Monday, October 24, 2011

Pack Philosophy

We offer approximately four workshops a year. G offers a workshop on “Sacred Touch” almost every year while I offer a workshop on “Moons” (for women only) about every four years. For the last 5 years we’ve been traveling to Jasper and Golden teaching the “Way of the Medicine Wheel” and guiding people in self-discovery and personal growth. A Teaching on Traditional Dreaming is another theme we explore in conferences and workshops. What makes the Great Gathering week different than any other workshop is that it caters to our inner hero and how “it” devotes to the dreaming and the collective. We’re all called to be great and to be Medicine. We are all called to accept a role and to take on a purpose to help the Planet and the creatures on it. The Great Gathering workshop; which we give every year explores all kinds of themes relating to our higher self and to being in service.

I have great memories from every Great Gathering. The GG workshop is always phenomenal and always leaves me wishing for more. Who wouldn’t want to live 24/7 with supernatural heroes who devote themselves completely to God/Goddess and community? Like every workshop G introduces a story; which allows everyone to become a character and to explore through this character personal issues; personal talents; as well as path and purpose. This year I brought my dogs to the workshop; and especially included them in the process to show everyone how animals react to the Wheel and to shifts in collective energy. Totems and Spirit Animals are important facets to the Wheel. I wanted totemic teachings to become empirical.

How can animals teach and guide us on our shamanic journey?

When I asked JP and JZ what were the highlights of their Great Gathering both stated how they appreciated the afternoon teaching on “Pack Philosophy.” It’s always tricky to motivate people to take up a collective role because there are always strong judgments and programs against it. Humans unlike dogs don’t surrender so easily to basic nature and hence, basic, pack or communal roles. Competition, ambition, jealousy, and indoctrinated behaviors often get in the way. Everyone has been told by a parent or caregiver, that they “have it in him or her to be first and be the best;” but in Pack Philosophy only one or two people can lead and the others must follow one by one until the last member. Hierarchy is definitely a huge part of the Way of the Pack.

We see it in Olympic athletes how heart breaking it is to come in fourth or tenth. If they’re not standing on the podium receiving a medal most athletes will feel a sense of failure. We even teach our kids in school to strive for the A+ as if B or C is unacceptable. Ironically it’s always the pupil who comes in 1st or last that is remembered by teaches and class mates. What happens to the 30 others in between? I’m not saying: “it’s wrong to teach our children to succeed;” but if we don’t take the time to identify what each child should uniquely succeed in, we fail our children and we fail the society of tomorrow. Pack Philosophy shows you who comes first; and shows you how each individual who follows the Alpha contributes to the Alpha’s Medicine (power) and to the strength of the pack.

In other words it gives recognition, respect and support to each person on the team!

SO mentioned in her summary of the GG that she found the 1st day slow and dragging in comparison to the Golden workshop where people were incredibly eager and even excited to get involved. I realized more than a decade ago after doing a few of these workshops, that “it’s easier to jump into an experience when it’s about ME: My issues, my talents, my potential and my survival.” It means less expectations, responsibilities and potential for failure. If we are talking about a vocational role, developing higher-self abilities and taking a role in a group there’s so much more to consider. Suddenly people are looking around and asking themselves the question: Who are these people?

There’s no doubt it’s important to get to know every member of your pack. When I asked DZ to place in hierarchal order each member of the Montreal circle (approximately 12/13 people) she couldn’t accurately do it. We all laughed when DZ placed SO as the Alpha’s right hand because SO’s expression alone was priceless. She seemed to be saying: “Thank you for the vote of confidence but I don’t know if everyone else will agree…” I loved the way every member of the Montreal circle attempted to keep neutral appearances as to not give away any secrets. Perhaps most of them didn’t even know where they ranked in the pack? DZ didn’t like to be randomly singled out for the task of deciding who is what; how and where.

“Why me?” she asked.
“Why not?” was my reply.

On the aftermath DZ mentioned how it felt like when she was in school and the phys-ed teacher called out two people to choose team members for basketball or soccer. She didn’t like being the captain and didn’t like waiting in line. A few people talked about how upsetting it was to be chosen last. Quite a few individuals had strong opinions about these kinds of tactics.

“It can literally destroy someone’s self-esteem,” said some of the people --- most agreeing with this statement.

From a Pack perspective first, last or in between shouldn’t make any difference as long as it’s your place and you know exactly how to play that role within the pack. The only reason why “ranking” is seen as negative and destroys self-confidence is because of the judgments people have and obviously express towards the different roles. If people took the time to define, recognize and respect every team member there wouldn’t be any issues.

When I placed each member of the Montreal circle in their ranking spot and explained why they stood where they stood – 90% agreed and even added some personal epiphanies in connection to their roles. I even explained why MS for example could easily come in fourth; but because of her undisciplined emotional reactions, strong belief in superstition and over stated pride she often found herself thrown at the tail of the pack. Another example, AG may be ambitious and driven; but her issues with jealousy, often clouds her actions and hence, she will never be a contender for the Alpha role.

What most people found interesting was how personality, faults and talents, as well as personal upbringing came into play when it came to the spot they held in the pack. At the personal level there’s always space for improvement; but at the collective level – any kind of change brings about a bit of chaos. The Alpha constantly has to be aware of movement and he or she has to be quick at moving the members of his or her pack around. The focus isn’t so much on the personal but on how strong the communal is. In the Montreal Circle KM and IL shared the leading spot. Ironically or inevitably both these women aren’t the kind of people who would have a BFF. They are both somewhat indifferent to others; quick to judgments; and stay away from intimate emotions. They are individuals who understand success and prefer to stick to practical ways to meet their goals. Neither one of these ladies would have a favorite. They acknowledge people according to what they can get out of them… Where these kinds of behaviors can be harshly judged in our society, both KM and IL realized their crucial value within the Pack.

A lot about this workshop was about acknowledging new perspective rather than staying rigid on old programs and judgments.

Near the end of the workshop, the pack chose to push DZ to take a spot in the group. Up to this point she had chosen to stay out of the Wheel. She didn’t want to share her story; didn’t want to do the work (to learn and heal); and didn’t want to depend on anyone. It took the pack to teach her the lesson: “It’s unacceptable.” Together they brought her to open up to herself, to life and to the pack itself. I found this moment within the GG quite wonderful and memorable.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t the only one.


Wheelkeeper said...

Thanks for revisiting the lesson of alpha, omega and pack mentality. It is really an amazing thing to see the positioning of people from a Shamanic perspective, and not judging but accepting each where they are in the hierarchy and knowing that each has their place and purpose in the group - and knowing that the positioning can change also depending on the circumstances. Westerners are so far away from understanding this, as everyone is taught to strive for the lead and feel "less than" when they come in last or even second.

What stood out for me is when you showed us how Bella, the alpha dog, was the one doing all the work, making sure Murfle, the Omega, was safe... it was interesting to see Bella on guard all the time and Murfle sleeping in a corner, content and knowing she was safe.

Great lessons!!!

Emily said...

Love this. I really enjoyed this lesson also at the Great Gathering. I have been thinking about it a lot since.
Its interesting to see where we are all placed within a pack, to see ourselves struggle at times to accept our place, then to see ourselves thrive in our place when we embrace it.
For me, I loved being part of a pack, and I really loved the experience also where we pushed DZ to take her place in the pack. I felt the collective love and devotion to her. Personally I've struggled through my life feeling alone, so this experience and many others of collectivity mean a huge amount to me.
Even the drive to the workshop I see was a lesson in pack philosophy..

Anonymous said...

This is completely what I meant about finding my place! -Isabella O.