To start I'd like to talk a little bit about what I mean by Curing Soul Sickness. Within Tlish Diyan cosmology there are 7 worlds. We have just left the 4th world and have now entered the 5th world. The 4th world is sometimes called the world of Soul Sickness, or Separation. The 5th world is sometimes called the world of Coming Together, or Illumination. The time charting of Tlish Diyan had us entering the 5th world a few years ago. The 4th world had lasted for around 750,000 years.
The first thing to note is that the 4th world is seen as important - it was the time in which humans built up a sense of individuality which has been very important for our evolution. We now find ourselves, though, at a place where we need to re-balance. Here are some thoughts on this shift...
We were all born into the 4th world of Soul Sickness. We were all born into a world where the story of separation was a strong one. Even though many of us might have known within that there was more than this story, we still had to find ways to navigate within the larger world stories we found ourselves in.
During my training, I have noticed that there have been shifts in the way I approach the world, and in the stories I tell myself to make sense of what is happening. Slowly, I am being immersed in stories that are more about the sacredness of life. I am finding that my perspective is shifting. There is more of a freedom to not immediately buy into a story that generates fear arousal, defensiveness, or separation. And let me tell you, those stories were rife within me.
Also, by stories here I don't just mean narratives. Stories are held within our actions. The way we respond to people and situations, the physical reactions of our bodies to events - these are also stories.
As an example, within my training we see everything as our relation. So one of the things I have started doing is to start talking to things. If a bird flies overhead I say thank you to it. If i find a landscape beautiful I tell it that I do. Now, this can get you some funny looks, but it's also helping me to shift my perspective. The world is shifting from something I observe from an abstract position, to one I am embedded in and related to. By communicating with it in this way my perspective and expectations are slowly transformed.
Which brings me to Curing Soul SIckness. A powerful way to do this is to start telling stories that affirm our connection. That find alternatives to the stories we grew up in that no longer serve us.
For example, saying prayers every day that affirm sacredness and remind us of our co-creative potential is one way. Smudging, breathing in the smoke of sage or some other plant, and letting it fill our lungs can be a very tactile way of telling ourselves a story of beauty. Meditation gives us the space where the old stories lose their grip on us, and we can discover new ones. Ritual can be a multi-leveled way of playing out stories of health and connection. Drumming can be a great way to get the body moving in a rhythm, where it will often find its own truths.
And the important thing is that we must practice these things daily. We are surrounded by people and media that are still caught up in old stories. With practice we can stabilize in healthier stories without closing to the world around us. This allows what we are doing to ripple out. We can also tune in to the ripples of other stories that people are generating which affirm our sacredness. Once we have the taste of the 5th world within ourselves this becomes easier.
So let's take time to tell ourselves and one another life-affirming stories. Stories that affirm the basic humaneness of human beings - and do the daily work of Curing Soul Sickness.
Most mornings I go out
To greet the directions.
In the South is the personification of Unity - Nakia.
He's a rainbow serpent with eyes the colour of the sky.
He's fun, and knows many things about life, sadness and growth.
In the West is a golden bear - Eo'to'to,
She shines with the setting sun
And the beauty of letting go.
In the North is an enormous buffalo - Tuma.
Sparks fly from his fur as he demands
I stand in what I believe and feel.
In the East is a Golden Eagle - Esau.
Who sings of unfettered vision
And the fresh winds up high.
Then I greet Mother Earth, Father Sky
Every living thing, and the flame that lives within.
Society clamours at me:
What is this?
Is this real or imaginary?
Well, I have done this enough times now to know that
Life has many more sides than that question allows.
And what I can tell you is that there have been times
When all of them have held me.
And that to dance with them
Is beyond worlds.
“Self truth builds greater trust and brings new possibilities. We don’t have to agree on everything. As a matter of fact there is only one thing that we have to agree on, and that is that all viewpoints are valid and therefore to be respected. This truth builds bridges. The Apache word for this - dasha’ - speaks of an understanding where there is no reasonable proof. It is a believing that allows for connection and spontaneity. It allows us to be who we are.”
- Maria Yraceburu
This is a very important concept. In our wide world there are still many things that elude complete human understanding. In these instances it’s important to understand that the conceptual models we have for them are a result of a consensus of opinion. In Buddhism, some traditions will talk of consensual reality. This is the one that we live in day to day and is usually a product of our culture’s history of ideas along with our daily experiences, and the interaction between the two.
