What is the Soul – Part 3 – Our Dual Nature

Now that we’ve contrasted our Earthly experience of existence with our spiritual one, and discussed why we might not remember our disembodied experience, we might wonder how our soul-self feels about incarnated life.

I use the term soul-self to refer to the long view of the self – the part of us that persists through the cycles of birth and death. There is no difference between your soul-self and “you,” but your soul-self carries with it the deep understanding of this “other” existence, something your conscious mind (heavily influenced by empiricism and the scientific method) will deny or, at least, doubt. We’ll talk more about this split a little later in the post.

When I first read the Newton dialogues, the language was sometimes disconcerting for me. Our Soul-selves seem to have a real ambivalence towards life in a physical body. Some of Newton’s subjects spoke of incarnation as something to look forward to and relish, but many expressed anxiety and regret over their experiences on Earth. They incarnated to accomplish certain goals, but once in a body they couldn’t remember what those were.

The glittering distractions of today’s world are a far cry from the dawn of human existence where mythology and ritual ruled the day. Although the embodied spirit can create amazingly beautiful (and terrible) things, most rational society today is so entrenched in the primacy of embodied existence it refuses to seriously consider the possibility of a disembodied one.

Thus, we incarnate with the best of intentions, but when we’re on-the-ground we are convinced by everyone else to ignore what’s in our hearts and follow what’s in their heads. We strive to achieve someone else’s definition of success, yet even when we do we find ourselves feeling bored and unfulfilled, depressed and lonely (even when we’re in a relationship).

We find fulfillment when we return to our spirit – and that is a wonderful experience, but even that is not always enough. As human beings we live in the corporeal world, not in the spirit world, so we must find a way to find lasting fulfillment in this aspect of our existence.

Our Soul Self’s Perception of Life on Earth

Although there is a wide range in the reports from the Newton dialogues, in most cases there seems to be a huge disconnect in what the soul goes into a new life expecting to be able to do and what they are actually able to accomplish. The case below represents an extreme;

“Dr. N: Shabez, now that you have died and returned to the spirit world, tell me how you feel? S: (shouts) Cheated! That life was so cruel! I couldn’t stay. I was only a little girl unable to help anybody. What a mistake! Dr.N: Who made this mistake? S: (in a conspiratorial tone) My leader. I trusted his judgment, but he was wrong to send me into that cruel life to be killed before my life got started. Dr. N: But you did agree to come into the body of Shabez? S: (upset) I didn’t know Earth would be such an awful place full of terror – I wasn’t given all the facts – the whole stupid life was a mistake and my leader is responsible. Dr. N: Didn’t you learn anything from this life? S: (pause) I started to learn love… yes, that was wonderful… my brother… parents… but it was so short…” (need loc) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

Newton presents the above case as a ‘newly incarnating’ soul. Another subject had this to say about returning to the spirit world;

“Dr. N: What else are you feeling at this moment? S: Peace. There is such peace you never want to leave again.” (loc 947) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

The stakes are different for us in a disembodied existence versus an embodied existence. By all accounts, we are much more connected to each other in the disembodied state. Without the heavy constraints of physical matter we can move faster, feel freer, be more connected with others and with the Universe at large. Without the constraints of a body such as hunger and decay, the stakes for every interaction are much lower. Our relationships seem to be more free and less contentious;

“Dr. N: What is the major difference in your interactions with other souls, compared to being in human form on Earth? S: Here no one is a stranger. There is a total lack of hostility toward anyone… We recognize a universal bond between us which make us all the same. There is no suspicion toward each other… Dr. N: Living on Earth must be difficult for souls, then? S: It is, for the newer ones especially, because they go to Earth expecting to be treated fairly. When they aren’t, it’s a shock. For some, it takes quite a few lives to get used to the Earth body.”[1]

With our spiritual existence virtually unknown to us, (and even for those who feel a deep knowing that it does exist, the actual experience remains largely elusive) the stakes for our embodied self are very high indeed. Isolated in a solitary body we are lonely, afraid of death, we feel a drive to attain earthy success, we care very much about the attractiveness of our body to others and leaving a lasting imprint on this world.

The experience on Earth is so intense and overwhelming that, “…most all returning souls will continue on to some sort of healing station before finally joining their groups.”[2]

It sounds rather like getting off some kind of wild ride. Here is another example,

“S: Giles [subject’s spirit guide] has made me look upon my lives as a chess game with the Earth as the board. Certain moves bring certain results and there are no easy solutions. I plan, and then things go wrong during the game in my life. I sometimes think he lays traps for me to work through on the board. Dr. N: Do you prosper with this technique of your advanced guide? Has Giles been a help to your problem-solving during the game of life? S: (pause)…more afterward… here (in the spirit world)… but he makes me work so damn hard on Earth.” (loc 1419) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

This theme is repeated over and over in life-between-life dialogues. We incarnate, we don’t anticipate the level of struggle we will have in a matter-dominant world and we (often, though not always) come out of a life feeling somewhat remorseful or resentful that we couldn’t accomplish as much as we planned.

It aligns perfectly with the comment that Esther Hicks-channeling-ABRAHAM made in Anaheim, “We don’t understand why it takes you so long.”

You may be able to see at this point how this might lead to a great deal of ambivalence on the side of our soul-selves towards the incarnated self. It is my belief that the result of this ‘orbiting’ state is much of the deep self-loathing we have as incarnated beings.

We dress that feeling up in many forms, give it many names, and project it into the circumstances of the current life to explain it – but this ‘orbiting’ existence, our inability to clearly see our being and all that contributes to who we are as one cohesive whole, might be the real root cause of our self-loathing, shame, and self-disconnection from divine love.

In next week’s post we’ll talk about ‘that pesky Ego’ and how it relates to all of this.

As an aside – I was initially going to try to take on this subject in four posts – but given this is the 3rd and it’s a lot of writing with miles to go… it looks like it’s going to be six, maybe seven.

Are you interested in actively walking your Spiritual Path to connect and heal yourself at the deepest level?

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[1] (loc 969) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

[2] (loc 1641) – Destiny of Soul – Newton, Michael

Science & Spiritual Path – Part 3 – Thoughts on Co-Creation

I hadn’t intended to write a post about Co-Creation as part of this series. However, when I chanced across an article about Australia National University researchers furthering research into the Observer effect, it occurred to me that this was the perfect place for such a post.

This post builds on the arguments for the ‘non-existence of time apart from motion’ as laid out in Everything is Now and the argument for Free Will laid out in The Double Agent of Change. Certainly they are not a pre-requisite for understanding the ideas in this post, but if you read those afterwards they might help the overall argument make more sense.

Before we get too deep, let me define Co-Creation as I understand and experience it. Co-Creation is the process of influencing energy at a base level to bring about particular outcomes in reality in ‘the future.’ When we live in flow and are connected this happens so naturally that we don’t always stop to think about how amazing it is.

Our ability to influence reality always depends on the momentum and trajectory of energy. One person, or even dozens of people, can’t stop a speeding train. This is why our ability to influence reality one or two steps ahead of us is tremendously limited (see the post The Art of Finding for options in dealing with immediate situations).

However, because the only moment that exists is the now, what we think of as the further future – months or years out – doesn’t exist yet and can therefore be an ‘open space’ for creative influence.

What does this look like in practical application? At the risk of putting myself in the crazy category I’m going to share some very real examples from my own life…

  • In the year 2000 when I graduated from college, I wanted more than anything (do not ask me why!) to work for Leo Burnett in downtown Chicago. That summer, while I was walking around downtown submitting applications, I put my hand on the Leo Burnett building and said “I wish to work here.” Shortly after,[1] I got a call from one of the personnel agencies I submitted a resume to. They were filling openings for a large ad agency downtown – guess where? Needless to say, I got the job. – Every job I’ve gotten since college has a story like this one.


  • In the year 2002 when we were visiting San Antonio and walking the Riverwalk I made a wish that someone influential in Chicago’s city planning would see the Riverwalk and do something like it in Chicago. When I visited home just a few years later I stumbled into a building that showed plans for a redesigned walk along the Chicago River.


  • In the year 2009 when my husband and I visited Montreal we found an extensive bike infrastructure – including very protected bike lanes and even traffic lights with little bicycles on them. I remember thinking – if Montreal, a place that’s colder that Chicago, can do this, why can’t we? I made a wish that we would put in such a bicycle infrastructure in Chicago and I’ve watched over the last few years as that has started to grow and develop (Chicago was pretty late to this party, admittedly J).

These are three examples out of dozens and dozens from my own experience and I’m quite sure that hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have experienced the “magic” of co-creation for themselves.

Did “I” influence reality to bring about these outcomes? Without ever talking to anyone, writing a letter to the city, or being an activist for a cause? It sounds crazy right? If asked point blank, depending on my mood, I would respond somewhere in the range between of course not! To probably not or unlikely and sometimes simply I don’t know. But, here is where the Trickster lesson of the ‘bait thief’ comes in handy.

To believe that all these events happened only because I wished them to be so is to swallow the bait and the hook – to be delusional. To deny it outright and say it’s impossible that I had any influence at all is to leave the bait and the hook (ie – I don’t become delusional, but I don’t get to eat / transform my life either). I need to take the bait without swallowing the hook – I need to be able to simultaneously accept that these events came into being (partly) because I wished them so and that they could just as easily have had nothing to do with me at all.

There is tension between these two realities, if I can allow that tension to fluctuate in my mind-space, I can let data points accumulate and accumulate and accumulate… I can say, I don’t know for certain whether things are truly happening because of me, but whatever it is I’m doing seems to be working out as I hoped – so I’m going to keep doing it. 🙂 [2] See the post Trickster Makes this Road for more about the Trickster and the Spiritual Path.

Seeing is Believing

So far I’ve explained what I understand Co-Creation to be, and at the risk of sounding quite crazy, I didn’t want to soft-pedal or be evasive about it because it’s huge, amazing, and fascinating – but now we need to talk about how it works from a more scientific perspective since that’s what this post is about.

Let’s start with the Observer effect and the experiments into it thus far. From Wikipedia the Observer Effect “refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed.” The long-standing experiment into this involves light acting as either particle or waves and a new experiment by Australian National University has essentially reproduced this experiment with atoms.

What is important about both these experiments has nothing to do with “who” is doing the observing (whether a person or mechanical apparatus), but rather has to do with the very simple conclusion that even something as slight as observation – by anything at all – influences reality. Or, to state it another way; at the smallest, most particulate level – all energy is influenced by interaction, we cannot even watch energy without influencing it.

