Archive for the Coyote Category

Signs. . .

Posted in Coyote, Crow, Goose, Medicine Wheel, Middle East, Shamanism, Syria, visions on September 12, 2013 by Standing West

“There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving. . .”

“Stairway to Heaven”
-Led Zeppelin

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. . .

Coyote Shuffle…

Posted in ceremony, Coyote, prayer, Spirituality, sweat lodge on January 8, 2013 by Standing West

Many ups and downs these last few weeks, initiated with the solstice. A heavy sweat with Grandfathers breathing ancient medicine and fire, as Coyote dips and splashes our prayers to the Creator.

He guides us as children: never in a demeaning way, but with ample love and humor.

Tears flow with my first prayer and continue on and off over the course of the lodge, mingling with my life-water and the flowing river of Tiwa.

When the flap is opened a final time and we exit Mother’s belly, he takes hold of my hand and with an expression of pure compassion says only, “Bless you.”

It is a gift to share the inipi with this man. . .

This, Too, Shall Pass. . .

Posted in Coyote, dreams, Inspirational, Journeying, Shamanism, Spirituality, visions on June 19, 2012 by Standing West

During a journey the other day, I found myself in the presence of a circle of Elders.  The air was filled with a heavy sense of purpose.  It was obvious that the Ancient Ones had called me here to stand in the presence of Power.  The oldest Grandfather handed me an Eagle feather, and presented me with a ritual I would need to perform every day for the next 31 days.

Immediately a litany of excuses tore through my mind.  Surely there wasn’t enough time for me to perform the ritual before work.  I get up at 4:00 every day as it is.  And I certainly couldn’t do it after work.  There were books to read for my classes and patients to journey for.  I stood there absolutely powerless as these and other equally invalid objections raced through my head.

The feather was taken away as quickly as it had been offered.  The Elders continued watching me without judgment. Next an ornate wooden cup was placed on the ground before me.  The cup was filled with a shiny liquid, so black it reflected everything in the lodge.  Without hesitation I took the cup and raised it to my lips, draining it nearly to the bottom.  I emptied the remaining liquid upon the ground as an offering to Spirit, and I heard the voice of the Elder who’d initially handed me the feather.

“The path of the Visionary is not for you.  Instead, you will walk the path of the Healer.” 

Upon hearing these words, I was filled with a sense of place.  There was no regret at my initial resistance to the offering of the feather and its required rituals.  Instead, I felt as if I’d finally arrived.  I knew now the direction my life would take, and for the first time, I felt my spirit exhale.

I thanked them for their teachings, and left them with gifts of food, tobacco, skins, and a sacred pipe.

During a second journey that day I was given a healing song by an Ancestor Spirit.  The Elders, it seemed, had more than made good on their word.

As the week wore on, this sense of purpose continued, and I began to feel detached from the usual distractions around me.  It was as if I’d left a good portion of my attention “over there”.

Enter: Coyote.

In his breakneck, howling, and often infuriating way, Coyote invites us to dance with the darkness of our souls.  His tauntings and misdirections often flood those murkier parts of ourselves with the light of our own awareness; calling upon us to examine them closely, and challenging us to accept these things as part and parcel of who and what we are.

Last Saturday, the Ragged-Assed One decided to send me a teaching in my dreams.  I was standing in the bathroom, and discovered that I had blood in my urine.  I decided to ignore it, but further attempts yielded the same results. As I couldn’t deny it any further, I instead decided to pay attention to it, and immediately observed the swirls of red and yellow blending together.

I awoke, writing it off as a “crazy dream”.  Yet something about it had unsettled me to the point where I found myself snapping at my wife. There was no logical reason for my outburst.  We hadn’t argued or found ourselves at odds in any way.

No, this energy was flowing from a deeper source.

As I tried to push it aside, a rage welled up inside me, followed by a heavy sense of confusion as to where it was coming from.  Finally, unable to locate the source of this emotion, I decided it would be better off if I just embraced it and sat with it for a while.

In that moment, the dream came rushing back.  Yellow: the color of the East, and place of vision.   Red: the color of the South, and place of emotion.   Coyote was showing me that regardless of everything I’d learned about myself in the last few days, I wasn’t ready to move on just yet.  And that even though I’d been given a vision of the purpose of my life, there was a darker, emotional part of me that couldn’t be ignored; and that struggling against it would only lead to greater consternation.

I thanked Coyote for his teaching; and laughed at the earthiness of his dream. In his own visceral way, the Mongrel Trickster was telling me that all I could do was accept this part of myself, and that in the end, this difficulty would pass. . .

