It’s amazing how we define life as fertility, vitality, beauty and abundance when really most of us experience life as tragic, heart breaking, upsetting and real. I meet people every day who share with me personal stories that are filled with profound sadness, desperation and hopelessness. As much as I’ve written before that “we spend too much time complaining” I still tend to believe that a story is always most interesting when it reveals shadow; and the potential of heroism, change and success, which hides in the darkest corners of Creation. Conflict, fears and insecurities trigger creativity, courage and self-esteem – at least in most Hollywood movies. EC (elder, teacher, friend) once said to me “I refuse to claim I’m Shaman and I refuse to be called Shaman because in today’s society it would mean to be ready for all of our World’s lost causes.” Of course, EC was part of a generation of First Nation Medicine People who understood her destiny as wrong, against the law, and unrecognized by Christian religion and modern science. There’s no doubt that our personal story plays a role in the way we perceive and experience our journey. Is it important how people perceive us (no matter the role we play in community)? Is life simply a journey where we explore the finite and infinite realities of who we are and the role we play in Creation? What is our purpose: To walk in light or to experience shadow? Some will say that it’s all about balance…
Amongst wolves the role of the Alpha is claimed. There’s no vote or discussion. Last week when we went to the trainer’s for Bella’s session (our puppy Beagle) JC passionately shared with us that with wolves the alpha role can be distinguished almost at birth. He explained to us that being alpha is not a status; but a natural personality characteristic. He even struggled for a few minutes with the word “personality.” He stated that it’s almost genetic or destined. “There’s no way around it” he said, “with or without a pack and alpha is dominant and shows dominant characteristics.” Whether it’s in the way the wolf faces personal life challenges or acts in collective circumstances, the alpha will always be dominant. JC mentioned at some point that he wished it could be as simple for humans.
“We compete, we manipulate, we sabotage,” he said with a hint of disappointment “when it truth we too could be kinder to ourselves, useful to each other, helpful to our kind, and strong as a specie.”
In that moment I believed in what JC stated and loved him for sharing it with me. In Western society JC and I are considered acquaintances; but from a shamanic perspective in that instant we were brother and sister and it felt great. At the end of our session, I noticed JC staring at Bella with a smile. He shook his head and said in astonishment “there’s no doubt you are meant to be with this kind of dog because this is the first Beagle I have ever come across to be so obedient and so quick to learn.” His statement put a smile on my face for the whole weekend. I wondered why it touched me so profoundly until I found myself murmuring to G that “it always feels good to know that you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons and people can recognize it.”
I don’t think a day goes by where there isn’t someone who asks me if I’m a Shaman? I remember when this question made me so uncomfortable that I went out of my way to avoid it. Then, one day my husband said: “How could they not ask you this question? You live a shamanic life; teach the shamanic way; and do shamanic work.” I realized at that point, that it isn’t about who I am or what I do; but about individuals seeking for answers, knowledge and experiences that will allow them to be self-assured and conscious of the world and people they quest for. Ironically, all of the answers are hidden in our personal story. We just need to know where to look and how to understand it.
People have opinions about anything and everything. It took me years to figure out that opinions don’t mean fact or reality; but imply where we stand in our journey and what we need to learn or heal. Opinions are like an object that obstructs light from touching a particular area. I guess you could say “shadow” occurs because of opinions, resistance or denial. Perspective on the hand is less rigid and implies that whatever we feel, see or understand will change and can be malleable. Still even perspective can cause shadow. It’s neither right or wrong according to the Wheel but necessary for learning and healing. It’s life!
I won’t say that I haven’t been hurt along the way by people’s opinions and expectations; but I did learn with time that no matter what people say it’s about the journey and it’s about what we choose to learn and heal. Before EC died she sent me a tape (because she didn’t like writing letters) where she said that “she was grateful to me for believing that she was more than a lost cause.” In my eyes she had always been a wish come true. EC had more than enough reasons to believe that she was a lost cause. Like Black Elk who died of melancholy, EC had given up on the priceless value of the Shaman because everyone else had too. Becoming oneness can be hell at times if the collective is sinking in darkness. On the other hand, if we don’t forget to trust and we always give ourselves the possibility to change – our prayers will be heard.
There’s always lots of pain, loss, darkness, desperation, helplessness and hopelessness around Christmas. It’s never been one of my favorite seasons mainly because it’s heavy with burden and filled with darkness. A lot of it makes sense because it’s attached to natural law. After all it’s during this time of year that the nights are longer than the days. When we celebrate the Winter Solstice we actually gather on the longest night of the year. In our tradition, the Winter Solstice is about emptiness and darkness. It’s about facing the shadow and changing or healing those parts of us who obstruct the light. The potluck on the Winter Solstice is meant to be more humble than the one on the Fall Equinox. Our prayers are done before our plates are full to show that we can say thanks even during the darkest moments of our lives and not only once we’ve received. If we followed the way of the Wheel, the Winter Solstice or Christmas time wouldn’t be about gifts, laughter and merriment but about facing hardship and committing to the long walk out of shadow. It would be about helping and asking for help; about uniting; and believing that all things of beauty and abundance are communally achieved.
P.S. The Winter Solstice this year is combined to the Full Moon of Metamorphosis and a lunar eclipse. SHADOW is a cosmological theme at this point in time.