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Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 3

Reid Dickie

Part Three

“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:

  • Preliminary meditative states – familiar from my meditation practice,
  • Shamanic visions & voyages – induced through drumming as on-going practice,
  • Identification with aspects of nature up to identification with all Nature – Nature and me are the same stuff,
  • Arousal of kundalini energy – my early meditative experiences included repeatedly arousing these energies. See below for more details,
  • Disclosure of psychic anatomy of subtle channels, energies & essences – this occurs once I began expanding my awareness to include more and more information from new sources,
  • Overwhelming feeling of the mystical – that glorious shivery web of the unknown,
  • Spontaneous spiritual awakenings – important understandings and knowledge suddenly arise in my awareness, sometimes answering intent of journey and/or adding further details and new information,
  • Reliving of deep past traumas, possibly birth trauma – with consent and intent, Mom and I relived my birth about three years after I started my shamanic practice.  

            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:

  • Dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called “kriyas” most striking of which are sensations of heat and energy streaming up your spine,
  • Possible tremors, spasms, violent shaking, complex twisting movements,
  • Involuntary laughing or crying,
  • Chanting mantras or songs,
  • Speaking in tongues, emitting vocal noises and animal sounds,
  • Assuming spontaneous yogic gestures mudras and postures asanas,
  • Seeing geometric patterns, radiant lights, visions of saints, deities, demons, and entire mythological sequences,
  • Emotional range: ecstasy, orgasmic rapture and incredible peace to waves of depression, anxiety & agitation. 

            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:

  • Interior luminosities and sounds – slow pulses of dim lights that slowly change colour or create a pulse, a vague beat, everything is calm,
  • Archetypal forms and patterns emerge – the spirits come out to help me,
  • Extremely subtle bliss currents and cognitions – rivers of delight flow through me, small explosions of happiness abound and persist, gratitude builds,
  • Expansive affective states of love and compassion – unfathomable caring arises,
  • Direct spirit communication – the spirits dance with me,
  • Face to face with the Divine – glimpses of The Light is what I get, just glimpses,
  • Pathology: kosmic terror, kosmic evil, kosmic horror – seldom do I encounter negativity in my journeys. When I do I can deal with it effectively and quickly. This comes from years of inner work.     

      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:

  • Scene of freedom – detached and free from all the lesser woes of lesser worlds,
  • Source of creativity – sense of release from and release to be and do, all creation arises in my awareness,
  • I am an opening, a clearing, an Emptiness through which objects pass. 

      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 Spirit pole at Buffalo Effigyrather 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.

ADDENDUM 

            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.     

 

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Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 2

Reid Dickie

Part Two

“Shamanic journeys provide opportunities to explore beyond our customary way of life and discover aspects of ourselves that are not evident in modern society or that are not culture-bound.” – Tom Cowan

If you haven’t already done them, I highly recommend you do three things before you proceed:

  • read Part One
  • print off and study both maps
  • read my FAQ page

Did you find yourself on the consciousness map? Bits and pieces of you all over? Personal growth is like a game of snakes and ladders. Each of us moves through these changes (or Fulcrums in Wilberese) with varying degrees of grace, growth and completion. Often, somehow, we are stepped on along the way, our growth stalls causing aspects of our being to mature at different speeds and times, if at all in severe cases. We may advance in mathematical cognition but be held back in emotions; advance in musical ability but be held back in social integration. No one passes through all the stages cleanly and sequentially, completing each one neatly and moving on. Mostly we are all over the board all the time until the higher abilities, call them adequacies, are developed and accessible to you. Then your focus is keen and sure, your vision is pure and honest. You are truly evolving. Sometimes you are still all over the board, too, but it’s way more fun now that you know what’s happening to you.

As you can see, development of consciousness is very much a hierarchy of abilities, a continuous increasing of adequacies. The higher we climb, the deeper we go, the more worlds open to us – more depth, more inclusion. Using a ladder metaphor, every rung presents new opportunities, accesses and includes more realities and brings us closer to Spirit. We know this because of the developmental changes you and I have experienced already to get to the point in our evolution of consciousness where we are able to read this page.

Much of what I describe in this essay is above Rational (F5) and well beyond the monological gaze of scientism. It is wisdom attained through inner work, through contemplation and introspection, by observing inner experiences and realizing they are as valid, as real, as consequential as exterior events. The change from the limitations of the exterior world to the utter limitlessness of the interior looks huge from the outside, but is much easier and more familiar when you begin looking at it from the inside out. Let’s do that now.

In our ordinary, daily consciousness most people operate on a Rational level (F5), the stage where we are able to think about thinking. Previously we could think about and act upon exterior realities. Attaining the Rational opens the new ability to reflect and act upon our own thoughts. Nothing that follows in this essay will make any sense at all to your Rational mind so try to see it as part of a complex network of interactions from the slightly higher Vision Logic level.

