Shamanic Journeying

How to access your unconscious.

The speaker said as much, actually, the Underworld is both under our feet and under our conscious minds. He is eclectic: we journeyed for a Spirit animal, which is “Indian”, and took it into a chakra of our choice, which is, well, Indian.

But it is a brilliant way of accessing the unconscious. You lie back and relax, and there is the drum going regularly. I lay down in the tent, under a net with coloured strips hanging from it and woven through it, and he came over and sat by my head.

-I’ll try not to deafen you.
-Do what you must, I said, happily. Loud drumming is fine.

Then there is the story, and the voice giving it, hypnotically. We are in a meadow, and see a tree, with a hole to the Underworld. We go down into a garden, filled with beauties of my choice. I find myself anticipating, and choosing. After, when we talk about what our animals were, and what our experiences were, a woman worries that she is just finding what she imagines, or what she feels she ought to find. How would I know, whether my animal is proper, like, Inspiration, or just my thoughts?

Well, I don’t, though by its fruits I may know it. I had a dog, and that may just have been because a woman nearby was talking of her labrador, beforehand. It looks lovely, and knows it, and loves attention from people, asks for it, and always gets it, even when wet, with its big, brown eyes. Talking after, I widened the metaphor, thinking of that dog; a lap dog, which never touches the ground; that terrifying security dog; and working dogs. Dogs are extremely versatile. One woman had a cheetah, the other a badger, which she questioned initially, inwardly, but it stayed a badger. She did not know what to make of it. Perhaps the badger will come to her in dreams, and tell her.

Deep down, in the darkest depths of the Subconscious, dwells-


It could be a message from that. Then again, it could just be a useful metaphor. Anything, any magic, any spell to craft and call forth my courage.

Also at Buddhafield: Singing in the big top. A woman divided us into SATB, and gave us four part harmonies to remember, singing each line separately with each group. I alternated between Soprano and Bass, sometimes in the same song. Then we walked round the tent, mingling the voices. Doing this when younger, I could not hold a line, but changed to sing the tune rather than the harmony; now I sing my own line,  Goddess looking gorgeous singing your soul out- you touched my heart wrote a friend.

The ancestors

Caitlin Matthews’ Shamanic practice is the¬†repair of¬†souls. Part of the soul can be lost. She journeys, seeking it out, with the help of her spirit guides. When she finds it, she can bring it home.

Separately, she explains that sometimes someone phones you just after you think of them, and this may be because there is a link between you at that moment- they reach out to you, you think of them, they then phone you.

How do I feel about this? I want to experience it. I want to work on my fears with Caitlin, and see what the result is. At the moment, I can accept the doctrine, construct an NLP type explanation, be content with Not Knowing, or cycle between the three. It does not stop me from wanting to experience it. During those two days I was very conscious of being present in my throat chakra much of the time, the place of my voice, the choice to express my creativity with honesty and integrity, and that would have been meaningless to me a year ago. Caitlin herself says, do not treat her Shamanic practices as psychological exercises.

She said, we are supported by our ancestors, now, in this world. In seven generations, one may have over a hundred ancestors. Any questions? The one in my mind was, what if I do not feel supported by my own family, why should great-grandparents support me? This, she says, is the usual question, so I agreed it was in my mind.

We arranged ourselves, representing my ancestors five generations back. I stood on a chair facing them. “Now do you feel supported? Can you pick on one with whom you feel a particular connection?” H– is trying to catch my eye, and smiling, so I pick him.

It was not a particularly strong feeling that I was supported, in that moment, more¬†a choice. I choose to feel supported. This is part of seeing life positively rather than negatively. I also see that ancestors in eternity would see face to face, rather than through a glass darkly. H– represented my father’s mother’s father. A–, representing my father’s mother, said later that she was feeling particularly supportive. She had wanted to be picked. My father’s mother had a particularly difficult life, and perhaps was entitled to receive support in her turn. I had previously wanted some sign of being welcome here, in this group- that was it.

I also noticed C–, at the back, a spiritual healer, with her palms facing forward and her arms slightly out from her sides. I felt moved to make a similar gesture. At another point, Caitlin said, “Don’t give reiki or anything”, and I wondered, if it is there, how can one not? Perhaps this is a naive question. This is something more for me to investigate.

Walking in to lunch on the last day, when Appalachian Spring ran in my mind, it was entirely joyous for me.

A Ritual

East is the direction of Sunrise, the Spring, the Origin, the new child. It is the Lordly direction. Its colour is Purple. South is the direction (in the Northern hemisphere) of the sun at noon, the heat, oppressive or invigorating, of Summer. Its colour is shining white. West is the direction of sunset, the place of the Elder, of Autumn and fruitfulness, of letting go, of acceptance and loss. Its colour is green. North is the direction of silence, ice, clarity, mystery, ancestors, timelessness and eternity. Its colour is Black.

East is the place of birth and family. South is the place of entering adulthood and community. West is the place of the Elder, achieving individuality. North is the place of the Spirits. The Wheel is many cycles, of the whole life, of the calendar year, of movement and growth within a life, of a vanishing distraction while meditating.

