Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Releasing self-doubt

As I continue to read Michael J Roads' small book titled Talking with Nature, I continue to be impressed with the wisdom he shares about accepting our own experience, about believing that we know what we know. This seems such an obvious thought when I first consider it. Yet it seems our inability to believe our own experience is what causes us to doubt our actions and insights.

Self-doubt is the most toxic response we can have to situations that involve our interactions with the unseen intelligence of nature. The moment we say to ourselves, "Did I really receive that phrase, in answer to this difficult question I am pondering, from the rock I am holding...or did I just make up those words that popped into my head as I picked up the stone?" As soon as I wonder this, I limit my access to the universal consciousness that composes all matter. I diminish nature's vast knowing to the size of my human knowledge.

I decided to draw a Journey Oracle card and ask, "How do I release self-doubt?"
I drew #4--the card of the South--which for me represents the close up view of nature: trusting the information of small details like a mouse or squirrel does.The image immediately resonated with the choice I am posing about accepting our direct experience. When I focus on self-doubt it is like seeing the small black insect-like form on the left reaching out with its long legs or antennae, and therefore missing the small crimson-hearted seed growing from the red-violet curve in the center. Only I can choose where to put my gaze. The question on the card seems to underline this choice of perception. "Am I the one willing to undo it?" means to me I am the only one with the will to undo my self doubt--by accepting and believing my direct experience.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Talking with Nature

These thoughts are prompted by finding a small book called Talking to Nature in the free store of the Cortes Island recycling center.

Most of us probably find ourselves talking to nature, but we don't usually receive back an answer, or at least we don't think we do. We say, "Wow, aren't you a beauty" to a sunset or a butterfly. We think, "Ah life is good" as we recline against a warm boulder on a sunny beach. Maybe it is not that we don't receive an answer so much as we don't know how to recognize the response when it comes. As I wrote this sentence, just as I placed the period at its end, a Pilliated woodpecker drummed a loud tattoo outside on a nearby tree. The sound was so dramatic and unexpected that I jumped into attention, just as if someone nearby had shouted, NO KIDDING! in agreement.

Of course the key to talking to nature is having certainty that my thought or action--and my attention being drawn to nature--is connected. The more I attend to this connection--the more direct experience of talking to nature do I have. This dance between unclear communication and direction experience is at the heart of the Journey Oracle card for the tree month Elder. Although the dates for this Celtic tree month are November 24 to December 22nd, as I look out my window I see a little elderberry bush just beginning to swell its buds--the tips of which are a green so fragile that the tone seems to hover like a mist more than be a color. I wonder how Elderberry and Elder tree are family. I think I'll go outside and ask.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shamanic painting and print: Touching Trees

In 2004 the 80 acre piece of forested land across the road from our property on Cortes Island went on the market. Although my friends and neighbors joined me in ceremonies to call a buyer who would respect the elemental big forces that lived there, no one answered but the loggers.
When the wreckage subsided, I climbed over the broken forest to a large cedar still standing by a small stream almost gone underground from the silt-covered drifts of branched across its flow. I asked, “What do you need that I can do?” and saw with my inner eye the jumbled remains of tree stumps stretching into the distance, and also a small jar of red paint. I understood to touch every tree, and spent a year climbing over branches and falling through brambles, touching my finger into a jar of red ochre and then touching every tree stump.

At the very beginning of my impossible task, I found a small chip of wood with a beautiful burled patterning on its reverse, and I kept this with the ochre in the pocket of my old coat. Each time I would complete my struggle for the day, I would wipe my finger clean on the cut side of the wood. One year later at the end of my not quite so impossible task I decided to create a shamanic painting of the clear cut to honor all the tiny shoots of green pushing up to soften the haul roads and cat tracks.
When I paint I begin along the upper edge and paint, finished as I go, to the bottom edge. The painting in progress looks like a completed work with a white film over portions of the image that is slowly being peeled off a few inches a day. After I had completed about 1/3 of the portrait of the clear cut, I became bored with where it might be going.
I remembered the little piece of wood still in my old coat, and when I spent time gazing into its ochre-stained surface—this is who I saw. I do not know who she is and what she is holding, but if you take some moments to meet her gaze, she might tell you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An International Womens Day Celebration: Island-style

Last night on Cortes Island there was a island-wide meeting asking the community to comment on the first draft of our Official Community Plan. I didn't remember that it was the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day when I decided to do an oracle card reading for guidance about the evening's meeting. Political events on our island can shade toward conflicting and sometimes slide right over into combative when residents have an emotional and financial investment in the discussion, and I wanted to be prepared with some spirit-directed insight into the event.

I drew this oracle card from the Journey Oracle deck and was somewhat puzzled by the image and its statement. Could it be that I was being asked to remember to speak about the other-than-human residents of the island that also need representation: the seals and eagles and wolves? Is it their spirit prayers that needed to be answered in our planning for future development and environmental management?

Moments later I was going down the driveway in the truck with the radio on and I heard about the origins of International Women's Day in the early 1900's. It emerged from the Suffragette movement to win women the vote, and this year some 1722 events of celebration were being planned. Suddenly I felt the oracle card was about our public meeting being on this auspicious day, and that the "spirit prayers answered" were those of our Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers who made such sacrifices to gain the power to participate politically their future. What better celebratory event could there be for International Women's Day than to gather as a community--women and men together--and participate in the messy, frustrating and extremely satisfying business of determining our shared future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Understanding dream messages

This shamanic painting titled I never dream I sing comes from literal experience. Although I consider my singing to be a core element in all my shamanic work--especially calling and feeding my helpers in the Spirit world with song--for a long time I noticed that I never sang in my dreams. I even spent time focussing my dream intention on singing before I went to sleep, but never did I succeed.

This chalk pastel work began as a scribble drawing on newsprint in an art mentoring class here on Cortes Island. I was demonstrating how our muse can inhabit anything of our making, if our intention is clear and our effort is honoring. I was gazing into the resulting pattern of scribbles to find a presence and saw the faint traces of what transformed into this haunting scene: youth and wisdom creating the breath of both worlds in song. Still, however beautiful, the finished piece also felt like a dream message of sadness because no singing came in my dreams.

And then one night after a community meeting in which I facilitated a discussion between Island Timberlands, a logging company, and island residents--using all my humble skills and attention to hold a space for the other-than-human wisdom of nature to also be present and to be included in the dialog--I had this dream.

A man who is sitting on my left asks me who I am--and then before I can answer he says "you are a shaman with a family." I begin to sing one of my medicine songs to the tune of Amazing Grace. While I am doing this I am aware that for the first time I am singing in my dream.

I think our ancestors and spirit guidance do not waste these precious moments, but save them until the dream sequence can be aligned to an important experience in ordinary reality, and so use these dream messages to be wayfinders along our path.