Sense8

Would you like to have a conversation with god? Don’t worry, the Truth is, you are always talking to all Gods at all time from all time for all time. The infinite is very difficult to comprehend in out limited mind. It comes, quite literally, to ones and zeroes. “Bit-banging,” as it’s called.

I’m telling you all this because, if you’re anything like me, you will love the series Sense8. It’s directed by the creators of The Matrix, AND the guy who re-wrote TV production rules with Babylon5.

Omg, this show is my new drug. Last time this happened it was for the movie Serenity. A must-watch if you believe in spooky stuff and the interconnectedness of all things!

Ciao

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Don’t Stay in the Between

This was a favorite saying of my teacher, and for the longest time I didn’t know what he meant. “Don’t stay in the Between,” he’d say, and I could hear the capital B. I knew I was indecisive, but my modis operandi at the time was similar to the Three Frogs parable. That is: Three frogs are sitting on a log and one decides to jump off. How many frogs are left on the log? Three. Because making a decision is not the same thing as acting upon it. My teacher would look at me and say, “Don’t stay in the Between. You can go there for a little while on your way to somewhere else, but don’t stay in the Between.”

When using spiritual power, wavering can have some really negative consequences, the least of which is you don’t get what you were aiming for. Worse is creating the opposite of your intentions in the first place. And if you want to lock horns with real power, you better be able to make a stand, and a firm stand, no matter what. Your opponent is always looking for a waver or a wobble because that’s a weak point. And the weak point can spell your doom.

I remember a time when I was driving in Wyoming with my then fiancé. It was twilight, and we were on the backroads of a national forrest. As we came over a rise, there in front of us was a herd of deer. The herd scattered to either side of the road, except for one fawn who couldn’t decide which side to cross to. It kept turning in circles, and I could see the panic in its movements: “Do I go left? Do I go right? Wait, left? Or right? Or…” And as a result, it remained in the middle of the road, in danger from my oncoming vehicle.

We stopped, of course, and the herd was able to rejoin as a unit and proceed. The lesson was as clear as day: Don’t Stay in the Between. Of course it’s difficult to know which side is better, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as following through to one side and forsaking the other, come what may. Indecision can be paralyzing! As my father likes to say: “Panic in one direction!”

When conducting spiritual rites, it is important to do so with conviction. We Remember Our Intentions. We choose our actions and do not waver in our decisions. When we call quarters, when we draw the circle, when we give our prayers up to the divine, we do so in incomplete knowledge. We act in faith. If our faith is weak, our actions are weak. When we act in the conviction of our faith, we can safely cross through the Between to the safety on the other side.

When we learn precision, it can be fun to skate on that razor’s edge, perfectly balanced Between. When I asked my teacher why it was wrong to stay in the Between, he replied, “You can get stuck there.”

It reminded me of the Yule Rit when I couldn’t remember which way to breathe, and in that moment, I realized I could hold the ceremony here in this moment. I had all the power in that moment, and I could have derailed the rit. But there was a tug from the back of my mind that said, “Just choose and go! Don’t stop! Keep it going!” So I chose and lept forward.

I thought about the fawn, trapped in the middle, and wondered what it would be like to be run over by a ritual… I shuddered, and was happy I had followed my teachers advice before I knew it.

Don’t Stay in The Between.

Remember Your Intentions

There are many parts of my questioning and lessons that I just don’t remember. Like a dream, I would gain the wisdom and understanding only to have the details become fuzzy, and the words forgotten. He made sure it was that way. There was even a time I tried to bring a tape recorder, and when I listened to the recording afterwards, the effect was the same. It sounded like he would jump from half-finished sentence to the next, but while I listened it made perfect sense. But trying to write it verbatim? Impossible. He was saying things unsaid, yet they were heard. And if you tried to write the unspoken bits, it would all flutter away like butterflies….

It was maddening. So I gave up.

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The Basics of Ritual — Light a Candle

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I had gathered the materials Shaman had asked me to gather: three candles, one red, one white, one blue, and a box of wooden matches. He had prepared a private meeting space in which we could practice. He directed me to arrange a place on the floor where I would sit and perform the ritual. I arranged my materials in front of me: candles to one side, matches to another, a plate on which to stand the candles, and a small bread dish for burnt matches. I waited for the lesson to begin.

We sat there for some time in silence. Sometimes he would do this, just randomly. He would stop, do nothing, and wait for me to notice something. It reminded me of the stories of the martial arts masters who would take on a pupil. Unlike our school system, which involved a lot of talking, this form of learning involved a lot of noticing. It was a very difficult mode for me to slip into. I was used to the chatter of a classroom, not the silence of the real world. Changing gears was mind-bending.

“You have already completed the first four steps of the ritual,” he began. “Can you tell me what those steps were?”

“Um….” I looked at him blankly, my mind racing through possibilities of what he might mean. “Well, I just set everything up…” I began.

“Yes… That’s number four,” he hinted, “what else?”

