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Happy Moon-day.

I was fortunate to have a little time this weekend, when not at work or cooking, cleaning, and trying to find a piece of the pie to pull my Tarot in advance. You may not know this but if I don’t get to it midweek I’ve pretty much set myself up to jockeying for time on the weekend. It’s no worry but I don’t like to write under a time crunch.

This week you will notice there are only three cards. Well there are only two but there is a story there, naturally and up until this morning I wasn’t able to really draw on anything else.

The reason there are two strength cards?

Well one was lost! The card on the right has been missing for some time, almost a year and as I put down our significator (The Star) for the reading, the Strength Card came away from the star in my hand. Like a parlor trick the one card became two. Strength! There you are!

Stranger, as I picked up my deck to begin the shuffle as I cut the deck, strength was in my hand.

Pause…

Place. I left the cards in this order and I went into my weekend with an openness to the message here.

Tarot Weekly March 7-13, 2011

Seek bliss to find bliss. The internal flame that rises like a serpent in the darkness.
~Pgs. 294-295 Strength, Tarot of the Spirit, Pamel Eakins, PH.D.

Excerpt

Joseph Campbell:

Remember the last line [in the novel Babbitt]? “I have never done the thing that I wanted to in all my life.” That is a man who never followed his bliss.

You may have a success in life, but then think of it – what kind of life was it? What good was it – you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.

Bill Moyers:

What happens when you follow your bliss?

Joseph Campbell (after pausing):

You come to bliss.

On a walk up in the hills behind the Griffith Park Observatory it came to me how much my eye is drawn to plants. It’s no mystery. I look through my digital photo gallery and no matter where I go, I’m watching, inspecting and mentally dissecting the parts and components of plant life. I imagine how deep the roots must travel and spread. I compare the thought to the branches, stalks, leaves and sometimes flowers.

As early as I can remember I have been surrounded by plants in my  house. I can’t not have them. The more I have the better I feel. It is, however conscious or imagined, my thing. I feel very connected to my green people in the house and out.  They give the air I breath, the food that sustains me, you and everything else, and they make my home feel great.

It is the feeling that brings the strength because these forces of the natural world are what replenished me on the walk. I derive a great sense of peace and strength from the plant world. I base much of my philosophy on trees, roots, blooms. Nature really does sustain me!

In Strength, this week, I would like to see you finding sustenance in your source(s) through activities that bring you to the place where that feeling, the vibration, of your solace is resonating like a song, in every part of your body. Forget the astrology, the details, the minutia and immerse in that at the start of the week.

Let that inner feeling be a wind to your sails, let them be full as you travel forward through the next seven days.

This is my bliss…

Be well,

– –

Scott K Smith
http://lifencompass.com
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If you are just joining me in these posts you can catch up on the chapter-by-chapter book review of Awakening to the spirit world through these posts:

Chapter 5: The Power of Ceremony and Ritual

“The Flame of Gods”Welcome back to my chapter-by-chapter review of Awakening to the Spirit World, The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation.

The fifth chapter in the book came on the heels of a handful of requests by friends, family, and some magickal connections to assist in some form or another. As I approach the full moon with a list of healing requests, and a prosperity push for a sister-friend I find that The Power of Ceremony and Ritual a fitting read.

It’s not that I don’t know some form of Ritual or Ceremony but I am inspired by the difference in approach to these fundamental magickal acts. They are magickal acts for me, we can call them Shamanism in the modern sense of the word, but the ideas about the ritual and ceremony we conduct, introduced by the authors (Sandra Ingerman, Hank Wesselman, and others) give me great food for thought.

One of the first things in the chapter that read bold in my mind was a note about the difference between ceremony and ritual. Sandra writes,

“Strictly defined, ceremonies have a predetermined structure and goal. In this sense, everyone participating in the ceremony has a predetermined role, and the ability of highly structured ceremony to create change cannot be underestimated, especially in helping maintain the physical and metaphysical equilibrium of any given community.”

In certain senses this reminds me of mythic reenactments, festivals that have been celebrated throughout the ages (with direct spiritual connotation that links us to the natural world), solem or celebratory. Ceremony, for me, is an act of honoring, affirming, dedication, and gratitude personally, and socially. This is the birthday, the wedding, and the funeral. The rite of passage from boy to man.

