The circles are growing smaller these days.
Autumn with its darker mysteries brings a need for slowing down. Even the blood seems to thicken as Grandfather Short Tail prepares himself for the slow, purposeful crawl into darkness where, through dream journeys and quiet solitary work, he’ll shed the bulk he’s gathered and step forward once again into the light of a new day after the initiation of his healing.
We, too, sometimes, must lose the things we’ve gathered: emotional ties sustained for naught but reasons of perceived security; the burdens of friendships that no longer serve, or drag us back to places left behind; old habits crumpled up and tossed in a pile like clothing that no longer fits, but kept because of the comfort it provides.
Autumn is a time of difficult questions, and often, more difficult answers.
The ground, much like our own life path, is strewn with dead and dying reminders of greener times cast off. Sometimes we are saddened by this; and yet we might take comfort in the knowing that this casting away of dying things not only nourishes the roots of our existence, but opens space for a new and deeper greening once the snows of winter have subsided.
It is our clinging to these things that holds us back; our fear of leaving the closeness of our cave to gaze in childlike wonder upon the light of new and stranger visions.
Perhaps we tell ourselves that we’re too old. Or else we fear the lack of financial stability. While our years have taught us to weigh our responsibilities, our culture has taught us to bind our feet with them. And so we stumble from one extreme to the other, and this stumbling invariably becomes our initiation.
We might lose faith and walk away from it all, or bury ourselves in the security of the material. We might become short-sighted, and convince ourselves that it isn’t worth the effort. Or perhaps we’ll simply offer it up, and soldier through for the good of All Our Relations – placing ourselves in the hands of the Creator, and fervently allowing things to be as they are.
My own path has provided no easy answers. Old attachments still get the better of me. In this, I’m reminded of the child still learning to walk whose bruises tell of many misadventures, and also of once more rising to his feet – walking is, after all, a series of interrupted falls.
The nights grow longer. A brisk wind shakes clean the stiffening branches. And in the gathering shadows, a lumbering Old Man of the Forest takes stock of his provisions in preparation for the sacred work ahead. . .
One can only scratch one’s head and wonder…
“There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving. . .”
“Stairway to Heaven”
In a recent blog, I wrote about my feelings of deep distress over the prospect of war in Syria and the subsequent signs I was given that brought me to a state of peace about the whole affair. If the healing path and my studies of the Medicine Wheel have taught me anything, it’s that there are larger forces at play in the physical world; and that those forces will readily communicate with us if we simply open ourselves up and allow it to happen.
Quite often, the messages are anything but subtle, and shake us to the very core of our being. Other times they bring with them a quiet sense of assurance. Laid out before us like the tracks of some illusive animal, they provide a trail for us to follow through the confusion and uncertainty of life. One learns to watch for these signs – not to force them, or assemble them out of unrelated events – but to notice them as they appear; and to act upon them with gratitude and resolution.
I’ll set the stage for this blog by saying that I did not watch President Obama’s speech as it happened the other night. I planned, instead, to watch it online in the morning. As I came downstairs, I was greeted by a news blurb stating that he’d decided, albeit half-heartedly, to back off temporarily in favor of diplomacy, stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin had proposed a plan calling for the Syrian government to hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons. I’ll admit that although I felt a great relief upon hearing this news, a small part of me couldn’t help but wonder what Putin was hiding. Surely, as those responsible for the online alternative news sites I frequent would admit, there must be something buried beneath this gesture.
I dismissed this flash of cynicism, and decided for once to accept things at face value. Russia and America, whose recent relationship could be described as chilly at best, were sitting down together and discussing peaceful alternatives in the Middle East – something millions of people worldwide had been crying out for.
As I kissed my wife at the door and stepped out onto the front porch I was greeted by the raucous cawing of a crow perched atop my next door neighbor’s chimney. As quickly as I noticed them, his cries faded into silence, only to be replaced by the honking of a flock of geese breaking the tree line north of the house and zooming southwards, directly over my head towards the chimney and the now silent crow. It was a flock of perhaps twenty or so, each shouting its own message; and yet I was aware of some concerted effort in the sound. As the garrulous noise and snapping of wings receded, I knew that I had been given another sign.
Crow has somewhat of a reputation for being a trickster. This makes him, in a sense, a feathered cousin of Coyote. He is often portrayed as a liar and a thief; and yet, as Ted Andrews tells us in his wonderfully insightful book Animal Speak, Crow’s imperative squawking marks him as a messenger, reminding us “to look for opportunities to create and manifest the magic of life.” (Andrews, 1996) A jet black presence loudly announcing himself from the height of his Southern perch, Grandfather Crow was shouting at me about the darker things afoot in the world. His griping was a litany of conflict, aggression, fear, and opposition; all of the negative aspects of the South. And yet, he was also reminding me about the fact that these things can change.
When the flock of geese appeared I was reminded of a discussion I had with an Elder who gifted me with a couple of goose feathers for holding a pipe ceremony at his Medicine Wheel. He taught me that regardless of the number of geese in a flock, or how many of them were simultaneously honking, one could still recognize the individual calls of each goose. We also talked about how if one goose drops out of formation due to sickness or exhaustion, another leaves the flock and travels with it, staying with it until the point of death or recovery. Then one or both resume their journey until they return to their original flock.