Above Rational exists Vision Logic (F6) where body/mind integration allows us to see patterns and networks of interactions. We become aware that both our mind and our body are experiences, objects that we can transcend and, thus, placing ourselves on the verge of the Transpersonal. Vision Logic adds up all the parts, discerns meanings and acts accordingly from practical to frivolous. It’s a rather lonely place where we are able to ask ourselves big questions, like “Why am I here?” and “What’s it all mean?” and where we can see all perspectives without favouring any particular one. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said about Vision Logic, “Here the self can no longer tranquilize itself with the trivial.”

I can report from experience, this place Kierkegaard describes is one of the loneliest a human being can inhabit. Described as warrior’s limbo or the dawn of self-actualization, it’s an uncomfortable in-between place where I had fresh clarity about my past, present and the world but virtually no certainty or clear understanding about the future. I had the big fat questions but scrawny little answers to gnaw on. I felt adrift in inklings, foggy possibilities loomed.

Writing this piece I have realized how many of my friends, both lifelong ones from childhood and ones gained over the last 15 years, are capable of and often employ Vision Logic in their awareness, work and worldview. The number is quite large and wide ranging, and includes young and old filmmakers, teachers, artists, musicians, massage therapists, writers, veterinarians, creative bureaucrats, real estate agents, doctors, actors, roofers and more. I can see how this same ability spread across a spectrum of careers was used differently by each individual. In some cases, it defined their individuality, on others, merely enhanced it. In a few cases they have transcended Vision Logic and, perhaps unwittingly, employed Psychic and Subtle techniques in their professions. This makes me blissful that my little life has attracted so many seekers, so many unabated curiosities, so many Old Souls, and even more joyful if I have contributed in any small positive way to their journey. That said, Vision Logic across the general population is rare.

The cure for warrior’s limbo, for the sad side of Vision Logic was to include and transcend it, turning it into a comfortable in-between place where spirits and shamans meet. That’s what happened next. The real process of personal discovery began in earnest for me in worlds inhabited by spirits and power animals.

Fulcrum 7 is the Psychic realm where most shamanic work begins. This is the beginning of the Transpersonal stage when my awareness, no longer confined to my body or ego, explores deeper regions of my being using shamanic drumming and intent. The Self has been transcended and transformed into its essential wisdom making new Psychic abilities possible. Through the discipline of shamanic journeying, I expand my awareness beyond myself to include the Psychic world in a deep, meaningful and inclusive way. More depth, more inclusion. It is a technique, an adequacy I have acquired, like being able to ride a bicycle or play pool. I can turn it on and off. It is rarer than Vision Logic in this culture.

One reason shamanism is effective in the Psychic realm is because here I have one foot in gross reflecting reality and the other in the Transpersonal. As my awareness becomes more inclusive I internalize more of the exterior world. I am transcending myself to include all of Nature because this is the scene of Nature mysticism. In this union with Nature, power animals arise as I begin to live more from inside than out, trusting intuitions, keenly watching for the spontaneous and unexpected during journeys.

In Psychic there is an enormous amount of information available that is in constant confusing motion, causing infectious, unusual empathies to build between my awareness and that of spirits and between spirits. I’m not a psychic so I rely on my spirit helpers and power animals to sort through all this information for me. Over the years, as this information passes back and forth between realms, I have developed honest and intimate friendships with spirits. This is what the Psychic allows me to experience – gathering arcane information.

Beyond the Psychic and even rarer is the Subtle realm (F8) where experiences are actually the seed forms of my existence. Sounds heavy! What’s happening is another expansion of my awareness, now including the Subtle. It’s the same process – more depth, more inclusion. I encounter processes much subtler, much more ephemeral than gross waking awareness. Information in Subtle comes in gentle forms with gentle names such as bliss currents and inner luminosities, expansive states of compassion, nothing like the experiences of my everyday reality or any previous realm. Patience and slow pulsations settle in my being. It is calm, peaceful but I am not alone.

As Psychic has Nature mysticism, Subtle has Deity mysticism. Here the union is with deities, fusion with my original pattern, the archetypal forms which arise out of sheer Emptiness. The potential now exists for coming face-to-face with the Divine. My spirit helpers are especially strong and easily accessible in Subtle. In Subtle I get the first intuitive glimpses of the Emptiness, opening up the possibility that the Kosmos emerges straight out of Emptiness and that I am simply a Witness to that arising. This is what the Subtle allows me to experience – fusion with spirits and a hint at The Source.

Higher and extremely rare, remember this is a hierarchy of abilities, is the Causal realm, so named because it does, indeed, cause everything. Something has to! Infinitely drenched in utter fullness, it is the home of my empty awareness – the Witness. Which witnesses what exactly? It sees the Causal as the scene of freedom and the source of creativity. In Causal, there is an overwhelming sense of freedom, of release, of detachment from everything I witness and then I realize I am this vast expanse of freedom, this limitless source of creativity through which all objects come and go. Witness is itself the Causal unmanifest. It is pure Emptiness. No surprise, for this is the realm of Formless mysticism. Deeper, more inclusive, this is what the Causal allows me to experience – having access to The Source.