I thought back, but my mind was blanking. Usually I was good at being put on the spot like this. I never minded in class when the teacher caught me off guard because I could usually talk my way out of it. I knew the teachers means me no harm. My banshee of a mother, on the other hand, she would catch me off guard and demand in tones of fire and brimstone for me to justify the smallest of activities. “Why are you sitting there?!” she would yell, as if that was the worst crime in the world, and I had to guess why. Usually it was because she hadn’t done something and was feeling bad about it and projecting it all on me, but lord knows if I was honest, I’d get back-handed across the room. Over the years I became an expert at scrambling for a plausible answer that could soothe her rage. Teachers were easy. They were not about to hit you and they actually delighted when you got the right answer. Instead of feeling disarmed like my mother, they would express joy as if I’d given them a gift. It made classroom participation easy.

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Basics of Learning – Asking Questions

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Our line of Shamans was a line of misfits. My teacher was the first teacher to have multiple students. His teacher was the first one taught outside of the family line. But the fundamentals of the teaching remained the same. “As a Shaman,” he once said, “we get to play ‘fast and furious’ with the rules.” That thought stuck with me, and I thought I had some idea of what he meant. I was an apprentice now, so I was determined to learn everything I could.

“When does my training start?” I asked, expecting a schedule of lectures, workshops, and hands-on training. I was surprised by his answer.

“Now. Ask Questions,” he replied, grinning like the Cheshire cat. I could hear the capitalization of the word ‘Questions.’ So I delved a little further.

“When does my training stop?” I asked, half-guessing the answer.

“When you run out of Questions,” he answered as I expected, but when he did, and I could sense that to be a half-truth.

“So it takes about three years to run out of Questions?” I asked slyly, hinting at his earlier remarks that training lasted three years. I could feel him bristle under the Question, and made mental note: he does not like to be cornered.

“Just about!” He laughed nervously, so decided I to drop that line of questioning. “Just ask questions? Okay, what are the Rules?”

“Where?”

“The Rules of Shamanism… You know, what are the Rules I’m supposed to follow?”

Where?” He repeated, and I finally caught what he was saying.

“Everywhere…. The BIG fundamental rules. The Universal ones.”

“There are Universal Rules?” he asked as though he was surprised, and his flippancy was starting to get to me, however, I figured it was a test. Everything was going to be a test for the next three years. I swallowed my pride and soothed my irritation.

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The Year in the Desert

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Even as I went into this desolate landscape, I went with hope in my heart, a man at my side with a home waiting, and joyful animals at my feet. I was so much like the Fool Card one sees in Tarot Decks, it was a cliché. And like the Fool, I was to be changed by my journey.

I still love the desert to this day, don’t get me wrong. There is a haunting beauty there that speaks to the artist in me. The sound of the wind across stone, through juniper and scrub pine is not something you easily forget. The deepness of the night where you can still see The River of Stars sings to my primal soul. The fierce survival of the Pup fish in Death Valley reminds me of the hope of that one voice in the Darkness… Here this fish lives in water that is so saline it would kill me if I drank it, and still the species fights on living in it, though their lake was gone and they are in the middle of a desert. Talk about the triumph of life! So fragile, yet so strong!

A lot like me.

When I went into the desert, it was with a migraine and a medical mystery. When I left the desert, the mystery was closer to being solved, but my marriage was falling apart. I didn’t realize how much my husband’s ability depended on his ability to lie to himself.

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Timothy Leary’s Ducks

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I had asked Shaman about the Yule Ritual: why I was left for last, and why I didn’t feel a connection to the community when I rejoined the circle like everyone else. His eyes sparkled and danced. “But you made a connection with me.” There must have been a look of pleading on my face because despite his obvious joy in the prospect, I didn’t know the significance, so I felt no joy when he said it. To him it must have meant something though, because he paused like he was waiting for an answer from me. Instead, I plied him with another question.

“Yeah, okay… but what does that mean for me? I’ll never find a community? I’ll always be on the outside looking in? I mean, I’ve always been the odd-man-out. Is that just going to be my life??”

Shaman smiled, “You too, eh?”

The tension fell from my shoulders and we laughed. He told me of previous Yule rituals where he’d forgotten people in the darkness and they stayed there even after the lights had been turned back on. We shared a few stories, and I found he was a great person to make laugh. Whenever I came up with something really clever, he’d lick his fingers and make a tick mark in the air. He was goofy, irreverent, and smart… scary smart. I knew I wanted him to be a big part of my life.

“Have you heard of Timothy Leary?” he asked. I did, so he continued, “Have you ever heard of Timothy Leary’s Ducks?” I couldn’t say that I had. “Imagine that you and I are tripping our balls off. We have a spiritual experience, and something walks across the carpet. Our brains aren’t equipped to fully translate what has happened—it was a mystical experience and new—so our brains come up with the next best thing. And because you’re a woman, born and raised where you were, you see a duck. And because I’m a man, born and raised the way I was, I see a goose…” He paused for dramatic effect. “Neither of us is wrong.

