66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
Download the Jukebox for free:
play-the-jukebox PDF version
play-the-jukebox-reid-Dickie ZIP file epub for tablets and ereaders
With gratitude and love I dedicate this book to my parents, Helen and Bruce Dickie, whose gifts I used every day of my life, and to Linda, who lit my way.
Available now at McNally Robinson
Moments away from puberty, young Jim Crawford begins to discover how his newly effervescent maleness gives fresh meaning and expression to manhood in his family, friendships, community and beyond. Set in a small Canadian prairie town just as the tumultuous social and cultural changes of the 1960s begin, Play the Jukebox is a character-driven story entwining bright wholesome and dark pathological expressions of masculinity. As his own unique gifts reveal themselves, Jim learns the heights and depths to which men will go to defend family and future and how shared experience creates diverse forms of camaraderie between men and women.
Jim’s life revolves around pop music and records. The 45 – the little record with the big hole – is king; radio disc jockeys, record players and jukeboxes spin the seven-inch discs constantly. He discovers intimate links between hit songs and his own development as he travels from town to town changing the records in jukeboxes with Percy Peel, a mystery media mogul who leaves lasting impressions on Jim. As they did for millions of 1960s youth, The Beatles play a defining role as one of Jim’s change agents.
McNally Robinson: If you are coming into one of our stores, we suggest that you confirm that the book you want is in stock by emailing the location nearest you: Grant Park, Saskatoon, or by phoning the location nearest you.
The six Frequently Asked Questions on my blog all deal with some aspect of my personal spiritual practise – shamanism.
What is shamanism?
Personally, shamanism provides a method for me to experience life beyond the rational mind and its limitations. Ever since I was a young child I knew there was a place where imagination began, where great powers and incredible beings existed to help us and heal us. I spent forty years trying to find a way to get there. In 1994, I discovered a little book called The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. He laid out the core elements of shamanism as it had been practiced for over 50,000 years, adapted the techniques and technology for modern people and, suddenly, I had access to the spirit world. I had found my way!
Using a sonic driver, in my case drumming on CD, the daily mind is distracted. Then, having access to that mythical 90% of the brain we don’t use, the psychic and subtle worlds are revealed. I enter these worlds with powerful intent behind each of my journeys there. Intent, while a good list filler in ordinary reality, in non-ordinary reality becomes an enormously powerful tool. The shaman’s work is to apply the intent and watch for the intentional and unintentional to occur and discern their meanings. Power animals and spirit helpers act as guides, protectors, companions and teachers. More often than not, my clarity results from their explanations of events.
Mircea Eliade, the historian and philosopher who wrote the seminal work on the topic called Shamanism, subtitled it Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. What the shaman knows that few others know is the secret of the trance, which is: the trance plus intent opens access to the scene of freedom, to the source of creativity and to sheer ecstasy, all achieved simply, safely and without drugs. Ecstasy is a major factor in all the reports in this series. I spend a lot of time there.
You find my FAQ page here.
This amazing image is one of many dazzling captures in the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contest. Photographer Ashley Vincent captured, Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand, enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. View more of the award winners at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205906/The-world-Sublime-images-nature-best-vie-prize-2012-National-Geographic-photography-competition.html
I’ve covered lots of Manitoba ground over the last ten days and the signs of change are everywhere, not just in the fields where the harvest progresses apace sending plumes of chaff and dust into the air. The red maples flame as loud as our flag. Always the leaders in changing colour, cottonwoods burn yellow in the dry dusty sun of late summer. Greens start to fade as russet and pumpkin shades emerge. An especially good summer for poison ivy, now its scarlet and orange leaves form bright carpets in the understory of shallow forests and along the ditches of the TCH. This year mountain ash are laden with large clusters of hot red berries awaiting the first frosts to sweeten up for the jays and waxwings.
Murmurations of blackbirds weave and dive across the highway coordinating their aerial sonar for the long flight ahead. Tiny flocks of LGBs (little grey birds, thank you Ed Abbey) polka along with the Tragically Hip on the mighty Avenger’s CD player. Vs of geese broadcast their lonesome message across the land. Red-tailed hawks populate telephone poles keen-eyed for their next meal, an easier feat now those nice farmers have cut down all the long crops making the yummy wee critters more vulnerable.
Generally critters get more mobile at this time of year in anticipation of winter. They plan ahead like the garter snakes who are now heading toward the nearest karst that’ll take them down below the frost line where they can overwinter thus many flattened snakes on the highways. Night critters like skunks, raccoons, porcupines and badgers populate the shoulders in larger numbers now than during the hot weather. Ravens tug at the carcasses. Nature bats last.
I caught this cluster of wild bees and several of their honeycombs over the entrance to Zoria Hall, a popular dance hall now and ago. There was honey dripping down the wall! It was a cool windy day so the bees were inactive.
In the cemetery next to the Zoria church was this beautiful white angel turning black with time.
Still driving around…
Dr. Kenneth Ring has done countless studies of people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) and compared their experiences with those of shamans from various cultures. I have brought together several of Ring’s quotes in this regard and offer them here for their clarity and evocative nature.
“The plain of experience entered by NDEers is the same as that accessed by shamans. The key to entering is imagination, not imagination as viewed by outmoded Cartesian dualism (choice is between mind or matter) but a third realm that is objectively self-existent, the cumulative product of imaginative thought itself, an imaginal place. The third realm depends not on sensory perception or ordinary cognition but on certain altered states of consciousness that destabilize and disturb the two above states. The imaginal realm is ontologically real.
“Imagination then becomes a kind of organ of perception, a creative power, that discloses a world of form, dimension and persons which can be directly apprehended. What we apprehend is our own inner spiritual state, our soul. Thus soul and imagination are indissolubly bound to each other.
“The natural language of the soul is the image, as Aristotle stated. Soul is imagination. Imagination is a purely spiritual faculty and exists even after the body has disappeared. At death we are released into imagination and what we see is the soul’s own image which is light; one’s pure soul essence undefiled by character and body. This primordial light is refracted through the prism of the soul yielding an imaginal world.
