Monday, June 26, 2017

Heal a broken heart with plant helpers

Here is a ceremony to heal a broken heart with 4 medicine plant helpers: Cedar, Tobacco, Sweetgrass and Sage.

I begin by finding a beautiful tree, one that will allow me to sit at its base with my back against the trunk.  Here on the Canadian northwest coast, the Western Red Cedar is Mother Cedar who helps all her human and other than human children by making every part of herself useful.  In this ceremony it is her powerful healing energy that will flow into my broken heart.  She is the wise mother who knows that what is born must also pass away.

If my broken heart is from a lost, departed or betrayed love, I find married trees, who will know my feelings of loss deep in their roots.

I find a flat sided stone about the size of my open palm and put this near me as I sit on the ground in the scented needle duff.  I bring a bottle of water that I place nearby.  I lean back against the tree and be kind to my heart by acknowledging my present emotions, whatever these may be.

I bring tobacco with me in a form that has the least chemical additives I can find.

When I  use tobacco in a ceremonial way it does not result in my addiction since three factors are present:  moderation, respect for its organic source, and a positive regard for this sacred teacher that brings humans wisdom while it also feeds spirit powers in the alternate realities.

I light a cigarette and with the first exhalation I offer a good thought for myself and for everyone in my broken-hearted situation.  With a second puff I try to just rest in stillness, and with a third exhalation I look to receive insight about my situation from an inner image or words, or an intuitive feeling.

I then break off the still burning end of the cigarette, peel away its paper, and leave the tobacco on the flat rock so the smoke can carry my respect and gratitude to all who are willing to help me.  I make sure the smoldering ash is fully out before continuing with my ceremony.

I next pick up a sage bundle.  I light the tip and wash in the smoke, pulling the smoke into my heart and over my head, then along my torso and around my feet.  I wash away my anger and confusion, and the imbalance that comes with fear and loneliness. I make sure any smoldering tips of the sage plant are broken off and added to the tobacco ash on the flat stone. Again I wait until the sacred smoke is finished before continuing.

I last take up a sweegrass braid that has been given to me rather than purchased by me.  I understand it is important to not sell the sacred healing plants that the earth freely gives to us.  Sweetgrass is the teacher of kindness and forgiveness who gives her compassion to all in need.  I light the tip of the sweetgrass braid, again pulling the smoke into my heart and over my head and speak a prayer of well being.

May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
May I be happy and peaceful in my heart.
May I be strong and healthy in my body.
May I make my way joyfully in the world.

I say this prayer of loving-kindness from Ahjan Sona, the Abbot of Birken Forest Monastery, because it brings my Buddhist practice into this shamanic healing ceremony with such simple beauty.

I add any still burning stems of sweetgrass and ash to the stone. I sit quietly with whatever feelings arise, refocusing on the strength of Mother Cedar at my back in this time of growth and transformation.  To finish I wash the ash from the three plant helpers into the soil beneath the stone.

And I do this simple ceremony again the next day, and the next, and the next.  Until I realize I am safe and strong, making my way joyfully with a peaceful heart, thankful for these sacred plant helpers.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Make a frame drum with four directions teachings

I have just returned from a drum making workshop in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, where the four directions were our teachers.

When I invite the four directions to come and sit with us, the first to arrive is the West.  This is because to build a drum the deer must pass through Death,

The tree also must transform through many versions of rough wood to a smoothly shaped and sanded hoop.

We also must pass through the unknown of preparing a hide and working with our hands in a powerful way.

The North is next to arrive with its medicine lessons as we learn the stories of the deer's life, written in the size and thickness of the hide, and in the colours, scars and marks on the animal's skin.

The East comes next with knowledge.  The East brings teachers and the experience of having to make choices that cannot be reversed.

We also learn from the East that gratitude is shown for the gifts given by the Earth by not naming anything "garbage."  Every part of the skin finds a purpose or is returned respectfully to nature.

The South is the direction of birth and growth.  Once the hoop is laid onto the hide and trimmed to fit, a drum is born.

Just like the young of every form of life, a drum goes through many stages of growth as it slowly takes its finished form.

Perhaps the greatest gift from the South is our own growing into relationship with this spiritual companion; our drum that has come to give a voice to spirit through the teachings of the four directions and our good hands.

Thanks for three magical days from the Journey Oracle.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Make a drumstick for a frame drum

When I make a drumstick for a frame drum, I start with an unique piece of wood.   This stick is a piece of "beaver chew."  You can see the chipped end where the beaver cut the branch, and also the teeth marks where the beaver chewed off the bark.

Next I gather a section of old tee shirt, a pair of scissors and a hole punch.

I wind a length of tee shirt around the stick to make the padding.  Tee shirt fabric has a bias that helps each wrap curl in and lay flat against the edge of the next one.

