Archive for the visions Category

Someone gimme a stone…

Posted in ceremony, Healing, Initiation, prayer, sweat lodge, visions on January 7, 2015 by Standing West

I’ve found myself being called upon to welcome the Stone People into the sweat lodge on a regular basis lately. As is typical when undertaking a ritual, one must be aware of both the practical or exoteric component, and the deeper or esoteric component that empowers the physical container with the Sacred, enabling it to become a vessel for the breath of God.

The Grandfathers leave the fire cherry red; the images on their skin whispering stories in the dark for those who will open themselves and listen. We receive the Stones from the pitchfork into a basket formed by interlocking the tines of White Tail antlers. Then they are placed into the pit to receive their blessing of herbs and the water which, in the form of steam, will carry our prayers to the Great Spirit for the good of All Our Relations.

On a practical level, the antlers are sturdy, resistant to heat, and fit together securely, keeping the Stones from rolling away and burning someone. They also provide better control over where the Stones are placed in the pit.

Symbolically the antlers represent gentleness. The fire from which the Stones are taken is a violent, masculine environment. Rather than bathing the participants in this emotionally aggressive energy, the Grandfathers are cradled in a softer, feminine energy before being brought into the lodge. Focusing on this, one transcends the self and becomes the instrument through which the process unfolds.

The last time I was asked however, a deeper level of awareness opened up. As we move through our lives, or rather, as our lives unfold through us, we will encounter difficult situations which will test us in every conceivable – and perhaps not so conceivable – way. We can meet these challenges carelessly, injuring ourselves and others in the process; or we can open up to them and receive them with gentility and grace, allowing their energy to serve, through our interaction with it, as a lesson for All Our Relations. . .

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. . .

Spark. . .

Posted in Inspirational, prayer, Shamanism, Spirituality, visions on August 29, 2013 by Standing West

“There is a light that never goes out…”

-Morrissey

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. . .

Falling in Love. . .

Posted in ceremony, Healing, Shamanism, Spirituality, Sun Moon Dance, visions on August 8, 2013 by Standing West

This past July at the Sun Moon dance, I spent nearly four uninterrupted days immersed in the awareness of Grandfather’s love.   This is not to say that the Creator’s love isn’t always there.  What I’m offering here, is simply that for the first time since I’ve been dancing, I recognized, physically as well as emotionally, the presence of a force I can only describe as limitless, unadulterated love, flowing downward through the tree at the center of the arbor, and entering the ever expanding vessel of my heart.

One becomes aware, at times like these, of many things seemingly heretofore unnoticed.  And yet, this awareness is not so much the grasping of a new idea as it is a coming home, a re-membering of components as vital to life as the very air one breathes.

How can one, after  literally feeling Grandfather’s energy holding him up as his body – hungry, thirsty, and sleep-deprived – shambles its  way towards the tree and back,  not come away from the experience altered on such a fundamental level as to feel as if his very soul had been transfigured?

We dance for the life and well-being of All Our Relations.  We dance that the People might live.  And in this dance, we sometimes fall into vision.   It is a moment of transcendent beauty when a dancer meets the Earth.  It is akin to nothing so much as a child falling into the arms of its Mother.

Witnessing this, the heart opens, and one feels the continuous ebb and flow of life.  One comes to understand that one is merely the gateway through which the Creator’s light manifests into the experience of creation.

Beautiful Painted Arrow tells us that the songs with which we dance are ancient beings.  They come to honor our sacrifice and share their wisdom.  I have come to believe the same thing about visions.  We do not go out to seek visions for our people.  Instead, the visions themselves, powerful and ancient as the one who imparts them, stand at the threshold, beckoning  us to unlock the door through sacrifice and intent, that they might enter; and in doing so, bring sustenance to a hungry world. . .

One little push. . .

