So what do we do now?
This year I voted for the first female US presidential candidate and she lost. She won the popular vote, but we have a fascinating thing here in the US called the Electoral College. I don't generally like to talk about politics and this blog post will not focus on that much. It will focus on what we can do as humans now as most people in my circle seem a little lost and are definitely living through the many stages of grief. I hope this helps in some small way.
It was a very long election season. It was filled with love and hate, hope and despair, eagles attacking Donald Trump and house finches landing on Bernie Sanders' podium. Those of us who voted, invested much in the process and expended a lot of energy hoping our candidate would win. With so much energy expended, it becomes a bit like a volcano and it is so very easy for explosions to happen and for us to settle into a low energetic field. It is very easy to sink down and spout words like "He's an idiot!" and "He's the Orange Hitler!" But doing this does not serve us, our families, our country, or the universe at large. Donald Trump like Hillary Clinton like Bernie Sanders and like everyone else, be they politicians or not, are all children of God. We all have the light of the Creator within us. If we're "Berners," we don't like to think that Donald has that light within him. It's easier to vilify him and curse him. This brings the trouble right back to us.
I have a wondrous teacher of shamanism in Seattle named Betsy Bergstrom. She teaches a course in compassionate depossession and also in curse unraveling. These are miraculous classes and you can palpably see the changes in individuals who do this work and have it done on them. When we curse Donald Trump and the horse he rode in on, our energy gets tied into that. We lose a piece of ourselves and give away our power and I am not about to give away my power to Donald Trump. It's not easy, especially since cursing ourselves and others is a habit we easily fall into and maintain. I have found though, that once I realized I was doing this, I couldn't get rid of that awareness. "I'm terrible at math," I'd say and then realize that I had cursed myself into years of unbalanced check books. Now when I hear myself cursing myself or others - "You jerk! You don't know how to drive!" - I compassionately forgive myself and ask the universe to cancel my curse. Sometimes, I need to go a little deeper and clean up my own mess in a shamanic way. So, the first part of the answer to the question of "So what do we do now?" is to avoid spewing vitriol at someone who so readily sends it our way. The Bible says, "But I tell you not to resist an evildoer. On the contrary, whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well;" and while I don't subscribe to us being doormats, I do believe in non-violence and non-cursing (of ourselves and others).
In compassionate depossession work, we are asked to look compassionately at the possessing spirit. Betsy calls them "suffering beings." So, the second part of my answer to "So what do we do now?" is to dig deep and look at Donald and his supporters with as much compassion as we can muster. This is a tall order, but we can call in our guides, allies, angels, compassionate spirits of all kinds and ask them to lend us their vision of the world. To see the world through the compassionate lens of an angelic being is a mind opening experience. There is no judgement there. The world is full of experiences - not good ones or bad ones - just ones. Also, in compassionate depossession, we are asked to see the light within the suffering being and to ask our compassionate helpers to illumine the heart of the being. It is beautiful work. I know I will be seeing a lot of Donald Trump's face in the years ahead and hearing his voice more often then I'd like. When I do, I will do my best to refrain from cursing him and I will also send love from the depths of my heart to him. AND I am definitely calling on the help of angels to do this. I will be ready to forgive myself when that feels like it's beyond my mere human capacities and it's the LAST thing I want to do.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." The third part of this recipe is to do things which bring light into the world. Invite friends over for dinner and share stories of hope and peace. Honor your gay friends by marching with them in the next pride parade. Sit next to the woman wearing a hijab on the bus who is probably terrified that something horrible could happen to her on that trip. Sing songs and tell stories of water while supporting the Standing Rock Sioux. Teach your children forgiveness, compassion, and how to interact with others who do not share the same opinions or ideas they do. We cannot all be the same and want the same things and love the same things. We came to the world to experience life and learn and grow. The people who are not exactly like us are there to help us do that. Donald Trump is not exactly like me, but we are alike in that we both have the light of the Creator within us, and I am called to honor that.
Very soon I will be embarking on a journey which will take me through many of the southern red states - Trump territory. As I travel (literally) from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters, I will be chanting songs of love and light. I will be staying with friends, sharing delicious food, grieving over what I wanted to happen and didn't, while being open to what the universe has in store for the future. Sometimes we need to sink to the very bottom of a pit and work all of our muscles to pull ourselves out. It makes us stronger and helps us to realize all that is wondrous in us and the world. To those of you who are celebrating, I send you love. May you be gracious in your victory. To those of you who are grieving, I send you love. May your time of healing provide you with what you need at this time to grow and experience the wonder of the world. I offer gratitude for all that is and all that is not and offer myself as an instrument of peace and love in the world. Aho. Amen.