“The shaman has learned to see with the eyes of the soul and experiences the realm with a fully awakened imagination.”
His name is Kevin Richardson. He is a lion whisperer.
Click pic to watch video
I’m calling this My Year of Being Grateful because time after time, day after day all year I found myself expressing gratitude for an aspect of my present life. Wherever I was and whatever I was doing was exactly what I wanted to be doing at that moment! I am an incredibly lucky man. Although my year began with a short hospital stay for a small physical tune-up, it improved greatly thereafter.
Reasons to be Grateful
Friends, new and old, and travel have helped me this year, providing continuous opportunities to grow and evolve while offering support and love. It is a luxury to be understood. I am enormously lucky and grateful for my friends. Their healing love comes in many forms from company in the Avenger’s passenger seat to a spontaneous breakfast to an accomplice on the Midnight Ride to a cup of coffee to a drive-by hug. From hikes along lush valleys and across the sweltering dunes of Spirit Sands to day trips exploring hidden places, sacred sites, getting a Skinner’s and doing flood recon to long trips into the SK Holyland, I have shared the miles and my experience with only wonderful people this year. Every mile was enhanced by their presence and curiosity and I appreciate that they allowed me to share my enthusiasm and intensity with them. For all the above mentioned reasons, I am grateful to Vonda, Kenny, Chris, Terry, Troy, Mark, Garcea, Mike, Marce, Steve, Mitch, Travis, Susan, Kevin, Sharon, Alex, Ernie, Marc, Cynthia, Jim, Wanda, Roman, Kenn, Liz, Mike, Brenda, Cheryl, Tillie, Robert and Mette. I felt Linda’s watchful presence, her benevolent, beautiful energy with me wherever I went.
My Blogging Life
It’s a numbers game. In the last year almost 93,000 hits have accrued to my blog, an astonishing number! It averages about 240 hits a day now, a steady and changing audience. I went seeking an audience with this blog and my other internet endeavours and I found one! Thank you for being part of readreidread.com
The flood was the major story on my blog this year, attracting a large percentage of hits. Reporting on it was easy because it was so widespread in MB and SK. Everywhere I went, there was a flood. This is a picture of the Portage Diversion filled to the brim. The Diversion was the major cause of flooding around Lake Manitoba. The other big story, virtually exclusive to my blog, was the huge sinkhole south of Dauphin, MB. My post on June 19 about the sinkhole garnered the most daily hits of any post this year with 1561 views. The short video of the sinkhole on YouTube is the most viewed of my 125 videos now on the DickToolCo channel. The picture shows the sinkhole in July. I became a double blogger this year when I launched a blog devoted entirely to my hometown’s history. Find it at www.shoallakehistory.com
Good Stuff Bad Stuff
Best hotels of the year: Delta Vancouver Suites (the picture was my view from 20th floor), The Convent Country Inn, Val Marie, SK and Canalta Hotel in Weyburn, SK. All offer superior accommodation, excellent amenities and good value.
Worst hotel of the year: Country Boy Motel, Coronach, SK. Humour and horror combined for a trying stay. Try not to stay there. Find out why. Coronach itself is a pleasant little town in the midst of millenia of fascinating history and pre-history.
Good Company: Enterprise Car Rental for another year of excellent service, economical rates and reliable vehicles. Over 5 months I put 23,000 km on a 2011 Avenger and encountered not one problem of any kind with the car! It deserved to be called the Mighty Avenger.
Bad Company: H & R Block for committing obvious errors on both Linda’s and my income tax and causing me months of grief. They settled. Go to a CPA.
Music: I attended three excellent concerts: The Tragically Hip at the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ ball park, k. d. lang at Regina Folk Festival and the spectacle of Prince at MTS Centre. The Avenger’s CD player was dominated by Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums. I’ll be posting about them in January.
Grieving: Linda’s toothbrush. In my post I Had a Wake-Up Call Today I admit that after 15 months I still couldn’t throw out Linda’s toothbrush. Strangely, the toothbrush became a symbol that grew in significance after I wrote the post about it. My words seemed to imbue it with a special connection to Linda, more intimate than other items she used daily. As with so many other events, things and memories, the toothbrush’s time to be reckoned with arrived. In early December I pledged I would throw out the toothbrush the day after Christmas, two years and a day after Linda died. The day and time arrived, I kissed the handle of her toothbrush, thanked it and put it in the wastebasket. Then I said to myself what I’d said the morning after Linda died two years prior: Today is the first day of the rest of my life. The meaning of this saw from the 1960s is much different today than it was in my youth, looking at it from the other end of life. It still seemed apt. Now that it is gone, the toothbrush has acquired new significance. Now it symbolizes progress, acceptance and hope, an emblem of my endurance. Truly what the toothbrush must be is yet another subtle wonderful gift from Linda. Thank you love.
Spirit: My gratitude extends beyond the organic realm to include the helping and loving spirit helpers and power animals who humble me with their ongoing assistance. Always and all ways, there is Spirit ashimmer with unconditional love and proper guidance. I am all gratitude. It was an extraordinary thrill for me to take several of Linda’s friends for their first hike on Spirit Sands this summer. I felt privileged to share my special experience with all of them and watch them become quickened and present as Spirit moves through them.
With a year of posts under my belt, I’ve created a month-by-month guide to my life and blog with links to some of my best writing of the year.
January: The year began with some chest pain, a few days in Health Sciences Centre followed by grateful recuperation at home. My post, called Six Days Among Angels, recounts the events in the hospital. Mid-month I posted a historical piece I’d researched and written several years before about Rooster Town, an early Winnipeg ghetto. This proved to be one of my more popular posts. The tenth anniversary of my father’s death inspired a piece simply called Dad, another popular post.
