Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Art in the Medicine Wheel

I think of my kinds of creative process as directions on the Medicine Wheel. I align my drums with the west, my shamanic mentoring with the south, my painting with the east and the Journey Oracle card deck with the north. Sometimes one of these directions will seem to disappear from my view, and I will rest from its effort. This happened across the last several years with my drums. I seemed to forget that I knew how to make and paint them, and that they were my first doorway into shamanic journeying. For several years I thought I was finished with this work, but how can the west disappear from the constellation of my relationship with spirit? And then I made and painted this drum.

This is the first elk skin drum I have made; its darkly-mottled, translucent skin received the paint very dramatically, and Lightening Bear appeared. I know now that a rest is not a conclusion; a pause is not the end. I see now that my commitment to my drums needed to renew itself in quiet, in the same way that this season of the year—the autumn that I associate with the west—needs to fold the rush of summer into stillness, in preparation for the quiet of winter that becomes renewal in spring.

Perhaps my readings with the Journey Oracle divination deck are also coming into a quiet time. The press of summer residents and visitors has left the island, and a growing stillness surrounds my opportunities to share the hidden teachings in the Journey Oracle. And yet the great storms of November are whispered on the breath of breezes that shiver the cedar brackets into the ponds and cover the roads with gold. Perhaps the time of the Journey Oracle is yet to come, in the dreaming and story-telling of a northern winter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Success in spell casting

We all cast spells every day with our wishes, our intentions, our focused yearning for a different outcome to the one we are presently experiencing. Yet successful spell casting requires that we not tell the outcome how it will be achieved. This means that when we work to shift the river of reality with our intention, we do not try to name or visualize the ways in which our intention will be manifested; we only visualize that the manifestation is happening.

This simple story is a good example. During the summer months when I was meditating at Dorje Ling Centre on Cortes Island, I was often distracted by the bees that would come in through the open windows and doors, and then struggle against their prisons of glass. Rarely would I cross the space, stepping around my fellow mediators in anxious concern for the interruption I was causing, to conduct the insects outside. And yet always I wished for some solution to their plight.

And then we received an email from the Centre titled, “Do you know this doggie?” It seems this cheerful bodhisattva had wandered in to apply for the position of temple dog. Even after her owners were located in the neighborhood, Darla continued to visit the temple, and was there being doggie-sat when I came for meditation this week. Again we were sitting when a large bee began bumping against the entrapping window—and suddenly Darla was up and at the glass. She seemed to have every intention of eating the creature. Of course her disturbance was quickly responded to—the bee was efficiently caught in a stone bowl and escorted out the window by someone close by. I could never have imagined that my desire for bee safety would be manifested in the presence of Darla, and yet the solution was perfect.

During readings with the Journey Oracle Divination Cards, solutions to our questions manifest in the card images, stories and oracle phrases. This is especially true if we do not try and control how we want the solution to be achieved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to build a drum

Several days ago I helped a young woman build a drum. We prepared the hoop by feathering thin lengths of ash wood together and clamping each layer into a sister mold. We spent time working with the electric planer and the belt sander, so that she could do the beveling and finishing of the rims herself. The ring that holds the thongs on the back of the drum was made from a cedar branch, chosen for just the right straight thickness and paid for with songs and a hand made bead.

The drum head was cut from a deer hide after the hair had been slipped and the fat scraped until the membrane shone with a translucent glow. The young woman cut thongs, trimmed to size and then punched holes in the drum head, all in preparation for the assembling of the drum.

And then we came to the part that cannot be taught. How loose should the drum head be when laced onto the hoop, to accommodate the shrinkage of this particular skin? How does one see the vibration in the still wet skin, to gauge how the sound will flow over the entire surface? How tight should the thongs be that anchor the voice of the drum? Do the thongs that hold the cedar ring need to be adjusted as the skin dries, or is the initial tension the right amount to keep the ring taunt, yet not so tight that the skin causes the wooden frame to bow?

These are the skills of 10,000 hours, as described in Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The Journey Oracle divination cards have aspects in readings that also cannot be taught. And yet how would this be otherwise? When I used Dr. David R. Hawkins’s technique for calibrating the energy level of the Journey Oracle, the combined cards, stories and hand-made presentation registered 970…on a scale whose top end is 1000.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My song to Sacred Datura

What I call my Datura plant is actually a Brugmansia, but by any name she is sacred. Several years ago I went outside during a mid-summer morning to see that a tiny new plant, recently pushed up through the soil and growing about six inches from the mother plant’s stem, had been cut down by a slug. During the rest of the season I could often be found fussing over the slow recovery of that child plant. Here in the Canadian northwest such a tropical cannot last the winter outside, and so the mature plant and still frail baby joined in a large pot inside the house.

The following spring I planted both outside again and soon after received a dream. A regal woman, dressed with dramatic tropical flare and shouldering a parrot, appeared with a child. Although she was too impatient to wait through my fumbling attempts to fix her a cup of tea, she said she would help me because I had saved her daughter.

Last November I became aware of a serious distortion in my energy due to a childhood trauma in my family, and went to Datura. However, before she would come I needed to give her a song. This song was found in the way described in the Journey Oracle divination story Buying a Song. The 23 stanzas of three lines each took 10 months to compose and had to be sung each day because of course I could not write down and therefore dishonor such a sacred gift. The work with Datura was completed on my 61st birthday and my singing of the song for her during the ceremony felt appropriate, but less potent than I had imagined.

On May 1st when I planted outside the Datura and her child, I found myself singing the song again. When I finished I realized that the song itself, not the singing, was the gift. I never sang the song again. The words and even the tune are gone now, into the ground that nourishes my sacred helper. Both plants bloomed lavishly during this summer, and to my surprise, I noticed yesterday that both are covered again with blossom pods.