I have been reflecting on the decision facing parents about whether or not to send young children back into the classroom. This is what emerges as I look at this question from a soul level.
Over the past few weeks, I have been waking up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. For me this waking comes from my spiritual ancestors inviting me to have time with the stars. This morning, it was 4:30 and I was just in time for the last bright planets in the dawning light.
Stars are beacons through time and space, showing us a process happening millions of years ago, so far away that the numbers boggle the mind. They have been shining on this planet all of Earth’s lifetime, linking us in their light with all living beings, everywhere.
I have had several shamanic journeys that included messages about the stars. One of my favorites was to a circle of people, sitting under the broad night sky in early aboriginal times in what is now Australia. One on my helping spirits took me there to show me where stars come from. As I watched, each individual began with a gesture near their heart that brought out a thread of golden light. They each worked this glistening substance in their hands, rolling it into a ball. Next, they used the same gesture at their brow to draw a strand of light from their mind. This was wrapped around the ball to coat it. Finally, they drew light from the area of their navel, and as they stirred it at the surface of the ball, it became a swirling light within it. Finally, when all had finished, they held the ball of light in their hands for another moment, and then gently tossed it into the sky, where it remained as a new star.
I was told that the light used did not come from the individual, but through them. The light of the infinite love of the Universe from the heart; the light of ancient wisdom and insight from the mind; and the light of connection to deep integrity and original purpose from the navel are brought together in each star. They are placed in the sky to offer illumination, inspiration and guidance for all future generations.
The other day, during a drumming circle ceremony, I received another star focused journey. I had been feeling overwhelmed by all of the teaching, information, and spiritual practices from various traditions which have filled my last couple of months. In the journey, I was again led out under a star-filled sky and invited to look up. I was told to remember that each of the billions of stars holds light, love, wisdom and purpose as gifts to humankind. Right now, we need as many of these gifts as we can receive to help us navigate the current transformation of our way of life. “It is okay to let your mind boggle,” my guide assured me. “What you need to take in will resonate within your soul. Let everything wash over you and then turn inward to see what is yours to live from your heart.”
In that spirit, I write these words and share these images. These are overwhelming times, but we are not alone. The love and light from throughout time and space are here to guide us safely as we find our way ahead, one step at a time.
I would like, in these days of turmoil, to offer images and ceremonies that I have received through my shamanic journey practice. Shamanic journey is an ancient way of leaving the ordinary, problem-solving mind behind and finding the deeper wisdom of the timeless non-ordinary realm. I am often surprised by the beauty, love and grace of what I experience. I hope that what I share gives you encouragement along your path.
This first ceremony came as an invitation to release what I felt needed to be forgiven in my life. In these days, I am glad to be able to return to this place to find courage to face my fears, suffering, shame and regret at my complicity in the perpetuation of prejudice and inequality within the human family.
My notes from Canyon Lands of Healing:
This journey took me to a glorious canyon of red rock, etched and textured to catch the sun. We were at the base of the canyon and there was a gathering of indigenous people around a bonfire..
There were drummers and dancers, but my focus was drawn by a woman elder, who fixed me with her eyes and invited me to a smaller circle – a mixture of people of all races. She was my partner, while there were pairings of each seeker with Elders of the People. She told me that this ceremony is available to anyone at any time. All seekers are welcome and those who have held this space and performed this ritual for eons, work beyond all time and space.
The purpose of the ceremony was to allow me to pour out my sense of shame and embarrassment – to ask for forgiveness for my failures in life. This was actually done very quickly and non-verbally. I just looked in her eyes, and she could see all that I was releasing. It was not the snapshots of memory, but the feeling states that go with them that were the outpouring. Her eyes remained calm, accepting, understanding. She did not interrupt, it was purely my process of revealing the pains of my soul to her. She was there to listen to it all – to let me pour out my whole story of myself and of my need for forgiveness. I sensed that she would have remained there with me for lifetimes if I had needed her to.
When I was at last finished – all shame, humiliation, penitence, sense of abject failure having been revealed, she invited me to sit in the circle with the other seekers who had had this same experience with their own listening Elder of the People.
Several figures came forward carrying empty wooden bowls their hands. One of them came to me and held the bowl near my heart. I watched as what I had released poured into the bowl as a thick, rich rust colored liquid. At first I thought it was blood, but I was assured that it was just the color of my sorrow/shame. As it poured from me it became a paint or pigment. The other seekers had similar experiences, with each one’s heart releasing a different colored essence: a variety of the red, rust, sienna, orange, gold and tan that are familiar in canyon lands.