February: February 1st is Grasslands National Park Day on my blog, celebrated with three posts about the park and region. Lise Perrault, who lived in Val Marie, SK on the edge of the park, painted many scenes of GNP in an appealing folk art style that I have long admired. Prairie dogs still abound in several dogtowns in GNP so when I came across this prairie dog image I did some research and posted Prairie Dog Rapture. GNP pictures and commentary gave some local background. In mid-February I posted Weasels Ripped My Flesh about Frank Zappa’s album of the same name. This is consistently among the posts most viewed on my blog.
March: The posts I’m most satisfied with in March deal with Linda’s death and that of an old friend, heyoka and a tandem post with Chris where we ponder the big stuff. Sacred Clowns explored the role and significance of heyokas, “contraries” in tribal cultures. In my post I Had a Wake-Up Call Today, I recount the last moments of Linda’s life in language one friend described as “startlingly candid” and try to update my grieving process since that has always been one of the reasons for this blog. Wake-Up Call was difficult but cathartic to write as was my tribute to a friend Linda and I had known a long time. David Marks died in mid-March. I have fond memories of David. He was one-of-a-kind. On March 26, Chris and I tandem-blogged on the same topic: Have I found what I’m looking for? with interesting results from two different generations.
April: This was the month my traveling began with a week-long stay in Vancouver visiting old and new friends and having a ball. In April I posted two practical pieces, both dealing with some aspect of death: Obituary Euphemisms and Do You Have a Last Will and Testament? I took my first long drive out of Winnipeg to Dauphin in late April and recount it with lots pictures in My Weekend. It was April 28 when I did my first flood report: an aerial view of Morris surrounded by water.
May: A vivid memory from my youth growing up in a little prairie town was my first hearing of Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles, a post that draws some attention. I celebrated the life and influence of my mother on her deathday in early May in a post called Mom. My flood coverage began in earnest in the first week of May and continued through most of the summer. I picked up my summer horse, another mighty Avenger from Enterprise, in mid-May. It was exciting to take day trips, often with friends, to view scenes of the flood and bring back information and pictures for my posts. I’ve had many comments both on and off the blog lauding my reporting and praising my mix of fact and dry wit. And of course, May 21, 2011 was The End of the World. Remember? Didn’t notice? It was a blogger’s dream come true and, as The Rapture proceeded, I did three posts that day, each more sardonic than the last. Here’s the first, second and third post.
June: A month of many changes. The flood dominated my attention and the blog most of June with daily coverage including the Lake Manitoba Flood Protest at the Manitoba legislature. I seemed to have the exclusive on the huge sinkhole near Riding Mountain National Park and blogged several times about it. June 14 was the ninth anniversary of my heart surgery and I wrote about it in the post My Fixer-Upper. On June 19, Chris and I drove west into Saskatchewan and encountered that province’s floods in Weyburn and area. We spent a few days together, visiting sacred sites and enjoying each other’s company. I bought my camcorder on June 24 and it went with me everywhere thereafter.
July: My travels continued all over Manitoba and back to Saskatchewan in July with pictures and videos coming thick and fast. Floodwise, I visited Souris several times to see their flood preparations and the crest of the river. Several popular posts and videos ensued. Though there was little to do in Spruce Woods Park because of the flooding Assiniboine River, I spent two enjoyable days yurting there in mid-month resulting in a post called Yurting at Spruce Woods. Late in July I posted three items about my early childhood in rural Manitoba. Hayfield – A Manitoba Ghost Town explained the place’s history, My Memories of a Ghost Town described Hayfield from the point of view of a child (me) between four and eight years old, and Hebron School – 1 Room 8 Grades 30 Pupils 1 Teacher explores my early education in a reopened one-room schoolhouse until halfway through Grade Three when we moved away.
August: My third trip into Saskatchewan and the opening of Spirit Sands were August highlights. The eight-day SK trip resulted in a post called Out There It’s Summertime. Early in the month I offered a series of pictures and video of the flood damage to precious Spruce Woods Park and later in the month, once Spirit Sands opened, I took pictures and video of my hikes. I stayed in a yurt in Spruce Woods Park again in August with the resulting video. My post Journeys of the Heart, Journeys of the Soul gives a good overview of how I was feeling late in the summer as a result of my travels and their revelations. The Doll House is an art project by Heather Benning situated by the side of Hwy #2 in western MB that I reported on in August.
September: July and August were hot and dry and the fall continued with warm, fair weather prompting more day trips and a few overnights. I wrote about one of my trips in a late September post titled Equinox Journey. Shoal Lake, MB, my hometown, provided the inspiration for a piece I’d had published in the local paper Crossroads This Week some years ago, about Art Moderne Texaco Filling Stations. Such a building remains in a prominent intersection in Shoal Lake and in Dauphin which I visit frequently.
October: The mighty Avenger returned to Mother Enterprise in mid-month but not before a few more visits to Spirit Sands, my last one on October 11. This picture shows naked trees on a late fall hike to Spirit Sands. Two Days Out recounts a trip into the heat-broken prairie early in October. Before and after pictures of the flood, bottle buildings and wild epitaphs highlight the report. My post called The Real Work, inspired by friend and Old Soul Chris Scholl explains some of the work of Old Souls and, on Thanksgiving Day, I offered a public service to anyone not able to find something to be thankful for called If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for today, I have a suggestion. This post resulted from a friend whining at me this very line, “It’s easy for YOU to find things to be grateful for!”
November: I sublimated my wanderlust into several dozen coffees with friends as the days grew shorter and colder. I have been celebrating people’s deathdays on my blog which caused confusion and even consternation among some readers and friends. I clarified it a bit with a post called What’s With Happy Deathday? A post called Between Shark’s Teeth and Stardust details a midnight hike on Spirit Sands during a full moon. The government notified me in November that Linda had officially ceased to exist as a taxable entity which prompted my post Death and Taxes about how many different ways we can be dead in this society.
