Day one of trial run at Westbourne Farm, the permaculture pioneer of southwest Brisvedas ~ between the Ipswich turnpike and the Wacol Bushlands, there lies a chicken decomposing under the house, the scent wafting in my bedroom window for a night-long meditation on death.
Learning to commune with Spirit is a process that requires a huge amount of trust, a deep willingness to embrace uncertainty and allow Cosmos to speak to us through means we are often too quick to discount as woo-woo in this age where linear rationality and material reality reigns supreme.
I often find myself wondering, What even is Spirit?, like I’m some Native American wannabe, but we don’t have to be Indians to commune with Spirit. I use the term “Spirit” in my journalling practices because it’s a word that comes easily to mind for me and because it seems to speak of a higher power that is beyond me, but which I can access.
That said, I’m starting to see that Spirit is not beyond me, not some supranatural force that exists outside ~ and yet, it must be called upon to enter my life.
It’s confusing for me because so much of my meaning-making is done through a deeply conditioned dualist perspective. If I feel like I cannot navigate this human experience using only my human wits, then I must need to call in some suprahuman power to guide me. But the power I seek for guidance is precisely what makes us human.
To live without access to this inherent power guiding us is to be de-human: the dehumanising forces at large in the world are those that separate us from that which is naturally inside us ~ empathy, compassion, intuition, and faith in the knowledge that Spirit is within, if only we can learn to communicate with our unconscious.
I sense very strongly that Spirit is nothing more and nothing less than the deep wellsprings of wisdom that reside in those parts of our Being we are only dimly aware of.
[Three miner birds (who I believe are my primary Spirit guide) are visiting now, as I write this. My life-path number from Dan Millman’s interpretation of Pythagorean numerology is 30/3. Because I believe the whole external world is an expression of our total consciousness, I believe these birds have come to visit from my unconscious to convey to me the message that yes, these words are truth.]
Spirit is not some otherworldly force we must call in from outside ~ and yet, we must call it in: the wisdom of Spirit does not communicate with our conscious mind if we do not create the space for this communication to occur, so in a sense it is outside us, in the sense that in our hyper-rational modes it remains outside our conscious awareness until we expand our conscious awareness to include that which we are yet unconsciously aware of.
How do we do this? How do we expand our conscious awareness to include that which we are yet dimly aware of?
I believe a basic principle of learning to commune with Spirit ~ with that which is yet buried in our unconscious awareness ~ is to keep an eye out for patterns:
if you observe a pattern, honour it by taking some action to integrate whatever insight might have arrived through interpreting the meaning of the pattern; the more we observe, honour, interpret and integrate any messages we divine from the machinations of Spirit, the more Spirit knows how to communicate with us.
[7:07 ~ resuming this draft after having it pointed at (in a comment at 11:17) that I woke from a dream at 3:14 … pi.]
An example from my own experience is the observation of pattern in numbers.
During periods of rapid spiritual growth in the last few years I have begun to notice patterns in the numbers I observe around the place ~ 11:11 or 3:33 on a clock, 22 on a letterbox, then 022 at the end of a phone number, then 22% battery left on my phone, three ducks lined in the row of the timespace continuum.
Many a naysayer will poo-poo this as nothing but woo-woo: “You’re only seeing those patterns because you’re looking for them,” as though this negates the significance of our observations.
People who say this are evidently not aware that we make our own meaning. It may be questionable to conclude from developments in quantum theory that we create our own reality, but it seems beyond reasonable doubt that we make our own meaning by interpreting reality ~ in that sense we are certainly participants in the creation of reality, and what else is reality but what we interpret reality to mean.
I think we tend to forget that we make our own meaning ~ a consequence of an education system where we are taught what to think, not how to think.
But how did people arrive in the first place at the ideas we are taught at school? Through observations of pattern. Long before educational institutions were a thing, humans were left to their own devices to make the meaning that has gone on to inform the structures of our institutions. This process continues, and what follows from this is that by taking responsibility for the process of our own meaning-making, we also continue to inform the structures of our institutions.
We are the culture makers and the meaning brokers.
What are the devices we use to make meaning and create institutions? Our physical and metaphysical sense organs ~ our eyes and our minds.
