This Shaker hymn has a timeless message. Right now I want as much as possible to tune and turn my mind away from the pain of the past, and away from fearful thoughts about the future, and land in the present moment. In this present moment let me look around and simply drink in everything as it is.
I learned this song in 4th grade and it has stayed with me all these years – yes, I’m old. I have never been able to find it in a book or anthology of songs, and suspect that it was written by my first music teacher, Marian Hiner. Marian was a gem of a human being, she lived to almost 104 years old, and after retiring from teaching she played the piano for people in the old folks home most of whom were younger than she. She was blind at the time, but could still play every song in the book.
For me this song connects with the Christian tradition in a subtle and beautiful way. Who would not love this shepherd?
Oh, tell me have you ever seen him? A shepherd lad with smile so bright, that people love him at first sight and day by day still hold him dearer. That is my love, surely ’tis he. I have his heart, my faith has he.
And if when any poor man venture to beg a lamb from out the flock, the shepherd does not spurn nor mock, but gives both lamb and ewe together. That is my love surely ’tis he. I have his heart, my faith has he.
May we sing as if our hearts depend on it. Perhaps they do.
In a perfect storm of trouble may we offer our highest to those in peril, fear, and grief. To that end we will be posting music from various traditions now and in the coming days to help all of us. We wish you well.
This mantra from the Rig Veda of the Hindu tradition is for healing, for defeating death and the fear of death. It comes from one of the oldest spiritual practices on our planet. Traditionally sung 108 times in the morning and evening, we offer this garland of sound energy
as a way for you to imbibe peace and healing for yourself, your loved ones, and all the world.
The Maha Mrtyunjaya Mantra
om tryam bakam yaja mahe sugandhim puṣṭi vardhanam
urva ruka miva band hanan mrtyor muksiya mamrtat
We counted 118 seeds in this Pomelo (aka grapefruit predecessor.) Wow, that’s a lot. Looking at it another way, ask yourself “How many grapefruits are there in one seed? Grapefruit trees take up to 5 years to produce usable fruits, so it is a long-term investment for a grower.
The first good crop could be 25 pounds of fruit, in the 10th year, it could be as much as 250 pounds. One seed (or one well cared for seedling) could produce a bonanza of produce.
In an ancient Vedic teaching story a son, gesturing to the expanse of the earth around him, asks his father, “From where did all this arise?”
The father replied, “Do you see that tree? Bring a fruit from it,” The boy did so. “Break it open, what do you see?”
“Many tiny seeds,” the son replied.
“Break a seed open, what do you see?”
“Nothing at all.”
The venerable sage said, “That same nothing is the source of all you see here around you. And that [here is the good part], my son you are.”
‘That Thou Art’ or ‘You Are That’ is a hallmark teaching in Yoga, it points us to a unique and hidden truth about who we are and where we are. ‘That’ is all and all comes from ‘That’. This includes you and me and all the grapefruit we can carry. It includes stars and galaxies, and household dust. ‘That’ is the unchanging One, the whole enchilada. It is all that exists as well as all that does not exist.
In these times it is easy to get distracted by stuff, and by the ever-changing scene around us. The glitter, the hype, the chaos in politics and weather patterns is unsettling, our focus can become very narrow. We stress, we numb out, or we wade into the fray and campaign for a different kind of change or pick up trash on the beaches until exhaustion sets in.
If each day we can turn within and settle ourselves, we may find the strength to smile at a passerby, listen for the words that want to be spoken, and connect with that person where they are. If we can remember that we are all in the same boat, a leaky one perhaps, we can bail without blaming the problem on someone else. If we can stay present as much as possible, we may be able to allow what is, to be as it is, and chart our own direction without being angry or distracted.
If we can keep our heads while others are losing theirs . . . we may yet bear good fruit.
This song in the Hebrew language invokes the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael for protection, guidance, light, and healing. It concludes with an affirmation that Shekinah, the indwelling feminine aspect of the Divine presence, is above as well as within us.
Singing this song has helped me to remember and cherish the beneficent energies that surround us, and that can be invoked to accompany us on the journey we have undertaken.
May you find blessing in this and in your life always.
Thumbing through a course catalog a few years ago I noticed an offering that included the ability to obtain a Certificate of Shape-Shifting. I casually wondered what the Final Exam might look like. Does one have to cross the sprawling campus as an Elk, a Mongoose, or some other animal? Or perhaps hiding in plain sight as a cedar tree would qualify.
In my files somewhere I have a Certificate of Sainthood – yes, it’s true . . . but that does not make me a saint, as any of my close friends or family members can assure you. What is it that makes us who we are anyway? Is it the certificates and degrees we hold? The role or position we have acquired? Our status, possessions, grandmotherly-ness or shapely physique?
Of late I have run across a number of people who openly declare themselves to be Shamans. The number is now surpassing, in my mind at least, those who claim to be Gurus. It seems like being a Shaman is the new, cool thing to be. Overheard on the bus, “Oh, did I mention I am a Shaman?”
Some of the practices we employ as healing facilitators fall under the category of ‘shamanic’ by nature of their connection to time-honored indigenous healing practices used throughout the world. Generally, we stop short of deciding that makes us Shamans. Perhaps, to use a phrase coined by Hank Wesselman, we are at best shamanists.
We have found that it is wise to embrace humility foremost before the vast mystery of this life we live, this unfathomable universe. I remember a story of a young teenager who, when asked if he was a Christian replied, “I am trying to follow Christ.” This seems like the kind of answer that can really lead somewhere.
