Comments!

Hooray! I’m caught up on comments! Feel free to go to Therioshamanism if you left a comment to see what I had to say.

I do want to say thank you again for the ongoing comments. It’s nice to know that there are people reading, and that there are people who are inspired, and who have been helped, and sometimes who just want to say “I agree” or “Have you thought of it from this perspective instead?”

More Thoughts, and Blatant Omnivorism

First, a bit of an addendum to yesterday’s post. Although I talk about drawing on the energy of the Land, it is an exchange, not just a feeding. Pore breathing is like lung breathing (at least in my experience)–breathe in, breathe out, not just breathe in. It’s an exchange of energy; for everything I draw in, I release part of my own back out. It was interesting walking to Laurelhurst last night; I’d had a particularly bad day, and was feeling really “ick”. Soon as I got outside into our neighborhood, even before we got to the park itself, I felt all that “ick” unloading. Bringing the energy of the night, of the neighborhood, and then of the park, felt like clear water flooding my pores, and my whole body. Exhaling flushed the “ick” out through the pores, so I felt that my skin was covered in rivulets of water stained grey with numerous particles of soot.

Despite this, the Land gladly took my energy. I knew that I meshed well with this place, but last night I felt utterly and completely enfolded and protected there. No one seemed to mind the trail of shed “ick” (which ended up pretty quickly absorbed or scattered). I’ll take this as further confirmation that the Land there wants to get to know me better–or, rather, vice versa. So I’m going to try to make it my goal to visit at least once every other day/night. Plus it’ll help once I can go hiking further out, too–I’m going to shoot for heading to Multnomah Falls next weekend.

Speaking of connections, I’m working on being more mindful of the living beings whose bodies become my food. Night before last, my husband Taylor and I went on a date after I got off work (Jim Butcher book signing FTW! Yes, I am a geek.) For supper, we went to an American-Chinese-Japanese buffet. This, of course, equaled utter and complete heaven, as among other things I could have unlimited quantities of two of my favorite foods–crab legs, and sushi. However, there were a number of other things I’d never tried before–clams and crawdads being among them. So I took the opportunity to exercise some neophilia.

I was doing great until I got to the crawdad–which was whole, face and all. Now, rationally, I realize that pork, beef and chicken meat all once had faces, too. However, in a society where even shrimp routinely end up decapitated before hitting the market, to come literally face to face with my food was a different experience. (It didn’t help that I had no idea how to eat a crawdad, and there were a lot of legs…) I almost didn’t eat him, but then I realized that if I ate faceless mammal meat and got completely squicked by a very complete crustacean, there’d be a definite note of hypocrisy in there.

I’m not going to go into great detail about the experience. Needless to say, Lupa figuring out New Food is almost always an entertaining experience (Taylor can tell stories of the first time I cooked a whole duck and found the neck in the body cavity while I was cleaning the bird.) What more concerns me is the interaction between the crawdad spirit and me during this process. He didn’t seem particularly upset about being dead; however, he seemed rather amused by my squeamishness. “C’mon, don’t feel so bad–I used to dismember and eat my food when I was alive, too!” and gave me a good mental picture of the average crawdad tearing up and eating a minnow.

I did eventually figure out that the tail was the best part. However, I also carefully picked my way around the guts, too, for random little pieces of meat. This was largely due to the fact that many of the spirits of the animals whose flesh I was eating insisted that I try to eat as much of it as I could, especially the shrimp, crabs and crawdad. Maybe it’s a crustacean thing, but there was the definite sense that the more of them I took into my body, the more I honored their deaths. And that’s something that isn’t limited to crustaceans–or even animals.

As I’ve mentioned in other places, I am an animist–everything has a spirit. I’m also a pantheist–the spirit is the spark of the Divine in all things. However, unlike most people in the U.S., I do not see myself as an inherently superior being just because I’m human. Unique? Sure. But so are all beings. Acorns, goldfish, boulders, yeast, and so forth–they’re all fascinating and can do things we can’t.

I know some people are vegetarians or vegans because they refuse to eat anything with a face. Personally, I find this view to be too anthopocentric–and anthropocentrism is what got us in our current mess. It’s an improvement, to be sure, because it acknowledges that beings other than humans are worthy of regard. However, it’s still anthropocentric to only give regard to beings that are like us–beings that have the same kind of body, nervous system, etc. We regard them because they’re like us, not because they are unique beings. If they were regarded for being unique, then we’d regard plants, too. Of course, even some vegetarians show selective regard–sure, trees are impressive and amazing and maybe even house dryads (who, surprise surprise, are often depicted in humanoid form)–but that carrot is just food. Dead food at that. If it doesn’t have a face, it doesn’t have value. Or so it would appear. (I know that’s not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth for all veggie folk, just FYI.)

I come at things from a spiritual perspective. If it has a spirit, it deserves regard. Just because a plant’s body doesn’t have what we recognize as a nervous system doesn’t mean that its spirit doesn’t suffer when it is injured or killed. Anthropocentrism can go jump off a cliff for all I care. The spinach in my salad deserves regard as much as the crawdad on my plate. I admit a historical bias towards animals, but more recently I’ve come to actively honor other spirits, too, though I don’t have nearly as strong a relationship or long a history with them.

Why do I honor them? Well, let’s look at my body. Other than a few chemical traces picked up from earth, water, and air pollution, and some residues from processed food (which were once more recognizable as animals or plants long ago), every molecule in my body came from a natural animal or plant that I ate in some form or another. I carry in my body pieces of cows, carrots, baby octopi, dandelion leaves, spaghetti squash, rabbit, cocoa beans, Cornish game hens, buffalo, rice, and numerous other living beings. They may not be recognizable as such now, but that’s what they once were before I consumed them. And before that they may have been grass, clover, plankton, corn, tiny fish, and other smaller bits of food. Someday when I die (and hopefully have a green burial) I will dissipate in the stomachs of thousands of earthworms and countless bacteria, and in the roots of grass and trees. Where do “I” end? Does it really matter?