Each of these figures then took their bowl of pigment, and flew to the walls of the canyon, high above our circle and began painting minute details that added to the richness and texture of the canyon walls.
We were told that what we released with shame, would add to the glorious beauty of sunrises and canyon walls and wildflowers in the ordinary world, as it did here. Our released energy was transformed back to its original creative state to become a rich gift to the worlds above and below.
Whenever I imagine myself back in that place, my wonderful Elder of the People is there to me. I look into her eyes and know that I can not lie to her, and that I will hear the truth in whatever I tell her. And then the bowls appear and the pigment emerges and the painters use my dross as luminescent paint to add another subtle touch of vibrancy to the canyon. As I face the truth of my own heart, I add beauty to the world.
This can be a journey of imagination for you any time you are ready. I wish you a blessed experience of truth and healing.
For a couple of months now, I have been in an intake mode in my life. I have listened to two or three hours of inspirational material each day, including the Avalokiteśvara chant from Plum Village and lectures by Jean Houston, Marianne Williamson, Caroline Myss, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sandra Ingerman and Lee Holden.
Jean, Marianne and Caroline have emerged in my life since January. They share a spirituality and perspective of us all being “One living breathing spiritual, biological and environmental organism.” Their lectures give me new words and images to use as the current shift in human consciousness makes some of my old ones wobble.
Qi Gong has taken on new depth for both Bill and I. Its meditative nature is emerging as I find the movements expressing the patterns of nature and the energy which unites all living beings. Images of the life energy and the love of the universe flowing into Mother Earth and from Mother Earth outward to nurture the web of life, are now part of my movement practice.
I have been doing daily drumming and journey practice. (I always hate to say that I do something daily, because once I release this to the world, there is usually a counter pull and I stop doing that particular thing for a while. You probably know that experience.) Sometimes it focuses on “Welcome and Tender Release,” which I wrote about in April. Other times, I add my drumming and singing to the vibration of all who are doing ceremonies for healing and renewal. I have begun doing a brief shamanic journey each morning before getting out of bed, to seek guidance for the day. This morning the message was, “Look with a long view.” And “It is time to go back to writing.”
From the outside, these weeks of “stay at home” look much the same as our life before. We had been hiking with a group once a week, taking occasional excursions to Medford or Klamath Falls, and making more frequent trips to “pick up a few things” at the store. I remember in January not being sure how I would keep a commitment to use the car only 5 days a week to ease our carbon footprint. Now, I go out to the grocery store once every 10 days, and make one other trip out each week to walk/hike and do errands.
On the inside, this time hit me at a soul level. In the early days of the crisis, I was nearly exuberant with the possibilities offered by the whole world being forced to pause and breathe. Bill decided to create a “retreat in place” until the end of the year to aid him in turning his focus from the outside world to his inward journey. Our practices are different, but we have the same goal: to allow the spiritual nature of life to sink from head and heart, into bones and blood. My life has been leading to this moment, but not in terms of some special outward gift I could offer to others. Instead, my life-long spiritual journey has led to a new call to trust the mysterious and unexplainable connections of Web of Life and Web of Light.
I can not define that for you because I am only starting to discover it myself. I sense that it reveals itself to everyone in terms and images with meaning for each one, so there is no need for me to even try to describe the indescribable. For me it is “Earth-centered living,” rather than ego-centered living. It calls me to remember my place within the flow of the love of the universe, and rejoicing in being a single cell in this amazing organism which breathes together throughout time and space.
I cannot promise to write often. I cannot promise that I won’t post something every day. I just do not know. That may be part of the shift. I feel less in charge of planning the course ahead and more at ease allowing this whole glorious being of Earth to heal me of my separateness and teach me the ways of love.
I would love to hear how your journey has been unfolding in these unusual times. Please use the contact link for your comments and sharing.
I wanted to share with you some pictures of Springtime at our home near Mount Shasta. This time of Stay-at-home has allowed us to move from late winter into glorious springtime, which invites us to work on some projects, tend the land and enjoy the life and beauty of this place.
One of Bill’s projects has been constructing a rock garden near the cabin. He loves interesting rocks and this is the kind of space he enjoys creating. With the addition of a few flowering plants from the back meadow, there is now more color at our doorstep.
We had long known of Qi Gong’s roots in Taoist practice, but recently learned, that its origins spring from shamanic dance. It’s slow, flowing movements enhance the movement of energy through the body, and connect the heart and mind with all of nature. I love doing my afternoon Qi Gong under the trees and feeling rooted to the earth and lifted by the sky.
We had a week of good rain and now that the sun is out there are tiny wildflowers among the grasses. I feel like there are a dozen expressions of life volunteering in the corners of the yard and throughout the meadow-like field.