We create a problem if we take consensual reality as being the ultimate truth. Don’t get me wrong, we need it in order to exist within society. But if we harden consensual reality into something that is absolute, then we are closing down whole aspects of life that may be of benefit to us. For example, mystics throughout the ages have brought us accounts of what are often startlingly similar experiences – a different way of perceiving our existence. If we fail to include these in our consensual reality then I believe that we are closing ourselves to an important part of human experience.
This applies when we are faced with someone whose viewpoint about life differs from our own, especially if that viewpoint has a broader expanse than our own. Consensual reality should always be open to exploring viewpoints different to its own. This is how change happens - in society, in consciousness and in the individual. A very real example of this can be seen in both the feminist and civil rights movements – where the consensual reality of a society was gradually expanded in terms of its definitions of who should have human rights.
The flip side of course is the question that if you accept all viewpoints as valid then don’t you just vanish into complete relativism? Which is a really important question. For myself, experience is the proving ground where we test our models of reality. But at the end of the day we really can’t tell. Sometimes great change can come because an individual or a small group maintained their version of the world that was different to the general consensus.
All of which is to say that this is why I love the word dasha’. It speaks to me of a humility in human experience. To remember that we don’t know everything about our wild, vast and wonderful world. And it calls us into dialogue. With respectful listening to one another’s viewpoints we can enhance our understanding of those things which elude us – which is, after all, how evolution in consciousness happens.
Photo Credit: Mystery River from the Flickr page of Matthias Ripp.
I believe that one of the most important things that we as humans need to do right now is to stabilize in love. By releasing the stress patterns that most of us have picked up throughout the Fourth world, we come to a place where our bodies relax more and more, and we can refind the open expansiveness that is our birthright. And when we act from this place we have much more chance of being beneficial and creating real change.
So what do I mean by stabilizing in love? Well, imagine that you are on a beach towards sunset. You are at the water’s edge and the waves are gently lapping over your feet. The air is warm and soft, with a slight breeze bringing freshness to you. The sea stretches away to the horizon. Everything is lit with golden light. The sand is soft and firm beneath your feet. The sound of the waves gently caresses you….
Hopefully you’ll recognize this kind of experience. It can be had in many scenarios, in a forest, by a stream, in the early hours of the morning, feeling the sun on your face, talking deeply with a friend. In these times there is a very real physical relaxation, which then allows the spirit to expand. Our boundaries become porous. Creative insights bubble up and we feel a sense of freedom. We know we are held by something vast and loving.
Learning how to stabilize is learning how to find this feeling wherever we are. How can we enter this state of relaxation as we go about our daily lives? For me, meditation helps a lot. Also, bodywork (I find the Feldenkrais technique very good for this). Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to begin to find this feeling. Prayers and ceremony are also all about this.
Once we have found it, once our bodies have tasted it, then we can start returning to it over and over again. Doing this without judgment, in a quiet and everyday way, helps us to stabilize in this feeling. Outside stressors no longer have as much of an effect on us, and we may find ourselves coming up with more creative solutions to challenges.
As we all do this more and more, the effects begin to ripple out around us. We stop triggering people with our own problems. This can be a very effective way to change our environments and the world around us.
So, spend some time today remembering the taste of that feeling, and then get out there and give yourself more opportunities to feel it!
(Image is from here.)
The other night I went to see Sun Ra’s Arkestra in a performance to celebrate the 100th centenary of his arrival on our planet. If you don’t know Sun Ra then he was a jazz musician who claimed to have come here from Saturn. He blended sci-fi imagery with ancient black culture and is widely credited with founding Afro-futurism.
If you’ve never seen the Arkestra they are quite incredible. They come out dressed in vibrant colours, sparkling with sequins. They get up and dance around whilst they play and they give an incredible night (they had projected star maps all around the hall so it was like we were sat in the stars).
I’ve been pondering the question of what it means to be Ah-Kine and it struck me that the Arkestra were really embodying so many principles of it. So here’s some musings from me, inspired by the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Whatever you are doing, do it with your whole heart and body. Spend time getting good at what you do, and share it with the world fully. Open hearted commitment creates an energy that carries you along and buoys up others as well.
Colour and celebration
Celebrate! Look for the vibrancy in life and search for the ways you can bring that into being and share it with all around you. Make life full of colour and light. Again, it creates an energy that carries us all forward.
