Monday, 17 June 2019

SOCRATES' DAIMON

In ancient Athens, Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth - ie telling them the truth - but the authorities were in no hurry to try him. They gave him plenty of time to get away. And Socrates, as was his custom, went off and consulted his daemon - or Spirit. His daemon would never tell him what to do, but what not to do. And on this occasion his daemon told him not to leave Athens. Now this would mean he would be tried and sentenced to death. Nevertheless, he stayed in Athens and suffered the consequences. 

Socrates with Cup of Hemlock
When people reach the end of their lives, it is not the things they have done that they tend to regret, but the things they haven't done. The self they have not been fully true to, the daemon they have not lived. And Socrates had lived his daemon, to such an extent that he felt he could let go and die. And significantly, Spirit had a bigger perspective than Socrates' individual destiny. His death has echoed down the ages. 


So I think if we are true to ourselves, true to Spirit, we won't feel we haven't lived. And we may be drawn into a larger picture, beyond our ken, that may not always be comfortable, but which has its own purposes.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

ON LISTENING

How many people listen to themselves, let alone to others? Listening to oneself means having the courage to take seriously what the spirit is telling us. This is not the same as that clamour of voices, many internalised, that tell us how we 'ought' to live. That is what is called 'normal, it is highly judgemental and seems, by and large, to be the modus operandum of any society which wishes to remain stable - and confer a kind of psychological stability on its members. 

Of course, everyone thinks they listen, just as they think they are masters of their own lives. But it's often only when the Spirits intervene, forcefully if necessary - illness being a classic - that we realise that there is a whole other level of ourselves, and of others, that we hadn't been listening to. And that what came before was superficial and programmed. 

But I think the voice of Spirit is always there, it is that we get trained to ignore it. Deep down we often know that we are not being true to ourselves, and that can go on for years. Until it all starts to fall apart.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Religion vs Spirituality

Religion involves trying to be a 'good' person. 'Spirituality' (for want of a better word) involves becoming a whole person. 'Good' people make a lot of effort to eat the right sorts of food, they keep up a good relationship with their spirit guides and are definitely to be found at the extinction rebellion protests. There is nothing wrong with any of this. But it is fragile and, usually, well-defended.


You just have to dodge and dive around this if you are a free spirit, because if you get too close you will be judged and tidied up. There is, of course, a whopping great shadow around 'good' people, which by definition they can't see, and it is not our job to point it out or judge it. Life, if they are lucky and if they are open, will do that. Usually in the messes that happen close to home. It can be protracted and a bit gruesome.

Then the real path, the beautiful path of wholeness opens up. In which there was never anywhere to go. We just relax into our natural state (as the Dzogchen guys put it). Or we allow Spirit, which is what we are and always have been, to guide us. Or we are true to ourselves, we don't edit out and judge the bits that don't fit. But usually, we need to encounter our own dung-heap first 💡

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

MUSINGS ON SHAMANISM

Shamanism is not about shamanic journeying. It is much broader than that: journeying is a speciality. Shamanism is about becoming a balanced human being, in balance with ourselves and with the natural world. It begins with a simple acknowledgement of our own spirit and a sense of belonging to nature. 

There are no books, no beliefs, no teachers to revere. It brings us back to the basics of experience. And that is all we need. If we are true to our spirit, then our lives will unfold as they need to. When we are not true to ourselves, and maybe go along with what others expect us to be, then our life gets blocked. But that is often the path too. We can only give parts of ourselves away if they weren't truly ours to start with, and in reclaiming them we become more permanently whole.


An aspect of balance is taking care of all 4 elements within ourselves - earth, fire, air and water. My reservation about using journeying as a starting point - and I guess you have to start somewhere - is that it does not include the earth, the body. Not the way it is usually taught, anyway. It buys into our western prejudice of living in, and over-valuing, the head (air). But I think the body is where it needs to begin, especially for us. The ecstasy of dance, that aligns us with Spirit. And journeying in that context, where Spirit can incarnate, and the power that comes with that. We have old cultural baggage around physicality, and its control by the Church. In medieval times, people used to dance in churches, it gave them their own direct connection to Spirit.