“Ritual, on the other hand, is much more open-ended. When we are engaged in ritual, we always have intentions for doing so, yet the end result may be quite different from those expectations. This is because there comes a point in every authentic ritual in which the spirits arrive, and then any predetermined structure or form may go right out the door.”

These two statements ticked at something in the mystical mind. This then is the formula followed, right and rote, to create a state of being. The Great Rite, the maypole, and Drawing Down the Moon… This is where I enter my altered state, the ritual brings me to the jumping off point and unlock the greater spirit. I am diving into the magickal.

Excuse me, I think I had some confusion over the year about the meaning of the words. In fact I think I’ve used them interchangeably. I digress. This was only an ah ha moment for me. 🙂

I need to say that I’m also impressed with the structure of the writing and the delivery of the message. I can’t say that I love certain terms used to describe things but I waddle through that in an attempt to keep my persnickety side on a leash, and my mind open. Expanding.

We continue on into structuring a ceremony or ritual, when and how, with some good starting steps in how we put this shamanic act together. What’s the purpose? What steps do we follow? How do we begin and end. I like. In fact I approve! I take away some tips and tricks that I’d like to implement in  my own personal work. That’s a plus.

Jose Stevens gives us a basic guideline of ceremonial and ritual structure: Opening, welcome, intention. Offering of gratitude for the work. Calling in the spirits, addressing the elements, cleansing of participants, the blessing, and the prayers or work. Raising power. Closing. Giving thanks and saying farewell to the elements.

There’s even a bit about intentions. These are very important things. Trust!

Anyway, we conclude with some interesting bits about what to do and examples of ceremony and ritual structure. Good chapter.

********

OK so if we’re doing this shamanic / magickal work, what are we doing it for? I can’t help myself here. I want to stand up on my little blog pedestal and ask What is important in the magickal work that we do?

Yes there are personal things that we as individuals need to accomplish. That includes necessity as well as acts of pleasure. An austere life doesn’t serve us unless there are acts of joy that better our lives. We need the sweetness because life can sting. Life is not just the serious and full of diversity to be enjoyed, reveled, loved, caressed and cared for, including our desires.

There are pressing issues like  health, money, survival needs that must be met and all of these things can be assisted with some magickal work. It’s a muscle and the more you use it the stronger our ability to work with the unseen, yet felt, world grows. Magickal work is part of my every day life, it’s at the point where I feel that each moment is a path inward and outward, living in many worlds.

Early on in life I wasn’t so integrated. I received a text message last night about a friend and instantly I snapped into a place where I was reaching out to someone in need. No candles, rattles, music, or incense, because after years of work that place is instantly attainable. In the past I would have had to count down into meditation, take a break, step away, but as B was talking to me I could simultaneously reach out to someone in the hospital bed and seek out her spirit, calling her home.

Toot-toot? no. It’s a demonstration of what each of us can do at the drop of the dime with proper training, dedication and experience. We can use our gift, our natural self to help us achieve what we desire, to find our answers, to seek, to know, to learn.

Awakening to the Spirit World seems to offer us a solid approach, from a green perspective, in easy to swallow explanations towards those goals.

Moving along into my week, I hope that this posting finds you well.


– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith
http://lifencompass.com

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I think it might be interesting to post some articles on our impact on nature.

Please feel free to send me thoughts, articles, blogs, or personal experiences on what we are, and have done to change or alter the natural world.

Discussion is open season.

Scott

If you are just joining me in these posts you can catch up on the chapter-by-chapter book review of Awakening to the spirit world through these posts:

Visionary Work with the Weather and Environmental Changes

Chapter four brings us into the idea of interacting with our environment through the example of the medicine person, and Druid, bringing us to get our bodies into the natural world through the idea of Nature Mysticism.

“In Nature Mysticism, we achieve a direct, transpersonal contact with the life-giving forces that we summarily refer to as Nature, and this is often sensed by visionary (and those with psychic awareness) as an immanent and user-friendly presence. Some of us experience it on the golf course, some on a fishing trip or a weekend camping expedition. Sometimes it’s a walk in the park, a hike thorugh the woods, a visit to the zoo, a trip to the beach.