This is not the usual type of course at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. Someone¬†on the Archbishop’s Council on Education, staying here for one night, objected to our display of figures, saying they were like “voodoo dolls”, and we had to clear them away from the Cadbury Room where we worshipped together. We had to use electric candles, shaped and glazed to look like wax, bulbs made to imitate flickering flames, because of the smoke detectors.

Caitlin Matthews’ ritual, with two supporters, one representing my own Strength, one my Ancestors, is simple. We start in the place we are now on the wheel of life. We then move as appropriate. I had the idea, beforehand, of moving from North to East, moving from a place of contemplation to a place of new life and new activity. That would be reassuring for me.

However, Pat, whom I had met on the Being an Overseer course in 2006, recognised me, and as we went for morning coffee asked how my experience of being an Overseer had been. I could have said something non-specific and non-committal, and asked her of hers; instead I told her, how I had felt led by the Spirit and done my best and the conflict that had unfolded from 2006 to this month, and I wept. Oh, and there is that, and that experience of work, and stuff arising from childhood, and hurt still from my transsexuality, and, oh, I am emotionally labile at the moment.

I think the emotional lability, which probably comes from the hormones, is a good thing in this sort of situation, and a good thing for me. I have been at times not in touch with my emotions, and that is certainly not the case now. I want to be open to how I am moved.

The coffee break being over, Angela asked if I wanted to participate. Yes, actually. So, with Pat and Anne, I stood North of my circle, ready to begin. Instead of stepping forward, into the East, I knelt in the North, and placed my forehead on the floor, not happy, but content.

I have been divided. While I might have claimed to be suspicious of myself telling myself that I was germinating, that this is the necessary stillness for the healing work, that the growth may come and I am making the necessary internal changes for it, the fact remains that I have done nothing to find paid work since November. Telling myself to buck up and get on with it is not now working. After that ritual, I feel a lot happier. I feel absolved- I have reasons why I am here, and I think I am gaining self-knowledge, and whatever may come of it I can feel happy here now. In the stillness. Pat’s question seems a synchronicity for me.

Oddly enough, when Gilly asked that evening where in an ideal world I would be in a year’s time, it was working and earning, and engaged in training in some healing practice.¬†Previously I have not been able to answer such a question- er, dunno, more or less where I am now…

Allison Grayhurst articulated my worry:

never sure…
 if my sedentary position
is really a bird in my hand
or a dream I cannot force.

I cannot be sure, but I feel sure enough.

Hafiz/ Ladinsky:

Just sit there right now.
Don’t do anything.
Just rest.

For your separation from God
is the hardest work in this world.

Quack, quack

What I want, I thought, is a portfolio of quackery, alternative therapy mumbo-jumbo, so that I can exploit the placebo effect, and trusting, susceptible or needy people. My personality would entice and enrapture them, and¬†their need to believe that the time and money they had spent had had a useful purpose would work in my favour.¬†My words would be meaningless, but, By Jove, the money would roll in. Emotional Freedom Technique, there’s a brilliant name, vaguely irritating tapping on random parts of the body¬†while intoning “Personal Growth” messages culled from Facebook. Cranio-sacral therapy, on the other hand, them’s latin words, them are, that sounds proper scientific.¬†A bit of Reiki, a bit of Tarot. Shiatsu massage sounds rather fun. The training is more onerous, but perhaps the same thing works on me: having invested time and money in it, I have a strong interest in believing in it.

The trouble is, I have been brought up discounting feelings and relying too much on intellect, and just not understanding the alternative. I remember hearing about what a US Presidential candidate (possibly Mr Clinton)¬†“felt” about an issue, and being deeply irritated¬†by this: what should matter is what he thinks. And now I hear the same idea echoed in the film The Iron Lady. So I really do have the distaste that Richard Dawkins, say, would have for quacks and pseudo-therapists, and wonder whether, in some future crisis of confidence, I could decide that the placebo effect was enough, and forgive myself for dressing it up in theatrical flummery.¬†With one¬†alternative therapist whom I respect, when she mentioned astrology as if it might have some relevance to reality, I felt a check, a moment to question her perception. And when I read of Body talk, the claims of what is going on, against what the therapist may be observed to be doing, jar. It is placebo and a touch of NLP. I should do NLP undiluted rather than that, it would be more honest.¬†

Rather than a Healer, I could see myself as an entertainer. I produce my flim-flam with a real sense of drama to it, we are going on a Shamanic journey, lie down between these candles while I Smudge you, and then I will evoke the archetypal animals. Private performances, one to one, must be worth ¬£60 an hour. Or I could find profitable ways of getting oxytocin flowing in my “clients” to induce dependence.

I feel there is more to it than flim-flam, flummery, mumbo-jumbo, but then I do have an interest in feeling that. A pecuniary interest, if I move into Healing and make a go of it, a pecuniary interest which might make me more forgiving of Trusting the Unknowing than Professor Dawkins is. Those comforting untruths which seem to make life easier. My integrity is important to me, I say, as I underpin it with half-conscious lies.

It is such an evenly balanced dilemma for me. If I believed that alternative and complementary therapies were worthless, I would know what to do. If I believed that I had a calling to such creative and beautiful work, I would know what to do. The problem is that these beliefs are at war in me. My confidence being low, the doubt increases, but knowing that does not-


like a particularly strong indicator of the truth of the matter.