Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not my thing

I was never a fan of Halloween. Even as a child I dreaded the costumes, going door to door, too, as I am and have always been extremely introverted. Walking up to a stranger's house to ask for hand outs? Never my thing. Also, I have always been confused by those who enjoy being scared. I do not.

When I worked in restaurants, my distaste for the day increased. St. Patrick's Day, New Year's Eve, and Halloween are by far the worst days of the year to work in restaurants that serve liquor. Early on in the evening people have fun - I guess - but once they start really getting drunk, in general people become very mean, especially so on Halloween.

Here on East Capitol Street, Halloween is over the top. We get hundreds (literally) of trick or treaters, including busloads of kids coming in from the suburbs. It is mayhem on this street, something that the petty criminals of the spirit world really love. I will not appease them! No way.

During my years with Reclaiming, I learned how to honor the ancestors at this time of year by building altars, by remembering my beloved dead. I loved the Spiral Dance ritual during which we listened to the advice of sage ancestors, danced the spiral together in order to become more empowered to do good in the world. I loved Samhain in my community. It was wonderful!

But Halloween? Nope. Encourage the kids to be greedy by gathering as much candy as possible, then have to deal with the blood sugar levels rising then crashing? Dress them in ugly costumes most likely made in China? Approach houses where the people greeting the kids purposely try to be frightening? I do not understand the point of it. People say it's fun. Is it? It's likely I will never understand.

But then, I'm not fun. I'm not playful. I am a very serious person. I honor my ancestors throughout the year, especially as the days grow shorter. But Halloween? Yuck! That is all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After Sandy

These pics are from a couple of weeks ago. I'll get out between clients today to survey the scene on Capitol Hill. There will be pictures.

I am a shaman. It is not a glamorous calling. It's interesting but I would not exactly call it fun. For instance yesterday when I could have been getting drunk and playing cards with the neighbors as we sat out the hurricane/nor-easter, I was here at the chateau, reaching out, trying to sense the soul of the storm, to understand, and to anchor in some way at least a tiny bit of the energy for the benefit of the living beings in its path.

Does that sound crazy? Well, it very well may be, but this is what shamans have always done, this is how we behave in the midst of huge storms. We've been doing this work for 100,000 years at least, probably longer. There is precedent for the madness.

I was in touch all day with shamanic colleagues from all over the world. We gathered in groups on Facebook - one group consisted of old cronies from my witch camp years, people who live in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Another group was centered on this coast, consisting of people with whom I've worked on the Civil War battlefields and at locations in the District. I talked to people on the continent of Africa, in Australia and Europe as well. The only people who did not respond to my requests for contact were my old cronies in San Francisco. They were celebrating the World Series there which is their right - I guess. San Francisco might as well be another planet sometimes. Good lord.

Would it be interesting to hear what we sensed? Our impressions are poetic, much like what you hear from culinary aficionados when they describe wine - you know, they talk about earthy flavors, tannins, a long finish, etc. If you are interested, I will describe what we felt. But it might only be interesting to we shamans.

One important thing I learned from one of my cohorts (the powerful priestess who brought me "into the blood" of Mongolian shamanism), is that trying to perceive the entire storm was ridiculous. No wonder I had a headache. She said she found a current embedded in the storm, one that she needed, and rode it "for awhile." I was trying to see the whole thing all at once. I am so ambitious! No wonder I was thinking about LSD.

A spirit guide showed me how to locate the "Pole Star" in the vast galaxy of wind and rain, a relatively fixed central place in the storm (not the center, by the way) from where I could check out the interactions within the storm, the relationships among the different energies, but without getting dizzy.

Of course it was still overwhelming. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

It occurred to me last night that I've been trying to do the same thing with WWII; perceive the whole entity of that war, which is absolutely impossible. I must find something particular to study. What I choose will become the Pole Star of that terrible war, a place to anchor, from where I can learn more about what that dark storm was about.

Not today, though. Today I'll be sending a steady stream of Reiki up the coast to New Jersey and especially New York City. The devastation is horrible, truly horrible. New Yorkers are tough but they will need all available healing energy, money and help to get through this.

Also, I'll be working today. The city is closed down, including public transportation, but my clients today live in the village and can walk over for their massages. It will be good to put my hands on living beings.

I am grateful for my calling as healer and shaman, even though it is so weird. I feel lucky to have figured out a way to be myself. I am a shaman.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Slow Sandy

Both pics were taken last week, outside the Willard Hotel.

Shalom from rainy Washington DC. The epic winds that are supposed to be part of this storm have not yet arrived in DC. I'm still in my before-the-drug-kicks-in state of mind, thinking maybe it will turn out to sea, maybe it won't be that bad, maybe the weather people and satellite pictures and hurricane hunters are all wrong. 


I love having lots of time to think about things, being (as I am) a very slow processor of the vast amount of incoming sensory information that life is a body is about, though may I say here and now that too much time to think isn't that great either. My mind can get itself into a twist, spiraling inwards, creating bizarre stories, perhaps simply to amuse itself. My mind! What a character. Hence I will make my way to the Capitol Hill house of dear friends today, to hang out, watch a movie, feast and of course drink bourbon.

Before I head out, though, I'm feeling the need for a lot of coffee, which will likely propel me into a cleaning frenzy. Since I keep my house pretty clean anyway, I'm considering emptying the bathroom closet, cleaning the shelves and replacing everything in a neat and orderly fashion.

