Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

When peacocks shed their feathers they grow back even brighter and more beautiful, thus sustaining the power of the peacock image. Peacocks also hold meaning as a symbol of accepting one's own beauty and as a reminder to view self and others in their truest form...the incorruptible soul worthy of perfect love.

The peacock is an early Christian symbol for the resurrection of Christ. Several religions maintain that the peacock was present alongside the Tree of Life, and it is from this bird that all other animals were created.

There are Greek and Roman myths having to do with Jupiter (Zuess) and Juno (Hera) and how the peacock was created. It symbolises immortality, the reflection of the divine essence, is associated with the sun and the heavens, and is on par with the angelic realm...a creature capable of seeing God in His/Her true form. Supposedly Cherubim have peacock feathers in their wings.

In Hinduism the peacock is associated with Lakshmi who is a deity representing benevolence, patience, kindness, compassion and luck. Similar to Lakshmi, the peacock is associated with Kwan-yin in Japan - she is Goddess of love, compassionate watchfulness, good-will, nurturing, and kind-heartedness.
Kwan-yin chose to remain a mortal even though she could be immortal because she wished to stay behind and aid humanity in their spiritual evolution. In Babylonia and Persia the peacock is seen as a guardian to royalty, and is often seen in engravings on the thrones of royalty.
In general, the Peacock is representative of glory, immortality, royalty, and incorruptibility, integrity and the beauty that can be achieved when we endeavor to better ourselves and better our lives.

The peacock is known as the bird with one hundred eyes. The eye-like patterns in its tail cause it to represent the stars, the universe, the sun, the moon, and the vault of heaven. To Christians this bird's many eyes are symbols of omniscience, the all-seeing God, and the all-seeing Church. Christ is portrayed as a Lamb with seven eyes "which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth" (Rev 5:6). The peacock's "eyes" also symbolize the beatific vision.

According to Sufi legend the original Spirit was created in the shape of a peacock. When it saw itself in the mirror of the Divine Essence it was so overwhelmed by the beauty it saw therein that great drops of sweat flew from its body. It was taught that from these drops all other living creatures were formed.

Peacocks often play the role of the mythical phoenix in religious art. They are sometimes seen drinking from Eucharistic chalices or near the Tree of Life. Because of their association with the Tree of Life, peacock thrones were popular in ancient Babylon and Persia. Because Heliopolis is the city where the phoenix was said to build its rejuvenating funeral pyre, the peacock has become a substitutional emblem of that city. St. Barbara has a peacock feather as one of her attributes because she was born in Heliopolis.

Yezidi beliefs are a complex mixture of Islam with Gnostic, Jewish, and Shamanistic elements. Worship centers around Angels (Yezidi is from the Arabic word for 'angel'), the most important of which is named Melek Taus, or the "Peacock Angel," also known as Lucifer. Lucifer plays a different role in Yezidism, where he is consideredthe chief Archangel, and the creator of the material world. InYezidi belief, Lucifer is not a fallen angel, or the enemy of God. In Yezidi cosmology, the universal Spirit (the Supreme deity) created a pearl, which became broken after forty thousand years. Melek, or Lucifer, used the remains of the pearl to create the material world. After this creation, the Spirit created the remaining Angels.

For further reference to the Peacock God ~ Melek Taus and the Creation Myth please refer to my previous post: Peacock Dreams ~ Creation Myth with a link to a www

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual ~ Wade Davis

An extraordinary talk given by Anthropologist and A National Geographic Explorer ~ Wade Davis muses on the worldwide web of belief and ritual that makes us human. He shares breathtaking photos and stories of the Elder Brothers, a group of Sierra Nevada indians whose spiritual practice holds the world in balance. It is short video given at breath taking speed and requires atleast 2 viewings as he squeezes so much in.

Go to http://www.ted.com/ and put in Wade Davis on the worldwide web of belief and ritual.

