Storm clouds are gathering and it’s nearly dark. It’s been raining off-and-on all evening, but we’re happy. I’m with a band of brothers out on the river, paddling together in a large canoe. Each fortnight we meet as a men’s group to explore, enquire and share stories. Tonight we’ve paddled down to a beach, shared food and sat together around a fire. Each man has shared the truth of his heart – his challenges, insights and beauty. Now we’re singing as we oar ourselves back upstream.
Lightning flashes like a strobe, illuminates the water, trees and the man in front of me. Thunder rolls around the hills. We’re soaked to the skin but laughing like lunatics now, aroused by this sudden elemental shock. I remember that of the two places my mother told me never to be during a thunderstorm this is one. (The other’s a golf course.) But I feel fully alive, awake to the dynamic universe and revelling in the moment.
Lightning symbolizes the masculine, Sskuan, the urge to do, to create, to move things into manifestation. All things are born of the feminine: all things come from the quantum field, the void, all potential. The void is sacred: the void is Wakan. The lightning emerges from the void; it comes out of the darkness and returns to the darkness. Like all things in the world of form it comes from the formless. We humans are born of the formless and to the formless we return.
I had already been in this men’s group for several years, and we have journeyed together for many more since. Our rules of confidentiality forbid me to reveal what we do, on pain of horrible and unusual punishment. But if I was allowed to, this is what I’d say: the heyohka is alive and well in this group! ☺ It comes in flights of outrageous humour for which no subject is taboo. On the other hand there is deep respect for each other’s personal process: we listen and reflect in ways that enable insight and wisdom to emerge. But one of the things I love most about this group is our enquiry into a range of subjects – not just beer and bikes but for example sexuality, male privilege and … masculinity.
We may not agree what the feminine and masculine principles are. For me the feminine is receptive, all potential, being: the masculine is activation, movement and change, becoming. You can’t have one without the other – at least not in this realm. You can’t have yin without yang. The Creatress Mother and Creator Father are One, and never the twain shall be sundered. Their dance is cosmic and erotic in the biggest sense of that word. It is the spiralling of distant galaxies and the pulsing of life-blood in our veins. Our Universe is permeated with love. The Sun loves the Earth: you can see it when his rays adorn the grass with liquid pearls of light.
The Medicine Wheel shows us that all things are related. It is a circle, a symbol of the Infinite and of wholeness, and when we think in a circular way we think holistically. It is the great mirror in which all Creation is reflected. It is the zero from which all numbers are born: one – Sun; two – Earth…. This is why the zero is sacred; the zero is Wakan. Wakan is not nothing. She is everything – in potential.
The lightningbolt, Sskuan, dances with this potential. He is the life-force that animates, moves and changes. And out of this dance of Creatress and Creator, ten thousand forms are born. But Creation did not happen just once, a long time ago. It’s happening now, in every cell of our being. It dances within the ten thousand things of form. In our world everything is in flux, continuously moving and changing. Yet the formless is within form. This is the Mystery of being and becoming, and the paradox that we are both whole and complete yet also becoming so.
My life has been a quest into the Mystery. As a small child I had many questions: I wondered what life was all about and what I was doing here. I wanted to understand the clouds and whatever propelled them across my bedroom window. I wanted to know what the birds were singing about. But when I went to school we didn’t talk about any of that. Instead I was taught that the universe was solid matter and that things were just things. I was told that life was about ‘getting’: getting stuff, getting a girlfriend and getting good exam results. Nobody talked about being. Nobody talked about ‘spirit’ – except the kind that comes in a bottle.
Looking back at this time I see that we were doing the best we could but we weren’t in relationship with the whole circle. We were doing the profane masculine, and it didn’t make me happy.
Sensitivity is a power: insensitivity is a loss. Many of our fathers and grandfathers lost it in the wars, industry or at school. As a result of trauma they couldn’t be fully present for their sons and daughters, and trauma begat trauma. My own trauma gathered pace in my teenage years when I decided it would be cool to hide sensitivity under a cloak and do the dance of distortions.
Then one day I picked up a book called ‘Teach Yourself Yoga’, and it suggested that I look at a candle and think of nothing for five minutes. I was shocked to find I couldn’t manage five split-seconds without thinking.
So I tried going on a meditation retreat. They told us to sit down and be with the breath. There was no talking, and I was BORED. I sat for so long that my back ached. I thought every possible thought I’d ever had. But after several days my thinking mind got so completely bored it gave up. I went outside in one of the breaks and noticed something unusual: the trees were alive. I wasn’t thinking anymore: I was sensing. I was sensing the magical aliveness of all things – trees, clouds, grass. I was aware that everything was filled with numinous innocence, and I was one with it. I had opened the doorway to the Great Mystery. I had rediscovered the sacred.