But of course, when the rains and sunshine mix, there is also the need to cut the grass. This is Bill celebrating the arrival of a new electric lawn mower. It is much easier than the old push mower. It may be hard to keep him from trimming the lawn every few days.
Stay well. We send our love to all of you.
Bill and Nancy Martin
The rituals which support us in our connection with ourselves, humankind, and all of Creation remain fluid and changing, like the position along the horizon where the sun first appears in the morning sky. In recent days, my morning and evening practice has grown to include rituals of loving greeting and tender release of what is entering and leaving our world.
As the days grow longer and the mornings warmer I spend more time outside between dawn and sunrise. Most mornings I begin with singing my love for the land, water, air, sunlight and the love within all living beings. The individual verses grow longer as I express gratitude for all of the expressions of nature; the flow of change as well as the gift of clean water; wind as breath of life and of spirit, and sunlight which enlivens heart, body and mind.
A few of days ago, I returned to a place I have visited before in shamanic journey. The Grandmothers are sitting at the edge of the Void; the place where embryonic thought energy enters the flow of creation to take on tangible form. They sit cross-legged with their skirts in the edge of the viscous semi-liquid of the Void. Here the tiny “about to be” energies swim into the basket of their skirt and pause to experience their blessing before they move forward into being.
Following their example, I lift an “about to be” up and kiss it with great tenderness. I sing joy to it and allow light and love to flow from my heart into its being. I then release it into the Void to continue its journey into whatever form it will take. These are not my thoughts, and I do not recognize anything about what they will become. My task is simply to add light and love as they begin their earth-bound journey.
I have returned to this practice because my focus has been captured by what is being released from our lives, and all of the life that is leaving the Earth. At the beginning of the day, it is important to bring my focus on what will emerge beyond this current crisis. There is an endless circle of becoming, taking form, expressing one’s gift, and leaving this place to return one’s energy to the Sacred Source of all new becoming. It helps me find my balance to acknowledge that this cycle continues, like the phases of the moon and the turn of the seasons.
In the evenings, I go back outside at the time when many are joining in solidarity in the Howl of sorrow, grief, loss, loneliness, mourning for what is dying in our lives. I sing to prepare and then do a ceremony of Honorable Closure. My drumming helps me journey into the unseen world where ceremonies are held to insure that every living being, every expression of creativity which leaves this world is acknowledged and honored. Before it leaves, each energy being receives deep gratitude for what it has added to the beauty and diversity of this world. To all that are leaving there is the tender blessing for a loving and joyful journey home. At the end of the ceremony, I add gratitude for all of the living beings who remain here in these difficult times. All of us make our unique contribution to this journey of becoming.
These two rituals form good bookends for my day and help me hold my focus. In these days, deepening my love and relationship with all living beings is the key for my life.
We can all share these rituals, whether using shamanic practice or imagination. First, quiet the chatter of the mind and ease the tension in our bodies. This can be supported by singing, dancing, doing movement like Qi Gong… for about ten minutes. Then, leaving habitual thought patterns behind, we move into a place outside of time and space to remember our place within the Web of Life. We remember that at our core, we are love and light, and from our core we bless all of creation.
I hope you will try this in the days ahead. Please write, either in the comment section of this page, or to me at email@example.com to share your experiences.
In these turbulent times, I sometimes bounce from one “really good resource” to another. I search and try one thing and another to see what feels like it will “help” me and those I love. The other evening, I did a shamanic journey which helped me come home to this ancient practice of seeking wisdom from the unseen and timeless world.
In the journey, one of the women took me by the shoulders and began to place me in a position in the circle, facing outward.
“You must grow still and allow your feet to be planted into the ground. You must root yourself deeply in the Earth.” I could feel roots growing from the bottoms of my feet, and then my feet were sinking into the ground up to my calves. “You must raise your arms like the limbs of an ancient tree,” she said. I lifted my arms wide and found that they were light as feathers. It was as though all of these years of hanging to my sides was a misunderstanding of their design. They were resting on the breeze and moved softly as the wind stirred – effortless in their upward reach.
“You will let the light and love of the Universe pour down through the crown of your head and the Love of the Mother flow up through the roots of your feet. Open your heart and your throat and let the light and love pour out of you. You are a beckon (One who invites).” I felt that experience deep in my being, knowing at the same time that we are all in our own way invitations into love for one another.
She showed me that I was facing the Southeast. “This is the point where the dawning of the new day meets the place where the unseen creative flow begins to take on a tangible expression – where it becomes visible in the seen world. This it the direction of your focus. Keep your eyes focused at this point. This is your service and your place.”