So with my eyes I perceive patterns in number and with my mind I interpret what they mean (to me). (I have done some cursory and haphazard research into numerology, but I’m less interested in what, say, Dan Millman has to say about numbers than I am in what numbers mean to me. [7:31]
[7:33] So, for example, I finished long-handing this draft at 7:31 and by the time I was at the keyboard the clock read 7:33, which might make more sense if I enumerate what each number means for me at this point (some of these are pulled from Pythagoras via Dan Millman, others from a numerologist I once saw, and others, especially 5, are my own interpretation):
1 ~ certainty
2 ~ masculinity
3 ~ expression/communication and sensitivity/compassion (from Dan Millman)
4 ~ femininity
5 ~ the Cosmic Joke
6 ~ ?
7 ~ higher mind
8 ~ abundance
9 ~ completion
So I read the time period 7:31~7:33 (a period of 2 minutes) to mean assertive but compassionate communication about ideas from the higher mind, and this gives me confidence that what I’m composing is relevant and significant.
How have I arrived at this meaning? By observing a pattern, and honouring it by taking some action to integrate whatever insight might have arrived through interpreting the meaning of the pattern, and by trusting that wisdom arrives through metaphysical sense organs that process their own form on non-linear rationality.
I’ve started to keep a numbers journal, where I honour the pattern I have observed by noting the numbers I see and the thoughts or events occurring at the time. I don’t always know what the numbers mean, but simply noting their emergence into my conscious awareness is a way for me to integrate the broadening of my conscious awareness.
If I don’t know what the numbers mean, I trust that at least they are communicating to me that my path is unfolding appropriately. Sometimes in the darkest times when everything else around me seems meaningless and pointless, a numerical pattern will emerge and it reminds me that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I also honour observations of numerical pattern by taking screenshots on my phone, a simple action that says to Spirit, to my unconscious, Yes, I’m listening. So my phone memory is filled with screengrabs like this one:
I told a guy once that I had been seeing many auspicious numbers, and he poo-pooed it by saying “all numbers are auspicious ~ if you get too much into that you’ll just be left with a phone full of screengrabs that mean nothing”.
This is like the idea that we’re only seeing the patterns because we’re looking for them ~ in attempting to negate your insight, the naysayer unwittingly reveals a truth that undermines their own denouncement: yes, all numbers are auspicious … everything is auspicious if we choose to interpret it this way.
Imagine how such an attitude might transform our experience of suffering, for example. Got hit by a bus and broke your leg? Maybe the bus stopped you from crossing paths with a rogue gunman committing a massacre round the corner. Observing a pattern of repeatedly attracting partners who are emotionally unavailable? A good sign that you need to look at your own emotional availability.
And how it might transform our experience of what we previously considered to be meaningless and innocuous. Saw three magpies eating worms on the way home from school? Maybe magpies represent a paternal figure for you, and by observing this behaviour you are reminded that you need to take more responsibility for your own physical and spiritual nourishment ~ this might remind you to have a snack and do some meditation when you get home, instead of having a coffee and cramming for that exam.
Whatever it is, if we believe it to be auspicious, then it is. By taking small signs in the external world to be meaningful messages from Spirit or from the material expression of our unconscious, we begin to open a space in our existence where spiritual meaning can begin to pervade our interpretation of all that happens.
So much of the modern malady is caused by a deep sense of meaningless we all feel to some degree. If we can extract meaning from our daily existence by interpreting reality according to our own organic, ever-growing framework of reference points, we might stop seeking meaning in shiny external pursuits like career, relationships, wealth and status ~ our daily encounters with instances of meaningful relevance will keep us feeling that everything is unfolding according to plan and we’ll feel less inclined to chase meaning externally or to impose our interpretation of reality upon others.
So if you’re seeing patterns that seem not-uncanny, you’re probably on to something and you’ll be surprised by what begins to emerge and how strongly it begins to emerge if you just honour it and trust that you’re learning something.
