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.
There are some things Shaman had me drill into my head so I couldn’t forget. Like mantras, I would carry them with me until he told me to stop. The biggest one (which I didn’t understand why it was the biggest) was remember your intentions. I was having trouble with the concept, so he explained.
“You have a cat, right?”
“Has you cat ever tried to knock thongs over to get your attention?”
“Yeah, and more. She seems to know what’s fragile or important, and knocks that over…”
He chuckled, “That’s a cat for you… Now imaging that magic was real, and we could light a candle with the snap of your fingers? I’d hate to wake up in the middle of the night, groggy, and snap my fingers at the cat to scold it and accidentally set it on fire!”
It was something I’d never considered before, and my mind blew wide open. I thought of all the wrong meals I’d ever gotten at a fast food joint. What if someone accidentally made a potion instead of lunch? I thought of all the people on the highways. What if someone with road rage, instead of just cursing at other drivers, actually cursed other drivers?
So much of Shamanistic work depends on us getting carried away in the moment, but there always must be some part that cannot get carried away, that must remember the purpose of the work. And, too, it is easy to react in the moment to short-term demands, only to have those trample all over our long term goals. I thought of all the times I got carried away in the moment, and wondered if just repeating the mantra was enough to train my mind to remember not to get carried away. I feared it would take a lot more.
You never want your teacher looking at a mistake and asking you, “were those your intentions?” in that parental tone. So I breathed a sigh of relief that we lived in a world of physics. Sure, it’s fun to think about being able to snap my fingers and have what I want to happen to just happen, but it’s not so fun when it’s true.
When I was home for Thanksgiving, I had been extremely angry at one of my family members. After she left to get on a plane, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief, and felt the stress of her presence wash off of me. Without meaning to, I released all the anger and frustration into the sky.
It had been unseasonably warm (which no one was complaining about), but a storm suddenly blew in. It happened so fast that in the 10 minutes it took to get home, it went from a beautiful autumn day to all hell breaking loose. I was used to fierce storms growing up in this area as a child, but this was something else. Even my father, normally nonchalant, said:
“If it gets much worse than this, I might head to the basement!”
We should have head to the basement.
Everyone had gathered in the front room from our various bedrooms in the house. Our front door suddenly started to whistle louder than a tea kettle. I knew that meant an extreme pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the house, so I pulled opened the door. (It took some force.) Outside, it was a torrential downpour, yet the wind was blowing the rain sideways. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. My father swore and laughed.
We stood there, transfixed, as the worst storm any of us had seen raged on outside. The only thing I could think was:
“Was I that angry?”
Later we learned that it was a tornado, strength F0, that spawned just south of my neighborhood, bounced over our house (the trees just above the rooftop were sheered off), and continued north through our neighborhood. The damage was incredible, even for just a little F0 tornado. The old oak trees still stood, but other trees didn’t fare so well. There was huge debris that had landed on cars, destroying them. There were trees and branches that had crashed into the roofs of houses, punching holes through slate roofs, cracking across beams. And litter everywhere.
How did it hop over our house and the houses next to us, but slam into the one after that? As I walked through my neighborhood surveying the damage, I understood why: our house was in a depression with houses on hills around us. We even had a sewer drain in our yard because of it. It looked like the tornado had hit the hill before our house and bounced over us, landing a few houses over.
I marveled at the luck of it all.
And I knew the speech I was in for when I returned home.
Remember your intentions!