Sunday, November 27, 2016

What is synchronicity?

Oracle cards use synchronicity rather than statements of logic or reason to create meaning.  But what is synchronicity?  Oracle card interpretation is a knowing that comes from links between apparently unrelated ideas, events and objects.

Here is an example.  I am thinking of a situation for which I want some advice.  I have agreed to a project and now that it is underway, I think I am not really qualified. I feel inadequate to do the personal contact required.  So I draw this Journey oracle card.

The image immediately draws my attention because of the person's thoughtful, awake expression. When I look up this oracle card in the Journey Oracle book, I suddenly have an insight.  This oracle card asks me this question: "Will you listen?"  I connect my anxiety about not knowing to the sensation I feel from this question--which says to me it is better to just listen, than to begin a conversation as an authority.

When working with synchronicity, it is always good to resist conclusions and judgments.  How synchronicity works eludes explanation, and cannot be understood using cause and reason.

So I draw another oracle card to understand how I approach the other people in the project who are counting on me to continue.  I see a bear in this oracle card.  There is dignity and calmness in its expression.  The message of this oracle card is "More wisdom."  Immediately I relate this to the situation I am experiencing.  My strengths and vulnerabilities can be the beginning of a new awareness.  Instead of struggle, I can look deeper and see that the power to create change may be as simple as breathing.

Try this for yourself.  Go to and click on the free interactive reading.  Think of a situation for which you would like some advice, follow the prompts to choose an oracle card, then choose a page of insights about how your situation came to be this way, or what to do about it.

Understanding a Journey Oracle card is like solving a riddle or grasping a dream--meaning is hidden in plain sight, and its discovery brings a lightning strike of revelation.  And that lightning strike is the feeling of synchronicity.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The magic and wonder of air travel

There isn't a flight goes by when I don't stare out of the window 
and thank my stars for what I'm seeing and feeling.

— Richard Branson, pilot and founder of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic. In his book Reach For The Skies, 2011

This quote found on is exactly my reaction to air travel.  I recently flew to Edmonton to meet my Journey Oracle students.  I know many air travelers complain about the crowds and the expense and the uncomfortable seating, but really?   To be in the free air.  To be without signposts and limitations. To be in the kingdom of the sky.  How is it possible to be anything but amazed.

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised 
between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death.
— Alexander Chase, Perspectives, 1966

Because of my shamanic practice and study for many years, I (quietly) call out to the skygods as the plane takes off, and also as it lands, both asking permission and thanking them for being allowed to pass through their territory.  I apologize for and delight in the human chutzpah that has allowed me to be in their home terrain.   I also thank the elements of the plane--its metal and fabric and formed plastic--that holds me so startlingly aloft.

Don't let the fear of falling keep you from knowing the joy of flight.

— Lane Wallace, Flying magazine, January 2001

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Painting pictures of nature

Here is a beautiful picture of nature.  Autumn leaves amid birch trees in Nova Scotia. Something about this image compelled me to paint it, but how?

 I use acrylic like watercolour on paper and so I anchored a large sheet of Arches watercolour paper to a board and began painting leaves.  How disappointing and frustrating!  My attempts looked amateurish and so I cut off the top several inches of the paper and began again.  Again with the disappointment and frustration.  More cutting.

On my third attempt I  asked myself, "What am I really seeing?"  What a discovery--I am not seeing a leaf at all but a brown shape with this slightly darker area near the lower edge. And so I painted that. No attempt to name the shape, or render what my mind was saying this was--just paint the brown shape.

And suddenly the leaves appeared in all their usual magic.

The lichen on the tree trunks came alive with shadow and shine.

A complexity emerged without my emotional engagement.  Indeed, it emerged because I was't emotionally entangled in "getting it right."  I was just painting what I saw.

This painting is titled "The day I learned to read."   I remember that day more than 60 years ago.  I was sitting in bed on a Sunday morning with my Mom and Dad, insisting  that I could read the funnies by myself.  And as a little kid I was quite insistent.  I think to humour me Dad propped the paper in front of me...and I could do it!  The black squiggles in the balloons made words.  I didn't get every word right, but suddenly something clicked and I was reading.

This ability has extended  into all my art.  My paintings on the frame drums I make emerge from the patterns in the skin, and not from my imposition.  The oracle cards images I painted for my Journey Oracle deck were seen in fossil shells, dried rawhide, and slices of agate.

Perhaps in this way everything seen is given the respect of being able to name itself.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

drum the cycle of birth and death

I do not often tie this 8-fold path interlacement pattern into the back of a shamanic frame drum since the thongs that anchor the ring must be pulled out of alignment to make the design.

Feels risky to unbalance something in order to bring it into balance.  Yet I understand the Buddha said that following the 8-fold path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration was like swimming upstream.  A path for those who want little from the world, not for those who want much.

I sold this drum to a collector of my work whose drums carry some of my best paintings. So I wasn't surprised when she said, "Please paint this."  But I had a moment of failing courage when she added,  "I have been dreaming about this drum and I am not going to tell you what I saw.  I want to know what you see."

When I begin to paint a drum I do nothing.  I sit, sometimes for days, just gazing into the drum's face--looking for something to be looking back at me.  And there she was. this old lady in the blue cloak of that world trimmed with the red material of this world.   Can you begin to see her in the lower left portion of the unpainted drum face?

Next I saw the rim of a tea cup in her lap.  A quite large tea cup that had a baby sitting inside.

So the images of birth and death have appeared.  Yet for my drum paintings to "click" they have to tell a story.  Or rather, I need to see the story the drum wants to tell me.  Like seeing the whole picture of a Journey Oracle card instead of just a corner view.

I looked for a long time before this creature appeared.

Here is the whole story.  Birth and death are riding on Turtle.  This creature represents the indigenous view that creation is resting on the back of a turtle.  And this creation, in Buddhist terms, is Samsara, the wheel of endless rebirth.  But why the tea cup?  Because the tea cup is a particular kind of container.  Its use is framed by rules and rituals. We are each born into a particular lived world that is framed by rules and rituals.  And believing in those rules and rituals creates delusion, which can lead to suffering.

So one side of this drum is an image of our lived suffering and joy, the cycles of birth and death.  The other side of the drum is a path for liberation from suffering.

But of course, the thing about a path is that it doesn't take you anywhere unless you follow it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Favorite views of Zion National Park

Here are some of my favorite views of Zion National Park where I have been hiking in the area for two weeks.  This story of what to look at is probably not what you expect.

It is easy to look up in this country. 

But those beautiful autumn-turning trees are thriving on something besides rock.  The Virgin River carving through these awe-inspiring cliffs is the source of life in this canyon. 

When I started to look down, I saw water everywhere.  Seeping through ferns,

and sparkling over leaves in grottoes of shade.

Creating habitat for cattails; plants that are most unusual to find in the desert.

And even creating the miniature swamp surrounding this bubbling-up spring.

So while it is tempting to keep looking up into the majesty of these stone monoliths,

you will be delighted if you look down into the shadowy depths of desert pools.

Happy hiking from the Journey Oracle.