Awakenings

I’m always engaged in some kind of awakening process…

Except when I’m not.
Except when I’m hiding, hibernating, buried down in the numbing comforts of familiarity, habits, denial, avoidance and layers and layers of shadowy elusive fear…

* * *


The jaguar’s breath is warm on my face.
Whiskers twitch.
The pink wet of it’s mouth shows behind the enormous teeth.
There is a nibble at my neck.
But its proximity becomes a merge and we are two as one, fused together as we tumble down down through epic layers of earth and rock hurtling towards the very center of the earth…

The jaguar is considered the sun of the underworld, is the one in charge of destroying all our negative unconscious patterns… it gets rid of fear and obstacles.

~ Sergio Magaña

* * *
Sergio is one of the teachers I started following, hoping to develop my capacity for lucid dreaming, for awakening while dreaming.
Once in a while I manage it, once in a while there’s a glimmering of consciousness while sleeping, but mostly I am unawake, unaware, and remain utterly convinced by the nightly procession of illusions.

* * *

Recently we’ve had workmen in and out with drills and hammers and sanders and plaster and paint. We’ve had to prep the apartments and then evacuate while they do some work, then we come back in and clean and reassemble, live for a few days before they announce they’re coming back for the next step of unfinished business, the cycle beginning all over again.

They are not masters of efficiency, it is annoying, and yet it has put me into a deep clean, a radical de-cluttering of the space – there have been days and days of moving furniture and vacuuming, emptying out boxes and wiping down the dust covered contents, filling up the recycling bin with reams of irrelevant papers.

Sifting through one file folder I discover print outs of the massive communication I had over many years with my friend Mike who passed a month ago. Sometimes I think I started this blog really to replace our correspondence when it dwindled some years ago after thousands and thousands of words back and forth between me in Toronto and he in St John’s.

But in this recent excavation, there was one letter in particular that jumped out, demanding attention – it was the description I gave him of a first visit to a woman – a seer, a clairvoyant, a psychic in Montreal, recommended to me by Brenda, beloved friend of several decades now.

This woman shook me to my foundations that first time I went to see her, such was her insight.

Every few years or so I go back, and while each time is bouleversant, a profound reckoning with myself, over the years the shock of her capacity to see so keenly has lessened a tiny bit, even though I am cautious to prepare myself each time for what may turn out to be a life-changing session.

In that letter to Mike, many years ago, I described this woman, my most searingly awakening catalyst person –

She sat me at a table in front of a large window that looked out across St Laurent and the mountain beyond.
She explained her way of working – that she functioned essentially as a mirror, reflecting back what she saw inside one’s self.
She said she essentially entered a kind of trance state and would likely not recognize me in the street afterwards.
She handed me a stone with an animal carving on it, asked me to hold it a moment, then hand it back to her.

After having the stone back in her hand for just a moment, she got very animated, pulled her paper and pens toward her with excitement and began to draw and speak…
Her eyes were essentially closed, but her eyelids flickered as she spoke, as if she was seeing images inside her eyelids, not looking at me.
She said:

You have spent so much energy trying to hide your vibrancy.
It is like an inner pressure, all the fire energy you have inside of you.
If you don’t let it out, it will begin to effect your health.
You have treated yourself very harshly.
Now you must learn to cultivate tenderness and gentleness towards your self.
Now there must be no more violence.
It is finished.

The way she spoke was so clear and direct and definitive and her images so frighteningly insightful, the tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I made note of her words –

This woman inside of you is like a lion.
She takes her time.
She belongs to herself as a matter of course.

I continued scribbling my notes on a page, watching her flickering face with a kind of awed fear.
Clearly, she was a witch. 400 years ago she would have been burnt at the stake.

You do not see yet fully where you are going.
But this is not based on effort, it is based on COURAGE.
You must practice taking risks, you must practice pushing the boundaries.
Train yourself not to hide, not to contract.
DO NOT HIDE BEHIND ANYTHING.
When fear comes, look at it, look into the heart of it…

The hour was up.
She helped me into my coat and kissed me on each cheek.
I found my way back down in the elevator and came outside into the beginnings of a snowstorm.
The blowing snow stung my face as I walked for several hours, unseeing, caught up in my own thoughts.
I didn’t sleep for days.