What ted.com says about Wade Davis:

"Anthropologist Wade Davis is perhaps the most articulate and influential western advocate for the world's indigenous cultures. His stunning photographs and evocative stories capture the viewer's imagination. As a speaker, he parlays that sense of wonder into passionate concern over the rate at which cultures and languages are disappearing -- 50 percent of the world's 6,000 languages, he says, are no longer taught to children. He argues, in the most beautiful terms, that language isn't just a collection of vocabulary and grammatical rules. In fact, "Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind."

http://www.ted.com/ itself is an incredible free resouce.

Postbridge ~ Dartmoor 03/09

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Postbridge ~ Dartmoor 03/09

The time has come to turn your heart into a Temple of Fire

The time has come to turn your heart
Into a Temple of Fire.
Your essence is gold hidden in the dust,
To reveal its splendour
You need to burn in the fire of love.

When compassion fills my heart
Free from all desire,
I sit quietly like the earth.
My silent cry echoes
Like thunder throughout the Universe.

There is a way from your heart to mine
And my heart knows this,
Because it is clean and pure like water.
When the water is still like a mirror
It will behold the Moon

You are not surprised at the force of the storm -
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
set the boulevards screaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees' blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
wheer each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your sense like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under the sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel ou when he reaches for you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wild Soul

"You can count on wild nature to reflect your soul because soul is you most wild and natural dimension. Nature gives birth to your soul - and that of all other animals and plants on the planet. Your ego, on the other hand, is not born directly from nature, but rather from the matrix of culture-language-family. Soul initiation is often described as a death and a second birth. Like entering a cocoon, your first ego dies and later a soul-rooted ego is birthed, not from culture this time but from the womb of nature.
Wild nature contains all the terrestrial patterns of belonging. Every niche of the world is filled with a life-form that perfectly fits there because it was born to do just that. The wilder the environment [the more complex diverse it is ] , and the more likely it contains patterns of belonging that resonate with your destiny. No matter who you are, no matter what possibilities you contain, there are forms and forces in wild nature that will reflect the nuances of your soul."

Your soul is both of you and of the world. The world cannot be full until you become fully yourself. Your soul corresponds to a niche, a distinctive place in nature, like a vibrant space of shimmering potential waiting to be discovered, claimed,...occupied. Your soul is in and of the world, like a whirlpool in a river, a wave in the ocean, or branch of flame in a fire. As the anthropologist-biologist-ecologist Gregory Bateson shows in his work, psyche is not seperate from nature, it is part of nature"

Bill Plotkin, Chap Groundwork from Soulcraft.

Spirit ~ Soul ~ Ego

For years I followed the path of Reclaiming. I yearned for community. I yearned to be in a place where I could learn and explore who I was. A place of healing. Connecting. Growing. A meeting place ~ cross-roads. A place to Learn, make mistakes and try new things out. Remember. Risk seeing who others were for themselves and in relation to the Other. Expand and be expansive. Be touched and be alive. To make sense of who I was or could be. Find my name or names. Learn the names of others be they human, fey, God or Goddess, plant or spirit. Dare to feel. Dare to grow. Dare to heal. A fullness in my senses ~ of my sense. A meeting of souls. A place of Spirit.

I left Reclaiming and placed my yearning and longing in a relationship. And placed my energies in an idea of a partnership where I would with one other explore, heal and connect. Co-create.

but my healing was not from this heady ideal. This healing was more blood, guts and bone.

For a year now I have been a single explorer. Not solitary as I am joined by friends. And I am no longer on one path. I have been following my heart. Not my head. Which is and can be confusing to my head.

This is because I have been finding a debate going on with myself which I have been experiencing as conflict between the paths of Spirit ~ Soul and Ego.
Which has more importance? Which should come first? Where is the separation. Is there a cross-over or overlap? What do others mean when using the term of Spirit ~ Soul or Ego. How do I frame and/or contextualize who am I in relation to....?Where is my desire? Where is my passion? How and when should I listen to my mind or soul? Where does Spirit fit in?