If merely watching reality can influence reality – imagine how much more actually trying to influence reality can influence reality.

The other piece that’s important, that triggered the writing of this post, is what this latest experiment demonstrates about what I think of as the ‘nebulous reality’ of the unknown.

When I was in grade school I was a bit obsessed by a silly thing that I called “the collision of worlds” which was the idea that when we meet people (not people we know and co-exist with on a regular basis, but random people – like the grocery store cashier in a different city) that it was like a collision of their whole world and my whole world that existed together for just the time of that interaction and then drifted away to a completely separate existence again.

Since then I have been somewhat interested in the idea, even though it seems impossible, that everything outside one’s own sphere of awareness (and even some things within our sphere of awareness) might be a bit nebulous; unset, unformed. I guess how I would explain it is this – where knowledge is connected, reality is ‘set’, but where it isn’t, it isn’t.

This is already a really long post and it would take several hundred more words to explain the experiment. You can read about it here, but the conclusion the scientists drew is this,

“If one chooses to believe that the atom really did take a particular path or paths then one has to accept that a future measurement is affecting the atoms past, said Truscott. // The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of their journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence.”

I believe this is a ‘double-sided’ problem to which we’re seeing one side here. Our measurement brings that atom into ‘known’ existence for us – and it’s past becomes set. But at the same time our existence also became known for the atom. Or, to use the earlier concept, our two worlds collided in that moment of existence, so to speak. Even though our existence seems continuous to us, it may in fact be nebulous to the atom (who knows how an atom even perceives us?) until the moment of measurement in the ‘now.’

As argued in Everything is Now, the only moment that exists is ‘now’ which occurs at the cross-roads between the past and future. The ‘now’ has energy leading into it and energy leading out of it, but since it is the only moment of actual existence, it also presents the only opportunity to change the direction and flow of energy.

If thoughts are energy (and the Universe is made up of energy) then thought – or intention, or whatever you want to call it – can influence reality just as physical action can. This may seem ridiculous or unrealistic when we think about trying to “move” a physical object with our minds – but if thoughts are energy and what we’re trying to move is energy (the unformed, nebulous energy of the future) then it becomes a bit easier to fathom.

What we are doing when we co-create is use our energy to move energy in the future. Instead of trying to push the train in a particular direction, we are ‘re-arranging the railroad tracks’. We influence the future trajectory of the energy, not the actual physical matter itself. When we influence the trajectory, things in the present start to line up according to our intention and vision.

How Do We Do It?

There tend to be a few sticking points around this for people that I’d like to address here;

Thoughts are not energy.

If everything in the Universe is made up of some kind of energy, then thoughts must be energy also. If thoughts are not energy, what are they?

Thoughts are stuck inside our head and therefore cannot influence the outside world.

Most people have had at least one occurrence in their lives where there’s a song running in their head and someone else start’s humming it, or they are thinking about someone and suddenly that person calls / contacts them, or someone is searching for a word and we think it only to have them nearly simultaneously come up with the same word we just thought of. Our thoughts are not stuck inside our head – in fact, sometimes I wonder if they’re in our head at all. At the very least, many of our thoughts are in our energy field which not only surrounds us, but through which we are connected to other people and also the Universe.

“My” thoughts and wishes don’t seem to come true.

For many of us most of our thoughts are pretty weak – meaning that we are not truly convicted about them. Weak thoughts don’t influence much of anything.

This gets very tricky, actually, and is one of the reasons walking the spiritual path is so key because sometimes, consciously, we can think we’re very convicted or motivated to go in a particular direction, but subconsciously we have fears that hold us back or sabotage our progress. One of my biggest clues that I’m not as aligned as I think I am is when I can’t get traction on a particular wish or intention.

When we have a subject where there are already lots of conflicting thoughts, influence is much harder (probably impossible for an individual). Take a concept like gun control or abortion or the environment – there are already tons and tons of conflicting ideas around these concepts keeping them in something of an energy quagmire. In order for these topics to ever move anywhere, an idea is going to have ‘come from the side’ so to speak or do something to disrupt the existing tangled energy.

In summary, thoughts have the most opportunity to influence reality when the below three conditions are met;

a.) There is ‘open space’ for the energy to move (for example, new or different ideas) OR thoughts / intentions align with where the energy is already going; situations where there is not already a lot of conflicted energy keeping things stuck.

b.) Our ‘minds’ and hearts (or conscious and subconscious) are aligned, our whole being sends a clear signal – so to speak – versus a mixed signal

c.) We have a strong connection to the Universe (or God or whatever you want to call it) through which we communicate our wish or intention.

A person who has put energy behind a thought or intention where a, b, and c are all true is going to have a very good chance of influencing reality in that direction. More importantly, though, a person who regularly connects to the Universe through meditation or prayer and is more aligned overall is going to experience Co-creation more often – even on small things – because b & c are going to be true ‘by default’ so anytime a is also true, anytime there’s space for the energy to move, BINGO, the Co-Creation process will start.


[1] (not the next day, but like maybe a week later – I mean, this was 16 years ago… my memory is not that exact! J)

[2] On the flipside, you might suggest that I’m really just ‘psychic’ and I didn’t “wish” these things into being, I just “knew” that they would come to be. I would counter, though, that I do have a fair bit of experience with psychic knowing[2] and it’s a completely different feeling. To “know” something psychically, at least for me, is to have a sense for how energy is moving and where it’s going. For me, that knowing is like a physical sensation.

In contrast, for cases of co-creation the energy is either nebulous and unformed or it’s going in a different direction and I can feel that resistance when I put out my request. If I have a feeling around these events at the time I make my request it’s uncertainty. Or rather it’s a certainty that any number of future outcomes are possible.

Science – Part 2 – Thoughts on Evolution

Like so many debates, the one around how we came to exist is a victim of the ‘false dichotomy’ problem between “Intelligent Design” – another way of saying “God did it” or a godless, random process where it’s total chance that we ever ended up existing at all. Even the “Giant Spaghetti Monster” hypothesis is really just another version of Intelligent Design.

We are not limited to these two choices in understanding how life in general and humanity in specific came to exist on Earth.

In college, I used to get in fierce debates with my science-major friends about the non-randomness of evolution; arguing that I strongly believed in evolution, I just didn’t think it was random. This was something they seemed unable to understand. For them, if I didn’t believe in Random Genetic Mutation (RGM) coupled with Sexual Selection, I was a Creationist.

For my part, I thought this was a vast underestimation of the data that gets exchanged at a biochemical and energetic level among organisms in the world we live in. Everything we take into our body – whether breathing, eating, or absorbing through our skin – has an impact on us.

Consider the pheromones given off by many creatures (including humans!) when they seek to mate. Pheromones are a chemical substance that communicates more powerfully then any pick-up line could.

I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to believe that our bodies could take in environmental information at a cellular (or atomic / energetic) level and use it. Granted, maybe not in the current generation, but perhaps in future generations. For me, this meant that it wasn’t a random genetic mutation driving evolution, but a very targeted one.

It seems like the very core of evolution to argue that a species genetic code can be modified based on the data that came in from the environment.

Reflecting back, I can understand a little bit what the resistance of my friends might have been. Targeted genetic modification sounds a lot like ‘someone’ is making a ‘decision,’ and that sounds an awful lot like “Intelligent design.”

However, I associated this behavior on a cellular level as a more fundamental example of what we readily observe on an organism level. For example, when a plant grows in the direction of sunlight – is that a decision? When a tree (or plant) gets too much sunlight and flips it’s leaves over so that the more reflective backside of the leaves slows the absorption of sunlight – is that a decision?


It’s a stimulus and a response.

Missing Pieces

Interestingly enough, it was a college Ecology class that really galvanized my belief that evolution is not random. (And before you ask, I went to college at a large public university). We were discussing the evolution of evolutionary theory; gradualism, random genetic mutation, sexual selection, etc. One thing the professor said really sparked my interest. She said,

“The one big mystery of evolution from a random genetic mutation perspective is that you would think – if it’s random – the fossil record would be littered with bad mutations – ones that didn’t work out, but that’s simply not the case. We don’t have a record of all these failed random mutations.”

We have records of organisms both large and small that have gone extinct, even organisms as old as stromatolites. But we don’t have examples of animals that have mutated in unsuccessful ways. Isn’t that interesting?

Now, one could argue that all those fossils have disappeared into the Earth – or that the fossils we do have aren’t really a representative example of all the iterations of creatures that have existed. Or it could be argued that the fossils we do have may have had failed mutations that aren’t visible in their remains.

The lack of fossil evidence of random genetic mutation is not a smoking gun by any means, but it is a data point that’s worth paying attention to.

A few years later I stumbled on Olivia Judson’s book Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, a pop-culture evolutionary biology book that bolstered my developing belief that evolution is something less than random. Here is one interesting quote (of which there are quite a few) to illustrate what I mean;

“an experiment with yellow dung flies…has shown that testes size can evolve in response to sperm competition in as few as ten generations.” (pg 23)

So first of all – I hope you weren’t eating. If you were, I apologize 🙂  Secondly, though, ten generations?  That’s not millions of years, that’s evolution happening in weeks and months. Also, worth noting, if we were talking about random mutation in response to an environmental stimulus (here: sperm competition), one expect flies to turn pink maybe or grow extra legs or maybe their wings change size, but that’s not what happened here.

Maybe it’s easy to miss, but here we see (and I did do a quick skim through the source studies for this one) that evolution is happening in a very targeted way for the animal– one that corresponds to the area where adjustment is needed.  That makes perfect logical sense, but it’s definitely not random.

This is not to say that there are no random mutations. That surely happens. My argument is merely that random mutations (even ‘coupled’ with sexual selection) are not the primary driver of evolution.

Of course this may all seem like ‘old news’ now as I know there is a “new-ish” field called Epigenetics that studies modifications to the genetic code based on environmental conditions.  Still – it’s worth considering that evolution may be a bit “smarter” than we thought without needing to imagine a single, high god tinkering with every plant and creature.

Off the Deep End

I’m now going to take a leap in a completely different direction – I think it’s only fair to warn you.

Above we’ve discussed evolution of organisms from the perspective of ‘matter’ – that is, bodily, but we haven’t really touched on the idea of consciousness. Consciousness in general is possessed by most subjects in the Animal Kingdom. We can all tell that there is a difference between the consciousness of a plant and that of a puppy.

