A Spiritual Journey 13 – Philosophy 2 – Healing & Inner Vision

I was off again, with my blue holdall on wheels, to study with Tom Brown. I met Mark in Newark at the Shuttle to a Quality Inn in Toms River, he was going to the same workshop, so we shared a room for the night. He was a well-travelled and grounded healer and car trader from Nottingham and good company. We had a long wait on Sunday for transport and it took us to a Scout Camp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where Tom and Rick had spent their time learning from Stalking Wolf.

The large hall trebled up as classroom, dining room and bedroom. Sunday was a gentle introduction forming groups of ten and we were sent out to find a group sit spot and build a tepee fire with enough wood for two hours. We put up four direction poles around the group sit area. Our group was a good mix of men and women and we sat around the unlit fire getting to know each other.

The last class had been about developing Sacred Silence, a form of meditation. For many people meditation s the end point. For our class is was the start point of journeying and developing Inner Vision, sensitivity to the energy around us, which Tom calls the Force.

On Monday we set up a tripod on the trail to our group sit spot and each tied something on it. We had group fire with Daniel using his bow drill to light the fire and Bob leading the pipe ceremony. We shared prayers and visions and held Sacred Space for each other. Later that day we did a visualisation in the hall of us going to the sit spot and passing the tripod. Afterwards we talked about who arrived first, what direction they came from and what people were wearing etc. There was a lot of similar experiences, building again our belief in remote journeying.

During the week we did more long form meditation and journeying along the path, down the stairs across the courtyard and into our beautiful place. We were given more detail. The path represented the physical world, and, on the path, there was a place of all memories, a zone of primal energy (I had a tiger in mine), a zone for body control and a zone for healing.

The stairs represented the Force and off the right hand of the steps was one space for communicating with near entities and one for distant entities. Off the sixth step was a crystal cave for healing in the Force.

In my beautiful space there was a sacred place, a stone circle with a flat stone big enough to lie down in,, which I could use for distant healing. I also used it for practicing the pipe ceremony. Nearby we were directed to root ourselves in Spirit. This is a form of protection and I later rooted my whole family there, each of us protected by a bear, a wolf, an eagle and a coyote.

These zones all felt different and we practiced many times so that we could eventually travel straight to a zone. To remember I go to the zone of all memory. For healing myself I go to the healing zone in the physical. When I am healing someone with hands on I go to the crystal cave and for distant healing I go to the sacred place.

Later in the week we stepped out of our personal space in spirit onto the path through the spirit world. We looked into the Dark Side or Hell and a lot of people were shaken up by that journey, so we were given an extra break. In my belief system hell is on earth and this part of the spirit path was not full of demons. Instead it was full of accentuated negative emotions, the sort I experienced with entities stuck on earth.

This week we spent time working with the Force energy. One of our group exercises in our sit spot was lighting a fire and using our group Force energy to move the flames left and right, up and down, swirling around and changing colour. It worked! In the hall we hung feathers on string and moved them. We moved wood and stone on string. We floated bits of wood on water and moved the wood. All the time we were building our experience and belief in moving the Force. We each made a coup stick showing the elements we had moved. It advertises our powers, a bit like a doctors shingle.

One of my favourite exercises was empassioning. You take a stone (it can be any object) and really look at it until you have a mental image of it. Then you hold it in your hand. You imagine you are growing roots from your feet into the Earth and then with each in-breath you are pulling green earth energy through your body into your heart centre. You keep building this energy in your heart until you channel it using your intention, with love, down your arm and into the stone. Really feel you are filling that stone with the energy, push it in! You then swap stones with a partner. Someone leads a visualisation where, at the same time, everyone visualises their stone and tells it to release the energy. I got this warm tingling feeling from the stone in my hand that spread to my whole body. You can empassion any object, a toy for a child, water for healing, anything. On the last day we all empassioned a teabag for one of Tom’s students who was in hospital.

The healing technique we were taught was similar to empasssioning. Your client lies down, with you at their side, with your left hand on their head and your right hand on the waist. You envision yourself in the crystal cave. You draw energy from the Earth into your heart centre and build it to bursting. Then you visualise opening a channel into their body, where your right hand is, and you open a channel out of their body. You push with strong intent, and with tension through your arm, the energy from your heart centre into their body and imagine it flooding their body and releasing, and taking away, heavy energy through the out channel back to earth, where it is transformed. You keep running this energy through you and through them until you sense that the energy in the out channel is running clear, then you close the out channel. You cut off the energy from your hands and you stop the flow into your feet.

N.B. Do not direct energy to a cancer because that makes it grow. Direct the energy to wash through the cancer to take its momentum away so that the body can heal.

We all experienced as healers and clients. We also learned about Grandfather’s Touch – where healing energy is concentrated into a finger, or a hand, which you then touch a client with. I tried this out, not long after coming back home, during a business briefing where the owner of the business was berating his daughter, one of the managers, harshly I thought. I could see she felt bad, so I just gently build energy and put my hand on her shoulder. Later she asked me what I had done because she had felt like a warm blanket was wrapping around her and it helped her relax and smile.

Other exercises in this workshop included carving a totem out of soapstone. I carved an oyster shell with a pearl in it. When all the totems were finished, we split into pairs, one of the pair placed their totem on a table set up outside the hall and then was blindfolded. The totems were all moved around, and you were then asked to sense where your totem was, with your partner keeping you safe. 25% of the 60+ people found their totem. Of more interest to me was that we all reported than at one point our blindfolded partner was going straight for their totem only to veer away. That showed me the importance of a clean canvas and trust.

Another exercise was tree preaching. When you feel emotional take your emotion and pour it out to a tree, with passion, full volume. Choose somewhere private! Just tell the tree all about it. After a time as you slow down you will feel something coming from the tree. When I manned the listening bench on Skyros, one of the female guests came to me really upset. I listened and then suggested tree preaching. She went off on own into an olive grove. She followed my instructions and said she fell asleep and woke up in the roots of the tree feeling wonderful and refreshed. Tom said that this is one of the three top things that Grandfather taught him.

We each made a bad medicine stick (aka Shit Stick) where we wound around a stick string and objects representing all the bad medicine in our life. We then visualised gathering all the emotion linked to the bad medicine and pushed it into the stick. Our sticks were then burned. It was a nasty fire with lots of heavy black smoke.

We asked questions for guidance from the spirit world outside of our beautiful space. In a visualisation we walked between two stands with flaming torches through the membrane that separates our private space in spirit and the spirit world. There are different zones in the spirit world. Before the exercise we formed a question (if you could only ask one question, what would it be?) and imagined a sphere filled with the essence of that question. We took it to the band of Physically Manifesting Spirits and handed the sphere over as we asked the question. It felt powerful. And guidance was received.

Another packed week came to an end. I felt lucky to be walking two paths with Tom and Alberto. It all made sense to me. Using energy is a mix of belief, attention, intention and need. The need was us to learn and the exercises from both of them were building attention and intension and belief. Shamanic learning is a journey of experiences with no faith needed!

Mark and I got a lift back to airport. On the way we stopped at a mall for a coffee and a snack. The people there looked alien, filled with heavy energy, and quiet desperation. We didn’t stay long.

To be continued…. Philosophy 3 & 4 – Presence

A Spiritual Journey 12 – The South – the principle of shedding

In the Four Directions Light Body Healing Programme each direction has an archetype and a focus for healing.  In the South, the archetype was the great serpent and the healing focus was on shedding the energy, the beliefs and the stories that no longer serve us, as easily as the serpent sheds its skin.

As I have already mentioned each of the participants were on their own journey of healing, while they were learning how to heal others. For our healing we were going to use three hooks to remove our ‘skin’, three events or themes that we needed to release.  My first theme was Big Brother, the feeling that I was responsible, and the anxiety and resentment that sometimes went with that.  The second theme was Resistance – my resistance to being perfect and needing to struggle.  My third theme was Control – my sense of discomfort and vulnerability when I let go of control.

We were taught about four levels of engagement that humans experience all the time.

The literal level is the level of the body, the language is DNA and words, but we deal in information rather than knowledge.  At this level are physical illnesses.  Treatment is pills and surgery. Change happens slowly here – think of the mouth of a river as it enters the sea, wide and slow moving.

The symbolic level is the level of the mind, language is in words as knowledge, but also in symbols and stories e.g. how to be a man, how to be a father.  At this level are mental problems.  Healing is through NLP and other therapies. Change is faster here – think of a narrow river – there is depth, power and flow at a steady pace.

The mythic level is the level of the soul.  The language is in images and visions not words.  This is the level of ceremony and ritual.  Here we heal the feeling of separation.  Change is much quicker here – think of a fast-flowing stream coming off the mountains.

The fourth level is the level of energy.  The connection to all life.  There are no words at this level, it is the level of spirit.  Change is fast, the level of energy is the source of the river.  We can put a finger in the spring as it exits the earth and change the whole course of the river.  This is the level of the techniques that we were being taught.

