Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The land we call home
The land we call home, situated on the homelands of the Kalapuya people.

In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, let us reflect on the potent words of a woman, inhabitant of the Amazonian rainforest, and the leader of the Waorani people, Nemonte Nenquimo:

“I never had the chance to go to university, and become a doctor, or a lawyer, a politician, or a scientist. My elders are my teachers. The forest is my teacher. And I have learned enough (and I speak shoulder to shoulder with my Indigenous brothers and sisters across the world) to know that you have lost your way, and that you are in trouble (though you don’t fully understand it yet) and that your trouble is a threat to every form of life on Earth.

You forced your civilisation upon us and now look where we are: global pandemic, climate crisis, species extinction and, driving it all, widespread spiritual poverty. In all these years of taking, taking, taking from our lands, you have not had the courage, or the curiosity, or the respect to get to know us. To understand how we see, and think, and feel, and what we know about life on this Earth.

I won’t be able to teach you in this letter, either. But what I can say is that it has to do with thousands and thousands of years of love for this forest, for this place. Love in the deepest sense, as reverence. This forest has taught us how to walk lightly, and because we have listened, learned and defended her, she has given us everything: water, clean air, nourishment, shelter, medicines, happiness, meaning. And you are taking all this away, not just from us, but from everyone on the planet, and from future generations.

It is the early morning in the Amazon, just before first light: a time that is meant for us to share our dreams, our most potent thoughts. And so I say to all of you: the Earth does not expect you to save her, she expects you to respect her. And we, as Indigenous peoples, expect the same.”

Nemonte Nenquimo’s whole letter is here.

Intention

Let Nemonte’s words lead you to formulate an intention for your journey. We will use our time in the circle this week to listen deeply and learn from this voice of the rainforest. She is addressing us.

What do you experience when you journey on her words? What guidance do you receive? What practices are you guided to adopt or what changes might you consider?

Listening is what we’re working on in this journey. May we enter the landscape of this journey with the intention of opening to the wisdom of this new, and profoundly ancient, perspective. 

Offering

The land where we live is an elder and a source of wisdom. 

Make an effort to spend some time outside, listening, as your offering this week.  We will share stories (and souvenirs) of the experience. 

If you do not yet have a “sit spot,” a place in nature you visit regularly, this would be a lovely way of honoring Nemonte and the original stewards of the lands where you live.

RSVP

This is a free, online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism on Wednesdays from 4-5:30 pm PDT. If you would like to join us, feel free to email anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels welcome.

Upside-down


In my last journey with Gaia Shamanism’s weekly online circle, my guide invited me to sit with him on the blue buckets in which I had been harvesting apples. The buckets were empty; he turned them upside down so we could chat.

Small details like these in a journey, I find, are fitting subjects for meditation. Anything from your journey that snags your attention, or leaves you wondering “why?” indicates a place to dig for more insight. It gives you something to chew on, spiritual food, as you go about your day. Seek to extend the journey into your waking life so that it better informs, or inwardly-forms, you.

This upside-down bucket called to me as an image all week long. Sensitives, those who get their information directly from the world in the form of feeling (and if you are good at journeying you are a sensitive) often have a wide-open crown chakra. This openness makes the sensitive “useful” to Spirit as it also makes Spirit useful to the sensitive. 

Sensitives often find themselves guided to do the right thing at the right time, putting things together in ways the mind could never orchestrate. Because of this openness, we have the capacity to be filled with the fruits of the harvest, both spiritual and practical.

This energetic openness, however, can be a liability. In the past week, I have been filled with the toxic fruits of these times, paying way too much attention to the news cycle, dreaming of Trump, and getting pulled outside of myself. No good.

To journey is to explore the world from a different center than that of the mind. To journey is to flip the energetic sensitivity we were gifted at birth, using it to connect not to the outside world, but to our inside world, if even for a few minutes of the day.

When we tune into our deep selves using the sacred drumbeat, we have access to the wisdom that lives in us beneath the conscious mind. This turning upside down, decentering the mind with the help of the drumbeat, can make the difference in our ability to navigate these upside-down times.

The message of that journey, spoken in the heart’s language of image, reminds us that we are always accompanied and beloved. If we invert the world’s ideas of safety and information, if we make a regular date to sit on the humble throne of sensitivity with Spirit, we will be safer, saner, and more able to carry the spiritual fruits of love out into the world

Intention

The circle this week is an opportunity to turn the tables on the crazymaking ways of our mind-made world. Let’s turn logic on its head and ask for a journey that will help us reorient, reconnect, and remember what we’re here to do and be and do-be-do-be-do.