For me those questions did not just touch my own personal need for meaning or framework to place my self but I had been witnessing a duality and struggle in differing spiritual approaches. Where I have repeatedly found myself experiencing a gap and blind spot with groups following differing spiritual approaches. Part of me longed to be happy and content. What was wrong? Was the error in me? Maybe it was part of being an edgewalker. But questions would still arise on whether I need to pathologies this 'edgewalker'. Was this fear of commitment? Or intimacy? Was what I was feeling a product and consequence of modern western capitalistic society with a lack of extended family and community? And so I would find myself going around in circles.

Then I came across this book SoulCraft by Bill Plotkin. I found a passage which made sense for me - it illustrates the path to the Secret Garden which I think Stewart Pearce refers to the 'Secret Chamber' of the Heart. Here are some key quotes from SoulCraft which tracked this journey of discovery and remembering which has shown me there is a third way!:

"By soul I mean the vital, mysterious, and wild core of our individual selves, an essence unique to each person, qualities found in layers of the self much deeper than our personalities. By spirit I mean the single, great and eternal mystery that permeates and animates everything in the universe and yet transcends all. Ultimately, each soul exists as an agent for spirit."

"Our human souls are embodied {ie made visible in the world} through our core powers, our deepest and most enduring powers, those central to our character and necessary to manifest our soul-level uniqueness. Our core powers can be divided into our most central values, abilities, and knowledge. Our core values are the ideals for which we would be willing to die and for which we in fact live. Our core abilities are the natural talents or gifts indispensable for performing our soul work: these abilities are developed effortlessly or are capable of being honed to exceptional levels. Our core knowledge consists of those mysterious, soul-level things we know without knowing how we know them and that we acquire without effort: they are the facts essential to performing our soul work."

"Your soul is transpersonal and other because it is deeper and far more expansive than your conscious mind. Your soul encompasses many qualities of which you are not yet aware and may never become aware, including qualities you may flatly deny"

"Spirit, of course, is transpersonal, too. It is independent of any beliefs or knowledge you have about yourself, no matter how shallow or deep, ridiculous or sublime. Spirit simply invites you to return to spirit [and the universal essence of the self] through surrender to the present moment."

"Although both are Transpersonal {Soul and Spirit}, spirit takes you in one direction from the conscious mind or personality, and soul takes you in the other. The movement toward spirit is a journey of ascent, a journey of transcendence, while the movement toward your soul is a journey of descent, or what Thomas Berry calls 'inscendence', a journey that deepens"

So on reading this I thought this makes so much sense to me! Why I have been drawn to differing paths ones which embrace Soul and ones which embrace Spirit...until recenty where I have found a third way....Bill Plotkin goes on to describe this split/duality often found in spiritual/religous paths/traditions:

"People who live excessively upperworld lives take a transcendental view of everything. They tend to see light, love, unity and peace everywhere. They are attached to the Course of Miracles or aspire to 'enlightenment' via an ungrounded approach to Buddhism. they avoid getting dragged down into the particulars of life or actively addressing the social, political, or environmental deterioration of the world. They want to exist above it all and are encouraged to do so by many approaches to spirituality....
People who live excessively underworld lives see the world darkly. They tend to see hidden meaning, mystery, and the undoing of things everywhere. They gravitate toward the occult and the paradoxical. They prefer the night or the shadows and may find themselves addicted to the gothic and the arcane."

" A holistic approach to spirituality interweaves the ascent and the descent, rendering balance to the experience of both the upperworld and underworld"

Bill Plotkin goes on to say that soul and spirit are not opposed to one another...

"Soul opens the door to the unknown or the not-yet-known, while the spirit is the realm beyond knowledge of any kind, consciousness without an object. Soul is encounted in the subconsious [ie that which lies below awareness], while spirit is apprehended in state of superconsciousness."

Bill Poltkin suggests the Shamanic model for where the Spirit ~ Soul ~ Ego reside:

"In many traditions, these three realms correspond to three different worlds. The upperworld is the home of spirit, the underworld the home of souls, and the middleworld the home of our human personalities and bodies. The middleworld represents the personal and interpersonal [including the social and political] and the upper and lower worlds represent the two poles of transpersonal, or spiritual".

