth. And this is why Grandmother Bear is known to the People of the Northern Lights as "MoonBear."
From the Chunks of the Moon
They are Returning...
I just returned from teaching "Bear & Buffalo Medicine" with a Circle in
Philadelphia. This, and my recent retreat with a group from Japan, were occasions when the trails between and within the worlds were open and accessible. Moving along these trails became an extended journey of re-membering our selves and our inseparable relationship with both Visible and Invisible Mysteries. The Circles themselves became containers within which these old and new Mysteries interwove...the landscape of our gathering became the ground from which forth came the Buffalo announcing their Return.
With the aid of Bear's medicine, we focused on healing that needs doing on our Planet---for all species and Earth herself. Through engagement with Buffalo we focused on what "mindfulness ways" ways to manifest so that dis-ease does not become a way of life itself.
And we joined Iniskim in 'calling forth' those Beings who are
seeking Return yet hesitant until the Humans are ready.
We began with the Story of Grandmother MoonBear and then began listening to the Voices of the many Animals for whom She had provided Sanctuaries or Places of Rest and Safety. Turtle, Bear, Buffalo and Whale used our hands and our songs to begin joining themselves into some Whole whose form we have yet to see...but we did see the Pieces coming together.
Holding a filter bone from a Baleen Whale, fragments of petrified Turtle, fur from Bear and fur from Buffalo, we brought through their messages, sang their songs, and danced them alive round our Circle's Candle-lit fire.
After receiving their messages from our Journeys, we wrote them down on large newsprint that were then posted on the walls around us. We wanted
to en-circle ourselves with the teachings from these Earth kindred so that we could be influenced by then consciously throughout our time together...and beyond.
And through the gathering entire, Iniskim ('Calls Buffalo' stone) continued calling forth, calling forth...calling forth the People...from the Mountains, the Waters, the Plains...we saw them; we heard them; we welcomed them; and we renewed some old agreements, and one of those agreements is to provide Sanctuary.
And keeping that Agreement means learning what Sanctuary means and how to create them when needed.
With Sanctuary for All...
Sanctuary as a concept and a reality has ancient roots
in human history. Over the last hundreds of years it came to indicate various forms of sanctuary for humans only. There were many reasons to designate a Place as Sanctuary including for those suffering persecution for reasons of religion, politics, laws and/or simply being different from the norm at the time.
From these ancient roots has evolved our more recent, yet ancient-based movements of 'giving sanctuary' so that the integrity of a person, group, or species is protected and safeguarded. The development of Animal Sanctuaries indicates our increasing awareness that many animals and other species need a place of rest and safe-keeping.
It's important to remember that Sanctuary can take many different forms; and in our shamanic practice, we can discover and help sustain or create these forms.
One primary reason we
must learn and apply the 'giving of sanctuary' is because we are responsible when we 'call Them to return' for what kind of Welcome they shall receive and what kind of Tending they will be provided
by the Humans calling them forth.
And if each of us journeys to find our Place of Sanctuary, we shall understand even more deeply why every Being needs space or place within which they can re-member who they are. For far too long have many species been severed from the Places that hold them in the fullness of their Being - and thus do they---and we humans---forget Who they are.
Sanctuary in the Gulf Oil Waters
On our last evening together, we did a Spirit Canoe Journey of Healing to the Gulf Waters. In June the SSP Conference group had done such a journey and it was clear that this was a type of healing
we can do for the Gulf whenever we gather in shamanic circle. Even the survival of Spirit Canoe Journeys speaks to the special healing powers that Spirits can bring through us when we work in groups...this is especially true when the dis-eased situation is one affecting a large area or large group of individuals.
I was quite struck by the differences between the two Spirit Canoe Journeys. I surmise some of this difference reflects 'recoveries' that occurred between the first of June and the last weekend in July or beginning of August. Other than me and Susan, no one else had been at the June conference. So seeing and hearing the similiarities and differences leaves me with some profound experiences to integrate----which I shall do...and which I shall share in future Reflections.
What I wish to emphasize here is the teaching to
our Circle, about Sanctuary--that arose from our Spirit Canoe Journey.
We had made agreements about how the Spirit Canoe would circle the Gulf two times before returning home to Philly. Such circling would allow for healing to be completed if not done in the first Circling.
After the Spirit Canoe returned home and we were sharing our experiences in the Gulf, the 'leader' or the person at the front of the Canoe shared her experience of Sanctuary in those waters.
Basically during the second round of Circling, she made a much larger Circle, extending out into the waters beyond the directly oil-infected waters.
In this Circling, she realized that this larger circling was actually the 'Sanctuary of
Re-membering' for all Beings...all Beings...who have been traumatized by this human created disasters.
