66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
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Raised in rural Manitoba I developed an early appreciation of birds evidenced by the complete collection of Red Rose Tea Bird Cards on this page. My travels on the prairies including several unexpected birds. Find them all my Birdland page.
CEDAR WAXWINGS IN BRANDON
It was a strange April day in Manitoba: temperatures around 30 degrees C and clear blue skies all weekend long. I was staying with my cousin, Duncan, in the east end of Brandon. On the day I arrived, Duncan pointed out an ornamental cherry tree in his neighbour’s backyard that was loaded with shriveled red cherries. Unfit for human consumption, the cherries are a delicacy of certain birds that, according to Duncan, each spring swarm the tree and feast on the cherries, now sweetened by winter’s freezing and thawing.
The next morning, as if induced by my cousin’s comment, the tree was alive with cedar waxwings. Famished from their long migration, the waxwings cover the tree and the ground below, ravenously eating the cherries. A flock of birds flies up from the ground into the branches and the ones from the tree swarm to the ground, excited birds, appetites whetted, blissful on a hot strange spring day.
The air was vibrating with the shrill keening of the waxwings. Several large still-bare nearby trees were decorated with more cedar waxwings waiting to feed, hundreds of birds in all. Flock after flock dined at the cherry tree.
Several curious species – robins, blue jays and starlings – arrived to see what all the commotion was about. These birds prefer feeders and worms to cherries but waxwing enthusiasm was contagious. The feeding frenzy went on most of the morning then the flock was gone, the air still, quiet, hot.
In a few weeks, the cherry tree will be smothered in tiny white and pink blossoms that perfume the air with a sweet smell. By then subsequent flocks will have stripped all the cherries from the tree.
Cedar waxwings have the ability to digest a variety of berries, some of which are poisonous to humans. Gorging themselves for hours, waxwings have been known to get a little drunk if the berries have fermented.
A sleek, beautiful creature, cedar waxwings are strikingly identifiable: the brown topnotch crest and breast with grey wings and tail, the yellow wash over the belly, the dark eye mask and throat marking, the yellow tail tip and the distinctive waxy red drops on the wings which give the birds their name. The females are somewhat plainer. Cedar waxwings are one of the few birds whose numbers are increasing in North America.
Coniferous trees are favoured places to build their deep nests. Chicks are born late to ensure a supply of berries and bugs for their growth. I remember seeing waxwings as a kid in western Manitoba. Apparently they abound in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg but I haven’t seen one in our neighbourhood for years. The last time I saw one was a few years ago at Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan. I was camping next to the bird sanctuary and saw a nesting pair.
What a hopeful sign it was to see a huge flock of excited birds so eager to fulfill their biological imperative. I had begun to wonder if there were large flocks of any birds remaining. It was good to see an old friend return with such vigor.
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.
I have blogged before – here and here – about Kevin Richardson and his rapport with wild beasts, specifically lions and hyenas. His other videos and his book, Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa, are inspirational and soul-building. In a match made in marketing heaven, Go Pro cameras and Kevin teamed up and created a 15 minute video that gives you a Kevin’s-eye-view of the experience of physically playing with lions and hyenas. At one point the critters even chew on the camera. Click the pic and join 15+ million others who have watched the big cats play!
I don’t mean dying your hair magenta, piercing every pinch and hollow you can find or covering yourself with drawings. Do that if you want. Here I mean rebellion that comes from inside of you rather than applied rebellion for its own sake.
Conformity is killing us and allowing us to be killed. Herd mentalities and their manipulation have become a core tool of mind control. The most frightening thing you can do is “think for yourself,” the operative word being “think.”
I came across an article on Waking Times website called Top 5 Ways to Practice Non-Conformity in the Matrix As I read the list I realized many of my readers would be interested in it.
Monetary Non-conformity – The human race is enslaved to a corrupt and inflationary monetary system. To act as a balance to this, any opportunity to conduct life without using the dollar and the credit system is a stunning act of non-conformity. By practicing trade, barter and local exchange, and using alternative currencies whenever possible, a practical statement is made in support of an alternative to central bank tyranny and manipulation. Most important, however, is the simple decision to spend less overall and live without consumer debt.