Her words and actions came as calming and healing for my recent busy mind. This pausing place, where most of us have a break from our usual routines, seems to be the miracle. Is anyone else holding their breath in hopeful anticipation that humankind may use this time to step into a new way of living in relationship with one another, with all the elements of the natural world, with all living beings, and with the Earth?
It feels like this amazing opening into possibilities we have never experienced before. We have time. We are kept from running around. We are limited in the distractions we can use. Our schedules no longer confine us, taking all of our focus and energy.
I stand rooted, looking to the Southeast. I let my vision grow soft and I feel myself within the love of this beautiful world. The miracle is not that this virus will someday leave. It is that it came with such suddenness and power that is will help transform our lives.
We are living in a time of amazing opportunities and great discomfort. As our pace of life slows and we wear through the distractions within our own homes, there is a great deal of our deeper life that is bubbling up to the surface. There are the places of mystery and wound which we have kept hidden away, which are now seeking to emerge into light to find love and compassion. There are interesting ideas and possibilities which we have not had time to consider. There are the life stories – ours or those of people we love, which have never been told.
One response to this upwelling is to write the letters we have always intended to write. These come in several forms.
There are letters from and to our earlier selves. This opens the flow of all that is arising from the past that needs our attention. We have been living such busy lives, rarely free to listen to our deepest desires and true needs. There may be old wounds and limiting thought habits that form barriers to finding joy in our lives. There may be wonderful energizing dreams and latent talents that want to surface and become part of our lives. Our present compassionate self can bring healing to the wounds and fears of the young ones within us lovingly listening to their words. Those youngsters, in return can give us the gift of imagination, creativity and playfulness that opens new doors for our future.
There are letters from and to our future selves. These open us to the resource of wisdom and perspective from one who has passed through this immediate crisis and emerged into a new way of living. Imagine a future self who knows everything about you and is delighted to help you find the most fulfilling path for your life. Letters from a future self can show us current strengths and skills to develop that can move us toward this future image of confidence and peace. To imagine that there is one who can look back at all of this as an important adventure that opened our life to new possibilities can lift us out of our feelings of isolation and limitation.
Then there are the letters you have always meant to write to other people in your life. These open us to share the important things that we do not want to leave unsaid in times of uncertainty. Their function is not to thrash or punish or push others ways. Instead these are letters from our highest and most compassionate being that create new connections with others. They are the admission that we have not understood one another as deeply as we want to. They ask to hear the inside story of the lives of those who we love, even as we share our inner story with them.
One of the wonderful things about letters is that they allow us time and freedom. We can let things pour out onto the page and decide what is for our eyes only and what is meant for others. As we write, things come to light that we did not know were in our heart and mind.
Those who receive our letters have the ability to digest them at their own pace. There is no immediate response needed as our words and images flow to them. They have time to consider what they are ready to share with us and then write their own letter, or decide that they need to do some writing to themselves first.
I have begun this process, writing to one of the most important people in my life, my sister. As other people come to mind, I will be writing to them. In the meantime, I am having fun listening to the exuberance of a very young self who thinks that the best response to all of this is to go outside to dance, spin and sing.
I begin the day with a spacious gratitude for all living beings. I practice connecting with the unseen and timeless realties to find wisdom and see broader possibilities. I practice Qi Gong and feel the flow of the energy of the universe pouring through my being. I am full of light and love, and allow it to just pour through me in all directions.
Then, in a flash, I am wondering if the grocery store will have rice and pasta, veggie butter and fresh produce. I go on line and read the statistics and projections about COVID-19 and feel as though someone has pulled the pug on all of my energy.
I feel as though this is the moment in history for which I was born. My whole life has been preparing me for this season of transformation. I have no control over what the human species will or will not do. It is my own evolution that is in my hands.
The question is, “Can I do it?”
The caterpillar has the innate pattern to metamorphose into a creature of bright colors, wings and flight. This does not depend on the caterpillar envisioning what it feels like to fly or to know what a butterfly looks like. Its whole life experience is of being soil-bound and all its energy is taken with finding food. The caterpillar has no choice, no control and no independent responsibility in the process. It is drawn to complete its soil-laden life and spin a shelter away from the outside world. It does not have to try to let go or to change. It will simply happen. The leap is made for it by its very nature.
What if it is the same with me? I do not need see what life will be like in a month, six months or two years. I do not need to know what my life will become as a result of this crisis. My familiar way of life is dissolving around me and my understanding of who I am in the world is metamorphosing with it. I do not need to understand the process of transformation in and around me. I am not in charge of this roller-coaster of experiences which is remaking me in the dark of my cocoon.