Offering

Our offering is intangible this week: let us offer our overly-full, jumbled, and jangled selves. Let’s turn all our instincts to present a pure and perfect self to Spirit on its head and resolve to show up in the unseen world with a bouquet made from the flowers of our messiness and confusion. Put differently, our offering this week is our heart’s honesty, humility, and sincerity.

RSVP

This is a free, online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism on Wednesdays from 4-5:30 pm PDT. If you would like to join us, feel free to email anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels welcome.

The harvest of the Equinox

This Tuesday, September 22, 2020, brings the equinox when, for a short period of time, the heavenly powers of light and darkness will be evenly balanced.

Natural cycles build and grow and ripen over periods of time much longer than that of the news cycle. These natural cycles carry the seeds of the ancient mysteries within them about the waxing and waning of life.

The equinox is a time when the unconscious and conscious forces within us are equalized, amplified, and supported by the larger environment. This is an auspicious time to journey.

In the Northern Hemisphere, we are invited to journey to harvest the lessons of this past growing season. What nourishment has life yielded over the past six months? What crops have ripened and grown within and around you since the onset of the pandemic?

Our minds may be pissed off by the pandemic, our hearts likely ache over the loss of community and of human life, but this is a journey to check in with our souls to learn what has been the deeper spiritual harvest of these days.

Take your time. Do your best to let go of the mind’s judgments. Endeavor to experience your soul’s harvest from this past season in terms as tangible and sensory as you can muster in the journey state.

If there is a fruit of your harvest that you don’t understand while you are in the imaginal world, ask it, feel into it, or request the assistance of a guide to assist you. My hope is that you will seek your answers principally in images rather than words to help bring the unconscious symbolism of your soul’s harvest to light.

In the Southern hemisphere, you are invited to journey on the same questions. Dark and cold days accelerate inward growth and activity in the unseen worlds of dream, journey, and creativity. What has been the harvest of these past months of inwardness and isolation?

What new harvests might the change in the balance of light bring to your life over the next six months? Try to see and feel and investigate with as much specificity and detail as possible.

Offering

This week, bring an offering of water to the circle. Choose a vessel sacred to you to hold the water and/or find a source for the water that is special to you.

We will each offer a few words of thanks to the water, grower of harvests, in the circle. After our circle closes, we will use this communally blessed water to pour libations of thanksgiving to Gaia on the land where we live.

RSVP

This is a free, online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism on Wednesdays from 4-5:30 pm PDT. If you would like to join us, feel free to email anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels welcome.

Grief

Grief

There’s a blue plastic bucket that has been sitting under my parents’ apple tree for the past week. Each day, more ripe red apples fall to the ground and roll down the driveway.

The air is hazardous, filled with the smoke of forest fires burning only 12 miles away, so we dare not spend the time outside to collect the apples. In so many ways, these apples, coated with ash, represent our harvest as a people.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets of old responded to catastrophe by calling upon the people to rend their garments, put ash on their heads, and wear sackcloth as a sign of entering a time of collective repentance and grieving for their transgressions against the laws of Life.

In place of our grief and repentance in the face of ongoing climate catastrophe, millions of acres of forestland are instead ablaze and rent by fire. Here, Gaia is arrayed in wildfire smoke, Her breath the sackcloth that scratches our lungs and reddens our eyes. In the absence of our heartfelt prayers for forgiveness and acts of reconciliation toward the natural world, ashes of lamentation rain down upon our heads from the heavens.

No matter where you live, these fires and this bitter harvest is yours as well.

But the scale and magnitude of this disaster also indicate that this is a liminal moment, a time out-of-time, a sacred summoning to stop, take stock, and change direction. Catastrophe calls us to conversion, to turn away from the path of error, and to face in the direction of Life once again.

To realize the great collective turning that is being called for by these times of COVID, hurricane, and wildfire, however, we must start small, beginning with ourselves, beginning by honoring the wisdom of our grief.

Offering

Bring something tangible to offer in the circle for the many who have lost their lives in one of the many ongoing catastrophes in our world.

Intention

Our intention will be to reunite with our true depth of feeling and kinship for the natural world.

We can ask for forgiveness from our mother, Gaia, and from our human and non-human kin—tree, deer, vole, salmon, hawk, raccoon, coyote, bear—who are losing their lives. 

Let us witness, feel, and listen deeply to our larger family at this time. 

