Lynn Andrews: Mother Earth is the greatest schoolhouse we will ever have in this life, if we would but learn to listen to her.I am always fascinated by the ancient Mayans, who observed and charted the movement of the planets and stars through the heavens and the winds and waters across the land more than any other civilization on earth, drawing knowledge and wisdom from the ways in which all things interact.
When you study the few Mayan codices that survived the conquistadorés, or work with contemporary Mayan healers like Zoila or Jaguar Woman, you discover how thoroughly these ancient people understood that the natural world is our first teacher and ultimate task-master. They used the knowledge and wisdom that Mother Earth and Father Sky taught them to chart their course through life. Because they understood the movement of the planets and the stars, the solar winds and energy throughout the universe, they were able to predict with remarkable accuracy the events not only of their own times but also earth changes for hundreds of years into the future, including the configuration of heavenly bodies that will occur in our own time in the year 2012.
I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand how well the Mayans understood both the energies of nature and the nature of human beings in ways that our modern psychology is only beginning to glean, and to participate in some of the elaborate initiations they created to teach their young how to live in harmony with their world. I have learned first-hand what a remarkable way this is to experience life!
The word “shaman” is actually Tungusic in origin, from the indigenous Tungusic peoples of Siberia who conceive of the universe as a living organism: šamán, “one who knows,” one who is able to divine the hidden and use the powers of the spirit world to heal.
Although they are called differently and work in somewhat different fashion across the world, the šamán—those who know and enter the spirit world at will, who go into the great mystery of the unseen to bring back the power and magic of healing wisdom to the physical world, the shamans—have been a vital part of the fabric of humanity in every corner of this earth for tens of thousands of years, continuing to the present day. Because it is practiced differently and known by different names in different cultures, however, there is no singular expression either for the šamán or for what these healers do. Modern English has come up with the term “shamanism” to embrace this world, without offense to any of the many magnificent differences in the way that the sacred medicine of spirit is known, understood and practiced around the globe.
The shamanism of the Sisterhood of the Shields is a shamanism based on the principles of the sacred feminine that are over ten thousand years old, going back in time to the beautiful goddess civilizations. It is rooted in the knowledge that earth is a female planet. Mother Earth is the womb for all that lives upon her, and she has so much to teach us about the harmonies and rhythms of life, if only we would take the time to watch and listen. I am the first woman from a non-shamanic tradition to become fully initiated as a member of this society.
For people to live successfully on Earth, we must first understand and embrace the power of the sacred feminine equally and in balance with that of the sacred masculine. The women of the Sisterhood teach that to find that balance, we must understand and work with the natural forces of the entire universe, which are both male and female.
The shamanism of the Sisterhood of the Shields is the shamanism of the sacred warrioress, the spiritual warrior who knows that Mother Earth gives us life force, the life blood of our sacred body, and that the plants and animals, the four-leggeds, fish and winged ones, give us nourishment and healing both in the physical realm and in the realm of spirit as we ride the windhorse of our sacred intent into a world of harmony and light. As spiritual warriors, we do commerce in the world with the integrity of our own life and spirit. Our weapons are the shields of awareness, personal integrity, the symbols of ancient truth and the sacred give-away.
With one foot rooted firmly in the world of the physical and the other always in spirit, the spiritual warrior chooses the target carefully, takes aim, pulls back the bow and shoots the arrow with the total commitment of the warrior’s spiritual and physical being. The spiritual warrior heals by looking for the patterns of dis-ease that need to be changed, much as the medicine man of the north did with Ruby. We look to Mother Earth, Father Sky and to the inner universe for guidance.
Modern civilizations have largely lost and given up our observation and intuitive understanding of Mother Earth. We’ve replaced it with an analytical paradigm we call ‘science,’ which we rely on to tell us as much as we think we need to know about the workings of the world around us. In doing so, we’ve placed ourselves in a peculiar sort of conundrum. Consider this: all of the animals that weren’t penned-in evacuated to high ground hours in advance of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, as did the communities of aboriginal islanders who understood what the movement of both the ocean waters and the animals meant. Because there wasn’t a technological tsunami warning system in place, however, over 225,000 people in the commercial population remained at the coast and were killed.
If you step back and witness the extraordinary lifestyles that our science and technology enable us to have and then look closely at those instances where science and technology have failed us, you realize that perhaps we ought reconsider what we’ve really given up by losing our own powers of observation and understanding, by turning away from the knowledge and wisdom that our ancestors built over thousands and thousands of years of observing the world around them. When you move through life with a conscious awareness of earth’s rhythms, you move into the flow of energy as it courses throughout the entire universe. That is when you have true power working with you and all of possibility is at your fingertips, as opposed to paddling blindly upstream the way modern people tend to do.
Think about what Mother Earth teaches us about harmonious and successful living just by observing the rhythms of her four seasonal cycles.
Spring is the time of new beginnings, when the trees bud and rains prepare the soil for new growth. For millenniums, farmers have planted their seeds with great care during the springtime so that they will weather the storms of the season that bring much needed moisture and fertilization.