Healing needs to happen at all four levels. If we release the heavy energy that is the source of an illness, and don’t support change at the other three levels, the energy will just build up again.  So, as we were learning the energy healing, we were also given ceremonies and tools and shown ways to use the introductory and exit interviews to support healing at the other levels and   The NLP Masters working at the literal level and symbolic level had come to learn how to work with the mythic and energetic. 

As an example, one of my first healings was with one of the people in Skyros.  She was a beautiful, intelligent young woman with cancer so advanced that she was yellow with jaundice.  She asked for some healing, so I used the Illumination Process.  During the healing she had a memory of the first time she had been told she had cancer, many years ago.  Her first thought had been “At least I will get some attention now”.  We worked together to release the energy.  When we talked later, she told me that her parents had been very busy running the family hotel and the only way she could get attention as a child was to be naughty.  This had continued all through her life.  She had run off to Paris and done lots of exciting things but all of this ‘seeking attention’ had built up the heavy energy that was driving the cancer.  She had been clear of it once, but it came back because the momentum was still there.  Unfortunately it was too late for the body to heal itself but she was happy and very peaceful after releasing the energy and the story.

The first ceremony we experienced was the fire ceremony.  We all gathered around an unlit fire in a big circle.  Alberto called in the four directions, Mother Earth and Great Spirit and lit the fire, while we started chanting a Navaho song for Mother Earth and we rattled or drummed.  When the leader of the ceremony feels we are up to the temperature of the fire he or she approaches the fire, kneels before it, blows what he or she wants to release or attract into a stick and then places the stick on the fire, and then pulls the smoke into the second, fourth and sixth chakras.  While they are at the fire someone stands behind them to protect their back so that they can focus on the fire.  There were over a hundred of us and we all came to the fire alone.  It took three hours.  I was still singing the chant as I went to bed that night.

 During our training we were told to do fire ceremony every new moon and full moon for the archetype of the direction we had just been trained in so, for the six months until the West workshop we did fire ceremony for Serpent.  Normally the full moon fire is for the healing of Mother Earth, as well as an opportunity to release and attract for us.  We pass around a Pachamama stick, into which everyone blows what they wish for Mother Nature.  I think of clean air, clear mountain streams and sharks.  After every individual has gone to the fire, the youngest or oldest offers the Pachamama stick on behalf of us all.  It is wonderful to think of all the shaman fires lighting up all over the world on the full moon.

One of my early full moon fires was in Skyros, while I was one of the people running sessions there.  In the first week I used metaphysics as the basis of the sessions and in the second week I used shamanism.  I mentioned at lunch that I was going to do a full moon fire in the second week and suddenly everyone wanted to take part.  We couldn’t have a full fire on the island because it was very dry, so we used a barbecue instead and we used leaves of sage that I had brought, instead of sticks.  All 80+ men, women and children listened as I gave instructions and as I explained about blowing into the sage and putting it on the fire, a little voice was heard to say, “and God sees the smoke and says Aha!”  The youngest (5) and the oldest (70) carried the Pachamama stick to the fire.  It was a beautiful, magical ceremony.  All the mums thanked me later for letting the children take part.  Children love ceremony.

The tool we learned in the South was the sand painting.  This is not necessarily made of sand.  It works at the symbolic level.  I made a circle on the ground, about 2 feet wide, using twigs and other natural materials.  I placed a stone representing me in the middle and divided the circle into three sections.  In each section I created a collage of natural materials and one of my three stones to represent how I felt at that point about my three issues.  I shared my painting with a partner.  I left it out on the ground.

When I was the subject of healing for one of the issues, I would take that stone out of painting so that the healer could use my stone as part of the Illumination Process.  This is how we energise the stones and make them part of our healing bundle.  After the process the stone was returned to the painting.  Over the next couple of days, I would sit with painting in spare time and think about the issues and make any changes in the three sections that I felt were appropriate.  After two days I went out and changed all the collages to how I would like the issues to be resolved now and for the future. Once I was happy, I shared this with the same partner.  Then I broke up the painting and returned the materials to nature.

Again, the first time I taught sand painting was in Skyros.  After a short instruction I sent them off.  I confess I was worried about their reaction, but they really liked it and for some of them it was very powerful.  Try it yourself.  Think about three issues in your life.  Make the circle with three sections and create a collage in each for how you feel now about that issue.  Over the next few days sit with it a couple of times and make any changes you feel are appropriate and then, after two days change the collages to how you would want the issue resolved.  When you are happy destroy the painting.  I have used sand painting in an all-female legal practice, using the contents of their desks and handbags plus sweets and Lego to create the circles and collages.  It provided a very safe and positive way to create change and it was fun! I would love to use sand painting to create a business strategy as Alberto did for a division of Disney.

The other main activity in the South was that we received the Foundation Rites.  These rites were to plant the seeds of our transformation and healing and to provide protection.  The rites were given to us in the traditional way in Quechan.

The Healers Rite links us to the lineage of healers and provides protection for ourselves and our clients.  I think of it as a circuit breaker to ensure we don’t overextend ourselves.

The Seers rites increases our ability to sense and to do that with love by connecting our third eye and our heart centre to the ‘canvas’ at the back of our brain.

The Aini Karpi rites attunes each chakra to an organising principle of nature e.g. the base chakra is attuned to serpent.  This rite helps us reconnect with Mother Earth on our healing journey.

The Bands of Power go together with the Aini Karpi and act as a protective layer in our light body to prevent us affecting others with the heavy energy we release, and to prevent us being affected by their energy.

These rites were given in ceremony with the hall covered in flowers.  They felt very special and something to be respected, just like the pipe ceremony.

Our days in Holland were full on, so Susan and I and our two friends used to go out for dinner in the 90 minutes allowed, to chat and laugh and avoid ‘spiritual indigestion’.

In the 6 months between workshops we held our fire ceremonies, we tuned into the chakras and their organising principles, and we practised the Illumination Process with lots of friends and strangers with good results.

To be continued…. Philosophy 2 – healing

A Spiritual Journey 11 – The South – Illumination!

We had read Alberto Villoldo’s book Shaman, Healer, Sage and booked into The Four Winds Society first European course and so, in Autumn 2002 Susan and two friends and I took the Chunnel to Calais and drove to Nijmegen in Holland.  We knew we needed three stones each, so we stopped off at the market where I found a small piece of rough copper.

The weeklong workshop was being held on a university campus and we were using the student accommodation and eating in the student restaurant.  There were 100 participants from all over Europe, a majority of them NLP masters.  I think this was because the American trainers were all from an NLP background, with the exception of Alberto, and word had got around.  The people I asked said they had come for something else to add to their practice.

On the first day we all gathered in the large hall between the bedroom block and the restaurant.  There was a lot of bustle and noise.  This hall was where we worked all week.  Our course was led by Linda Fitch and a few helpers, with Alberto telling stories and carrying out demonstrations.  Alberto explained the model of healing.  I should say at this point that a model is only useful if it works.  I have all the experiences I need to convince me that it works, and Susan and I have given the same experiences to others.  I expect you to be sceptical because I was until I experienced it.

Simply put, we have a physical body and we have a light body.  From modern science I now know that each of us has a unique electromagnetic field created by the electrical signals as our trillions of cells interact. It is the same for all animals, plants and rocks.  The connection and ‘communication’ between all these electromagnetic fields is what Tom Brown Jr would describe as the Force.  Modern science tells us that we are pick up signals from the energy around us and that we have a ‘gut brain’, so gut feeling, and that the heart plays the part of a communication centre.

When we are in the process of being born our ‘light body’ forms an ovoid shape around the physical body and is connected to it via the 7 chakras.  Eighteen years on, the theory I have is that the light body comes containing information from previous life experiences and weaves itself into the unique field created by our cells.  Our physical and light bodies work together like a computer and software.  There is a constant energy exchange between the two bodies.  The light body can also collect positive and negative energy from the Force, e.g. if people have strong positive or negative feelings towards you these feelings can gather as energy in your light body.  

Now, I think that our beliefs and our stories and our habitual thinking and acting are held outside of the brain in the light body, in the form of energy.  This energy from the light body drives wellness in body and mind but can also drive physical illness and mental illness.  The energy of wellness and illness can build up and be reduced. 

As an example on how build-up of energy works, I had a client who was a massage therapist.  She kept joining new healing centres and then having leave after a few months.  We worked out the pattern.  While she was been shown around for the first time in a new centre, she would be very happy with the new arrangements apart from one little thing; the room was too hot, the costs were a bit more than expected, the booking service was a bit haphazard but she would never say anything because everything else was good.