Mother Earth / Father Sky. . .

Posted in ceremony, Coyote, Inspirational, Medicine Wheel, prayer, Spirituality, sweat lodge, Uncategorized on December 5, 2011 by Standing West

Photograph by Angel Gisondi

“So let’s make our steps clear that the other may see”

“If I should Fall Behind”

-Bruce Springsteen

“Sacred relationships…are a bitch,” he said; the laughing one – a child of Coyote.  This was accompanied by a mischievous grin, a twinkling eye, and an offer of advice if my wife of less than two months and I should ever hit a rough patch.

We’d gathered together in the small but welcoming one-room building for a potluck after a sweat at a lodge appropriately named “Open Heart”. It was a particularly strenuous lodge, and everyone was tired, hungry, and grateful for the brevity of the blessing and the generosity of the menu – there is, after all, no food like sweat lodge food.

As the meal and the afternoon wore on, a cake was brought in celebrating not only one of our group’s being awarded Teacher of the Year, but the joining of Marie and me as well.

The outpouring of affection has really been something to observe.  So many have wished us well, hugged us nearly to the point of breaking, and shown their love with cards, gifts and other gestures.

On one level, the joy expressed is that of a community coming together in love.  But on another, there’s something that just feels right when the Masculine and Feminine impulses come together.

I’m not talking about sexual preferences here.

I’m talking about something much more deeply-rooted than that.

We incorporated the sacred pipe into our ceremony.  We stood together on the Medicine Wheel, she carrying the bowl, and I the stem.  Grandfather Eddie accepted these symbols from us – symbols of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine – and joined them together that the prayers of all might be carried to the Great Spirit on Eagle’s wings, wrapped in sacred smoke.

And so Earth and Sky came together.

At the very center of instances such as these, there’s a balance that resonates almost beyond words – an essence of pure Creativity that neither pulls nor pushes.  It simply exists, and for the good of all that is, that is enough. . .

Watering whole. . .

Posted in ceremony, Coyote, Inspirational, Medicine Wheel, Spirituality, sweat lodge on October 17, 2011 by Standing West

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.”


Yesterday, my fiancée Marie and I had the privilege of attending an early morning sweat lodge on Grandfather Eddie’s property in Maryland.  The sweat was held in honor of a young man who camped there the night before, and will be leaving this morning on a cross-country hike to “listen to people and learn from them”.

As Eddie splashed a dipper of water over the cherry-red stones, it quickly became apparent that the young man’s journey wasn’t the only one being honored.  Prayers were likewise offered for the initial steps Marie and I will be taking in marriage this coming Saturday in the Medicine Wheel a few feet from the lodge.

Grandfather’s lodges are an ant hive of activity with drumming, story-telling, and wisdom galore.  Everyone pitches in with preparations, and I was asked to fetch the water from the outside faucet.  When the buckets were filled, I headed back to the lodge, noticing how blue the sky was, and the wisps of cloud, peacefully drifting across it.

The ground was slick and muddy in spots due to recent rainfall.  As I neared the lodge (still focused on the clouds), I felt Coyote’s paw in the form of a freshly cut tree root reach out and snag the tip of my right foot.  I lost my balance, dropped the buckets, and landed on my hands and knees in the grass and mud.  I knelt there laughing, the last of the water seeping from the buckets, and pooling on the soft, wet ground in front of me.

When I got to my feet, I noticed that my pants were soaking wet and covered with clumps of dirt.  I went to the house, refilled the buckets, and returned to the sweat lodge by another route, chuckling all the while at Coyote’s mischief.

As is always the case with the mongrel trickster, this “accident” came with a very powerful lesson.  During the last few weeks, I’ve been at a spiritual crossroads.  Aspects of the physical world have been slipping away.  This withdrawal, coupled with an apparent lack of direction has left me feeling somewhat as though I’ve been working without a net.

Coyote, however, had other insights to share.  “You must touch the Earth,” his antics told me, “so that your prayers may flow out and nourish it. The dirt on your hands and knees is there to remind you that although you may be Spirit, you were given a physical body through which to experience this world. You must touch the physical world, so that your love may freely flow and bring it life.  And remember this: there is always more water.”

It is impossible for us to know when the next lesson will come, or what form it will take when it arrives.  As Carlos Castaneda tells us, “(a)ll of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting, so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess, to pick it up.”

I am honored that Grandfather Coyote took this opportunity to thrust that cubic centimeter in front of me; and I am grateful to Spirit that it did not go unnoticed. . .

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