Thursday, July 21, 2011
I love spending time with BP because her perspectives always get me thinking. BP has been a successful psycho-therapist for over 30 years. She is now retired. I’ve often given workshops up in Northern Quebec where BP lives. She has always been interested in the idea of vision quests, soul retrieval and totemic guidance. Before G and I started working together I often traveled to BP and handled circles for her and her community. BP has always been more focused on the traditional dimensions of Shamanism. G and I emphasize Indigenous Dreaming and the Medicine Wheel. We still consider all aspects of Shamanism when doing healing work or when teaching the basics but dreaming is definitely our expertise.
BP and I don’t talk as often as we used to a decade ago. She says it’s because we’re getting older and we can’t pack as much living as we used to in a day. I can’t help but chuckle at this perspective because in many ways it is definitely true. Recently, she was in Montreal meeting with a vet and took some time to connect. She mentioned how difficult it was for her to be in the city.
“Is it me,” she said “or is urban living sucking the life out of us?” I do find it interesting how drained I get when I’m in the city. The more I focus on nature the more I struggle with crowds, buildings and consumerism. It’s always good to meet other people who are living the same kind of thing. BP talked about how people’s focus often changes the energetic charges which make up their vital space. She believes that our focus on nature is the reason why our energetic charges aren’t protecting our vital space accurately in the city.
“Most probably,” she says “the same would apply to city people visiting my neck of the woods.” I found it quite interesting how some people could feel drained in the wilderness. My perspective has always been that “nature can only energize us.” Still, at many workshops I’ve observed how some participants get exhausted just by breathing clean country air. It makes sense that focus can make a difference in the way we feel, we think and we react to the world around us.
Spending a day with BP is like spending a day with Grizzly Adams. For those of you who have no idea who Grizzly Adams is please skip over the simile because it probably simply indicates how old I am and what kind of teenager I once was… ☺ Basically all this means is that BP is somewhat eccentric and gets along with wild animals these days more so than humans. I like the clear, crude and direct approach but not too many waitresses in down town Montreal appreciated any of BP’s advice. I even started teasing her at the end of our visit by pointing out that none of these beautiful, young creatures had claws or fangs. She laughed hysterically and said quite seriously: “I never worry about claws or fangs. It’s the fake smiles and the practiced excuses that scare me.”
There’s no way I could disagree.
A lot about our visit this time around centered on questions that BP had on the Shaman’s path and what it means to receive a shamanic healing. She shared some stories about old acquaintances or clients who recently approached her with an idea of starting a shamanic retreat in her area. She didn’t know what to think about it and was looking to hear some of my perspectives.
One of her question was: What does it mean to be a Shaman?
To be honest I don’t like this question and for some reason I always get stuck having to answer it. ☺ Everyone who speaks about the Shaman experience always has to start by expressing that the word was born in Russia. Right away, language and culture breaks the word away from experience and people begin to argue on whether or not it belongs in First Nation tradition or, whether or not it can be taken seriously with Caucasian people. Soon all you’re left with is one over simplified definition of an experience, which literally reaches beyond Western, modern day understanding.
“YES!” I cried out a little too loud for the quaint restaurant we were in, “Shaman’s are go-betweens (so to speak) between different realms of consciousness. But there’s more to it … “
I had the impression BP liked the fire in my voice and in my eyes as I spoke on this topic because she couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. At some point she asked: “Why I hadn’t created my own Shamanic retreat ages ago?”
“I’d be the first begging to go,” she said.
From my perspective lots of the Shamanic retreats that I’ve been invited to (hoping to not get anyone upset here…) cater to individuals who have money and are looking to eventually become shamanic practitioners. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with this vision; but honestly, it varies from my own. I’ve always felt called to bring Shamanism into the homes of everyone. You don’t need to believe in Shamanism or to actively seek it out to get something out of it… Sincerely, I’ve always found that people who know very little about Shamanism always receive the most out of the shamanic experiences we bring to them. I guess it always boils down to expectations.
I love the idea of being part of a community who gives value to the Shaman’s role. What I appreciate the most out of the workshops we give is how G and I are busy 24hrs a day for 4 to 5 days. We get to do our thing and we get to do it all the way through and for everyone. It’s amazing how every participant (at least in our last workshop) surrenders to whatever healing or learning the dreaming brings forth. It’s beautiful, powerful and contributes to all that is good (from my perspective).
At one of the workshops that I gave in N.B. almost 10 years ago, I remember how the participants marvelled over this unexplainable breeze, which existed all through the weekend while the Medicine Wheel was up. As soon as we took down the Wheel this strange wind suddenly totally disappeared. It was crazy -- I actually traveled in the dead of winter to northern N.B. in the midst of a blizzard to introduce shamanic practices connecting specifically to death, to this group of 18 nurses who mostly worked in palliative care and knew absolutely nothing about the Shaman’s way. ‘Til this day I always look back fondly at how simple and how beautiful death appeared in that circle.
“Breath” - that’s all it was.
It’s not like there’s a breeze every time I make a Wheel.
It was there that time and for them only.
After all they called to it and they asked to know more about it for 4 whole days. All I had to do is listen and do my job; which meant sharing the experience, the knowledge and the wisdom I was receiving from the other realm.
Every circle, every individual, every workshop etc… offers a different need for learning and healing; and a different story or experience. It’s one thing to try to define Shamanism or the Shaman’s role; but it’s a whole other story to define how the Shaman connects to the dreaming space of his or her collective. One thing is for sure there’s no Shaman out there who can exist without community. It’s as if the Shaman energy is totally dependent on collective energy.
At the end of our visit BP asked me: “When is the book coming out?”
Again I laughed out loud and shrugged as if to say: “Who’s got the time these days?”
Still for the first time in years I managed to reply: “I’m actually working on it.”
It became plainly obvious that I had lots to say on the topic and that some actually cared to hear about it. We’ll see.
Thank you to BP for sharing so many of her perspectives. I’m actually still working on most of them…. ☺
P.S. I want to give you the address of this Lodge in Golden where we gave our latest workshop. It's worth booking an holiday there. The people who own this land are wonderful. I'll come back with the coordinates unless someone beats me to it in the comment section. Thank you.