I just finished experimenting with my first shamanic journey, and [at 9:39am] I feel very relaxed and at peace, which is a distinct difference from the depression and anxiety I’ve been feeling for the last however long it’s been since I felt normal. I feel like doing yoga again, for the first time in ages. I don’t feel like reading or otherwise using the mind to distract myself from the painful reality that consensus reality is painful sometimes. I feel like blogging though ~ I feel like expressing myself. The instructions I read for the journey include finding some way of expressing the experience. So here goes.
I set up in bed with a headband for an eye mask and some lavender oil for the relaxation feels. I started by trying to think of an ‘anchor place’ and eventually settled on a campsite I found at the beginning of my Canberra–Brisbane cycle tour last year, a truly idyllic place that could as easily have been a setting in The Lord of the Rings as it was an old creek bed somewhere between Canberra and Yass on a dirt track called Horseshoe Road. With my phone on airplane mode I used the Prana Breath app to do the “Box Breath” recommended in the same instructions (a 4:4:4:4 inhale:retain:exhale:sustain ratio).
(This is what I talk about when I talk about “technoshamanism” … for me it has nothing to do with raves and smacky ‘ecstasy’ pills.)
After seven minutes of this I was ready to slow my breathing pace down a bit when I pressed play on the drumming track I had downloaded. I cruised along with the simple beat, feeling my body as it moved with a naturally rising and falling breath, but before long I felt like keeping pace with the drum beats and I was breathing fast again, remembering the rapid-breathing used in holotropic (and other types of) breathwork sessions, and I started to feel tingling sensations throughout my body, stronger than the tingling I am familiar with from breathwork.
Intrigued, I slowed my breath down and the tingling went away. The pace of the beat could not have been faster than the pranayama ratio of the Box Breath, yet I was experiencing
what I suppose are symptoms of hyperventilation these tingles and an increased body temperature only minutes into the drumming track, so I’m guessing the drums combined with the breathing had a distinct physiological effect.
I don’t mean to over-analyse it too much, but that’s what I was doing during the journey anyway, so reporting on that is valid here too: I have an over-analytic mind as it is, and I haven’t been doing any mindfulness practice at all for months, so it’s not surprising that my mind would be racing to keep up with these new experiences, skeptically writing them off as merely symptoms of hyperventilation.
I suppose that when I become more accustomed to journeying and if I combine the practice with a regular mindfulness meditation, I will be able to let go of my conscious reasoning more and enter deeper into the unconscious.
Another interesting element of the experience is that the lavender oil on my skin smelled remarkable reminiscent of three olfactory hallucinations I have experienced during breathwork and love-making, which I have generally referred to as experiencing the ‘scent of the buddha’, a phrase/concept borrowed from the teachings of Osho …
… I can’t go into the details of those hallucinations right now, and it is enough to say that
I am only now beginning to learn that we can hallucinate with our noses as well as with our eyes and other sense organs. I mean, I have had the above experience of these, but I am just now beginning to learn that these are verified elements of hallucination. I’m wary of the term ‘hallucination’, and it would perhaps be better to say that I ‘imagined’ the scent of the buddha during my earlier experiences,
but anyway, the scent of the lavender oil on my skin today was the same as those imaginary smells of my three earlier experiences.
Those three times I was almost certain there were no essential oils involved (the first two times were with therapists who might have been using oils ~ the third time was with a lover who definitely wasn’t, and neither was I), so I had pencilled them up as hallucinatory or mystical or divine or something.
Now that I’ve experienced the exact same smell when I know for sure that I was using lavender oil, I feel uncertain about my former conviction that oils were not used in the first two instances.
Basically, this olfactory element amounts to another experience that challenges the reliability of the senses, which was a major theme of the insights I had during my spiritual emergency in January 2017.
Ultimately though, the most resounding element of the experiment was how it changed my state of mind from being anxious and tired to being relaxed and energised ~ it was like a super-charged meditation! Actually it was more akin to being yoga drunk ~ I don’t think I’ve ever emerged from a seated meditation session feeling as profoundly transformed out of stress into relaxation. Maybe the purpose of shamanic journeying is not to relax, but surely relaxation is a fundamental pre-requisite of successful shamanic journeying, the same as it is for good meditation and yoga.
So there you have it ~ my first brain dump about my first experiment with shamanic journeying.