RSVP

This is a free, online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism on Wednesdays from 4-5:30 pm PDT. If you would like to join us, feel free to email anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels welcome.

Safety in the dark

I took a journey for someone recently who was asking Spirit to guide her in feeling safe and holding the faith it will all work out in these dark times of unknowing. In the journey, we found ourselves under a starlit sky on a moonless night.

The air was still, all was quiet, and we couldn’t see to move forward on our journey. I found myself asking her to light our way. A bright beam of light came from her head, and as she looked around, the darkness was dispelled wherever she placed her attention.

But as she looked at the world from head-level, turning around to look in every direction, there was simply nothing to see. The light wasn’t helping at all. She threw her brilliant flashlight of consciousness down on the ground in disgust.

I had an idea: “Train your light on the ground.” She did so and when she trained her conscious awareness down close and low, we could see that there was a cliff to our left but ground to our right.

With the help of her awareness focused on the ground beneath our feet, we found stones. Soon, we were busy shaping them into a circle. As we searched for stones, we found branches and began to create a campfire. Once we had the wood gathered and lit, we were in the presence of a much larger living light than the beam of the mind. This light was able to guard and assist us.

Unlike the strong beam of the mind, the fire of the heart can provide warmth, create a gathering place for community, cook experience into nourishment, as well as provide light in dark and frightening times. After our campfire was built, we were surprised that we could now see other campfires in the distance. 

Your focus (distance or ground?) and center of awareness (head or heart?) make a great deal of difference in our ability to avoid danger, feel secure, be of service, and locate community in dark times.

Building the fire is a metaphor for igniting the heart’s wisdom in our lives. It is a slow and incremental process. Training the mind to attend to things both humble and close is the first step. With experience, we find that the fire of compassion helps to dispel the dark heaviness that is advancing on our hearts. 

With the gift of awareness that comes with an established practice of tending the fire of the heart, we begin to see and feel that we are part of a great constellation of bright and generous souls. This light, kept alive with intention and effort, will help us find our way across a darkened landscape.

Offering

We will start the circle with a simple offering that helps you to recall the abundance of the ground where you live or that feeds the fire of your heart.

Intention

This journey circle will be dedicated to shifting your focus and exploring your ground, inner and outer. Be curious: what do you find when you shift to the vision of the heart in a journey? What does it feel like here? What resources might you have been overlooking? Is there anything to cultivate close and near that you aren’t already?

Explore the condition of your central fire of the heart. Tend it on your journey. What do you need to do to grow your heart’s vision and power? Seek to learn from the fire itself or a spirit guide.

The overall question is: what does your spiritual work look like in the darkening landscape of these times? 

RSVP

This is a free, online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism. If you would like to join us, feel free to email anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels welcome.

Lessons in the dark

In Gaia Shamanism’s weekly online journey circle last week, I found myself in impenetrable darkness; with time I realized it was the dark unknowing of these times. 

This darkness has a shape and resonance: it was a vast cave, a place of initiation and prayer, a sacred gathering place for the living, dead, and yet-to-be-born of our human family.

The dark cave is part of the shared geography of the soul. This place, which we can explore together by descending from the linear mind down into the expansive vision of the heart, is the incubation space of new life. 

But when we are wholly in the dark and can glimpse nothing at all, when we have no sense of the dimension and purpose of our collective unknowing and unraveling, we are tempted to despair. 

Despair among the privileged elite (and yes, that’s us) simply won’t do. 

We must be willing to descend into the darkness and open our eyes to the felt reality available under the surface of things. We are in training: to see in the dark, to know what is true despite cloaks of deception and displays of power, and to betray the betrayers when the opportunity presents itself. Vision, courage, and soul force are needed now more than ever before.

This week in our weekly circle, we will journey to probe and gain insight into the deepening darkness in which we find ourselves. Together, we will descend beneath the narratives that hold us in the prison of the mind and seek to become conscious of what lives under the surface of things. Together we will visit the dark cave–Gaia’s womb–the shared seat of our subconscious knowing.

We will need the help of Spirit to be able to see and recall the wisdom yielded by the dark cave of our mother and we will ask for it. This could be a journey unto itself. In the cave, we can ask to meet and learn from the guides who will help us navigate the challenges ahead. Or we can ask to be shown what we might offer in the service of our collective transformation. 

Journeying together, we will be able to piece together a more complete picture of where we are as souls than we could by journeying alone. But we are only seeking modest answers in our quest, small new seeds of insight to carry and tend in the heart until they bear fruit and ripen into action for a hungry world.

