Friday, 30 September 2011

Stepping through the shaman's door.



My retreat guest this week comes from London. She's here to make a Shamanic retreat. We're based in the Contraviesa mountains of southern Spain. My retreat house is on the edge of a tiny remote village. The village is still untouched by tourism. Annie works in the National Health Service in London. She is intelligent, brave, and discerning. This sensitive 35 year old wants to re connect with her intuitive voice and access her 'higher wisdom', her soul's calling, which have been dulled by a long dark night of the soul. She talks about wanting to develop that ‘intuitive muscle.’

I think she’s come to the right place! Moorish southern Spain is steeped in the mystical, and has for centuries
been open to and rich in diverse belief systems.


‘Shamanism is a path of knowledge, not of faith, and that knowledge cannot come from me or anyone else in this reality. To acquire that knowledge, including the knowledge of the spirits, it is necessary to step though the shaman’s doorway and acquire empirical evidence.’ -Michael Harner.

So this is the intention for the week. To step though the shaman’s door and acquire new experiences in order to reactivate the intuitive voice, and reconnect with the heart's wisdom.

I am not a shaman, but looking back, I've been practicing shamanic ‘ways of communicating’ all my life. I underwent a life changing rite of passage in the Wilderness in Alaska in 1999, and have received initiations from shamans in Peru and Bolivia. These initiations, in my understanding, increase our ‘vibration,’ our connection to the soul, to Devine Consciousness.
Soul loss or 'soul disconnection,' happens in probably almost all societies. It will have many different names, and can happen at any stage of life. My guest testifies to this and wants to re connect.

The week has been unfolding magically.

This kind of 'work' makes my heart sing. This is where I find myself in my true element. Leading people into Nature. Filling up with the awe of it all. Experiencing the bounty of late summer. Looking out for signs and signals and messengers to open the heart door more, and more, and more.

This morning, day five of the retreat, I took my guest on a hike down to the stream below the village.

We had an unexpected adventure.



After about and hour and a half (we walked slowly), the track became thickly overgrown. Thirty or forty skinny wild rose branches hung straight down in front of us in the middle of a dusky 'tunnel.' It was almost impossible to move forward. Pencil thin, five or six foot long, spiky defenses they were, growing down from an unseen source. Every few feet another line tried to stop us. Each frawn snagged us in a different place: on the sleeve, on the leg, on the head, on the breast. I took my craft scissors out of my backpack and started to cut.

It felt like we were participating in a fairy tale. But why were we being held back? Why this barricade of vicious little thorn lines? Where would we end up? What might we find at the end of the tunnel?
We’d already found a gigantic pomegranate tree in the middle of a small field, a single wild apple tree, and a fig tree at least five hundred years old. Three solitary, magnificent specimens growing beside the stream, each with it's own history. Each one untended by man anymore.



Finally, after much cutting, we got to a fallen tree beside the brook, and with my arthritic hips, there was no way I could climb under or over it.
We were both tired. I asked Annie if it was time to turn back.

As I looked at her, turning my back on the direction we were heading, her eyes opened wide! There was a short sharp crashing sound. I swiveled around to see what had caught her attention. There stood a large dirty white sheep with mottled brown ears and curious eyes. She had crashed through the thick undergrowth, leapt the stream, and was standing just a few feet away. She pinned us to the spot with her penetrating gaze. We waited for more sheep to arrive. They didn't. She was lost and alone.

