…and Air

Today was my start of my Air month. Fortunately I wasn’t sick this time around, so I was able to get started mostly on time.

Hawk and I sat and talked about what I should be paying attention to with regards to Air. Communication, of course, is a big one, especially right now in my life. This includes not only communication with others, but also communication with myself. The way Hawk explained it to me is that Air carries things, hence birds often being associated with messages. Sound is also of Air; Air carries the sound-vibrations from place to place, so what I say and what I hear are of Air.

Therefore one thing that’s going to be of particular focus is being very aware both of what I say and what I hear. The first one seems pretty obviously under my control; however, it’s also my prerogative to determine how I will receive what I hear/read/etc. One of the lessons from the Earth month was to be aware of not only what I put into my body, but what I also *allow* into it from other sources–the food I eat is important, but so is the stress on my body that external forces can place on me. So not only do I have control over what I eat, I can also choose what I allow to affect me. And that comes down to communication.

Granted, just as with my body, there are things in communication that I can’t necessarily stop entirely. There are pollutants in the air, water and ground that I can’t really do much about at this point, and there are pollutants in communication that I only have so much control over. But I can choose to be as selective as possible in what I take in, and try to minimize the amount of poisons I take in.

Air is important in that filtration system, not only in communication, but in relaxation. It’s all too easy to get worked up over annoyances, drama, and other such things. The heart begins to race, adrenaline flows, the stomach produces more acid, and it’s fight-or-flight time. But careful applications of breath can halt that process when it’s not needed–a flame war isn’t the same as looking a hungry tiger in the eye. And as I work through changing my filtration system, breath is a useful tool for reaching the right mindset to get through my conscious mind’s natural forces, and into the nitty-gritty of what makes me tick. Too often we’re ruled by our re-actions, and we let things in that don’t really need to be there, because we don’t think to act any other way. We let things get us angry for no real good reason, and we get carried away by our emotions. Breathing correctly can help us slow down, take a step back, and really think about what it is we’re hearing, and what we want to say.

Dream work is also part of communication, though Hawk indicated that right now it’s secondary to the interpersonal and intrapersonal communication during waking time. So I need to get back into the habit of recording my dreams every morning; I’ll probably start taking my dream journal with me on my morning commute since I tend to get going pretty quickly every day. I dream every night, in full color, often with touch and sound as well–very vivid. In times when I do record them regularly, I tend to remember them even better, and get deeper messages out of them. I’ve just not been very consistent about it.

So Air appears to be off to a good start. I will admit a bit of frustration with all this internal work–“When do I get to start saving the world?” Yet Hawk reminded me that too often I’ve let external things distract me from my own health to the point where I’d have an eventual meltdown and get sick. It’s all well and good to have a job, and be writing two manuscripts, and editing two others plus an anthology, and making cool artwork, and all the other stuff I like to do–but before I go channeling even more energy *outward* into more shamanic work for the environment, I need to make sure I’m paying attention to the internal environment, something that even as aware as I am, I’ve often let go neglected.

Which is a rather humbling experience. For all I’ve done in the past ten-plus years, I really have brought myself back to square one. I may be progressing more quickly than the first time around, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn from the basics. I’m just getting a more solid foundation this time around.

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Taking Back the Soul

It all started with a dream (as such things often do).

I dreamed last night (or this morning, if you prefer) that I was getting ready to go to some sort of party. I was already running late, it was Saturday, and it was already 5:38pm–and I was bemoaning the fact that I’d spent my whole day just getting ready for this party. So there I was in what looked like a bad 80’s prom dress (which just added insult to injury). Then the dream took a weird twist.

All of a sudden, a vampire attacked! Not the modern concept, but a Dracula-style vampire, complete with the ability to control animals. And control them he did–the room I was in was suddenly besieged by an odd assortment of critters, including birds, and a very persistent hedgehog. So, this being a dream, I figured that spiritual techniques would work as well as “physical” ones. Taylor, my husband, happened to be there with me, and we began doing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to banish these beasties.

I got through the initial Qabalistic Cross just fine, but then I forgot the pentagrams, and began mixing up the archangels. To make a long story short, my LBRP fell to pieces. As this was happening, the vampire had somehow defeated Taylor, and was standing behind me, mimicking his voice to make me think Taylor was still there. As soon as I noticed, I began to run. Unfortunately, since I’m very wolf-identified, the vampire was able to use his ability to control animals to control me. The dream ended before he caught me, but it was still a very telling dream.

Every so often I’ll have a dream where I’m attacked (usually, though not always) by a male adversary. Most times I’ve tried fighting back using techniques from the self-defense classes I took back in Pittsburgh, techniques that would drop a person quickly. But in the dreams, I’d end up weak, and my attacks would be so faint as to be useless. Last night’s odd twist on the concept prompted me to meditate on this during my morning commute.