Whenever you find yourself in a dark cave, such as the one we find ourselves in now, it is best to slow down, remain teachable, and move forward on hands and knees lest you bump your head. 

Our minds and our thoughts have been shaped by a social order that has declared a war on life for generations. We carry seeds within that we would seek to stamp out in the world.  We need to get good at taking our thoughts and ourselves lightly. 

The darkness has much to teach us. May we unlearn well.

*****

This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020. Email your interest in joining us at anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels are welcome.

Language beyond words

Intention

For Gaia Shamanism’s free online journey circle this Wednesday, August 24, at 4 pm PDT, search yourself and settle on an intention for which to journey this week. 

It can be difficult to choose an intention, but being in touch with the questions we carry within can help us understand our lives a great deal more.

Life is always speaking to us, responding to our deepest longings and questions. The question is: do we know what we are asking?


Offering

At the start of the circle, we will each share a material object with the group as an offering.

Spirit is tangible, present, and often speaks to us in a language beyond words. To listen and respond to this language is a spiritual discipline–and a form of play. 

You’ll know you’ve hit on the sacred something to share with the group from the feeling of excitement or delight that draws you in. 

We were already fluent in the language of animism as kids. This is an invitation to talk to the stones, trees, and objects around your home on a weekly basis.

How does it feel to return?

To join the circle, email anna@gaiashmanism.com with your interest. All skill levels are welcome.

The view from within

I am in the process of shifting my practice from what I’ve called “shamanism” to what it really is: an earth-centered, animistic path of wisdom.

What the heck is animism? The spiritual insight that there are many kinds of people in the world, only some of whom are human. 

Animism is the bedrock worldview beneath shamanic consciousness. To consider the natural world as fundamentally alive, worthy of respect, and capable of making a moral claim upon us is to return to a relational framework for living in the world, a shift that is deeply needed in these times. 

But relationship implies communication. How do we communicate with that hill, the departed dead, the weather, or the tree in our backyard? 

One friend who can help us remember how to speak in the language beyond words is the drum. With the aid of the sacred drumbeat, our consciousness can shift, we can see things from within, we can learn to behave.

The drumbeat facilitates in-sight, which is indispensable to communing with our sacred mother, Gaia, the living and animate earth.

Abraham Heschel on insight: “Conventional seeing…is a way of seeing the present in the past tense. Insight is an attempt to think in the present.

Insight is a breakthrough, requiring much intellectual dismantling and dislocation. it begins with..the cultivation of a feeling for the unfamiliar, unparalleled, incredible.

It is in being involved with a phenomenon, being intimately engaged to it, courting it, as it were, that after much perplexity and embarrassment we come upon insight–upon a way of seeing the phenomenon from within.

Insight is accompanied by a sense of surprise. What has been closed is suddenly disclosed. It entails genuine perception, seeing anew.”

This is what we’re after in the journey of in-sight meditation, my friends: thinking in the present, not the past; seeing from within instead of from the outside; cracking into the center of experiences to learn their purpose, meaning, and direction for our lives.

Offering

Find something to offer at the start of the circle to represent your desire for awakened insight and/or for a sense of greater kinship with the natural world.

Intention

What do you need greater in-sight about? Or what non-human others do you feel drawn toward knowing and understanding more fully? Our request will be for a surprising new perspective or inner view that can lead to new behavior or awakened action.

This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020. Email your interest in joining us at anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels are welcome.


Shamanic journey as in-sight meditation

To be truly present to the moment, rooted wholly and unreservedly here in the now, is to pray.

Being present is a spiritual practice that you can practice anytime and anywhere. To be present introduces a gap, a pregnant pause, in the thinking of the mind. The space opened up by the prayer of presence enables us to respond—rather than react—to the situation at hand.

To slow the movement of the mind, to stand rooted and aware, to respond in any given circumstance is to generate a sphere of wakeful presence both within and without. Generating this state of prayerful presence enables us to truly see as we walk about the world.

In the words of Abraham Heschel in the introduction to his masterpiece, The Prophets:

“What impairs our sight are habits of seeing…. Our sight is suffused with knowing, instead of feeling painfully the lack of knowing what we see. The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than to see what we know.”

The shamanic journey, or in-sight meditation, helps destabilize the mind’s habitual ways of seeing. It is one way of arriving at the sight beyond our conscious knowing. But shamanic journeying, or in-sight meditation, can itself become domesticated and lose its liberating power if we’re not vigilant.