At first the new centre worked for her but that ‘little thing’ attracted more and more things that she wasn’t completely happy with.  As her feeling towards the centre changed her body language and behaviour changed and this would be picked up by the centre manager.  It would start to change the feeling of the manager towards my client and that feeling would find more things wrong.  After a few months the energy in both of them would build until the dams would break.  There would a huge argument between them and my client would have to leave.  After our session my client decided that she would mention the thing she didn’t like straight away from then on.

To heal someone in the light body we need to track the negative or heavy energy and release it, so that the physical body can heal itself.  So, the energy of the light body sounded like “The Force” from Tom Brown’s teaching and tracking was familiar so I couldn’t wait to get started.  We paired up and started some sensing exercises so that we became used to how energy feels.  Susan and I had both trained in Reiki, so we were familiar with the ‘Reiki hands’ feeling. 

If you want to try the sensing exercise, get a partner and ask them to hold one hand out with the palm vertical.  Put your palms either side of their hand about six inches away and slowly bring them in until you feel something.  Some people feel resistance, some a tingle, some warmth.  Then swop over.  To take it further, hold both palms out in front of you facing each other with their palms 2 to 3 inches away.  One of you transmits and one of you receives. The transmitter sends the thought of a colour and the receiver notices what that colour feels like in their body.  Start with red and blue.  Tell your partner which colour you are sending.  Once you have sent both colours, send one without telling your partner to see if they can tell which it is.  Swop other. Everyone is different.  For me red was hot and blue was cold.  I felt green at the back of my neck and white in my crown chakra.

We were also taught about two additional chakras, along with the seven we were familiar with.  The eighth chakra sits above our head about the size of a basketball.  We spent time sensing it.  This ‘Viracocha’ is the vehicle to bring the energy of the light body from spirit.  It opens up like an egg and the light body unfolds and forms around our physical body and is connected to the physical body at the chakras.  The ninth chakra is in the spirit world.  We can draw energy and inspiration from it.

Healing is always carried out in ‘Sacred Space’ and we were taught how to create that by calling in the four directions, Mother Earth and Great Spirit.  We always use this form of ‘opening proper relationship with’ for any ceremony or ritual we perform.  When we heal, we also open up a safe healing space by reaching into our Viracocha and pulling its energy around our client and ourselves.  This acts as a protection.  It increases our sensitivity and connection with our client and it also provides a safe space for any invisible helpers to work.

Over the week we learned and practiced the basis of Inca healing, the Illumination Process.  The week was full on with a short break for lunch and a 90-minute dinner break.  We were busy in the evenings with fire ceremonies and rites of initiation which I will describe in the next chapter.

To start the Illumination Process, we open Sacred Space and then encourage them to tell us about the presenting issue that they want to heal.  We ask them to choose one of our stones. We ask the client to connect with the energy of their issue and blow it into the stone.  We then open the personal healing space over ourselves and the client.  We track the chakra/s that the energy in the stone is affecting by holding the stone in our hand, whilst dowsing or using kinesiology to sense weakness in the chakras.  We were shown how to use kinesiology on the course.  Having identified the chakra/s we work at the lowest one affected. The energy of a chakra forms a cone with the point on the spine and the wide end outside of the body.  A healthy chakra spins clockwise.  To open the chakra, we use a rattle or our hand to spin its energy anticlockwise and then wevplace the stone in the middle of the chakra, on the body. 

We move to the head of the client and hold two points on the back of the head to help them relax, and that is often all they need to do.  We sit, holding the head, and watch what is happening in the light body.  I was very sceptical about this bit but over time, a bit like Tom Brown and tracking, my sensing improved.  Often, I will see clouds of smoke in the light body as heavy energy is released.  To help the client release energy we hold two points behind the ears.  We match their breathing as this helps us sense what they are experiencing.  We may ask them about what that experience is.  We may also use their breathing to release energy.  After we feel there is no more energy to release, we remove the stone, illuminate the chakra by pulling energy from our ninth chakra and then close it by spinning it clockwise.  We then pull in the energy of the Viracocha to form it back into its basketball shape above our heads.

This is the core practice of Light Body Healing.  Every other healing practice we learned was top and tailed by the Illumination Process.  During the week we all worked on three issues which we linked to our three stones, which all became charged up by going through this process, and the sand painting I will describe in next chapter.  The stones become part of our mesa, a collection of stones which become our healing tools. We worked with lots of different partners on other issues as well.  We learn the process by being healed ourselves and by healing others.

All of this happened in the large hall, with clients lying on the floor and healers working on their knees.  Some clients released quietly.  Some released with screams and tears and strong emotions.  It was noisy but it is exactly the same with the clients you work with later.  The client can go into a deep trance while being healed, and may not be aware of everything that is happening. We were taught how to relax them if they became overly emotional.

In the next chapter I will write about the fire ceremony and sand painting and the Rites of Initiation of the South.

To be continued… The South healing tools

Spiritual Journey 10 – Philosophy 1 and Pipe Ceremony

This time I was getting off a plane in Florida, with my big blue wheeled holdall, to be picked up and taken to Tom’s Philosophy 1 workshop.  We were based in a Scout camp with a central meeting hall and eating space and cabins to sleep in.  Nature was all around us, with Spanish moss hanging down from the trees.  Our driver said we should watch out for Recluse Spiders and Black Widows in the cabins, and the Water Moccasins in the lake, “they will just grab your arm and chew their way up!”

The group was really diverse again, and the extra interest was provided by 4 Navy Seals.  They wanted to learn advanced tracking and scouting skills, and Tom insists on Philosophy 1 as a requirement for these courses.  They were great guys and provided one of the highlights of the week.  All week they tried to climb the inside of the meeting hall roof to touch the high point, without success.  On the last day a fifty-year-old man asked if he could try.  They watched open mouthed as he climbed up, touched the high point and casually climbed back down. I met up with him the next day at the airport.  It turns out he was one of USA’s most experienced and legendary mountaineers.  You had to smile.  If fact the whole of this week was like one happy family with lots of chats, impromptu drumming sessions on cooking points and lots of laughs.

There were no laughs about the pipe ceremony form that we practiced every day.  Tom told us that he wanted us to learn the pure, unmodified pipe ceremony that Stalking Wolf taught him.  In all his years of travel, “Grandfather” had only seen it performed correctly 13 times.  We had to make our pipes, carving the bowls out of soapstone and making our own stem out of cedar.  We were not allowed to join the two until we had mastered the form of the ceremony .  It was during this time that I really felt the reverence and respect, for ceremony and ritual, that gives them power.  It is a feeling I hope I pass on to my students.

The week was an introduction to the ‘Force’, the energy that connects us all.  It built on the opening of the senses in Standard Class in building our sixth sense, our intuition.  We were taught long form meditation which used the breath and the release of body tension to get to a relaxed body and a ‘clear canvas’ in the mind’.  It is similar to Yoga Nidra. We practised this meditation a lot of times in the week.  The aim is to brain pattern that clear canvas feeling so that you just need to take a breath to surrender all the chatter of our monkey brain. This ‘clear canvas’ helps us visualise with greater sensitivity and less judgement.

The visualising (journeying) exercises were outstanding.  After a day of long form meditation we went on to visualise a landscape that we walked through until we came to eight steps down to the courtyard of a building, through the door of which was a beautiful landscape.  We then did this visualisation regularly, in later classes, to the point where we had fixed our vision of the landscape and we could move into the different parts of it instantly.  This was all part of the conditioning work.

Everybody had to find a sit spot on their own in the forest that surrounded the camp.  I wandered until I found a nice tree with a low branch that I could sit on, with my back to the tree.  It was on the border of the forest and a park, so I had a clear view in front of me.  We were sent out to our sit spot every day to reflect and carry out exercises.

After a few days Tom started intuition exercises or pyschonavigation, sending our sixth sense out into the landscape, during a visualisation that we were led through.  Before the first exercise we had to find the start of a path we had never walked on, in the forest.  We had to just look at the start of the path long enough to be able to remember it.  I found one by the lake, somewhere I had avoided on account of snakes! I then went back to the hall, did the long form meditation and then was led through a visualisation of a walk along the path, finding the start and being asked to notice how it changed direction and what plants were growing at different points and any other things we noticed.  When we finished the visualisation, I went out to physically walk the path.  I was amazed at the accuracy of the things I had seen while journeying.  Everything I had seen was there.

We built on this with another exercise. This time we worked in pairs.  The visualisation was of us starting at our own sit spot and walking towards our partners sit spot (which we had never been to).  After a while in the visualisation a fog came down as we walked.  When the fog lifted, we were 10 feet away from each other and we were told to look around to see any plants or landmarks.  Having completed the visualisation, we set off to my partners sit spot and started to walk towards the part of the forest where my sit spot was.  After a while my partner said “This the place we met.” I walked on 10 feet, turned around and it was.  All the landmarks I had noticed in the visualisation were there.  Wow!  When we got back to the hall most of the others had a similar result.  Two of the girls had seen two sticks forming a cross where they met in the visualisation and it was there when they walked together.