Spend time with those you love and whose mission is aligned with your own. Learn how to listen to one another on a very deep level so that many levels of communication are open. Practice an open-hearted and expansive response to people. This exponentially increases the possibilities for co-creation, and frees the way for a spontaneity that can be liberating.
Don’t forget to have FUN. Dance, laugh, do crazy stuff just because it’s fun. This is great care of the heart and strengthens us to stand stronger in our selves and meet our challenges with grace and humour. Lightening things up allows everything to flow. Things move through us and we don’t get in the way as much.
Overlapping time and space
Draw from the past and envision the future. They’re a continuum – don’t split them off! Merge the outer reaches of space with the wooded valley just down the road. Let it all come together in your dreaming self as a fertile place to act from – right now!
Use your imagination
Let your imagination dream up all manner of wonders. Don’t dismiss an impulse. Nurture it to see what it is saying. Let it inspire you to expansiveness. Be creative.
Have a road map but be prepared to veer off it at any time. The map gives you the grounding so that if you need to improvise you can do so with centredness. Follow those impulses, try new ways of doing things, look with fresh eyes.
This is an excerpt of an essay I've written for the Ah-Kine Remembrance book.
"Ever since I was young I was always mesmerized by the stars, and by the thought of other beings who lived there. From an early age I would love to watch films or TV series about aliens – I generally favoured the more peaceful stories emphasizing communication and wonder. I also became an avid fan of science fiction.
It always triggered my sense of wonder and took me out soaring into vast realms of space that could hold much that was far beyond what I currently knew. The stars became a place for the infinite possibilities of existence to dwell, and a place for my mind to discover them.
This feeling was also always deeply connected with the natural environment on our planet. For some reason alien encounters always seemed to be connected in my mind with deserts and, especially, pine forests. Shopping malls just didn’t cut it!
On one level you could call it escapism and there was certainly something of that going on. But there was something else going on – a much deeper resonance.
I remember reading a book with the phrase “Our bones were baked in stars” in it. This phrase haunted me for so many years. It was speaking a truth that I still felt in my bones when I was out under the night sky....
........When I look up at the night sky I am filled with the immensity of existence, the huge dance that is always playing out, which I am privileged to be a dancer in. The stories of our StarSeed lineage link me in to this immensity – remind me that part of the mystery of experience is that I am connected to that vastness – that it makes up my body. The stories protect me from any narrow point of view – they balance me and open me to communication and action in alignment with the totality of existence. They bring poetry and vision into my life...."
Recently, I traveled to the States to take part in Vision Quest - a part of the SpiralDancing training.
To be truthful, I have been avoiding this ceremony ever since I started SpiralDancing. It pushes so many of my buttons and challenges me - fear of the dark, fear of the wild (especially as i have no experience with the wild animals in the States - we don't really have anything dangerous or poisonous over in the uk), fear of not keeping myself - and my mind- busy, fear of not eating or eating very little (although I did have a little food as I am hypoglycemic). However, I knew that I needed to do this in order to continue, and to face my fears which I have learnt is very important.
The run up was tough - lots of fear going on. it was a big lesson in not getting carried away and keep taking that next step. There were several times i thought about cancelling but I managed to just keep going.
I arrived at Taa-naash-kaa-da a few days early and quickly started responding to the magic that Lynda and Maria spin. It really is very special and if you have yet to visit I heartily recommend it. Spending time on the land, talking through my fears, slowing down all helped me reach a place where Vision Quest became more of an adventure rather than solely about fear.
Then the day came...making the prayer ties was a beautiful experience. I found it very focussing and calming. it really helped me settle and calm myself. During the quest they seemed to me like a small cosmos, radiating beauty and keeping my intent infusing on the wind.
The first night it snowed! I couldn't believe it when i saw it. It was so outrageous that my mood actually got very light. The Sacred Parents have a great sense of humour. The second morning there was ice in my water! I watched it spin in the sunlight. My fear of the cold and how my body would react was given a thorough chance to be addressed.
On the third day - I was shifting between. I learnt something very important about my fear toward opening to visionary experience. I was able to see the fear clearly and discover some of the roots about where it had come from in earlier experience. I started experimenting with shifting into a more in-between state. I became more playful.