* * *

Of the many splendid teachers and resources I’ve discovered on the path in the years since, two of my favourite “awakening” people, are in fact the “awakening couple” – Chameli & Arjuna Ardagh are both teachers in their own spheres. He does something called Awakening Coaching, while she is the epicenter of Awakening Women, a yogini circle.
Arjuna says of the experience of awakening –

…I find that what is really meeting this moment, hearing sounds, seeing movement, and feeling currents of sensation is formless empty space, pregnant with infinite possibility. There is a mysterious presence, indefinable, with the capacity to embrace everything, just exactly as it is, but which in itself is nothing, just pure context, with no content. This presence contains the body but still exists, with or without the body. In this recognition, just here, just now, there are no problems and never have been. Disorienting and confusing as it may be, this realization brings a sense of peace, wonder, tremendous energy, and a feeling of love with no specific object…
~ Arjuna Ardagh

Here is Chameli –

* * *

And you, Gentle Reader?
Do you have favourite awakening agents in your life?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Awakening

Colours of the Rainbow

black sweaterThey say black is the absence of colour. Or is that white, that holds all the colours but is not, in itself, a colour?
I am thinking of black as I’m packing my bags for a funeral and I’m throwing in everything black I own cause I don’t know what I’ll actually want to wear once I’m there.balloon in treeRather than sink into the deep pool of sadness at this death – a sweet sweet boy lost much too young – I’m doing my best to compartmentalize my brain and focus for the moment on the solstice that comes tomorrow, on the blazing light of the sun at its zenith, the beginning of summer, my blossoming garden, and the idea of intention setting.
smoke in abaloneTough times out there in the world these days, so many difficult events surround us, but the days are long and glorious and bright, and summer calls…so how do we take the heavy events and find ways to turn towards the sun in its glory?green leafAccording to astrologers, on top of the big solstice event, we have the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the skies, which means that now is an excellent time, a lucky time, a big heart-filled generous time for tuning in, knowing, feeling, thinking what it is you want, and planting the seeds.
A time to dream a new dream of a better world – to believe anything is possible.
According to Ohki Simine Forest, the summer solstice is the entrance into the southern direction on the Medicine Wheel, where the sacred Deer is the main totem.young deer in the swamp

Deer brings the medicine of trust and gentleness, and teaches us to align with our heart and to walk in our lives in a sacred manner. We can call on Deer medicine to bring a sense of magic to our lives and to call a sense of joy and innocence.

According to Sergio Magaña, we are currently in the 13 day period of the Flower, a time for a flowering of personal enlightenment.

Flowers are definitely happening where I live these days. Even here in our modest little garden there is so much colour – and each colour feels like a blessing, a gift bursting into the light.day lily backlit
red geranium
pinks
yellow butterfly on lilacs
tiny blue flowerI think of how all these colours exist as reflections in the light – the way a rainbow is fractals of light, colours within the light revealing themselves, so we find all these colours around us almost anywhere we go, lifting us up, reminding us of how glorious it is to be alive…

“Make of yourself a light”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

– Mary Oliver, The Buddha’s Last Instruction

Weekly Photo Challenge – ROYGBIV

Planetary Ephemera

Just before the corner at Yonge and Eglinton, I look up.
There, between the towering office and condo buildings, at this quintessential Toronto corner, I see a handful of planets.
Big. Close. Coloured like Easter eggs.
A couple of them are stripy and one has big gold stars on it like when you were a kid and got a gold star sticker from the teacher.
In a flash, I remember, Oh oh oh! Sergio taught us to make a wish, to ask the dream for what we want whenever we see gold or silver!
What do I want?
This is it, this is it, what do I really really really want….?
Abundance.
Whatever that means, whatever form it takes, just simply, abundance.
And I ask the gold stars on the easter egg planets in the sky at Yonge & Eglinton for abundance.
photoThe weekend is filled with friends and laughter, and by Sunday morning I make it to dance class for the first time in months and there by the door as we’re pulling on our socks, the conversation turns to an old film I cut, and these amazing ladies oooh and aaahh about how much they love that film, and what a good job, what a great film, and suddenly I realize, it occurs to me that I love my life. I love my friends, I love my work, where it has taken me, how it has touched lives. I love these people I know, people I meet in passing, the friends and teachers and talents and characters and stories and places I have known along the way.
And it doesn’t stop there. No, that’s just the beginning. Next there is an acceptance into a photo show, an invitation to join an online writing course with an amazing teacher, Em’s delightful taunting temptations to cross the big pond, and then, so exquisitely random, a super-talented musician in Australia lands upon a drawing of a lion I did and wants to use it to accompany his beautiful song about his daughter –