December: Another full coffee card this month as I spiral into the Big Day. I repost my two stories, Dancing Horse and Messenger, which commemorate Sitting Bull’s death on the anniversary – December 15, 1890. Tradition held with another 12 Days of Christmas series, this year it’s churches in rural Manitoba. You can find them all on my Churches page. And here I am at the edge of a new year feeling thankful for friends who have become family and family who are friends, for imagination, intuition and everything that happens before I think about it and for grateful.
My luck holds out! The sun sets in an orange blur along the TCH, the rumble and groan of semis dissolve into the harvest glow. Once again the full moon rises between the old wise spruce in the autumn haze, the whir and slur of traffic on the TCH sings a lullaby to the nightbirds fitfully dozing in the cottonwoods overhead. Tranquility base, earth shine, we have seen it and been it all before.
Peace in your heart creates peace in the world. May the moments you find rare, precious and beautiful abound in your life in the new year and every year. With love, Reid
Taken December 31, 2011
SITTING BULL AND DANCING HORSE
December 15, 1890
Sitting Bull’s Camp
Grand River, South Dakota
Commotion was his cue, his spur, his trigger. Gunfire, whoops, whistles and yells! Dancing Horse needed no other prompting. He began to perform his repertoire of tricks; the seven Bill Cody taught him and the two he learned by watching other horses. He was a smart horse who learned easily.
Though it was the middle of a cold night and the years had slowed his gait, it all came back to Dancing Horse. As the air filled with noise and bullets whizzed around him, the horse pranced and danced, sat on his haunches and raised his front legs, waving, whinnying and shaking his mane. He cantered in a circle, stopped, backed up and cantered on, a curtsy, a bow and, his finale, a high wild buck accompanied by snorts and a long careening whinny. Then he started again.
The horse was born to the circus. Bill Cody had gelded him himself and taught him tricks. Dancing Horse was the gift Buffalo Bill Cody gave Sitting Bull when Bull retired from the Wild West Show. He’d spent recent years on the quiet prairie with Sitting Bull, far from the cheering crowds.
At the door of Sitting Bull’s log shack, melee built into frenzy. The holy man, now 60 summers old, lay propped half-naked against the doorframe, dying; his blood, loosened by two wounds, soaked into the snow. Sitting Bull’s spirit soared over the scene, its grief brief for the hard and desperate life just lived, now elated by the familiarity of death and the antics of Dancing Horse, moving like a white ghost in the snow below.
Long after the fighting ended, as the prairie filled with mournful keening, Dancing Horse continued to perform, repeating his act over and over. The horse had danced through the mayhem without a single bullet hitting him.
He did not perform for the incredulous and spooked Sioux who stared in awe. Dancing Horse had an audience of one. His old friend Sitting Bull watched long in delight, solely entertained by the horse’s show, then he turned and his spirit embraced The Light.
As the first rays of dawn swept over the frozen land, Dancing Horse collapsed into the snow, exhausted. A little boy dressed in buckskin advanced toward him, extending a handful of sweetgrass.
December 15, 1890
Overhead Orion paused in mid hunt; half a moon lit the prairie snows. The Spirit, its message clear and urgent, rose from the shabby encampment on Grand River, the scene of the crime.
Wearing only paint on his body, riding a horse with arrows and lightning bolts painted on its white flanks, the ghostly Messenger held a human skull on a stick. Half his face was red, half white, his heart was painted with a blue starburst and his body had wavy yellow lines running from foot to throat.
Sailing through the clear cold air the Messenger traveled north over the rolling hills of Standing Rock Reservation to Cannonball River, the end of Hunkpapa land. Every tiny cluster of tipis with warm dreamers inside in the camps of Thunderhawk and John Grass got the news as they slept. Some awoke keening in grief.
The Messenger turned south, crossed over the Grand River in a single bound and headed toward Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Minneconjou. In his dream, Yellow Bird, the medicine man received the news with a jolt, grabbed his rattle and woke the camp. It was nearing dawn but still dark and cold as Kicking Bear, the high priest of the Ghost Dance, his wife Woodpecker Woman, and all the Minneconjou were informed. Further on, the camps of White Swan, Bear Eagle and Hump were next to be grief stricken. Off the reservation, the camps of Touch the Clouds and Red Shirt received word.
The ghost Messenger leapt the Cheyenne River and flew southwest toward Pine Ridge Reservation. Passing over Bad River, through the eerie Badlands past Castle Butte and a leap over White River got him to Pine Ridge and the camps at the headwaters of White River. Black Elk, the mystical shaman of the tribe, received the news and told the Oglala chiefs Red Cloud and American Horse. Ghost Dance priest Good Thunder immediately began to beat a hide drum and chant.
Spirit Messenger turned eastward just as dawn was blemishing the blackness. A leap over Pass Creek, through coulees and around buttes and Two Strike’s camp was informed; the ghost dancers Short Bull, Mash-The-Kettle and Plenty Horses began to paint their bodies with grieving symbols.
By the time the sun rose, the Great Plains was lit with grief. As far west as Tongue River Reservation in Montana, Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and as far south as the Kiowa Reservation in central Oklahoma – they all knew what had happened. Even the people of Walker River Reservation in western Nevada, home to visionary Wovoka who brought the Ghost Dance to the people, knew.
Except Orion, no one saw the ghostly figure riding the strange awkward horse but they all reported his message with sad accuracy:
“Sitting Bull is dead.”
“During shamanic flight the soul doesn’t fly. We expand our limits to include aspects not usually part of our being.” – Hans Peter Duerr
Before you begin reading this, if you haven’t already done so, please read Part One and Part Two in the series and study the Map of Consciousness supplied in both parts and below. Checking out my FAQ page will help as well.
One purpose of this final part in the series is to share some of the specific inner experiences that occur at each stage of super-consciousness. Extraordinary experiences need extraordinary and uncommon language to describe them. Shamanic experiences are often stage-specific, that is, they have meaning only at certain stages of consciousness which is not easily transferred or even described in another state. However, being the naming animal, we have discovered certain language that describes rare stages of mind and exceptional access to consciousness. I have Ken Wilber to thank for bringing forth some practical terminology during his 30 years of meditation practice and philosophical explorations. His terms were invaluable filling in the blanks on the Map of Consciousness.