The central theme seems to be powerlessness. I haven’t the strength to fight back in some of these dreams, and I can look at the areas of my life where I do feel like my hands are at least somewhat tied. I admit that I can occasionally be a bit of a control freak, and that if things don’t go exactly the way I want them to, I get bent out of shape. Rationally, I remind myself that while I have little control over the world around me and all its denizens, I do have control over my actions and reactions, the decisions I make. But what happens when I’m in a situation where I don’t know what to do, or where the options are Bad and Worse? (DO NOT WANT.)

Further meditation brought me to the conclusion that, more often than not, when the situation looks bleak, part of it is because somebody, somewhere, has worked to make me feel powerless (whether it was personal or, more likely, not). Something that has been said or done has had the effect of making me feel powerless–and the source of that something has gained in power through what it has taken from me–or, rather, what I have given it. Granted, a person who loses power may be under extreme duress in certain situations, such as someone literally at the business end of a gun. But there are numerous less deadly situations throughout our everyday lives wherein we give up our power to others out of fear.

While there are genuine cases of threat, the majority of the time the perpetrator is a bully, someone who knows that all s/he has to do is apply the right kind of pressure, and s/he’ll get the exact fear-response out of others that provides hir the power s/he feeds on. In truth, if we were to stand up to such people, we would retain our power. Yet from day one many of us are conditioned to give over our power through fear–“Don’t do X, because you’ll get hurt” “Go tell the teacher, because if you get in a fight you’ll get hurt” “Toe the line and be safe, because otherwise you just might get hurt, and what if you get hurt? That would be BAD”. And then if someone does take a chance and happens to fail (even if they end up picking themselves up and moving on), there’s a chorus of “We told you so”, and “That’s why you don’t do X” (never mind that numerous other people may have had success with the same thing, and even most of the “failures” end up surviving to live another day). No wonder bullies find so much easy grazing!

I cannot stop people from trying to feed me fear. Nor can I inoculate people against the insecurity that causes bullies. But what I can do is take control of my own self, my reactions, and my decisions. A good reminder of this came to me last night; I was on the last leg of my commute, the bus that drops me off near where I live, and this guy was handing out handmade bookmarks he’d created with four or five leaf clovers in them, and little sayings and quotes–just to be nice. The one I got was this quote by Charles R. Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

While simply having a good attitude won’t fix all your problems, it does go a long way in what decisions we make. And the attitude I’ve been trying to cultivate has been one that acknowledges dangers and potential problems, but doesn’t get entangled in fear to the point of immobility. This includes being aware of all the ways I can take action, rather than sitting around, bemoaning my fate.

So it was appropriate indeed that I had the dream I did last night, because it reminded me of the stumbling block that (perceived) powerlessness is, and gave me a reason to meditate on how to combat that ill feeling. There is, after all, a difference between healthy fear, and unhealthy fear-obsession.

I gave some thought on how to really take back my power that I’d given up (and/or had been taken from me). While rationally I realize, with my left brain, that I have a lot more control than I sometimes realize, emotionally, the right-brain part of me has absorbed entirely too much negative conditioning, enough that although I’ve been chipping away at it for years, it’s still a major problem in my life. It’s difficult to get to the root of the problem when it feels so enormous and overwhelming–individual facets are easier to deal with, but working through them individually takes a long time.

And for me, “power” isn’t the best word. The negative conditioning I have states the power is bad if you have too much of it, because it can turn you into a bad person. It’s that whole fear-of-pride thing, the idea that if you happen to rise above everyone else, you deserve to get cut down to everyone else’s level again. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s story, Harrison Bergeron, in which everyone was forced to be equal with everyone else. So there’s a pernicious part of my conditioning that sabotages my efforts to extract it by saying “You don’t deserve to be anything more than what you are now–and you’re already pushing it!”

However, I’ve been reminded, through the formation of therioshamanism, of the concept of the soul–specifically the idea that the soul can fragment and be lost. To me, soul is equated with power; the more of our soul we lose, the weaker we are. And “soul” is much more personal a concept than “power”–I more easily become indignant and angry at the concept that someone has taken a piece of my soul, than taken power from me.

I still don’t feel confident enough in myself to do a soul retrieval, not just yet. But I know exactly whose filets of soul I’ll be going after once I am ready for that point. Granted, therioshamanism is focused on the animals; however, I believe it’s important to learn various, more generalized techniques–to make a parallel with doctors, even a specialist must get a good education in general practice.

I’m not ready just yet, but I have a goal to work towards.