Humans are like a Tree or a Cross~Roads ~ our root sink into soul and our branches reach to spirit. However, we must not forget the healing of the ego in order to embark on initiation...

" A well-balanced ego is the necessary carrier of the gift of the soul. Soulcraft at the wrong time can undermine the ego's viability. Shadow work, for example which helps us recover rejected parts of our selves, many not be the best idea for people in the early stages of recovery from substance addictions, sexual abuse, or other emotional traumas. A vision quest or fast would not be advisable for clinically depressed person. The soulcraft use of hallucinogens, even if they were legal, would not be wisely recommended to children, most teenagers, or adults with poor ego boundaries"

Bill Blotkin explains his context/meaning of the term ego:

"when I write ego, I refer to a person's everyday conscious self. The word everyday is key: I mean the conscious self while in its normal, everyday state of consciousness. Our state of consciousness - our way of being conscious - can and does change, sometimes becoming deepened, heightened, or otherwise shifted. The conscious self in a significantly altered state lies outside what I mean by ego."

" A mature ego understands the occasional necessity of surrendering to - or being defeated by - a force greater than itself, sometimes during the death-rebirth of soul encounter {when ego surrenders to soul} and other times during ego transcendence { when ego surrenders to spirit}. Ego obstructs personal development when it gets stuck, lost or entrenched at any life stage - when it resists change, loss, grief, or radical transformation at the hands of the gods and goddesses"

Bill Plotkin refers to the need for all humans to go through initiation. This would happen around adolescence. And makes the suggestion that adolescent rebellion can be the desire to find their self and identity in relation of their soul and the Spirit. This initiation would be held by a community.In our western capitalist society this desire to find our soul's core powers,core values and knowledge can easily been mis-understood and mis-interpreted. This natural desire to connect having been warped by the wrong use of the lens of western capitalism.

So now when I reflect on my journey I am reassured that I was listening to my self and soul. It was wise for me to seek therapy to strengthen and heal my ego. Gain an increasing sense of self. Bill Plotkin advice is this that before going on a 'walkabout' one needs the tools and stable support structures. Such as either literally or symbolically being able to read a map and use a compass.

Bill Plotkin, Chapter Groundwork from Soulcraft.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Crossing the Threshold

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitues
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises,
It is only a door.

by Adrienne Rich 'Prospective Immigrants Please Note' in 'The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems 1950-2001.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

“If the prism of your heart is open. In each atom there will be one hundred secrets” RUMI

Shamans and Horses work Magic

Shamans and horses work magic on autistic Rowan
Rupert Isaacson was almost at his wits’ end over his son’s demonic fits, but a riding trip in Mongolia to visit local healers brought an amazing change. From Sunday Times Article....