I could sit around and watch movies all morning, but this storm does not radiate not a sit-around energy. At least, not yet. But the day is young and according to the weather people, we've got at least two more days of it. 

Those of you not in northeast America, wish us well? We are not great at twiddling our thumbs. Thanks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Are you experienced?

I woke this morning thinking about LSD. Yeah, weird. My first thoughts revolved around memories of the ways the hallucinogen of hallucinogens was packaged. There were small, tube shaped pills of many colors called "barrels." Purple barrel, orange barrel, etc. I also remember blotter acid, a drop of the chemical on a tiny piece of paper. Many forms of blotter had graphics on the paper, such as the pyramid with the eyeball in it that appears on the back of U.S. $1 bills. Microdot was another form that came in different colors, as did windowpane acid which looked like tiny, square shaped hard candies.

The classic form was LSD dropped into a cube of sugar. I never did that kind, but I tried all of the above, back in the day. When hallucinogens came into popular culture, their effect was powerful, even for the people who did not get high. It was part of awakening from the post WWII state of shock. Our society needed a big ole slap across the face. The drugs, the music, the social movements, were all part of the awakening.

There's no way I would ever say that an acid trip was fun. It was inevitably harrowing every time. Enlightening, yet challenging on so many levels. The world of concrete reality came apart while tripping. It is a very powerful shamanic drug. Every trip can be a shamanic initiation, at least it was for me, every time.

People ask how it is I see the reflected world that I often photograph, or why I take time to gaze at the sky (or - kiss the sky, as Jimi said). People talk about my "great eye." Well. I didn't learn how to see that way from any of my shamanic teachers, nor is it something I've always done. I learned to see in this way while tripping. My training in the shamanic and wiccan arts helped me refine that vision, helped me learn how to integrate what I had learned from tripping, but it was the drug that opened my perception.

By the way, I'm not the first shaman to be shaken out of my certainties via a hallucinogenic drug.

I was thinking about LSD today because there was always a point, after swallowing the windowpane, microdot, blotter or barrel, while waiting for the drug to take affect, that I would become briefly anxious. An acid trip is a ten hour commitment to being absolutely stripped of all assumptions, of everything one "knows" for sure. It is a very vulnerable state which is why the people who brought LSD into my culture, the researchers I mean, watched their subjects very carefully throughout the experience. Here's a link to a history of LSD, from wikipedia.

It took awhile, after swallowing the drug, for it to take effect. Sometimes, during the brief period of anxiety about what I had committed to doing, I wondered if maybe it wasn't going to happen, if what I had swallowed was just a tiny piece of paper with nothing in it. Sometimes I hoped it wouldn't work. Being sure of things, having the grid of assumptions underlying everything, feels safe, comfortable.

Once into the trip, though, I personally never had a bad experience. I learned a lot during those trips but, would I ever take it again? Nope. There is no need. I was fully psychedelicized by age 23. After that time, I never took it again.

Why am I thinking about it this morning? It's because Sandy, the Frankenstorm, is moving so very slowly. It's overcast this morning, with a bare hint of a breeze. It doesn't feel like anything is going to happen, it's like that waiting period for the drug to kick in. Maybe it won't happen. Maybe the storm is going to dissipate, turn out to sea, maybe somebody at the weather channel dropped some acid and made the whole thing up.

Probably not, hey?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Talk about quirky!

Baltimore's Washington Monument

I spent yesterday in Baltimore at the Miracle Wellness Center across the street from Johns Hopkins University, in a meditation class.

I hardly ever get to Baltimore, but when I do I'm struck by how different it is from Washington. Gritty, odd, artsy and - to me - intimidating, the city soul of Baltimore is like the crazy uncle who lives in the attic. It's fun to pop in. More fun, though to come back to DC, back to Capitol Hill, my beautiful village.

Today in DC and Baltimore, people will be getting ready for Sandy, the huge superstorm headed our way. From tomorrow afternoon through mid-day Tuesday we will be dealing with the unbelievable power of nature in the form of high winds and lots of rain. The weather people are beside themselves; they've never seen anything like it: a combination of a tropical hurricane and a severe Nor'easter.

I grew up in the midwest, in tornado alley. Tornadoes come up quickly. About all one has time to do is run for the basement. They pass quickly, too. Tornadoes are fast. Hurricanes are slow.

It's surreal, looking out the window here at the chateau at the perfectly blue sky. The windows are open and I'm sipping the sweet autumnal air. It's hard to believe the storm is coming, but it is, it definitely is!

After clients this morning I'll get out to gather supplies. My plans include a big pot of vegetable chili. I also bought a hurricane size bottle of Maker's Mark yesterday, just in case. I'm not too worried about the chateau as there are no large trees in the yard and this house has stood firm since the 1880s. I'll put the trash and recycle cans in the grotto, clear the few leaves scattered in front of the house, hunker down and hope for the best.

Sandy is another completely bizarre event in DC. Our baseball team, which in the past sucked, was great this year, almost winning the pennant. And now this - a hurricane roaring through the midatlantic, the week before the election.

Good lord, what next?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I am reading many blogs these days but not commenting on the ones that have the captcha "please prove you aren't a robot" filter. I can't read the letters or numbers, and when I try listening - I just get creeped out. Can't understand what the hell they're saying. But I'm stopping by, even though I can't comment.