Howerver this contact is made, when we sense it, we know with certainty that the soul of Nature is alive. It’s aware of us, and it always has been. When we walk the path of direct revelation, we discover that Nature expresses itself through those archetypal forces that the traditional peoples call the spirits.

We are not talking about belief systems here. We have now gone beyond them and beyond faith as well. We’re talking about direct connection with the real thing…”

The Authors lead us into personal accounts of working with the spirit of place and the weather and, shamanically healing the environment, and concluding with an exercise that can be used to interact with the true nature, the waking dream. There are thoughts, ideas and suggestions about spreading out light out into the world to heal the environment.

Great ideas that can awaken our ecological responsibility in our day-to-day life and humanistically uplifting, causing us to direct our power (thought, word, deed) towards the path of the healer.

I’d like to add a few things…

I have worked with the weather individually and with others most of my life in various degrees and capacities. As a group I’ve participated in flood relief, easing out the tension of storms and asking for protection. Sometimes we succeed, or gather a sense of accomplishment when we have assisted others, and sometimes we fail. You see, weather isn’t our force to command…

I can recall several experiences, one with a friend in 1991, while driving to a coven meeting in Reno. Preparing for our diverse circle of friends, I came like a kid with a new toy, a newly forged staff of copper, crystal, stone and feather. Our drive to Reno from Tahoe was a stormy one.

Kaynek behind the wheel and lightning in the distance I felt a bit of joy and abandon as it struck me to play with the storm around us. I felt a keen tingling-kinship with the weather. I don’t remember our exact conversation (K feel free to chime in) but I do remember pointing and asking for the lightning to strike. In the distance, through the coper, stone and quarts, flashing forks of power struck.

The experience felt epic, but I was young. Looking back I should not have been anywhere in a storm with copper tubing, nor playing with the weather so blatantly, but the memory stands out. A stormy night sky, vibrant flashes of lightning striking where I pointed. In oneness, the storm and I.

That same year I recall climbing a small boulder strewn mountain with my sister and explaining the weather and magick. I chose a branch from the ground and at the peak I drew a circle in the earth and called to the weather. With a RUSH the wind blew around us, and then off in the direction I asked. My sister in awe, I laughing, filled with the joy other Witches write about when we are in Perfect Love, and Perfect Trust.

As I write this I am brewing my own pot of words around the message of the chapter, communication with the spirit of place, with the mind of nature, and reflecting on previous chapters. When I began to read and stew the first thought that came to me was Deva, forces of nature, embodiments of morals, exultations, divinities, spirits of place, elemental.

A being. Life, in some form, and a relationship that is met, made, and hopefully respected.

My lesson with spirits is that we are not commanding, but asking, because we are building relationships (as mentioned in chapter 3, Awakening to the Spirit World). We do not command our friends, we ask. We do not force our relationships, we build them with cooperative relating, learning as we grow. Forces of nature are not mindless elements at the beck and call of our every whim. Spirits are not all benevolent in these of our personal, human, moral values. The universe is much larger than our narrow focus and more diverse than we’d like to believe.

I began writing this last night in the late evening with some mixed feelings. I drifted in and out of a documentary on ecology. Before bed I had a lot of time to think about nature, animals, spirits, and human co-existence. We have it pretty easy here in the Western World versus those that are living out in the Sahara. I’m not trying to downplay our own natural disasters or the random bear attack but compared to some tribal cultures around the world, we are well off.

Myself, I think that we American’s are pretty spoiled compared to the rest of the world. I understand that the lion does not sleep in the brush some 100 or 1000 feet from me, part of a pride, awaiting the hunt at night. I get it that I will not fall victim to that lion and that I have the luxury of connecting to that archetype on a completely abstract level. I think that this is the point of a book, a lesson, and a chapter like this, getting us reconnected to our nature within. Yet I find myself with twisting in that vein of thought.

I do understand that the natural interaction we are talking about it more than just a loving communication with a “spiritual” being on “another plane” because if I am going to meet with the power of that lion, shamanically, I am not meeting Simba of the Lion King, but an avatar of a very powerful and quite deadly creature when met in the flesh and fur.

A lion in the wild is not the same as the captured photograph and our minds imprinting the image with our human sensitivities.

In times past animal encounters in both waking and sleeping consciousness could herald a message or meaning to the human who happened upon them, but the meetings weren’t all flowers and butterflies. We forget that tribal peoples lived a much different life than many of us do today, they were sometimes predator, sometimes prey. Sometimes humans had to fight for their lives, and families. Sometimes animals attacked.

And I guess this is where we learned a lesson in deference to the natural world.

The weather is the same. It sometimes irks me when I hear the news and the weather “forecast” calls for “good weather” meaning pleasant, or “bad weather”, like rain or snow. The weather is neither good or bad. We may not like it because it’s too hot, or because the rain causes us an inconvenience but, the weather patterns are not “good” or “bad”.

They are pleasant and agreeable at times and at other times destructive in their force and fury. Rain becomes floods, wind and storm become hurricane, the earth trembles, homes, and lives are altered and destroyed. This is the ferocity of weather, extreme as it may be, and not a malevolent force.

What I’m saying is that it seems that we (Westerners) want to think that only good and positive interaction, I’m not talking about our intentions, are expected in the realms of spirit. That our achievements in those experiences are attainable, and even necessary, only through what we consider positive and peaceful interactions.

What is positive? Does that mean you will come out feeling loved, giggling, or with some profound sense of Oneness? I don’t agree because we do learn just as much from fear, pain, and suffering caused in the natural world as there is in the belief of a positive-only encounter. We seem to think that “good spiritual” messages MUST be the bearer of our “vision”.

Positive can be the removal of a tumor, the setting of a bone, the loss of a relationship that took away and ate up our attention so much that we lost touch with some of the more essential friendships of our life. It doesn’t feel good to have the surgery, or the sudden vacuum when we lose someone but when we heal the benefit can become apparent.

Nature is not good. Nature is “natural”. When we look at totems we tend to humanize their qualities. The lion is suddenly proud, or regal, not experiencing the lethal nature within them and the lesson that it really teaches us. We might see the Raven and think “ooh Magic!” but do we also see that the Raven is a thief, a scavenger, a killer who raids nests and eats smaller animals? The Raven in fact is a sneak, a mimic, and a predator but I’m not the only one to recognize that there is a message in both the dark and light of the animal or nature spirits we interact with.

Speaking of the spirit of a place and benevolence…

I feel pretty comfortable with the statement nature is neither good nor evil, for that is a thing of men. There was no Book of Earth,  she gave us instinct, senses, survival and ingenuity at some point along the way. We are of the natural world but I do not think we are anything innately good, I think that is a learned behavior.

Nature kills, intentionally, for survival. The viper is not seeking vengeance, it is hungry and surviving. The spider is not waiting to hurt you, it is defending its nest or seeking sustenance itself.

They, the plants, animals, and insects are after the natural order by way of their very nature.

Undoubtably we are animals, but I like to believe we are something more. We have come along remarkably far, and in such a way as no other species in recorded history has. For better or worse we have been gifted with faculties that appear to be greater in certain senses than anything else on the planet. Is this our gift? Yet it seems that the New Age thought propagates a peace and love mentality in nature, that what we should expect to encounter will be of the green grass and garlands variety.

I think that we need to recognize that this is our projection.

OK. So you go on a journey and you encounter your natural “Dream Time” world where you immerse yourself in a rich environment that is both empowering and comfortable. You sit by a stream. You feel the grass in your toes. Butterflies land on your fingers and a deer appears before you. There is a message in the serenity as you gently relax into the grass, and the clouds of your mind are lifted. You feel at peace.

When you return to the waking state there is a measurable difference in your mood. You feel clear, ready to move back into the mainstream of your job, home, family, etc. There are benefits to this sort of meditation and journeywork. We can see in other forms of inner spiritual work how we can use the imagery to work out problems in our life.

Yet we are talking about interfacing with Nature as a force of spirit. As much as we’d like for it to be a sunny experience in the grass with animal spirits domesticated to our image work, we may find that it is not. Our minds may create a peaceful vehicle for our spirit but that vehicle will enter the traffic of the natural world, and the natural world is neither good nor evil, it is wild, free and apparent. Watch the news. Better yet, take a field trip to a park and observe the Finch nab the butterfly, the snake consume the frog, the tree that has grown so large that the plant life beneath it dies away.

