November 12, 2017
Dancing in Harmony with Creation
Andrew Shier: It's a beautiful day here, and quite chilly. Fall has come and gone. Winter is circulating closely. It is a wonderful time to be alive.
I recently took a six-month sabbatical. I had begun to sense something hovering in my heaven, and I wanted to take some time to really empty out and let whatever it was land in my experience. So the first thing I did was let go of sharing and teaching attunement and, as best I could, to release whatever I thought attunement was in my experience. This allowed for a clean and clear space to open, allowing me to hear the whisper of change from within. And it was well worth it.
I awoke this morning with the word "harmony" in my mind. The musical definition of this term is that it is the vertical axis around which the horizontal melody unfolds. This was the closest word that came to me relative to what I have been experiencing. Certainly we are all well aware that there is a lot of dissonance in our world currently. It arrives in our own hearts, minds and physical bodies in one way or another. This is as it should because we are connected to this world with all its goings-on. There is union. It is a wonderful privilege to hear and know this music of harmony with all of that is transpiring, and to make room for the dissonance—it's a part of the music, part of the song. I've had several months of letting various layers of dissonance surface—of emptying out. This allows a new song and new rhythm to be sensed and known. A kind of authenticity and happiness can begin to flow. It's tonal in nature. Every cell in the body loves it, and you just feel good! My life has become quite simple. At various points in our lives there are elements of lifestyle and belief patterns that are unnecessarily encumbering and need to be let go of. Perhaps at times we try far too hard and use our energy in ways that are dissipating. In this new song and rhythm there is a kind of energy that is different, where less is more. I am reminded of what John Gray described several weeks ago when he spoke of, "life above the veil." There are ways of doing things, ways of being, that are very subtle and sublime and of a different quality of energy. Things are accomplished differently—more gently and with abundant patience. In my experience, this is joyful living and somewhat miraculous in its non-efforting nature.
My daughter recently came to live with us for a period of time. I've been put to the challenge of practicing what I'm speaking about right now. I recall an experience spoken of in the Bible when Jesus was asked by a man bedridden beside the healing waters at Bethesda if Jesus would place him in the pool. First Jesus asked him the question, "Wilt thou be made whole?" The gentleman seemed agreeable and then the command came, "Pick up your bed and walk." Live it, do something! Isn't this the wonder of living on earth, living the truth we are aware of? It takes doing. With this opportunity of my daughter being here, and being in this new quality of energy, the thought came to me, "Andrew, just simply love her—you're not here to teach her, to correct her, or to guide her in any way. What? Really? Just learn what it means to love her." That was a revelation. I'm starting to get that living this way is so much simpler. Be willing to listen, wait, go quietly, and relax. The word that's coming to me right now as it relates to music and my experience is "dance." I feel like my movements around familiar opportunities and occasions are becoming more dance-like, more coherent and coordinated. An energetic reservoir gets built. And for sure a very vibrant high-frequency personal reservoir is needed to be in this world right now. That's made possible through the way I live.
Another aspect that correlates with this reservoir is how to maintain it. We live in a house that was built in 1789. If Peri's grandmother, and now we, had neglected maintenance on a regular basis over the years, the house would be in really rough shape by now. Because maintenance has been consistent, the house remains "whole." Wilt thou be made whole? Wholeness feels very different. There are no leaks. It takes a very conscious way of living to make sure that my field is being maintained at the frequency I know it can be. So I become more acutely aware of what chips away at it. I blew it with my daughter the other night at the dinner table, and sure enough that registered quite deeply with her. But ten minutes later I was at her door apologizing. It was done, maintained. And it's so simple. The harmony is right there immediately. We make little adjustments like that throughout the day and that's where the dance comes in. Sometimes the feet are going one direction, the arms in another. Prior to this call I was out with my horse trainer and at times I was sure my hands and feet were not working together. Welcome to life! But harmony is still there in the midst of that. And the horse and I did fine. Bringing this harmony is the gift that I bring to my world.
There may seem to be so much that needs doing and fixing in our world right now. The Taoists have a saying: "In letting go it all gets done." What does that mean? For me, it's a different kind of frequency, a different kind of energy. Simple acts of being authentic in a moment with whomever and with whatever; that's my contribution. That radiance draws everything needful to do what I'm here to do. But if I'm not listening, if I'm reacting and judging, it just flies right by, it's gone. There are a lot of little things that I'm aware of, that have been there all along. These provide the avenues to let joy and happiness shine through. I just love that and am thankful for this place I have. I'm thankful for this time right now—this is one of those opportunities to be in love.