Then some dogs came to visit - big dogs! They came up to my circle, sniffed the line and crossed in. It really shook me - animals - possibly wild. I got up and went to get my rattle but they gathered together and started growling and barking. I stood for a few moments then had to leave. I left the circle and went to the house. This was a big thing for me - it felt like failing. I didn't do it lightly but I guess I was panicking. I met my guardian and she suggested just making myself big and shouting at them. I felt so small and stupid. Of course I should have done that. Instead I'd acted like a small child.
Lynda took me back to my circle and I sat there and sobbed my heart out. I felt like a failure, like I couldn't do this work, that it was beyond me. That I'd reached my limit.
That night was hard - I faced myself. I faced my fears of not being good enough. I faced my shame. I felt so small. I wondered if the ancestors on the land were angry at me for leaving the circle. Had I dishonoured the ceremony? I sat with it all. I faced myself at a very fundamental level. I prayed and prayed about it all but i didn't even know if anyone was listening. Was it all in my head? All my stuff really came up!
At some point I realised that I could only face this quest with who I was at this moment. I had to bring myself just as I am - with my fears. I realised that i am small - and that's alright. I came to a great acceptance of my limits. And I was staying - i was staying out during that night, after the dogs, I was continuing. I realised i could ask nothing more of myself. I also saw and felt at a fundamental level how fear freezes me. This is a very real physical thing. My body becomes stiff and the energy blocks. At one point it took every amount of courage I had just to sit up and rattle to try and shift the energy.
Although I did my best to stay awake I dozed off at some point but it was a long night. Although during the quest I had seen Kachinas and felt the presence of my guide, Nakia and Tzegojuni very strongly, i had felt that the Sacred Parents were not as there as I was used to.
I woke before sunrise. The land was beautiful and looked like Australia. I sat down with my dzil kugha (personal medicine wheel) and meditated. Then I carried out ceremony to merge with my Spirit Guide. As my guide came in I was filled with energy. We danced, we sang. At one point I started crying out to the valley. It echoed around and the dogs started barking! I laughed. I was beginning to find an answer to the questions of the night before - to consciously connect with my guide was a way to start opening more to mystery.
A calm entered me - all of the cramping stuff fell away. I sat in peace and the Sacred Parents were there - and I realised that they had always been there - holding me. It was my fear that had blocked my feeling this.
So, what I learnt on the hill is that we always approach life with who we are at that point and to not accept that actually blocks us from meeting what is going on fully. I faced how easy discouragement can be, and how important it is to honour these feelings but not get caught up in them. I learnt that I need to stand up for myself a bit more. I learnt how fear actually freezes me on many levels. I am finding I am more alert to when this happens now, and can begin to relax it. And I learnt that opening to the vastness of life is the solution to fear - it brings us so many more resources. Co-creation truly is the best way to do things. I also found profound respect for the tradition I was in and how in tune with the world the people in this tradition had been throughout history.
I would like to thank the lineage of Tlish Diyan for preserving such a beautiful ceremony, Taa-naash-kaa-da for holding me so perfectly, the dogs for giving me my lesson so perfectly, Nakia, Tzego, the Kachinas, my guides, the geese that flew overhead and all the animals and birds.
I would like to thank and honour Maria and Lynda for being such good Shimas and Akicitas and creating a space where it is possible to actually feel what it is to be Guzughjuja - Perfectly Encircled.
And I would like to thank the Sacred Parents and All That Is for so perfectly holding us all always.
I've been saying a lot since the quest that the Sacred Parents have a great sense of humour. It can be a bit bruising at times but it's a great sense of humour!
(If you are interested in attending this ceremony then you can find the details of the next one here.)
(Photo Credit: by Lynda Yraceburu. Details of her work can be found here).
Taa-naash-kaa-da is the name of the 5th World of Coming Together that we have recently entered into according to Quero Apache Tlish Diyan cosmology (after about 750,000 years of the 4th World of Soul Sickness).
It is also the name of the Sanctuary that Yraceburu Earthwisdom have established in New Mexico. Here's a poem inspired by my recent visit there. They really are modelling the 5th World!
Let me tell you about Taa-naash-kaa-da
About sitting in the kitchen early morning
Sipping tea – watching the land.
About how you may see Coyote walk across, stop
And look your way.
About the Blue Jay with the black topknot,
Who is just the handsomest bird you ever saw,
And then you realize that you’ve slowed down enough
To notice that,
About the wind chimes clinking gently in the night
And the murmurs in the soft lights
Of Ancestors going about their business.