The next exercise was to visit each other’s beautiful place in the inner landscape that we had visualised.  During this exercise we were asked to describe the door into the beautiful space, some landmarks and to give the visitor a gift, all without speaking.  When we had finished both visits, we sat down and wrote and drew what we had seen.  100% hit.  The gift I drew was a shell and my partner had given me a dollar shell with exactly the same shape as I had drawn! Wow!  The sceptic in me was getting blown away.

Within the landscape we visualised, off one of the steps was a path which led to the space where we could communicate with something that we were close to or touching.  Off another step there was a path which led to a space top communicate with distant things.  We did a visualisation in pairs to visit each other’s house and again got a lot of the detail.  My partner for this exercise was German and when he phoned home his wife asked him if he had visited, at exactly the time we did!

All of these exercises were designed to open up our intuition and to strengthen our belief in what we were noticing on our clean canvas.  I had two later experiences which really grounded my belief and shut down my sceptic.  The first was at a wedding where the best man came in white faced because he had lost the rings.  I instantly ‘saw’ where they were and told him to look down the side of the passenger seat.  One relieved best man.  The second incidence was some months later.  Sue and I were on a workshop in Holland.  It was night-time and we were about to do a fire ceremony, but Susan wasn’t around.  In the pitch black I remembered what Tom had said about Apache sensing deer.  I turned in a circle until I felt I was facing the right direction then I send my intuition out in that direction.  I got a vivid picture of Susan sitting on a bench about 100 yards away.  I walked through the woods in that direction and there she was, on the bench.

My favourite experience at this workshop happened on the last day.  We had been sent to our sit spots to do an open-eyed visualisation, where you overlay your visualised journey on the landscape around you.  This left me in a very deep and peaceful state.  Just as I was coming out of the visualisation, I noticed a movement to my right and there, about ten feet away, was a bobcat.  We saw each other at the same time and looked into each other’s eyes.  We had the same thought “Should I be frightened?”  He stayed for 10 seconds and then turned and walked back into the forest.  I went back and shared the story and one of the locals said, “I’ve lived here for 40 years and I’ve never seen a bobcat.”  In my deep meditative state, I had obviously become invisible to nature.

Soon after I got home, I was running a native philosophy day for Adult Education.  With a bit of time to spare, and on a whim, I took the participants out into the local park, led them through long form meditation and through the visualised landscape to the place where you communicate with things you can touch.  The people who were touching sorrel felt the same sensation in their stomachs.  Sorrel is good for the stomach.  The ones touching the birch trees both felt really relaxed.  Birch contains natural aspirin.  One participant saw colours but got no feeling in the body.  I asked her if she was a perfectionist.  She was amazed and asked how I knew.  She had chosen to lean against a beech tree which is the Bach Flower Remedy for anxiety caused by perfectionism.  Her instincts were working OK.

To be continued….   The South

A Spiritual Journey 9 – coming to my senses

It felt very strange.  I was leaving a hotel room close to New York without Susan, wearing casual clothes rather than a suit, wheeling a large blue kitbag rather than a suitcase.  I took the airport shuttle to the bus station and found the bus for Toms River, New Jersey.  I was early at the pickup point in Toms River and was concerned that I’d got the right place until more people turned up. Eventually we all squeezed into a pickup truck to the farm where Tom Brown Jr runs his Standard Class.

The farm had outbuildings, a barn where we were taught, a place to eat, a tiny store, an outdoor covered cookhouse and a field to camp in.  I pitched my tent, laid out the inflatable mattress and my sleeping bag, put my torch in my pocket and went to find a mug of tea.  Other people kept turning up until there was about 70 or 80 of us.  We were an eclectic bunch, aged 18 to 70, both sexes, outdoorsmen (women included) and city slickers like me.

My favourite snippet of conversation around the fire, where us old boys gathered, was “Well possum is ok to eat but skunk is just too oily”.  These backwoodsmen feed off roadkill!

Tracker School has a really good system where, if you have been on a class, you can volunteer to help out at the same class any time it runs in the future, for free, in return for helping with cooking and chores and the teaching of skills.  The courses are great value. In 2001 about $500 covered the teaching, the food and drinks and camping space.  There was a rota to help prepare food and clear dishes and a poster with ‘No Whining’ written large.

I would describe Tom Brown as ‘rangy’. He has got outdoor eyes and a moustache. Most of Standard Class is taught by his team of trainers.  Tom dropped in to teach some of the classes for about 20 minutes and then disappeared for a cigarette. 

His story is covered in his books.  From the age of 8 to 18, he and his friend Rick were mentored in outdoor survival and native philosophy by an 80-year-old Lipan Apache called Stalking Wolf, who he and Rick called Grandfather.  Stalking Wolf was a bridge, from the time of Geronimo.  He had never lived on a reservation and he had wandered in North and South America collecting the knowledge and tools of indigenous tribes in order that the knowledge and skills would not be lost. He had a vision when he was a young man of meeting a young white wolf by a stream and when he found Tom looking for fossils in a stream in the New Jersey Pine Barrens he knew this was the boy to whom he would pass on his knowledge.  Tracker School is the vehicle for Tom to train others to enter Stalking Wolfs world.

Tom’s workshops are full on.  Teaching starts early and we were often working until 11 p.m.  The content in Standard Class was eye opening, literally when we came to tracking!  It is fascinating and absorbing and I recommend it to everyone.  My friend Thomas Shorr Kohn runs Trackways, teaching the same content near Lewes in East Sussex, if you cannot go to USA.

We were taught everything we would need to know to survive if lost in wilderness.  We learned about knives, how to choose them, how to sharpen them and how to use them.  We were told that we could make our own cutting tools, but a good knife would make survival easier.  I bought a good knife at the store and one of helpers showed me how to get a fine edge on it and I used it constantly until I bought better one from Thomas at Trackways.

I was a Cub, A Scout and a Scout Leader for 12 years.  Lord Baden Powell started the Scouts with the same intention as Tom Brown, to teach us how to survive in nature.  Scouting does not even touch the surface now!  I could identify different types of birds and trees and plants, but I did not really know them.  I could lay a good fire, but I couldn’t light one without matches.  I could read a map and use a compass but without them I would be lost.  I could tie knots, but I didn’t know how to make cordage.

All of these things I learned in Tracker School.  I carved my own bow drill set from a cedar block.  Creating an ember by friction and blowing on it in a bundle of fibres until it bursts into flames is an experience you never forget or grow tired of.  We made our own set and learned the technique of how to brace the arm with your knee.  The last person to made fire in our class was a 70-year-old woman.  She was carried around the camp on the shoulders of some of the young bucks and her flame was used to start the fire for the sweat lodge on the final day.

I learned about bird language and how everything in nature pays attention to bird alarm calls.  I joined in with a group tanning a deer hide (roadkill) with its brains, a very smelly process, and I helped scrape it and stretch it.  One of the teaching staff showed us the white deer hide dress she had made for her wedding.  It was beautiful and soft.

I helped make a debris hut, a simple structure, with just enough room for one person, which you stuff and cover with leaves and grass and ferns etc.  If the structure is covered to the length of your arm this shelter can keep you warm down to -20 degrees.  We learned different ways of finding water by tapping sycamore trees, cutting certain vines, by solar still or just using your shirt to collect dew.  Two of the helpers collected 2 pints of dew in 10 minutes.  We made different traps for catching small animals.  We learned that, in Apache villages, most of the meat came from small animals killed by the children by throwing sticks.  One evening we had to earn dinner by knocking furry toys off posts.  I had skills!

I came back to my senses in Standard Class.  When I played in the woods as a little boy, I was alert to the noises, the smells, the sights, the feel of bushes and the wind and the tastes of dandelion stalks.  As a fifty-year-old at home and in the office my sensitivity was deadened to avoid the overload of our modern world.  In the last 18 years it has got worse.  Children walk to school listening to music.  They spend half their life on electronic devices existing outside the environment around them.  Their social media is not social.  They are losing the use of their senses and their connection to nature and they are going mad.

Standard Class continued the work of the Vision Quest and Sedona in bringing me back to my senses.  Just being outside working with plants and trees and water and animals and talking to people opened up my senses in a way that is available to anyone.  We all have the equipment.  It has just got rusty.  My future training with Tracker School and Alberto Villoldo was all about opening my sensory gates so that I could pay more attention to what was going on in nature, and in the energy fields around me. 

The best example of opening senses was when Tom took us out on a tracking exercise.  He led us along a trail telling us to make sure we only walked in the middle of the trail.  After about 100 yards he said, “Now I am going to show you what you missed’”. He formed us into a long line behind him and then set back down the trail showing us the tracks that he had seen on either side of the trail.  He did this by showing the first person in the line the outline of the first track and then that person showed the next person the track before moving down the trail to next track.

