I'm beginning this issue of Reflections with the arrival of the Autumn Equinox, Sept 23, which this year coincides with a Full Moon upon the land.
I had planned to write this earlier but September 15 was my husband's 80th birthday. I wrestled with two desires: writing and sending this Reflections in early September and planning some celebration to mark my partner's completion of 80 years on Planet Earth and moving into his ninth decade. I could not do both. Of course, this is not a conflict in purpose because expressing love of another is the very core of shamanism - however 'another' is defined. I love my husband and our relationship permeates every aspect of my life. And writing these Reflections to share early each month is an act of love for my shamanic community.
The inability to do both
writing of this issue and celebration of his birthday simply reminds me of two realities:
I am definitely not a multitasker!
Serious writing requires whatever time is necessary for shaping with language, the whisperings from Spirit I receive while working on these monthly Reflections.
I chose to honor that event that comes only once, if at all, in a person's life: namely reaching eighty years of living. For this occasion, Bob invited his circle of close friends to join in celebration. We began with each person sharing the first time they met Bob and continued with drumming, singing, Bob's playing the flute, feasting and simply wonderful togetherness. At one point, Bob read from an essay by Henry Miller. A portion of that essay spoke strongly to me and so I share:
"If at eighty... You still enjoy a good walk, a good
meal (wth all the trimmings), if you can sleep without first taking a pill, if birds and flowers, mountains and seas still inspire you, you are a most fortunate individual and you should get down on your knees morning and night and thank the good Lord for his savin' and keepin' power... If you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you've got it half licked... "
Now that was Henry Miller speaking in his eighties and Bob reading it to the rest of us as he marked his 80th year. The reason I share this is because at some point while he was reading the essay, I remember thinking to myself:
"This is one reason I practice shamanism." That is, those behaviors to which he confers the gift from staying and saving are ones that my shamanic practice cultivates. If I'm allowed to live
into my 80th year, I hope to gather my friends from the Walk and consciously shamanize from first light to midnight!
And, of course, every one of us present, gave some thought to our own aging for the majority of us had entered our sixties or seventies. And in the company of other walkers of this path, I realized how much my private practice and my public work in shamanism are the major source of joy in my life.
Thus when I entered my cottage this morning to work on this Reflections, I recognized how much this writing is my way of being in spiritual service---especially during a time when extensive travels can be incompatible with my own needing to be home more than in previous years. This, in turn, has led me to consider how best I might share gifts from the road of these last twenty plus years. I also consider the men and women I have met in our shamanic community who are stepping forth as
both shamanic practitioners and teachers and whom I seek to support. I wonder:
"Are there any experiences I might share that have empowered my own teaching or led me to some new understanding of shamanic community and Circling itself."
I marvel that such thoughts preoccupy me at this Autumn Equinox for surely am I raising issues of Balance in many areas of my life. My enjoyment of pursing this issue of Balance is heightened by the presence of Full Moon during the usual hours of 'darkness'. In this brief period of time, the Dance in the Sky might be titled: "Darkening of Light and Lighting of the Dark" because Moon here has created an elegant silvery landscape within which the shapes of all things can be seen. And already Sun's power has shifted as we begin experiencing that particular cast of Light that indicates Autumn is arriving.
night I wandered along our garden path 'til I came to the place where I could see Moon in her fullness close and clearly. Looking upward I then found GrandmotherBear nestled and sleeping in the arc of the right side... .the sky was so clear I could trace the slump of her shoulders, the curve of her neck, the arms enfolded while her eyes looked down toward Earth.
Huge swelling pleasure expanded my whole being and I thanked her for returning 'one more time' for She had appeared to a Circle in mid-July and in that returning, She shaped the whole course of our time together. From Her original story others flowed 'till the landscape of humans re-membering was covered with murals of stories into which we could step. I could hear the group chanting to her: "Remember me, remember us - We will remember you, we will remember you" ---- a chanting echoing thousands and thousands of years of human voices
filling the space 'tween Earth and Sky, Above and Below - a Sound Bridge from Here to Elsewhere and Elsewhere to Here...