Just as it is easier to say you are a Christian (or a Buddhist, or a Saint) than it is to be one, it is also easier to say you are a Shaman without actually having any ability to remove someone’s pain, forecast the weather, or locate reindeer. That goes for pretty much every endeavor in life. In each village, town, and city there are people with advanced degrees who jumped over every hurdle the university presented to them, yet can’t do the work. You know them, don’t you? That’s why it takes us so much time to find a good doctor, a good lawyer, a competent therapist, or social worker, or palm reader, or bartender, or . . . .
OK, back to wanting to be a Shaman. We recommend you start slowly and carefully to examine your desire. If fame, fortune, and status are drivers for you, stop reading now. ‘Cause that dog won’t hunt.
A true Shaman is a servant – they serve the collective good of their ‘tribe’ through courageous efforts to obtain knowledge, and more importantly to acquire experiences that can lead to the ability to assist people to heal at all levels. After they set foot on the path they spend an enormous amount of time purifying themselves, experimenting, turning within, taking stock again and again of their own motivations, and coming up against a shit-load of inner and outer challenges. In other words, it’s no picnic. On the other hand, it is a fascinating adventure, one that can lead to mastery, mystery, and even death. But since we all face that last one, perhaps it is time to take up the Master Game and lean into the call.
The four-year-old in our lives came to visit last week. As adoring Grandmudders (her word) we take great delight in her insights, energy, and imagination. At the local playground, her swing and mine began to move forward and back together. That prompted us to teach her the word ‘synchrony’, which she dutifully repeated again and again while swinging, climbing, and later while eating pancakes. Synchrony happens.
Synchrony, coexistence, coincidence, concurrence, concurrency – the coming together of things, people, ideas, events, and swings. At such times we experience flow, the flow of that which unites us, that brings life, that fosters connection, and ignites the awareness of unity.
In a healing session, the ability to come into harmony with the client is something we experience on many levels. The room is ordered and decorated with that in mind, we attend to the conversation, the desire of the person who is with us, and to the hidden prompts that arise in the course of the work. All of this allows a resonant atmosphere to emerge and provides a foundation for positive results to happen.
Jenny, one of our esteemed students, shared this link with us recently of just how magical that coming together is in the physical world. May you enjoy this demo of the ebb and flow of synchrony in a pendulum wave. https://youtu.be/JsIgubUjTck
In the Great North-Wet (our neck of the woods) it is actually possible to hike all day and not get wet. We have a kind of misty, drizzle that refreshes without drenching. It is a perfect formula for what the Japanese call Shinrin yoku, a form of nature therapy that has widely reported benefits to body, mind, and spirit. Just today we ventured out on the trail above a beloved river, traipsing through old growth trees, wading through newly unfurled ferns, and passing mushroom communities of several varieties, while avoiding the Devil’s Club – a rather nasty but lovely bush that brings experiences befitting its name. I touched one once. Once was enough.
The forest is always breathing, quite literally creating the oxygen we need for life, but also producing helpful chemistry that we can take in through the breath. These organic compounds have been shown to provide benefits to the immune system, blood pressure, improved sleep, and lower stress levels.
We took note recently of an article in the Journal Science about the ability of the trees in a forest to share through underground connections with other trees, including trees and bushes of different species. They can and do share nutrients such as sugars, and other helpful compounds. No tree stands alone.
We treasure our time in the woods as a source of renewal and wonder, a time to practice connection with nature, and with other souls that walk the path. Nature heals, restores, and revitalizes our existence. It is a treasure beyond compare.
It is a common occurrence in our practice to have a client say, “I’m too sensitive, please fix it.” They want to get rid of their sensitivity, run away from it. It’s a hard-sell to convince them that their sensitivity is in fact a gift, one that helps them navigate the physical, mental, and emotional currents of their world. It is that same sensitivity that allow us a healing facilitators to do our work.
Our sensitivity is a built-in tool for survival, giving us information about the nature of potential threats, dangers, and pitfalls. At the same time it biases our bodies to take action as needed. Our sensory systems take in our surroundings and interpret for us, so that we can avoid pain.
Our senses also bring us the beauty of the world, the taste and fragrances of good food, the warmth of camp fires and close friendships, the knowledge of great teachers — in short, many countless blessings. We would be lost without these things.
Sometimes extreme sensitivity includes the inability to tolerate our increasingly polluted environments of both chemical and (dare I say it) man-made electro-smog, such as cell signals, wifi, microwaves, and other sources. The air we breath, the water and food we take in are not the same as they were even a few decades ago. We are living in a different soup these days. These things are not going away, so the body must adapt and we must become more aware of what we need to help ourselves move forward.
It is not likely that we will give up our cell phones, tablets, or computers and live in a tent, though some with extreme sensitivity have to do so. Most of us will soldier on, making some adjustments here and there. I am not writing this on a stone tablet, but I no longer let my microwave oven spew out waves into my home. (The meter went off the dial when I tested it with the door securely shut.) We are more careful about what we eat, choosing less processed, less treated, less sweet, more complex foods.
Added to these measures are the time-honored practices of the spiritual traditions that have informed our lives and that we teach our clients and students – prayer, meditation, chanting, movement, music, mantra, study of the wisdom teachings, time in like-minded community, silence, and practices for clearing the body and mind.
Clearing is a favorite standby and we refine its use everyday as the need arises. For me it means taking the time, many times a day if necessary, to let go of what I may have picked up consciously for unconsciously from the environment, including from other people. We all do this, pick up stuff. Letting go can mean looking out the window at a tree or the horizon and sending anything I no longer need in that direction. (Don’t worry, letting go will not harm the tree or that mountain in the distance.)
I often repeat, “May anything no longer useful to me to dissolve and flow away.” Invoking the 5 elements of the ancient world as a means for clearing is simple and effective – asking earth, water, air, fire, and/or space to remove and transform the dross that has accumulated in my being over time. Movement, a walk, dancing, singing can all come into play as ways to clear.
Let me be clear – your sensitivity is a gift. Be clear and see.