The night before, Annie and I had watched a Russian movie called Tulpan. It was about a young inexperienced ‘novice’ shepherd ( recently discharged from the Russian Navy ), whose obsession in life was to find a wife. With a wife he could rent a flock of sheep. Without a wife, the rich farmer wouldn’t even hire him a pig. You won't survive in this landscape without a wife the farmer said. Living in the Mongolian Steppe with only three neighbors within a hundred miles, he had little chance of finding a partner. He’d had no luck whatsoever with the only available girl called Tulpan.
The hopeful young man had a dream for his life, but needed to learn self worth, and discover what he was really good at.
He’d dawn his dream on the white plastic underside of his sailors tunic collar. This was a magical bit in the film, a unique ‘Vision Board.’ His childlike drawing poignantly described his hope for a life on the Steppe with sheep, camels, Satellite TV, a motorbike, a wife, and children.
What transpires in the film is that after becoming completely discouraged in his pursuit of finding a wife, he gives up on his dream, and leaves his sister’s yurt for the city.
Walking towards the horizon he finds a lost sheep about to give birth. He helps the distressed animal, and overcomes his queasiness and disgust of the messy birth process. The lamb survives. In previous weeks, all the lambs in the care of his brother in law have died at birth.
The young man’s joy in midwifing this difficult birth ,and the realization that it has survived thanks to his kiss of life, changes everything for him.
But the film doesn’t tell us what happened next.

I had said to Annie (before we watched the film), that so often when we get on track on our ‘spiritual or soul’s path,’ it seems the Universe gives us messages through almost anything we put our attention to. Through TV, radio, newspapers, films, Internet a conversation overheard on a bus, etc., etc,.
I completely trusted the film in some way would do this.
And it did.

Back to this morning’s hike.



So here we were on our enchanted walk, coming to a halt, and are met by a lost sheep!
I talked to the sheep for a few minutes and asked her to come with us!! We would lead her back to safe ground. She followed for a while then disappeared!
Annie and I both felt sad. This wasn’t the ending we were hoping for ! A little like the feeling we'd both had at the end of the Russian film.

Russian films don’t follow the formula of Western films with a beginning, middle and end, and the ‘ inciting incident’ coming around minute nine in the screenplay !

So back by the enchanted brook this morning..... ten minutes after our mysterious sheep disappeared, she reappeared. She crashed, as if catapulted through dense undergrowth infront of us. Astonished we watched her stop in her tracks. She looked straight at us. As if to say, 'Well, I've been assigned a task with you two.'
Then, without a sound, she continued to lead us back along the magical path, stopping frequently to turn and look at us, and to wait for us. Although we knew the way, we were certainly being led.

Annie had felt we were being followed when we entered the valley this morning. What sort of following I had asked her ? Nice following she had said, nothing sinister. Now we were being guided back to the village by a lost sheep!

When we returned to the village I told a neighbor about the maverick sheep. She would tell the shepherd's girlfriend she promised. Rocindo would come this evening with his dogs and retrieve the lost animal. He would be pleased to find her I thought.

‘What the hell’ said the shepherd’s girlfriend when I saw her later.
'It's just a sheep!'
'Did he find it?' I asked her the following day.
'It wasn't his animal' she said gruffly.
The shepherd's girlfriend usually makes me laugh. On this occasion she didn't!


The ‘shamanic’ retreat week for Annie is leading up to a Dispatcho ceremony tomorrow night. This ceremony is based on the Peruvian tradition in which we thank Pachamama (Mother Earth) for all her blessings, and ‘dispatch’, send off our prayers and our intentions to her for the next step on our souls journey.

This week my intention was to gently absorb my guest into the untamed landscape of Andalucia. Starting with small walks into the wilds. Yesterday we visited a nearby semi abandoned village called Bargis. Here we saw glimpses of medieval life colorfully still at play. It's almond harvesting time.

Last night Annie slept on the roof terrace under the stars.

Today, I believe Pacahamama has shown us her spirit in the form of a lost sheep who became our guide.

We witnessed Pachamama's bounty in the laden pomegranate tree, and her tremendous power in the heat of the sun . One can only bow the head in reverence and murmur, Thank You.

A week in Nature.
Medicine for the soul.
A sense of the sacred.
Creating ritual and ceremony.
Sacred Music every evening.
Star gazing.
And the privilege of getting to know another human being, unmasked, honest and brave.