What is it I always say? Oh yeah - that everyone is a shaman. When I make the argument for this belief of mine, I always use silly examples of the way in which people sense energy then dance in alignment with it, for instance at the supermarket when everyone rushes to queue up at the cash registers at the same moment.

I love watching birds follow currents of energy, such as when they suddenly take flight from a tree, fly in a big circle, then come back to the same tree, perhaps even landing on the same branch (I don't know that's true - I always wonder).

I guess birds are shamans, too.

But back to the humans - here's what I'm wondering about. I'm curious about whether wars are like storms that pass through our hearts and psyches en masse. We feel threatened, or we feel we must prevail no matter what. Even we pacifists feel the energy of war. It's our singular reaction to hope and pray that the peace will be kept, while others take up arms and walk willingly into the battlefields. Everybody feels it, though. At least, everyone felt WWII.

I wonder if there's any way to let the storm pass without acting out the energy. I wonder if any culture has ever tried to do so.

The thing is, we have always waged war. We are a warring, violent, aggressive species. Back in the days before guns, we did a lot of damage, but nothing like the kind of carnage we've been able to manage since the invention of guns. Guns, bombs, drones - they are like crack cocaine for the violent streak in our nature. We always make up a good story about why we have to wage war.

I'm not suggesting peace at any cost. In WWII for instance, I am very happy that Hitler was defeated. Good lord. I'm not that much of a pacifist! As a shaman, though, I'm curious about the energy of that war, the dark, world-wide storm. Was it backwash from WWI? I need to think about it some more.

Where is a time machine when you need it?

Happy Wednesday. Shalom.

Martin Luther King, one of my big heroes. Wow.

Monday, October 22, 2012

An Earful from the Greatest Generation

From the Memorial Bridge between Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial. That's Georgetown in the distance on the left side of the pic. The tower on the right is in Silver Spring, MD. I think. Or maybe it's Tenleytown.

As a "women's lib" era feminist, I was furious at the patriarchal culture that forced women back into the home after WWII to have babies while the returning soldiers took their jobs. The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, still boils my ass. Grrrrr!

It's always convenient to have a target when in a mood to vent one's spleen and I should say I'm not the only person in history to point the finger. During the late 60s and 70s, as our society began to wake up from the post WWII culture-wide shock and denial, from the repression of our grief, well, we were mad as hell and weren't going to take it anymore. The newly awakened are often irracible. We definitely were. In fact, this is the first time I've ever tried to see the big picture, the reasons why the 50s were so weird. My eyes are open and I am learning so much!

Right after WWII, no one thought in terms of a "new normal," as we do now. A few people understood the world had changed forever, but I'm not clear how many people could understand the reality that, as a whole, the western European and American psyche was in deep shit, in literal shock. I'm talking about the oversoul of our culture. It was whacked.

What society could spring back immediately following the killing of sixty million people, witnessing the devastation of the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, too? Who could manage to obediently go back to the way it was after all the scrimping and starving, the worry, loss, and other hardships? I mean really.

But we won the war, so we were supposed to be content, reassume the roles we played prior to WWII and carry on as if nothing had happened. Though we beat the Axis powers, no one was the winner in that war. Probably there is no such thing as winning a war. 

Speaking of which: there was no such thing as a Ward Cleaver. He and other characters in film and on TV played the role of the gentle paternal figure, bringing home the bacon and playing baseball with the kids on the weekend. Ward was a pop up, two dimensional character, the mild mannered father who follows the rules, is centered and balanced. Ward was a fantasy, a form of post-war propaganda meant to convince people that everything would be fine if only they would live their lives according to the rules. At least this is some of what the ghosts were telling me today at Arlington.

Character was seen as a very important quality at that time. Part of having character involved self control. Talk therapy was seen as only for the very seriously mentally ill. And anyway people weren't supposed to dwell on the horror of it. They felt it was best to put it behind them as soon as possible. Hence the men came back, drank, smoked cigarettes, and tried not to think too much about it. The women, too. In addition, the women had babies. Lots and lots of babies, including me. It was during the 50s that we became so obsessed with shopping. We started accumulating stuff then, trying to fill the darkness with cheerful, happy things. 

The new normal worked better for some, not so well for others. I don't think my parents had such an easy time with the transition. They were tender hearted people who hoped to do good in the world. At last and finally in my life I am thinking about how hard it was for them, not only dealing with the shock at the end of the war, but they were also targeted as suspicious by McCarthy's Un-American Activities Committee. As dangerous Commies, it was hard for them to find work of any kind.  

What a crazy weird time to come into the world, good lord. No wonder we Boomers are who we are. I have a lot to say about this, but this is enough for now. Shalom.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ward Cleaver's Ghost

Between clients today, I watched hand-to-hand combat training films from WWII. I love youtube.  The films are interesting for so many reasons, especially in light of the fact that this is what my father did in the Army - taught these skills.

WWII was way before we took martial arts seriously. Most of the techniques look more like wrestling to me, but what do I know? I'm a healer, not a warrior.

Under different circumstances the films would seem funny, corny, etc. but as I am honoring the dead from that war, including my father, they're coming across rather differently than they usually would. One thing that strikes me is how, at the beginning of every one of the films I've watched, they talk about contact sports, usually boxing and football. The narrator talks about how there are penalties for clipping in football, how you don't punch a man when he has gone down in the ring.

