Not by works…

Posted in Compassion, Healing, Religion, Shamanism, Spirituality on October 15, 2014 by Standing West

(This blog stems from a conversation I’ve had with an Elder on my Facebook page…)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

The spirit of these words, given in order that we might learn humility, has been twisted to justify the killing, maiming, and raping of the World and her Peoples since they were codified. Who cares how I treat All My Relations, so long as I have faith?

How quickly we forget  these other words: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” …and it is with added shame that we’ve forgotten our neighbors don’t only come in the two-legged variety.  When the central theological dogma of your culture assures your “dominion over” everything, ANY form of nature reverence can be classified as sacrilege.  (Add that to a cultural vision based upon the consumption of resources, and it makes for a VERY dangerous worldview…]

I keep thinking lately of the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (a Jesuit, surprisingly, with some very “pagan” ideals):

“The World is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Written in 1918, it speaks with a voice at once much older, and yet VERY applicable to the condition of world of today…

Keeping Up…

Posted in Healing, prayer, Sun Moon Dance on October 7, 2014 by Standing West

I guess I should begin by saying that I’m a very blessed man.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything – except for my thesis and the occasional snarky (and in my humble opinion, devastatingly clever) e-mail or Facebook post – but sometimes I just get tired of the sound of my own voice and I have to let the echoes die down for a while before kicking the dust back up again.

I‘ve been involved in a lot of healing this year: both that of the people who’ve come to me and also my own; which exhibited itself in some illuminating – if not downright annoying – physical and emotional symptoms.  Still, it’s been a good and necessary ride.  And while the finish line for some of these things may finally be directly in sight, I’m also acutely aware that the deep work is just beginning.

Perhaps it’s my own ignorance, or perhaps it’s my faith in the Creator that brought me to this place, but I can honestly say that I don’t feel scared.  (I know, I know…this is the point where the veterans in the room shake their heads, smile, and whisper, “Poor bastard…”)  It’s not that I don’t expect there’ll be difficult times…I do.  And I fully realize that I CAN’T fully realize the severity of ANY healing experience headed my way.  It’s just that I’ve been praying for guidance for a long time now, and things finally seem to be moving in a certain direction…even though I may not be exactly certain what that direction is.

And maybe that’s the point.

Ever since the dance this past July, I’ve made it a practice whenever faced with a moment of anxiety or indecision to think of All My Relations, turn the matter over to a Higher Authority and ask, “What do They need?”

I‘ve also been repeating what a teacher of mine has referred to as a Warrior’s prayer.  Its simple humility both belies and accentuates its power.

I leave you with it in hopes that it may aid you should you need it.  And also perhaps to illustrate, if only to myself,  my willingness to enter gratefully into the next phase of this life, whatever that may be.

“Bring me everything I’m ready for; but no more than I can handle…”

7/31/2014

Posted in gardening, Healing, Initiation, Spirituality, yard work on July 31, 2014 by Standing West

Still alive.

Still digging.

Moles and bats keeping me company as I finish the yard work with the setting of the sun. Chopping wood. Picking tomatoes. Watering the raspberry canes. The strawberries are in and the garlic hangs in the crawlspace.

Attention turns to preparation for the long journey within. Shadowy things, for decades labelled “enemy” are finally called to dance their wisdom to the steady beat of the drum, while the body opens itself to the lesson.

Our elders are walking a little slower these days; backing away from the lodge and the sacred dance. The paths they’ve followed open earnestly before us; summoning our feet to their first few furtive steps…

The Heart of the Matter. . .

Posted in Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing, Shamanism, Soul Retrieval, Spirituality on April 23, 2014 by Standing West

Been doing a lot of forgiving these days. Making friends with some of the pettier bits and pieces of myself. Not condoning their actions, but accepting them with love and compassion born out of the realization that the person that existed at the time of the offense simply didn’t know any better.

It’s been really neat watching the changes that have occurred along the way; watching these formerly alienated pieces of myself take up residence in the empty spaces created by the flushing away of nearly ossified anger, fear, and shame.

The abandoned children, once confined to shivering on the front porch in the wind are finally being allowed to return home.

This is the true essence of Soul Retrieval. Not the ceremony. Not the journey. Not the rattle, nor the sage, nor the drum. It is  instead the welcoming back of those pieces of us long since taken away, and the promise of recognition upon their return…

For what it’s worth. . .

Posted in Compassion, Healing, Initiation, Shamanism, Spirituality on April 22, 2014 by Standing West

So much anger and hatred these days…Sadly, I, too, have fallen victim to it in the past. Being human, I quite probably will do so again somewhere down the line. But the truth of the matter, whether we’re ready to admit it or not, is that those of us who’ve been called “healers”, even with all of our human frailties intact, MUST strive to provide an example of forgiveness. We must remember that we are the conduits through which all work – positive or negative – becomes manifest. And while it would be very easy to get bogged down in the emotional detritus of the daily news and strike out in blind rage, we must be ready to walk the harder road of compassion…IN ACTION.

A teacher of mine once told me, “Never trust a healer who doesn’t limp.” Healing isn’t about perfection…it’s about progress…slow, incremental transformation. This means bearing compassionate witness to the old crap as it comes to the surface and allowing ourselves…and others…the sacred space in which to work it out.