Some of these tracks were very small and faint but you could see them with someone pointing them out.  Tom was telling the tale of the tracks as he led us.  That morning a coyote had spotted a rabbit and chased it, but the rabbit escaped.  Tom’s tracking sense is so good he can read the sex of the coyote, its age and weight, which way its head was facing, just from one track.  By the end of the trail my eyes felt alive!  I could see more detail, much more easily.  Tom then sent us off to find our own tracks and, there in the moss on a waist height wall, I found the tiny imprint of what I had been taught was a chipmunk’s track.  I grabbed an instructor who confirmed it.  Wow!  The next day my eyes had gone back to normal but the change in me stayed.

I was more interested in the Apache philosophy that Tom taught than in backwoods skills, so I went for Philosophy 1 next rather than Advanced Standard, where you learn more skills, but I have never come back to ‘as normal’ since Standard Class.

I had learned fox walking at Standard Class, to move stealthily, and how to use Bird Language to tell you what was going on in nature. When I got home, the same evening I went out just before dusk and fox walked along a trail in woodland close to our house.  I suddenly heard a blackbird pinking off in the bushes to the left of the trail.  I saw how high it was flying and thought ‘Fox’.  I sat down on the trail and 15 seconds later, still tracked by the blackbird, a fox stepped on to the trail about twenty yards away.  He turned his head to look at me.  “I know you are there” I saw him think.  Then he casually continued his journey on the other side of the trail.  If that had happened to you would you ever want to go back to ‘as normal’?

To be continued…Philosophy 1 and Pipe Ceremony

A Spiritual Journey 8 – Work and a wonderful gift

I thought a little segue here would be appropriate.  On many of the workshops I have attended or facilitated I have often heard people saying that they feel they should leave their jobs because they felt that they were not ‘spiritual’.  It wasn’t ‘spiritual’ working in insurance or marketing or retail.  This implies that a job has a spiritual element in it rather than what you bring to it.  It is great if you feel you have a calling to be a shaman or a healer or a therapist or a carer or a teacher but please don’t think that these roles are spiritual.  It is the attitude and the behaviours that you bring to any role that makes them part of your spiritual journey.

I always felt that it was my responsibility to enjoy my job, just as it is my responsibility to learn from the workshops I attend.  People don’t make us happy or unhappy. That is something we do to ourselves.  Why would we want to give our power away to someone else?  I like people.  I don’t like bad attitude or bad behaviour.  I find both unrewarding and frustrating. This doesn’t mean that I don’t vent my frustration at peoples’ behaviour or communication (poor Susan) but it was me being frustrated, not them making me.  I found that work is full of people who give their power away, who blame ‘them’ for their poor experiences.

I discovered early in life that I could get better results by being nice to people.  At a six-year-old the rewards were sweets and pats on the head. 

I learned that treating people with respect is best while working on the children’s ward at my dad’s mental hospital and in the hospital Cub Pack and Scout Troop.  These people didn’t want to be talked down to or made fun of.  Just treat them as anybody else, same as I wanted to be treated.  The ten-year boy that I was walking hand in hand with, when I was 10, didn’t want me to complain or shout out when he stuck his nails in my hand.  He wanted me to stick my nails in his hand.  It hurt but we became good friends, and Peter was one of the funniest people I have known.  Deaf and dumb but a brilliant mimic!

I learned to flex my behaviour and my communication to get the best out of situations, when I worked in Yeats Wine Lodge in Liverpool.  The customers were a mix of young people coming to get cheap drinks to start the night, wide boys selling from the inside of raincoats, prostitutes getting a shot of courage before a long night, dockers, factory workers and alcoholics.  I had already learned to be respectful and friendly to customers in the bar of my uncle’s hotel. Yeats taught me to flex to what I felt was needed to connect better with the person I was serving.

On my first day on a Post Office counter I was told off for being too nice to people.  The problem they said was that everyone would come to me.  I couldn’t resist saying that if we were all nice, they would spread out again.  A harassed mum was not thrusting her jam coated family allowance book at us because she thought we were menial public servants.  She was just harassed!

When I first worked in telephone sales, there was an engineer responsible for scheduling when work would be done for my BT customers.  He was called ‘Donk’ and he liked his bit of power.  My colleagues used to shout at him on the phone and moan about him but with no effect.  I would walk across to his office and as I walked towards his desk, he would start the insults. “Oh. Here he is again.  One minute they are working on the bacon counter at Sainsburys and the next minute they are selling telephones.  What do you want?”  I would say “Sorry to disturb you, Donk, but can you tell me how a Plan 107 works again?”  He would mutter and then take me through the workings of that particular phone and say, “Have you got it now?”  I would say “Oh yes, thanks Donk” pause, and then say, “Can you fit one next Tuesday?”. He would say “You cheeky bastard” pause, and then say “Alright”.  The lead time for fitting this type of phone was normally 6 weeks.  I did the same thing dozens of times.  It was a game and I was flexing.

Work is all about people, whether colleagues, clients or suppliers.  I like people so I found my job interesting and entertaining.  It might take a little time for someone to get over their mistrust but once people see that you are interested in them, and in helping them solve their problems, they open up and you both gain.

I took on the role as National Account Manager for BT on one of the biggest UK retailers.  Two days later my Deputy MD received a three-page letter from their Deputy MD complaining about our managers, our engineers and our account manager.  Two days later I was at a meeting with both of them promising to sort it out. 

It was a people thing.  The manager who had written the letter for his DMD didn’t like BT, so my predecessor had only visited him twice in the last year.  Their engineers and our engineers didn’t like each other, so problems just bounced around.  When I was taken in to meet the telecom manager’s manager, he said he only saw BT when there was a problem, so he never wanted to see me!

It was obvious that the people didn’t really know each other so I asked the local BT top woman to lend me the social club under her headquarters.  I invited all the engineers from both sides and the managers and their managers.  I provided the drinks and food.  By the time they had played pool, darts, carpet bowls and cribbage against each other, and had a few drinks, the ice began to melt.  I started a quality circle for the managers.  We agreed that one of the BT engineers should work in the retailer’s service centre for a month, and one of their engineers should work in the BT service centre at the same time, and we continued that until every engineer had done their month.  Within six months the engineers were working really well together. I was talking to, and visiting the managers weekly. Twelve months later the company signed one of the biggest contracts ever with BT.  All down to helping the people get to know each other!

I enjoy having money to spend but I have never been really motivated by it. I am motivated by the people, by doing different things, by solving problems, by telling stories and by working with some brilliant colleagues.  However, because of those things that I was motivated by, I was regularly promoted and rewarded with everything I needed to support my family and more. 

These examples are to show, rather than show off, that if you listen to people, are nice to them and are willing to flex your behaviour and your communication you get much more enjoyment out of your job and everyone else gains.  Most of us have to do something to support ourselves and our families.  My advice is to choose to do something you enjoy, and are good at, and use the journey to learn how to work in proper relationship with the people involved.

The Gift

I moved into marketing before I was 40, and bought an electric guitar, my two goals.  I enjoyed my diiferent roles in marketing.  In 1999 I accepted a job in the new EBusiness area as Head of Propositions.  At that time I was stretching myself too thin, and despite all the stuff I knew and taught, my work overwhelmed me.  I had a wake-up call when I was pushing my first granddaughter along Brighton Pier and I suddenly noticed her singing “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. It was like coming out of a trance!  I realised that all the way down in the car and through the streets, all I was thinking about was business.

I took notice of that signpost!  I right sized my role at work, cut down my working hours to 8am to 6 pm and kept weekends clear.  Over the next two years I relaxed and enjoyed my work again, in spite of continual reorganisation.  The trip to Sedona helped.

I loved the Tom Brown Jr books and soon had all of them, full of nature awareness and Lipan Apache philosophy.  I found his training site – Tracker School – online and became excited about the courses he offered but had no time to attend them.

Then, early in September 2001 I received a wonderful gift.  My manager called me into the office and said “David, would you be interested in voluntary redundancy.  They want to lose some senior managers and I know you were looking for a change.  If you leave by the end of September, you will get two years pay and you will receive your pension in two years.” 

You can guess my answer, but I checked with Susan that she was OK with it.  She was, so I was home on September 9th using up some annual leave, when I watched in disbelief as two planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers.  Susan and I ate lunch in the restaurant at the top of one of those towers, as part of a top salesperson award!

It is weird waking up at 6 a.m. to go to work when you don’t have to anymore.  It took a couple of months to get into a new routine.  I still have dreams where I am back in my old office today, 19 years later, though I cannot work out what I am marketing or how they are going to pay me.

It was a joy to be like a child again, to leave the house with no destination, just turn left or right and see where it takes you.  Susan suggested I took a year off to play and relax.  I immediately booked into Tracker School Standard Class in New Jersey. I will tell you about that later.  From there I discovered Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness School and undertook its Kamana 1 home study course, which is designed to get you closer to nature.