For example, Wilber uses the term bliss currents to describe an extremely subtle sensation of loving happiness pulsing slowly through your awareness. When I first read it, I knew exactly what he meant. I’d experienced it many times but never had words to describe it. Still, sweet and descriptive as it tries to be, the term is lame when compared to the actual experience!
When I embarked on my spiritual journey my most basic intent was to become less culture bound and more inner directed, that is, live more from inside myself than from what is applied to me from the outside. Shamanism created the path for me to do this inner work I needed to do.
Now, once the drumming begins, I can feel my restive rational mind settle and focus on the steady beat. A wonderful moment of calmness and freedom ensues when I transcend reason and open up to exploring the parts of my consciousness that lie beyond. My first expansion lands me in the Psychic (F7) realm, immersed in Nature mysticism. Some typical experiences in the Psychic realm include:
Not all these experiences occur every time I access the Psychic realm but all of them have arisen at some point during my years of shamanic journeying. Most frequently, I experience the first seven items. A preliminary meditative state is always part of my intent, which, with the help of the sonic driver, sustains the shamanic journey. The outcome of the journey is mitigated by its particular intent, which varies from journey to journey. Much of Psychic is an adaptation for me.
My early meditative practice focused on awakening kundalini energies and bringing them to full expression. Kundalini energy lies coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine. Arousing it releases an exhilarating and dramatic array of experiences, many of them physical expressions of inner directives. Teacher Christina Grof and her husband, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, did invaluable research on kundalini energy. They list some of the effects awakening can have:
Since I am familiar with kundalini energy and open to it from my early practice, my visits to sacred places often arouse this energy to varying degrees. You may recognize some of my experience at Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel in Part One as kundalini awakening. The most intense kundalini occurrences happened to me at the Thunderbird Nest as described in detail on the Sacred Places page. Releasing kundalini energy at that site provided an avenue of expression for my spirit helper Webbed Flight and let him “live again.” Hope you read my FAQs.
The next stage is the Subtle (F8) realm where processes well beyond my gross waking consciousness begin to manifest. Subtle experiences arise solely from within me and require special attention and quietude to perceive and appreciate. More depth is required of me now. Spirit helpers, power animals and the Divine are most potent in the Subtle and are accompanied by inner illuminations and patterns and by blissful states of love and compassion. Peace and serenity settle into my awareness. Experiences in the Subtle realm include:
In Subtle abides enormous peace and serenity where quiet forces become evident via gentle perceptions, where love and compassion feel like the only possibilities. Brief flashes of the Divine shimmer through my awareness evoking bliss and unbound gratitude. Access to Subtle for me is generally plateau but adaptation when spirits and helpers are involved, that is I can readily call them if needed in any state of consciousness. Bliss currents and inner luminosities are plateau experiences for me so far.
Approaching the Source occurs in the Causal (F9) realm. All I experience is an unbound sense of freedom, freedom to create, to be, to do, an ancient flicker in the heart of Emptiness, a shadow on a cave wall. Being and Doing happily coalesce in me. I recognize myself as Emptiness and blissfully watch the arising world come and go through that awareness. Experiences in the Causal include:
My access to the Causal is through peak experiences as needed although this summer I had several extended plateaus floating in Causal. Often, if I am writing and can’t come up with an idea, a phrase, even a word, I’ll sit back on my chair, close my eyes and send a flare to the source of creativity. The reply is usually instant and substantive.
The three stages of consciousness I just described are conduits for the content, information and messages that Spirit wants to convey to me. They are the means, not the end, the method, not the result. Shamanism opens up the conduits so Spirit can flow! Spirit doesn’t just exist when we need or want it to; it exists all the time, which is incorrect since it exists completely outside of time which for us is “all the time.” Clear? I digress.
Another purpose of this essay is to shine more light on the stages of consciousness used in shamanism where spirits (animal powers, helpers, nature spirits) manifest themselves in our consciousness and help us. We are always surrounded by spirits but most people haven’t developed the inner technology to perceive them and, using intent (shaman’s secret), put them to work for you. That’s rather crass because the spirits are in charge and do what they need to do. Shamanism is a process of dropping assumptions we hold about the nature of reality. Instead of assuming limitations, shamans assume the opposite – unbound, freedom, creativity – and, using those eyes plus intent, find out what’s there. Astonishing things are there…and everywhere!
Spirits offer benevolence to everyone. Not everyone has the training to use their own inner technology to contact spirits for help. That’s what shamans do. I don’t think there is exclusivity to being a shaman. At a shamanism workshop last fall, everyone there, eighteen people, easily went into drumming-induced non-ordinary reality the first time they tried it. Fifteen of them got power animals on their second journey that day. We are hardwired for this access but few persist at it, few hear the calling or see the use. Shamanism is complicated, scary, ecstatic, boring, exhilarating, life-like and needs a certain kind of cat to dance with. Even though I searched for 45 years, I still feel it found me more than I found it. It’s like coming home.
Even if we don’t, can’t or won’t feel attuned to the spirits, they are attuned to us, watching over us. Spirits want to help everyone. A big human discovery was some people found a way to ask spirits for their help and get it. My relationship with Webbed Flight, my old friend and spirit helper (he is the spirit of a shaman who lived in eastern Manitoba about 1200 years ago), has matured in the 12 years we have known each other. Relationship? Webbed Flight tells me to cross the street sometimes if he doesn’t like who is coming toward us (Linda came to appreciate this after initially being unsettled by it), warns me about deer on the road, even dead ones, supports and protects me when I am in trance. I am way past being attuned to him; he is a living part of me. Ever protective, kind and curious, contact with Webbed Flight went from being an occasional peak experience to being able to contact him for longer periods, plateauing. Then he became an adaptation, a benevolent spirit that abides with me. That three-step process – peak, plateau, adaptation – took about 18 months with Webbed Flight. This is sounding so technical! Timely aside: What would the spirit of a 1200 year old shaman, when allowed to live again in 2011, find most amazing? TV? Cellphones? Uh-uh. The two things that blow Webbed Flight’s old mind are glass and indoor showers. Ha!