And standing outside last night, I felt the first hints of Autumn stir the air. Considering what to write, I could not help but travel backward to March, to the Spring Equinox and wonder:
"What teachings and experiences, among so many during these months, were most valuable in helping me walk with Balance; assisting me to appreciate both Light and Dark without and within."
The Road from Spring to Fall Equinox
While musing thus, I began discovering a common thread weaving a seeming disparate and wide variety of journeys from Spring through Fall. I discover, too, that there is a theme to these travels that I'd not seen
before - as though DreamMaker had laid down a shamanic map that I'd be using and I would not truly know this Map until the last journey or retreat of the Spring, Summer, and Autumn seasons. It may be that all of us pursue seemingly new experiences in a year yet, if we retrospect these, we would find that we are creatures of certain habits manifested in where we send ourselves exploring during certain phases of the year.
For example, I realize that my most focused shamanic work with others begins in late Spring. By the end of Autumn, I have withdrawn myself into my own version of hibernation - not to emerge again until the following March or April. In other words, my teaching and 'public' shamanic work is bracketed between the two Equinoxes. Winter Solstice finds me deep within Home whereas Summer Solstice finds me outside my physical sanctuary of Home... on the road, teaching and exploring with others in shamanic community.
I also discovered that
over the years, I had arranged my schedule so that my shamanic retreats would assist me in shifting from personal to public engagements. For example, these past twelve years I've begun my Outward Shamanic year by retreating with a Circle of Women Healers; then the public Shamanic year concludes with another retreat for myself eg. this year's end-of-October ElderBear Clan gathering in Arizona.
These two retreats have one primary purpose: to shift the balance within me from self to others and then to self. Obviously every day requires shifting in this way... as do months, seasons, and years... and the shamanic path challenges us to learn this dance of self-and-others so as not to neglect either focus and to take the necessary time to nourish both.
Thus my first stepping forth in Spring was to take myself into Circle with others within which we would focus on whatever visions were seeded during Winter and called for our collaborative explorations. The
only expense involved for this gathering is our lodging and food. Beginning my year this way allows for me to begin coming to re-member myself in Circle with others whereas my Winter months were in Circle with Home, Partner, Canine Companion, and the Land within which we live. As I move from this Spring retreat, I have awakened my relationship with Spirit and particular Powers that are the source and strength for my teaching in the approaching months.
There is a different re-membering that occurs with my last Circle gathering sometime in the Fall. I'm aware upon entering that Circle, that I carry a Basket of Shamanic Memories that were created between Spring and Autumn Equinox. This particular gathering allows me time for shifting through those memories and noting what harvest have I gathered. And from within this Harvest, what seeds shall I carry into the Transforming and Trans-shaping months of Winter hibernation.
The Harvest Basket of Shamanic Memories
These past six months of teaching have included exploring in areas I've not done before---and there were powerful, sometimes heart-shaking, experiences that I did not have time to truly integrate before moving to the next retreat on my schedule. I now feel quite plump... like some large Summer Squash to be harvested and eaten before it splits. So before my last Circle in October, with the ElderBear Clan, I'm moving my hands carefully within this Basket. If I can give name to certain experiences and sift through for the essentials, not only do I grow in more soul-consciousness, but I have inner space to cultivate seeds and dreams implanted between the Equinoxes.
We owe it to ourselves to take these times for exploring our Baskets of Shamanic Memories. Such Mind-full reflection assists us in finding which among our many experiences will be Memories and which contain the
seeds of our next growth, our own evolution on this path. Noting the heretofore Unknown, yet now experienced, can provide the intentions or impetus for Winter shamanic journeys.
And when we pause between the waves of the seasons, we can sometimes perceive that Spirit was directing our walk and themes emerged that can only be known at the end of all our seasonal journeys. The conscious knowing of these can then provide a Map for how we do ourselves with the choices we make for where we go, what studies we undertake, or how we pace our months in service and studies.