Lately I’ve seen some very compassionate individuals become so enraged by the mistreatment of others that they, too, have begun to advocate violence. And while I cannot, or would not, offer them the disrespect of speaking for them, I truly know that their anger comes from a place of love, and a deep knowledge that IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS.

While protecting one’s self and loved ones is a necessary thing, it should be glaringly obvious by now that this world cannot be healed at the barrel of a gun. The so-called “War to End All Wars” proved that.

I don’t come here providing any answers. I only know that performing an act of of compassion is like casting a small pebble in hopes of starting an avalanche. Because the results might not be readily observed, this requires a great deal of faith; something which seems to be sorely lacking these days, if one truly accepts the apparent writing on the wall as cannon.

So perhaps the true nature of our mission then is simply this: to keep the guttering flame of faith alive in a time of apparent darkness and chilling wind, to utilize that flame through acts of compassion in a way that provides light and heat to others in the dark places of this world, and, when the time comes, to pass that flame along to those who come after us that they might do the same…

Mr. Happy Man

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2014 by Standing West

MHM

Mr. Happy Man

Reposted from Spiritbath.

Tales from the Crypt…

Posted in Healing, Initiation, Medicine Wheel, Shamanism, Spirituality on January 14, 2014 by Standing West

Wikipedia defines Transpersonal Psychology as a school of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. It is also possible to define it as a “spiritual psychology”. The Transpersonal has been defined as “experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos.”(Wikipedia, 2011)  Through this approach, one comes to view one’s healing not only in personal terms, but in terms of how one acts – and reacts – within the entirety of creation in ways ranging from the internal to the mytho-poetic.

In the forward to Alan Bleakley’s  insightful book, Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel  & Transpersonal Psychology,  Peter Redgrove talks about healing as the process of  “…becoming thin–skinned, like the shamans reported by Eliade, who have scraped and scraped the old skin off with pumice until they obtain visions of immediate truth.  The armor is off, and it is a brave man who dis-arms himself in this world.” (Bleakley, 1984)

I came to these words at a moment of relevance the other morning as I thumbed through the book passing the time before my first appointment with the Elder who facilitates our monthly sacred drumming circle. These circles are a source of wisdom and a wellspring of powerful and often deeply cathartic release.  Although we are taught various techniques and theories associated with the drum, we are mostly encouraged to do our own work, and to provide compassionate witness and support for the other members of the group.

During my individual session with our teacher, he commented on the fact that I build a wall around myself in the presence of the group, and how that wall prevents me from experiencing the type of healing release I’m hovering just at the edge of.  I agreed with him, and committed myself to be more aware of it the next time it occurred. 

As I arrived home after the session, I pulled into the driveway only to find that the wall surrounding the flower bed in front of our house had partially collapsed due to the heavy rains we’d been experiencing.  Obviously, there were larger forces at work.

At our circle the following day, I took notice as my personal walls came up, and made a focused effort to bring them down. As I decided to place myself completely in Spirit’s hands, I was aware of the loving presence of Mother Bear placing her huge paws on my shoulders and drawing me into her warmth.  This has happened several times, and so I knew that something important was about to occur.

As we started to drum, the Elder instructed us to go deeply within, and to free ourselves of those things which no longer served us.  Within minutes, my head tilted back and a series of deep growls arose from inside me.  The growling changed into laughter, then tears, then back into growling. As he reminded us to focus on our breathing, a spell of dry heaves shook my body.  These finally subsided as the drumming died down.  I was altered and tired, but also aware that I’d stumbled across an old wound hidden in the darkness and opened it up to receive the light of healing.

Turning again to Bleakley: “The unacknowledged and unknown is the dark part of us, our other self (wyrd) or shadow, the part that we are to become or individuate to.  The wyrd is then our destiny, which is open to choice.  Because it is unacknowledged or remains unconscious, the shadow naturally distorts and disables, and then carries ‘negative’ content…To raise this to the light, or to descend with illumination and enlightenment to our ‘other’ part, our depths, is a task for which we have many guidelines from older psychologies such as mythology, fairy tale, legend, and alchemy…” (Bleakley, 1984)

While this was by no means a resolution to years of psychic damage brought on by living in an impoverished household with an emotionally abusive and binge alcoholic father, it was undoubtedly an important step in the Wounded Healer’s Journey.

When I returned to the book a couple days later, I came across the following: “In the first chapter we argue that the shadow, as vulnerability or wound is also opportunity in disguise, a gift.  And that the receiving of a wound by the male hero in myth, usually a goring by a boar in the left ‘thigh’ is parallel to the ‘given’ but ‘hidden’ menstrual wisdom of women.  If the wound is left as openness in character, a place where feeling and value ‘speak’ directly, rather than closed over prematurely, then we may engage with the shadow through this wound, and in this, energy is released for creative application.”  (Bleakley, 1984)

As I type these words, I’m reminded of the oval shaped birthmark on my own left thigh.  I see the healing that has already taken place, and recognize that a good deal of work still lies ahead of me.  I find strength in this, and I know that facing whatever I need to will only further prepare me to serve as a vessel and compassionate witness for the healing of All My Relations. . .

Sources:

Bleakley, A. (1984). Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel & Transpersonal Psychology. London: Gateway Books.

Wikipedia. (2011, April). Transpersonal Psychology. Retrieved from Wikipedia.

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