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 copper, 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 pot of words around the message of the chapter, communication with the spirit of place, with the mind of nature, and reflecting on earlier 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 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 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 peopls 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 altered and destroyed. The ferocity of weather, extreme as it is, 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, 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 in the belief of a positive-only meet. 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 clear.
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 are gifted with faculties that seem 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 meet 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 meet 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 plain. Watch the news. Better yet, take a field trip to a park and see 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 people's 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 do 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 its 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 meet 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 done is far to much.
The natural world has reared her destructive face, are you ready to step up and meet the snarling visage?
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