In living shamanically, we move away from the rules and the shoulds and the fears that can dominate our lives, and keep us stuck in particular ways of being and living, and towards the freedom of living according to the promptings of Spirit. This can take courage, but it is the only way to live, and there is joy in it.

I think the best sort of teaching of shamanism comes from this place. The teacher responds to whatever is going on, rather than the programme of learning in his/her head. Just being around certain people and the way they are and the way they think, I observe and I learn.

The teaching of shamanism has in some places become like a franchise, a certain set of methods which any fool can learn and pass on. This is not teaching. Teaching is in many ways not deliberate, it is about who you are as a result of being true to your own spirit, and that rubs off onto other people. And that also means being normal and messy and everyday with people, so they don’t start to worship you and in-so-doing miss you. It is a two-way street, the ‘teacher’ learns from the ‘pupils’ too.

Our Shamanism needs to develop organically and always be up for modification. Yes, import from other cultures, but re-shape as necessary in ways that works for us. It is the spirit that matters. With the Pipe Ceremony, for example, what matters most is prayer, in the sense of a conversation with the natural world, rather than all the forms that can be placed around it. In this sense we have a freedom that, perhaps, many traditional cultures do not have; on the other hand, there is depth, egregore, in ceremonies that are old and imbued with symbolism, and we do not have that, by and large. But the overall principle is: if it works, it's real; if it's real, it works. (Jim Tree: The Sacred Way of the Pipe).

Friday, 24 May 2019

Success and Failure

The great thing about coming back to Spirit is that it removes the pressure around those imposters, success and failure. This thought was prompted by Theresa May's resignation. I can see that she genuinely wanted to do the country some good, but it is also mixed in with her desire for a legacy, and her desperation not to leave with a legacy of 'failure' over Brexit.


The only legacy worth bothering with - if you are bothered - is the kind of person people will remember you as. And if you are true to who you are, you will tend to have good relationships with people, and they will continue beyond death.

And if what you are doing doesn't work out as you'd hoped, then it is clear that Spirit had its own plans - with our tiny slice of consciousness, what can we ever truly plan? - so it really doesn't matter, not in the bigger picture. 'Failure' is not a negative judgement on who we deeply are, though there are maybe things we can learn. And if it works out as we hoped, and even goes spectacularly well, well that is not 'ours', Spirit provided the following wind.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Great Mystery

I love it that we haven't a clue about the real nature of things, and never will. We have stories about how things are, and we need those stories as prisms for the light of the Great Mystery that shines through them. We humans often want certainty, a hidey-hole from the Great Mystery. That is when the stories become dogma, whether of the religious or scientific variety. 

There is an absolute freedom, an ecstasy when we can roll with the mystery behind everything. Life and death become aspects of the same thing. For me, this is what Shamanism is always pointing to. And the more we are aligned with the mystery, the more that Spirit is able to incarnate in this dream that, for now, we belong to.

Monday, 20 May 2019

That's me chatting with Leo Rutherford at the weekend just before going into a sweat. (Note my flies are coming undone - they have a mind of their own). Leo is in his mid 80s, so if you get a chance to do some stuff with him, take it. Did 2 sweats in 2 days. My main concern was what if you run out of prayers on the second sweat, because you've said them all on the first one? 

I was leading one of the rounds, it was the 4th one where you just listen to Spirit. And that was fine, and we had birdsong from outside in the silence. But then afterwards I felt dislocated, and I remembered why I feel reluctant to lead stuff: the Managing Director in me takes over, the person I was raised to be, who takes control and does things properly, and how ironic when it's the round about letting go of any personal control. He only lives from the neck upwards. But when I asked around afterwards, no-one seemed to have noticed the MD. Phew! But it's left me with food for thought. Another inner character to form some kind of relationship with.