The point is that without the plants and animals, I die. Face or leaves, feet or roots, lungs or stomata, they all deserve my respect. So I’ll be doing my best to get food that’s humanely raised as possible (including organic produce), clean my plate, compost what I can’t eat, and maybe get a digester for things that are bad for a composter’s diet.

What’s Been Happening Lately

I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in this blog. (Which has been what–a week? Okay, more like a week and a half.) I promise I haven’t forgotten about the comments–I will reply at some point sooner rather than later!

I’ve pulled away, not because I don’t like it any more (though I still feel a little weird reading some of my writing which, until two weeks ago, made a lot more sense, and not so much now that everything’s been shaken up). Rather, I’ve just needed some space. (Well, and my day job has gotten busier since I returned; I think they decided to save everything up for when I got back from my Arizonan Odyssey.) In the week and a half since I got back home, I’ve been taking a break. Some of it is a need to rest; some of it is also allowing things to process. I really pushed myself at times in my first six months, and the Ecoshamanic training was even more intense.

However, a lot of the time has been spent adjusting. My experiences brought on a lot of changes in a relatively short period of time, and in addition coming back to my everyday life, my day job, and my schedule created a bit of a shock. Right now, I spend an average of twelve hours out of the home every day, Monday through Friday–nine hours at work, and three hours of commuting by bus, train and walking. I work in a cubicle at a computer all day, and have very little exposure to the outdoors except evenings and weekends. The fact that it’s been winter has made me even less inclined to go outdoors, though one of my goals is to make myself less cold-phobic.

I’ve been living in cities since the summer of 2001, though I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by wilderness for most of my life. I’ve always been sensitive to energy, and have been particularly comfortable in natural areas because of this. There’s less “noise”, or at least discordant “noise” in the wild than in the average city. It’s not that cities are all horrible, terrible places; they have personalities, too, and not all urban energy is unhealthy. But even in the nicest cities, it’s just not a substitute for regular exposure to the wilderness for me.

I think, over the years, as I’ve spent less and less time in wild places due to numerous factors–lack of accessibility, lack of time, gas prices–I’ve begun to try to shut off that need for wild energy, to try to ignore that part of myself, without really realizing I was doing it. I can look back at my magical practice and my spirituality and see where that detachment even filtered into that part of my life. Now that I’m on a path that’s made me more aware of, among other things, my health, I’ve been paying more attention to that need for wild energy. Being broken open again in Arizona brought this home even more acutely.

In the week and a half since I got home, I’ve been very aware of the energy of the Land where I live, and where I work. For example, Portland is a livable city because, more than other cities I’ve lived in, the natural world and the manmade city, while not in perfect balance, are closer to symbiosis. However, I still need to go to Laurelhurst Park or even Mt. Tabor Park a few times a week to feel better, and I notice now more when I haven’t been there for a few days. I work out in the suburbs, where the damage to the environment is more recent–what used to be farmland less than twenty years ago is now strip malls and condos. The attitude towards the land is less respectful, too–a commodity to be used. Most of the plants there are cultivated–grass, domestic shrubs, etc. Chemical pesticides are the norm. There’s no urban growth boundaries in the suburbs. When I go there, I feel the energy of the Land; much more fragmented, because unlike the land in Portland proper, it hasn’t had time to heal. Portland feels like a hybridized ecosystem; the suburbs just feel like sprawl.

Due to my re-opening, I’ve been feeling decidedly uncomfortable. After spending four days and nights in a very wild place (once you’re outside of Sedona it’s nothing but desert and a few houses and ranches–and Sedona’s not that big) coming back to a much larger urban area has been a bit of a shock to my system. On top of it I’m finding that I’m just not very happy working in a cube farm. Granted, it’s a contract, so it’ll end eventually, but I really wish I worked someplace where i had easy access to a window. I don’t even know what it’s like outside unless I leave my cube.

I know that with some time I’ll find a good balance, though I don’t want it to be through shutting myself down again. Still, right now my shamanic activity is mainly limited to doing things to try to adjust–walking more, and energy exchange with nature wherever I find it, even in the hacked-up land of the suburbs. (A side note on the energy work–I’m finding that what I’m doing is essentially the same as Franz Bardon’s pore breathing, all over my body. I’ve done pore breathing before, but this is the most I’ve noticed it happening on a not-quite-conscious level, more like the programmed instinct of lung breathing.)

As for more “stereotypical” shamanic work, that may have to wait a bit. A couple days after I got home, I went upstairs to the ritual room to do a little artwork, and realized how LOUD it was with the various spirits chattering in there (it’s where I keep my skins, plus a couple dozen animal skulls, and so forth). I think at this point I’m mainly going to be concerned with “volume control”, so to speak, learning to be aware without listening to every single thing in Dolby Surround Sound. Once I get a little more used to this, my first task is working more with the skin spirits, since I promised them I would (they’re being patient, though really eager to get working).

I’ve also picked up a copy of James Endredy’s Earthwalks, which has a lot of exercises which should help me to incorporate getting used to all this with one of my favorite things–going for walks. He already demonstrated a couple of them while I was in Arizona, and what I saw when flipping through the book before buying it also looked really promising.

Fortunately, nobody’s pressuring me to do more than this, which I appreciate. Right now I’d just like to get used to the changes that have already occurred, and learn to make a healthier relationship with the Land where I am, before embarking on more complicated things.