But, as an observable phenomenon, there seems to be a categorical difference between the operation of human consciousness and any other known life on this planet. We may talk about dolphins and whales as intelligent animals, but we do not mean by this that dolphins can work with complex mathematical algorithms, nor do we evaluate the complex narrative structure of a whale’s song compared to a work like War and Peace.

The human ability to create and self-reflect, to understand diverse perspectives and craft narratives based on complex emotions and motivations; all of these are representative of the uniqueness of the human condition. Also notable, is the human ability to build on what came before – not just over tens of thousands of years, but year over year. We don’t really see that with any other known species.

Now, some may argue that we simply don’t know enough about the inner life of a whale or dolphin (or ant for that matter) to judge. This is true. We should allow that that’s possible and avoid dismissing the argument outright. However, on the other hand, we should not let that argument stop us from thinking about the difference between human consciousness and that of all other life on Earth as we presently understand it.

It is partly this difference, of course, that sparks our speculation on the human soul. In the face of the human experience from the perspective of this difference, it is perfectly logical and rational to wonder why it is so. Why can fruit flies evolve sexual adaptations in ten generations, but in the 60,000 years of human existence hasn’t another species evolved a consciousness like ours?

Based on the current evolutionary debate it seems like we are at an impasse here – that we must choose between believing in a human soul and believing in evolution. Fortunately, that is actually not true, we are not required to believe that our bodies and our human ‘sense of self’ came about in the same way. People have certainly been wondering over the mind-body connection since Descartes and probably a long time before.

As a person who believes in both evolution and reincarnation, I feel compelled to be open-minded about how these two parts of our existence (both as spirit and as body) might have come into being and changed over time to result in our current experience.

In closing I want to note that I am clearly not a geneticist or an evolutionary biologist. It is not my goal with this post to try to convince you that the ideas in this post are right. What’s most important to me is that you take away this; we don’t have to ‘choose sides’ between a ‘godless’ evolution and a creationist myth that clearly ignores the evidence we do have on record – the more possibilities and options we consider, the better our chances of making a real breakthrough in this area.

One Quick Exercise to Start ‘Feeling’ Your Own Energy

I know I said the last installment was the end of our Energy series on the blog. However, I don’t feel right dropping a post series making elaborate claims about the nature of Energy and the Universe without providing at least a little bit of ‘how-to.’ (if you haven’t read any of the other installments in this series it starts <here>)

I’m tempted to write that it’s better to have some meditation practice before you start trying to feel your own energy, but my own history reminds me that my first introduction to energy came without any previous meditation practice. In fact, it was the informal study of my own energy that led me to meditation – not the other way around.

Becoming energy sensitive is an exercise in developing comfort with subtlety. Too often we think something doesn’t exist if it doesn’t hit us over the head. Or my personal favorite, “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.”

That may be true for commercial purposes or a graduate thesis… but there are plenty of stars and galaxies and all sorts of things in the Universe we can’t measure with current scientific technology that very much do exist.

As I mentioned in the second installment of the Energy series – there are certainly times where I have struggled with my own energy sensitivity; doubting it.

A few months ago, though, as I quietly worked at my desk in the office, all I could hear was the ticking of the clock on the wall. It was so loud I couldn’t concentrate. I actually had to get up and walk away for a few minutes. In a moment of association, it struck me that the clock was always ticking – just that loud, just that way. It had been for years and years, I just didn’t always hear it.

Energy sensitivity is like this. When we’re distracted, when our attention is full of other things, we don’t notice our energy, even if we are familiar with energy-sensitivity. For people who are unaware of their energy, then, it’s fairly easy to ignore. We shouldn’t mistake subtlety with non-existence, however.

Most people actually do have experience with energy sensitivity, they just don’t think of it that way. The pain in our heart from a terrible break-up or loss of a loved one, the tingly feeling that comes with a new romance, gut feelings, some types of anxiety – the physical sensations associated with all of these are expressions of what’s going on in our energy field.

If you’re interested in starting to develop your own energy-sensitivity, I recommend the (fairly standard) exercise below.

Okay, So…. How do I do it?

Allow yourself about fifteen minutes in a quiet place (where you will not be disturbed) to try this exercise. That’s fifteen real minutes not five ‘this-feels-like-forever-surely-it’s-been-fifteen’ minutes.  🙂

If you’re the type of person to be constantly checking the clock or be worried that you should be spending your time doing “more important” things, set a timer on your phone or stove or whatever so that you are able to temporarily release the clock-anxiety.

It is critical to success of this exercise that you be able to ‘get out of your head’ – if you’re worried about how much time you have, all the things you need to do, or re-hashing some event at work, home, school, etc – you are unlikely to be able to do that.

The easiest way I have found to developing initial energy sensitivity is to stand or sit (whatever is going to be less distracting) with your palms about three-to-five inches apart in front of your heart.

Some recommend rubbing your palms together until they get all tingly and warm. This can be very helpful in the beginning as it will get your attention out of your head and into your palms – where it needs to be.

Try to move your palms as close together as you can without actually touching. Hold them there. Does it feel as if the surface of your palms or fingers are pulling together? The initial sensation to ‘feel’ for is an almost magnetic attraction between the palms of your hands.

Now slowly pull them apart… what happens to that magnetic sensation as you pull? Stop at about eight inches apart – keeping your concentration on the insides of your hands only – start moving your hands close together again.

Do you feel any resistance? (Keeping to the magnetic imagery – it may feel like you’ve flipped two magnets so that they are ‘like-to-like’ and are pushing back against each other).

Once you’ve developed some initial ‘magnetic’ sensation¸ slowly move your hands towards and away from each other, as if you were clapping in slow motion. Focus acutely on the sensation between your palms and how it changes. You should start to feel as if the air between your palms develops a ‘taffy-like’ quality.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything the first time you try. Spend fifteen minutes really trying this exercise every day for a week and I’m fairly certain you’ll feel something by the end of the seven day period.

The people that I’ve recommended this exercise to usually get so freaked out the first time they feel something that the minute they become cognizant, it’s gone.   If this happens to you, don’t worry. If you’re interested, keep trying. As with anything in life, practicing will help your energy sensitivity to develop. Soon you’ll be able to ‘hold’ the sensation with full cognizance.

Once you’ve developed a high degree of confidence working with the energy between your hands, you can move on to exploring the energy around your full body and in your chakras. I will post some exercises for those a few months down the line.

It’s important for me to disclose that I am not an energy master, by any definition. I have become familiar with my own energy and that of the “Universe” in various ways at varying levels across a number of years of casual observation and lay practice.

Energy-sensitivity is indispensable in walking the spiritual path for a number of reasons, but it is not synonymous with the spiritual path (ie – simply developing your energetic abilities does not equate to ‘walking the Spiritual Path’).

Resources for further study

If you’re looking for some teachers who specialize in energy development, you may want to check out the following resources;

Sonia Choquette – On the surface, Sonia Choquette’s work is about intuition, but get just a bit more in-depth and it’s all based in energy and vibration. I have taken some incredibly helpful, fulfilling online classes with Sonia Choquette. I’ve enjoyed a few of her books and I’ve twice gone to her for personal appointments at key junctures in my life.

Barbara Brennan School of Healing – I have never personally taken any internet or live classes with Barbara Brennan, but her book Hands of Light was the first book I ever read about energy back in 1995.

Deborah King – A well known name in the world of energy healing.  I have taken some online energy classes from her website – fascinating stuff!

Picture Window to the Soul

Thoughts on Tarot

I came to Tarot on tentative feet. Over the years I have occasionally visited psychics who used Tarot and, although I found their help invaluable, some part of me felt a good amount of discomfort with using the medium myself. The lion’s share of that probably has to do with my Catholic upbringing. But, despite my cringing, I do recognize the importance of challenging these points of resistance within myself.

Periodically in my work on the Spiritual path, when I’ve gotten “stuck”, I have employed various strategies to unblock. One of my favorites is to walk through the library aisles with my eyes half-closed and just “feel” when I should stop and where I should look to find a meaningful book. As you can imagine, I have to be a little judicious in using this tactic to avoid alarming other patrons. 🙂

On one such jaunt in early 2012 I found Sonia Choquette’s book 22 life lessons. I decided to use the book much the way I treat the exercise in the library; flip it open to a random page and see where it takes me.

The page I flipped to happened to be the lesson, “Accept Death.” Immediately this resonated. Nine months prior my husband and I had celebrated the birth of our first child and when I saw this lesson I knew instinctively that it was speaking to the death of our old life.

With the new baby, our lives had transformed. She was extremely sensitive (Actually I’m beginning to think she’s just incredibly intuitive) and needed constant attention. As a result, many staple activities of our prior existence were no longer feasible. To me, this lesson was saying – recognize that that life is over. Stop clinging to pieces and living by half-measures. Cut the cord and embrace this new existence.

I worked with that lesson for about a month until I felt like I “got it” and then went back to the well. This time when I was flipping through the book a voice in my head said “turn to page 32.” I listened and found the lesson “Follow Your Inner Voice.”

It’s difficult to describe what I felt in that moment. There are moments when things come together in such a particular way that it almost forces you to stop and take notice; your whole being goes on alert. In relation, I should note that not every page is a lesson in this book.

There is a ’front page’ to each lesson – like a chapter heading – and then several pages of text explaining the lesson in more depth. It’s interesting that all three times I have done this now my ’random’ opening has always landed on the ’front page’ of a lesson not somewhere in the middle of a chapter.

So, on the one hand, that was clearly a guided moment. The irony that it was in listening to my inner voice that I found the lesson to “Listen to your inner voice” is not lost on me. On the other hand, I have struggled with distinguishing between my inner voice and my ego for years and years.[2] But, as is the case with guidance[3], once given it’s ours to own or abandon and if the choice is ’abandon’ you’re going to be treading water for a while.

Ante Up

I grappled with this lesson for a few months before I made any headway. It’s impossible to pinpoint quite when it “occurred” to me that Tarot might help me bridge this gap. As I mentioned in the beginning, at first I felt significant internal apprehension about going down this road.

I do know that, at the time, I was reading a teeny-bopper pop culture novel that featured characters from Tarot, it’s possible that this provided the initial spark of interest. I think I felt something like – heck, if this is a subject of young adult novels these days what’s the harm in just looking at it?