Shun the Materialistic and the Entertainment Driven Lifestyle – The consumption of consumer goods in our world has grown to dangerous proportions, and no matter your political bent, you can’t deny the existence of the plastic ocean gaining mass in the Pacific. To be realistic about one’s true needs and to consume less “stuff” makes one stand out as a non-conformist in today’s culture. Much of this consumerism is part of a lifestyle of entertainment that we have developed in recent decades. We seem to value being entertained more than anything else, and we will do anything, and incur any debt, in order to get that which entertains and distracts us. Choosing a non-consumeristic, non-entertainment driven lifestyle is an important act of disobedience to the norm.
Health Rebel – The truth about the condition of health is ugly, and clearly something is wrong with the conformist ideas of diet and health. From horse meat, to high-fructose corn syrup, to GMOs, the conformist diet is deathly harmful to our well-being. To continue on with this unhealthy lifestyle is self-destructive, and to buck this trend simply means to take care of yourself properly, as we all should be doing anyway. Taking care of the body is easy and enjoyable, and each step towards health brings with it a renewed outlook on life. Taking control of diet, finding some enjoyable type of exercise, and being courageous enough to try out alternative, non-pharmaceutical modalities of healing when possible, are, oddly enough, all one has to do in order to stand out as a health non-conformist.
Re-Education – The quality of the future can be seen in the quality of our youth, and the current models of building quality people seem to be falling short. Trying out new modalities of education for our children is an inspiring way to work towards a better vision for the future. Green schooling, homeschooling and even un-schooling children offer hope for something different from the next generation. With access to unlimited educational resources via the Internet, almost anyone can educate themselves in almost any field, and so the re-education of the individual is an act of great non-conformity.
Experience-Based Spirituality – The nature of personal spirituality itself is evolving in these transformative times as people have access to a vast assortment of ideas, philosophies, wisdom traditions, substances, and dogmas. The non-conformist of today explores practices and ideas that work best to induce direct experience, following intuition to develop a connection to the sacred part of humanity, which is so routinely trampled in our hectic world. Finding inner peace through whichever religion or philosophy you choose is critical to creating a world free from toxic effects of collective fear. There is a war being waged against the conscience and consciousness of the average person, and seeking direct, personal spiritual experience and connection to the great mystery is the way to prevail.
As I was sifting through the number of hits various posts have received, I was rather shocked to find very few hits, under 100, for this distillation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead into an easy-to-follow flow chart of events. I was inspired by Ken Wilber to follow his distinctive interpretation of the Book and post it in a orderly form. I repost it so more people will know what lies ahead for all of us and to help us make informed choices about our actions today.
You might want to read about the Contraction of Being in my FAQs.
Rather than do the obvious and tout my 700th post on this blog when it occurred, I made the post something substantial and left the hoo-haw until 701, here, now.
I started this blog on December 11, 2010, about 20 months ago. The average number of posts, based on 700, is just over one post a day for the duration. I have amazed myself at the sheer volume and variety of information I’ve offered here, the creativity and the heightening of awareness the experience has evoked and the response from friends and world strangers. Special bold “Hey Youse” to the world strangers. Drop me a line some more.
Coincidentally, my traffic count for the blog is about to surpass 150,000 hits, averaging about 250 per day since December 2010. Again I am amazed at, grateful for and humbled by this response. Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog once or more. Thank you to the regulars who have subscribed to this extension of my body, mind and spirit. Thank you to the faithful and scornful readers, the doubters and the believers, the ones who know the secret of the trance and the ones who don’t. Thank you for all the perfect moments.
My friend Terry keeps checking with me to see how I’m doing for “content” for this blog and I always reassure him, there’s enough, always enough.
Unbound curiosity and the means to satisfy it – the perfect charm. I am such a lucky man and grateful every day. I refuse to rust out. I will burn out. Flow with my flame. Reid
Once again – Ken Wilber’s timeless message.
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.
Ken Wilber from One Taste
The two Debbies are sisters-in-law. They each married one of the Wilcox brothers. During their teens and early twenties, the Wilcox boys, Randy and Earl, were strong-willed and wild, in love with fast cars, hard liquor and tonight’s girl. That all changed when, in the same month but unbeknownst to each other, both brothers met, fell in love with and proposed marriage to a Debbie.
It was a double wedding. The four honeymooned together, or as Randy called it, “hornymooned.” Both Debbies recognized in these rough men the potential to be faithful husbands, special fathers and solid providers. They just needed a little tweaking. The Debbies are nothing if not great tweakers.
That’s how the two Debbies came to be sisters-in-law.
Both Debbies are nurses, one in the emergency room, and the other on the pediatrics ward of the same big-city hospital. They’ve seen everything. They are compassionate caring women, devoted to their patients and to their jobs. Why else, but for sheer love of the craft, would people work twelve hour shifts doing stressful work? They both became consciously aware, on the day they graduated from different nursing schools twelve years earlier, that this was a perfect fit; they were born to do this work. It is their dream job. And they just did it, while raising two children each, tweaking husbands and having fun.
That was the large lesson both Debbies learned from their mothers – have fun! It proved to be good advice under many circumstances, especially when dealing with unruly husbands or patients. Knock them off balance with a little fun. Why not? Life is short, as both Debbies see everyday.
That’s how the two Debbies came to be best friends.
Fun relieves stress. Having a best friend does, too. They arranged their schedules so, once a week, they have the same day off. Today they are both grocery shopping at Careway, the big supermarket chain, each with an empty cart and a long grocery list, neither looking forward to the chore.
They survey the large well-stocked colourful produce section and give the handsome produce man – his nametag says Luther – a good long ogle. Just loud enough so Luther can hear them, the two Debbies agree they’d like to see him wearing just the apron. They both smile at Luther before he goes on his break. Too bad. He was getting cuter by the minute. They decide to leave some hints for Luther when he returns from his break.
Debbie takes a long English cucumber, pairs it with two nice round melons and some parsley, and sets the phallic tableau on a bed of yellow beans. Debbie gets two eggplants and sets them on either side of a long yellow squash with bean sprouts tucked around each side. Debbie sets several little yellow and red hot peppers between red cherry tomatoes, tucking a set in among the arugula, another atop the oranges and another in among the grapes. Debbie takes two bananas and places them in a vaginal shape surrounded by broccoli. In a few minutes they left a dozen little suggestive tableaux, some obvious, others surprises to come across while browsing.
By the time Luther returns from his break the two Debbies are just walking away from produce, their carts carry their choices. It takes Luther several minutes to figure out what happened.
The manager of the Careway is indignant with the two Debbies as he confronts them on the floor of the store. They admit to having some fun while shopping but don’t own up to the dastardly produce porn. They let the manager fume and fuss over this, which he does! Profusely. They knock him off balance when their good natures suddenly turn sour as they accuse him of unprofessionalism and, without proof, placing blame where it doesn’t belong. The two Debbies get a couple of swift verbal kicks at the manager before they knock him off balance again by returning to sweetness and frivolity. This draw a bit of a crowd as the increasingly red-faced manager realizes he’s lost control of the situation.
“We’re the Shenanigan Sisters, I’m Sheena, she’s Treena, and our quite large husbands, Buck and Tuck, are around here somewhere,” informs Debbie.
Exasperated by these women who seem to be one step ahead of him all the time and, worst of all, don’t respect his position in the store, he has no option. He informs both Debbies they are no longer welcome in his Careway and invite them to leave immediately. Their response is laughter, so sudden and sincere that the store manager’s face turns impossibly redder with embarrassment. Other customers join in the glee.
The two Debbies abandon their half-full shopping carts, take down the name of the store manager, “so we can send you a Christmas card,” Debbie says, and, along with several other customers who sympathize with their situation, leave the Careway holding their sides from laughter, never to return.
By then Luther has discovered most of their creations.
Later that afternoon a pair of blue-haired ladies will get a chuckle out of their discovery tucked away in a manger of romaine.
That’s how the two Debbies came to be outlaws.
I have another documentary to recommend. Three years in the making, Waste Land follows Brazilian-born Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz back to his native Brazil and to the biggest garbage dump in the world, Jardim Gramacho, just outside of Rio de Janeiro. Muniz returns home to create images of the catadores, a group of about 2500 people who climb mountains of trash to pull recyclable materials out of the tons of garbage deposited daily. Vik’s original plan had been to “paint” the catadores but wound up having the garbage pickers create large images of themselves out of garbage and photographing the results. The despair and the dignity of the catadores is obvious and heartfelt throughout as is the transformational power of art. Suddenly given self-images and seeing their faces on the walls of an art gallery changes the lives of everyone involved in the process. Uplifting and provocative, Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, will inspire your imagination and invigorate your spirit. Click the pic to see the trailer.
