Happy New Year!
As many have been anticipating, 2016 will truly be a year of ‘firsts’ for many. Although it may seem to be a common phrase that begins every New Year, 2016 is very much a year of deep transformation and heightened awareness, helping us to gain a richer sense of self and purpose for this lifetime.
So here goes; after many years of studying shamanic energy medicine, dance, art, music and the entire animal kingdom (including newts that turn green after just ONE summer of being introduced to a fresh water habitat), I’ve birthed a blog!
This blog is dedicated to the creation of art, sharing shamanic insights, dreams, journeys, storytelling, messages from spirit and personal findings/observations about life and the natural world.
In the tradition of circle, it is important to share your experience of the world due to it being very likely that your story will impact, resonate or inspire others who are meant to digest your particular words at that moment in time. The words may be heavy, light, angry and sad, but nonetheless, these words will add to the language of all who hear and will create meaning in one way or another. This is what people do when they take in the world around them- they are given information and through this information, their brain creates meaning.
So with the beginning of this New Year, I am going to share a story.
I learned a very valuable life lesson this year. As I watched a friend grow increasingly ill over the past two years, I remember feeling a deep internal fear of knowing that, despite all the ‘successes’ of modern medicine, it was very unlikely this friend would exist on earth for much longer. Being young, devilishly handsome and one of the most talented musicians in New England, it was a widespread tragedy felt deeply by all who knew him. I would see this friend out and about and even as his condition worsened, he always greeted me with a large, charming smile on his face and words of optimism, grace and acceptance. Against all odds, he continued to perform his songs and live up to the words in his lyrics, even when facing incredible pain.
As life continued onward, day to day, week to week, month to month, I couldn’t help but contemplate ideas of “What if I only had so long to live?” and “How must he really be taking this?”. Contrary to these fears and questions that popped up within myself, this friend continued to share openly and honestly his views, feelings, beliefs and experiences with sickness, dying and death. Reading his semi-monthly posts both inspired and shocked me, as every word relating to his experience was filled will grace, acceptance, understanding and downright bluntness. Not once, did he mention that he was involved in a fight, or a “battle for his life”. He did not preach resistance, force or hatred for the temporary nature of life. Our dear friend was reminding us that our bodies being temporary IS our reality, and that we have the option to accept, honor and consent to this contract with understanding.
How did we come to think of life as any other way? From the aesthetics of our structures, buildings and monuments down to our death and burial rituals, the concepts of permanence, preservation, predictability and stability are drilled into us in the western world. If one compares our values and practices with even the architecture of Japan, that which knowingly designs pagodas with grass-woven floor mats and rice paper doors and windows, it is obvious that the west does not create to honor the temporary. Nothing is permanent, nothing is fixed. Every piece in these pagodas, which eventually wears down, falls apart and deteriorates due to weather and aging is simply deconstructed, rebuilt or replaced, over and over again. In this practice, there is an honoring of and respect for life and expiration of all that is temporary. Lacking from this tradition are any undertones of “Through our brute force, iron will and denial, We Must Live Forever”.
As time continued to pass by I saw less and less updates from this friend. Even so, there he remained, in my daily thoughts and prayers. As winter and the good old Christmas season approached, I decided to get my festive pants on and make my way to a gathering at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals. This event promised an opportunity to “Meet the horses!” so the animal lover inside of me decided this little gem was worth wading through hordes of screaming children completely hepped up on sugar goofballs.
My first glimpse upon arriving to the MSSPA yielded exactly this- ALL of the children and screaming, sugar mania. Regardless, it was a beautiful, sunny, warm day and I was there with one objective; snuggle some horses. While walking, I observed a crowd of people around a fenced-in ring that contained a rather large horse, grazing and completely ignoring the many handfuls of hay being shoved through the fence. Immediately a trainer appears and enters the enclosure, walking up to the horse to begin a demonstration. Upon seeing the trainer, the horse sparks to life and runs right over to him. The trainer strokes the horses’ snout and comes forehead to forehead to the giant animal and says something very softly to him. The horse calmly bows forward and the trainer hops aboard, bareback, to begin his demonstration.
With many intrigued young faces pressed firmly against the cold bars of the practice arena, the trainer talks the audience through his method of training, which to my surprise, was drastically different than what I had expected.
His method of horse training, he explained, was based on three main components; trust, acceptance and consent. No ropes, no whips, no constant bribery with treats or carrots, no guilt, no loud commands.
The truth is, this man invested 10 years in building trust with this animal, through gentle behavior, respect and honoring it as another being. As a result of this trust, he was able to not only ride this horse completely bareback, but was able to synchronize the movements of the horse with his own through connection and breath work. He listened to and watched the language of this animal, instead of inflicting his will upon him.
No forceful nature what-so-ever. The trainer gracefully asked (not commanded) the horse to do something and the horse decided. No fear and no resistance against force. If the horse wasn’t into performing a trick, get this; he didn’t have to. No stress, no mess. Through this method the horse was more apt to accept and perform the request due to trust and not obligation. Some crazy wizardry right there. The man simply breathed out softly and calmly and the horse came to a complete stop.
His message was very simple; no force, guilt or obligation, just trust, acceptance and consent.
And there I was, hands on the bars of the arena, sobbing in a sea of small children. I don't think I have ever seen a demonstration so beautiful and rich with information that not only applied to rehabilitating horses, but to life in general.
After wading through the wreckage of sugar-crashed children, sluggishly dragging their bean boots through the never-ending fields of mud at the MSSPA, I ventured home still buzzing from the potent lessons learned.
I woke the next morning to a phone call by a close friend, phoning to inform me that our friend had passed away during the night. At this news, I instantly felt taken out to sea by a wave of sadness, shock, grief and sorrow. In her heavy words, she described our friend having been surrounded by family and loved ones during his transition, and that it had been a peaceful one.
Throughout the day I couldn't help but hear in my head the wise words shared by my friend throughout his experience, as well as the lessons from the horse trainer the day before. These notions of trust, acceptance, gentleness and understanding, while letting go of resistance, force and fear are very deep, important life lessons that should be explored by every being.
With this said, I wish to begin this New Year of 2016 from a place of gentleness, trust, acceptance, optimism, gratitude and complete consent to my temporary and amazing journey on this planet.
Much love to my fellow beings on your journeys during this brand new year.
Happy New Year!