Related to the idea of maintenance is the notion of proximity, relational proximity. Finding the right spatial relationship is very important relative to the maintenance of the frequency of a field. I am mindful not to trespass into places with another that I have not been invited into, nor to invite others into my space where there is not a resonance. It is not that there's anything wrong, it's simply a matter of reading the energy accurately. It is good to be wise as serpents on this score. And that once again, keeps our reservoir vibrant and clear. Yes, it is true that "we are all one." But at what distance is that oneness a reality of resonance or just a feel good spiritual notion? What is accurate proximity? Some mindsets in my own experience needed challenging. I have a sliding stool in my office, so when a person comes to see me and I'm talking with them I can move my chair back and forth, so that I find the right proximity with this individual—so that the appropriate current can move. This is fun work; the joy of being conscious, in harmony, and dancing through our days with ease.
Peri Chickering: Andrew spoke about these last six months as a time during which he deliberately let himself go into emptiness. It has been beautiful to make the space for my partner to truly go into his own darkness, his own emptiness. It is a very powerful thing to do. When you think about the world that we live in and the way the planet is constructed, there is an argument for equal reverence for darkness as well as light. Both are critical to life being able to flourish.
We live in a world right now that is apparently filling the planet with much light. But much of this is artificial light—deliberately designed to push away the darkness. When this kind of light is dominant, the power and the purpose of darkness can get lost. This is why we see it coming out in all kinds of destructive ways: the violence, the ecological degradation. Many of the cycles underway could be linked to the imbalance of the cycles of light and dark. When they are not honored in equal measure, human beings and the earth will find a way to bring them into balance regardless of the outer consequences. That is why it was beautiful to see Andrew go into this time and let his own life be rebalanced.
I think we are all continually called to empty out what we know so that a deeper kind of wisdom can find its way to us. A deeper kind of wisdom can penetrate our hearts, our thoughts, our way of living in the world. I have loved walking alongside Andrew in his journey of emptying out. I have been through many cycles like this myself and know its value.
While Andrew has been in his journey, I have had my own version of emptying out. It looks slightly different from Andrew's, because it has been an emptying out of stories that no longer serve me. As Andrew mentioned, my step-daughter has been staying with us for the last couple of months, and it has been a time of letting go of all the old stories we have regarding each other. All three of us have had to do a lot of letting go—and letting go each day. It has been beautiful because we all have very old stories of each other that need to be released. And then there are stories that get created today that also need to be let go of so that tomorrow can be a day of new beginning! Letting go of our stories about ourselves, the world, and each other is crucial if we want to see the world with fresh eyes.
I am in the process of writing a small book on leadership that is seeking to build a bridge between the deep wisdom carried by indigenous traditions and the contemporary leadership issues of our times. This is a bridge I have sought to build in myself throughout my entire life, having been raised in a rural setting and also thrust into leadership roles continually. In the process of doing this writing and seeking to build this bridge, I have been required to reacquaint myself with the stories that I carried as a child.
I grew up on 400 acres of wilderness. I had no particular religious upbringing. My parents felt it important to expose us to various traditions of all denominations, but none of these were a steady influence. The closest tradition that was a regular feature in my family was the Quaker tradition practiced by my grandmother and mother. As a kid sitting in a meeting of worship in the Quaker tradition, this meant mainly sitting in silence for an hour, which as a kid was a bit daunting—I remember counting the number of times the electric heater went on and off just to find a distraction to pass the time! However, it did cultivate a couple of things that I realize now I took for granted then. The first was that we all have a direct connection to God. Nobody ever told me differently, so it never crossed my mind that I would need a priest or anyone else to intercede for me. I remember going to Catholic mass service with a friend when I was visiting my parents in Memphis, Tennessee. Although I found it somewhat interesting, when she got talking after the service about original sin I turned to her and said, "Do you actually believe that is true?" I never got the original sin thing. How could you be born marred from the start? It did not make sense. My childhood story and experience had told me that I was already whole and connected. The other thing that my Quaker roots taught me was the power of silence—silence as a path to hear God speaking.