Of the joyful cry of Lynda in the morning
With Shadow dogging her steps.
Of the smells of morning opening your heart
To beauty again
And the possibilities of vision.
Of the lizards, elk, dogs, plants, breezes, ridges, winds, sun, love….
Of the geese flying overhead
Of the medicine wheel that anchors it all.
Let me tell you of Taa-naash-kaa-da,
Of the night where the UFO’s play
The coyotes yip
And the Kachinas dance.
Let me tell you of the guardians who hold the land
The Shimas and their seemingly inexhaustible love.
Let me tell you of Taa-naash-kaa-da,
And of how once you have stayed there
You carry it in your heart
And it holds a piece of your heart.
Let me tell you…
If you can go – go soon!
(Pic is from Yraceburu Earthwisdom).
One of the things that I have picked up in working with Maria is a cultural phenomenon that is very different to that which I was used to.
I find a lot that in the world we now live in many things are often provisional. It is all too easy to fall into the "well I might do" or "I might meet you on that day" kind of mentality.
When I look at what underlies this a few things appear.
One is a concern that there is always something better that might come up. I am often so overwhelmed with information and different possibilities that I find myself with a kind of anxiety around committing. What if something better comes up? What if i make the wrong choice and close down something that would have been better for me? There is an insecurity here about making choices, which our current information abundance serves to amplify.
Another concern is this idea that we now have in modern society that there are quick fixes. Therefore if something doesn't work immediately it's time to move on to the next. This is something that I know I fell prey to in my spiritual journey and is one of the reasons why I realised that I needed to study with one teacher over an extended period of time.
Another facet of committing to something is that I must then take responsibility for the outcomes and consequences. When you add to this the way our culture now seems to be one of blame and where it is not seen as a strength to step forward and say "Yes, I made a mistake", then it becomes even harder to fully give your self to something.
All of this can lead to behaviours of postponing, not committing etc. And yet, there is a real danger here - that of postponing life indefinitely - of never really living. If I am always trying to have a get out clause then, I have learnt, I am really missing out on the fullness of life. It is only through committing, making mistakes and finding out what works that we can truly move forward.
Which brings me to Maria. I have found in working with her that when I say I will do something I am taken seriously. I have to say that at the beginning this was pretty scary. It made me consider more carefully before I would say I would do something. But the rewards have been immense. In committing to follow through I have many times come up against an edge or a fear that in the past I would have turned away from. Commitment has led me to face these fears, move past these edges, and grow.
In doing so I have learnt more confidence and moved beyond my limited idea of what I could do. It isn't always easy but then growth sometimes isn't.
I have also found that when I do follow through there is a celebration in my community. This recognition is very confirming and helps consolidate the growth that has happened.
All of which leads me to wonder what would happen in our societies if we started taking one another a bit more seriously. If we stopped giving both ourselves and others little get out clauses. To take responsibility for our choices. When this is done with compassion and humour then I think that the transformative effects could be quite far reaching. And it's something that we can all do individually.
This issue is something that I know that some indigenous teachers have had problems with in sharing their teachings with the world. I know that in my experience this way of looking at the world, taught to me by Maria from her lineage, is one of the really beneficial things that indigenous cultures that preserve this knowledge can teach us.
One of the things I have been learning is how our goals and values lead us forward. Direction in life comes from how we orient ourselves and this is often enshrined in our goals and values.
I believe that a lot of our goals and values are picked up during our development and we can often not have much of a conscious awareness around them. A big part of a spiritual training, I find, is in bringing these to the light. In doing this we can begin to find out those that are maybe based in patterning that no longer serves us and release them. Another part of the training is of suggesting new places to place attention and to explore goals and values that are of greater benefit.
One of the things I have realised is that the goals and values that are most beneficial are those which lead us forward into expansiveness and new fields. Those with a feeling of sparkle, energy and new life. Those that open us up to the limitless sea of existence. Within my own life I have found these can be discovered through many ways - philosophy, myth, prayer, ceremony, music, dreams......
I have also found that I have needed guides, people who knew something of this territory and what is important. With their help I am discovering more and more how to orient my life in such a way that I may walk forward in beauty.
Note: the title comes from a track from Steve Roach's Future Flows album, which helped me a lot with these realisations. I recommend it very much and his other work as well. www.steveroach.com
Steven Dances the Dream