Reposted from Spiritbath.
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. . .
Bleakley, A. (1984). Fruits of the Moon Tree: The Medicine Wheel & Transpersonal Psychology. London: Gateway Books.
Wikipedia. (2011, April). Transpersonal Psychology. Retrieved from Wikipedia.
Things have been a little busy around the campfire these last few weeks, what with the holidays and all; and I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I’ve also made up my mind not to write something until I can’t NOT write it.
I had a gig a while back with a poetry group and for the first couple of years, the words came fast and easy. Of course, they were mostly crap…or, not so much crap as the scum you have to scrape off to get to the good stuff underneath.
I had a lot of help from a lot of friends, and even recorded a poetry cd with some buddies of mine back in Scranton. I was reading out quite a bit back then, and managed to headline a couple of times thanks to a very accommodating friend in Boston, where I met up with the president of a small record label. It was a lot of fun, and I was very blessed by the experience.
Eventually, though, the words ran dry (it was therapy anyway, so I more than got my money’s worth out of the 5 or 6 years that it lasted). Towards the end, my writing got forced and stilted. I caught myself sitting down and writing just to write, and when I took a good look at the drek I was churning out, I chucked all my written work (kept the cd’s though; I still have almost a thousand of them in the crawlspace), and made up my mind I would never write another word again unless I couldn’t keep myself from doing so. Consequently, my postings here are sometimes a bit erratic.
At any rate, I’ve been plowing through a lot of alternative press, conspiracy websites, and spiritual boards of late, and I started thinking about my recent experiences with my teacher and another group of students I’m working with. The concurrent student/teacher perspective on my part’s kind of interesting; infuriating sometimes, enlightening at others, but a definite blessing every step of the way. Not that we’re not always in that position every minute of our lives…I guess it’s just never been so formalized before. It’s kicking my ass one half of the time and patching it up the other.
So what struck me most about these boards is how easily certain bits of in-depth information get thrown around, and how quick some people are to diagnose based on a couple of sentences without so much as even a consultation. And while I won’t speak ill of another practitioner, it concerns me sometimes owing to the mercurial nature of the average chat board. Personal experience has taught me that one can never completely anticipate the motives of the person on the other end of the wire.
I also see a lot of questions about what people are charging for their services. I used to participate in these discussions, but lately something’s dawned on me. There are only two reasons someone would have for asking a question like this: 1) The person doesn’t trust in their own ability to ask the Creator (or their Guides) for an answer. Or 2) They have it in their mind to “undercut” you. Often they’ll swear that it’s only because they don’t want to charge too much – and they may really believe that’s the reason; but the unrealized or unspoken truth of the matter in this particular case is that it’s really number 1.
I’m not taking a stance on payment here. I agree we all need to eat and fill the gas tank more than occasionally, and for some of us the work is all there is.
I guess I just feel that the matter – and manner – of compensation is between the Creator, the practitioner, and the patient; like anything else we do when we’re called to serve. Seems to me if we can trust the Creator enough to glue a person’s psyche back together after a seriously traumatic event, we can probably also trust Him/Her/It enough to tell us how He/She/It will provide for us in the form of compensation. . .
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. . .