It may be that all the time I spent outdoors is why I have had such affinity for the indigenous ways of understanding the world. In the indigenous stories, we are all already connected not only to source but everything, and particularly the natural world. This has been my conundrum for a long time. How do we reconnect our modern way of living back to the rhythms and cycles of the natural world? We need this planet to survive. Without it, we are history, literally. This is a question I have held for a very long time.
Holding this question has drawn me to re-read and reacquaint myself with several of the classic creation stories from indigenous traditions. It has been truly mind bending to rediscover the power that these very ancient and early stories have to shape and frame our ways of understanding our place in the world. And then we forget that we are even telling ourselves these stories and simply act from them and have our behavior in the world driven by these storylines.
One of the hallmarks of indigenous creation stories is the awareness of reciprocity. Human beings are in a reciprocal relationship with all the rest of creation. They are not above it, they are not below it—they are in reciprocity with it. There is a very deep honoring of this truth in these indigenous stories. Human beings have something to offer this ecosystem called planet earth, and planet earth has something to offer human beings. It is an interconnected dance that occurs with all of creation.
As a child, if you are told creation stories such as Skywoman falling, then you naturally begin to see the reciprocity that is embedded in the story. In the story of Skywoman falling, a female falls from out of the heavens. As she is hurtling towards the earth a flock of geese see her and fly underneath her to catch her and stop her fall. As she rests in their soft, downy feathers the geese confer with the other animals of the sea because they know she needs something to stand on, and then turtle comes to provide a place for her to set down. The geese let her gently down on the back of the turtle. The animals understand that for her and her children to survive, she needs some land, and thus all kinds of different animals dive down to get some mud but without success. Finally, the lowly muskrat is the one who gives his life to bring up from the depths a handful of mud, which Skywoman uses to create the land and the earth as we know it. This is why many native traditions call our land turtle island. Deeply embedded in that story is the theme of reciprocity, a theme learned early on if this is the story you are told as a child.
If, however, you grew up in a different tradition, where the story is that Eve ends up being banished from the garden, needing to find clothes and food and to walk the earth and toil, this creates a very different image of this earth. It is one that can easily be seen as hostile and not particularly friendly. In my way of thinking, this can have a direct corollary to how you think about and potentially relate to the natural world.
Re-reading these North American creation stories has caused me to remember the power of story itself. The San people, the most ancient indigenous people in our world who live in the Kalahari Desert—some of whom I had the privilege of meeting when I worked in Bostwana—know the power of story. For them, stories are everything. They are more important than even food and fire because they understand that it is from stories that we live and create the world. They protect stories as the most sacred gift that they as humans carry, and I am beginning to understand why. The stories we carry define how we live. They go into us in a very cellular way, and it is out of them that we create the world that we know and inhabit.
My meditations have led me to a deep and beautiful inquiry into the daily stories that I tell myself and what they lead me to do and not do relative to people, my life, and this world. It has been a powerful, uncomfortable and humbling inquiry because it has required me to look directly at things and say to myself, "Wow, I really do think that about this person or that situation and I don't want to think that—in fact I don't think it is true." It has led to much self-reflection and letting go. It is all these daily stories that can create a world of beauty, of coherence, of respect, of humility; or they can create the opposite, a world of separation, of isolation, of arrogance, of anger.
Reflecting on the stories and becoming much more conscious of them allows me to jettison those that no longer serve me and take up new stories that are more accurate and relevant. Taking this out of the more cosmic view, I had a recent example where I was certain about an action I needed to take and I had gotten a real head of steam up about it. Knowing that I have a tendency to get on a roll with something, I have a practice of consulting the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, to give myself a moment of pause before acting too rashly. I use the I Ching as another discipline, and because it is a tradition that honors cycles, and seasons, the light and the dark. I find it very helpful. It slows me down and gives me a fresh perspective on things. In this situation, the hexagram I drew contained a very subtle but important reframing of the way I had been thinking about the situation. As soon as I read the hexagram I thought "Ha. That is true!" Even though it was a very small reframe around this situation, like magic, all the angst, and anger and teeth gnashing I had been doing for a week or more evaporated. Such is the power of story. When the storyline shifts, so do the thoughts and emotions that go with it.
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