Imagine a person standing on land within a Circle in which all is ill including the person...then move out and away from that circle, while continuing to circle, and you encounter the Greater Whole...that is, the Greater Web...and, as you move along and around the filaments of the Greater Web, every touching, every movement ripples with message to the dis-eased small Circle of Beings. As the threads ripple they deliever the actual healthy vibrations of Be-longing-to-the-Healthy-Whole to each Being and to the Land itself. Now take that image and apply it to being within the Waters of the Gulf...then to the greater Waters of the Oceans...it's almost as though that area of the Gulf itself is within a current of vibrations that constantly rocks and hums and in that motion sends information as to "who
you are and to Whom you Belong" and slowly, slowly, slowly that Memory begins awakening. In its awakening it starts to surface----and in that surfacing it starts to slough off the cloak of darkness, of suffocating loss of memory. and as any one Being begins recognizing or re-covering themselves, their very activity affects other Beings around including the waters themselves.
This is the Place of Sanctuary for all in the Gulf Oil spill-waters. And if we continue our healing patrols to that Sanctuary, along the watery rim of this sanctuary, then we become those who assist in providing rest and safety
while our beloved Ocean Beings and the WaterBody itself keeps rocking and humming...and rolling over and into the infected Circle, "this is who you are...you Belong to Us...you Belong here..."
This is analogous to acknowledging
that every Being has an incredible capacity for self-repair PROVIDED that the necessary time and space is available within which self-repairing can occur.
One person in our Circle wrote about the parallel between the Spirit Canoe journey and our work with Iniskim & Buffalo:
When I was speaking to _______ on the way home and she spoke of the Spirit Canoe Sanctuary she created by her lead, it came to me:
We in our circle, and those around the globe...by allowing Buffalo to come forward within US, to come out of the hills of our own shadows and self-loathing
and personal darkness (which we have worked with Bear to transform)...We can, individually and collectively as a circle hold a SIMILAR SANCTUARY as to what we created for the Gulf with the encircling of the healing waters and sea life. We can do this for Buffalo. NOW. As we hold, individually and as a circle, the MEMORY of Buffalo, the Medicine of Buffalo...with all it's qualities (and none of it's painful story of slaughter and abuse) WE BECOME THE SANCTUARY FOR BUFFALO MEDICINE. WE BECOME THE TEMPLATES OF VIBRATION THROUGH WHICH OTHERS MAY MATCH AND JOIN.
We Witness for one another...
Voices from the Circle...
I'm going to use this last section of Reflections to share comments from participants in the Bear &
Buffalo Circle. I have spent some reflecting on just what to write 'about' sanctuary, tending of other Beings, and the Arousing Energy I am experiencing as big change is most assuredly occurring in our world today. It's a genuine question to wonder if we humans can redeem ourselves with all our relations before MotherEarth simply rolls over and tosses us in the compost from which some new and different creations will arise.
As I have shared with some close friends, for the first time in my life I am thinking that maybe the creation of 2 Legged People (humans) was not such a good idea. When I have such thoughts or despair with us, I don't need to try and summon good, positive thoughts. I need but take myself to Circling in the way we did in Philadelphia and thus infuse myself, not with possibility, but with the actuality of what we are doing when we so gather...and to keep guardianship for Iniskim
while 'calling forth the People' so together we might meet, heal, and, with joy, do the work we cannot avoid.
Thus I thought the best way to conclude these Reflections is to share with you messages that come through the Voices from the Circle in Philadelphia.
In sharing these messages, I am intentionally not listing names although each of these comments is from someone in that Bear & Buffalo Medicine Circle. What I wish us to remember is not specific names but the meaning given or evoked for our community whole.
Rather than organize these responses into some orderly, predetermined fashion, I shall share as they come to me. My hope is that by hearing the Voices from this Circle, others of us will be moved to search for our own Sanctuary of Re-memberment. And that we
will join in creating and tending Sanctuary for other Beings while remembering that from the Beginning was it seen that all Beings needed places of rest and safety within which they could Re-member who they are.
The following comments are focused on Iniskim (the Buffalo Calling Stone); the quality of Sanctuary that different ones found on their journey for their own Place or Space of Sanctuary; what happened when we called forth Buffalo; and on Sanctuaries of Re-memberment for All Beings.
I recommend that as you read these comments, you allow the images and descriptions to roll over and around you...much like the Ocean's waters with the Spirit Canoe. Different ones of the images may speak to you...assisting each of us to Re-membering who we ...
It is from this perspective that I include these Voices from the BearBuffalo Circle.
**"Thank you for sharing your experience of Iniskim with us. I had a strong dream of her, so similar to your vision, after I arrived home.
Carol named her "Calls Forth." Iniskim told me in my dream that she is here now to Call Forth the People. She is calling forth not only the buffalo, but all of the People who hold for the community the vibration of Life Moving Forward. We are to work on behalf of those who cannot feel this vibration.
I woke up from
this dream feeling SO hopeful!"
**"When we drummed outside yesterday morning...my drum chanting was filled with words I had no idea the meaning of, but it was nonstop & rapid...EXCITED ANTICIPATION & DELIGHT! All about the Buffalo spirits coming forward, coming forth, coming out of hiding, and out of their individual cloaks of silence and secrecy! They are coming, they are running, see them, feel the ground shake, feel the JOY as the WAVE ROLLS LIKE A Tsunami...WE ARE ON OUR WAY!!! OH, HAPPY DAY! They would not stop their talking, nor could they curb their pure joy and anticipation of their old friends return! All was abuzz!"
