You each are a hologram of everyone and everything. There is no such thing as a separate self. Much of what is considered selfhood is the interface between you and something else or someone else who is also not a separate self. We see the focus of your present experience that has a thread to the focus of your past experiences. But we also see that every relationship is a being, which we call a deva of relationship. There are devas of relationship between you and other people, other spirits, and the Earth. This is how we would define a shaman: someone whose focus of identity becomes as much in their devas of relationship with the Earth and with other people and beings, as it is in some semblance of separate selfhood from which these experiences emanate.
Cathee loves to do astrology charts of people's relationships. And the more she does them, the more she realizes that there is no Cathee who is separate from Cathee's relationship with Peter, Cathee's relationship with John, and so forth. She knows herself through her relationships, including relationships with nature spirits and the Earth. In your culture you tend to be very abstract, intellectually trained from a young age, and when you look at pop psychology, it's all about knowing the self. People study systems like astrology thinking they're going to know the self better. In a way you do, but in a way you see the patterns that comprise you, that you are experiencing. You are not creating those patterns. You are in there experiencing them. So in other words, you're experiencing the life of Peter MacGill, but the life of Peter MacGill is a huge conglomeration of all sorts of relationships and experiences. It doesn't really exist as a singular entity, or as something you can touch.
Most people in your culture have no idea how abstract your self-image is, and how it really doesn't connect up. It doesn't make sense even to think of written histories as being about the life of someone, as if that were a real thing. Biographies are about the relationship each author had with the subject, whether they knew them or not. There is really not someone in there per se.
If you expect to have a sense of self in the middle of a shamanic experience, you have to go into some false sense of ego, which many people do. But that usually happens after the experience: "I connected with fifteen high guides, and you only connected with three?" Or you have to lock your experiences into a biographical sequence that you can relate to someone, proving that this happened in order, and this is who I was. And you all know that just in going to a class reunion and sharing memories, you can discover that what you thought was so solid about yourself wasn't ever that solid to begin with. You can come away with a different interpretation of even who liked you and who didn't that you had misinterpreted either way.
What spiritual tradition doesn't talk about this in some form? In Eastern traditions that focus on the guru, perhaps the guru sets a space for your experience, so that you think you can bank on him or her being somewhat real. At the least you're trusting that there's something there that will be consistent for you with that person. But what we find so beautiful in the shamanic experience is the importance of what some people call allies, but we call lovers. Usually it's a far more fluid sense of relationship than you would have within a tradition, church or guru situation.
For instance, Cathee loves flowers. She talked to a dandelion yesterday and received a vision, and went back today and either the rain had mangled it, or it's closing up and going to seed already. She couldn't believe the difference in just one day, from wide open beautiful to kind of a mess. Nature gives you a constant reminder that things change, but there's something in the experience. What she went back to find today was really not the dandelion. It was to touch back into that experience of the relationship with the dandelion. And she knows that that is ancient between her and dandelions, whoever "her" is, and whoever "dandelion" is. Part of the miracle of existence is that in the first place, there are always more wonderful relationships to have. But also that something does cycle around year after year—she does see dandelion every year—but there's never anything she can hold onto for more than a few days. And so there's almost required a certain familiarity with death as well as with birth and with life. In one day, she felt like she went through a large part of the cycle with at least the bloom of dandelion. The rest of the plant was there. She was told to eat part of it today, so she helped kill part of it, and ingested that into the cycle of her body.
We think that it is rare today to find any shaman—whether they be native elders or those who come to it naturally, but are not of a certain tradition—who are willing to totally trust that woo woo feeling, that sense that nothing is really something I can hang onto. There are many beautiful paths, and people are drawn this way and that way, and some people are drawn to all of them. The Buddhist path of just consciously saying, "I'm letting go of attachment" is a way of getting at the same thing as going out and realizing the daisy won't be here tomorrow that was here today. But what we find wonderful is the incredible love in the shamanic path, when you consider all these relationships lovers. And you can always bank on the experience and the love. We don't mean to be criticizing the Buddhist tradition, because it works very well for a lot of people. In that tradition it's often said, don't try to hang onto your spiritual experiences. If you have a mini-enlightenment experience in your meditation, you've gotta go in and just do the technique the next day, and don't feel disappointed if it doesn't happen again. It may not happen for another twenty years. Do the technique, do the technique.
With shamanism, there's always love there. If you are loving, you can connect with whomever you want to connect to. We don't know any being in the nature realm who does not want to connect. It's just so natural. The glue that keeps the world running is that everything relates to everything in a beautiful way.
In your abstract culture, it's good that there are many teachers teaching how to open the heart, because it's not emphasized in your school system. The head is. Head, head, head. And yet, whether with humans or with nature beings or ETs or anybody, those that really let themselves go into this not needing a strong sense of individual selfhood, but merging into the love, the love, the love, the love—here it is, there it is. We think for the few people who really open to that, there's the matter of how to maneuver with such an open heart that it's almost overstimulating. So what we'd like to offer tonight is both an encouragement to open, but also . . . some people would use the word grounding, how to ground it. We don't especially like that word. How to tolerate it. Really, it's a matter of how fast can you stretch to become the beloved, and to become the beloved, and to become the beloved.
from Selfhood through Relationships to:
Part One table of contents
Parallel Worlds Leap Handbook intro
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