The practice of presence and slowing down, in life and journey alike, can help us break the shackles of mental routine and deepen our vision into genuine in-sight.

We tend to see what we know. Sight “suffused with knowing,” however, is inferior to innocent and unlearned vision. To look for what you’ve been instructed to see is to be blind to the wild and liberating power of in-sight.  

Our problem is that we try to be good students. We want to know what we are looking for so we can accomplish the task before us. In the grip of the mind, absent from our senses, we have access to nothing more than the conventional wisdom of our time.

We have become domesticated, losing touch with our wildish souls. Souls, like honeybees, thrive not in the light of conscious awareness, but in the subconscious darkness of the hive. What we are after in the meditation of in-sight is the inner, humming, honeyed reality of mystery that lives under the surface at the center of existence.

The honeyed reality of in-sight is protected by stings, however. Until you are willing to commit to metabolizing the pain you carry within, you cannot successfully enter the inner sanctum of Spirit.

Once you agree to proceed anyway, you will find your eyes adjusting to the darkened light of inner reality. As your capacity for in-sight is awakened and remembered, it will extend beyond yourself out into the things of this world.

Offering

This week, let us make an offering to the protective spirit that guards the threshold between surface vision and in-sight. We will share our offerings at the start of the circle.

Intention

This will be a journey to explore our capacity for inner vision. Let us practice slowing down in the journey state, being really present, awake, and softening into presence as we kindle our shared intention for deeper in-sight in darkening times.

The emphasis here will be on peeling back the layers of conditioning and expectation to reach down and breakthrough to unite with the living Mystery at the core of reality.

This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020. Email your interest in joining us at anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels are welcome. 

Radical presence as prayer

The last month that my friend, Caruthers, had left to live was one I spent in perpetual prayer, but not in the way that I was taught to pray.

Words were unequal to the moment, though I wrote Caruthers each day that last month before he was executed by the State of Texas. My intention was to smuggle as much life as possible through the prison bars to him in those last days.

I found mental prayer to be wholly inadequate, which surprised and troubled me. After all, I was a minister.

Prayers asking for deliverance from his fate were futile. Words of scripture brought no solace. My training, faith, and spiritual tools turned to dust as I faced our modern version of the cross—the sanitized, state-sanctioned brutality we call the death penalty—though it took many years for me to acknowledge as much to myself.

What pulled me through these upside-down days was focusing my time and attention on the common, everyday healing presences of our world—grass, tree, sky—all of which are wholly inaccessible to an inmate on death row. I walked barefoot in a creek, watched a spider spin her web, and fed pigeons at a bus stop as I chronicled the sights and sounds of our world for my beloved and condemned friend.

One thing I learned from my month of ceaseless vigil is that prayer has not a thing to do with words, petitions, or belief. In the end—at the end—prayer means to be unconditionally present and alive to Life, such as it is, in the here and now.

Caruthers reported that he enjoyed the drive from Livingston to Huntsville, Texas, the day of his execution because he could see the bright blue sky from his seat in the van.

When we find our way into that powerful state of wakeful presence, beyond all the conditions and qualifications that we might place on our acceptance of life, the world is so devastatingly beautiful that it breaks our hearts open and can bring us to our knees.

Prayer isn’t about words. Prayer in a traumatized and traumatizing society is the radical act of seeking to be fully and unreservedly here–now–in body, mind, and soul. Prayer is a heroic effort to stay rooted in the moment. Prayer is the act of resisting our culture’s brittle “up and out” reflex in the face of discomfort, seeking instead to greet Life with a steady gaze and the open arms of a lover.

Unconditional presence is the prayer that will help us not only to survive these times but to come alive again.

Offering

This week for our journey circle, please bring a simple offering for Spirit, something you will find on your daily sojourn in the world. The search is meant help us all to walk with a degree of greater wakefulness and presence in the upcoming days.

Intention

Times are tough and will soon get tougher for us all. To pray is to be present to Presence and alive to Life. To pray is to be sustained on the long journey of healing ourselves and loving our world back to wholeness.

For this week’s journey, let us find our way into a more vital and enlivening connection with this Wholeness, the Holy, the Divine, present to us in each moment and immanent in every bit of creation.

You might seek to experience the beauty and preciousness of your life, such as it is, more deeply.  Ask for a journey to help you to see your life and our world as though this month were your last.

Or, you are welcome to journey on any other parts of this reflection that opens up space for you to explore something new more deeply for yourself.

This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020. Email your interest in joining us at anna@gaiashamanism.com. All skill levels are welcome.