Then they say that warfare is not like boxing. They talk about breaking every rule in the book, if it keeps you alive.

I was thinking that today no training film would begin by explaining that in war we don't have to play fair or be good sports. Who would need to hear that now? The fact that young men at that time were thought to be fair minded, rule following good sports is kind of incredible. If indeed they were, can you imagine the shock of going into battle? Every rule of good behavior, every expectation of fairness, of thoughtfulness and kindness was tossed out in order to survive. Can you imagine what that did to the innocent minds of these young fellows?

And then there was coming home from the war, trying to suddenly follow the rules again. Is it any wonder that the dads on TV during the 50s were so emasculated? Allegedly they are the kings of their castles, but it's the moms in 1950s sitcoms who actually wear the pants in the family. The dads come home from the office, have a highball and read the paper. You don't see these guys punishing the children, except through thoughtful conversation. They kiss their wives on the cheek, sleep in twin beds. They are placid, they play their roles, but there is no passion there, no fire. It's so weird.

Here Ward Cleaver is going to wear asbestos gloves to do the grilling, after who knows what happened to him during the war. Total propaganda. And ... asbestos. Oh, the things we didn't know then. Good lord.

The war ended. FDR was dead and the nation was in shock. Women were thrown back into the home to have babies. Men were thrown back into the "civilized" world of suits and good behavior. It boggles the mind, trying to imagine how that felt.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to Arlington Cemetery. Looking forward to trading stories with the ghosts, specifically the Ward Cleavers, the men who were told to maim and kill, after which they were instructed to be passive and rule-bound. How the hell did they do it?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

This Year's Ghosts

Every year at this time, the Dead whisper to me. In particular since I've lived in DC, it's the dead soldiers who want to tell their stories, sing their songs, pass on what they remember. This year my work with the dead is all about World War II.

Please don't ask me to explain the affinity I have with dead soldiers - I am the biggest pacifist you are ever likely to meet. For whatever reasons, they talk to me, and with respect I listen carefully.

He looks so sad.

World War II was awful. They are all awful, yes. But WWII, good lord. 60,000,000 people died in that war. Six zero, zero zero zero, zero zero zero. It is completely inconceivable. A big storm passed through the western world between 1939 and 1945, sucking everyone into its dark energy.

In every country affected, men, women and children did their bit, scrimped, lived on very little food, did what they could for the war effort. They endured hardships we can hardly imagine now.

Though in fact the United States is involved in fighting wars all the time, unless we're in contact with living soldiers, that fact can slip our minds very easily. In WWII, no one ever forgot it was happening.

An American W.A.S.P.

The fact that women were empowered to get into the workforce, because of all the men were fighting, is sickening. It's no way to become empowered!

I spent a considerable amount of time at the Air and Space Museum today, looking at and touching WWII aircraft, gazing at the photos of the famous pilots (from every country involved - the exhibit is quite democratic in that way). There were mannequins dressed in the uniforms of each country, standing in glass boxes in a shadowy aisle on the second floor. As I started up the stairs to have a look, I heard a little kid say he was scared. Hell yeah - I was too. Not so much in the main display, but that dark aisle up the stairs, the one with the mannequins, is creepy enough that the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

Creepy. A mannequin with veins? It's like Madame Tussaud's. 

The people who fought in that war were part of the Greatest Generation. They survived the Great Depression, then gave up everything to go to war against the Axis powers. My mother drove a truck during the war, delivering supplies to a munitions factory. My father was in the Army. He taught hand-to-hand combat.

I honor my parents. They were tough, way tougher than I am. My hat is off to that entire generation. May those who have passed away lay down now and rest in peace. May those who still linger pass away peacefully, leaving all the memories of that horrible war behind.

We will remember you, I promise. What is remembered, lives. Shalom.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sweet late October

Where I grew up in the American midwest, fall and spring were fleeting. They were glorious seasons in which everything happened all at once. In spring, everything bloomed within a two or three week period. It was like an explosion of the life force, slightly unnerving (at least it was for me). Likewise in fall, the leaves turned quickly, all at once, then dropped en masse. Unlike spring and fall, in the midwest summer and winter drone on and on.

One of the things I love about the midatlantic landscape is our lengthy spring, our lengthy fall. Both seasons stretch out luxuriously over a period of three months, gracefully unfolding. It's possible here, if you get out and about often enough, to see every gorgeous seasonal change.

In the midwest if you have a busy week at work, you might miss most of the spring bloom, most of the leaf color, but not here. Both seasons go on and on. We who live on this swampy plain are very lucky.

Right now, close to the end of October, is a particularly exquisite intersection between summer and winter. It's no longer hot, but not yet blustery. The days are warm enough that we can still wander around without jackets, and the nights are only slightly chilly. The leaves are slowly turning beautiful shades of gold, orange and red, and gently beginning their graceful fall to the ground.

This morning there is a soft rain. It's warm enough to open the windows. I can feel the soft air, hear the beautiful sound of falling rain. It's not a hot rain, as we have in summer, not a cold rain like we'll experience beginning in December. It's the perfect autumnal rain, melancholy, but not sour. Autumnal rain is bittersweet.

I love fall. Shalom.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Trust first, then faith. That is my recipe.

