Every human being has the potential to become Enlightened, or more Conscious, to the degree their heredity and capacity for work on self allow. This process is not imitation of another’s way of doing things, practicing religion, or the food you eat. It is a process of self-observation, or self-witnessing, throughout the daily aspects of life. We are all seeded with a certain heredity that allows for our physical, emotional, and mental capacity, and then we experience life and education in such a way as to form the personality aspects of the waking consciousness. Yet there is great advantage in finding a teacher qualified in the direction of the trail you are called to walk. In any given life, there can be many teachers; the true teacher will assist you in opening to the pathway of your own heart. My personal path has called me toward Shamanism, but along the way I was raised Christian, studied Oriental religions, studied the work of G. I. Gurdjieff with two teachers (Ann Kelly and Donald Petacchi), learned Reiki, and was initiated as a Mesa Carrier. Each turn of my life path has deepened the learning in the way of my calling. Most recently I am spirit-taught by Deities of the Norse pantheon, and I have found a Shamanic teacher in Renee Baribeau, the Practical Shaman, and Hay House author of Winds of Spirit. Everything I have learned along the way has fed my life path and my soul’s growth.
Among the things I took in from my time in the Gurdjieff Work is the integration of body, emotion, and intellect. In the Christian faith as I learned it, and in certain aspects of Oriental religions, the body and the sensations of the body are taught to be unimportant. There are meditations that help to remove one’s attentions from sensation so as to become free from desire and attachment to the world. I believe that instead of ignoring our physical sensations, a practice of intentional sensation can better ground us to awareness of our emotional state, our feelings, and therefore detach from them so that we can be in life, but not of it. The last is a Biblical term that honors bringing the consciousness of the higher self, as our spirit-soul complex is called in metaphysical circles, into daily awareness. The practice of what Gurdjieff called Conscious Labor and Intentional Suffering are key to developing the capacity to live from a centered-awareness of Higher Emotion and Higher Intellectual. (Someday I will teach more about this process as it relates to the Enneagram. Anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the Gurdjieff work, I recommend reading Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson the three times as he suggested).
Intentional sensation is a way of grounding the extremes posed between our emotions and our intellect in the body. It is as useful a meditation tool as counting the breath. When sitting or lying still, I bring the attention to the awareness of my body. I may begin with my feet and move up my body, or I may begin with my face and work down my body, making a special effort to relax all inherent tension. If I am feeling emotional or bothered about something, I might ask my body to draw my attention to where that emotion is stored so that I can do the work of releasing it to become clear of it. The work of scientist Candace Pert proved for once and all that emotions are stored in the body (see Molecules of Emotion). The work of becoming clear of those negative and repressed emotions we are holding on to facilitates our emotional healing and capacity to live without the burden of reactive behavior patterns and negative energy loops. Clearing ourselves of these less desirable aspects of our conditioned upbringing and wrong interpretations of life experiences contributes to living with more presence and contentment.
When I was taught Conscious Labor, the first step was to center myself, and then to ground myself in my body with Intentional Sensation, and maintain that awareness while I went through the work of my day, whatever that work was. I discovered that the more I disliked a certain task, the better it was for me to bring my attention and awareness to it, because the effort created a struggle between opposing aspects of myself – the aspects that like work and the aspects that preferred lazy. The resulting friction served to burn the dross out of my being. Later the more advanced efforts of intentional suffering came into it with making more efforts at tasks I did not like. I learned to stop my negative self-talk and get on with things, and gradually I grew to love work from a deep place within myself. Once I was able to stop my thoughts from repeating on the topic of whether I liked my work or not, I was more able to stop my thoughts from generating critical judgments and opinions of people who had annoyed me in some way, so you can see how the focus of my work with intentional suffering changed from tasks to relationships with others. I strive to have good will with everybody; sometimes easier said than done. Gurdjieff’s method is an ever-evolving process of bringing attention to the task of self-observation and self-remembering.
This type of meditative effort centers on becoming present to ourselves. Gurdjieff had an exercise that he used in his groups. When he would call out, “STOP!” the group was expected to stop its movement and people were to take note of their posture, mood, feelings, and thoughts of the given moment. One can become mindful of almost everything. Gurdjieff’s sacred dances were intended to assist this purpose of observing the work of centers also.
Gurdjieff provided my introduction to the idea that the many traditions of ancient ways held teachings in common. With the work of Carolyn Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit I was thrilled to discover those connections between the chakras, the Kabbalah (Hebrew Tree of Life), and the Christian Sacraments. When I came upon the Runes through the book Rune Power, by Kenneth Meadows, the answers were also there, and I knew that my ancestors had once had their own version of these teachings, including a shamanic practice. My ancestors came from Sweden, and there were ties with the Saami peoples, or Laplanders. Mircea Eliade has tied ideas further together for me with his seminal work Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. We have in ourselves patterns for accessing higher states of consciousness, we have in ourselves the pattern of the World Tree, or Tree of Life (Yggdrasil is the name of the Norse Tree of Worlds). Through intentional sensation I could begin to access these states through my own body. I firmly believe that human beings do not need drugs to connect with the sacred; we have all the tools we need through the practices of meditation, presence, and prayer. Through intentional sensation I was able to deepen my practice with the chakras, and even to equate certain chakras with the four elements, something I have since read in connection with other authors. The final element I had to work with was wind (air is the element of the heart), and I honor Renee Baribeau for her work in this direction.
The following life experience connected me to the divinity inherent within the wind. I was still practicing as a Lay Speaker for the Methodist Church, and I wanted to test the promise that the pure of heart would see God. I went up on the hill under some pine trees with my drum, and I played. As I played, I prayed. The first thing that happened was that on a still day, the wind came up strongly (Holy Spirit, Holy Breath!). The second thing was that I had a vision, and it was not a vision just for humans, but for all Life. I had a vision of the Creator creating various forms of life, and the Creator showed me himself as a Praying Mantis. Now, isn’t that interesting, I thought. The vision seemed to show me the creative breath inherent within all life.
As a Reiki healer, I have worked with the energy fields of animals as well as people, and that all beings have chakras is something that my experience has proven to me. I wanted to connect the chakras to the idea of the Tree of Life. Through my work with the Runes, I wanted to connect the idea of the chakras to the Nine Worlds. The correlations do not exactly line up, but they don’t have to. Each pattern of cosmology relates us to the system it has arisen from. What satisfies me is the universality of the cosmologies.
My next blog post will deal with the Chakras and the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil.