On Practice and Context

Hello friends and happy New Moon. We have all sorts of energies at work today, with the New Moon solar eclipse. The New Moon is in the sign of Cancer, which is compounded by the solar eclipse and will be reverberating for months to come. Now is the time to evaluate and tend to our foundations, the elements that in our lives that make us feel safe, secure, and as if we belong. This timing feels very appropriate, because what has been percolating for me in the last week is the notion of ceremony within context - more specifically the context of the places we call home. 

When we embark on journeys to non-ordinary reality, a common practice is to start by holding a place in nature in our mind's eye. We pick a place that is familiar and safe, to be our tether to ordinary reality. During a recent workshop, held in a very densely populated urban area, a student asked if it was okay for her starting place to be small. She pointed out that she hadn't had much access to nature in her life, having grown up and still living in this urban center. The short answer is yes, because our ceremonial practice has to function with the context of our lives. Our world is very different than the world of the first healers and journeyers, but that doesn't mean we should look to emulate their world. They worked within the context of their world, and we need to work within the context of ours.

One of the most important aspects of ceremonial work is integration. Integration is when we take the medicine given to us within the ceremony, and take the necessary steps to bring this into our non-ritual lives. This applies to all spiritual work, but in regards to shamanic journeying specifically, we must take the lessons offered by our helping spirits and act on them. If we ask our guides for help and advice, but don't follow up with action, we might as well not bother journeying at all. 

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So how does this tie into the idea of practicing within context? The notion is two-fold. The aspect we already discussed is about not creating a separation between ceremony and the mundane. The lessons and medicines from ceremony have to be integrated into the day-to-day for us to both make room for and experience energetic shifts. Beyond this, we need to understand our practices within the greater context of our lives. We are not isolated beings, and the best work we can do is in healing both ourselves and our environment. 

By environment, I don't necessarily mean nature. Your environment is where you live, whether that be urban, suburban, or rural. Every place in the world needs healing, and the energetic concentration of urban centers is much higher than in other places. While we may rarely see trees or grass in these places, we shouldn't forget there is living earth beneath all the urbanization. If this is where you live, this is where your ceremony matters the most. 

Does this mean you shouldn't go on nature retreats and take time to reconnect with nature? Of course not, I always encourage this. But your practice shouldn't exist only in those spaces, it should also be part of the place you actually inhabit on a regular basis. I embrace the idea that our bodies are a microcosm and a reflection of the macrocosm that is our planet. As we take care of ourselves, we should also take care of our surroundings. A regular practice of mine is what one of my teachers refers to as environmental shamanism. This means taking the time to journey to connect with the helping spirits of a place and asking how we can support and honor them. Every place has helping spirits, and the more densely populated a place, the harder those spirits will be working. While connecting with the helping spirits of a grimy downtown may not sound as romantic as connecting to the spirits of a waterfall, it's a part of our contemporary reality we should not ignore. I encourage all of us to consider this as we continue to develop our personal practices.

Thank you for reading, and as always, please feel free to send me your thoughts and comments! I really enjoy the emails you folks send me.