I like the idea of trust as a noun, as in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, for instance. Used as a noun, the word is solid, a foundation. The earthy sense of trust, when used as a noun, resonates for me.

Trust seems, when I can access it personally, to be an inactive state, a base level confidence in my ability to see clearly, a foundational assumption that when push comes to shove (as it does in every human lifetime), I will figure out how to get through it. Trust is intimately connected to intuition. I pay attention as much as I can, I practice sensing the subtle energies. Of course I make mistakes when interpreting what I notice, but I trust that even in those circumstances, I will eventually see I've gone offtrack and will be capable of bringing myself back to center. Trust for me is not about perfect behavior, perfect thinking, it's about knowing that when I fall down, I can get back up. 

Trust reduces the need for the fantasy of control. We do have control over a few things, not much though. Trust, for me, instills a sense that I have the capacity to make good decisions about the things I can control, and the ability to release the urge to micromanage other people, situations, the weather, who wins the presidential election. Trust, in the Reyaverse, is four cornered, extremely stable, dependable. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

To me, the above is the essence of trust. 

Faith, on the other hand, though the word is definitely a noun, feels more verb-like to me. Faith is something we engage with. We take a leap, or fly high, inevitably crash and burn. We have crises of faith and struggles aplenty. This is the faithful lifestyle, never boring and definitely not four cornered.

To engage with faith I must be sincerely willing to be vulnerable, revealed, doubtful, confused and yet still leap, sometimes tragically, sometimes squarely, sometimes in such a clumsy way. We, the faithful, leap even when it is unpleasant or embarrassing. It's how we roll.

The blindly faithful must leap and struggle, too, but they aren't well seated in the four cornered stability of trust. Maybe that's why they're always so afraid, hardened, embittered and blameful. I would be. But I can only guess as I am not blindly faithful to anything - really, to anything.

Here, a snip from a Mary Oliver poem (complete poem here) that describes perfectly my experience of faith:

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading.  And I do.

Me, too!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Is there a difference between faith and trust? You tell me. I've been thinking about it. I think there is a difference though the words to describe that difference are eluding me.

I've also been thinking about "blind trust" and "blind faith," which are - in the Reyaverse, exactly the same thing - blindness. Both have to do with betrayal of one's heart of hearts, it's the act of ignoring that soulful depth some people call intuition. Dazzled by external or internal fireworks and special effects, it's hard to remember that in every individual, cause, or ideal, there is a little man behind the curtain. Nothing is perfect.

We want to believe in the spectacle, I guess. We as a species are quite gullible, quite suggestible in the presence of perceived glamour. It's sobering to think about.

Blind trust and blind faith occur when people won't, can't and just don't continually question what is "real." I admit it is exhausting to continually wonder, good lord it certainly is. Of course it's tempting to let someone else decide what we should trust, what to believe in. Some of us who find the contemplative life unappealing turn to celebrities to guide us, or religious figures. We also turn to our leaders. Blind faith seems like it could be such a blissful state. After all, ignorance is ... but what I notice is that the blindly faithful are almost always fearful and suspicious. It doesn't really work.

Faith and trust come have to come from within. Right?

Turning over our inheritance of insight so as to blindly follow others is not the only way trust and faith are obscured. Something I write about often is the unhealthy, wasteful practice of blaming others. I find the blame game so discouraging!

President Obama has beautiful hands.

Blame obscures the clear sight and clean insight needed to access trust and faith. Pointing the finger at each other, also at ourselves, is a colossal waste of energy that serves no purpose except to get people riled up. It is not empowering. It chips away at faith and trust, hardens and embitters the human heart. Bloody hell.

When leaders are very charismatic, it's easy to fall into a swoon that leads to the blind belief that they are really "together," they know what they're doing and we should turn 100% of our decision making power over to them. This happened in Germany in the thirties. That sure didn't work!

I'm reading a book right now about the world prior to the Second World War, written by a pacifist. It's called "Human Smoke," by Nicholson Baker. Whoa, or should I say wow? It is an eye opener! Good lord. The book is motivating me to re-examine all my assumptions. Again. Yes, again.

I'm compelled to question my assumptions continually. It's strenuous but this is the path that leads (maybe) to the clear eyed faith and clear eyed trust I seek. It is my path.


Monday, October 15, 2012

They're here

iphone picture of yesterday's boiling sky

Shalom from haunted DC.

Every year right about now I begin to notice the spirits, the ghosts, the wandering dead. It feels like they are newly arrived, but my guess is that they're always hanging around, though not as palpable as in October.

The leaves fall, at which time huge chunks of sky, obscured by the leaf canopy in summer, are suddenly revealed. Similarly, or it goes in the Reyaverse, in October the veil thins. The ghosts become apparent. Their presence is so strong at this time of year, they are nearly visible to the "naked eye," (whatever that means).

People say they don't sense the ghosts, but I think they do, and I am entitled to my opinion. Ever had that creepy feeling that someone is right behind you, but when you turn around, no one is there? Yep, that's what I'm talking about. Rational people immediately discount the mystery of moments like that by creating a plausible story: it was the wind, or the leaves blowing on the sidewalk, something clanking around in the backpack or bag, etc.

Autumn is a great time to commune with the Dead. No doubt I'll make my way over to Arlington one day in the next couple of weeks, hang out with the soldiers. I also have been aware of a lot of horse ghosts this year, shuffling up and down the streets, through carriage house walls and such.