This spring a pair of hummingbirds decided to make a nest in the rhododendron in our courtyard garden. The courtyard serves as the main entry point for my apartment building, so I was surprised that they had chosen such a busy thoroughfare for their nest, but also grateful as it allowed me to sneak a peek at them every time I walked in and out of the building. I was baffled at the size of the nest - half the size of a large chicken egg - and also intrigued by the beauty of it. No twigs that I could see, just small green leaves patched together. A marvel of engineering.
I never got an opportunity to see the eggs, but could imagine their tiny size hidden deep within that cup of leaves so lovingly crafted by the parents. I am not a birder and couldn't begin to tell you what kind of hummingbirds they were, but in looking at photos on the internet, I think they were broad-tailed hummingbirds. It was always a delight to be surprised by the flash of green of one of the parents flitting by my window. It would make me pause and watch him for a bit before we both moved on.
This brings me to the crux of this post. How often are we surprised by a random bit of joy and delight in our lives? Do we stop for a moment and relish it, or do we move on too quickly? Do we allow ourselves a few moments to truly enjoy that moment? In 2007 acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell was part of an experiment which took place at a Washington D.C. metro station. He played music by Bach, Schubert and other classical composers for 45 minutes during rush hour. The experiment's aim was to see if people stopped and listened. Hardly anyone did. Interestingly enough, every child who walked by pulled against the parent dragging them along because they wanted to stop and listen. Would you risk being late to work to listen to Joshua Bell play the Bach Chaconne in a metro station? I probably would text my boss and say that Joshua Bell was in the metro station and I would be a little late. But, I know who Joshua Bell is - not everyone in that station did and some were unaware that they even walked by someone playing the violin. You need to be aware of the hummingbird outside your window to be able to spend a few moments with him. You need to know a violinist is playing music to stand in a metro station for a few moments and listen to him. That awareness can open you up to all kinds of opportunities for moments of joy and surprise.
Some say that the hummingbird represents joy. Seeing one always makes my heart skip a beat as I watch it hover and move magically in every direction conceivable. And maybe this is why the parents chose the busy walkway of our courtyard garden, much like Joshua Bell chose a busy metro station. If you want to share your medicine or your gifts with the world, you have to go to where the world is. You also have to hope that someone in that busy cross section of life is aware of enough to really see you and spend a few moments enjoying your visit. The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. I don't think life has to choke out the poetry or music or dance out us and it doesn't take any kind of hardening of heart or pushing back to keep it from happening. I think it takes a willingness to breathe and be open to the moment; to be aware. Listen to that violinist. Watch that hummingbird.
The rhododendron has bloomed, the two baby hummingbirds have learned to fly and the nest is now empty. It was such a short gestation period, but I for one appreciate this medicine of joy and loving the moment of now, this wondrous present time, brought forth by the hummingbird family. I look forward to it living in my heart for a good, long while.
When I was a child, I would sing with my parents in the car. It was a normal thing. Driving to school, there would be songs. Going to church there would be songs. Interestingly enough, we did it less at home, but my father still sings and makes up songs while he’s playing solitaire at the kitchen table. Singing “when two or more are gathered” has always been one of my favorite things.
I recently came across an article in Time Magazine about the benefits of communal singing. Not only does one’s heart rate lower, but it becomes synchronized with the hearts of the other singers in the room. It is no wonder that the movements which brought about social change included songs. The songs of apartheid in South Africa, the national anthems of the countries which were forced into the Soviet Union, and the songs of the civil rights movement are just a few examples of singing not only unifying people, but helping to bring about change. This is why I think communal singing is such a blessing. Whether we sit across from each other in the shape note square or chant together or sing Christmas carols together; that time spent in communal song rearranges our molecules and allows us to deeply feel something that we may only peripherally feel – our oneness. It allows the change to happen within us which causes the change outside of us.