I may also have been reading Jung’s autobio, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections at the time and, of course, Jung’s work places a high emphasis on the connection between symbols and working with the unconscious mind. It’s difficult to say two years on precisely how my path to Tarot unfolded. I do know that at some point I was curious enough to pick up a few books on Tarot at the library. At the time I told myself I was merely intellectually curious about the subject. I was not ready to accept that I would ever own a deck[5]

Reading the books helped relieve my internal anxiety over using Tarot. After all, on some level, the Tarot is just a deck of cards. Inflated histories aside,[6] it’s the energy and desire that’s brought to it that makes Tarot what it is. Historically, similar practices have been done with things as mundane as tea leaves, sticks, coins, etc.

From such a perspective working with Tarot was really just a different medium for type of work I was already doing. I reasoned that I could always get a deck and see how it felt to use it. If using it made me uncomfortable (in a negative way) I could just stop and get rid of it.

More than one book mentioned that “traditionally” a Tarot deck had to be “gifted.” The chances of that happening within my circle of family, friends, and acquaintances was absolutely nil. This didn’t really bother me though. Having decided on this course, I was excited about the idea of finding my own deck.

 At First Sight

I tried searching online, but quickly realized I wanted to physically hold a deck and feel if it was the right deck for me. I know many people are advanced enough to work with energy and intuition via remote channels such as the internet, but I’m just not there.

At first I thought I was going to have to wait until I could get to an occult bookstore – which would be awhile given my schedule at the time. Then I remembered that I’d been seeing tarot decks in Borders books and music stores for years. Borders is gone, but I knew there was a bookstore walking distance from my work – I decided to check it out.

Sure enough, they had decks! I knew I wanted a Rider-Waite deck. That seemed to be the ’standard’ that all the Tarot books I read went by. I didn’t want one of those “silly” non-traditional decks. One in particular caught my eye, called the Dreaming Way Tarot. The Art on the box looked like something out of a manga. I snorted derisively.

The store had two Rider-Waite decks. I excitedly grabbed the one that seemed most appealing, held it in both hands and closed my eyes. Nothing. Nothing? I tried again. Not a blip. I picked up the other Rider-Waite deck. Nothing. I sighed in frustration and turned the box over and over in my hands. Did I need to open the box and hold the cards to feel a connection?

One of the Rider-Waite boxes opened partially so I could see the art on some of the cards. No. This was not for me. I was so disappointed, I had thought for sure I was going in the right direction. Half-heartedly I picked up some of the other non-traditional decks.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Ugh.

Finally I reached for the Dreaming Way deck, the only one left. I turned it over in my hand and on the back was this beautiful picture of The Fool card. Snap. My breath caught. This was it. This was my deck.

Sigh. Of course it was. How could it not be?

When I experience something like this it always completely surprises me and yet makes total sense. I’ve been a closet manga / anime fan for some years. Not so much that I dress up (although, who knows? Maybe one day. At this point there’s not a whole lot I’m ruling out 🙂 ), but enough that I’ve spent more hours of my adult life than I care to admit to consuming products of this genre.

Since, at least in the US, there’s a sense that the audience graphic novels are geared to is younger (and by younger I mean like more than a decade younger than me), I’ve always been a little ashamed of this ’habit.’ The fact that this deck was the right one for me, to me, is a message of reconciliation. The universe saying, don’t even think you can hide; what resonates is what resonates. In a loving and supportive way, of course, but still sometimes it makes you want to yell “Seriously?!”

On the walk back to work my heart chakra was reacting like crazy. It’s a difficult sensation to describe (People experience energy differently, but those of you who also feel energy physically will understand what I mean, I think). It’s not painful, but it’s kind of like being tickled. Being tickled is actually a nice sensation, I mean it makes you laugh, but it’s incredibly, incredibly distracting. You have a hard time concentrating and so, even though it’s not unpleasant there’s a part of you that wants the sensation to stop.

For me, because it’s such a moment of connection and rightness whenever my heart chakra feels like that, I don’t necessarily want it to stop right away – but it is so distracting that it becomes hard for me to do things like carry on a normal conversation. So ultimately I do make an effort to dial it down, just so I can function.

 In The Cards

When I got home that evening, I found some space to meditate and do my first reading. It focused on a particular soul test I was really struggling with. In my heart I knew I needed to get out of my own head for guidance. I had gone to a psychic and a past life regressionist for guidance (over a year apart from each other and that timeframe is only about a third of the time that I struggled with this test) but the answers I received hadn’t really satisfied me because there seemed to be a gap in the guidance given and the magnitude of the experience.

For my first reading I planned a three card draw; current situation, advice, and outcome. Excited, nervous energy coursed through me. I wasn’t even sure how to shuffle. I am horrible at shuffling cards so I settled for a ‘loose’ form of shuffling, going to the place of ‘not-thinking’ and when a particular card stuck ‘up’ out of the deck, I pulled it out and laid it down; eight of cups, five of cups, seven of wands[7]. Before I even looked up the card meanings, my heart stilled just looking at the pictures. I got the guidance without needing to look up a single thing.

On the far left, in the position representative of the ‘current situation,’ the Eight showed a blond haired female walking away from eight cups that were standing on a sandy beach. In my heart I felt these cups were representative of past lives. The card was showing ‘me’ moving on from my past lives. This resonated because the particular situation I was dealing with seemed to have a heavy amount of past life influence. Additionally, I had resolved a previous past life situation several years before, so – interpreted the way I was reading it – it definitely represented a theme of my life.

In the ‘advice’ position, the Five of Cups, showed a brunette facing out of the card – the brunette actually resembled me – I have actually had that haircut – the height, the frame. She’s not a dead ringer, but there was enough similarity to signal that something powerful was going on here. The brunette held two cups in her hand. She was back-to-back with a woman with long blond hair who seemed to be dropping or spilling her three cups.

To put this in a clearer perspective, in the past life regression session I had several months prior, I witnessed myself as a young woman with long blond hair. In that lifetime – as remembered by me – I was somehow separated permanently and irrevocably from my husband and two children either by death or external conflict or something very tragic. It was strongly felt enough that it had me sobbing uncontrollably in the session.

Additionally, in that session, I had a very strong feeling that the separation was somehow my fault or that I had some guilt related to it.

In keeping with the cup / life theme, then, in this depiction of the Five of cups – the woman facing away represents my past life self who somehow was careless with the ‘lives’ (or cups) that she loved. The meaning of the Five of cups in general speaks of grieving that is ‘overlong.’ It’s an acknowledgement of loss, but can be advice to ‘notice’ the two cups you do have. So here, the brunette who resembles me in the current life is holding on to two cups – which I interpreted as my husband and (at the time) baby daughter.

Part of understanding how remarkable this experience was for me, and why it was so deeply personal requires an understanding that the Five of Cups from my deck does not at all resemble the Five of cups in the Rider-Waite deck. If you’re not familiar with it, you can find a picture and the meaning here at Biddy Tarot (a wonderful Tarot site that makes learning the Tarot really accessible).

If I had bought the Rider-Waite deck, this message would not have resonated so powerfully. If you’re unfamiliar with the Pak-Choi Dreaming Way Tarot, the ‘introduction’ card of the deck explains that the images for the cards came to the illustrator in a dream. This is one of those examples where it’s so good to keep the bait-thief lesson in mind (see my post Trickster Makes this Road for more on that). Clearly, the creator did not dream up this card just for me. However, things came together in such a way that his (her?) illustration could deliver just the deep and meaningful message I needed to hear.

Incidentally, although this message was not different from the guidance I had already been given, this delivery mechanism was finally successful because I felt recognition from my higher self / guides / universe that “yes, you are dealing with a past life situation that’s very difficult” and “yes, you suffered a loss in that lifetime through your own carelessness that has been difficult to overcome, but it’s time to move on from that now.”

Sometimes we just want our own struggles acknowledged (No, you are not imagining this is hard, it is hard) and when they are, we are ready to tough it up and keep going.

Over the last two years of owning a deck, I have used it only for myself (except once I did a reading for my husband – with his consent – for fun) and mostly for Spiritual Path related guidance[8]. Perhaps there are still some old vestiges of the Catholic upbringing that make me shy away from a strictly divination aspect, but, even so, the guidance and help I have gotten through Tarot have been invaluable.

It’s difficult to say whether I would ‘recommend’ Tarot to someone outright. Like any other tool in life, it seems most of its value is derived from the way it is used. If a person goes ‘fishing for particular answers’ in a Tarot deck, he or she is not likely to find it very helpful. Likewise, if you get guidance through your deck that you don’t want to hear, and you either ignore it or keep going ‘back to the well’ as I like to call it, the deck may exacerbate some already existing issues versus helping to solve them. If you can approach Tarot from a space of respect and openness, though, and allow[9] yourself to receive and ruminate on the guidance, it could become an indispensable tool for your spiritual path and other life work.



[2] At least I thought so at the time, I am coming to realize as I write this that I may not have been as abysmal at this as I believed

[4] Lewis Hyde mentions this in his book on the Trickster, Trickster Makes this World. Talk about finding a Hermaion in a Hermaion 🙂

[5] (footnote about alchemy)

[6] things like aliens transmitting the tarot or tracing Tarot to Hermes Trimegestus, similar to alchemy

[7] I don’t reverse cards in my deck. In fact, I actually make very sure that none of the cards are reversed before I shuffle. Because I go to the place of not-thinking when I draw I don’t even notice how I lay the cards, it just sortof happens, and thus some of the cards do end up reversed. When this happens I take the reversal seriously and treat it as a very intentional message.


[8] I did actually use it a couple of times in preparing for the birth of my second daughter – I truly believe that the guidance I received helped me have a much better birth the second time around and avoid a couple of potentially life-threatening (especially for my child) complications. Interestingly enough, I saw on Brigit Esselmont’s website this year (post-birth) that it looks like she actually did something very similar in preparing for the births of her own children several years ago.

[9] More about ‘allowing’ in an upcoming post


Once you have created

you have responsibility, but not control.

Anyone who has ever had children knows exactly what I mean.

but you don’t need to have children to understand this

because it holds true for ALL creation

even ideas

even us




Photo note: I’ve been listening this week to the free broadcast of the live event in Anaheim ‘Co-Creation at it’s Best’  that’s part of the Hay House World Summit.  This morning, I looked out the window at work and ‘happened’ to see a boat floating by – pictured above.  The photo is blurry because I was zooming in to try to capture the boat’s name, but as you can see I didn’t quite get it.  The boat’s name is Intention.