Halloween is the only night I will not speak to the spirits. It's the night when all the creepy, mean, angry dead come out to have fun at our expense. The kids look cute in their outfits, I suppose. It does seem to be later in the evening when the chaotic, let's-do-some-damage atmosphere takes hold. Those ghosts are the bullies and petty criminals of the spirit world. That's why we give out candy, to appease the angry spirits.

What do I mean "we?" I won't hand out a single piece of candy to that crew. I'm not afraid of them and I won't be bullied. As usual I will seek refuge under the roof of the house on Tennessee Avenue, with the dogs and my ex housemates.

Until Halloween, though, I am enjoying the contact. Most of the spirits in DC mean no harm. They're just hanging out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Happy Hour of Life

Shalom and happy Sunday.

The phrase Life is short was, once upon a time, meaningless. I tried to take it in when I was young, but time moves so slowly then. I thought it referred to the possibility of being killed or acquiring a fatal illness. The natural lifespan of homo sapiens, somewhere between 70 and 90, seemed, from the vantage point of my 20s and 30s, luxuriously long, hence the phrase, Life is short, frightened me. It was like a threat, that my lengthy life might be cut short.

Yeah, well that was then and this is now. Closing in on age 60 it is clear as a bell what the phrase means. Time flies at my age, literally flies. It's kind of cool - seriously - to be capable of appreciating the reality, the idea of how long the world lives, how quickly we humans pass through incarnation. At 60, one can not take life for granted any longer. At least I can't, and I consider this a great gift.

The Tidal Basin, up close.

Daylight is precious now in the northern hemisphere; this solar year is waning quickly. In the same way that these days I appreciate the shortness of human life, in autumn I'm capable of appreciating the light in ways I can't during the summer.

Yesterday I walked for hours, wandering, gazing, taking pictures, soaking in the crystal pure autumn sunshine. It was a particularly beautiful day, with temps in the 60s F. The sky was a shocking blue. I love the cloud people, but there was something so pure about the clear sky yesterday. I felt light, as if the sky was lifting me up, out of swampy Washington DC. It was glorious.

Especially gorgeous was the Tidal Basin. There was just enough of a breeze to break up the surface of the water. The reflected sunlight was dazzling. A million diamonds could never be so beautiful.

If morning is analogous with youth, and afternoon can be compared with adulthood, and if old age is the evening of life, then right now, poised between adulthood and old age, I am in the happy hour of life. So true! Especially on a gorgeous day like yesterday.

L'chaim, y'all.

That's the Washington Monument reflected in the Tidal Basin.

Friday, October 12, 2012


How do you say shalom in Japanese?

There are lots of iconic photos from the Cold War. I think of Kruschev's "We will bury you!" pose, the angry face, the clenched fist in the air. Whoa.

Of course there are thousands, maybe even millions of pictures of the Berlin Wall, though perhaps the most well known icons of that era are fictional, like James Bond. All those spy movies from the 1950s and 1960s - they were all about the Cold War.

Ellen reminded me that along with learning to duck and cover, we were afraid of mutants, the result of nuclear fallout. Everyone's favorite mutant, Godzilla, is a powerful and enduring icon of the Cold War.

I loved the Godzilla movies. I've seen a lot of them, mostly during the 1970s, almost always when stoned. The first Godzilla movies are meant to be terrifying, as is right and proper. Oh what we did to Japan, oh man. We were ready to do anything to end the war, but who knew it would be as bad as it turned out to be? Who could have imagined?

It's interesting that as time went on, Godzilla became less terrifying, almost cute in some of the films. Godzilla even became a hero, fighting for Japan against other mutants, in a few of the later movies. I don't know what to think about that!

As I remember it, in the U.S. as the years passed, the post-WWII paranoia faded. I didn't think a lot about the Soviets or the Chinese, I didn't worry about nuclear annihilation after about the age of 7 or 8. We had enough to contend with here in America, what with the assassination of a president, his brother, and the great Martin Luther King, Jr. When the sixties arrived, we were watching the Vietnam War on television, also the marches for Civil Rights and we were reading about what we called "women's liberation."

The Cold War ended, for me, somewhere around 1965, which is one reason it was such a shock in 1979 to visit Berlin, to see how real it still was. One of Reagan's legacies is the end of the Cold War. By then it was ancient history for me.

It's interesting to think about.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It was so long ago, wasn't it?


Do good fences make good neighbors? They can, certainly, but of course there are many situations in which it doesn't work that way, such as with gated communities, for instance. Feudalism in the 21st century. Good lord.

I was thinking about the Iron Curtain last night, remembering the one time I was in Berlin, during the winter of 1979. I remember vividly the drive across East Germany from Hannover, and how nervous our Hannoverian friend Claus was as he drove the autobahn from west to east. He told us that if we stopped for any reason, even a flat tire, we could be shot. 

The border guards were severe, indeed. They really looked at our passport pictures, then at our faces, then back at the pictures. They searched the trunk of the car, confiscated some newspapers Claus had forgotten to remove. They even took a John Irving book I was reading at the time. It was like being in a spy movie. I wonder what could have been seen as subversive in that book? I will never know.

I loved West Berlin. Every island city has a special energy, the result of being separated from what surrounds it. San Francisco is such a city, as is New York, each of them surrounded by water on three sides. West Berlin was a man-made island set inside, and completely surrounded by, East Germany. The energy was like an internal combustion engine. I hardly slept a wink for the few days we were there. 