Posted in dreams, Healing, Inspirational, prayer, Shamanism, Spirituality, visions on February 28, 2013 by Standing West

It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least, balancing a full-time day job along with a marriage, healing practice, online education, and the usual assortment of life-stuff. To be blunt, for most of the last year and a half, there were many times when I felt as if I were literally being drawn and quartered. Some of it was my increasing mundane workload playing against the rapid spiritual changes I’ve been experiencing; but a good deal of it can be chalked up to the cluttered conditions of my own personal head-space.

Eventually, predicaments like this generally end up working themselves out. It’s a matter of muddling through and treading water until the tension breaks. For me, that moment came the other night.

I was blowing off steam about my situation for the hundredth time to my wife (I fully acknowledge how difficult this particular stretch has been for her, and I also realize how blessed I am to have found a partner who, even while facing her own questions about where to go with life, is willing to simply listen and be supportive.) In the midst of it all, I looked up and said, “I’m not asking for much here. I don’t want to hit the lottery. I don’t need to know how it’s all going to work out. I just need a little push. Just a little sign to show me where I’m headed; something so clear that I can’t possibly miss it.”

Tired and frustrated, I went to bed shortly afterwards, and the answers came that very night in the following dream.

I‘m standing in front of a Doctoral level math class, which I’m expected to teach despite my being an English major. Behind me stands an older professor taking notes on my performance. Then I remember that before the class can begin, I need to lead them in a song. I fumble through a hymnal, and before I can find something appropriate, a group of women in the class begins to sing. I attempt to sing with them, and they all fall silent.

I have no clue as to what I’m supposed to lecture the class about, and everyone in the room begins to sense this.

Suddenly, an idea hits me. “What were the problems you covered in the last class?” I ask.

The professor smiles, nods, and starts to write something down on his clipboard.

The class begins to answer, and everything they say goes completely over my head.

The professor steps up to the board, draws a diagram, and begins to explain it to me as if I’m fully versed in what he’s showing me.

This scene fades, and I’m standing in a mall. Ahead of me are the Math professor, a security guard, and a rustically beautiful woman with olive skin and a short boyish haircut. I’m aware that she and I have very strong romantic feelings for one another, but up to this point, we’ve really only flirted.

As I approach the group, the professor and the security guard turn to leave. The woman walks over to me and we embrace. We turn to walk through the mall, our arms around the small of each other’s backs, and she turns toward me and kisses me very lovingly. I return the kiss, and then I feel myself wanting to be more forceful. As I try to kiss her more passionately, I’m aware at my sense of disappointment at how gentle she’s being. With that, the dream shifts, and I’m staring at a bathtub drain with a stopper covering it. I grab the chain, and then I wake-up.

Looking back on it all, the first part of the dream reflects recent changes in my work environment. Due to shifts in the official structure, I now find myself surrounded by highly technical people. I’m often amazed – and not a little bit humbled – by their knowledge. This often leaves me feeling like an outsider. And yet, because of my Training position, there’s often an assumed level of knowledge on my part. Being a non-technical person by nature, it’s ironic to find myself in the position of IT Trainer, and the people around me sometimes don’t quite know how to take me.

The second part of the dream speaks to one of the central issues I’ve been facing since I began seriously walking this path. The woman, a beautiful and earthy balance of masculine and feminine qualities, clearly represents my calling to a life of healing work. I know that should I completely devote myself to it, the practicality and security of my daytime job – as represented by the Math professor and security guard – will completely go away. That being said however, I know that there will eventually come a time where in order to fully serve my Creator and All My Relations, that this is exactly the step that I must take. And yet, as her reactions to my advances in the dream clearly demonstrate, I must be patient, and come to this gently. Otherwise, as the somewhat obvious third part of the dream suggests, I’ll pull too hard, and everything will go down the drain.

Since the dream I’ve had a better perspective on things. The duties of my job are starting to change, and falling more in line with what I’d originally envisioned them to be. My sense of dedication to my healing work has also been renewed. I’ve come to know a deeper sense of peace with myself and my surroundings. And I have been shown, yet again, that the Creator turns no deaf ear to the words of those in need. . .

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