There are times when singing in a group has moved me to tears. It has made me feel things so deeply – love for other humans, love for nature, even love for country. Country is a complicated concept for it is often used to divide us or to drive conflict. I entreat us to sing our national anthems with a love for the whole earth for we are singing to a part of the earth, a part of that pachamama that is a piece of a greater whole. In the connectedness with each other, we can sing of our nation, but in doing so, also sing of our world. In this time where it seems like division is rising at every turn, I now want to look for opportunities to sing to the wholeness, sing to the oneness, sing to the connectedness of us all. So maybe at our next baseball game, we can sing our national anthem together with the intention that our world becomes the world of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe as we sing the songs of the Paschal season, we sing together to the rebirth of the world in love. As we share songs around the summer campfire, we sing songs with the intention to light the hearts of the world with compassion. If you come to join me in any upcoming chanting sessions, we can sing together for us all
A blog from Jeffrey Rich
I met Jeffrey Rich many years ago in a baroque music ensemble. In his gentle and compassionate way, he helped me get onto the shamanic path and has been supporting me in that endeavor ever since. We've been on tour together a few times and recently, he posted a blog from our last adventure together. I've put it here with his permission. If you want to know more about Jeffrey and the services he offers, please visit his website at: https://www.livingenergy.life/
The Nature of Energies and Fields: The Astonishing Qualities of the Energies of 4 Beautiful Places
January 27, 2016
by Jeffrey Rich
In 2014, I had the singular honor to tour several cities in the US singing Claudio Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers of the Blessed Virgin for two weeks with an amazing group of singers and a truly fantastic Baroque orchestra. On the tour, I shared a room with my shamanic friend, Nadia. At each stop we would greet the land, telling the land who we were and why we were here, and thanking it for receiving us so well and for holding us so dearly. We would then begin clearing the energies of our hotel room and opening Sacred Space there. This is always good energy hygiene, and helps calm any previous fields that may have inadvertently been left over by previous occupants.
Immediately, we began to notice that the energies of each place were incredibly different from each other, certain places were easier to clear than others, and certain places held the clearing longer. At first, I thought I was misperceiving this, until one evening Nadia spoke up. Here are our observations and experiences:
The energies of the city seemed a bit sluggish and heavy, and the energies of the specific room we were in took a really long time to settle and clear and become less oppressive than they were when we walked in. The room had a strange shape, and we were on a corner of the building, so this could be one of the things that played into our experience here.
Austin had a completely different feel from Houston. The energies were more expansive and open somehow. Our hotel was on the river, and our room was on the 7th floor overlooking the water. When we began opening sacred space, I had the distinct impression that the room was tilted and that the floor was slanted toward the river: I was drawn to the window as if by gravity, and felt like I was being drawn into the river. About the time I was feeling this, Nadia said, "is this floor tilting toward the water?" It was the strangest thing. We never did get any response from the river itself when we asked about this.
Berkeley had a lovely energy! Light and happy and sweet. Our hotel room needed almost no clearing at all, and felt wonderful and light the whole time we were there.
Stanford University Campus
While we didn't stay there, we did perform at the incredibly beautiful Bing Auditorium. The energies at Stanford were spare and vast and very quiet in huge contrast to the fun, happenin' energies of Berkeley. If I could name what I felt there, it would be "cerebral". Not surprising.
As a shamanic person, I had not had that kind of immediate contrast experience of the huge variety of personality of place. Interesting, too, were the energies of the various performing venues that we were performing in. We had 12 different venues for concerts on this particular project, 4 of them in Cleveland and 8 in Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, and California, all of which we covered in a scant 14-day time period once the rehearsals had ended and the concerts began.
Some of the venues seemed "sleepy", while others seemed very engaged with us and with what we were doing there. We cleared the venues and opened sacredness in those places, too. Since most were churches and dedicated performing spaces, the energies were generally sweet. The venue in Florida was a bit wonky and all over the place, but this makes sense for a space that is used for musical theater, plays, and for sacred and secular musical performances.
I learned a great deal from these experiences. One, that I am not making up my perceptions! Nadia's were almost always exactly the same as mine. Two, that some places are much harder to clear and maintain than others, and that this seemed to relate to the land on which they resided and to the history of what had happened on that land. Houston stands out in this regard for two reasons: while the hotel and city seemed sluggish and unresponsive, the absolutely amazing cathedral we sang in was vibrant and lively. Berkeley was the most 'alive' place we encountered on our journeys. We both concluded that land likes its participants to be happy! I don't think I saw one sad face in Berkeley.
I also posit that the cathedral was the one place that we performed which was built as sacred geometry; the template for that shape as sacred space has been around for millennia now, with roots in the greek forum and basilica structure more than two thousand years ago.