When Rupert Isaacson decided to take his five-year-old son on a three-week trek across Mongolia on horseback, it wasn’t just his friends who thought he’d gone crazy. His wife Kristin was appalled. Rowan was autistic: incontinent, uncommunicative and given to fearsome bouts of nerve-shredding screeching, even at home. How on earth would he cope?
Isaacson had become obsessed with the idea that his son had inherited his own affinity for horses and believed that if he could take Rowan to the mountainous region where horses originated and seek help from its shamans, he might find a cure. “For a while Kristin thought I was being completely bananas,” he admits. “She wondered who really needed to be healed here, Rowan or me.”
London-born Isaacson, 42, discovered his gift for horses as a child on visits to his aunt’s farm in Berkshire and has made a career as a horse trainer, travel writer and campaigner on behalf of indigenous peoples. In the 1990s, having discovered a family link to a group of displaced bushmen in South Africa, he helped them to reclaim their ancestral land and subsequently founded the Indigenous Land Rights Fund.
Extended periods spent living in the bush brought him into contact with traditional healers and convinced him of their powers. Could they take an autistic boy and succeed in unlocking his mind where western medicine had failed? To find out, the family set off across Mongolia in May 2007 on an adventure with an astonishing outcome – one he is convinced may point to new ways of treating autism, a developmental disorder that is relentlessly on the rise.
Rowan’s odd behaviour became obvious when he was about 18 months old. He seemed to inhabit his own little world; when his name was called, he didn’t look round. He never pointed at things he was interested in, nor brought little gifts to show his mother. Instead of playing with toys, he lined them up obsessively in rows. Then the tantrums started: not the usual “I’m hungry/tired/bored” outbursts that all parents are familiar with, but strange, demonic fits that could come out of nowhere and last for hours.
Isaacson and his wife, a developmental psychologist based at Texas University, were baffled. Autistic children are often obsessed with objects or routines: they also tend to be undemonstrative, avoiding eye contact. “Rowan seemed too emotionally connected to be autistic,” says Isaacson, “but then Kristin looked up the symptoms and he ticked every box but one.”
About one in 500 children in Britain has some form of the disorder. A large proportion suffer seizures. From what we know of autistic people’s brains, some parts seem to be “overwired”, making them hyper-sensitive. A gentle breeze can feel, to an autistic child, like being blasted by a flame-thrower. A fluorescent strip-light may seem to flicker thousands of times a second, causing confusion and panic.
It goes without saying that looking after an autistic child is exhausting. It drove the Isaacsons almost to their wits’ end, but they reacted in different ways: Kristin, the rational academic, put her professional knowledge and energy into finding an effective cognitive or behavioural therapy, while her more romantic husband sought solace in nature. He found he could calm Rowan’s tantrums or “neurological fire-storms” by taking him into the open. In the fields and woods around their home in Texas, father and son could find some peace.
One day, when Rowan was almost three, something unexpected happened. Isaacson, who had all but given up riding, believing his son would be unsafe around horses, did not notice until too late that Rowan had run through a neighbour’s fence. Five horses were grazing on the other side: “Rowan ran in among them and threw himself on his back among the hooves. I froze. I didn’t want to spook the horses.”
Rowan lay there as the horses sniffed him, then Betsy, the herd’s formidable boss mare, pushed to the fore, gazed at Rowan and bent her head in submission – a gesture called “making obeisance”, which Isaacson had never seen a horse make spontaneously: “I thought: shit, he’s got the horse gene.”
He asked if he could borrow Betsy and, as he was saddling up, suggested to Rowan they might get on the horse’s back. “Up!” said Rowan.
“Do you want Betsy to go?” he asked, when they were both on the horse. Rowan said: “Go! Go!” It doesn’t sound like much, but this was Rowan’s first lucid speech. Soon he was talking intelligibly. Something strange happened when he was on the horse. “He began to talk meaningfully, not just babble or recite Thomas the Tank Engine train names,” says Isaacson. “For the time we were together in the saddle there were no tantrums. It became a place of respite and joy.”
Experts who have heard Rowan’s story speculate that there may be a physiological explanation for his progress; that the constant finding and refinding of one’s balance on top of a moving horse stimulates the brain. But what happened next has no rational explanation. Later that year, when Rowan was three, Isaacson brought a group of bushmen from Botswana to the United Nations in New York to protest against land being lost to diamond mining. Their chief shaman, or “wise man”, performed a healing ritual on Rowan. “It was extraordinary,” says his father. “For five days or so it really was like having a normal kid. Rowan’s symptoms started to fall away. The problem was as soon as we went home he tumbled back into the autism.”
After the “healing”, Isaacson’s mind locked onto what he believed was a “logical” question: was there a place that combined horses and shamanism, the two things to which Rowan had best responded? Yes, there was: Mongolia.
