Archive for the Shamanism Category

Checking In…

Posted in Autumn, gratitude, Healing, Shamanism, Spirituality on October 2, 2015 by Standing West

The rains have gotten colder. The tomatoes are putting out the last of their fruit, but the mums are having hell of a good time for themselves. Even though we’re busier than we have been for quite some time, the hours and minutes don’t seem to carry as much weight as they used to.

I spent the morning painting miniatures and listening to the rain come down…a nice reward after a week of appointments and last night’s talk on shamanism at a local studio.

Tonight my wife and I will be catching up with some friends we haven’t seen for many months. And tomorrow afternoon we’re off to lunch with a dear friend who’s visiting from Ireland. She’s an amazing harpist and a powerful healer. We’ve worked together a couple of times, combining the harp and the frame drum; but tomorrow it’s bar food, a couple of pints, and some well-anticipated laughter.

I’ll round out the weekend with a day of teaching for a couple of advanced students on Sunday.

I like this life.

In between the healing and the ceremonial work, there’s time for a home life and all the things that go with it. We’re learning to live on faith these days, and allowing the path to shape us – instead of the other way around. Bits and pieces fall away; opening space for new things.

We head into Autumn not really knowing what it’ll bring. More and more our focus is on the present. It’s been a struggle to get to this place. And while there’s still a good deal of work to be done, it’s also good to take stock of how far we’ve come and to sit with that for a while, breathing it in…breathing it out…simply letting the current carry us forward…

By any other name…

Posted in ceremony, Healing, Shamanism on November 18, 2014 by Standing West

“Are you a shaman, Ben?”

The question came from one of the members of the group who’d gathered at a new studio for a dedication ceremony I’d been asked to officiate. We’d prayed together, smoked together, shared a cup of mead, and offered our thanks and best wishes to our hosts. It was a multi-traditional ceremony which, like so many others I’ve attended, started with a simple idea and wove itself into a tapestry of faith, love, and Spirit.

“I never use that title in reference to myself,” I answered. “Some people in my community have called me that, but I prefer to think of myself as Spirit’s roadie. I show up, put out what I’m asked to, let Spirit do His thing, and then pack up everything and leave when the work is done.”

Perhaps my answer might have seemed a bit flippant. And maybe it might not have sat well with some Elders. At this point I have no way of knowing that. All I know is that I cannot claim title over any of the healing or curing that might take place beneath my hands. I’m  simply a man who does his best to serve as a vessel for Spirit’s love…nothing more and nothing less.

I know that there are many who would look at my initial training in Michael Harner’s Core Shamanic method and classify my work as cultural poaching or “Neoshamanism”.

And this is exactly where the difficulty of a modern healing path presents itself. To truly be a vessel of Spirit, one must walk beyond the opinions of men and embrace completely the will of the Creator. Yet one must also serve one’s fellow man, honor fully the traditions that make this possible, and remember always the Elders who’ve lived and died to keep these traditions alive, and the cultures from which they have sprung.

So how does one honor a form without becoming restricted by it? I’m paraphrasing here a bit, but as a teacher of mine once put it, “What kind of healer would I be if you came up to me one day asking me to pray for your wife because she was sick, and I told you I couldn’t because I didn’t have my drum?”

I’ve tossed this issue back and forth a lot over the last couple of years and with the help of my current teacher, I‘ve come to believe that the answer lies in acknowledgement, permission, and gratitude.

When we are called to serve, we must first acknowledge and accept our responsibility to those who’ve come to us, to the Creator, and to All Our Relations. Then, with full permission of all parties involved, we open ourselves to the Will of the Creator and gratefully allow His healing light to flow through us for the greatest good of all. Whether that healing manifests itself through song, rattle, drum, dance, or smoke is immaterial – the form often changes according to the needs of the patient.

This does not mean that we “do whatever we feel like at the moment.” That is a reckless path that leaves us open to the possibility of some very hard lessons. No. What we must do, however, is place ourselves completely in Spirit’s hands, knowing that once there, “WE” aren’t the ones making the decisions. “WE” are simply the conduit through which Spirit’s will is made manifest.

Our main responsibility lies in recognizing the difference between the two. . .

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…

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…

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