Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Few Steps In…

Almost one week into "retirement." Which hasn't really felt like retirement. There is still a heap of things to do pursuant to the closing of the restaurant. And beyond that, the mountain of personal things that have been left undone for five years—from decent housecleaning to gardening to tending my spirit—looms like Mt. Hood behind and above its squatting green foothills. General tiredness—which I don't expect to abate for many weeks—still makes it difficult to formulate a plan and start moving in any direction.

Besides, I'm SO over tending a list of things ten miles long that I need to/will never accomplish. I refuse to engage in that sort of exercise when it comes to my wide open life, which, for the first time in 59 months, is truly and incontrovertibly MY OWN. Right now, I'm not up to more than figuring out what to pack for my vacation in Seaside, which begins in roughly 36 hours. And even that is not getting a very thoughtful or thorough effort. Whatever I bring, fine. What I forget, I'll do without or go buy another one.

Reading material is one thing I must not forget. I've finally finished Yearning for the Wind, and have moved on to another Tom Cowan title: Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life. Where Yearning read like a memoir, or a collection of anecdotes, this new book is meatier and much more in-depth, like a textbook. I have only made it through the preface and introductory chapter, and I've already encountered much to ponder.

Primarily, I feel that shamanism, as Cowan describes it (so far) speaks very specifically to where I am and where I want to go, spiritually. The idea that there is a spiritual realm where we might be able to walk, that there are helping spirits with whom we may develop relationships…basically, that there is a bond between our reality and the spirit world that Westerners have not only forgotten, but actively shunned; these things make sense to me. And they call me to explore them.

Cowan, in fact, professes that shamanistic practice, like any spiritual practice, changes and molds itself to the time and culture of those seeking to explore and apply it. For 21st century Americans, for example, he surmises that the goal is to develop "an American brand of shamanism that honors our notions of independence, eclecticism, self-expression, and pragmatism, [yet] finds ways to temper American traits that tend to undermine shamanic thinking, such as excessive rationalism, materialism, mindless consumerism, and the unrelenting need for management and control."

That last—the unrelenting need for management and control— I see as: a.) something of which I am plainly and religiously guilty; b.) something which I definitely should forego if I'm seeking peace and balance in my life ; and c.) something which will be a tremendous challenge to relinquish. I am a control freak. Moreso, I imagine, than I really understand. I do understand that this has been a source of unrelenting strife and heartache in my life. I'm ready to let it go. But I know it won't be easy.

So, yes…I know that two books (by the same author, yet) do not a credible journey of spiritual discovery make. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't glean the good stuff from whatever I encounter. Is there, after all, some reason to ration enlightenment?


  1. This is wonderful - to see you having the time and space in which to shift priorities.

    Hope you have a wonderful time at Seaside!

  2. I think it's great that after a good hard run with the cafe you are going to have the time to nurture yourself. Seems you're always on a journey of one type or another. Enjoy this one.

  3. Tom Cowan seems to be a rarity, I haven't found anything negative about him on the net. He does workshops and doesn't spend most of the time trying to sell you another workshop. He writes well and clearly; and is beautifully eclectic. Since shamanism is a practice not a religion he seems to have no trouble taking the best examples where he can find them while seeming to emphasize what we know about Ireland and the Celts. If Hildegard floats your boat, go for it. Same for Zen. I'm finally understanding why the fundagelicals are so afraid of any kind of contemplative practice. After all, if you can figure it out on your own, who needs them? If you search the universe and find nothing to fear; how can they keep selling their particular brand of terror? If the ground you're standing on is holy, how can you possibly destroy it?

  4. So, go soak up the sand and water.