Archive for March, 2009
There’s a saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Well, I have found my latest teacher dangling from the end of a tea bag.
Yogi Tea has quietly become my favorite brand of tea over the past two years. I love their Mexican Sweet Chili, Chai Redbush, Stomach Ease, and Green Tea Decaf Kombucha. What I love even more are the words of wisdom that can be found at the end of the string attached to the tea bag:
‘When ego is lost, limit is lost.’
‘I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful.’
‘Open up to infinity and you become infinity.’
Every time I rip open the individually wrapped bags I get ready for a message that I KNOW! has been sent directly to me from Spirit. It is a love note, a gentle nudge, a warm reminder.
I often save the little notes and post them on my computer, on the refrigerator, and on the bathroom mirror. I also like to share them with friends. The words that I encounter at tea time remind me of something another teacher said to me many years ago: “Make having a cup of tea a ceremony.” Yogi Tea and the inspiration received with each cup makes that possible.
Time to put the kettle on the stove…
Last night I was prepping for my final Radical Openness Teleclass and received the following message:
“The very essence of Radical Openness is a willingness to go beyond what you think is normal, even proper or correct. It is your ability to allow yourself to grow bigger, bolder, and brighter in a very new and exciting way. Even the everyday things can turn into an adventure when looked at from that perspective. How willing are you to step outside of the box and experience your self differently? The treasure is available to all when you open your eyes. The treasure is there when you allow your self to think that you can all ways have what you want. The treasure is there in front of you. NOW. Ask it to reveal itself. NOW. Go on. Ask and you shall indeed receive. That’s LIFE. That’s LIVING.”
After class I was thinking about my next blog posting and came across a story I wrote in 2003. ‘Living Shamanism’ describes my first experience in a Shamanic Fire Ceremony with Lorna Roberts, who was a mentor of mine for eight years before she passed in 2001 (and who continues to influence me today). The story takes place in 1993 when I first stepped onto the shamanic path and started to peel away layers of guilt, shame, doubt and fear, and began to understand that there is far more to life than meets the eye. I was truly Fishing for Soul and Lorna paved the way for Radical Openness to emerge.
The darkened room began to fill with smoke from the burning sage. The cold New York City winter outside suddenly seemed far away. The smoke, I was told, would cleanse the room and all in it. I looked around at the circle of faces. Besides the friend who accompanied me, I recognized one other person.
Lorna Roberts, a shaman I had met a few months earlier, loomed before us. She was talking about the significance of the ceremony we were about to perform, a fire ceremony, a ritual of purification and transmutation. Working with the fire in this sacred way would release us from the energetic bonds that tied us to the past. I had read her written instructions beforehand, and was ready to shed a bit of personal history. My mind began to drift and fill with images related to the issue with which I was working. I remember thinking how interesting it was that faces, places and circumstances from 20 years ago, and supposedly long forgotten, were now very vivid. Lorna’s commanding voice carried me back to the room.
“Oh winds of the south,” she was saying, beginning her invocation of the four directions, her words at once mystical and poetic.
“Is this woman is a witch?” I wondered. “How did I wind up here?”
Several months earlier I had experienced intense and upsetting spontaneous psychic phenomena which, combined with other upheavals in my personal life, had left me emotionally raw and questioning my sanity. My old ways of trying to keep things together were not working. Things seemed out of control. And that’s how I came to be sitting in this dark, smoky room, with a strange woman who was now blowing smoke from her pipe. I was searching for answers. I was looking for myself.
Soon it was my turn to approach the fire. Having never done this before, I was a bit nervous and self-conscious. I knelt before the fireplace. Staring into the flames, I saw and heard again many of the images and names that had appeared to me earlier in the evening. I’d brought a small piece of paper with some names written on it to put into the fire, and I gently placed the paper in the flames and watched it be consumed, thereby releasing that part of my personal history to the universe.
“OK, I felt something,” I thought as I walked, still self-conscious, back to my seat. “Now what happens?”
What happened over the next few weeks was astounding, life changing and affirming. Years of guilt and shame seemed to be lifted. I was functioning in a way that I’d been praying for.
I spent the next eight years learning from Lorna, her magnificent fire ceremonies, and an ancient body of knowledge. That night proved to me the power of shamanism, and it put me firmly on a path of self-discovery. It taught me that the unseen world is alive. But shamanism is not all about smoke and fire. Ritual and ceremony are often an important part of it, but the work really begins when the fire goes out. We must then return to our everyday lives, and integrate the energies that were called forth and released, or absorbed, during the ceremony.
Shamanism, according to Wade Davis, is arguably the oldest of human spiritual endeavors, born at the dawn of our species’ awareness. It is a system of direct revelation, without dogma or doctrine. A shaman, writes Michael Harner in The Way of the Shaman, is a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness, at will, to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons. The role of the shaman is to bring balance to a person, a community, or the earth.
Do you need to be a shaman, or have the assistance of one, to tap into the wisdom of non-ordinary reality? It can help, but I believe that we are all wired to do the things a shaman does. I’ve seen it happen countless times, whether it is at the fire, or through a seemingly unrelated incident afterward. Perhaps in the future we will all rediscover our own inner shaman.