**"Sanctuary feels to me to be a form of proactive Mothering.
Mother Bear knows that there are forces in our world that would still delight in treeing the feminine.
I speak of the feminine here as the quality of connection and relation and feeling that both men and women carry. The belief in the value of the herd, of generous giving of oneself in response to the other can be seen as the feminine.
Sanctuary will refresh us, allow us to align with our vibration of well being, leave us feeling union with that is greater than us and like us instead of in isolation. While being treed might give us a time out, being up the tree is a retreat due to hostility or depletion. Being treed may allow us to escape danger, but it is reactive."
**"Buffalo harms no one and grazes in circles like the medicine wheel fertilizing and aerating the soil with it's hooves rejuvenating the grasses...those that choose to harm "no thing" will be able to carry and call forth more and more of this medicine...like the buffalo callers that do not kill the buffalo...we are not calling forth now to kill or needing to consume, we are calling forth new bodies and a new earth in new ways..."
**"A practice of sanctuary allows us to learn from Carol's lesson from Bear to not let the devaluing of the feminine happen again.
Research done by Shelly Taylor at UCLA about 10 years ago noted that the fright/flight/fight response that is presumed to be everyone's reaction to danger does not accurately portray women's response. Her group labeled women's response as 'tend and befriend', a pattern of going towards connection and open heartedness with others.
So sanctuary might be that spiritual form of tend and befriend, where we have our place where we will receive tending and befriending, so we can refill our energy for connecting with life in loving and aware ways."
**" Yes, singing is a huge part of sanctuary. I feel my cells and bones realign when I sing, when I sing from the heart and not the head. The words do not
always matter, but the vibration of air moving up and out from the heart, turning into sound, sets up vibration in me and I feel myself begin to resonate with everything around me. All of us, trees, rocks, birds, clouds, everything, is singing together and it feels perfect and healing to sing myself into that chorus.
And sanctuary is also about cloaks! (You hit the nail on the head!) When I need to restore my self because my self cannot sing or hear another song, the Great Mother wraps me in her cloak and hangs me from the stars like a great hammock, then rocks me, so I can find my Self. And in that deep soothing silence, I can hear the singing begin again
***My bear journey
took me deep into the mother earth into deep lava flows and molten rock..the "woman's ancient fire" the molten rock that births fertile soil, minerals, salts..message from the ancient volcanos..." do not be afraid of the earth changes, connect your root deeper into the raw life of the lava - your uterus, your ovaries, blood and water all that you create from, create again, create the new."
***"When we gathered in Circle last week, we batched our radiant hearts, bodies and voices and became sanctuary for ourselves and for Buffalo. In our presence we constellated a shamanic herd. With Iniskim guiding us we experienced evidence of Buffalo being heard. Inside the sanctuary that was our circle, we offered Buffalo a place to roam.
As Lori said "Buffalo spirits came forward out of the cloaks of silence." When we became a herd in vibration of Sanctuary, the buffalo in us "came out of the hills of our own shadows." We sang Buffalo down from the hills.
Many say we 'drop our cloak' when it is time to die. But the cloak that we dropped was the cloak of silence. Through our singing, our opening, our drumming, our ankle bracelets and the help of Bear, we created a template, our group spirit of sanctuary.
We did proactive mothering to welcome, call and anticipate Buffalo. Buffalo spirit returned, stepped back into the cloak, to roam in our room, our circle, and the Sanctuary we became. And still are, if we return to sanctuary to revivify ourselves and feed
the group sanctuary we created. I will keep singing, drumming, dancing and holding the vibration. "
So Sanctuary is something that Buffalo can learn from Bear. And singing is something that all can learn from Whale. And holding all the fragments together as one planet, one whole, is something that all can learn from Turtle. And Buffalo stands strong and returns."
**" And, as we hold this Template of HEALTH & PURE HEART & WHOLENESS OF INDIVIDUALITY AND COMMUNITY, we become the beacon of hope and change that the world is seeking and so desperately needing. As Carol said, everything Yearns for wholeness...by holding this Vibrational Sanctuary in our hearts and living it for
ourselves...other will see it is possible for themselves...and one by one...Oh, this reminds me of a song I just wrote for my angel project...
One by one we each add our piece,
Until a Tipping Point in this world is reached,
And I know this much, I do
We got Hope,
And that's Good
And that's True."
I want to thank the members of this
BearBuffalo Circle for sharing with the rest of us and allowing me to include their messages in this issue of Reflections.
May we each find Places of Re-memberment
May we each Be a Place of Re-memberment
May we Re-member Each and All..
For only then shall we Re-membered Be...
**This is a reminder that the workshop, Shamanism & Our 'Sheltered' Animal Companions
that Dan Jordinelli and I will be teaching in Los Angeles, takes place Sept. 11- 12.
If you are interested, please contact Pirkko Miller: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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
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.
P.S. We invite you to visit our Home Page to see if there are other shamanic activities listed there in which you might be interested.
Or if you wish to join in a Circle, check our Global Circles web page to see if there is one in your area. If not, then please start one because Circles can be powerful places of support for each of us on the shamanic