One day Susan gave me a book called ‘Shaman, Healer, Sage’ by Alberto Villoldo.  She had been given it by a friend and read it in a day.  I read it in day and was very excited by it.  I looked up his Four Winds Society website and found out that they were running their first European training course in shamanic light body healing in Holland in a couple of months.  We booked in!

Over the next two years we attended training in Holland every six months.  At the same time, I went back to take four courses on Apache philosophy and healing with Tom Brown Jr. in Florida and New Jersey.  The two courses were very different. 

Alberto’s work is almost academic.  He was a professor! The majority of the group were NLP master practitioners and therapists.  The training took place in university accommodation, a hotel and a castle!  We had fantastic ceremonies and rites of initiation. It cost a lot of money for the course and the accommodation and travel and it was amazing.

Tom’s standard class was held on a farm in New Jersey. It had a great eclectic mix of participants, from backwoodsmen, to teachers, aged 18 – 70.  I learned and experienced more every day in Standard Class than I had learned as a Scout and Scout leader.  Tom delivers his talks with the passion of his lay preacher father.  Don’t be late for a class! The philosophy classes were held in scout camps, the first in Florida and the rest in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where Tom was mentored by an 80-year old Lipan Apache, called Stalking Wolf.  Tom’s workshops are fantastic value – at that time $500 for the week including a cabin or a floor to sleep in and all your food and drinks.

So, I was footloose and fancy free, having fun studying with two very different shamanic teachers, having wonderful experiences.  In the same period my friend Steve, who was a Director at Alternatives, a charity in London, gave me two more gifts.  The first was free training in NLP and the second was for me to fill in as a workshop leader in Skyros, a Greek island, as part of a two-week holistic holiday.  The Skyros trip was fantastic.  There were 70 holiday makers, a mix of families and individuals, adults and children. The camp director for the week was Tom Robinson, the singer / songwriter, so, of course, the theme became life as a musical.  I absolutely loved it.  The first week I used metaphysics for content.  The second week was full-on shamanic!

I was invited to assist in teaching the light body healing course by Alberto, when it first came to England. I felt a deeper connection to the work and i loved watching people go through the same transformational journey that Susan and I had been on.

After my time of play I started to think about the future.  At first, I thought only to teach our workshops with Susan, but they were not enough to keep me busy.  After the first two year I felt I was being disrespectful to let go of everything I had learned in business, so I hooked up with an old contact to do some presentations and presentation training.  That didn’t go far and one day I spotted an advert in the paper for presenters.  As a result, I gave lots of two hour presentations on employment law and health and safety to small business owners across southern England.  That ended after 18 months.

Shortly after, I was moaning about the lack of interesting work one Sunday, when Susan said “Do a ritual!”, so I danced around the living room singing a “I want a great job.” song.  The next day I got a phone call from an old friend asking if I was interested in doing some shamanic work as part of week-long course that he was running on a Scottish island.  On the Tuesday I got a phone call from my friend David.  We had worked together in BT.  He had left and bought into a leadership training company with two friends.  They had just won a contract to deliver the induction weekend for new MBA students and he wondered whether I could do some shamanic stuff as part of the weekend. I am still working with David’s company, training managers in leadership behaviour and communication.

Sometimes you just need to ask for what you want!

A Spiritual Journey – Sedona

After our Vision Quest, I became much more interested in North American shamanism.  I read books about the traditions and tools and started to work with the medicine wheel.  I also became more interested in, and more in tune with nature.

Our youngest daughter’s university arranged for 15 of their students, including Zoe, to spent a semester at the Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  We decided to take the opportunity to go and see her and stay for a week on holiday.  I hired a Mustang for the week!  We enjoyed riding around Phoenix and on one day decided to do the 450 mile round trip to the Grand Canyon with our daughter.  We went there.  We flew in a light craft over it. It was Grand!

However, one thing stood out for us on that trip.  We started from Phoenix early in the morning and after an hour or so we needed a toilet break.  We stopped at Sedona high in the mountains but it was so early that nowhere was open, so we drove a short way out to where there were bushes and gave our gifts to nature.  Sedona felt different and wonderful.  The red rocks were stunning.

The next year two of our friends were offering a 5 day workshop in Sedona, for different teachers and therapists to run a session each.  It included guided trips to the energy vortex centres around Sedona.  Vortexes are thought to be swirling centres of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex. We were sold!

We flew to Phoenix and drove to Sedona. `For the first three days we booked into a hotel and then moved into a room at the healing centre where the workshop was being held. Sedona is spread out around one crossroad and a two-mile straight.  Its shops have space between them with lots of crystals, spiritual books and healing centres, to offer those who come for the energy.  The red rocks all around are wonderful.  It is in the mountains, so the difference in temperature between day and night is high and can catch you out.

Our workshop was held in the healing centre we eventually had a bedroom in.  Our fellow teachers were a good mix and our sessions dovetailed really well. I ran a session on the medicine wheel, which I was studying at the time.

Our guide to the energy vortexes (they don’t call them vortices) was an Indian.  There are five main vortexes but he also took us to a sixth one on private land by a creek.  They all felt powerful and different.  Susan and I are quite sensitive, she more than me but we had never had such an intense feeling of the energy that is all around us, apart from a sanyasin we passed in a shopping centre.   Once past him we turned to each other and said “Wow”.

Three of the vortexes stood out for us.  Airport Mesa is an easily climbed rock outcrop on the road to the airport, from where you can look down the valley that contains Sedona.  For me the energy felt like family.  Susan and I went back later to recommit ourselves to each other.  The best time to go is just before dawn.  Look down the valley and a small light starts right at the far end of, as the sun starts to ride over the cliff that is behind you.  Then the sunlight starts to move towards you, to flood the whole valley until finally you are fully clothed in light.

Red Rock Crossing felt contemplative.  You are surrounded by the redness of the rocks.  A stream runs through it, which you have to cross from the car park.  At one point the stream takes a sharp bend and I felt drawn to sit there and meditate. It felt like the stream was taking all my heavy energy away from me.  A few years later we went back there, when our youngest daughter got married at Red Rock Crossing.

The most memorable vortex was Boyton Canyon.  The approach is on ground that is sacred to the local Indians, who were not happy with the golf course that was built there.  There is a trail you follow to take you to the head of the canyon.  The others went off ahead as Susan and I took our time enjoying the walk.  At a point in the trail we entered woodland.  I was in front.  On one step I felt I had moved into a different dimension.  The trees were different. The shrubs were different.  The energy was changed.  I turned to Susan, who had just passed the same spot and she said “Did you feel that?”  We were dazed by the shift.  The energy amplified what we were feeling inside.  We walked a little way forward and Susan suddenly felt strongly that she should go back.  We nearly had an argument, because I was happy to go back with her but she thought I would resent missing the head of the canyon.  Such was the energy.  We turned back and just as we got in the car a tremendous thunderstorm started with torrential rain.  The group that had carried on to the end were badly shaken by the violence of the lightening and were soaked!

I felt we were signposted in Sedona.  We had never felt earth energy so strongly.  When all the other members had left, we stayed for a few days in the healing centre.  An Indian who was staying there had heard me talking about the medicine wheel and the energy.  He told me that I might like the books of Tom Brown Jr.  Before we left Sedona I bought a copy of his first book ‘The Tracker’.  It completed something for me.  When I was nine my dad brought home a copy of a Scouting magazine.  One of the stories was of a little boy, about my age, who got lost in the woods, and how he found what he needed to survive.  I was so excited by it, but I never found out the rest of the story. 40 years later I found it in ‘The Tracker’.

As I write this, two things come to mind. First, I am glad I have paid attention to signposts and, secondly reading stories gives you information but it is experiences that create your belief.

To be continued – the Wonderful Gift

A Spiritual Journey 6 – Vision Quest

For our first 15 years of marriage Susan and I had been running metaphysics workshops. Our journey started to move in a different direction when we went on a Vision Quest.

I had been doing well at work – top 30 sales trip to New York on QE2, fly home on Concorde!  I had moved out of sales into marketing, been promoted and was about to start a new job as Head of Competitor Analysis, working with an old friend.  We saw that Denise Linn was running a Vision Quest near Seattle.  I asked my new manager for a three-week holiday and off we went.

We had a day to ourselves in Seattle and then we all met up in a park, the next morning.  There were about thirty participants, Denise and her team, and a bus that took us to a ferry, that took us to a big island, to a small boat that took us to Canoe Island, in the middle of the Puget Sound.  The island was sacred to the indigenous tribes because it was where they took their canoes to be blessed.  It was currently privately owned and there had been a school on the island.  We slept in tepees and used the school building for preparation and food.

Denise is a very special person and she set up a wonderful journey for us.  The first three days were preparation, sensitising ourselves and gradually reducing our food intake. 