Peace and light!
As I walked along 5th Avenue from 96th St. to Central Park North in Manhattan last night talking on the phone with someone from college I’d seen earlier in the day for the first time in 20 years, the message “There is so much life to be lived” kept running through my head. Sharing memories with Carole, who I reconnected with via Facebook, made me laugh and remember how much fun we had as silly, confused, searching, 18-22 year-old students. YES! We had fun! Perhaps it didn’t all seem that way at the time, but we can choose now to focus on the fun and not the drama we created.
When I hung up the phone I walked into the subway station and waited for my train. I pulled out my iPod and hit ‘shuffle’. A dance tune came on and I began to sing quietly and move my feet to the beat. “Why don’t you dance, right here, right now?” I dared myself. Thinking about my Radical Openness policy and a commitment to do something Radically Unusual once a day, I started to dance, slowly and self-consciously at first, and then I just closed my eyes and let the rhythm consume me. Spinning around on the subway platform I again heard “There is so much life to be lived.”
When the #3 train came I hopped on and sat down. The next song on my iPod was a slow one by Patty Griffin called Heavenly Day. The song is about focusing on what is beautiful right here, right now. Again the message came, “There is so much life to be lived.” I thought about my dream of moving to a warmer climate, near the beach, on the west coast, of taking chances, of stepping more fully into the life I want. “There is so much life to be lived. How much fun do you want to have?”
Melea Seward is a great people connector and genius idea generator who has been teaching me a lot about blogging, Facebook, storytelling, and following an impulse. She recently introduced me to a project she’s involved with called Fun Not Fear. She said, “Check it out. You’ll like it. It’s your kind of thing.” So I checked it out. I like it. It’s my kind of thing. The Fun Not Fear web site says: “With the ‘fun not fear’ Facebook campaign, we are combating the culture of fear with good news, good acts and a focus on the importance of everyday creativity. The goal is to have 1,234,567 Facebook members participating by April 1, 2009.” How perfect. I’m holding that Fun Not Fear concept close to my heart as I move into this next phase of life’s incredible journey. Thanks Melea!
Now here’s a challenge: Can you find one fun, upbeat, positive thing to discuss or do today? Start by joining the Fun Not Fear campaign, http://www.tinyurl.com/funnotfear . Go ahead. I dare you. There is so much life to be lived. Have fun, not fear. And if you find that fear comes up, do what someone recommended to me the other day: Do it afraid. (a quote from Dr. Joyce Meyer)
Have a heavenly day (and lots of fun!).
Last week I was in Hawaii at Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island. It rained a lot. In fact, in rained non-stop for the first 48 hours I was there and then started again several hours later and continued for another day and a half. After that there were intermittent showers and an abundance of gray sky. I did get to see the sun, but it was not one of the main attractions of my week.
As the rain pounded my cottage on Day 2 I felt compelled to sit, stare out the window, and watch the wind and water sweep across the land. I decided to meditate on the element in front of me. “OK Rain, I’ve traveled thousands of miles to come to this beautiful island and I think you are here to teach me something. I am open to knowing what that is.” The answer I received was, “Listen.”
I spent the next five days doing just that. I walked in the rain until I was soaked to the bone and listened to the squish of water in my boots. I participated in an intimate Kirtan and listened intently to the quiet call of each chant. I had a massage with Jared and listened to my body say “Ah, thank you”. I took a yoga class and listened to my Higher Self say, “Hold that pose. Don’t think you have to push any further.” I ran along the coast and listened to the roar of the Pacific waves, talked with my friend Deborah and listened to the newly found strength in her voice, watched night fall and listened as the frogs sang their song, and shared three, delicious, vegetarian meals each day with retreat volunteers and staff and listened as they told tales of the fire goddess Pele who rules Hawaii’s volcanoes, and the magic that could be found all over the island.
I had many vivid dreams that week. On my last night I had a dream about a large, dark woman in a beautiful, black and white, floral print headdress and matching gown sitting at a desk writing a letter. I recognized her as the mother of a friend. She did not turn to look at me as I approached, but I knew that she was aware of my presence. She continued to write and I felt a deep sadness coming from her. “Where is my son?” she asked. I saw her son running around New York City, in a suit and tie, acting very important and ignoring his mother’s cry. I then saw a small, yellow-domed apartment complex snuggled between many tall office buildings. As I looked at the building from above I knew that the woman writing the letter and asking for her son lived there. As I realized that, the building imploded. I was startled by what seemed to be a horrible disaster and found myself searching the rubble for my friend’s mother. I found her lying on the ground, bloodied, wearing the same clothes as in the first scene, her head turned away from me, and asking the same question, “Where is my son?” Again, I saw her son rushing through the streets of New York City, dressed in a suit and tie, this time being pursued by several armed men (also in suits and ties). The sense of danger grew as the scene unfolded and I was aware once more that my friend, in his frantic state, could not hear the call of his mother and never would if he continued to run around around the way he always did. I then saw myself sitting on a throne, dressed in a robe that was very much like that of the mother. My friend appeared, dark and naked. He crawled into my lap and I wrapped my arms around him as he wept and wept and wept.