Instead, I can let my inner nature lead me. I will journey to touch the unseen world and find wisdom and compassion there. I will do my Qi Gong for my body and spirit. I will focus on living in a loving and purposeful Universe which is filled with creative energy and possibilities.
Then I will pull out the sewing machine and make cloth masks to wear when I go grocery shopping. I will wipe down the kitchen and bathroom surfaces with the most gentle cleaners I have. I will stroke the dead needles off one branch of the pine tree and another will brush the jangled thoughts from my mind as it brushes my hair. I will dance and sing my gratitude to the Earth.
There is a bridge to the highest expression of my being that will take form below my feet. The cross beams are practical matters. The planks are connections with nature and my own inner being of light. Many more boards and supports of friendship and laughter, compassion and creativity are being added continually. Each day is a phenomenal blend of all the gifts of the Earth. Everything of stone and water, air, fire, energy and spirit are coalescing to lead each one of us toward the fulfillment of our lives.
As you explore your own unfolding, please share what you find arising to provide ground beneath your feet. (For you are here at this time and place for a reason.) I will do the same. We will each discover our unique ways through this uncharted territory. As you share your light it will naturally make my path more clear and less fraught with uncertainty. As I share mine, I trust that it will do the same for you.
Like all of you, the epic scale of the Coronavirus threat has humbled me with its power and is collectively asking more of us than to just stay at home. All of my life I have been dedicated to encouraging the potential that every person carries within them. I’ve taught about our innate depths, our possibilities, and our purpose. Now, however, it’s time to live out the promise that we all carry, to become noble, kind and compassionate people.
This week on television, I witnessed the best and most fearful sides of our natures. On the one hand, I saw violent videos of shoppers fighting over toilet paper, and also experienced indiscriminate generosity while shopping at my local Costco.
Customers who knew the gravity of the challenge we all faced stepped aside for each other in the aisles. If one item was left on the shelf, they asked the person behind them if they would like it. The obviously overworked employees were never too busy restocking the shelves to share a smile and ask how they could help. Strangers looked at each other — really looked at each other — and bonded in that momentary glance. There was a pervasive energy of collective caring that will never be reported by the media.
Tonight on the news, I saw restaurant owners and chefs in New York who were transforming their empty restaurants into soup kitchens of a sort and creating food for those who might be hungry in their neighborhoods. Families in need were brought to tears with the unexpected kindness of these people.
Yes, my belief in our potential is vindicated as neighbor cares for neighbor and plans are drawn up for feeding children who can no longer go to school.
The remarkable thing is that this isn’t the government that is rolling out a highly budgeted plan; it’s individuals. As one restaurateur said, “I’m asked how long I’ll be offering food. I guess it’s until I run out of money.” My hope today is that we allow this crisis to evoke the best of us.
We can hunker down in fear, or look for the opportunity to care, each in our own way. Our kindness is a light. The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate. We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose.
The benefit is not only for those we touch but is also like my Costco experience, where our generosity of spirit can create positive energy that permeates the very air we all breathe. It creates a powerful new vision of who we are and what we can accomplish together. We must hold fast to that vision until it becomes reality.
So, my dear friend, I invite you to create a new virus of caring, of a nobility of our humanity that becomes even more contagious than the one dancing in the headlines.
This is our time. We can choose to surrender to fear or we can show the world what it means to be thoughtful, to be generous, and to be proactive in helping friends or strangers alike. Perhaps this is an initiation of sorts in which we are invited to step into a new experience of our interdependence and empathy.
Former Vice President Biden, during the most recent debate, announced his intention to create programs that would “make us whole.” As we extend ourselves into the well-being of each other, we return to wholeness as the family of humankind. Self-serving actions and the illusion of separation can transform into a collective strength that is more encompassing than divisions of race, economic status, gender preference, or political party.
It can be as simple as a smile, an encouraging word, a “window visit” to an elder care home, or a letter to someone in prison. Your words of encouragement are constantly influencing our perceptions and worldview.
Take all the precautions that are recommended, and at the same time be bold in your love, and constant in your faith that together we will pass through this challenging time. On the other side of it, we will look back and realize that we were part of an epic time in history when caring triumphed over fear, and goodness prevailed!
Bless you dear one, now and always,
She says it so well and so lovingly. I hold each of you in the light and glory of the highest expression of who you are. Thank you for being lights in my life. Nancy
(You can learn about Jean Houston on the Evolving Wisdom site: Evolving Wisdom going to faculty. Her courses (including some free presentations listed there under Life Purpose and Personal Power.)