Archive for October, 2009

Pitfalls On the Path – Disempowering Misconceptions & Comforting Illusions – Part 3 of 7 – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Anima Logo & Words-Green5.2"72dpi

PITFALLS
On the Animá Path of Self Growth, Self Realization, Service & Purpose

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.animacenter.org
Part 3


Anyone on a path of self growth, self realization and purpose needs to be conscious of and honest about the distractions and comforting rationalizations, the over simplified ethnic romanticism, the imported and sanitized traditions, the non demanding relativism and easy ways out, and the get-enlightened-quick schemes that substitute for the real thing.  The following is the third in a series describing these dangerous or limiting Pitfalls on the path of personal growth and purpose, misconceptions and maladies that can hinder our understanding, development and manifestation.  Please feel to share these with friends, guaranteed to disrupt the pat thinking of New Age, spiritual and conservative audiences alike:

• The Myth that Feelings Can’t Be Trusted
Most of us have been taught that feelings are irrational, unpredictable and potentially dangerous.  For this reason, women have historically been dismissed as too emotional, prone to hysteria.  Intuition has been written off, and instinct labeled as the unconscious knee-jerk, self preservation responses of the primitive and mindless.  In actuality, we evolved to be the most conscious feelers of the planetary whole, the emotion of love is the most positive and powerful motivating force, and a healthy relationship with any aspect of the world requires an emotional component and language as much as a mental understanding.

• The Mistaken Notion That Only Feelings Count
It can be just as much of a handicap imagining that feelings are the only credible measure of a situation, or that disembodied thought is without anchors in the emotional being, our experiences and sensations.  The mind can lie and distract, but also reveal and connect.  The heart is always honest, but without the mind its honest responses may be based on misunderstandings.

•  Imagining Or Inflating Prowess
There is often a tendency to exaggerate our natural abilities or our knowledge to date, in order to help justify the time our calling takes away from other obligation, to rationalize our disaffection from “normal” lifestyles and expected ways of being, or to qualify the healing work we already do for others.  When underestimating ourselves, we set our goals too low, fail to take as many chances or follow through on as many opportunities… but by overestimating, we can fail to do the necessary preparation, study and practice first, overextend and disappoint.

•  Overestimating Or Misconstruing Intuition
Intuition is a deep knowing that comes from our connection to the Anima, a sensing of the truth and motivation behind appearances, the recognition of the unseen, the inner, the all.   Some are born evidencing more intuition than others, but everyone can work to develop this important healing sense.  The danger comes from confusing our overriding hopes, the expectations that come with repeat experiences, or our ability to sometimes cue into body language, with genuine native intuition… and thereby missing out on important clues or surprising variations.

• The Myth That “It’s All Good”
There are few expressions more counterproductive than “It’s all good,” used to rationalize any situation.  The desire of the heartful person to see good in all people and things can lead to a failure to see all sides, discern unreality and expose harmful situations.  Nothing is all good, just as nothing is all bad.  The practitioner stresses what is good and right, while staying aware of problems and inconsistencies, seeking the whole picture.

…to be continued

(To further deepen your study and practice we recommend enrolling in the various Animá 8 Week Courses described on the website, especially the introductory “Orientation, Principles & Pitfalls”)

(Forward, copy and post freely)

Pitfalls On the Path – Disempowering Misconceptions & Comforting Illusions – Part 2 of 7 – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Anima Logo & Words-Green5.2"72dpi

PITFALLS
On the Animá Path of Self Growth, Self Realization, Service & Purpose

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.animacenter.org
Part 2

Anyone on a path of self growth, self realization and purpose distractions and comforting rationalizations, the over simplified ethnic romanticism, the imported and sanitized traditions, the non demanding relativism and easy ways out, and the get-enlightened-quick schemes that substitute for the real thing.  The following is the second in a series describing these dangerous or limiting Pitfalls on the path of personal growth and purpose, misconceptions and maladies that can hinder our understanding, development and manifestation.  Please feel to share these with friends, guaranteed to disrupt the pat thinking of New Age, spiritual and conservative audiences alike:

•   Healing As Self Sacrifice
The Animá Tradition does not require a life of either isolation or privation, only periodic times away from the social and consensual reality, and a periodic fast from habit and ease.  The practitioner may find that her entire constructed reality collapses around her, as part of her transformation and rebecoming.  But there is nothing she needs to surrender except her illusions.  We are defined not by what is given up, but by the gifts that we open to accept, and those that we naturally and purposefully give.

•  Defining Ourselves By Results
We may not always get the results desired, but that doesn’t mean we’re not necessarily good healers or activists. Healing depends on many varied factors, not least being the motivation, attitude and actions of the individual. And ultimately, no one escapes debility and death. Likewise, every success at protecting wilderness or society is conditional at best.  All any practitioner can do is give our all, to the best of our knowledge and ability, and then step back to allow the earth’s and client’s necessary natural healing processes.

•  The Problem With Being Too Easy
As teachers, facilitators and care-givers, many of us are understandably emotionally invested in those we give our time to, and yet we cannot allow ourselves to handicap our healing abilities by softening or withholding painful but important information. We need to make our recommendations even if the individual finds them difficult, discomforting or distasteful. And they cannot deal with their condition until they face it honestly.  Practitioners are characteristically compassionate, so we have to make an effort to balance that with discernment, clarity, decision, and even insistence.

•  The Dangers Of Permeability
The Animá Practitioner is also naturally empathic, meaning she is more adept than most at experiencing what her patients’ are going through, emotionally as well as physically and “spiritually.”  This is a crucial diagnostic aid, and can increase our motivation by deepening our sense of connection and drawing attention to what we share in common.  The danger lies in becoming too permeable and absorbent, taking on the symptoms or absorbing the distress of the patient.  The tribal shaman/healer who sometimes “sucked out” the diseases of the patient, also made it a point to retch or otherwise purge themselves afterwards. In a related way, we open up to the person’s feelings and condition, but strive not to take their distress, depression or fatigue home with us.

…to be continued

(To further deepen your study and practice we recommend enrolling in the various Animá 8 Week Courses described on the website, especially the introductory “Orientation, Principles & Pitfalls”)

(Forward, copy and post freely)

The Furry Buddha: What Cats Are Really Trying to Teach Us – By Jesse Wolf Hardin

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

The Furry Buddha:
What Cats Are Really Trying to Teach Us

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

(Animá Lifeways & Herbal School)

Tabby1

It’s high time I came out and admitted it: the most important teachers in my life have been decidedly non-human.  Much of who I am and most of what I’ve authored grew out of the experiences and lessons of nature.  I’ve been instructed by the rootedness of plants and the parable of a fallen baby swallow, armed and empowered by my growing connection to the land, humbled by a sometimes flooding river, and transformed as well as informed by the poignant examples of our fellow creatures.

Not all of my numerous critter mentors, however, have exactly been what you’d call “wild.”  Pumpkin-Sigh was a particularly fine teacher and role model for me, a veritable furry buddha, a fuzzy feline soothsayer if dressed in a rather ordinary orange-tabby coat.  He was the last of a long line of backwoods canyon cats, his every need tended and every insight recorded by the man-who-writes.  Like those venerable masters who preceded him, Pumpkin-Sigh brought forth a special joy we’d do well to emulate, and an ageless wisdom that we too can share.  His instructions for a satisfying and honorable life were simple, imparted through evocative wordless example.  I’ve been privileged to translate, as follows:

1) Focus on the present moment, or else it might get away.

2) Live as if there’s no such thing as the future, because in a sense there really isn’t.

3) You know full well who you are.  If you find you can’t relate to the names that some people call you, simply ignore them!

4) Pretense is a disease of the masses, tool of the controllers and strategy of the weak.  Who the heck cares what most humans think?  Be your true self at all costs.

5) You’re a cool cat, so refuse to be pigeonholed.

6) Be wary and suspect, without sacrificing your cuddliness.

7) Freedom is more important than even sex or food.  Fight to keep anyone from ever sticking you in a box.

8] Pester whoever is in authority until you’re allowed to go outside.

TabbyNature

9) Insist on what is most real.  You darn well know the difference between genuine water-born fish and so-called “fish-flavored”!

10) Believe in what you can see and taste, and not what people seem to try so hard to tell you.

11) You’re capable of learning from your mistakes and moving on.  If you happen to have swallowed any hair-ball lies, simply hack and spit ‘em back out.

12) You are a wild-willed creature, perhaps a companion but never anyone’s pet.

13) Getting dragged to a behavior modifying school, doesn’t mean you have to behave.

tabbyplay

14) Though you don’t need to be mean spirited about it, a degree of disdain is natural… and to be expected of any individual with discernment, taste, and even the most elemental standards for our coinhabitants on this planet.

15) Never waste your waste products on a perfumed litter box, when they can be put to better use making a political statement or avenging some perceived indignity.

16) Self defense is an act of self respect.

17) Never fake affection.

18) Indulge in the nourishing comforts of life, whether that means treating yourself to a bowl of warmed milk on a chilly day, or taking a break from all your worthy activities to catnap in the sun.

Tabby3

19) On the other hand, doing the unplanned or the scarily unfamiliar can be a real character builder, and greatly enrich your experience of life.  Risk discomfort for the sake of adventure.

20) If you have something significant to express, by all means sing it out.  Otherwise, you will experience and learn more if you walk silent and keep quiet.

21) Purr to indicate you’re happy with your meal.

22) Always play with your food!

23) Balance out all the good eating by running up and down trees.

24) Chew on a few flowers like afterthoughts, and then enjoy gazing at the rest until you’re cross-eyed.

25) Explore the ordinary, as though it were infinitely fascinating — because it is!

26) Life is precious, finite and fleeting, so don’t let a single butterfly go by unnoticed.

27) Maintain self awareness and pride, even when acting as silly as you feel.

28) And whenever not busy making a statement, playing with your food, running up and down trees or exploring fields of wildflowers… curl up tail-to-nose with a loved one and sleep.

Pumpkin-Sigh died of old age over a decade ago.  He was not replaced with another cat, much as my family and I love and even sometimes crave another feline in our lives.  This is in part because of the no-pet covenants that are part of the sanctuary being designated a wildlife and botanical refuge, with the beautiful lizards and ground pecking birds clearly relieved.  But mostly, it is because he was irreplaceable.

May you all find in your animal companions not just love but but a connection to the natural world in all its wonder and with all its faithful instruction… and through the natural world, the nature of your own truths.

———www.animacenter.org——–

Pitfalls On the Path – Disempowering Misconceptions & Comforting Illusions – Part 1 of 7 – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Anima Logo & Words-Green5.2"72dpi

PITFALLS
On the Animá Path of Self Growth, Self Realization, Service & Purpose

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.animacenter.org
Part 1

Breaking free – of both prevailing conventions and our own imagined limitations or well guarded illusions – can be like walking barefoot in the dark.  We continue moving ahead, but likely without consensus and often without company, and with neither a light nor a map… straining our other long dormant senses for any indication of priority and direction, stepping ever so carefully with our sensitive and vulnerable bared soles (souls).  Yet, worse than any unseen pitfalls in the dark are those promoted and sold to us in the bright of day – the glitzy distractions and comforting rationalizations, the over simplified ethnic romanticism, the imported and sanitized traditions, the non demanding relativism and easy ways out, and the get-enlightened-quick schemes that substitute for the real thing.  This is the first in what will be a series describing these dangerous or limiting Pitfalls on the path of personal growth and purpose, misconceptions and maladies that can hinder our understanding, development and manifestation.  Please feel to share these with friends, guaranteed to disrupt the pat thinking of New Age, spiritual and conservative audiences alike:

•  The Myth Of Unworthiness & Powerlessness
It is all too common for us to imagine that we are somehow unworthy of our calling and work, that we have insufficient age or resources, come from too pedestrian a personal background, have too little formal education or no money to pay for official certification… when in fact those who are called almost always come equipped with what is needed most: awareness of being drawn to a special service, an affinity with plants and the healing arts, a natural sensitivity and penchant for empathy, the fact of or potential for unordinary intuition… as well as a growing intolerance of the superficial and meaningless, and an increasing distrust of institutional, interventionist medicine. It is also easy to imagine that we are unqualified to help others, if we have evident health problems of our own that we cannot solve. But again, health is not the complete absence of pain or discomfort, and our illnesses can provide us with necessary healing skills such as experience, insight and patience.

•  Undervaluing Our Work
It is a mistake to think you have to be ready for a full-time job as a healer, activist, teacher etc. in order to assume your Animá practitioner identity and role. Not all of our efforts are paid, and some of them go unnoticed or uncredited. The practitioner does her work not just through healing consultations but through everything she does, on call and actively engaged even when standing in line at the grocery store, doing her magic even in the anonymity of crowds. Some will make it their sole focus and source of income, others will practice without any announcement, and with no expectation of ever being compensated or acknowledged. All will begin by helping to heal (make whole) themselves and their families, then by impacting the lives of everyone they meet.

•  Obsession With Certification
In a culture where people are nearly always defined by their status, possessions and the letters after their names, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are only qualified as healers inasmuch as we are formally trained, fully certified and validated by the recognized experts in a field. Yet the Animá Practitioner recognizes no outside authority and knows that real wisdom comes from hands on experience and practiced knowledge. No piece of paper or public affirmation can make her more effectual, or better qualified for her work. Every day, she has earned the credibility of another day’s experience… and in every way, she is always giving her best.

…to be continued

(To further deepen your study and practice we recommend enrolling in the various Animá 8 Week Courses described on the website, especially the introductory “Orientation, Principles & Pitfalls”)

(Forward, copy and post freely)

The Lesson of the Bees – From Fear to Awareness, Respect & Wonder – by Resolute Michaels

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Intro: The following is the latest contribution by our astute student and sole Apprentice, a beautifully written tale of her continuing empowerment, with the sharing itself an act of courage for this long secretive owl woman.

The Lesson of the Bees
From Fear to Awareness, Respect & Wonder

By Resolute Michaels

Bee1
“Fear can excite new ways of dealing with danger.  In addition, it can be the means for exposing imaginary threats, casting light on their true roots, and thereby on their solution.  In these ways fear can be both our teacher, and an agent of our healing.”
-Jesse Wolf Hardin

When did it start?  Was it when I stepped on an unfortunate bee who was blissfully gathering nectar as I bounded in my three year old exuberance toward our kiddie pool?  Or on the rare foray our family took into the groomed parks?  Perhaps while studying about the Africanized bees, my fear growing with each report of their aggressive behavior and expanding territory?  And who knows why my growing terror of all of life centered on the bees, yet by adulthood, my phobia had taken on mythic proportions.  Family and friends alike knew the pain of my clutching hands as well as my shrill shriek whenever any unlucky bee or wasp ventured into my vicinity, these others rushing to rescue me from the imagined danger into which I had locked myself.  As the years went by, I was more and more bound to screened-in areas, even though those did not even feel safe.

“The empowered feel fear – the disempowered, terror.” -JWH

Fear.  The one emotion I thought I understood, during the time I fled my body in an effort to cope, only to later learn that it was terror that I felt.  By the time I reached the Canyon for the first time, I had made an uneasy truce with the bees, pushing away my terror and forcing myself to move through my life by sheer grit.  Rather, what I needed, I would learn, was to become deeply sensate and sensitive to the world around me.

The Canyon provided just such an opportunity.  I was necessarily walking out into the world.  And it was in the Canyon that I was stung for the first time since childhood, surprised that the anticipated death did not follow.  Curiously exploring the sensation and learning to accept gentle care in the healing process.

“When we deny our fear, it owns us.  When we embrace our fear, we own it.  When we own our fear, is when it becomes a tool for transformation.” -JWH

On a subsequent visit to the Canyon, I was downriver, practicing embracing my fear.  I was keeping distance from the fields of bee flower, standing tall on their stalks, alive with the incredibly sweet hum of honeybees and the kaleidoscope of butterfly color, when I felt inexorably drawn to the scene, and soon found myself in the midst of the shoulder high purple, the butterflies, the bees, the song!  To my delight, the bees, intent on their gathering, didn’t seem to mind my presence.  In fact, they judiciously ignored me! During my slow amble between the flowers, accompanying the bees and the butterflies who were also honoring the vibrant life of the flowers, a magical transformation took place, that of terror shifting into respect, and a new understanding of fear.

“There are things to be afraid of.  But we should fear our trepidation most of all.” – JWH

I have carried the magic of that experience with me as I have allowed the Anima to fully encircle and then fill me.  So, when this past summer, I was floating down the river, again supported in some of the deepest caring I have ever known, how delightful to hear the bee song so close!  I opened my eyes to the glory of Yellow BeeSweet and in that moment, learned the lesson that the bees had been singing to me.  There is danger and pain in life, and that is enhanced when I am unaware and hapless, yet when I open my awareness to the world, there is incredible sweetness – the yellow of the honeybees as warming as the honey they make and of which I partake.  And as I walked back to the lodge along the shimmering cliffs, it was as if I was seeing the Canyon for the first time, as it seemed to whisper its secrets to me.

bee2

I have blossomed as a flower, calling the bees into my heart and center, and I have developed an affinity with them, the lessons they share and the connection to the greater Earth and Anima.  I look back over the summer, and recall wildcrafting BeeSweet, moving from bush to bush with the bees traveling with me.  I sought them out in my yard for conversation and for thanksgiving.  I shared a salmon meal with the yellow jackets, providing them their own portion beside me that they truly politely consumed as we sat together in the grass.

“Courage is born of willingness to feel, and matures to the degree that we learn to act on those feelings.” -JWH

It is Fall as I write this, and the cold nights have sent the bees in search of their winter shelter.  I feel in myself a harvest of deep feelings and a world of wonder. Rather than being released as from an indoor prison, yet still imprisoned in all my fears, I am instead outside, wistfully noting the absence of my little teachers, and discerning subtle changes in the seasons I have missed for so long.   Now I have a life rich in experience throughout the Fall and Winter, and I will welcome the promise of Spring, hearing again the bees sing, and embracing the lesson of the bees always.

(share and post freely—www.animacenter.org)

The Matter with Time – an Unordinary View by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

The Matter with Time

Rethinking our Relationship to Time can Rock our World

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

www.animacenter.org

SpiralTime

There is something the matter with time, or at least the ways in which it is viewed in our society.  I have issues with it, though not the usual ones we hear voiced by hurried workers and harried students.  Most people’s complaints have to do with imposing deadlines and schedules they have trouble meeting, but I can accept that reality occasionally requires punctuality.  As a drummer, I can fully appreciate the importance of timing, and know that without it there could be no rhythm, little music and less dance.  And when it’s time to meet someone, it matters to me that we both arrive close to the arranged hour.  While I object to the very concept of punching a time-clock every morning at some automated workplace, I am sufficiently self-motivated and cause-oriented to voluntarily put in 16 hours at the computer when my needs or aims seem to require it.  Nor is my problem with time, as I’ve heard certain other folks lament, that there is simply too little of it.  To the contrary, there’s enough time for what matters most, any-time we aren’t either directionless or sold to servitude, or expending our precious finite moments on the shallow or superficial, rote or irrelevant, banal or boring, pitiful or pointless.

My objection, to be clear, is with the way that time is generally viewed and spent, and how little of what is meaningful and worthy gets sufficiently focused on and savored by a civilized humanity given to distraction and dissipation.   And my problem, if I really have one, is that I can never reliably tell someone either the day of the week or hour of the day.  While I recall a great detailed weaving of past events in my long and diverse life, I can’t always tell you where they go on the calendar.  Sometimes all I can say is that it happened, it was significant, it was part of a chain of events, and it had results and lasting effects even if not wholly discernible from my subjective vantage.

