First off, happy Earth Day! Here are some of my thoughts on this day, care of my Livejournal.
I’ve been thinking more, since I got back from Arizona, about my thoughts on what is being asked of me as a shaman. In the past month, my understanding of just what it is I’m supposed to do has deepened quite a bit. “I serve the Land” has become a good bite-sized summary. However, a post in a friend’s Livejournal sparked some thoughts.
S/he was talking about hir discomfort with the concept of “service”; hir personal interpretation of the word involved things that I’m also not a huge fan of–mostly having to do with unwillingness and feeling forced into situations and giving in to power-over. Basically, the idea that just because a deity or other entity is bigger than you, that you must give in, and that it’s a drudgery rather than a gift.
I’m pleased to say that my understanding of service has become more thorough as I’ve continued to develop my path and my relationships with the Land and other entities that I’m involved with. And I’m finding that it’s something I’m not opposed to, nor have I run up against any indication that I’ll be dragged kicking and screaming into virtual torture just because some god or another says I must or else.
I think the best way to explain things is that the more I learn about what I need to be doing, the more Right-with-a-big-R it seems. Much of what I’ll be doing already coincides with things I’ve already been putting into place, or am not adverse to doing. And as I’ve grown in my path, the parts of me that are more attuned to what needs to be done–for myself and for others–are coming to the forefront more. I am becoming, more and more, the person I need to be.
This isn’t just about self-improvement; nor is it just about giving up everything for the Land. What I need and what the Land and others need from me–these needs are not contradictory. They parallel each other so neatly that at this point I may as well not distinguish between one and the other. I can simply say, “This is what I need to do”, and I can understand that this covers everything and everyone I am involved with, including myself.
Were I another sort of magician, I might say that I am following my True Will. And in fact someone dear to me once told me that if you follow your True Will, you will find that the Universe aligns to accomodate you. I don’t think it’s so much that, as it’s a matter of finding your True Place in the Universe. I recently finished reading Bill Plotkin’s Nature and the Human Soul (which I strongly recommend) and very much resonate with his argument that part of healthy human development involves finding your soul work–the place that is naturally yours in this reality. So it’s not so much the Universe remolding itself to accomodate me, as it is the Universe and I finding just the right combination for each other. After all, I am part of the Universe–I am the Universe. As are we all.
This doesn’t mean that the way ahead will be smooth sailing. You don’t just slide into your spot and sit on your laurels. Shamanism isn’t an easy path, and while I haven’t been through a bunch of horrible challenges that stretch me to my limits, I’m also still relatively new to all this. Seven months isn’t that long a time, relatively speaking, though I’ve done a lot in that time. But I don’t feel adverse about potential challenges ahead of me. Scared? Sure. But I’m not afraid of the Land, or the Animal Father, or anyone else deciding that I must suffer needlessly for their gain. Their agenda for me and my agenda for me are one and the same, or so it seems the more I understand it.
Essentially, I feel acceptance and peace with my path. I’ll still question things as necessary–who’s to say that I’ll never misinterpret what I hear/feel/etc. again? Better to be alert and aware than to blindly follow and potentially walk off a cliff because you lost the trail in your stumbling. But I am not a slave. I am not a toy. I am a part of the Universe, and on a more local level, I am a part of the Land I live on.
I think sometimes we humans get so wrapped up in power play–power-over, power-with–that we obsess over it and perhaps sometimes forget the possibility that there isn’t a power struggle going on, that it isn’t about hierarchy. Look at what assumptions people make about wolves–if you read some accounts of pack hierarchy, you can see the military-flavored overlay that has been applied to that social structure, and how lupine behaviors have too often been interpreted through human filters. Yet more enlightened, recent explorations of wolf behavior takes wolves as they are, without trying to push them into human pigeonholes. While there is hierarchy, it’s much more fluid than was originally assumed; the Omega, for example, isn’t just some poor beaten-up wolf that nobody likes, especially in the wild (captive wolves often show exaggerated hierarchical behavior due to being confined). Rather s/he has hir own place in the pack, and is accepted as such. Yet there’s still obsession over “Oooooh, the Alpha!!!!” when humans talk about wolves–no surprise that I’ve seen countless wolf therians and other wolf enthusiasts describing themselves as “alpha wolves”.
If we project our power play this much onto wolves, who are our fellow mammals (and from whom we may have legitimately learned some social skills way back when we were still getting used to not being tree dwellers, though chimps also offer valuable clues to our past), what’s to say we aren’t projecting similarly on our interpretation of noncorporeal beings such as deities?
For that matter, what’s to say that I’m not projecting my feelings of harmony and working-with onto my experiences? There’s no guarantee that I’m not also biased and that my path doesn’t reflect that. However, I also tend to believe that reality is a lot more subjective than many people are comfortable with. I’m not a solipsist–it’s not all in my head. However, I don’t believe in an objective reality that’s universal–our perception of reality will always add in a personal touch, so to speak. Even if what we’re being told is the same, our interpretation of it can vary widely from person to person, and even in the same person from time to time.
Given that possibility, do you really think I’d want to give up a relationship with the various deities and spirits I work with that’s based on mutual cooperation and willing service to each other, for one where I am a lowly being who does things because she must, where obligation is the name of the game? I’d rather make a difference and do what I need to do in a life where life doesn’t suck, than do the same in a life where I resent what I feel I’m forced to do. I know in the former case I’ll be a lot more productive and effective. And I think that suits everyone a lot more.
I have my niche–I serve the Land. The niche may change as time goes on, but I have it, and I’m happy in it. I’ll be making the most of it for the benefit of as many as possible.
Were I another sort of magician, I might say that I am following my True Will. And in fact someone dear to me once told me that if you follow your True Will, you will find that the Universe aligns to accomodate you. I don’t think it’s so much that, as it’s a matter of finding your True Place in the Universe.
This really resonates with me. There is a quote I’m becoming fond of: “Her service is perfect freedom.” It sounds like that may be your experience with the Land and the spirits you work with. Service yes, but the kind of service that is freedom.
I’ve been thinking a lot about service as well; you have very interesting thoughts about “power”, too. Growing up with a god who was at the very tippy top of a hierarchy created by him did leave some long-lasting imprints of what it means “to serve” and what it means to have “power.” The only power we had what what he gave us, and the only purpose of our lives was to serve him, in no way thinking about what that service actually means for us.
Now things are different, but I still struggle sometimes with the idea that the flow of power is my service–I serve Brighid, but we work together. This is, I think, healthier in the long run–if there is no hierarchy, if there is no power but that ultimate power which connects all of the Universe together, the great and the small, and that power is not wasted in a struggle to control it, there is great potential and great power just in being, doing, and living.
With that, serving becomes a question of understanding what your place is in the world, and then being in that place. Which is pretty much exactly what you said. Hah.
I need to check out that book, I think. 🙂