I met Maug (rhymes with blog) about nine months after I started my shamanic practice. She is a fascinating and energetic tree spirit and helper. When I first met her, we went through the three-step process in about 20 minutes and she’s been with me ever since. On my About page, in a piece called The Day Before Yesterday which recounts my ten most recent incarnations, you will find the details about Maug.
From Ken Wilber’s map in Part One you are familiar with the evolution of your consciousness. You are not alone on this journey. It is shared by all humanity. Nor is this journey new to any of us. For hundreds of thousands of years each of us has evolved through these same stages, following the same subliminal basic moral imperative: to preserve the greatest depth with the greatest span (Wilber). We have discovered ways of being in the world and intuited maps and techniques to guide the way to fulfilling our imperative. We have found methods of moving Spirit out of Emptiness, from inner space to materialization in a mound, a circle cast in stone, an image of an animal, the language of the soul writ on the land. There we commune lovingly, peacefully.
Imbued with Spirit, sacred places become custodians of the Divine, keepers of our very essence, but not hoarders. Sacred sites are open and expressive, appealing to our awareness, usually somewhere in the Psychic-Subtle-Causal realms. Each level allows greater access to deeper and fuller parts of my being, more intense experiences and contact with Spirit. The depth of my experience at these places is relative to how developed each of those realms is in me, how adequate I am to accessing them. Shamanism taught me the process, Ken Wilber expanded my understanding and now I proceed into the mystic at will, confident, experienced and some day, if I am very, very lucky, I may figure out how it works on my own.
Meanwhile, I will continue to visit sacred places and perform rituals based on my inner directives. I will continue to journey with my power animals and spirit helpers to imaginal worlds to fulfill healing intents. When Spirit draws me close to absolute awareness, the site of peace and compassion, I will recognize myself as Emptiness.
Over the summer of 2011 I was lucky enough to travel to more than a dozen sacred places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan recording reports on my little camcorder at most of them. While Spirit manifests at every site, there was one in particular where the message Spirit needed to convey was clear, reportable and captured on video. Please read my original post called Shining a Light Into Hidden Places and watch the video called Three Stones at Pine Cree Park which details my encounter with Spirit on the night I camped in the park.
Rustakoomaw crouched in the shade of the cottonwood that grew next to a dry streambed. It was the only tree for miles, an imposing sentinel against the sky. He held a small round drum made of hide and wood that he beat steadily and quickly with a fur-tipped stick. His voice accompanied the persistent beat, sailing across the still prairie, mixing with the whispers of cottonwood leaves the slight breeze spurred. Eyes tightly shut; his body weaving slightly, Rustakoomaw approached the trance with awe and respect. He stepped inside.
Immediately his power animals were with him, ready to accept and follow through on his intent. Rustakoomaw had come to the trance for help. His people were sick and dying, the rain had not appeared for many moons and the buffalo herds had deserted the prairie for the wetter north country. The grass was drying up on the hills, creeks and sloughs were now just smooth stones and crusted earth. He was asking Great Spirit to feed his people and bring the rain so the buffalo grass would grow again. His power animal Wolf linked the shaman with the Divine. Tears rolled down Rustakoomaw’s dark face, landing on his bare chest. He beat the drum harder. Wolf beckoned him.
The shaman found himself being lead toward a high hill that he knew very well. It was at the eastern edge of the region he and his people hunted. It overlooked a vast rolling plain; below it was the white shore of Bad Water Lake. The grass grew tall and green surrounding the hill. He stopped at the foot of the hill and looked up. At the top of the rise, he saw a wavering vision begin to take shape. Emerging from the shimmer of the heat and the clear cloudless blue beyond, Rustakoomaw began to make out a shape, an animal shape.
Like a jewel atop the verdant hill, the image of a huge white buffalo appeared. It turned and looked Rustakoomaw in the eye, nodding its shaggy head. He began to climb the hill toward the buffalo. As he approached, he realized he was suddenly getting wet. It had begun to rain. The vision of the white buffalo dissolved in the sheets of rain that slashed at the land. The sky was still bright blue and cloudless but the rain continued to fall in Rustakoomaw’s trance.
That evening as the small band devoured a thin white-tailed buck, a lucky hunt by one of Rustakoomaw’s sons, clouds began to roll in from the west. A gentle rain began that persisted all night and into the next day. Every evening that week the rain came. The parched earth drank every fresh drop and the grass returned to the prairie, along with it the buffalo and the health of Rustakoomaw’s people.
Today I celebrate the 17th anniversary of my first shamanic journey on November 11, 1994. It was the day I became a warrior of a different kind. I’ll recount the events that led to that pivotal moment.
In 1992, at age 42, I had a heart attack after which I shed my sedentary lifestyle, regained my health and counted myself among the lucky. Mom died in spring of 1993 and that set me on a course of intense curiosity about life, death and the whole damn thing. My work allowed me to read for four hours a shift during which time I devoured over four hundred books on topics ranging from nanotechnology to philosophy to ecology to near death experiences to Way of The Shaman, a little book written by anthropologist Michael Harner that I read in October 1994. That was the book that changed everything.
I suddenly recognized a new and significant part of myself in the arcane information Way of the Shaman conveyed. It felt familiar, necessary, useful. I immediately saw myself as a modern man exploring the spirit world using a technique that’s probably 100,000 years old. I had found My Way.
At the time, Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies offered a cassette tape of solid drumming at the right number of beats per minute to induce non-ordinary reality and give access to the spirit world. I found the cassette at Prairie Sky Books on Westminster. I would wear out this cassette and go back a year later for a new copy.
I kept a handwritten journal of all my early shamanic journeys, which was extremely useful in learning the new spiritual territories that had opened up to me. By journeying I gained experience in non-ordinary reality; the Upper and Lower Worlds became familiar to me; my power animals and spirit helpers appeared and offered their help. The journals are fascinating to read now since it is clear how accurately the spirits predicted my future, the people I would meet and lose, the way everything would proceed. My first two journals contain vivid accounts of over 150 journeys in the initial two years of my shamanic practice.
To give you a brief peek into a shaman’s journey, I am sharing you my journal entry written right after my first journey on November 11, 1994.
First time shamanic journey to a non-ordinary reality. Traversing the tunnel was rapid and effortless arriving in a beautiful natural setting. When my eyes became accustomed to the light, I saw a small stream about a foot wide and a foot deep set at the bottom of a canyon. I followed the stream to a mound some distance upstream that appeared to be the source of the stream, perhaps an artesian well. When I arrived at the small mound I found it to be a huge eyeball, three feet across, that was crying and making the stream with its tears. This seemed perfectly normal.
What looked like a large house cat came walking toward me from some brush. It was a tiger cub and its mother was close behind. We greeted each other. The tiger said her name was Beba and the cub had no name this time but would the next time we meet.
I asked her if she was my power animal and if we could meet here. She said this was likely but I wouldn’t recognize her at first. As we talked I played with the cub which soon tired and began to suckle Beba who lay on her side. I sat next to this huge purring tiger, caressed her, smelled her wild scent and felt her trembling power just under the fur.
The three of us sat in the hot sun and enjoyed the silence. I tasted salt, my tears. I cried because I felt, in my soul, for the first time the truth of unity, the oneness, the sighing insignificance of the world and all its amazing qualities and I wept there in non-ordinary reality next to a tiger and her sleeping cub.
Quickly I learned to remember most details of my journeys by intending to remember them. Of all the places I have visited on shamanic journeys, about half of them were at the same stream from my first journey. It became a familiar peaceful place to meet and get to know my new spirit friends.
Beba, though a tiger, was not my power animal but Tiger was, whom I formally acquired two or three journeys later. Tiger from that day on has given me the gift of joy, the gift of be happy. The eyeball: literal Cry Me a River? Never did unravel that one. The feeling of unity would grew stronger in me as my shamanic practice and connection to Nature mysticism deepened.
I no longer keep journals of my experiences because I have adapted to being in a world where spirits communicate and cavort with me. My journeys are very focused on specific intents now. I know the terrain. I am more relaxed about it, a better listener and get practical results and/or sound advice from almost every spirit source that I contact.
After 17 years of regular practice, I still feel shamanism found me and that I didn’t find it. It always feels like coming home. I am an incredibly lucky man for which I am grateful every day.
“Rock medicine is an act of touching the roots of the system of time and history in which we existed and from which our lives have meaning.” – Richard Grossinger
Sand is the last remnant of extinct lakes and rivers that have run themselves to exhaustion. Caught somewhere between shark’s teeth and stardust, the prairie sands exert their individuality and share the lessons they have learned. They teach us the connections between the earth body and our bodies, the cellular shifting that is the main work of all bodies. Every grain of sand holds some memory, some long-dusted-away footprint of its ancestors – the boulder, the rock, the gravel – former shapes with which wind and water have had their way. Each grain possesses faith in its masters – the shape of the dune and the curl of the breeze.
At the summit of the log ladder, Spirit Sands opens into a marvelous vista. Sweeping away in all directions are clean muscular dunes, windbuilt in high rows, furred here and there with wolf willow. The setting sun reddens the sand, shadows deepen as the long twilight slowly dismantled details of the landscape. A small bank of purple clouds builds in from the west as the reds and oranges fade. This close to the solstice it never gets completely dark.
It is easy to see why, for thousands of years, people used this place as a vision quest site. The silence, the expanse of sand and sky, the positive energy, the solitude all helped those seeking their vision.
Stars twinkle overhead as I shuck my boots and socks and feel the cool sand between my toes at the top of the highest dune. A coyote’s plaintive wail echoes across the indifferent sand; another answers. I howl my gnarled city howl, more of a strangled yelp. The sound makes me laugh. I yelp again, more like a howl. Another yelp, better, freer. A real howl tending toward wild sails from my mouth over the dunes. The response: dead silence or was that the snicker of a coyote?
A warm light breeze lifts a shiver of sand off the dune, giving it a small, barely audible voice before sending it sailing down the dune face. A red moon, two days shy of full, bulges above the horizon. Naked, I perform my shaman tai chi, dancing to coyote and sand music as my moonshadow darkens. Tendrils of aurora borealis, breath of the Great Spirit, sweep twisting across the deep blue dome.
I lie down on the cool surface of the sand, which sticks to the moist parts of my body then peels away as it dries. I nestle into the sand. Two inches below the surface, the sand is warm, the hot memory of another day’s intense baking. The wind blows a steady force of vaguely ticklish sand against my back. I fall asleep.
When I awaken, the breeze has cooled. After a short cavort I dress and, barefoot, slide down the double duneface to the trail. There is no need for a flashlight. The engorged moon lights my way.
In the forest, fireflies blink like sparks from invisible fires. The skunky odour of spruce hangs in the humid air. Reindeer moss glows eerily from shadows in the silver moonlight, which transforms a stand of wolf willow into shimmering spirit figures.
I pass through the Valley of Reptilian Deadfall, a low meadow where, years ago, a powerful storm left a swath of blown down spruce. During the day, and even more so by moonlight, the prone trees resemble glowing skeletons of bleached, multi-legged lizards.
When I reach the parking lot, empty but for my car, the sun is a hint on the eastern sky. After a few minutes of tai chi I feel ready for the two-hour drive to Winnipeg. An older van pulls in. A young couple from New Brunswick have come to hike Spirit Sands at dawn. They have heard the Sands are beautiful at sunrise. Indeed, they are.