Make Space, Not Time

“In my dream the angel smiled and said, if we fail this time it will be a failure of imagination and then she gently placed the world in the palm of my hand.” – Brian Andreas, Imaginary World

Out of Time

Almost a year ago I wrote a post called Everything is Now which has been, by far, my most popular piece to date.  In one of those examples of why the blogosphere can be such a great forum for idea exchange, a comment made by T.K. from Breakfast with Words made me revisit the ideas of that post in a deep new way;

“Suddenly having the entire day disappear in front of me is scary.  But what if time is only a matter of perspective… of relativity”

On the one hand, I had argued in “Everything is Now” (based on genuine belief) against the existence of time as separate from motion.  Simultaneously and ironically I had kept the same old ideas about time present in my own life.  For example, I used to think “I can never find time to write.”

T.K.’s comment flipped that on it’s head for me – suddenly I realized that the question I needed to ask myself was not “Why can’t I find time to write?” but “What needs to MOVE in my life to make space for writing?”

Re:new, Re:use, Re:cycle

As you might imagine, once this internal shift happened my world blew up; I could view my situation with a lens that encompassed more than linear time.  Although I led a busy life with a toddler at home, and a full time, demanding job there were many, many occasions where I found myself searching the internet for random things, or reading “fluff” books, or just sitting while my mind wandered my life away.[1]

I would even think to myself, I should be writing right now.  Why am I not writing? And still I wouldn’t write. There are myriad variations on this theme. I realized that time was not my problem, or at least not my main one. Using the ideas behind the “Everything is Now” post as inspiration, I started thinking about all the elements that needed to come together[2] for me to be able to write.

With this internal shift in perspective from time to motion, it was clear that some of the things that needed to “move” were internal, not external.  Instead of focusing on finding more “time,” I started to explore why I wasn’t writing with the time I did have.

I certainly had enough ideas – I had a topic list of dozens of items, growing all the time.  Was I disappointed that the blog didn’t seem to be attracting many readers?  This seemed to be part of the issue, but when “Everything is Now” was re-blogged by Christian Mihai, the blog saw many hits, likes, and a few more re-blogs of the post and still I couldn’t write.

In fact, I seemed more stuck than ever.  I found myself awash in new doubts – what if I couldn’t follow up with something as good or better than Everything is Now?  Was I a one-hit wonder? I had to take a step back and really look at my expectations for myself and the blog.

I had to face the fact that part of me thought that this would be easy.  I would start a blog and people would come.  When this didn’t happen I began to really doubt myself and what I had to offer. In a way I was hiding from myself. I pretended it didn’t matter that I wasn’t as successful blogger as I’d hoped to be, But it did.

Check Your Emotional Baggage

Although this may seem obvious, it’s not always nice to really face the pieces of ourselves we wish weren’t there.  This was a big one for me to face…. and not the only one.  If realizing this had removed all the obstacles from my path I would have been writing like gangbusters late last year, but some other things still needed to move.

It took the birth of my second child, reading Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s wonderful book Thanks for the Feedback, re-reading Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World, and the convergence of many ideas that had been slowly germinating for years to bring about a series of revelations that cleared my path for the blog.  Unsurprisingly, many of these ideas are showing up in my recent posts (like this one).

One of my favorite quotes from Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption[3] refers to the main character who, “crawl[ed] through a river of sh!t and came out clean on the other side.”  I do not consider it a coincidence that working with excrement, dirt, and other “matter out of place”[4] falls under the Trickster’s purview. I, too, had to crawl through my own dirt for renewal. Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I’m no longer afraid to give this my all and let it be just what it is.[5]

I’ve realized that if I never started this blog I would never have written Everything is Now”, and if I had never written that I wouldn’t have received T.K.’s provocative comment, and if that hadn’t happened this dramatic transformation would never have happened. And, and, and…. and it’s all part of the journey.[6]

For the first time I recognize the value of my writing to me and I have blistering confidence that I’m right where I should be. I don’t have the pressure of fame and I have the freedom to be and figure out just who I am. I can be disappointed that I’m not more successful and I can be proud of and enjoying exactly where I am now.

Now it seems like all I can do is write.

Room With a View

When we focus on “not enough time” as the reason why we are unable to do something, it does not always give us a launching point to discover what is really holding us back.  Conversely, when we ask ourselves “what needs to move?” it allows us to be open to a variety of things – both internal and external – that may need to come together and / or get out of the way for us to reach our goals.  When we’re “done” examining what’s getting in our way, we may, in fact, find that our goals themselves have transformed.

There may be a temptation to turn this into an internal dialogue about priorities, but evaluating priorities is about comparing and ranking thing “x” that we want to do against things “y” and “z” that we also want to (or have to) do.  The activity I am talking about here is much more focused than that, it is about picking one thing (although, hopefully the most important one) you’re not doing and exploring what would need to move to clear a path forward.

I realize I’ve heavily emphasized internal movement in the post. This is because our internal impediments will almost always be bigger obstacles than the external ones; we won’t find workarounds for our subconscious hang-ups, but with faith and conviction we can almost always create innovative solutions for our external blocks.  However, many times external pieces also need to move.  Referring back to my analogy in Everything is Now; many elements need to come together to enable a flower to grow.

As I was laying in bed this morning, for example, I was lamenting that I had this post finished and couldn’t seem to “find time” at home to get it published. (I did not know at the time that I was going to write this section, lol). Reflecting on the subject of this post, I switched to thinking about what needed to move in order for me to publish this post.

I do most of my writing on the train using a word processing app called IA Writer on a four-year-old iPad that was a hand-me-down from a family member.  When I finish the content of a post, I copy it into Word (on my home laptop), configure all the footnotes, copy it into WordPress, configure the heading sizes, block quotes, images, etc… and finally -hit publish

When I started looking at all the pieces between writing and publishing it was easy to see that (once again) “finding” more time at home wasn’t necessarily my problem, I needed to change the way I was “doing business” so to speak. Suddenly I remembered that the week before my husband had pointed out a new Microsoft tablet.  At the time, I had been dismissive of the idea thinking “what I have right now works just fine.” After having thought through my difficulties, however, I realized that the tablet might be just what I needed. Now that I was approaching my problem more openly, I realized that I could also seek out a better word-processing app that would handle my footnote needs directly.

It may take some effort to clear the way completely.  After all, things move at different speeds so some obstacles (both internal and external) will move out of our way quickly and others less so.  The critical first step is a detailed examination of what needs to move.  Then you can decide whether you’re ready to do what it takes to clear the path to your goal.


[1] it’s not that these things are unhealthy activities or that there is no room for them in our lives, it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with that time – which is what clued me in that something more was going on

[2] as previously noted, this post and realization are built on the ideas from “Everything is Now” – the part I am specifically referencing here falls under the heading: ‘Some Things are Timeless’

[3] which also happens to be one of my favorite movies – here is the info; Shawshank Redemption (movie), 1994, Castle Rock

[4] From Trickster Makes this World by Lewis Hyde, “The anthropologist Mary Douglas… suggests we go back to an old saying: “Dirt is matter out of place.” Egg on my plate is breakfast, but egg on my face is dirt; shoes in the closet are tidy, but shoes on the table are a mess.” (p 175)

[5] I’m not saying this is all of my dirt – after all, here on Earth, we live in the dirt so we can only ever be temporarily clean

[6] I will talk more about the magical power of AND in two upcoming posts….one on Thanks for the Feedback and another about the new symbol I found that perfectly captures “where I’m at” right now

Walk the Walk – a ‘Dances with Books’ post featuring Sonia Choquette’s book “Walking Home”

WARNING: This is not a book review.   This is the first post in my new series “Dances with Books.”  To learn more about what that means- read here

I found freedom in the ugly truth” – Madonna, Living for Love


Some dances are fast and frenetic, they start and finish before you even know what happened.  This is a slow dance.  A long dance; one that started four or five years ago.  I was sitting down to dinner with my husband and in-laws at a local Tapas place when my brother-in-law brought up the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage.

He had been struggling for some time with some personal issues and thought it might be helpful for him to go.  I must have made a dismissive noise because he looked pointedly at me and said, “I thought this sortof thing would be right up your alley.” “You’re not going to find yourself by going somewhere,” I responded, “you have to look within.”

So I had to laugh, embarrassed at my own arrogance in that long ago conversation, when I read that renowned spiritualist Sonia Choquette’s latest book, Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed, chronicled her time walking the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.  As I read her story, an understanding that had only just started developing in the prior year became clear. [1]  In walking with Sonia, I found my own path out of bondage – a bondage I hadn’t even realized I was in.

Binding Light

Before leaving for her trek, Sonia writes quite a bit about the beating she takes from herself and others about her reactions to the loss of her father and brother; “I prayed for these feelings to go away, but they didn’t budge, and for that I was also disappointed in myself.  Being this angry with my now-dead brother didn’t fit in at all with my self-image as a spiritual teacher and guide, and that left me feeling embarrassed.  If I let slip to anyone that I did harbor these feelings, especially to any of my spiritual or professional peers, I was immediately chastised.  I was told things like: ‘Forgive him.’ ‘Don’t Judge.’ ‘It was your karma to have a brother like this.’ ‘Be grateful it wasn’t you.’ ‘I’m surprised that you feel this way given that you should know better.’”[2]

No matter where we are in life or on the path we can expect to be subjected to the expectations of others.  People always seem to have an idea of what it means to be ‘spiritual.’ They say things like; “If you were so spiritually advanced you would do this more, or do that less.  Be more x, be less Y.  Care more about this, Care less about that.”  Etc.

Not only do we face expectations from others, but also from ourselves.  Sonia writes, “It.. shamed me.  I was not supposed to be angry with him.  He was dead, for God’s sake!  I was supposed to have unconditional love for him and be glad he was at peace.” [3]  As frustrating and discouraging as the criticism of others can be, nothing is quite as defeating as our own unmet expectations for ourselves.

Sonia relays how she chastised herself about her feelings, “Come on, Sonia.  Really? Haven’t you worked out your childhood wounding yet?… How pathetic of you.”  I’ve certainly faced this kind of self-recrimination in my own heart many, many times in the last eighteen years.  I thought I was past this – why do I still get angry, jealous, hurt, frustrated, etc.  Without realizing it, I had constructed a prison out of my own (and others’) expectations and locked myself inside.  No wonder I’ve been so stuck.

Mind over Matter = Over Head Projector?

Not only do we carry the judgments of ourselves and others, but we also project our disappointment in ourselves onto others.  We make a bad situation even worse when we take a particular comment or behavior of another person and magnify it through the lens of our own insecurities.