In whatever form it takes…
It sure as heck feels like abundance…
Beaming with gratitude…
Kat
photoThese were done with the Skyview app
Weekly Photo Challenge – Ephemeral

Dream paraphernalia

dreamcatcherLast night I was telling my son about the dream of the house where nothing was what it seemed, everything shifting, slippery, treacherous and untenable.
We stood under the overhead lights in the kitchen, he towering above me as I said I thought it was about the job I quit on Tuesday.
“Oh, but you don’t know that”, he snapped with annoyance – one of mom’s hare-brained, hippie inclinations at work again.
He is a computer science student with a rare flare for mathematics. He is an excellent student, top of his class. I see the pages of his homework, a language of ciphers and glyphs that I will never ever in my life understand even a spec of.
Dreams, however, I know a little bit about – I’ve spent some time with them.dream shelf“It’s not like math, it’s an interpretive art”, I said to my too-cool-for-school, skeptical son. My son who insists it’s not that he doesn’t remember his dreams, it’s just that he doesn’t have them.
On a similar note, a number of the new visitors and commenters here on followyournose have mentioned they rarely remember their dreams.
So I’d like to share a few of the authors and influences I’ve come across, in case any of it might be helpful to someone.
I was telling Poshpedlar and Agniva how I keep a dream journal, THE single most important tool, I think, if you want to start remembering dreams.dream journalIt sits open beside my bed with a blank page ready in case I want to scribble in the dark in the middle of the night, and also for the blurry morning fragments, captured first thing, before turning over or getting up, any fleeting whispy images.
A good source for some of these fundamental things to try is dream-master, shaman-teacher Robert Moss – he’s got a Tools & Techniques page, very helpful.
Although the dream journal is one key tool, personally I use kind of a bunch…like kind of a lot….like I’m so heavy into the dream thing, it’s kinda way out in woo-woo land. In an exchange with jethag at Jet Lag, I allowed as how there may be “dream paraphernalia”…
For example, the dream catcher at the top of the post. Of course.
For example, this silver bowl – silver dream bowlIt sits on the bedside table with water in it – I refresh the water regularly.
This practice came from Ohki Simine Forest, a fascinating shaman-woman who lives in Chiapas, Mexico, though she’s originally Canadian (Québécoise / Mohawk). I got the silver dream bowl practice from her book, Dreaming the Council Ways, a book I loaned out to someone and along the way have forgotten the particulars of the why’s of this practice, but I still feel some magic quality, some mystery in the aquatic reflecting vessel by my bedside for facilitating, channelling dreams.
Also beside the bed is this buffalo fetish –
buffalo fetishHe reminds me of a dream I had some years ago, a dream of a buffalo in a zocalo, a town square, and of how I followed the dream to a place, traveled to try and find and understand the dream, and along the way found him in a shop just off the zocalo of a town that looked an awful lot like the dream.
He reminds me that I’m willing to travel for my dreams, to follow them to the places they show me, to think about what they are trying to tell me.dream crystalsThese crystals are quite tiny and special in a way that is so far out in the land of woo I can’t even describe it, I’ll let you explore for yourself here.
But I love putting one under my pillow each night, as a kind of promise to myself to try and pay attention to any dreams that come.
This little ritual emerged from a fellow student in an online dream workshop, Dreamwork with Toko-pa, a lovely experience. Toko-pa also has some tips for dream recall in a video on youtube – a nice way to get some ideas and introduce you to her fabulously exotic west-coast self.lion biting - brighterAnother favourite thing to do with really strong, vivid dreams when they come, is to draw them or paint them – it’s a great way to spend more time with them in a visual, visceral, sensual kind of way.
The lion above was from one striking dream I had, and the panthers below another strong onepanther collage - brighterEach of these practices is essentially about one thing – I am telling my dreams and myself that I’m listening. That I want to hear from them. That I respect and value what they have to tell me.
Some years ago I took a series of dreams I’d had to an elder, Joanne Longboat, a woman Robert Moss writes about in Dreamways of the Iroquois, referring to her as “Turtle Woman”.
She said to me, “They say the Spirits will come talking to those who listen.”
So I’m listening…