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created … all is transformed. Nothing is the prey of death. All is the prey of life.” – Antoine Béchamp
“All goes onward and outward. Nothing collapses. And to die is different from what anyone supposes…and luckier.” -Walt Whitman
A good question and one asked of me several times since I began the Happy Deathday features on the blog. Don’t misinterpret this as me being happy these people no longer live. That’s not the point at all.
My perspective on this is shamanic and incorporates a shaman’s understanding of death which differs vastly from the mainstream idea of death being scary and unknowable. In the shaman’s world death is simply a change of being, a moving from organic to inorganic, from flesh to Spirit, that faithful old process we’ve lived and died with for eons.
Death is our next opportunity to express our spiritual evolution and put to use the soul building we have done during our life. It is a celebratory moment when we face Great Spirit and obtain final clarity for that lifetime. If we are prepared, if we have trained well during all our lifetimes, we transcend reincarnation, become enlightened and merge with The Light. If we still aren’t ready to achieve that, we contract away from The Light back through the mental realm as a sexual thought then reproduced again in a gross body with all its suffering and bondage. This is also our next opportunity for personal evolution, for pursuing our next level of soul building.
Because we communicate with spirits directly, shamans know that Spirit persists after the elemental needs of the body are gone and the mind is relieved of its duties. Seen simply, sometimes we are alive, sometimes we are dead, always we are Spirit. Since the aftermath of birth is life in the gross reflecting realm and the aftermath of death is heaven, it’s just as appropriate to wish someone a happy deathday. The hope that accompanies the loving wish is that you have used this life as a stepping stone on your path to enlightenment and eternal bliss, that you have done the real work, the necessary work.
The Thunderbird in Ojibwa and Cree legend was a super eagle with a wing span two canoes wide capable of transforming into human form. The Thunderbird spoke thunder and lightning flashed from its eyes. Difficult to see because of its disguise as black swirling clouds, the Thunderbird fed only on snakes and protected humankind from the Great Horned Serpent of the Underworld. This area of Manitoba supports a large red-sided garter snake population. Many Thunderbird Nests are found in eastern Manitoba but this is the only one west of Lake Manitoba.
A report on a visit to the site in 2007 is posted here. This fall I returned to Thunderbird Nest and recorded this video report.
This is my 500th post since December 11, 2010 and I can’t think of anything more appropriate than reposting Ken Wilber’s defining and remarkable Just This
In the heart of Emptiness there is a mysterious impulse, mysterious because there is actually nothing in the heart of Emptiness (for there is nothing in Emptiness, period). Yet there it is, this mysterious impulse, the impulse to…create. To sing, to shine, to radiate; to send forth, reach out and celebrate; to sing and shout and walk about; to effervesce and bubble over, this mysterious exuberance in the heart of Emptiness.
Emptiness empties itself of emptiness, and thus becomes Full, pregnant with all worlds, a fruition of the infinite impulse to play, hidden in the heart of your own deepest Self. If you rest in the Witness, settle back as I-I, and look very carefully for the Looker – if you turn within right now and try to see the Seer – you won’t see anything at all, for you cannot see the Seer. All you will find is a vast Freedom and Emptiness, in which the entire Kosmos is now arising. Out of the pure Emptiness that is your deepest suchness, all worlds arise. Your own impulse of looking has brought forth the universe, and here it resides in the vastness of all space which is to say, in the purity of your own primordial awareness. This has been obvious all along; this you have known all along. Just this, and nothing more, just this.
from One Taste
Watch Ken explain, “Love is not just a feeling between people. It’s actually a force operating throughout the entire universe. It’s been recognized by philosophers, east or west, alive and from time immemorial.” He seems to be getting used to his new teeth. Please watch this.
To ensure safety and success, millennia of hopeful travelers and hunters left offerings on this old serene and sacred stone. I left my offering for the same reason. Walk into the bush with me now, breathe next to Medicine Rock, leave your offering.
Though I hadn’t planned on a day trip today, the morning broke so lovely and promising my wanderlust kicked in. Warm and sunny, the drive out Hwy #2 was pleasant and fast. One other car waited in the parking lot at Spirit Sands trailhead. It was a perfect day for a hike.
We’ve had a bit of rain in last day or so and the sand was a little wet but drying quickly in the sunshine. Along the trail I saw this poplar leaf bejewelled with dew gems. (Click on any pic for HD view)
From the observation deck this year, you can see an interesting phenomenon. Due to the prevailing northwesterlies, the dunes at Spirit Sands are always moving, literally. The sand blows up and over the edge, down the duneface, building the dune forward. On the right side of this picture you can see a clean new dune that is active and quickly moving unlike the other dunes which have some vegetation and are thus more stable and slower moving. I seldom see such a clear example of a fully active dune.
With most of the leaves gone from the deciduous trees, the evergreens are in their glory. Also more evident are the rampikes and deadfall. Today the rampikes, leaning away from the wind, stood out against the deep blue autumn sky.
I have been told that the length of a tree’s life is also the length of its death, meaning the number of years a tree grew is how many years it will take to turn into earth. That beautiful, balanced definition of the pace of Nature is as good as any I’ve found.
The hike to the dunes through the mixed forest offers numerous opportunities to see the aftermath of windstorms, spruce bud worm and the parasitic dwarf mistletoe, all have had their way with the trees in the park at one time or another. This tree trunk lay split, gaping and dying well along the trail, its meat and bones humbled by time and the elements.
Out on the dunes, where seven-eights of the world is sky, the wind drew its crazy calligraphy in the sand using plants as brushes. Can you decipher the wild wind’s subtle message?
As I arrived at the information kiosk returning from my hike, a swarm of bright red ladybugs danced in a sunny spot, several of them landing on me. There is a soul connection between Linda and ladybugs and I always know she is nearby when her bugs turn up. We walked this trail so often together, I frequently turn and think Linda is walking right along with me. She was today, every step of the way.