Reflections Along the Way

3/19/02

My first reflection concerns the directions I am taking in my teaching. Sometimes what is written here will be personal to me or about me. I will share these because I think the ‘personal’ often reflects some aspect of what is happening or being influenced by the “collective.” So you can take my personal reflections and see where they take you in thinking about your own personal relationship to the topic.

Other times I will be focusing on a topic (e.g., how to work with the souls of those who died in the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US.). I assume that most of the topics will ‘choose me’ rather than me choosing them. That’s because my own walk involves being both vulnerable to, and interested in, events that occur in our world which raise questions that are somehow related to the practice of shamanism.

However, this first reflection is to share with you why I am teaching particular workshops this year and the way I am thinking about being avai lable as a teacher and walker of the shamanic path.

My 2002 workshops grew from seeds nurtured during my Sabbatical with special influence from a time of vision-questing this last September. Some of these workshops also reflect the process of thinking about my role now as an Elder and how, as an Elder, might I best serve Spirit and the shamanic community. By community I also mean Earth…for we are creatures within an Earth community.

I think that there is not enough emphasis on Place, Land, Spirits of Place, and other Beings in a lot of shamanic training. Out of a whole curriculum, for example, only one course with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies focuses on this. All the other courses involve how humans can take care of other humans. (Training in Extraction, Soul Retrieval, Dying and Crossing Over, Divination.) Yet we do not exist apart….nor could we exist apart—from the rest of creation. And if you study the ancient literature or listen to the words of songs passed down through tribal generations, you find that humans are almost secondary in the great drama of Creation and Earth unfolding. Perhaps the absence of such courses in such a quality organization as the Foundation for Shamanic Studies reflects how much we have lost in the continuity of shamanism across generations—and how self-centered have humans become. This is not some gratuitous criticism of the FSS—it is simply reflecting the current state of contemporary shamanism that’s not tribally rooted or Earth oriented.. I teach for the Foundation and wouldn’t be doing so had I not real respect for the work it has done and its commitment to making shamanism more accessible to people. And so many have benefited from this work. Yet in this areas, as with other organizations teaching shamanism, this is a serious neglect. For me, it is central to shamanism and we need to learn and care for the impact we are having within the Earth community and to Earth herself.

I am remembering now a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine who lives in Israel. She was telling me that I wouldn’t recognize Israel now—people were so afraid. When Bob and I had pilgrimaged there three years ago, it was one of the most profound experiences of “Holy Land” that I’ve ever had. Every mountain, river, desert, lake and the trees themselves bespoke centuries of humans wandering in search of deeper connection with the Divine Source of all life. In various spots within the Land, I could still hear the echo of someone’s quest to know more of Spirit’s intention and purpose for their lives, and for their community. In such a spot, for example, it was as though the tree itself provided the meeting-ground of one persons’ wrestling with spirits to “give me some message, some indication” that my prayers are heard. The tree was not just a backdrop or part of a stage set: the tree was providing the meeting place for this moment of vision questing. And if we translated that prayer into current shamanic language, we would speak of questing with the Spirits, too, and of looking for omens or messages upon the Wind.

So during this conversation I am listening to her description of the current terror, fear, and wailing for the lives being lost in the war being raged there now. Yet I found myself asking “Is anyone grieving and wailing for the Land itself” because I had images of how blows were being delivered to Earth’s body there just as they were to humans…images of ancient sacred places that Earth provided being destroyed and the very face of the body of Earth there smashed into pieces. Who is wailing for the Land itself??? From a shamanic perspective if we know ourselves as inseparable from Land; or if we realize we will NOT know ourselves apart from the Land, then our attention may shift, our desire for peace take deeper root because the consequences of our actions are exponentially greater, our loss cannot be replaced. This is why I do workshops focused on BearMedicine for the very heart of this path is attention to and cherishing of wilderness itself….wilderness within, wilderness without. It’s also why I seek to travel to new places that call….different lands…for this is the way I can awaken the Spirits of Place and facilitate those Places working us, teaching us, reclaiming us.

On a different note: I am also in the process of reflecting on my role now as an Elder and am thinking about how I can best serve Spirit and the growing shamanic community. Elder for me is not necessarily related to age (though that matters!!) but to how you have been “worked, worn, and tuned” by experiences and with Spirit over the years. I think I am a good source of support–both concerning subject matter and supporting individuals. I have some wisdom and it’s time to reflect on how my wisdom ways can be of use to others.

One role I can play is assisting those who are ready to step forth and teach. I am in the process of developing a TeachingClan for my Shamanism and BearMedicine workshops. This means others can be teaching the Introductory workshops while I can focus on the Advanced workshops. Working with such a team allows me more time to study, explore, and introduce new methods or activities into my advanced workshops. Yet equally important, such a TeachingClan supports others as they step forth and begin teaching for the first time. It is such a joy to support individuals in this process. It gives me the opportunity to share wisdom from years of teaching. I also get to have the delight of listening to them share their experiences so it’s like we all become novices again……and there’s nothing quit so sweet as the “beginning moments” of any new major undertaking—and extra sweet when to have the chance, indirectly, to return again to places from which you started but haven’ revisited in a long, long time.

For me 2002 is a year of adventures in teaching and I shiver with delight at the prospect of what I will be doing and the Circles with which I will be engaged this year..

Reaching out beyond those who know me:
I want to make myself available in ways I have not tried before. For example, I am on the road so much that when I return home it feels like returning to Sanctuary. I’ve created my life in such a way that I’m available to others beyond the Santa Cruz community but I haven’t shared or taught within my own community. I am planning to change that now. I am working with another woman in ton who’s been studying BearMedicine with me for several years. We are now engage in making plans for what we would teach here together and how to teach within Santa Cruz County.

Likewise do I think to ‘open’ myself to the unexpected and thus I’m letting people know that I’m available to teach in their area if hey wish me to come. So if you would like for me to do a workshop in your area, and you are willing to coordinate/sponsor such a workshop you can contact me or write Pirkko Miller who does the coordinating of requests for me to teach. This is the first time I have suggested people contact me if they would like for me to teach in their community.. I thought to be more public about this, however, because several requests come to me by people who have visited this web site, wrote me and wondered “would you teach…in our area…or do you only teach in California and Montana”.

I am available to go where I feel ‘called’….called both by Spirit and by people (or beings of a Place). So if you have some interest in my teaching on some subject, and coming to your ‘homeland’ to do this, write and let me know. The listing of my workshops gives you a notion of the broad range of my knowledge and interest in Shamanism. What’s missing from this year’s list, however, is that I love to teach how to work with Spirits of Place…….this is why I travel to Finland, Ireland, Holland, Israel….those ‘Places” called to me and so the workshops there focused in some measure on the Spirits of the Place (e.g. Voices of Connemara). The topic can be anything related to shamanism yet inevitably, once the Spirits are called in, they nearly always call us out! This is why I also prefer to teach in a setting or space embe dded within some larger natural space. I know there’s some good learning about how to do shamanism in the urban world, working on concrete floors or working midst pavements and the rush of cars yet when I am teaching I must be able to touch some tree, some bush, hear birds—-just somehow connect visually, if nothing else, with that which is not human created but the gift of living on this planet Earth.

And on that note, I shall end this writing, go off to sleep and see what I “cook” in the Dreaming Lands as I sleep outdoors on our cottage deck, drift away to the sound of hooting Owls and blowing wind.

Blessings, Carol