I woke, breathing heavily, sweating and feeling incredibly sad. What did it mean? The scenes haunted me all day and I prayed for the meaning of the dream (all meanings of it) to be revealed.
Hours later I was on a plane heading back to the Mainland. As I sat, I reflected on the art of listening and my intense dream. Meaning began to emerge. The mother in my dream seemed to be the Earth or Nature beckoning to me. Was I going to ignore the call?
Images of my life in New York surfaced. “How am I living my life there? Am I truly happy and thriving in the way I want to be?” I asked myself. “Is it time to look for a new place to live outside of the city that I’ve called home for almost 19 years?”
I thought about what it would take to move to a quieter place, to live closer to Nature, to have a car again (it’s been 16 years!), to not ride the subways, to be away from my incredible family of friends. How many times over the past 10 years have I said I wanted to leave New York and live by the beach? I squirmed in my seat. My palms started to sweat. My heart beat faster. “I can’t think about that right now,” I heard myself say.
To distract myself I opened the book that I took with me to Hawaii, but never read, Paulo Coehlo’s
The Devil and Miss Prym. On page 34 (hardback copy) I came across the following passage:
“She had just realized there were two things that prevent us from achieving our dreams: believing them to be impossible or seeing those dreams made possible by some sudden turn of the wheel of fortune, when you least expected it. For at that moment, all our fears suddenly surface: the fear of setting off along a road heading who knows where, the fear of a life full of new challenges, the fear of losing forever everything that is familiar.
People want to change everything and, at the same time, want it all to remain the same.”
I slammed the book shut, clutched my hands to my belly, drew a sharp breath, and closed my eyes. After a few minutes I opened the book and read those words again: “…setting off along a road heading who knows where, the fear of a life full of new challenges, the fear of losing forever everything that is familiar.”
It’s time to leave New York.
Sat., March 7th
Aloha! It’s 10 A.M. Hawaii Time and I am sitting in my cottage at Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island wrapped in a blanket, looking at the palm trees (yes, those are coconuts hanging from the top, and one just fell to the ground), vines, and expanse of lush grass outside my wall of screened windows. Every now and then I can hear birds chirping. Something that sounds like a rooster is off in the distance. A relentless rain is pounding the aluminum roof and has been for over 16 hours. My week-long vacation is in full swing.
Last night I was tired from my 15-hour journey from New York, so after Phil helped with my check-in I grabbed the vegetarian meal that was lovingly set aside for me (I arrived after dinner had been served), and headed to my room. My little cottage has yellow, wood-paneled walls, a wooden floor which is painted green, and lots of windows which are mostly screened with no glass or shutters to keep out the rain and wind (even the shower has a full-length, screened window), a round table with two wicker chairs, and a futon covered with a floral print fabric. A brightly colored painting by Kalani co-founder Richard hangs above the queen-size bed. There is no radio or TV (just like home!), so I cannot stay up all night or otherwise distract myself with over 800 cable channels as I have been known to do when I travel. The exquisite darkness and the sound of the rain quickly lulled me to sleep just after 9 P.M. I woke several times from dreams in which spirits of the land were talking to me, and in my sleepy confusion I couldn’t remember where I was until the rain and wind, which was making the curtains dance wildly, reminded me. Later I woke to what turned out to be a screeching fire alarm. A broom handle easily took care of that noise.
At breakfast this morning I sat with some folks who were preparing to leave after a seven-day yoga retreat. “It rained every day,” one of the women told me. “It’s so gray and cold in Montana you’d think it would bother me to have come all this way and not see much sun but you know, I didn’t mind at all.” Ah, yes, a positive attitude, thank god, from a charming woman wearing two different colored Crocs (one green, one purple), and large, rattling ankle bracelets she’d bought in the gift shop. When I mentioned her choice of footwear she told me that she’d found socks that come three in a pack, each sock a different color and pattern, made especially for people like her. Another woman talked about her time in New York City 30-40 years ago when she followed a guru who had taken a vow of silence, traveled the country with him and 15 other devotees in a converted school bus, and built yurts near Ithaca, NY. She also discussed her theory that the altitude in Colorado, where she now lives, was causing her to age in ways she wouldn’t if she lived at a lower altitude.
As I left the open-air dining area, one of the new retreat center volunteers told me that she’d heard it could rain for three weeks straight. “Hmm,” I replied, “I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.” I walked away thinking about what I’d do if it rained like this every day I was here. “Well, its only day one so far and you have no idea what tomorrow or any other day will bring,” I said to myself. “Just enjoy the moment.”
The rain has inspired me to sit and write instead of trekking to the beach or taking part in one of the half- or full-day excursions that Kalani offers. Perhaps later I will have a massage, take a yoga class, or explore the 120 acres that makes up this retreat center. There’s a black sand beach not too far from here that I want to visit. And Pele is calling! Right now it’s time to head out into the rain again and grab some lunch.
Mahalo and peace!