I spend a lot of time spinning in my head. Thoughts about the relationship between spiritual power and humility, about the difference between sheer human evil and mere human clumsiness, about the optimism and folly in the idea that humans are evolving a new, wiser consciousness. I think about the difference between compassion and co-dependence, about whether Spirit loves humans, and about how a white person is to know whether this powerful urge pounding at their insides is a new call from Spirit or just another form of the old spiritual hunger that has already devoured so much of the world. And mostly I spin, spin, spin with thoughts about how to find the Holy, fold myself into its loving arms, be healed, and be made new and be made happy.
I have a master’s degree in theology and I spend too much time alone.
Yesterday I saw a squirrel perched nervously on the on the edge of my house’s roof, above the front door, tail whipping viciously, eyes bulging from his out-straining head. I glanced around the yard trying to see what could possibly be freaking him out so. I looked back in time to see him spring from the roof, arms and legs splayed outward in the four directions as far as they could reach, as if the air itself might possibly carry him. If a squirrel could possibly shout “AIEEEEEE!” he was doing it. Down he floated, into a Korean lilac bush which somehow caught him and trampolined him up and out onto the driveway. He ran off.
I thought: I need to be more like that.
Then, I was spraying a light mist of water over the tiny tobacco seeds I planted. I was thinking about the experience I had last summer when my teacher blew tobacco smoke over me and an instant, dramatic healing took place, the most direct, provable transformation I’ve ever experienced. That memory is fraught with complex questions for me. Then, bending down, almost with my face in the dirt, I saw the tiniest green leaves, slightly bigger than the heads of pins, emerging from the wet, black earth. Perched atop each minuscule leaf, a globule of glimmering water; a finely made crown of liquid light.
I thought: I need to be more like that.
Martin Buber, the Austrian philosopher, had this useful advice: Forget about trying to seek an encounter with the Holy. All you can do ready yourself for the encounter. Readying yourself guarantees the encounter will come.
How do we ready ourselves? Buber says: by walking through the world seeing everything as a “thou” instead of as an “it.” Buber said that modern culture has robbed us of the world as “thou” because, for the industrial machine mind (my phrase, not his) everything is an “it”, which really means that we see everything in the world except ourselves as objects - as things – disposable replaceable, lifeless.
Facebook fills me with dread. Of the 1.3 billion users (FYI: also the population of China), half appear to be shaman-yogini-healer-reiki priestesses, sages and mentors who will guide me to find my true purpose. I’m guessing that some of them are “full o’ shite.” Over the upcoming summer solstice weekend, there appears to be about 5,000 workshops in “transformation” within driving distance of my house. How can any of us tell who is “full o’ shite?” Worse: How do I know if I’m full of it?
My answer: We have one transformation to work on. We have one purpose to discover. (Sorry, but it is not to learn to how to “SHINE!!”) It is simply this: to become a person who makes everything they encounter a “thou.” We can lean this directly from nature, anywhere. But if you need guidance, find a teacher who, at the core, simply helps you make everything a “thou.” All the other stuff is story, technique, rules, tools, practices - and that’s all fine, and full of beauty. Thou the world. Thou everything. Make yourself ready. The encounter will come.
Jaime Meyer is a member of the board of directors of the international Society for Shamanic Practice. www.drummingthesoulawke.com