Above that is Nondualism, the reality of all states and the source of awareness itself. Can’t report much from a place I haven’t consciously been.

Based on peak, plateau and adaptation of various realms, here’s how the stages of consciousness play out for me today: I have adapted to Vision Logic and upper Psychic/lower Subtle, meaning my awareness has expanded to include power animals and spirit helpers which are accessible at any time. I have plateaus at Subtle meaning, mostly during journeys, I have intense encounters with pantheons of spirits, many of them family members, usually when doing a healing for someone near or familial. My peak experiences into Causal are mere glimpses, fleeting and infrequent yet forceful in attracting me toward Spirit. Momentarily tasting the freedom, seeking the root of the Witness, grabbing for an iota of creativity when needed for a story or article, those are my brief experiences of Causal. Simply relaxing back into the Witness for a few seconds in my chair centres me and supplies the next idea or notion. Each experience contains a seed, an element of growth, a lesson. My life journey directs me to seek out every one.

I learned shamanism from Michael Harner. In his book The Way of the Shaman, he identifies six core elements that most shamans worldwide use in their practice:

  • call to heal – called rather than choosing the path
  • shamans move in two worlds: ordinary and non-ordinary reality (NOR)
  • shared conception of NOR and belief in the spirit world
  • access NOR through altered states of consciousness
  • harness the sacred and healing energies of objects
  • responsibility to community to heal and celebrate the sacredness of life

            In core shamanism, we fully accept and acknowledge that spirits exist. I have known spirits exist all my life. Another element is that shamans journey to either the Upper World or the Lower World. That’s where the spirits are. That’s where the power of the shaman’s intent, another basic element, is multiplied many fold. That’s where I meet my helper spirits and power animals, more core elements. That’s where my intent is focused and where I watch for the results as well as the unintended to arise. Both Upper and Lower worlds for me are usually in an imaginal natural place, a shallow stream in a narrow sunny valley is the most common place I go but I’ve met spirits in clouds, under the bark of trees and inside a wolf’s belly.

How does intent fit in? Good old intent! Besides sweetgrass and sagebrush, the best tool I have in my medicine bag is intent. Here’s how it works. A friend recently called me, frantic because he couldn’t find the master copy of a script he’d been working on and his computer had died. He specifically asked me if I could help him find the script. That’s the first thing – the problem and its obvious solution – he asked me to help and told me why. The intent was established. I journeyed in trance and in the Lower World I stated my intent and asked if any spirits could help. Bear, one of my power animals, quickly told me the answer and we moved on to other business (I often have several intents per journey – more efficient). I told my friend his script was under the backseat of his car to which he replied it was never in the car so that’s not possible. He was adamant. The script was behind the backseat. I’ve worked with him before using shamanism so he wasn’t surprised I found it for him.

How did that work? I intended to know the answer to the problem. I stated that intention as part of the reason for this journey. In trance I increased the power of that intent by announcing it in the Lower World and asking if a spirit knew the answer. How did Bear know? As I mentioned, there is an enormous amount of information moving around in the upper stages of consciousness, especially in the psychic and subtle. That’s why good psychics have an easy job. I access that information through spirit helpers like Bear. I ask for the spirit’s help and keep on patiently asking until an answer or answers arise. Knowing and being have coalesced.

Another example, less specific this time. At a weekend shamanism workshop we were doing various exercises, journeying for each other. A young fellow, Troy, asked me to journey about any possible job prospects he had, especially regarding a move to fulltime as a educational assistant. I took that intent into trance and posed it in the Lower World, several times to no avail. If it doesn’t work there, try the Upper World where I traveled in the same journey, posing the intent there. Eagle, one of my power animals, sailed next to me through the azure sky, opened its wing wide and showed me children playing in a pool on the underside of its wing. I couldn’t hear the kids, just see them. I asked Eagle if that was specific to Troy’s question and it was. I told Troy what Eagle showed me about the pool and he couldn’t make anything out of that. So the answer was not so clear…yet. That was Sunday. On the next Thursday Troy called me all excited. He’d just gotten a fulltime job with the school division that involved taking kids, some of them deaf, to the Pan-Am Pool twice a week. As in the case of the script, shamanism did not interfere with the world in order to get the answer for Troy. It just pointed toward the answer and said be patient. But the process, the how, was the same: high intent, stated in trance, patience and alertness.

I have tried to explain the nature of the various stages of consciousness available to us. In Part 3, I will share some of the specific inner experiences that occur at each stage and how they relate to sacred places, and give greater background into the significance and use of spirits.

I am indebted to Ken Wilber for giving me a philosophical context for my shamanic experiences. Having the benefit of his work and the language he uses to describe various stages of consciousness, adds greatly to my work and takes nothing away from it. Again I recommend Ken Wilber’s book A Brief History of Everything if you want more detail.

This essay is permanently on my Sacred Places page.

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