Summer is the season when flowers bloom, when fruits and vegetables ripen on the vine. It is the time when farmers must tend to their crops closely, pruning away the excess growth and those branches that are not growing properly so that the life of the plant is not drained away.
Autumn is the time of harvest and reckoning as the leaves on the trees and plants begin to fall back to earth to be absorbed and transformed. It is the time when farmers harvest their crops and reap the rewards of their labor, the time when the entire community comes together.
Winter is the time when frigid temperatures send plants and animals alike deep into hibernation and dreaming in preparation for a new cycle to begin.
Think of all the honey we might extract if we were to place just earth’s four seasons alongside a review of our own lives. “Beginning, middle and end,” the women of the Sisterhood have said to me so many times. “Beginning, middle, and end, and then a new beginning. Life is a circle that never ends.”
Individually and as a culture, we’ve gotten pretty good at springtime. We’ve gotten good at new beginnings. We’ve gotten so good at them, in fact, that we often fail to look at the ramifications of what we are doing. We don’t look at the seeds we are going to sow and make critical decisions, such as, “Where is this going to go? Are the soils of my life fertile, or is there more I need to learn before I get started?” Instead, we get an idea and plunge right in. Then the storms come. And we discover that there were a few things that we probably should have considered before we got started. Sometimes we take so long to make a new beginning that we risk losing windows of opportunity, but, generally speaking, we humans are good at beginnings. We do it all the time.
Somewhere toward the middle, however, we tend to begin to lose interest. We become distracted, impatient, hungry for more, newer “feel-good” things. We forget all about the summertime of our projects, the critical time of cultivating and nurturing what we’ve planted, even those parts of our lives that are most important to us. When we forget to take good care of the things we start, as if they will somehow just take care of themselves, we’ve no business feeling picked on when they begin to fall apart. When you forget to take good care of the people in your life, relationships begin to wither. How often do you take the time to let those you love know how much you appreciate them by nurturing them in a special way?
How often do you prune and weed out that which no longer serves you, whether it is old, worn-out ideas or projects gone astray? Do you hold onto old ideas and ideologies until they strangle you? Once in a while, we make a conscious decision that something we’ve begun really isn’t for us, and we take the steps to make some kind of reasonable closure. So much of the time, however, we lose interest and just shove things to the back shelves of our lives. Then we pile up so much unfinished business that there is no room left for ourselves, let alone for anything new and truly worthwhile.
Endings are something we don’t do well in our modern world. We tend to fear and regard death as if it were the most unnatural thing in the entire universe. We’ve become so divorced from the concept of endings that we don’t finish a great deal of what we start, with the result that we leave a trail of clutter and neglect everywhere we turn. We want to reap the rewards of what we’ve done, but so often we don’t stay with things long enough to get there. Autumn doesn’t apply to us.
As regards winter, most of us no longer recognize a period of hibernation in our lives, in winter or at any other time. Our cultures are such that we are constantly on the go. When we take a vacation, we usually fill it with so many things that we need another vacation just to recover. Even when we sleep, we expect to be back up to speed on everything that went on outside of us during those “lost” hours before we’ve finished our morning coffee. And then we wonder why we become so irascible and burned out?
The way we live our lives today is like if Mother Earth were to go on break half way through summer, then skip autumn and winter completely in a mad dash to get back to spring. And we wonder why we are living in greater chaos and confusion today than at any other time in human history.
When you stop to look at the catastrophic impact that our cumulative failure to understand “beginning, middle, and end” has on our lives and on this earth, you realize some things that we all need to change. In our rush to have more, bigger, better, we plunder this earth of her most important resources. We forget to take care of our infrastructures, whether they be the roads and bridges of our communities or our own bodies, until they begin to fall down around us. Our economies go through a period of growth and we think it will last forever, forgetting completely that everything in life has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We don’t make provision for when the good times will wind down nor do we take the time to end things with integrity. Then, when they fall apart, we play the role of victim, “Poor me, how could this happen to me?”
Wherever you are in the cycles of your life, it might be a very good to have a master class with Mother Earth. Make some time to go within and take a good look at your life, where you’ve been and where you really want to go. Ask yourself, “Have I accomplished what I set out to do, or did I miss the mark? What did I learn from what I’ve just been through?” Look at your life through the energies of the four seasons and make conscious decisions about what is truly important and what you need to let go.
Then take responsibility for your world. Plant your seeds for new beginnings with great care. When you plant a seed, you are planting and cultivating energy, the energy of the life force that will send that seed on its journey toward the light so that it can blossom and become a manifested reality.
Nurture with all of your being what you are holding onto, and let go of what no longer serves you in a way that does not leave clutter. Then you will really be ready to go within, once again, to begin anew the next cycle of your life.
Do it now, when you’ve got the energy of the entire universe working with you. All the mysteries of the universe are there, waiting for you to discover them, just as the ancient Mayans did. Taste the honey. It is so sweet.
Excerpt from “Coming Full Circle – Ancient Teachings for a Modern World”
Circling Back: “Through the Eyes of a Spiritual Warrior”
by Lynn Andrews