One day we went into East Berlin, just to see. The difference was shocking. No cars, no shops, no pubs, no restaurants. We saw very few people. It was stark. We drove around awhile, silent and sober. In East Berlin I could feel how exhausted I was. Coming back into West Berlin was like entering Oz. Wow.

I read on the internet somewhere that it's possible now to follow what they call the Iron Curtain trail, a kind of political ley line indicating where east and west collided during the Cold War. I wonder if the energy is still palpable, or if it's now just a story, a part of history. 

All this brings to mind what an old cohort of mine used to say, that she had "razor sharp" boundaries. I am a big believer in strong, clear, healthy and resilient personal boundaries (something I continue to work on, year after year). I'm not sure "razor sharp" is healthy or resilient, though I'll concede sometimes necessary, or at least that's what the people in charge decided during the Cold War.

Was it necessary? It's interesting to think about.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A nice day for a walk

Shalom from crisp, autumnal DC.

I've been slammed at work, a good thing, mind you, and especially nice since it has been overcast and chilly. Dark, chilly days are great days to receive massage. Ahhhh.

Today I will go see the Sufi acupuncturist, after which I'm free until a late afternoon client. As if to dance in blissful shamanic alignment with me, the weather gods have produced what I think of as a perfect fall day - cool but not chilly, with abundant sunshine. I am so lucky!

While I'm walking home from my appointment this morning, I'm going to be thinking more about the world the baby boomers grew up within, a world that has, for all intents and purposes, passed away.

A mystic whose opinion I trust suggested to me once that after WWII, the sixty million souls that were killed decided to reincarnate straightaway, hence the baby boom. I've been thinking about that notion for a couple of years. Fascinating. It resonates for me, indeed. I have a lot to say about it but not today. Today it's too gorgeous to sit around on the sofa in serious contemplation. Hell yeah!

I will say this: life is good and I am grateful.

This is the fall weather as it approached Eastern Market last weekend. It was still warm at the market when I took this picture. Within an hour, the front had arrived. The temperature plunged by 20 F. Exciting!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Early on, we were very afraid


I decided yesterday that the best way to understand any particular period of history is to study what happened right before it, which of course requires studying what came right before that, etc.

What I was thinking about in particular is the Cold War. After World War II, especially considering how many people were killed (sixty million, I read somewhere. 60,000,000!), also because it must have come as a nasty shock to realize the Nazis really had systematically killed millions of people - to learn the rumors weren't war propaganda, and after seeing graphic photos of the damage done by the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - well - paranoia is an absolutely logical reaction. Ergo: the Cold War.

Nature abhors a vacuum, hence the push after the war, in the U.S. (at least), for women to have babies, lots and lots of babies. Here we came, born high on ether or whatever anesthetic they gave our mothers, slapped on our little baby boomer butts straight out of the womb, after which we were placed in
play pens so as to amuse ourselves, surrounded by a haze of second hand cigarette smoke. It was a lot like what they call crate training, only that is for dogs.

As soon as we could walk, we were taught to "duck and cover." I learned how to allegedly protect myself in case of a nuclear attack by the time I was in kindergarten. Five years old, and already worried about Soviet bombers dropping the big one. What a way to begin a life! Wow. Or should I say whoa?

I heard an interview with Mark Helprin on Studio 360 Saturday afternoon. Mr. Helprin was promoting a novel he wrote, set just after WWII. He said people didn't really talk about the Holocaust in the 40s, that the first books about it were published in 1953 or 1954. I think people couldn't really take it in for a few years. It was just too much to understand.

The U.S. as well as the Soviets, in spite of the damage done in Japan, continued testing what we called "A bombs." It was as if the military actually thought nuclear warfare was an option. After WWII, people were a mess. How could they have suddenly gone back to "normal" life once the war was over? They were in shock.

After WWII, western culture was frozen, for a number of years, in a state of severe PTSD. People went about their daily lives, and things looked ok on the surface, but oh my, all was not well.

This is the world into which we baby boomers arrived. Good lord. It explains a lot.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Shalom from CHILLY, rainy, gloomy DC. (Yay!)

Silly me. I decided to look at FB first thing this morning, before my daily practice of prayer, stretching, ohmming and meditation. Big mistake.

One of my FB "friends" posted a heinous lie about President Obama. I'm trying so hard to keep a thick skin until the election, or at least run away, run away whenever I see anything about the campaign. What was I thinking, opening my ipad first thing?

My mother used to say I was "sensitive - too sensitive." I guess that's right, and believe me, it is as much of a curse as she thought it was, but it is also a blessing. My uber sensitivity makes it possible to do good work both as a shaman and as a bodyworker. I'm like the Princess and the Pea when doing massage; searching for areas of congestion in my clients' tissues. When I find an area of engagement, I spend more time there, making for a more effective massage. In my profession, ultra sensitivity is a great thing.

Being too sensitive is also an important part of the shamanic job description. We work with the subtle energies after all. Shamanism is not like crushing a beer can on your forehead. Actually, neither is bodywork - or - it shouldn't be.