Then we have the option to align our intuition with our consciousness; this alignment often can result in making choices that nourish the wholeness of who we are becoming and move ourselves beyond the boundaries of what we know. If we don't gift ourselves with time for reflection, we may find we are simply covering the same ground in our traveling seasons and wonder why our shamanic
practice doesn't seem to expand or maybe grows repetitious.
Above all, our capacity for curiosity is one of our defining human gifts. As with all gifts, it can be received and used or unwrapped and then put aside. We nourish our curiosity when we pause to reflect: "What were these journeys all about?" And there's the ageless wisdom embedded in the understanding that we are compelled to repeat those experiences we have not understood or integrated within ourselves.
Do We choose the season or does the season choose Us?
It wasn't until I began musing, for this issue of Reflections, that I found myself wondering if my months of teaching were somehow actually related to the arrival of the Equinoxes.
In shamanic seasonal ceremonies, I have focused most of my
extended attention on the Summer and Winter Solstices----partly, I think because of the high drama in the Sky as Sun informs us just how dependent we are on Sun's movement overhead - of the dance between Sun and Earth. And there has always been something particularly powerful with the Winter Solstice----that time of praying for Return of the Light. Our very bodies seep pleas of mercy while our hands form prayers beseeching Sun to Return.
There is an acute sense of reckoning in the days just preceding Winter Solstice. We manifest this Knowing by creating Calendars that announce the Birth of any and all Light-giving humans or avatars as occurring at this time of the year---the actual date of birth is secondary. At least a major reason for doing this is our universal agreement that the arrival of Light-Offering Beings is most needed in the time of deepest Darkness.
It is not that I ignored the
issue of the Balance of Light and Dark Powers manifested with the Equinoxes. But these are subtle movements in the Sky and require my conscious attention to attend them and assess their meaning in my daily walk.
So here's a gift for me in the fact I was not able to write this Reflections until the third week of September. Whether teaching or writing, I always begin any shamanic process by noting where I am in the changing seasons. Until this week, I had not truly appreciated how the months I chose within which to teach workshops or retreats were ones aligned with those Seasons when all within the Northern Hemisphere, is likewise emerging, birthing, flourishing, and then turns to reseeding itself in the Cold Maker months.
I had not paid close attention to the fact that I was being led by Nature's own rhythms. It would be easy to think my scheduled was done according to available times at some
particular retreat center or travel times when weather events did not lend themselves to canceled flights and/or hazardous driving for all who would be participating in a particular workshop. What I did know, however, was that as I made my plans, I would listen to my inner knowing to see what available dates, at some particular place, 'felt right' and from this sense of rightness, make my choices.
Autumn's Pull Towards Withiness
My reflections about this time between Spring and Autumn Equinox prompted me to pull out my teaching journals over the last twenty years. I wanted to see how long it took me in my shamanic walk to develop this rhythm of going outward and returning to within; of recognizing that my work seemed to prosper more when I taught between early Spring and late Fall; and then took myself off the road to a more private and solitary practice at home.
a prayer I made at Blacktail Ranch in the early-nineties in which I made agreement with Spirit to go 'wherever called.' The years from 1993 - 1998 were busy times teaching in every month of the year. Then in Winter 1999, I have a journal entry in which I promise to myself 40 days of withdrawal from the public arena; during those 40 days I rediscovered my poetic self, and that Winter proved a time of deep revisioning of my work - a reassessment through many journeys of what I was doing in my shamanic practice. Learned to better troll the River of Dreaming. This trolling involved discerning within the currents what were the themes and issues for the broad shamanic community so that my work did not focus only on methods but on the shamanic issues that were surfacing during the Present Times.
And since the year 2000, I have continued with this time of Winter's withdrawal and Spring's emergence in terms of my public self. What began as a forty day period of
quiet became five months of renewal within the Sanctuary of Home and Land.