On my subsequent journey I visited various Mystery schools, and in one of them someone showed me a Wheel. ‘You are here’, he said. ‘With earth, air, fire and water around you. You’ve come here to learn from them.’ Something clicked, and I have been drawn to Earth Medicine ever since, partly because it engages my whole self – mind, body, emotion and spirit – and my relationship with the alive Universe. It helps me overcome ‘dead matter thinking’ and the illusion that ‘I’ am separate.
I studied with various Medicine teachers such as Beautiful Painted Arrow before finding my way to the Delicate Lodge. Fasting is a powerful way to learn, and Beautiful Painted Arrow guided us in ceremonies like the Drum Dance that involve dancing for several days without food and water. I believe that the deep states of consciousness we reach in Medicine ceremonies like this push the edge of the collective consciousness. They are supporting the human evolution that is so urgently called for.
Then I met WindEagle and RainbowHawk. Straight away I felt moved by Medicine teachers who expressed both beauty and power, and the corn they planted in me began to sprout. It has since grown into a strong plant and begun to nourish others. Growing it has been my journey of heart, and I find myself looking for fertile ground in which to plant seeds myself.
I recall many memories of the sacred masculine from this journey, but one in particular is from my first visit to Denmark. A group of us were walking by the shore of the sea. We were in single file, keeping an arms-length between us and maintaining the same rhythm. We mindfully placed our feet on the sacred ground: each footstep was a prayer. RainbowHawk said afterwards that he’d watched our shadows moving across the Earth as if they were the fletches of an arrow. It was an example of the tribal heart: we were individuals within togetherness.
Like that time with my brothers on the river we were expressing the sacred masculine through our uniqueness within collective togetherness; we were deeply present and in relationship with all Life; and we were grounded in physicality and rhythm as our feet trod the ground or the blades of our paddles stroked the water past. We were doing the primal dance of being and becoming.
But how can we bring understanding of the dance of feminine and masculine into daily life? How can we practice awareness of this dance? What practices will enable us to move our becoming into the world from the stillness of being?
First we can notice the space between thoughts, the space in which thought occurs. Meditation, stillness, deep listening, contemplation and other practices of the south-east give us spaciousness in which to expand awareness. In this expanded state we see that we are more, much more, than the stream of brain-thought. Brain-thought may have dominated our sense of identity but now there is gnosis – direct knowing – that we are the ground, the consciousness in which thought occurs: we are the field, and all potential is within us.
Allowing and noticing the gap between thought also enables us to be more conscious about our choice of thought. In other words by being more conscious of being – the silence within – we become more conscious of the becoming – thought – and of the effect it is creating. Our thoughts are like beats on the sundance drum: without the drumskin, the drumstick could make no beats: without silence there could be no sound; and without the void our actions are out of harmony with the circle of life. Silence gives us awareness of how we are affecting the field. Presence makes us conscious of what we emanate into the vastness of consciousness.
Without morning practice our action can be driven by ego. Through silence we are aware of our effect on the field of consciousness, and when our action emerges from stillness we walk the way of the sacred masculine. This is how we paddle our boat on the river.
Second we can use this inner spaciousness – the feminine principle – to receive other people. We can do this in conversation by fully listening rather than thinking about what we have to say. If we work with clients – for example as coach, doctor or Medicine guide – we can allow their energy to come into us. This means being with not-knowing and trusting the unknown rather than hiding in our role, but it enables us to introspect and intuit a response. Then our intervention emerges from the depths and we can follow their feedback. Sessions with clients thus become a communion with the Divine, an Aikido of harmony with the Tao and as much of a dance as any waltz, foxtrot or fandango.
Thirdly we can yield to the dreaming of the Universe. For example, as I compose this I am periodically moving into stillness to receive the Universe’s ideas of what to say next. My job is then to translate this dreaming into coherent verbiage so that the Universe can express her / himself with a DiamondLight flavour. Almost any act of creativity is a dance between emptiness and fullness. Dreaming is the conceptive side of creativity in which we allow ourselves to be fertilized by the Universe. We then give birth to the new life through expression.
The way we humans are impacting our Mother Planet and her other offspring is clearly out of balance. It is the result of how we have been dreaming: we need to change the dream. But how? By balancing the being and becoming within ourselves and coming into conscious relationship with Life. When we yield to the dream of the Universe we can change the dream. We can – as RainbowHawk once put it – be bold and take the next step of evolution.
Dreaming with the universe is like steering a boat on a river, using the current but keeping a hand on the tiller. Which brings me back to that canoe full of men on the River Dart. Inspired by the lightning and rolling thunder we pulled lustily for the shore. When we finally reached the landing stage the rain turned to hail and we were pelted with hailstones that settled an inch-thick. Everyone agreed it had been a memorable evening.
The masculine includes logic and algorithm, but we need to understand that Life is not a linear process. Evolution moves not in a straight line but in a zigzag – like the Lightningbolt.