Goose, then, was showing me that the voices of millions crying out in unison against military action had been heard. In that moment, the call for opposition had been silenced.
And who, more appropriately to lead us out of conflict and into potential resolution than Mother Bear herself, through the agency of a man whose nation is represented by that very animal. Bear sits in the direction of the West, the place of sacred work, of the coming together of opposites, and of rising up on our own two legs and, after a time of descent into the darkest places of our own souls, walking forward into the light of a brand new day.
It may seem to some a bit naive to take this view of so a critical situation. But regardless of personal or national agendas, the missiles would not launch. The messengers of that morning spoke of a greater potential, set the vision of a healing path before us, and dared us to walk it for the greater good of All. . .
“There is a light that never goes out…”
I have to admit that yesterday this whole issue with Syria had me feeling more than a little outgunned – no pun intended. And while I’ve heard all the words before about “labor pains” and “shift of the Ages”; and said them to others countless times, it all got to be just a little too much to take. We’re standing on the brink of World War III, the media seems to be changing its focus from “IF” to “WHEN”, and the biggest concerns of the day appear to be what Miley Cyrus did on the MTV Awards, and why Ben Affleck shouldn’t be cast as the new Batman.
So, yeah…let’s just say I wasn’t in the greatest of moods by the time I got home last night.
I typically work late on Wednesdays, so there’s not a lot of time for much of anything besides catching up with my wife and crawling into bed. Last night, however, I decided to soak in the tub and read a bit first. My mom was a firm believer in the fact that a hot bath could cure just about anything, and thankfully, she passed that belief onto me.
I got about 20 pages into Gregg Braden’s “The Isaiah Effect” – my second reading of the book in preparation for my Master’s Thesis – when I felt the need to set the book aside to pray for a while. I began to pray about the situation in Syria, and as I mentioned the word “darkness”, the power suddenly went out due to a heavy thunder storm that was passing through. I sat there completely unfazed by the absence of light. I continued to pray, and asked for a sign that the light of clarity would be brought to leaders of the world during these difficult times. Immediately my prayers were interrupted by a knock at the door, and my wife came in carrying a lit candle and a flashlight with a bright blue beam.
As she stopped to talk, the scenario took on a deeper meaning.
There is no need to fear the darkness of these times. We must remain calm and centered, and allow the Divine Feminine to re-enlighten us; to bring balance to the overly masculine tendencies of our culture, as represented by the blue light – the color of Father Sky and the Divine Masculine.
The answers are there for us if we’re open to receiving them. In order to transcend these times, we must find the courage to walk through the darkness. And we must also remember that no matter what happens, as long as one of us is willing to carry Spirit’s light, it will never go out. . .
How can one find proper words to adequately describe the opening of one’s heart?
In healing work – especially when dealing with intrusions of a spiritual nature – one learns quickly that one must take precautions to guard one’s self against possible invasion – or worse yet, possession. One calls upon one’s Allies for protection, and steps forward into the abyss trusting that they will be there when they are needed.
For such a practitioner, the opportunity to open completely and without concern is more than a gift…it is a blessing; and such was the blessing I received in the arbor at the Sun / Moon dance.
I became aware, as my hands first touched the Tree, of a downward flow of energy, like a steady but gentle rain, entering my heart. This divinely feminine energetic movement is what Grandfather Joseph refers to as “The Descending Light”.
As I turned from the tree, I felt the energy flowing outward from a heart filled almost beyond capacity, and entering the entirety of Creation, that the People might live.
From Thursday evening until the Dance was called on Sunday morning, I experienced this inhalation and exhalation of love every time I approached and left the solitary Maple at the center of the arbor. And while the intensity and beauty of such a thing cannot be captured by words alone, its true impact continues to express itself from day to day in the simplest of revelations, one of which I will now share with you.
A couple of days after the dance, my wife and I sat down at the table to eat. We held hands, as we always do, and bowed our heads in silent gratitude for those who sacrificed to bring the meal to our table. We’ve done this for pretty much every meal we’ve eaten together, but this time it dawned on me that partaking of this meal was dancing to the Tree to receive the Descending Light; and that our actions, fueled by its energy, were simply that light flowing out into the Universe for the greatest good of All Our Relations. I also understood that the difference between the flowing in and flowing out was simply a matter of perspective, and that one could in no way exist without the other. Outward and inward, giving and receiving, Masculine and Feminine: all these impulses depended merely upon one’s location in the process. One claims nothing. One is simply the gateway through which the energy flows; the lens through which the Divine Light is focused.
Realizing this, one learns to see the world in a different way. One’s occupation with the darker energies begins to dissipate. One certainly is still aware – and needs to be – of the negative forces at work within the world; but now instead of obsessively railing against them, one begins to perceive them simply as places into which the Light has yet to flow. And having understood this, one comes to know one’s self as Blessed for having been chosen as a vessel of that Light…