I can see it took me years to learn the importance of taking time apart from teaching workshops or leading retreats. I had to wrestle with those dark internal forces that would tempt me to think I must always be "on" or I would lose my way and, perhaps, even be forgotten; those Shadow whispers that if one takes time just for one's self, when one returns there is no one to greet you. Your friends have moved on to relationships wherein others are readily available. But the deepest fear was that Spirit would desert me were I not in continual service to the other humans with whom I share this planet. I feared that visions would no longer come and the power of dreaming would wither were I to take substantial time apart. Then, of course, there's the demon of comparison-to-others that rises up taunting: "The other teachers whom you admire teach week after week all year long. What's wrong with
Yet my shamanic journey invariably kept shaping, reshaping, and pressing me to bend my knees for walking about ONLY when such walking was synchronous with how Spirit worked with me as a specific being and not as I might imagine I should be.
I can now see it took ten years of 'shaping journeys' for me to finally arrive with confident footsteps when I move through these portals called Solstices and Equinoxes. And with this specific Autumn Equinox, I give myself the week before and the week afterward for meditation and journeying. The purpose of these is to sift through the Basket of Memories and once sifted, to carry certain seeds consciously into these coming, fertile, dark months before the Equinox of Spring arrives.
We each have these seasons of our soul's different work activities and I encourage us, if we have not already, to do what's required to thus know ourselves... from such knowing, shall we prosper and experience real Balance in
WinterThreads in Summer's Landscape
As noted above, many seasons passed before I realized that time alone required extended periods known not in a few hours or by some daily practice but known by extended cycles of sleep and wakefulness so that Spirit and my Helpers could seep into the minutiae of my days and reveal to me the Holiness of daily life and how to live in community with other Beings around me.
In the middle of July, I became so aware that my Winter rounds with the Birds here, within our Land, are the source for my confident friendships with other Birds I meet in those many journeys away from my home. The feathered Ones I met during that retreat seemed to draw close as though they scented me as one who moved often among their distant kin.
During an intense time of questing mid-July, from seemingly nowhere and on different days and places,
three Eagle feathers came to ground while I was walking. In joy I could share with others that maybe, just maybe, we were on the 'right track' for the Feathered One of Visioning had left three different messages that perhaps we were being En-visioned.
Yet this joyful confidence had its roots in Autumn and Winter because, in those months apart within our Land, part of my explorations involves tracking the nesting Golden Eagles here and noting that, at least on Rabbits Run Rd, they always seemed to appear when shamanic ceremonies, eg. as the Winter Solstice, were taking place. Since most of their time is spent high in the Sky, riding the wind, when they do come close they exhibit clear intention. Of course, I don't know their intentions; I only know they seem invariably to approach when the activities Below are woven with high aspirations.
Although I was elsewhere when the Eagle feathers came to ground before me, I'm inclined to think to there was some connection to the behavior of those Eagles that takes place with the Eagles of Rabbits Run. I certainly don't think that these behaviors are intended for me as a single individual or 'gifts for Carol' but rather messages and omens for the humans- & other creatures of the Land--we make of them what we will---yet I prefer to see what relationship might exist between such events in nature and our explorations at the same time - synchronicity has always intrigued shamanic peoples.
Likewise tracking the changing appearances of leaf and seed during Winter here, leads to an uninterrupted conversation when meeting the many Plant Beings within other Lands and Places. Stones in Winter here reflect the Light from Sun and shape the flow of Winter Rains while seldom moving from their given spot.
There are specific stones here within the Land that have been my finest teachers in the art of conversing with any given stone.
And water here, by the time first rain approaches, quenches such a deep thirst that has developed among all inhabitants-a thirst we share in common - a gratitude noted by song from all around after first rain has washed away the accumulate dust from Spring, Summer and Fall for these are seasons receiving scarcely any rain at all. Winter finds us mapping temperature and rainfall since the previous Winter Solstice. Keeping these records for almost three decades has developed an attentiveness to other places.
Preparations for my workshops always involve some understanding of the climate ecology within which we will be Circling. Without consciously intending this, I recognize that this habit has resulted in an informed appreciation for concerns related to global
warming. Just as Winter finds me tracking changes in weather patterns, I also gather the year's experiences-and those within Winter itself - and seek to perceive what is birthing in my own shamanic practice and what is being birthed within the extended shamanic community.