It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I started this blog. A year ago I had several intentions for ReadReidRead: as an ongoing celebration of beautiful Linda, as an outlet to share my enthusiasm for local heritage in its many forms; as a canvas for my personal cultural interests, as a platform for my spiritual experiences, as an inspiration for others and as a way of finding my audience. Today I can humbly and gratefully say I have fulfilled those intents to a degree I never anticipated.
Linda’s presence on the blog is always very strong and loving. There are numerous pictures of her scattered throughout my posts. Search in the Linda Category for my many tributes over the past year. In the Gallery you will find some adorable pictures of Linda from her childhood.
I’ve written extensively about local heritage over the past ten years and enjoy using the blog to share my pictures and thoughts on heritage buildings and events. I have a personal collection of over 1000 pictures of heritage sites that I will be drawing from for future posts. Creating videos has added a whole new dimension to my heritage reporting. Check out Churches, Houses and MB Heritage pages for dozens of heritage examples.
Culturally, everyone from Salvador Dali to Ralph Eugene Meatyard (maybe not that big a step), Bjork to Wm Burroughs (ditto), Fellini to DickTool Co have been homaged on my blog this year. Personal experiences like hearing Eleanor Rigby for the first time in 1966 and seeing Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto in 1969 to more recent encounters with various art forms have been vented on the blog. For a chronology, examples and links to the art Linda and I made when we first united, check out the DTC Art page.
Practicing shamanism and incorporating its wisdom into my life has guided me to share my experiences via the blog, not with an agenda to convert you or change your mind about anything (I have nothing to sell) but to simply tell my story, share my glimpses into the hidden places, into other possibilities and report what happens. There are dozens of posts and pages relating directly to my shamanic experiences on the blog. Numerous Categories apply. Check out About, Sacred Places and FAQ pages for detailed reports.
Because of the blog, many readers have contacted me this year, most often about heritage related matters. I have connected people with places and with each other, found knowledgable people to answer obscure questions and given specific directions to heritage and spiritual sites on the prairies. Inspiring people to seek Spirit on the Canadian plains has created enormous opportunities for personal gratitude. One of the most satisfying and humbling experiences in my blogging life was when my friend Chris Scholl said I inspired him to create his thoughtful, thought-provoking personal blog, Love Art and Fear. I inspired myself to create another blog devoted entirely to the history of my hometown, Shoal Lake, MB. The DickToolCo channel on YouTube and two hundred pictures on Flickr are more outlets for creative fun!
I have attracted a blog audience that far surpasses my wildest expectations when I started typing away at this a year ago. Almost 88,000 hits in the year equates to about 240 hits a day. I seem to have found an audience and I thank you, every one of you who has landed at readreidread.com for whatever reason, I thank you; everyone who subscribes to my scribblings and guff, I thank you; all the befuddled and wild-eyed who suddenly find themselves in Reidland, I thank you (be brave); everyone who finds out shamanism isn’t what they think it is by reading my blog, I thank you.
Besides simply giving me something to do almost every day, my blog has provided an outlet for my diverse interests, improved and expanded my computer skills and offered satisfactions I never dreamed possible.
What’s in the future for ReadReidRead? Carrying on the festive tradition that Linda and I began six years ago, I’ll be posting a daily feature to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas. This year I have selected 12 Manitoba churches, which begin Wednesday, December 14. My year-end review is in the works and will be posted December 31. All the original intents of the blog still apply and I can assure you my diversity and curiosity will continue to be fully represented. Is blogging still fun? It’s a blast! Even after 565 posts!
Thank you for visiting my blog this year. Be happy. Reid
“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.
“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.
“I recognize that waking up with love, embracing the world and being a source of peace takes work. This is the real work.” – Chris Scholl
Since my dear friend Chris posted this line on his Love Art & Fear blog, I have thought a great deal about the real work required of us. By Chris’ definition the real work entails meeting each day with a loving heart that compassionately embraces the present world, creating peace within itself and, by example, in the hearts of others. We have everything we need to do the job; we are spared nothing, but, still, it is not easy work. In fact, it is the most difficult thing we do.