Despite Kristin’s reservations, he started planning a trip. He also put together a book proposal which to his astonishment – and perhaps echoing the success of The Horse Whisperer – set the publishing world alight. The Horse Boy had sold to 20 countries andt will be published in Britain next month. Over the Hills and Far Away, a documentary filmed en route, recently had its premiere at the Sundance film festival. The crew that travelled with them seemed an unwelcome encumbrance sometimes, but proved a godsend, says Isaacson: “If we’d gone alone and just reported what had happened, people could have said it was wishful thinking, but it’s there on film – there’s no question of having made this up.”
It’s a key point, for without those wit-nesses this story would be hard to believe, reliant as it is on the power of primitive and little-understood ceremonies. In tribal societies the shaman takes a social, political or health dilemma to the spirit world and comes back from his or her trance with instructions. Although Isaacson claims to have been sceptical when he first encountered healers among the bushmen of South Africa – “I certainly thought at the start it was going to be more a cultural thing than an actual system of medicine” – he also believes that shamanic healing works.
“Once you’ve seen enough people with cancer, or snake bites, or dementia or whatever, healed – and the doctors scratching their heads and saying we don’t know where the tumour’s gone, you come to realise it’s a pretty valid system.”
He’s well aware of how flaky this makes him sound: “It’s outside of our ken because although we did have some of these systems in European culture we destroyed them. In the Middle Ages we burnt every village herbalist, let alone shaman. People might think all this is airy-fairy, but bushmen are very practical people: they live in the desert . . . they don’t do anything unless it serves a practical purpose.
“And just remember the bushmen won the largest land claim in South African history with pretty much all their decisions based on someone going into a trance and asking advice from the ancestor spirits.”
To western eyes the ceremonies they underwent appear bizarre. One Mongolian shaman told them Rowan had been touched by “black energy” in the womb and it was necessary to draw this negative energy away. Another prescribed fermented goat’s milk. A female shaman beat on a drum while summoning spirits with a whirling, dancing prayer. They were hit with reindeer horns and spattered with vodka.
Yet at the end of the first day, Rowan wandered towards a group of onlookers. “It almost sounds as though it was scripted,” says Isaacson, “but he reaches out to this kid who’s at the fringes of the healing circle and says, ‘Mongolian brother’.” Tomoo, the son of the family’s interpreter, had just become Rowan’s first friend.
As their trek across Mongolia continued, so did Rowan’s progress, despite setbacks – intermittent tantrums that saw him refuse to go near a horse and reduced his father almost to despair. At last they reached the so-called Reindeer people, reputed to have the most powerful shamans. After a ceremony there, Rowan’s incontinence was apparently cured.
Rowan is seven now. He is educated at New Trails, a special centre set up by his parents near Austin, Texas, with the money from their publishing advance. “Three months ago he had no maths, now he’s exactly where he should be,” Isaacson says. “He’s started drawing. He’s doing chores to save up for a baby chick. We went away to Mongolia with a kid who was subject to neurological fits, who was incontinent and completely cut off from his peers. He is still autistic, but he’s no longer suffering from these major dysfunctions which were impairing his quality of life – and ours.”
Are there lessons for other desperate parents? Isaacson believes the key to Rowan’s improvement is his connection to animals and nature. He plans to put him through a shamanic ceremony every year, but accepts that this is an Isaacson idiosyncrasy that does not necessarily chime with others. At the New Trails centre, autistic children are given time to spend with horses, rabbits and goats. One of the problems with the endless round of behavioural and occupational therapy Rowan had in his early years was his rigidity, Isaccson says; at New Trails the children can interact with the animals at their own pace.
He would like to set up similar centres in Britain and is riding with Rowan from the Uffington white horse to Avebury in Wiltshire in a fortnight’s time to raise money for an autism programme being launched by Riding for the Disabled.
“Not just autistic kids, but emotionally disturbed kids, or just kids can benefit from being near horses,” he says. “One of the problems of urban life is there’s a perception that horses are a rich man’s thing.”
Would Rowan’s symptoms have subsided anyway? Was it the horse that healed him or the shamans? “We’re not extremists, we followed every single orthodox western therapy under the sun and we still do. We just didn’t see the same radical response. If we had we would have said so.” Yet such is the change in Rowan that his father dares to hope for some sort of conventional future: “He’ll always be quirky, but I now think some day some woman might realise how cute he is and take him on.”

The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson will be published by Viking on March 5 at £12.99. Copies can be ordered for £11.69, including postage and packing, from The Sunday Times BooksFirst on 0845 271 2135
Also listen again to a brief interview with Rupert on BBC Radio 4 Midweek March 4th.