Certainly I pick up clues during all the months yet the quiet, meditative Winter time allows for understandings achieved only through prolonged reflection.
Listening to my fellow shamanic walkers, I'm aware there are differences among us in terms of what Seasons seem to quench the thirst of our Souls; what seasons seem to bring wakefulness to our Bodies and a specific acuity to our Minds. There are differences in how much time we choose for solitude or times for active engagement with others. What's important is to listen deeply to our very Selves so that we walk with Balance in our lives. That's the invitation and the reminder in the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. To listen and
ensure that the richness of our very Selves is cultivated and we tend the garden of our Souls.
My hope is that by sharing my seasonal cycles, I may prompt attention to some issues that might be useful to others of us---or might lend support to those who wrestle with the issue of how much time can I take for myself while still practicing service to the Whole.
Dying in Spring & Birth in Fall
The Spring Equinox of this year also found me, and others, grieving for the loss of a dear, much loved friend and teacher. Among other items, he left for me a carved Wood Bear that now abides just to the side of our living room doorway - welcoming those who come & keeping watch over those within... I see so clearly this Bear in Paul's living room... and there, too, Bear was a Greeter and Guardian. So I began my teaching year focused on trauma within the Land (SSP Conference)
and the loss of a much cherished friend.
And several weeks after the August Philadelphia Circle, I received an email from someone who found my name through Googling the Web. Basically she was distressed because the position of her fetus indicated a breech birth and she had placed her hopes and planning on natural child birth. She wanted shamanic help for 'adjusting the situation' or whatever shamanic help might be offered to help her; a Caesarean had been scheduled for the next week.
Sitting quietly with her letter, I suddenly felt and saw MotherBear appear in Her immense compassionate presence. She showed me how She was specifically holding the child within the womb and a protective auric field around the mother.
To this woman herself, I could only share that I, as a shamanic practitioner, could not speak to the 'mechanical' shifting of the fetus yet I did share my experience in seeing MotherBear, Human Mother and Child altogether. The primary
message: both you and child are being cared for-you can trust in that reality. That same day I receive a response---she had dreamed earlier of Bear, took enormous comfort in what I 'saw'; and we continued with some brief emails.
What moved me so deeply was her letter, several days later, describing the unexpected breaking of her waters, the rush to the hospital, the 'presence of MotherBear' while in the ambulance, and her sensing of Bear as they wheeled her into surgery. As was discovered, this surgery saved the life of the infant for the fetus was squeezing the umbilical cord and the baby would have died had they arrived later or even in attempting natural child birth. Sometimes I am hesitant to share shamanic perceptions or visions with someone I don't know... and I can feel most cautious
when in what appears to be a precarious physical situation. Yet I felt it was important to describe my 'vision' to her; it was one of those times when we simply have to trust that we are meant to see and to share without knowing the actual reason.
During our email correspondence, I would look at 'Paul's Bear' dwelling in my living room... at a painting I have of a Female Bear suckling an infant Bear at her right breast and a infant human at her left breast... and make prayer that this great Mothering Power continue to hold this woman and the child seeking to come into this world, to this Earth.
So all together, May, June, July, August, and September found me meeting Spring with the loss of a friend and greeting September in the birth of this child... with MotherBear at the beginning and the end... the passage of time threaded through her paws.
I'm aware that these notes are permeated with a sense of time's passage... .whether in referring to
Seasons, years, or even a specific age (80). Yet in the midst of this, my twentieth year of leading workshops in shamanism, the primary gift between the Equinoxes was learning how to teach with a Beginner's Mind. From such Mind-fulness was I led to the roots of shamanism - seeming to see the Tree of Life for the first time.
I will write from the Beginner's Mind in October's Reflections. I prefer to close this issue honoring that arc in the Universe that holds the Dance between Sun and Earth from Equinox to Equinox, mid-Spring to mid-Autumn, Below and within this Arc the Land is washed in colors exotic, is wonderfully fruited, lively with young and shaped by Trans-formations unending.
So blessed are we that these markers of Balance bracket such stunning beauty.
Blessings of Autumn
& the Gifts of Harvest,
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