One sensitising exercise stood out.  Me and a partner went out into the thick woods about quarter of a mile from the school.  One of us was blindfolded.  A drum started beating and we had to move towards the sound blindfolded, with our partner making sure we didn’t damage ourselves too much.  We both had similar experiences of moving slowly at first and then picking up confidence, losing fear and, at the end, running by instinct, like we were flying to the drum.

On the fourth day we were left to find a spot to quest in and were told how to prepare the visioning circle, using salt and tobacco for protection.  Just before dusk we were sent off in ceremony to spent three nights and days in the circle.  I felt like an explorer, with my sleeping bag and water bottle, and bin linings to keep dry.  I found my spot, created my circle mindfully and settled in.

A Vision Quest / Retreat is a tool common in most tribes and most religions.  Sitting on your own out in nature you become more aware of what is going on around you, the rhythms and energy of nature, and also what is going on inside you.  You have nothing to distract you so, slowly, the inner chatter calms down and you start to reflect on your life and where it is going, and you gain insights (a vision) of what is meaningful to you and how you might want to change.

You only leave the circle to relieve yourself.  I was fasting and had taken a big plastic bottle of water for the three days, which tasted of hot plastic after the first night.    My spot was on the edge of the sea.  My circle was split level so I could sit on grass or on rock.  I use a branch to rest my legs on so that I didn’t slip down the slope when I was sleeping.  The only people I saw or heard was one of the helpers, who came out once a day to make sure we were ok.

I wasn’t lonely! I saw eagles and cranes.  I woke each morning with a yellow banana slug sticking to my face.  One night I woke to feel something breathing into my nostrils.  When I put my torch on, the deer and I were both surprised.  I felt my dad’s mum near me a couple of times.  She came with a smell of roses.  There are no roses on Canoe Island!  Best of all, every night I would hear the burrchicking of two raccoons coming along the beach.  They would climb on a branch that went over my circle and talk to me.  On the last night they took my love to Susan.

A Vision Quest is a personal thing.  The revelations I received were not earth shattering.  When I held the question “What should I be doing?” in my heart, the answer was “Keep going the way you are going.”  I knew I just had to trust myself on my journey, feel rather than think.  I realised how important nature is to me and I felt the energy field around me and my connection to trees and birds and raccoons.

In late afternoon of the last day, of the quest, the drum was sounded.  I packed up my gear and returned my circle to nature and walked towards the drum.  As I approached it Denise came out and we walked together hand in hand to the sacred place where the canoes were blessed.  It was great to see Susan!  A sweat lodge had been set up and a fire was blazing with the stones for the lodge.  We stripped to our underwear, took a towel and entered the lodge moving clockwise.  I am not great with heat so Susan and I sat at the back so that I could lift the canvas and sneak some cool in, if it got too hot.

Denise ran the ceremony.  She called in the hot rocks to go in the hole in the centre of the lodge, she added the water and the herbs.  It was hot but we were fine.  We did 4 rounds for the four directions.  Each lasting about half an hour, with a short break between each to cool down and drink water.  Each round had a different purpose. We had prayers for ourselves, our families and Mother Nature. The last round felt like thanksgiving.  I started singing “Teach your children’ and everyone joined in.  It was wonderful.  We felt like family, like tribe.

After the last round we went for showers and a change of clothes and then attended the feast that the helpers had prepared.  It was carnage!  We got a whole small chicken each.  One of the boys ate two! We were stuffed.

For the last three days we shared our journey and our revelations.  Instructed by Denise’s husband, we had made our own drums out of deer hide and gut.  We were given our beaters and used the drums in ceremony to give thanks for our quests.

Finally, we left the island and went back to Seattle.  That evening Susan and I met up with two other questers for a quiet Italian meal.  We had been told to go easy on the alcohol because we were in a heightened state.  The rest of the group went to a restaurant, had just a couple of drinks, and were eventually thrown out for being too raucous.  We all met up the next morning at a Pow Wow, which was taking place on the Seattle sea front.

Since this experience we have facilitated 10 Vision Quests.  Six were in a quiet place on Ashdown Forest, a place I knew well.  We must have changed the energy of the place because on the fifth year we had one dog walker and on the sixth year we had half a dozen, so we stopped using that space. Two were held in the grounds of a large house.  Two were in the grounds of a private school.

We decided to run short quests.  The first quest was for just 6 hours during the day.  The rest were overnight. Most native people don’t have a word for wilderness.  They are used to going without food and water.  For most women and men in the UK a night on their own, fasting, in one spot in nature is a challenge.  All the quests are done in silence, from the ceremony to send them out to the first words spoken in the ceremony after the return from the quest.  They have all brought wonderful experiences and change to the participants.  Everyone has had what we call ‘vision eyes’, which tells me that they have gone deep.  They have all felt special.

Our vision quest was significant for both of us.  It sent us in a different direction.

To be continued…… Sedona

A Spiritual Life – Metaphsics

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter.

It covers most of what Susan and I trained in and taught in our first 15 years.  When we met Susan was just finishing training with Elizabeth Kubler Ross.  One of the first workshops we both attended was led by Gregg Furth a Jungian psychologist, who used children’s drawing to examine the dynamics of their family.

Susan has always been a spiritual pioneer.  She seems to pick the latest trend about two years before it starts to go mainstream.  People’s minds were much more closed 35 years ago.  One day our girls came back from their Church of England secondary school with a notice saying that yoga and reflexology were the work of the Devil.  Susan was teaching and practising both, in Adult Education.  She was one of the first people to train in, and practice, the Metamorphic Technique which works on the spine line in the foot.

Susan’s main influence in those first 15 years was Gill Edwards, a psychologist and author of books like ‘Living Magically’.  After attending a few of Gill’s workshops in the Lake District Susan signed up for her year’s course and was accredited as a practitioner.  Susan came back with some great tools and lifelong friends and this learning formed the basis of her workshops for most of those first 15 years.

The formula for success in life, and in business, is very simple.  Most books on these subjects are built on this formula.

  1. Know where you are
  2. Know where you want to get to
  3. Make a plan to get from where you are to where you want to get to
  4. Carry out the plan

Simple but very few people use the formula.  To save energy, our brain creates habits of thinking, believing, behaviour and communication.  We live 99% of our life on autopilot and most people believe that’s it. I don’t, I can’t, I shouldn’t, I must etc. contain and limit us.  It is all very efficient but not always joyful and often desperate, anxious and miserable.  We don’t know where we are.  We severely restrict our expectation of the future.  Worse, we paint such a bold picture of our future, without a plan, that we build in failure, and then don’t acknowledge how much we have achieved.

I ran a workshop once for a friend and her presentation skills trainers.  My friend had started this company on her own, was earning hundreds of thousands of pounds, creating an opportunity to earn for resting actors, and running a home!  She was also beating herself up because she was not sitting on a beach in Hollywood earning millions of pounds as a scriptwriter and yet, she had never done much to get to the beach.

Metaphysics practices and tools help us change our mind.  They support us in fulfilling the formula for success. The following are a few of the tools we use and find successful.

  1. Know where you are. 

One of our favourite tools is the 9 box Bagua chart used in Feng Shui.  It covers 9 areas of your life and we ask you to rate each area out of 10, where 1 is dire and 10 is fantastic.  Once the participants have filled in their boxes, we ask them to share the scores and the reason for the scores with another person.  The sharing is important. It makes your thinking audible and you get a listener to witness and to help you discover what might be getting in the way.  Most people are honest. Some people have very low scores.  Often there are tears.

  • Where do you want to be?

The next step is usually to pick the area where change would make the biggest impact in your life.  Only pick one area otherwise you will lose focus. The magic question is “What do you want instead?”  Again, working with a partner you share your vision for that area.  You are encouraged to dream big because this vision needs excitement and energy to drive step 4.  Do not let your mind put limits on your vision.  We live on a bountiful planet.  There can be plenty for everyone.  You would be amazed at how many people try to sabotage themselves at this stage with “I don’t deserve.” 

  • Make a plan to get from where you are to where you want to go to.

We like to keep the plan high level.  The brain just gets in the way if you involve its old habitual thinking at this stage. We ask participants to create an affirmation or a treasure map which holds the picture of their vision.  The affirmation is for a specific date, not too short or long a time ahead, when the vision has been achieved.  The treasure map is a collection of photographs from magazines that create a collage of  your vision of the future.  You put both in a place where you will read the affirmation three times a day or see the treasure map several times a day.

Using either of these tools tunes up your unconscious mind to notice, out of the millions of bits of data that hit your senses every second, those things that will help achieve your vision.  Think of a crowded party with lots of people talking at the same time and little of it understandable and then you hear your name.  You immediately pay attention.

I once ran an exercise as part of the start-up conference of a new marketing group.  I asked everybody to bring a couple of magazines with them, split them into groups of eight, mixed directors, senior managers, marketers and secretaries and gave them two tasks.  One was to create a four-page brochure to attract people to work in this new marketing group and the second was to create a TV advert to do the same.  The conversations around the tables were very open and revealing.  The TV ads were great fun and the brochures were brilliant, We stuck them on the walls around the office to remind ourselves of how we wanted to work together. They made a difference.