Sonia writes, “I.. recognized… that the one who had injured me most was not my father at all.  Rather, it was me, by treating myself the way I had interpreted him to be treating me when I was a child” [4]  Here Sonia describes how she treats herself and we would do well to pay attention.  However, this type of projection can come into play, not only with self-treatment, but directly in our interactions with others.

I came to a realization late last year that because I was insecure about being attractive and desirable, I was projecting those feelings onto my husband.  I interpreted particular behaviors and comments on his part in such a way that they reinforced my own insecurity; clearly he found me unattractive and undesirable.  It took some powerful soul-searching by me on this topic to recognize what I was doing because although I didn’t feel unattractive or undesirable I was worried that I was and that created the impetus for my projection.

People have hundreds of motivations for doing and saying the things they do – but we interpret them using our own filter.  This isn’t to say that our projections are only the products of our imagination.  It may be that there is some truth to my assumptions and interpretations when it comes to my husband.  But it may be that 10% of what I’m interpreting is true to his feelings and the other 90% is my projection… or it may be 50/50, or it may all be in my mind.  The bottom line is – how he actually feels is quite independent of my projection.

Clean Break

It is only by engaging with our expectations, fears, and insecurities that we can begin to see how and where we project them.  Sonia writes, “Maybe it was time to stop judging even these dark parts of myself and just acknowledge and accept that I have some of these fears at times…”[5]

Reading about Sonia’s walk helped me come to a deep realization of my own.  I had been mostly defining myself by my mystical experience eighteen years ago.   While I have certainly been actively walking the path and have endured and exulted in a number of spiritual tests and triumphs since then, there was a part of me that was always looking back to that experience and trying to get “there” again.  There was a part of me that thought any “authority” I had on spiritual matters was informed by that experience.  For the first time in eighteen years – I was able to start releasing my hold on that attachment.

This may sound like nothing, but it can be very powerful to take a defining moment in your life and say, you know, that was incredible and I learned a lot, but it’s over – really over – and it’s time to move on.  It’s time to stop seeing the rest of my life as the waves created by that one impact.  I found freedom in my own ugly truth. Yes, there are lots of expectations I’m not meeting.  No, I’m not spiritually connected all the time – experiencing union and bliss.  But also, I no longer have to keep trying to be ‘there.’  It’s okay for me to be right where I am.

This liberating understanding further refined a concept that has been germinating inside me for a few years; the concept of allowing.  To allow is to “permit something to happen or exist.”[6]  When we allow we are not making anything happen, we are not forcing a particular outcome.[7]  We are simply letting people, events, ourselves be what they are.  When this concept originally occurred to me a few years ago, it was via the understanding that “we need to allow people to change.”[8]  But, for the first time, inspired by Walking Home, I realized I needed to apply this to myself.  I need to allow myself to be who I am, where I am, now.

Sonia writes, “I also needed to stop seeing my ego as ‘the enemy’ and start seeing it as the ‘me’ who needed more love.  I didn’t have to fight my ego when it flared up in pain.”[9] Ego can be a very loaded term in the spiritual community – often associated with negative connotations.  Here, it seems to me, Sonia is saying, we need to stop pretending we can leave our ego at the curb, we need to recognize that it is part of who we are.

Diseases of the body often (though not always) have innocuous-seeming warning signs before developing into deeper problems.  In like fashion, we ignore or gloss over the concerns of our ego at our peril.  Our fears, hurts, angers and insecurities that are not handled in the conscious realm of the ego don’t disappear – they sink to our subconscious where they become much more difficult to find and eradicate.[10]  We need to allow ourselves to have an ego and we need to allow ourselves to engage with it.

Inside Out

One of my favorite expressions over the last decade or so is this one; knowing is half the battle.   I love this phrase because there is a little trick to it that can catch the unwary, but the truth is there for those who look.  Most often this saying is used to reassure someone that – when they’ve figured out the cause of a problem – they are halfway to conquering it.  The trick, of course, is in the word “half.”  Knowing may be half the battle, but you still have another half battle to fight… and presumably you’re tired and discouraged from the first half!  There is a gap, and not a small one, between understanding and execution.

As Sonia puts it, “Forgiveness, at least for me, came about in increments.  I had to feel and honor my wounds and traumas before I could release them.  For years I had tried to forgive through spiritual platitudes, but in spite of my ambitious ideals, I only managed to bury my wounds even deeper into my bones.  Walking with my pain freed me from it.  I always wanted to forgive, but it was only through the act of being with my pain fully, walking with it day after day, that it began to ease up and leave my body, allowing me to open up to greater understanding of how people hurt one another, myself included.  In doing this I found compassion and could forgive and hope to be forgiven” [11]

It is something, a significant something, to recognize a pattern in my life – to see an attachment for what it is and start to loosen my grip. It would be naïve of me to think, however, that now that I can see the problem clearly it will just disappear on it’s own.  Even such a passive-seeming concept as “allowing” requires considerable effort to practice.  Sonia mentions walking with her pain.  I suspect I will need to walk with my own pain, my own insecurities, for quite some time before I can let go.  For now, at least, I’ve found my way out, my own path to freedom.

Songs I danced to while writing this: Madonna – Living for Love, Ariana Grande – Break Free, ODESZA – Say My Name, Calvin Harris – Outside

[1] In my post Everything is Now, I write about the process of ‘becoming’ – instead of thinking of development as time-based, recognizing all the pieces and parts that have to come together to make something what it is, or – from a different vantage point – someone who they are

[2]Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 –kindle location 199

[3] Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 – loc 193

[4] Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 – loc 1036

[5] Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 – loc 3409

[6] definition from dictionary.com

[7] I want to also note – that to allow is not to be a doormat – it is not to ‘let someone walk all over you’ or let you walk all over you.  Rather, allowing is about being and awareness; surrendering an imagined sense of control to an observation of how things come to be what they are.  Also – a recognition that they might change, and that’s okay.

[8] I use this word with the same intention in my post “Trickster Makes This Road” when I say, “we need to allow him to remain uncategorized.”  I hope to develop this concept more fully in an upcoming ‘dances with books’ post featuring the book Thanks for the Feedback – but, in a nutshell, what I mean here is that we need to stop engaging in behaviors that pigeon-hole others and ourselves, that make it difficult for ourselves and others to change.

[9] Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 – loc 4638

[10] once they are in the subconscious, they attract the Trickster influence to cleverly trap us in such a way that we cannot escape without engaging with them. As Sonia writes, As Sonia writes, “It’s frustrating when you are possessed by a pattern because you can’t really see it until it becomes so obvious that it smacks you in the face.” See my post Trickster Makes this Road for more about this.

[11] Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed; Choquette, Sonia; Hay House; September 2014 – loc 4753

Trickster Makes this Road

“Most people don’t know that there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss your life” – Brian Andreas,  Angel of Mercy

I was mid-way through writing a post about a completely different topic when I remembered a quote from Lewis Hyde’s excellent work  Trickster Makes this World that I wanted to use to launch the piece.  I located my kindle and typed the words I remembered from the quote into the search function.  No results found.  I tried a few different combinations and only then noticed the small print that said “This book has not been indexed.”  Not been indexed?  Argh!  I was going to have to dig for it manually?  How badly did I want this quote?  The kindle is not the best medium for skimming, but I tried that first anyway – skipping around based on the table of contents, glancing through pages, but that didn’t get me anywhere.  I was going to have to slow read the book from the beginning in order to find my quote.  Fine.  So, with a warrior frame of mind – this book was not going to best me – I started at the beginning.

As I read, though, something curious began to wind it’s way through my brain.  I have had a Trickster post on my list of writing topics since the beginning of the blog, but I hadn’t gotten to it yet and frankly wasn’t planning to work on it for quite a number of months more.  But in re-reading Lewis Hyde’s work, it suddenly felt like the Trickster was the most important and valuable topic I could be writing about right now.  All other work either faded into the background or became somehow dependent on me laying out the concept of the Trickster.  With my mind racing through how to structure the post, I began to laugh, for right there was the Trickster influence in action.  I knew in that moment, a Trickster post was the very next thing I was going to write.  I would never have chosen this course of action if I hadn’t been ‘forced’ to re-start the book.  And, of course, the beauty of the trick was that even though I now realized what was going on, I wanted to write this post, nothing excited me more.  The trap had been perfectly set and I was snared; hoist by my own petard.

“He is, in fact, some third thing…”[1]

From a cultural history point of view the Trickster is a super-human[2] character  who seems to embody the qualities of illusion, mischief, uncertainty (or chance), and metacognition.  Lewis Hyde finds examples of him in the mythologies of the Greek Hermes, the Nordic Loki, the Native American Coyote or Raven, and the African Eshu or Legba[3].  His trickery goes beyond paltry parlor tricks to be transformative on a grand scale; he upsets the established societal order.  So where can the Trickster be found in our modern world?  Hyde says, “Outside.. traditional contexts there are no modern tricksters because trickster only comes to life in the complex terrain of polytheism.  If the spiritual world is dominated by a single high god opposed by a single embodiment of evil, then the ancient trickster disappears.”[4]

I would argue, though, that the Trickster existed before any of these mythologies personified him.  It’s likely the trickster was a concept that communities were already familiar with that found room for expression in polytheism.  Our earliest form of human organization was leading a fairly nomadic lifestyle[5] as hunter gatherers.  Surely in the course of daily life these very ancient hunters must have come into contact with animals that didn’t “follow the rules.”  When it came to telling stories, this phenomenon was embodied in the character of the Trickster but, as is often the case, the simple symbol points to a much more complex, fundamental, and instrumental force in our universe that continues in tandem with existence itself.  Thus, In the modern world Trickster hasn’t disappeared so much as gone underground.[6]

But if he hasn’t disappeared, what, then, is the Trickster?  a god? an idea?  I prefer to think of the Trickster as an influence in the universe or perhaps a force of the universe – like Gravity or Entropy. Upon further consideration, maybe the Trickster is a result of the interaction between other forces of the universe – like the curvy line that separates yin and yang in the symbol most people are familiar with.  Or better yet, perhaps the Trickster is a way of seeing and interacting with the universe.  My inability to describe what the Trickster actually is underlines my point, however.  The trickster can only be seen out of the corner of our eye, try to look directly and we miss him[7] entirely.  Try to pin him down and, like a shadow, he eludes us.  However, it is an equally grievous mistake to pretend he doesn’t exist.  In order to understand and work with (or deal with) this phenomenon we need to allow him to remain uncategorized.  To answer the question of where he can be found?  Everywhere.  In the search for the Trickster it isn’t so much a matter of knowing where to look as knowing how to look.  Learning to understand how this character operates is the key to finding him.