In the desert

We were walking along, my son and I – it felt like that trip to Arizona when he was 10 or 11 and wore his city kid shades on the horse ride out into the desert and Bill, who led us out on our little horse-riding expedition called him “cowboy” over and over and told him to watch for rattlers in amongst the stones.
But we were walking this time, and as we turned into a small dry gorge, in amongst the boulders and caves and stones there were all kinds of snakes, multi-coloured snakes, beautiful in all their patterns and brilliant colour combinations.
Probably not very safe though, I thought, so I suggested we’d best leave this small canyon, turning us both back towards the entrance.
But there, crouched and waiting, silent and watching from the rocks, were dozens and dozens and dozens of black panthers.
Tails flicked in the sun. Whiskers twitched slightly in the air.
panther collage
There was no easy way out of this little room amongst the stones we’d stepped into – snakes on one side and panthers on the other.
I hoisted my son onto my back, began to flap my arms, and lifted us off the ground into the sky.

4th, maybe 5th black panther dream in the last couple of months.
Been reading up on ’em.
From Ted Andrews –

In China there were five mythic cats, sometimes painted like tigers or leopards. The black reigns in the north with winter as its season of power, and water its most effective element. This is the element of the feminine. This is the totem of greater assertion of the feminine in all her aspects: child, virgin, seductress, mother, warrioress, seeress, old wise woman…
To the Indians of North and South America, the jaguar especially in the form of the black panther, was endowed with great magic and power… the black panther was the god of darkness and could cause eclipses by swallowing the sun. This reflects the tremendous power inherent within the feminine forces.

Gosh. I realize now it was probably one of those dreams where I should have faced the threat, the fear, asked it what it wanted, and made it an ally.
As Robert Moss suggests –

Trying to escape dream challenges by fleeing back into ordinary reality is a poor life choice. The issues we confront, or fail to confront, in dreams are issues we need to deal with now. In an even larger sense the dream state is an arena in which we are trained and tested in choice and courage and our ability to grow.

Hmmmm.
Time to try mastering lucid dreaming or at least some kind of re-entering the dream.
On the other hand Jamie Sams says –

If the black panther has appeared today, it may be telling you not to worry about the future… Let go of fears that appear as obstacles or barriers. Embrace the unknown and flow with the mystery that is unfolding in your life. The next step may be leaping empty-handed into the void with implicit trust.

At any rate, it’s definitely getting a little bizarre the repeated dreams of large cats.
Most of my friends say they dream about things like their boss at work and maybe strange scenes in elevators and subways – regular daily stuff repurposed for the dream world.
Imagery so far outside what I see every day (like, um, snow just lately) seems to want some attention…

What strange creatures appear in your dreams, gentle reader?

Grand Animal

The taxi driver refused to go any further.
In the dream I was staying in a hotel on Spadina near College and wanted to go shopping further down towards Dundas, in the deep and winding medieval streets, but the driver turned the car around and let me out, saying “most people don’t want to go down there – it’s too dangerous”.
It was like one of those neighbourhoods in Mexico City – Colonia Doctores or Ciudad Neza way back when – where all taxi drivers refuse to enter, cause everyone knows anything could happen.
So I walked.
The streets were deserted, dark, until I got down near the very bottom, almost to the waterfront, where the sky was wide and the road opened up into a kind of rock quarry, reminiscent of Teotihuacan –
quarry1teotihuacan b&wAnd still walking, I ventured into the rocks, strolling happily until I sensed movement in the steps and mounds of the quarry. And as I looked, these creatures took shape.
They were lions – stone lions.
They were living animals – their large bodies moving and rummaging about – but they were made of stone, the same stone of the the quarry.
placcid lionsnarling lionAt just the moment that it registered in my mind what I was seeing, the danger I was in, a large lion sensed me too, the hint of movement in his peripheral vision, and his head snapped up in a snarl.
Then the pounce, the running jump of the massive creature coming after me.
Suddenly I had a large plywood board in my hands which I lay underneath in a crevice in the rocks, pulling the board flat on top of me, effectively disappearing into the ground.
big biting lionThe lion lumbered heavily over me, not finding me, scrambling over and away, somewhere beyond where I lay hidden.
The fear was so real, the terror so palpable – one of those nightmares that wakes you up in a sweat, blinking in the dark of the bedroom.
The next morning I was out walking, and turning the corner to where the new second-hand bookstore is, the guy who sells old National Geographic magazines for a buck a piece, I noticed several had big spreads on lions.
nat geo running lionI brought them home and began to draw.
When the dream is so vivid, so strong, and yet so cryptic, there is nothing for it but to spend more time with the imagery…
running lion