“Semiotics.” I replied. The blank look on his face let me know he wasn’t aware of the term, but I expected that. Few people had. I was lucky enough to have picked it up as my Senior seminar course in college. “It’s the study of symbols and meaning, and it’s rooted in culture. To Western societies, white is a color of purity, but to the Japanese, it’s a color meaning death. Do you know ‘The Name of he Rose’ by Umberto Eco? He’s a leader in the field of semiotics and wrote fiction books to prove his non fiction theories. Brilliant author, and he would totally dig Timothy Leary’s Ducks.”

Another lick of the fingers and a tic in the air. I’d managed to impress him four times in the evening. I was pretty pleased with myself. But it was time to go, and my head was starting to hurt in a way that told me if I didn’t get home now, I might not at all, so we called it a night & made plans to meet again.

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The Migraine Begins

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It started on on around January 23, 2003. I say I don’t know how it started because it was a migraine, and those were so common for me, even ones that would last weeks, that I don’t know exactly when it started. I only know that whenever I talked to a neurologist about my migraines, they dais, only go to the ER if it’s the worst headache of your life. January 23, 2003 is the first mention I make in my journals prior to my first ER visit for this migraine. It wouldn’t be my last.

By the time I’d called for Shaman’s help, my fiancé had already taken 40 days of leave to nurse me through the worst. I’d been in the hospital for 4 days for an IV DHE infusion. I had 20 hours with no pain, and then right back up to “please, God, kill me now!” levels as soon as the medication crapped out. My savings was gone, I was selling everything I owned just to eat. Neither state disability nor other services could help me. Migraines aren’t listed as a debilitating condition, because for everyone else, migraines END. Mine refused to, and I was desperate.

I can remember how brief it was, considering. He was honest with the bad news that he couldn’t do much, but that I was doing everything right. However one part of his healing struck both of us. There was something he did that only one person before him had done, and that was stare into my eye, face to face, to see what he could see. “Most people can’t look eye to eye for that long…” he mentioned…

“I figured if I want this to work I better be willing. I mean, it’s not the first time someone has done that to me…” (or that I’d done to someone else…. though I didn’t remember I could do such a thing at the time.)

“Yeah…” he began, ” you still were able to look longer than anyone else.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, knowing we’d stumbled on something.

“I don’t know, what does it mean?” and he turned his head away and laughed.

“What was that for?” I asked, somewhat perturbed. I knew when someone was blowing smoke up my ass.

“What?” he asked, genuinely shocked that I’d noticed. “All that…” I noticed, waving to his change in posture, his difference in mood, his pulling away. Even though he was as old as my father, I could tell there was an attraction there. He blushed brightly through his wrinkles. I noticed it made him look younger and older at the same time. Younger because of the blush, older because of how the color darkened the lines on his face.

“Oh,” his voice was lower and softer, “I can see the woman you are to become, and it threw me for a moment. In a different lofetime we were something … else to each other, but that’s not now.”

I remember what made me willing to invite him back to my home and this was it. It wasn’t the admission he was married. There are plenty of men out there to whom a wedding ring means absolutely nothing, so that wasn’t the convincing piece of evidence. No, the convincing piece of evidence came earlier.

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A New Year

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I knew my life would be changed after that ritual, I just had no idea how much. No one could have known how much, and if I had known beforehand, I’m not sure I would have made it through. And though the day dawned just like any other, I could feel the change already.

For one, my thoughts were still swimming… Why was I left for last? How could I feel when he had selected me as his next victim? Why did he keep passing me up? And why, after I felt the wilderness, after I went through there, why didn’t I reconnect with the community?? Why did that make me so sad?? I felt like I’d been left, only I knew I hadn’t been. I remembered singing the words myself, “We are a new people, stronger than before…” Only I wasn’t, and that seemed like an ominous sign.

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The Yule Rit

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We filed upstairs hand-in-hand and made a circle in the hall. I saw the three women, who sat facing one another, a single candle in their midst. I soon would see nothing but the faintest shadows of the person next to me. I remember there were dim lights that were on when there was the calling of the corners, but after we were seated, and the first notes went up, those lights were dimmed, until there was only darkness. And the call went up, unsteady and unsure at first…

“Ooooooooooooooooooah.” I breathed in deeply and ventured a little louder. I could hear others around me get louder as well. “Ooooooooooooooah!” I breathed in deeply, settling into a rhythm of quick deep breaths like back when I sang in choir, and the slow exhale of tone that was formless, shapeless, and pure. I felt something staring at me from the darkness, like when you know someone is watching you from the back of the room. The hairs on my arms stood up, but it was time to breathe and “Ooooooooooooooooooooooah”

Swish…

He’d just passed behind me. I could have sworn I was next, but he passed me by. The crowd was becoming more secure in itself and I could hear some people were off key, and others were trying to sing on key (whatever that meant) and we struggled along, some groups going accidentally quiet at the same time as they synchronized breaths, so I tried to stagger mine with theirs so there would be no soft spots, when I felt that chill again. “Oooooooooooooooah!”

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