“He of the stone heap”[8]

It would be too much to say that the Trickster is the ‘god of the road.’  However, Hyde indicates that Tricksters can be found “on the road” and goes on to say, “The road that Trickster travels is a spirit road as well as a road in fact.  He is the adept who can move between heaven and earth and between the living and the dead.”[9] The Spiritual Path, too, is a road-but-not-road and as a  causeway that moves ‘between heaven and earth’ it is exactly the sort of context where we can expect to find the Trickster at work – or rather at play.  For those walking the spiritual path, the Trickster can be found in the evidence he leaves behind.  It may sound silly, but it’s not unlike tracking an animal through the forest looking for dung or marks on trees.  The symbolic takes meaning from the literal because our lives are literal first and foremost – at one point in history we were all, quite literally, tracking animals through the forest to get our dinner.  Hyde spends quite a bit of time describing the Trickster in the context of hunter and prey, and this association works partly because in the ancient evolutionary dance between the two (ie, animals get wise to traps and learn how to avoid them, hunters craft better traps, animals get wise to the better traps… and so on) we find one of the key relationships that informs our understanding of what the Trickster character is really all about.

There’s a Reason he’s called Wily…

One prominent Trickster Hyde focuses on in the first half of the book is Coyote.  Hyde speaks of Coyote both as the mythological trickster character of Native American folklore, Coyote, and also in a literal sense (the animal, the coyote), noting, “Coyotes develop their own relationship to the trap; as one naturalist has written, ‘it is difficult to escape the conclusion that coyotes…have a sense of humor.  How else to explain, for instance, the well-known propensity of experienced coyotes to dig up traps, turn them over, and urinate or defecate on them?’  With this image we move into a third relationship between tricksters and traps.  When a coyote defecates on a trap he is neither predator nor prey but some third thing.” [10]

In folklore, Tricksters can be hunters, prey, and also this third thing which Hyde introduces as the ‘bait thief,’ a character who can, “separate the trap from the meat and eat the meat.”[11]  Understanding and employing the strategies of the ‘bait thief’ is key to safely and successfully walking the spiritual path, a point I will address in a bit.  According to Hyde, “…the bait thief doesn’t enter directly into [the] oppositional eating game…he feeds his belly while standing just outside the conflict between hunter and hunted.  From that position the bait thief becomes a kind of critic of the usual rules of the eating game and as such subverts them, so that traps he has visited lose their influence.” [12]  Here we find one of the underlying themes of both Hyde’s book and the Trickster’s character which is either the exposure of a false dichotomy or the transformation of what was previously thought to be an exclusive dichotomy into a triumvirate.  With the addition of the ‘bait thief’ the hunter / prey relationship becomes infinitely more complicated.  “In addition to animals that disguise their tracks and predators  that see through the disguise, we now have the encoding and decoding mind, and all the arts of reading.” [13]

Becoming a Bait Thief

So how can understanding the nature and operation of the Trickster help us walk the Spiritual Path? Taking our inspiration from the ‘bait thief’ persona of the Trickster, we can use such strategies to help us ‘read’ or interact with our Spiritual Path.  For example, we often encounter seemingly rigid dichotomies on the Spiritual Path, by using the perspective of the bait thief we may find that these are actually false.  One example of how this works taken from my own life is when I was mulling over going for a second past life regression, a very meaningful and life-changing session for me.[14]

The idea to go for another session had been floating around in the back of my mind for some time due to a current challenging situation.  Quite suddenly, one day at work, I overheard two co-workers discussing Brian Weiss’ book, Many Lives, Many Masters (which is about past-lives) right behind my cubicle.  I work in a fairly conservative industry and although the particular person who started the discussion is open-minded, I certainly didn’t expect to be eavesdropping on a conversation about past-lives at work!  Less then a week later I was working out at the gym in the early afternoon when I saw a television commercial for a Brian Weiss seminar on past life regression.  Granted, I do not watch a lot of tv, but I have never seen a commercial featuring past-life regression before.  Interest piqued, I went to my local library to see if they had the book Many Lives, Many Masters – and it was available!  This last may seem like a ridiculous thing to emphasize, especially given how good the Chicagoland area library system is.  However, I have definitely not found books at my library before – or, in many cases, found that the library had them, but they were checked out when I was looking for them.[15]  From a spiritual path perspective – it seemed like I was being directed to pursue another past-life regression sitting.  Were these events directed by some higher power or just a series of unrelated happenings that amounted to no more than a curious coincidence?

Understanding the concept of the Trickster-as-bait-thief allows us to safely navigate this dilemma.  For if I were to really believe those events happened just because of (or for) me, I run the risk of becoming delusional and ego-maniacal in my beliefs about my relationship to God and the universe.  This is to take the bait and swallow the hook and is the road of Ron Lafferty from Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven.  Many a NRM[16] leader has been thus ensnared.  (See my post Sink or Swim for more about this danger).  On the other hand, if I completely dismiss these events as just a coincidence, if I ignore the ‘signs’ and turn away – I run an equally tragic risk of missing an opportunity to take the meaning and inspiration of a valuable message to create transformative change in my life.  In this scenario we are not captured by the hook, but we don’t get to eat either.  Only by simultaneous acceptance of both realities – the signs are meant both just for me and have nothing to do with me – can this boundary be safely traversed.  Just like the Trickster ‘bait thief’ is not concerned whether he falls into the ‘hunter’ category or the ‘prey’ category, this strategy allows us to take the meaning and the message without worrying so much whether the signs were ‘put there’ for us or not.  We can take the bait and leave the hook.

To take this association of the Trickster with the Spiritual Path a bit further, consider that one of the hallmarks of the spiritual path – the mystical experience – is the greatest trick of all.  For it is through this experience that we get only a glimpse, or to hold to the Trickster’s association with appetite, a taste of the beyond.  Like the lucky find[17] that it is, it has the power to change the fate and fortunes of our life. Hyde relates;

“..a wonderful West African story in which one of the gods is being chased by death and in order to escape ascends into heaven, leaving a rubbish heap behind on earth.  The lesson seems to be that becoming pure enough to avoid death depends on having left all dross behind.  By the same token, however, “deathless” purity is vulnerable to the return of what it sloughed off and tricksters…are the agents of that return” [18]

Once the mystical experience is over, we are forever changed, but all the dirt[19] we eschewed to ascend cloaks us once more on the return.  As a result of having witnessed the beauty and wonder of the universe[20], we can easily fall into the trap of only seeing our god-like, golden self and ignoring the pesky ‘dirt’ we believe we have risen above.  Yet everyone around us can clearly see our dirt and wonders how we can be so oblivious to it.  When we open our eyes and see the trap, only then can we do the ‘dirty work’ of cleaning ourselves up from the inside so that our light can shine through.

Eat or be Eaten

“In the Okanagan creation story, the Great Spirit, having told Coyote that he must show the New People how to catch salmon, goes on to say: “I have important work for you to do… There are many bad creatures on earth.  You will have to kill them, otherwise they will eat the New People…The myth says, then, that there are large devouring forces in this world, and that trickster’s intelligence arose not just to feed himself, but to outwit these other eaters.” [21]  When I think of people-devouring beasts – from a spiritual perspective what else could these be but our own subconscious fears and weaknesses that eat away at us from the inside?  On the Spiritual Path we must face these dark and disconcerting parts of ourselves, we must ‘eat’ our own dirt in order to find peace and renew our spirit.

Hyde notes that “Trickster commonly relies on his prey to help him spring the traps he makes.” [22] If it is the Trickster’s job to kill the devouring beasts that would eat us, then this is his mode of operation.  “The fleetness of large herbivores is part of their natural defense against predators; Coyote… takes advantage of that instinctual defense by directing the beasts into the sun and toward a cliff, so that fleetness itself backfires.”[23]  When we find ourselves enmeshed in a difficult situation, it often turns out that we were instrumental in our own entrapment.  In walking the Spiritual Path our very identity comes under intense scrutiny.  Qualities we previously thought of as strengths turn out to be our greatest weaknesses and traits we despise in others turn out to be deeply rooted in ourselves.  It is part of the Trickster’s job to expose our idiosyncrasies and landing us in a mess of our own making may be the only way to force us to face them.

We should take heart, though, that “Coyote can imagine the fish trap precisely because he’s been a fish himself…” [24]Only by having been both caught in traps and designer of traps does the Trickster become an authoritative guide and teacher.  “Trickster is at once culture hero and fool, clever predator and stupid prey.”[25]  With all this trap-springing and beast-eating, the Trickster is really, in a way, teaching us to be like him; to learn from our mistakes, to adapt to changing circumstances, to recognize that not only can our strengths be our greatest weaknesses, but sometimes our weaknesses can be or can become our greatest strengths.  At core, this message is a hopeful one. We may be caught in a trap today, but – if we learn – we may develop the cunnning to avoid a future trap.

Friend or Foe?

It is important to note that the trickster is the guardian of the road, not necessarily the people on it.  Sometimes, in walking the Spiritual Path (especially during or recently after a mystical experience), we can romanticize life a bit; believing everything is love and all the universe is benevolent.  While the truth is hardly the doom and gloom opposite of that, we must remember that sometimes love is “tough” and the universe is a place of both creation and destruction.  It is our perspective that puts a positive or negative spin on what are actually just events.  Not that our perspective is invalid, it is absolutely valid, but it is our perspective – not a universal truth.  We should approach the concept of the Trickster from a similar vantage point.

There is sometimes a tendency to associate the Trickster with our Western concept of Satan, but this is both mistaken and unhelpful.  “The Devil is an agent of evil, but trickster is amoral not immoral.”[26] says Hyde.  Equally unfortunate, however, would be to overly angelicize this character, believing that this influence would never “harm” us or anyone we love.  Rather, “He embodies and enacts that large portion of our experience where good and evil are hopelessly intertwined.  He represents the paradoxical category of sacred amorality.”[27]  In keeping with this image, I believe the trickster influence is responsible for much of the ‘spiritual testing’ that happens on the path.  If you are attacked and robbed by thieves on a real road you are unlikely to affectionately laugh it off as ‘spiritual testing,’ and this is often just what spiritual testing feels like.  You are robbed of some sense of your self, some piece of your identity or maybe something more corporeal than that – yes, the experience is going to lead to ultimate renewal and some deep learning, but it can certainly be very unpleasant when you’re going through it!