Unexpected Angels

Last weekend I saw a Medicine Woman / healer.
A friend in Owen Sound had called me up and insisted I needed to come see this super-talented, up-and-coming, currently bargain-basement healer from the local reserve, quick, while the getting was good, before she becomes famous and unaffordable.
She was indeed magnificent – fun and funny and the most radiant, loving human being.
At the end of a long and powerful session, back upstairs in the kitchen, she asked me to pick a card from a divination deck. The one I chose said something about the protection of angels – a soft pale image, yellows and pinks, an image of light, illumination and feathers. As gentle and delicate and full of light and love as the image was, I felt resistance – I’m just not into angels. They have never appealed to my sensibility – they feel to me like princesses and unicorns and other girly fantasy-land entities. My own inexplicable prejudices – I try to hide it, but there it is.
So the Medicine Woman wrestled with me a bit over just accepting the concept, the idea of the angel image, as protective gentleness, as divine serendipitous light, synchronistic interventions, then had me do a 9-card spread from Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards deck – all animal cards, much more my speed.
Of course I got a whack of cats – no surprise there, I am KAT, after all…
3 cat cardsThe next day I took the bus back to Toronto and, loaded down with many heavy bags, grabbed a cab at the corner. I had this idea of killing 2 taxi birds with one stone, and before going home, asked the driver to take me out to the art supplies store, the really big one with lots of cheap deals on paints and the big sizes of watercolour paper, cause when I go there I always have to take a cab home anyway.
When I explained to him, First I want to go here and then I want to go there, he pressed down hard on the gas, and called out, Whatever you want to do, we will do it! I laughed and glanced at his eyes in the mirror – they were small with the years, not a young man. Accent African, English not first language. As his face turned slightly with a right turn, I could see several thin scars on his cheek, as if he’d been slashed across the face by a very large cat.
Huh.
He was a chatty fellow, and we talked about this and that on the way to the art supplies store – Why did I only have one child, for example? Why did I not move close to my husband to get more? As we pulled into the small parking lot, he wanted to know, What is this place?
An art supplies store! Well, he was very excited by this news, but I was out the door of the cab and up the stairs and moving fast through the aisles and my list of paints and round the back to where they keep the big pads of paper. Coming back out to the front again, thinking I should have a quick look at the mediums, a man opened up his arms and waved at me. Here I am! he said with his grin.
It was the taxi driver. Looking a bit like actor Robert Wisdom –
r wisdomBut now I could see the long tribal scars patterned on both cheeks, kind of like a cat’s whiskers –
black_panther_spainI’ve never been in an art store before!
He was thrilled, delighted, in love with this newfound world.
I was so surprised to see him there, the moment was so disorienting, in my confusion I forgot about looking for mediums and simply lined up to pay for what I had in my arms. My driver was now in deep serious discussion with one of the store clerks.
Standing, waiting for the cashier I wondered, What was it that felt so disorienting, so unusual? That he seemed so open, so free, so un-servile? That in spite of being for hire he didn’t feel obliged to sit waiting in the car if his curiosity was strong?
We went back out to the car together, and driving away his delight with this world of wonder turned to concern – They have all those things out on the shelves where anyone can just grab them and put them in their bag or under their clothes!
This upset him quite a bit, the enormous quantities of goods lying out on open shelves, and he went on about it for a while, driving slowly up the street, now nearing my house, inching along at about 10km/hr, waving his hands, both of them frequently lifting off the steering wheel altogether. But soon this worry, this loose tooth troubling him was put to rest with the summing up, This would never work in the third world – in the third world, you would go up to the counter and ask for what you want, and they go back and get it for you.
This little exchange caught my attention somehow – that he had been so troubled by something I didn’t think twice about, and had had to settle himself down quite deliberately, reminding himself that the context was different. Some lesson about the importance of the need for adaptation felt nestled in the moment.
In front of my house, he practically clucked with dismay at the disarray, the strewn collection of chairs, old bicycles, unraked leaves and crumbling porch. God will help you settle down eventually, was his last fix-it pronouncement on my life.
We said our goodbyes and I trundled into the house, arms full of stuff, head full of the uniqueness of this man.
Somewhere in all of the twists and turns of the encounter I felt the hint of magic, the reminder to remain open to the possible variations on what angelic presences might look like…