For example, I well recall the news as a child when the U.S. administration was choosing to insert the first American combat troops in Vietnam, with a General’s assurance that it would only take a single battalion to set things straight… and it is such examples of past underestimation that comes to mind when I hear the latest similar pronouncements coming from places like Afghanistan.   When I hear about the latest curtailment of our personal liberties and constitutional rights, it somehow melds with President Woodrow Wilson’s repression of dissent prior to our entry the first World War, and the crushing of our supposedly guaranteed rights to free speech and a free press by the so-called champion of freedom Abraham Lincoln.  The repression of women and disenfranchisement of healers happening today, mirrors and in some ways grows out of the historical counterparts from the burning of midwives to the ancient barring of women from sacred ceremonies and sites.  The wondrous too, happens again and again not as separate incidents so much as connected elements and expressions, quiet consistent acts of compassion and story-worthy accomplishments.  Moments of extraordinary beauty past and present, heroic acts in the name of love – even the fall or rise of amazing life forms throughout the changing eons – all seem to ride the crest of my awareness together.  On one level I recognize the singularity of these events and can even pin an accurate date on some of them, yet I experience them more as repeating and revealing patterns rather than as being isolated and fixed on some linear graphic timeline.  My sense of time is a sort of eternal now in which all things, even memories, history and tales, are somehow seamless.  As a historian, I write about the fascinating details and important lessons of the past, and yet for me it remains very much alive, as significant is some ways as the problems I have to deal with this morning or the temperature of the day.

My issues, of course, have nothing to do with any perceived practical drawbacks to my timeless sensibility but rather, with the ways in which time is chopped up and regimented, used to control us, unceremoniously bought… and tackily brandished.  I’m opposed, on aesthetic as well as philosophical grounds, to both plastic bling wrist-wardens and humanity’s attendant obsession with the tick-tock passage of our mortal lives.  I dislike alarm clocks in general, but especially those that wake us with a yelling radio announcer or songs we didn’t personally pick out, and those that mechanically imitate bird songs or purport to start our days right with a “gentle Zen-like gong that gradually increases in volume.”  I usually wake up mighty early on my own, before even the real birds have had a chance to go off, and long before most laborers besides hookers, truck drivers and doughnut bakers are up and on duty, and even if not I’d still find it unsettling to have a battery powered contraption instead of human touch or natural sounds lifting me out of the kind arms of slumber.

It can go without saying, that our natural rhythms aren’t really the rhythms of a clock at all.  This certainly doesn’t suggest that we can all show up at the jobsite at whatever hour we feel like it, and it can be helpful when the afore mentioned alarm let’s us know it’s time to get up and get ready for Spring planting, herb gathering or that long awaited fishing trip.  Real life, however, is more like a series of overlapping circles than digits on a dial: cycles of childhood, adolescence and maturity.  Cycles of night and day, waking and sleep, enthusiasm and depression, marriage and loneliness, loss and bliss.  And the only real time is always now.  It’s only here in the conscious present moment that we get rest and nourishment, do the good and necessary work or enjoy the well-deserved fruits.

“Now” is the only place where we actually taste the blackberry pie or locally grown peach.  It’s in the now that the chores and tasks are completed, the garden planted, the race run, the chorus sung.  Even the sweetest of our recollections are at best part of the vital present that is, after all, our greatest gift.   Likewise, the problems and injustices of the world are unfolding at this very second, there for us halt, redirect or heal them.  No matter what our clocks and watches say, it’s always time to lend a hand or say kind words to a saddened friend, to slow down enough to hear a special song, or to rally and respond to some unforeseen wrong.

As with all things in our free, empowered lives, it is up to us how enslaved or indentured we are to the linear model of time, how snared by schedules or bound to deadlines.  We can pay mind and tribute to the clock hands or numeric calendar when it’s required to meet the needs of a job, to arrive for an important meeting, or to make the most of the briefly perfect moonlit time for Spring planting.  And whenever such is not the case, we can choose instead to unshackle the watch and ignore the wall clock, perhaps letting go for a moment of even the day of week, so filled might we be by the ecstatic experiencing of the timeless present.  In the end, the matter with time lies not in the marking of its passage – whether for better or worse – but in how deeply life is noticed, and how purposefully it is spent.

(please forward and post freely)