Some shamans shut themselves off from the regular world of interactions with humans in order to orient themselves more towards the astral realms where we do our work. I tried that for awhile, when I was learning the Art, but it didn't work so well for me. I need to be part of the world, in the world. Engagement with the world of people, animals, plants, weather, seasons and all things physical is a significant aspect of my Plan to Stay Sane.

What I realized this morning is that along with keeping me sane and grounded, my morning practice shields me from the impact of shadowy, fearful, ridiculous things I really don't need to take in, such as that FB ex friend's post, in which she said "a friend" told her Obama was going to take away the right of members of the military to vote. And she was serious! Good lord. I looked at her page for 20 seconds. She is hoping the CIA can be returned to its former glory under Romney. She loves Paul Ryan.

Of course I unfriended her, then got right to my practice. I won't make that mistake again. Whew!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The weather made me do it

Pedi cabs, before the weather shifted.

Shalom from stormy, dramatic Washington DC.

I love it when a big weather front blows through. In DC, since no building is allowed to be taller than my buddy the Capitol, you can see the weather arriving from the west - not that I need to see it actually because I can feel it coming. I feel it in all the places in my body where I've been injured, also everywhere the inevitable drying out that's a part of aging has rendered me less flexible, like my knees (for instance). I feel it in my sinuses.

What's really interesting is that I feel it in my mind. There's an anxiety that precedes the front, an ominous sense of foreboding. I'm sure not everyone feels this way when a front approaches, but I am one with the weather. Just before a storm arrives, I feel so apprehensive! I'm sure this mood is instinctual. It can't be rational because after last summer I can't wait for cold weather to arrive - that is - in my conscious mind.

All my life I've had every physical comfort you can imagine. I've slept in warm, comfortable beds, always had enough to eat, etc., yet my brain stem still fears the coming of winter. It's interesting and even a bit alarming to understand how strictly we homo sapiens abide by the power of instinctual cues. We make up lovely stories about our behavior of course, which we rarely seem able to connect to what we call the "natural world." (As if we aren't part of nature?)

We are elaborate in our frontal lobes. Nevertheless, the source of of most of our mythology, most of our rationalizing and figuring out of the world springs from the same part of the brain that regulates heartbeat, gives us gooseflesh when it's cold and churns up romantic fantasies of undying love when we lust for someone.

Where would the arts be if not for the survival instinct that insists that we mate and have children? It's interesting to think about.

In response to today's plunging temperatures and brisk winds, my brain stem motivated me to make a hearty stew with the grass fed beef I bought from the organic meat lady who is at Eastern Market on Tuesdays. The stew will simmer for awhile. The smell of the simmering stew is calming my fear of winter. In a little while I'll add carrots, onions, potatoes, peas and when it's done, lots of finely minced parsley. I'll light a lot of candles in the chateau tonight, wear something cozy and warm.

All this, to please my brain stem. Good lord.

Friday, October 5, 2012

You can't make this stuff up

Shalom from beautiful, crisp, sunny Washington DC.

I'm not the first nor will I be the the last person on our beautiful planet to notice the things that, in our society, we call coincidences. I prefer the term synchronicity (thanks Uncle Carl).

Those who identify with the idea of coincidence tend to dismiss the interconnections among all things. Those of us who like the idea of synchronicity believe, in our heart of hearts, that All is One; everything in interconnected at many levels and through the dimension of time. Synchronicity is ongoing, ever present. Sometimes, we busy, hard working, easily distractible homo sapiens notice the connections. That's coincidence, at least it is in the Reyaverse. It's when we notice.

We of the shamanic lifestyle practice noticing space/time interconnections. The world I live in is so interesting!

The tapestry of time/space/stuff is not only interconnected, but impossibly complicated, so, although every synchronous event has meaning, we can't explore all of the connections. If we did we would never get the dog walked, the laundry done and so forth. We would be unable to care for ourselves, we would sit in slack jawed trance all day. This is why mystics go on retreat sometimes. In more extreme cases of mystical inquiry, shamans and mystics go live on a mountain top so as to have more time to contemplate the mysteries. That's great, I guess, though I think in this form, as human beings, we're supposed to engage with the world most of the time. My opinion.

Mastery of the art of reading the subtle energies, for those of us who are not called to live on a mountain top, has to do with choosing which synchronicities are worthy of notice, then focusing and delving deep when we have the time to do so. I love the idea that we have to be discerning in order to function well as mystics. It seems oxymoronic, but it isn't. Paradoxical? Yes, of course.

Lately I've been dancing at the center of a spiraling wheel of synchronicity. Many of these coincidences are worthy of notice, so I've been thinking hard about where I want to devote my precious moments of mystical contemplation. For sure I'm going to be thinking about a very old debt I have finally cleared, thanks in no small part to a real miracle. The coincidence of clearing this debt is that it means someone I love very dearly can now move forward with important ancestral work which has been, as she said, "heavy on her head." Coincidentally, her ability to move forward now that she has the money will provide ample opportunity for healing for both of us. Wow.

Another synchronicity - one I will not contemplate further - has to do with the fact that the second I moved the Shiva Nataraj (Shiva dancing in a ring of fire) out of my "fireplace," the weather changed, just like that. Literally within a ten minute period after I moved Lord Shiva, the cool breezes blew in. You can't make that stuff up, and yet, should I devote time to meditating on it? I think not.

I'm glad, though, that fall is finally here. Cheers!

The sky wasn't actually green. Took this with the iphone. Very fun color interpretations.