The Shaman, the Witch, is then communicating with that world. We are the interface of our peoples voice for relief from fire, or requesting guidance, to that of the power of the nature spirits, the animistic universe. Our interface with the natural world on an energetic level may help shape the experience, a power of resonance, collecting our self to shape a harmonic communication -this is where we bend- but our encounter, that first meeting, may not always come at the expected level.

What happens when we encounter a volatile force of nature? What do we do when we interface with the storm, or the raging beast, and in our visionary work we come into contact the less than peaceful. Is our feeling of comfort more important than accepting that relationship?

I think my most recent experience with the entity in our home illustrates my answer because I had to connect to a destructive force. To accomplish this I had to accept that spirits nature. It was dark but I took myself into a place where I saw it for what it was and met it. Embracing the shadow side of the spiritual world without succumbing to it’s entropic force is a tremendous experience. You find that it isn’t the loving being. In my moment it was in fact an entropic being that synced instead with my murky nature… a natural part of my being: our shadow self.

When we work with a storm to sooth it, we become one with the tempest and in that oneness help to disperse the power of the storm. It isn’t peaceful, it isn’t bad in an of itself, yet we must accept it as it is before we can communicate with that being that is the place and power of the weather.

I mention all of this because I don’t think it is talked about enough that one will not always encounter what we would call benevolence. Not all of us will be put into a place where we are interacting with destructive forces. I think our guiding spirits of life will often shield us from some of the worst that can be met but we shouldn’t believe that we wont always be met with what we find agreeable.

This is an act of acceptance. When we accept, we are seeing what is, and we can then work with it. Nature, spirit, life, self.

This comes to the gem of the chapter, in my opinion. Tom Cowan writes:

“…We often forget or ignore the fact that Nature is immensely more powerful than we are. As shamanic practitioners, we like to work with Nature in its more gentle aspects: the gorgeous sunset,the flowering garden, the starry sky, or the gentle brook. But Nature is also the hurricane, tornado, forest fire, earthquake, and flooded river. Faced with these inevitabilities, we then stand in awe of these forces, recognizing their power and even their terrible beauty as we pray they do not damage our homes or kill us. The power that we witness in these and other natural events is far older and stronger than we are. These primordial activities happened before we humans arrived in this world, and they will most likely continue after we are long gone, revealing how small we really are in this great drama of the natural world.

And knowing this, we can defer to these natural events. We can feel confident in conceding that they are going to happen, that they in some way are necessary in some grander scheme that we can readily imagine. We can then accept with grace the discomfort and inconvenience they inevitably produce. And if we have already been disciplining ourselves by choosing  to experience the less than comfortable, the less convenient ways that humans have traditionally related to natural conditions, then we may have greater understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of those more serious disasters when they occur.

We will then be living more in alignment with our indigenous mind and heart rather than the foundation of our modern Western mind that seeks dominion and control over Nature.”

We are asked at the end of the chapter if our purpose was to nurture and sustain life on the planet… and I think that this does require a great deal of contemplation. Much like the discovery show that played on my television last night, the questions are being raised: What is our place? Where does humanity fit into the greater scheme? What is sustainability and how do we achieve it when our priority is on managing consumption and curtailing the ever expanding industrial world? And in light of these questions, being an American, a person in the Western world, who are we to tell developing countries living in what we consider darker ages, that they cannot have what we have because it is bad for the planet?

We who have air conditioners, modern plumbing, public transportation, and often more gadgets, cars, and devices than we actually need. We who drive our cars four blocks instead of walking out of convenience and lazily decide to make the smallest changes while the world, through weather and loss of species, tells us that she, the Great Mother, will no longer sustain us in our ravenous and irresponsible pursuit of comfortability?

You see touching your shamanic nature is more than just meeting a totem spirit. Rooting into the natural world brings us back into the place of being responsible human beings who are being asked to do more than recycle, more than reduce our power usage, more than just whatever it is we are doing, because what we have been doing is far to much.

The natural world has reared her destructive face, are you ready to step up and meet the snarling visage?


– – –
Be well,

Scott K Smith
http://lifencompass.com

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