Ever a Student…

Sunday afternoon, my husband Taylor and I went for a seven mile hike out at Multnomah Falls. It was the first time I’d been out there since last November, and I really had missed it there (it missed me too, apparently!) We went on a trail I hadn’t walked before, though Taylor had been there on his own. The weather was perfect, and I felt rested and energized–I didn’t really feel tired at all until the last mile. Of course, such a long hike called for a post-hike trip to Burgerville, the Pacific Northwest’s regional chain of sustainably produced, not-full-of-ick-and-grease, burger joint.

But I digress.

It being the first really nice weather we’d had in a while, and being a Sunday, people were out in force; Multnomah Falls is a popular place, and you have to do some hiking to get past the touristy areas. It took longer than I expected, and I started to get grouchy. For me, hiking is a way to get away from most people, not hang out with them. I started getting snarly after a while.

At one point I complained “I wish these people weren’t here. The sad thing is, they’re probably mostly just going to go back home and keep living their usual lives, never thinking about the connection between the pristine condition of this place, and their environmentally unfriendly actions every day”. To which Taylor (who is used to my rantiness on the occasions where my temper still gets the best of me despite my efforts to the contrary) replied, “So how do you know that’s what they’re going to do?” I think I sputtered something about the litter on the ground, and other such things. I tend to be territorial about places I like, even when I have absolutely no claim to them whatsoever (yes, it’s silly of me).

Tay then said, “You don’t know what these people will do. Maybe they are learning and gaining an appreciation for this place. And after all, if your role as a shaman means teaching people to appreciate the wilderness, maybe you need to remember that people need to have this opportunity. Maybe, like me, they’ll get it figured out in time”, and he had a point. When I met him, he wasn’t all that interested in environmentalism, though he wasn’t against it, either. However, I’ve had a pretty solid impact on him in our relationship, and he’s adopted a lot of the same practices and mindfulness I have. We’ve had some good discussions about it, and that’s gotten us both to think.

Then I decided to talk to the Land. I went on a side trail down to the river we were walking along, and opened myself to the Land. What s/he said supported what Taylor had told me. S/he said that hir role at this point was to teach people to appreciate what was still relatively clean, though a bit of pollution had taken its toll in recent years. S/he told me to bring people to hir and to help teach them that appreciation and to make that connection with their everyday lives, that places just like hir had been destroyed or were in danger from our everyday practices.

S/he talked to me further about the concept of teaching, and basically explained that I did not (as I had been concerned in the past) have to take on full time students at this time. Instead, I mainly need to be teaching various lessons through various means as I learn and become comfortable with them. So, for example, my Three Seeds workshop that I held a couple of weeks ago, wherein I brought paganism, environmentalism, and community building all together in the process of gardening, counts as one way of fulfilling this need. Another is a proposed series of animal magic classes I may be teaching later this year in Portland. I can start with relatively short-term, low-commitment things like this, and then work up to more intensive things as I go along. This is a huge relief, believe me!

So that was a good reminder to me, that if I am going to help other people to understand that the Land and all hir denizens are sacred, then I have to accept that they all have equal access, and that some of them unfortunately will still do dumbass things like litter, and break down saplings for no reason, and so forth–but others won’t. It’s a good reminder of one teaching of Wolf’s that really rings true to my experience–Wolf connects with all to connect with a few. One would hope, though, that more than a few would “get it”!

It is good to also be reminded that lessons come in many ways and many forms. (Another one of this basic things that is good to remember no matter how long you’ve been practicing!) Just another good reason to keep one’s ears and eyes open (and, sometimes, one’s mouth shut as well).

Later on, as we stopped at our usual crosstrails to rest before descending the mountain, I heard an owl hooting slowly and quietly maybe 200 or so yards away in the woods. at the same time, I felt the presence of the Animal Father. No, I don’t think it was a disembodied voice–I’d lay money down that there was a physical owl there. However, I firmly believe that deities, spirits, and other such beings may use physical phenomena to make themselves known. I do not think it’s nearly as common as people might think–just because a squirrel runs across your path, it doesn’t automatically mean that Squirrel is your totem. What separated this event from any other encounter with critters that day (including a chipmunk, a hummingbird, and a bunch of white butterflies) was that I definitely felt the Animal Father’s presence. He was pleased that I was there, out in the wilderness again. He likes being in contact with me there more than other places, and he simply dropped by to say so.

Since I’ve started my new telecommuting job, I’ve started my day with meditation. Wolf has made it clear that s/he wants me to start working with hir more intensely, so tonight I’ll go up and start working on a drumbeat and song for hir. I’ve been taking it easy because of all the changes recently, but the spirits are letting me know it’s time to get back to business, as it were.

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Eclipse

This evening as the eclipse hit, I was walking home from the bus stop. I asked the spirits if I should take advantage of the rare full lunar eclipse and do any magic. Their reply was a very loud “No”. When I asked them why, they simply said “Bad energy”.

Whether that holds for this eclipse or all of them will remain to be seen; they’re being a bit tight-lipped about it. However, I’m glad they told me to stay indoors. Not long after I got home, I heard a bunch of shouting and noise on the next street over, followed shortly thereafter by sirens. Normally this is a nice, quiet neighborhood, but the full moon brings out the crazies…and perhaps people took advantage of the darkness of the eclipse to do something nefarious? Though it got nowhere near as dark as in a blackout.