In determining the answer to whether the Trickster is friend or foe,  the answer should be obvious by now; he’s both – and neither.  What is a person who tells you truths you don’t want to hear?  A phrase from Barack Obama’s inaugural speech returns to me here, “we are willing to extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”[28]  We often have our fists clenched around our interior selves and attachments.[29] So long as we do, the Trickster influence is going to be prying open our fingers and trying to expose what’s inside.  If we loosen our hold a little, however, this interaction becomes much less hostile and we will realize that there is much guidance and support in the universe for those who are open and willing to do their own ‘dirty work.’

The Original ‘In-Betweener’

Although having to deal with a character with such an unpredictable nature as the Trickster may make us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, we should also remember that the intermingling of opposing influences [30] often inspires awe and fascination within us.  Noon and Midnight are more or less the same in their extremity, only dusk and dawn – where day and night come together – are constantly surprising us with their ever-changing beauty.  Each sunrise and sunset feel unique, as if we’ll never see it’s exact like again.  I’ve never heard anyone say “What a beautiful noon” yet often people talk of beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  It is the mix of perceived negative and positive events in our lives that keeps things interesting and the Trickster represents just this sort of interaction.

A story in Sonia Choquette’s new book Walking Home  demonstrates the Trickster influence in action.  The book is a recounting of Sonia’s experience walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage.  The Camino is, of course, a road – and not just any road, but a holy road.  Unsurprisingly, the book is peppered with Trickster-like antics in the experiences of Sonia and the other pilgrims.  The below anecdote stood out to me, however, as a very clear example of the type of Trickster activity I’m trying to shed light on in this post;

“..I entered a section of the Camino where everything seemed strange and magical and out of this world, and I found myself totally turned around.  I couldn’t find the arrows anywhere.  I was lost.  I continued on a bit farther and came to several forks in the road, a heavy mist in all directions.  I was confused and didn’t know where I was or which way to go… following my instincts I took the path to the left, where eventually I came upon…a house with an open door, so I called out.  Then I boldly walked in, hoping to ask for directions back to the Camino.  Inside was an older, scruffy, Spanish-speaking man…who invited me into his kitchen to have coffee… I thanked him and declined,  saying I just needed to get back to the Camino, but he shook his head and said that I was brought to him by the Camino for a reason and should stop and rest.  Seeing the light in his clear dark eyes, I knew that it was true.”

What follows in this anecdote is a meaningful revelation and a very healing experience for Sonia.[31]  In several places in the book she prays to not get ‘lost.’  Sonia, herself, is a spirit worker and thus means lost in both the physical and spiritual sense.  It is the hallmark of the Trickster, then, that here is an instance where she does, in fact, get lost and yet she ends up finding an overwhelmingly spiritual experience.  The nature of her happening upon the house, as well, has all the signs of the Trickster – there are crossroads, obscuring mists, a lack of proper signage.  It’s clear this place must be ‘found’ by those traversing the Camino, and is not a stop ‘on the map’ so to speak.

Sonia is a clear believer in God – and I am not trying to suggest here that accepting the “existence” of the Trickster supplant that kind of belief.  Hyde, in his book, notes that Hermes executes the will of Zeus and Legba executes the will of his mother, the creator goddess, Mawu.  Elsewhere he says, “In short… the Tsimshian Raven is a go-between, a mediator.  There are three spheres of being in the story, and Raven moves among them.”[32]  Thus, the Trickster is not meant to be or replace our idea of a benevolent ‘God’ – it is an influence or force that operates in the in-between and allows or creates the circumstances[33] for events – like Sonia’s experience – to happen.

The End is only the Beginning…

It is not my intention in this post to enumerate all the various ways Hyde identifies the Trickster in his book, Trickster Makes this World, and associate them one-by-one with the Spiritual Path.  Although there are many parallels and enough comparisons could be made to make my case very clearly, it would take a very long time to do this and I don’t think it is the best use of your time. (Also, remember what I said earlier about trying to ‘pin’ the Trickster down – it’s not wise to attempt it! or as Hyde puts it, “we should be wary of getting too comfortable with any single line of analysis”[34])

The goal of this post, instead, is merely to introduce the Trickster as an influence that’s still ‘alive and kicking’ so to speak and to raise awareness of his association with, and circumstantial guardianship over, the Spiritual Path.  Those who are actively walking the path[35] should consider Hyde’s book required reading.  I think you will find many more valuable insights for your work on the path in the book than can be found in this post.  Even if you are not actively walking the Spiritual Path, I strongly recommend the book as life, itself, is a journey and at some point or other in our lives we will all have a run-in or two (and probably many more) with this vibrant and volatile character.

[1] Trickster Makes this World, Hyde, Lewis; Farara, Straus, Giroux; August 17, 2010, loc 384 – the meaning of this is explained later in the post (Hereafter referenced as “Hyde loc + kindle location #)

[2] By this I mean he is like a god or a divine being – I retreat from using those exact words, however, as they have connotations attached to them in “the West” that I want to avoid associating too strongly with the Trickster.

[3] This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, merely an example of some main Trickster characters.

[4] Hyde loc 223

[5] or “on the road” in other words 🙂

[6] There’s an excellent quote from the Movie the Usual Suspects “That smartest thing the Devil ever did was convince the world he didn’t exist” – I was tempted to use this quote in the main text except that I think it encourages an association between the Devil and the Trickster which is a mistake. Rather, I think this quote is actually better fitting for the Trickster than for the Devil.  It is the Trickster who benefits from obscurity and confusion.

[7] There may be some who bristle at my use of the gender pronoun “him” – I, personally, am female – and support girl power in most cases, but in this post I don’t want to get sidetracked by a discussion of the Trickster and gender.  I feel like “it” sounds too weird and Hyde mentions that almost all Trickster references are male so I choose to use a masculine reference throughout the text.

[8] Hyde notes, “Coyote, Hermes, Mercury, and more  – and all tricksters are ‘on the road.’ They are the lords of in-between…He is the spirit of the doorway leading out, and of the crossroad at the edge of town…Travelers used to mark such roads with cairns, each adding a stone to the pile in passing.  The name Hermes [the Greek embodiment of the Trickster] once meant ‘he of the stone heap,’ which tells us that the cairn is more than a trail marker – it is an altar to the forces that govern these spaces of uncertainty, and to the intelligence needed to negotiate them.” (Hyde loc 163) If you are wondering if my heart stopped when I read this line and thought about the name and concept of this blog – yes it did.  Did I subconsciously remember this line when I created this blog even though I had read the book a few years before that?  Was it just a happy coincidence?  See what I mean?

[9] Hyde loc 166

[10] Hyde loc 384

[11] Hyde loc 403

[12] Hyde loc 405

[13] Hyde loc 1152

[14] At the time, I had very mixed feelings about past-life regression, something I hope to discuss more in an upcoming post on the cohesion of the soul.

[15]Hyde also identifies the Trickster as a blocker or creator of opportunity, “[Trickster] closes off a passage to capture its prey, or it finds a hole to elude its foe.  It can seize an opportunity or block an opportunity.”Hyde loc 845.  Speaking directly to library availability and unavailability I have recently been trying to track down the book Dancing Wu-Li Masters which I read almost twenty years ago and it’s been unavailable twice when I’ve looked at the library – once it was checked out and the other time it showed “available” but wasn’t anywhere to be found on the shelf. Obviously, I could have bought the book on the Kindle – but I hesitated because… if it wasn’t really a direction I was meant to be going at the time, I didn’t want to machete my way through the underbrush… that’s just a waste of time.

[16] NRM stands for “New Religious Movement” I wanted to avoid using the negatively-connotated term “cult”

[17] From Hyde, “In classical Greece the lucky find is a hermaion, which means “gift-of-Hermes” loc 2269

[18] Hyde loc 1958- by the way THIS is the quote that I was manually re-reading the book for!!!

[19] From Hyde, “…what tricksters in general like to do, is erase or violate that line between the dirty and the clean.  As a rule, trickster takes a god who lives on high and debases him or her with earthly dirt, or appears to debase him, for in fact the usual consequence of this dirtying is the god’s eventual renewal” loc 3104

[20] or God – interpret this however you like

[21] Hyde loc 409

[22] Hyde loc 344

[23] Hyde loc 348

[24] Hyde loc 365

[25] Hyde loc 351

[26] Hyde loc 227

[27] Hyde loc 227

[28] this was directed to the Muslim world in the speech, I am not using it here with any political underpinnings… I just think it is a good turn of phrase to represent this relationship.  Jung had a quote about approaching the unconscious minds that was more or less along the same lines – if we approach with fear and hostility, the interaction will be marked by such, but if we approach with an open mind it can be a much more positive experience – of course I can’t find the quote and I’m not about to interrupt this post to go manually read another book just to find a quote 🙂 🙂 🙂 this time I saw the trap, LOL

[29] I’ve had a post on attachment in draft for almost four years now because I am just not happy with it yet.  I’m hoping to clean it up and post it this year.  Attachment is such an important and integral topic to the Spiritual Path (plus there’s so much out there on it already) that I really don’t want to post a piece on it that I don’t love.

[30] I’m avoiding using ‘good’ and ‘evil’ here because I don’t think they are very helpful terms and there are many more opposing influences than just those two.

[31] I won’t give it away as folks should read the book  🙂

[32] Hyde loc 472

[33] as I write this I can’t help but think the phrase “moves things in such a way” and hearken back to my post about time – Everything is now.  There is a section towards the end that talks about how various elements must “come together” to grow flowers (vs. just thinking of growth in terms of elapsed time).  There is definitely a ‘motion’ element to the Trickster – Hyde, himself, mentions this and it may be why I keep finding so many parallels with how the Trickster operates and many of my own beliefs on how the universe works.

[34] Hyde loc 1501

[35] I talk about this elsewhere on the blog, but basically we are all on our Spiritual Path technically, I mean life is our Spiritual path, but many people are walking it without realizing it and therefore getting lost or missing things, or making things more difficult for themselves, or having to repeat lessons over and over etc. by “actively, consciously” walking the spiritual path I mean those of us who are cognizant that we are actually on a path, that we are meant to do certain things in this lifetime – and who are actively working to figure out what those things are and do them. As I write this, however, I do laugh at myself since I’ve definitely been one to have to repeat certain lessons over and over or made things more difficult for myself despite actively walking the path 🙂 :). Our challenges in life are precisely that – our challenges.  They are difficult mostly because they are difficult for us.  I hope to write more about my particular challenges in the series of posts about my journey (creatively titled “My Journey” 🙂 )