The real work doesn’t make money or get you through to vacation. The real work makes a difference in the world by setting an example that changes people, inspires possibilities and leads others into a positive thoughtful future. The real work requires that every day, moment to moment, we live from our hearts, that we be and do from our hearts, loving until it hurts, à la Ken Wilber.
This loving expression in the world builds Soul, ours and World Soul. Soul-building is not just the purview of Old Souls; it is required of us in every lifetime, a web across eternity. Together we evolve in harmony. Or we don’t. Today, that choice, though undeniable, isn’t obvious to most people. Making that choice more obvious is part of soul-building, part of the real work.
We cannot do this work alone or without tools. Our tools are forgiveness, compassion and, most of all, love – all useful, all perfect – but often we apply them poorly, without grace or true compassion. If we are lucky we have adequate others in our life to help us be more effective and to teach us to wield our abilities with skill and endurance.
I am incredibly lucky. My soul mate of 33 years continues to teach me daily, sharing her energies and love. Spirit has given me three other Old Souls with whom I actively pursue soul-building according to their needs and gifts, giving me useful purpose and great satisfaction. I have spent this summer traveling, performing personal and world ritual at sacred sites and recording hours of video for a number of current and future projects. Every day this summer I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. High luxury, indeed, for which I am enormously grateful!
My personal soul-building, on hold since late childhood, restarted when I re-encountered Nature as part of shamanism. Nature mysticism is a large part of shamanic practice and I was welcomed back to it by my power animals and spirit helpers. With the guidance of Spirit, my loving life purpose is being fulfilled, my soul evolves and my gratitude for it all is immense. The real work is being done.
“Do not think you will necessarily be aware
of your own enlightenment.” – Dogen
My new life purpose has been revealed to me with great clarity during my travels this summer. In a few words, one part of my current life purpose is to learn and be hurled into new experiences then to report what happened with honesty, without proselytization. That is what this blog aims to achieve.
Another part is helping other Old Souls find their clarity, their purpose. Spirit has given me three incredible Old Souls whom I am honoured to assist with their life work. All men, of various ages spanning two decades, my “suns” as I have come to call them, bring vast richness, comfort and energy into my life. I thrive on that and I am grateful everyday for their presence in my purpose.
Wind and rain sculpt the soft sandstone of Castle Butte in southern Saskatchewan
Most Old Souls spend much of their life soul building; for some, life is only about soul building. This is another part of my current purpose. The long trips into the Saskatchewan hinterland have given me the stimulus, the space and the solitude necessary to reclaim my humanity, to proceed with my personal evolution in a world dead set on stealing my humanity from me. Since shamanism begins at Nature mysticism and moves outward from there, my time surrounded by raw Nature enchants my soul, quickens my evolution and drives my purpose. I get healed! I get happy!
People I encountered this summer have surprised me with their understanding and acceptance of my spiritual needs. I think of octogenarian tour guide from Coronach, SK, Tillie Duncan, who told me she meets people all the time who do ritual at these places so “you’re not the only one, Reid.” I was heartened to know that bit of information and humbled by her gracious silence while I did my small rituals.
At Jack’s Cafe in Eastend, SK, over a long breakfast as I scribbled in my journal, I noticed a 30ish local couple across the aisle eying me repeatedly. When they rose to leave, she came over and said to me, “Are you a cop?” I smiled and said I wasn’t. “Well, you got something, some kinda power.” Her husband stood behind her, nodding and smiling strangely. “Do I make you nervous?” I asked. They agreed I didn’t. She sputtered a bit and said, “You make me feel…” She was grasping for the word and surprised herself it was so simple. “You make me feel happy!” We all laughed and I told them it makes me happy to make them happy and to have the best day they’d had in a long time today. I’m sure they did. He kissed her as they were leaving, giving the old town codgers gathered in Jack’s for their morning coffee something else to gossip about.
Weathered farm house built about 1905 in Big Muddy area of southern Saskatchewan
I get enormous satisfaction knowing that I have incited several people to travel to sacred places this summer, to personally explore themselves within the context of ancient aboriginal holy sites. For some, it has been life-changing. I hope to get permission to share a few of their stories with you on my blog.
I plan to keep the mighty Avenger for a few more weeks as I have a long list places to visit and record around Manitoba. Thank you for watching my videos and being my passenger on some of my travels. Many more miles ahead, the curious and the arcane await us. Stay tuned! Be happy!