In the shadow there is immense power

Day 3 of a 7 day eclipse series: Solar Plexus, Center of Will

After viewing the eclipse on Monday, August 21, from the path of totality in Lebanon, Oregon, I decided to undertake 7 shamanic journeys in the seven days following the event to better understand the messages and energies at play in the first eclipse visible from coast to coast in North America since 1918.


In this journey, a bald eagle flew above me in circles. I was in its shadow at times, then blinded by the sun at others.  With time, it becomes clear that I am also to fly as an eagle and after we circle our way up into the heavens, we land in a tree by the Potomac River in Washington DC.

I begin to walk with eagle flying above me when suddenly I find myself in total darkness. It feels confining, like I’m waiting for something. Then a picture comes into view: a woman opens the screen door on her brownstone home and a little boy about six years old comes running out with his lunchbox and over-sized backpack.

She walks him to his school bus stop, sees him safely on board, and shuffles back home. The coming hours are a burden instead of a gift. Once inside, I see a newspaper with the employment listings circled in red. She’s smoking, a TV blaring in the background. She calls a friend. I can feel the weight of it all, needs pressing in on her with not much hope of relief for she who lives in the shadow of the the US Capitol.

I see myself knocking on the door with eagle on my shoulder. I introduce myself to this woman who introduces herself as Tamika. I explain that I’m on a quest to understand the lessons of the eclipse which cast its shadow across our nation just three days prior.

Strange as the visitation from the two of us is, Tamika invites us in. Her openness might be in part due to her loneliness and boredom, but this woman also has a big heart.  She offers eagle some cornbread (which he loves) while she and I drink lemonade at the kitchen table.

I start asking my “big questions” about our nation and how to move forward to a more sane and sustainable way of life, but she’s not interested. It’s all too remote and detached from reality. In a word, it’s too heady. Usefulness is what Tamika has her eye on.

My language, my questions, the approach I bring to this woman’s doorstep is the fruit of what bell hooks would call the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Our educational system, rooted in the blood and soil of oppression, helps to keep the existing order safe. From the inside.

At an early age, we are tempted to climb the tree of economic striving in hopes of tasting the shiny apple that ever remains just out of reach. We are taught to sit in rows, form lines, and to experience the world as audience instead of actors on the stage of life. We are catechized to live up in our heads, divorced from our grounding in things common like the earth, our senses, and kinship with our own and other species.

Tamika, whose name means “people,” spends her days isolated and alone. She kills time looking for work in hopes that one day she can kill time and make a “living” at it. Tamika, representing the wisdom and the struggles of the people who live in the shadow of this crumbling empire,  tells me she doesn’t see the point of this life we’ve created.

With a roof over her head and her basic material needs provided, Tamika is not sold on the American dream, but instead feels the hollowness of this “dream” acutely. This is the shadow-side of what “we the people” are living in this nation. Tamika’s struggle is not only that of an unemployed, single, African-American mother in DC. As her name suggests, Tamika’s struggle is our own.

So where do we begin?

The task before us is one of undoing, instead of doing. Our work is akin to waiting in the dark path of totality instead of blithely going about “business as usual” now that Nazi flags are unfurled and human lives are toppled and broken in the plain light of day. We need to create something entirely new under the sun, something beyond the simple dualities of light and dark, black and white, good and evil, by which we navigate our world.

We begin, as shown by this journey, by listening to and learning from those who live in the shadow of this nation. We start by listening to ourselves, acknowledging the shadow that follows us everywhere, no matter how dogged our practices of optimism and gratitude, no matter our social location or skin color: surely there is more to life than this. For the love of God, there has got to be more to life than this.

Perhaps, one day, we will be able to begin listening to one another. It is terrifying to live in the shadow of a crumbling empire, to be complicit in perpetuating a system which rewards and abuses us all, though in unequal measure. Tamika’s struggle is our own. We are more alike than we acknowledge, we who live in the shadow of the American dream.

One lesson of the Great American Eclipse is this: in the shadow there is immense power. For in the shadow, in the path of totality, you can turn your face towards the sun and begin to see everything in a new light.


This third day of the solar eclipse ceremony has centered on matters of the third chakra or the solar plexus, the seat of will power.

Tamika is a reminder to us that the American dream, in which the will of the people rules this land, is yet to be realized. But the power of this vision endures through the centuries and across this varied land, calling upon us to make good on our collective dream.

How to marshal our energies of will, how to stay on task and guard our precious reserves of time, energy, and attention is something that this third day of ceremony asks us to contemplate before moving into action.

May we learn to use our energies wisely and well.


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