A gusset of leather is glued over the fabric.  Make sure that the two openings on either side of the gusset are the same size.

The sleeves are made by tracing around the gusset with a pen pointing straight down along the sides, rather than tilting in.  This additional width on the sleeve makes it overlap slightly on the gusset.
Next, punch a series of holes along the sleeve.  Make the holes at the top slightly closer together.

 Reach through the holes of the first sleeve to mark the second sleeve.  This way they will match each other when you are lacing them together.

Cut a thin thong from a circle of leather.

 Keep going around and around  until you make two leather thongs each twice as long as the wrapped end of the stick.

Begin lacing the sleeves together by making an X between the two pieces at the round end.

Make the next set of X's on each side, and then fit the sleeve over the gusset so that the sleeves cover the visible fabric.

I like to alternate lacing one X inside and the next X on the outside of the sleeve.

Pull the lacing snug as you go, keeping the amount of visible gusset the same on each side.

Balance is important in shamanic drumming, in the work of inner transformation, and even in creation of a frame drum beater from a beaver chewed stick.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Moving into the Unknown

Ann Mortifee and I are teaching a session at Hollyhock, on Cortes Island this August titled Moving into the Unknown.  But before we can intend to move into the unknown and experience the Mystery, we must first believe it is possible to do so.  How do I know that I am developing a relationship with the unseen forces of nature, and the creatures who inhabit the other-than-human world?  Here are three examples from my daily life.

I  meditate, read Buddhist texts and go on retreats, yet my heart is loyal to my shamanic practice of more than 30 years.  Recently I felt a yearning to reconnect with indigenous teachings, and thought to find a new book.

The next day finds me in Campbell River with 10 minutes to spare between appointments.  The Coho Book store is across the street.  I walk in with purpose and a soft focus.  Someplace here is just what I am looking for.  I turn toward the closest sections of books from the entrance and see this book turned out to greet me.

Robin Kimmerer has become  a new favorite author.  Indeed just what I wanted.  An articulate and sensitive weaving together of indigenous, scientific and spiritual reflections.

But how is this timely purchase of a new book a moment of moving into the Unknown?  I understand it is all in following the signs that invited me to move.  Being aware of my intention (wanting to reconnect), seeing the means (the bookstore), having time to act (the space between appointments), and especially, feeling the inner certainty that I was being led to the resolution of my desire.  There is no empty hoping in this story--there is a purpose, and a trust that I will be shown how to achieve it.

This second example came at the end of a lovely three day sail on Pearl into Desolation Sound.

We  passed through the Sound heading toward a favorite local anchorage near Otter Island.  There is already someone moored in the slot so we go further along to Tenedos Bay, a favorite stop but one usually crowded with sail an motor boats anchoring in its sheltered waters.

What a blessing!  We are sharing Tenedos with only a lovely old repurposed fishing boat, and a wee little motor launch.  We are able to drop anchor in a perfect location--sheltered from a wind yet open to a breeze during the hot late afternoon.

The next morning, just after we have weighed anchor and I am steering us out of the bay, I turn back to look at the cliffs, saying aloud,"thanks for the great stay." At that moment a pair of eagles rise over the rocks and circle in widening spirals between Pearl and the cliff face.  The sensation of mutual regard is profound.

What makes this moment a moving into the Unknown?  The action of gratitude:  I turned back to say thank you to the place.  The sensation of connection with the eagles was a gesture of reciprocity.

This third example needs a bit of history.  In 2011 I participated in a collaborative installation at the Old School House Gallery called "the Bottom of the Garden" about the realm of Faerie.   My contribution was 22 micaceous clay masks, each one a portrait of a faerie creature.  A friend purchased a number of these, and just days ago called to ask if I would help her design an outdoor spirit garden where the energies of the masks could feel at home.

But how to begin?  I can't just make something up.  So how to ask the creatures in a way that feels authentic?  I am having this very thought while looking for a piece of paper on which to make a phone call note.  I take a piece from the scratch pile and turn it over to make sure nothing important is on the other side.  I am surprised to discover a very old text version of Oracle pronouncements from the Journey Oracle deck that I have been continuously creating since 1992.  When Ann's company, Eskova Publishing, brought out the oracle cards in their present form, I discarded previous versions. Excepting not quite,  apparently.

When my friend accepted that this synchronicity was guidance, many Aha moments happened. A sense of wonder shifted questions into intentions, combining masks with plants resulted from a balance of action and consideration, the entire planning process felt surrounded with bright lights of energy from the faeries.

During our workshop at Hollyhock August 23 - 27 how will we experience moving into the Unknown?  Ann and I are never quite sure what will happen when Mystery is invited to enter us.  We do know that we will follow the signs that show us the way, make gestures of reciprocity, and experience the synchronicity that occurs when we join in relationship with the seen and unseen worlds.