Meh. I’ll bother the spirits about it later when they’re more prone to talking. Tomorrow is the beginning of my final month of my first six months, so I’ll have plenty to keep me occupied in the meantime.

Progress! And the Spirits are Ganging Up On Me….

First off, a quick note to the good folks on the Livejournal feed for this blog: I welcome comments; however, I do not get comment notifications for comments made to the LJ feed postings. Please click through to the blog itself at therioshamanism.com and make your comments there; that way I know you had something to say! Thank you muchly 🙂

I also tweaked the FAQ again, specifically the question about whether you can call yourself a therioshaman. To be honest, I’d really prefer people didn’t use that term as a self-signifier. A lot of it is because therioshamanism, at least at this stage of the game, is my personal path, created from a very specific perspective and using very specific resources (though that may change later on–read on to find out why). While it is flexible and fluid, at least let me get it into some semblance of a formalized path! *grin*

I’ve been at this for over two months now, and while that may not seem like a long time, again keep in mind that I already have a significant amount of material from over a decade of study and practice to work with. At this point I have a pretty good idea of what my basic training for the next four and a half months will be–more focus on specific elements, and then a month of work with all four traditional elements again, as I did last month, though with the experience of single-element months taken into account.

I’m better at holding to a schedule, and I will say that I have learned and developed a lot just in the time I’ve been doing this. The Earth month, as you’ve probably read, has been exceptionally important for getting me to pay attention to both the internal and external environments, though the focus seems to be more on the internal–getting my body and health into shape. I’m thinking that while the first six months’ focus on elements is meant to increase focus on the elements inside and out, that it’s important for me to get my own house into order, as it were, before moving outward to a greater extent.

A lot of the changes are little things that I notice on a day to day basis, too many to list systematically here on a blog. Needless to say, I feel more grounded and focused, and more confident as well. I’m calmer, and more likely to catch myself in the act of re-acting, rather than letting my re-actions get the best of me. I’m working to be healthier, and taking active steps to do so. And there’s so much more…and it all adds up! I’m patching the holes that I’ve noticed in my practice, and feeling less like spiritual Swiss cheese.

On another note, I received an initially alarming request from the totems and other spirits I work with recently. I was kicking around the idea of eventually putting this all into book format (not that this should surprise anyone who know this bibliophile well). I figure I’ve already had a few people tell me that they’ve gotten quite a bit out of what I’ve written here, that it really resonates with them, all of which makes me happy–if my journey can include aiding others along their paths, so much the better. Granted, a book would be a few years in the future, most likely, since this is still in the growing stages. But it’s a possibility for somewhere down the line.

So I was bouncing ideas around in my head as I was walking from work to the train station, when I got that familiar *ping* that tells me the spirits want my attention, so I listened to what they had to say.

“We want to you to teach students the way we’re teaching you”.

(This is why I added the “OMGWTFBBQ” category to this blog.)

I know people who have taken on students. It’s a ton of work. Not necessarily a horrible thing, though I have heard horror stories of student-teacher relationships that went very wrong (and didn’t even involve sex!). Aside from the time commitment, though, I don’t even have therioshamanism complete as a path yet!

So I grilled them for more information (as well as calling my mate and talking to a few friends online about the whole thing). Basically, it appears that I wouldn’t even have to think about starting this process until after my six months were done (i.e., after I get done with the months of elemental work ahead of me). And I, of course, wouldn’t stop my own training and learning, particularly since the first six months are designed to be largely self-directed. The closest I can come to a comparison would be the grad student who student-teaches a freshman course while continuing to do hir own graduate work. I also wouldn’t have to worry about long-distance students–local, in-person students only. This would cut down on the number of potential people I might have to wrangle to make this work 😉

The spirits were quite insistent about this whole thing. It does make sense, though. The spirits have been exceptionally generous in helping me along the past decade and change; they’ve given me quite a lot and asked for very little in return. I’ve always felt, though, that I owed them something for it, and this would be a good opportunity to repay them. They want this material out there, and while I have some trepidation about the whole thing, this is a vote of confidence in my favor.

I’m still going to be cautious; while the *ping* I received was one I’ve gotten used to over the years, I’m going to revisit this topic with them once my six months are over with. I want to be very sure it isn’t just my ego speaking, though I was pleased to note that my first reaction was “You want me to do WHAT?” rather than “Oh, people will think I’m so great!”. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be a good opportunity to pass on some things that both I and the totems and other spirits see as very important, and which at least a few people have expressed interest in. Still, I realize that this is a major commitment for a long period of time (of course, so is therioshamanism in general) and not to be addressed lightly. Just to be sure, I’m going to include some reading and other research on pagan teaching with the rest of my reading material over the next few months.

At this point, it’s a “Let’s see where I am in four and a half months” rather than a “Yes, I’ll do it!” situation. However, I figure that if the spirits have this sort of confidence in me at this point, it’s a good sign that I’m doing something right, at least. All the warning flags seem to be in the arena of things that I’ve seen screwed up in other peoples’ experiences, rather than a deep, intuitive/instinctual “STAY AWAY!!!”. But, as I said, we’ll see in four and a half months.