  • Carry out the Plan

Just keep working with the affirmation and the treasure map.  You will notice opportunities that lead you to achieving the vision.  These may be new people, new jobs, interesting diets, exciting exercise regimes or just something that a person says that changes your outlook. Some of these opportunities may have sub-plans that you work through.  Make sure they pass the excitement test or you may not put the energy in.

This is an example of the sort of workshops that Susan and I facilitated in our first 15 years together.  We ran them with 8 to 10 people.  Sue also ran Crystal workshops, an Angel workshop at Christmas and we had a weekly meditation group.

To keep us fresh we trained with new teachers, like Denise Linn.  We read inspiring books.  We both completed a year’s course on counselling skills.  And, of course, teaching in workshops meant that we talked about the subjects and had lots of good experiences when the tools we used worked.  You can change your live!

Nowadays what we have learned in metaphysics goes into our ‘Law of Attraction’ workshops.  We have even more tools, and they work.  In our garden there is an olive tree given to us by someone whose life has dramatically changed.  Not in the way she expected but that’s the point!

To be continued…..Vision Quest

A Spiritual Life – Community and Family

I find that life keeps giving me signposts.  I just don’t notice them until later on.  In the month leading up to moving into the small spiritual community I hitchhiked and was given a lift by a priest.  I carried out an audit on a laundry with a very Christian manager.  I had wonderful deep conversations with both and, whilst their beliefs were not for me, I admired their passion and their sense of purpose.  If felt like life was saying “Stop messing about!”

It was no real surprise that while I was painting the house, that the community was going to live in, that I decided I wanted to live there too.  It was a large terraced house with six bedrooms on three floors with a large living room, a small kitchen, a dining room and a large first floor room that we used for meditation.  It still had the bells to ring for the servants.

The original six people were a mix of a wonderful older woman we called ‘Witchy”, an older man Frank, John who owned the house, who was 40, and three of us young men in their early 20’s.  It changed fairly quickly in the first year when Witchy died and Frank decided to move into a care home and one of the younger men left.  Their places were filled quickly by a woman and two men in their twenties.

Our motto was ‘House First’ – to put the purpose of the house as a spiritual centre before our own needs.  I would say the underlying structure was Christian with Hindu flavours with us following rules we agreed with John, who was our leader and teacher.  We meditated a lot and opened our house for meditation groups.  We were all vegetarian. John used to run a meditation group from his café in Battersea and those people became part of our wider community.  They would visit our house and we would visit theirs.

We were young.  Our conversations inspired us and we were having fun. Our shared cost of living was low.  We all shared the housework and the cooking.  Most weekends we had visitors.  Over the years a lot of people visited the house.

We all worked.  I was still a Scout Leader and used to pop in to see my family every Thursday for tea before the scout meetings. I had good friends outside of the house.  Initially, I was keen to talk to everyone about what we were doing but I soon found out that those who were interested would start the conversation.  I didn’t need to push. 

Living in a community is not easy.  You have to learn how to share space and flex your behaviour.  I had a lot of guilt from not being perfect. Anything that was bothering us or any breach of the rules was discussed in our house meetings.  We were young and eager to learn together so we accepted any censures, which were not a big deal.  It was sometimes uncomfortable but we always managed to talk things out, and we grew.

We discussed a lot.  I read a lot.  We meditated a lot. We were given messages of comfort and inspiration through John.  I studied astrology (scarily accurate), numerology, palmistry and the Tarot. It was all exciting and full of meaning for me.  I particularly liked the deep conversations with visitors when I used the Tarot as a bridge to open up their talking about their problems.  Any of my issues were talked over with John, who was a great support.

Over the years, as we grew older, things started to change. The woman and one of the men left to get married.  We were left with four of us, all men, and a lot of energy went out of the house. 

Over 10 years I had grown.  I started to find life with the four of us hard.  I had a great job as a BT salesperson.  This may seem a contrast with living in a spiritual community, being vegetarian and tee-total, but wouldn’t you want a salesperson who was moral, empathic and good at making the technology understandable.  I loved the job.  I did my visits in the morning and wrote reports in the evening.  However, because I was free in the afternoon, the bulk of the housekeeping and the cooking starting falling on me.  Part of me resented it and part of me felt bad about resenting it.

I am generally very upbeat and positive and I found this sometimes upset the others who were not having such a good time. My view is that staying positive and turning problems into a challenge is better than being negative about them. I believe that is the reason that I have had a great life.

I also started to question some of the things in the house that felt limiting.  For the last two years I knew a change was coming but I was frustrated because I still wanted to live in a spiritual community, just not this one! As always, I talked with John about it and he was understanding but it felt like I was in limbo.

We were still holding regular meditation groups and at one I was asked if I could give a lift to a woman who was attending a Mathew Manning workshop that we were going to.  That’s when I met Susan for the first time.  We didn’t talk much that day but she started to come to the meditation groups and we started having deep conversations together.  Her beliefs and thoughts were very similar to mine.

She was a reflexologist and yoga teacher going through a divorce, with young girls 11 and 13.  I asked her to teach me reflexology. Before my lessons I liked talking to her girls.  I invited her out to a Burns night in London.  I found myself spending most afternoons popping in for a chat.  One day we were talking seriously about our future and we decided we should just stay very good friends.

That evening I went into the meditation room on my own.  I wanted to clear my head and find out what I wanted in my heart.  I just wanted to be with Susan.  As I walked out of the meditation room, the phone rang.  It was Susan.  I picked it up and said “Will you marry me?”  She said “Yes, please.”  A week later I moved out of the community and in with Susan.

Sometimes life’s signposts are very clear.  That was 35 years ago this year.

So there I was, 32 years old, moving out of the spiritual community into a semi-detached house with Susan and her two daughters, 11 and 13.  I had enough money saved up to buy her ex-husband’s share of the house and in June we married, with a honeymoon in Crete with the two girls. 

I love being in a family!  Growing up the eldest of seven children I felt a sense of responsibility.  My brothers and sisters pestered me some of the time, so I used to escape to the woods to avoid the responsibility and the mob.  However, I loved all their different personalities, the closeness of us, with a loving Mum at the centre and a hard-working Dad protecting us and earning to support us.  I felt proud when we all went out for a meal or on holiday together.  This feeling remains as we grow older.  We all get on when we meet.  Our children all get on.  We live separate lives.  Some keep closer than others.  I realise that our experience of each other is based more on our early years together rather than the fifty years since then, so I don’t really know them anymore, but it still feels good when we are all together.

The community was a different kind of family.  We were friends and we learned together and respected each other, and we had fun but it never had the same warmth.  As soon as I moved in with Susan and the girls I felt at home.  I was startled by the first shouting match between Susan and one of the girls, but it was real and honest and quickly over and forgotten.  I felt free to express myself in this family, to share my joy and enthusiasm and also, my grumpy.

Susan and I decided not to have children together.  It has never bothered me because I love my girls.  They have always felt like mine.  I hope I have always treated them that way.  I am very proud of both of them.  They chose good husbands, they are good mums and that shows through my wonderful grandchildren.  I would not have missed one second of my experiences with them over the last thirty-five years.

Susan is my best friend, my partner in our spiritual journey, my saviour, my grounding influence and, still too often, the outlet for my frustrations.  Love is too small a word to describe how I feel about her.  Amazing things have happened to me by being with her.

Not long after we met, I was head hunted into a bigger job.  My new office was in Brighton but my clients were in Woking and Reading so I was on the road a lot.  I could never have taken the job while in the community.  With Susan’s support it started an interesting career with lots of promotions and a life changing redundancy package at 50.

A year after we got married, we moved into a bigger detached house.  Susan was teaching yoga for adult education and practicing reflexology from home and we wanted more room to run meditation groups and workshops.  We are both natural teachers and everything we have learned on our spiritual journey has been shared with others.  I believe that teaching deepens your understanding and feel for spiritual practices.  Sue would find the audience and I would help her in the groups and workshops.  This helped me grow and keep grounded, and it supported the way I worked in the corporate world.

I know that meditation and journeying and vision quests can teach us a lot but I believe family, and the interactions with people around us, is where we learn most.  Our experiences in life mirror what is happening inside us.  We get feedback through the results of our behaviour and communication.  My life has been a constant experiment.  If I am unhappy, I always try to do something different and see what results I get.  What the meditation etc. does is give insights and ideas on what to try next.

For the last 35 years Susan and I have journeyed together.  On a vision quest I asked the two raccoons that visited me each night to give Susan my love.  She was doing her quest in another part of the Island.  When I read her journal after the quest, I read that two racoons had visited her at dawn and seemed to be talking to each other and saying “Is she the one?”

She is!

To be continued….metaphysics.