Thank you Annie, for trusting your intuition to make this Shamanic retreat.
And thank you Pachamama for your abundance, and for your countless blessings.
May we all trust our hearts calling and follow it.

'Wherever you go, there you are.'
Jon Kabat Zinn

Friday, 23 September 2011

13 kilos


Hello dear readers. This is the new me ! 13 kilos lighter ! Feeling so well and so happy!
High protein and lots of mountain hikes. That's done it.
The fact that I'm posting a photo of myself is a miracle in itself. I have been camera shy ( neurotic) for so many years.

“Success is sweetest when you've known defeat.”

Malcolm S. Forbes

Sunday, 11 September 2011

September 11. 2011













Remembering 9.11: honoring and blessing all who lost loved ones, all who acted heroically , every act of kindness during and afterwards, every brave soul who has rebuilt their life , and all who still struggle and are scarred on the inside. May peace and love, compassion and acceptance grow in all of our hearts, day by day.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

Mother Teresa (1910 - 1998)

I would prefer to say, personally, that if you love despite the pain of it being rejected..that by keeping your heart open, only more love, only more love can enter.

I don't have any other words to share about September 11, 2001.

These images say what my deepest self can't articulate about that day.

Shamans tell us: images are the language the soul understands.

And today, 12.09.11 a friend has written on my facebook page :

"Let us not forget the tens of thousands of innocent lives lost & maimed in Iraq & Afghanistan as a result of this most outrageous and shameful act of deception ever perpetrated. I find the public manipulation of the grief and suffering of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 event, and the crocodile tears shed by those who must know the truth, absolutely sickening."
Richard Waterborn

So, for anybody else, who like me, was not aware of this( truth) until yesterday, you can read the quotes below. I was scanning the Internet for quotes re 9.11, and came accross this shocking information. Why have I not heard about 'this' before? Where have I been ? Out of TV and newspaper and Internet range for many of these ten years.

9/11 Quotes
www.vt911.org

"Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim."
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wanting to help.


Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn't commit.
~Eli Khamarov, Lives of the Cognoscenti.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Have Patience

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart...




Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers...




They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them...




It is a question of experiencing everything.




At present you need to live the question.




Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."

- Rainer Maria Rilke




These pencil sketches were made in Alaska in 1999. They are the basis of a series of paintings inspired by the lives of the Skellig Michael monks. The monks lived on an enormous rock (in the 7th century), nine miles off the west coast of Ireland. They were said to have lived their devoted and austere lives 'on the margin of the world.' The Atlantic ocean.

I often feel I live my life in the margins of the world, loving wilderness, drawn to huge unspoilt swathes of untamed Nature untouched by man.



'Skellig Michael (from Sceilig Mhichíl in the Irish language, meaning Michael's rock), also known as Great Skellig, is a steep rocky island in the Atlantic Ocean about 9 miles (14.5 kilometres) from the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. It is the larger of the two Skellig Islands. After probably being founded in the 7th century, for 600 years the island was a centre of monastic life for Irish Christian monks. The Gaelic monastery, which is situated almost at the summit of the 230-meter-high rock became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It is one of Europe's better known but least accessible monasteries.'




'Since the extreme remoteness of Skellig Michael has until recently discouraged visitors, the site is exceptionally well preserved. The very spartan conditions inside the monastery illustrate the ascetic lifestyle practiced by early Irish Christians. The monks lived in stone 'beehive' huts (clochans), perched above nearly vertical cliff walls.'

From Wikipedia.

The quote in this blog touches me deeply. At present, as Rilke suggest, 'I am living the question.'
What's happened to my screenplay?
Why can't I write it? What's stopping me?

'Perhaps...,'Rike's voice whispers in my heart, 'you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."

I hope not too distant.

It's time to start thinking about the next fund raiser for Peru. Our fourth Chocolatada.
Can I do both, organize a fund raiser, and write a screen play?