For several nights running at the end of January, I had a disturbing dream. I’m sitting in a fairly dark room at a desk (not my regular desk, in a house I’ve never lived in). From behind me, over my shoulder, comes an arrow bearing a piece of paper, and it lands on my desk. Then another. Then another.
Most of the arrows are thin: blowdarts. Occasionally they are metal, two-pronged and wicked-looking, with a shiny, brushed aluminum exterior. Its heaviness makes me think it’s an alloy of some kind.
The arrows always pierce the paper through, like a spindle, and they pin the paper to my desk. I never seem to read the messages, but I’m not sure why—maybe they fade before I can grab them, maybe I get distracted by the mode of transport, maybe the whole idea frightens me.
After the last dream, I sat down with Wolf and asked him what was going on. He told me that “paleolithic life” has calling to me, and that I’ve been running away from it.
So welcome to my new blog
You may know me (I’ve always wanted to say that, in my best Phil Hartman / Troy McClure voice) from my old blog, 50 Words, 210 People, a group writing experiment started by Dan Waber in which folks write about people they’ve encounted along the way—one word for each year of their life. The young son of good friends (he’s 9½ years old), is writing 9½ words a day; we’re left to guess at the other half word. My dear friend Indigo Bunting, a supremely gifted writer, pushed me to join the experiment. Since today is my birthday, today’s entry was my last, which seemed like a most fortuitous time to start a new blog: Notes from the Dreamtime.
By the way, I welcome feedback. No, really. Comments, observations, foaming-at-the-mouth-and-falling-over-backwards rants and raves. Just talk to me.
I started studying shamanism in earnest some sixteen or seventeen years ago, though it’s really the lens through which I’ve viewed the world from ever since I was a child. I think it’s time to explore some of the thornier issues that have been besetting me (and my “tribe,” if you will, not to mention the world in general). Issues like depression, which I struggled with for some thirty years and which bedevils some of my closest friends. Sex and sexuality, perilous subjects in a perilous time. Politics, of course. Body image. Weight loss. Healing in all its many forms. And what may well become my life’s work, the Medicine Wheel as a universal map of the human psyche. Much more on that later.
Back to the rainforest
So I start talking to these spirits whom I can’t see—these Brazilian rainforest hunter-gatherer spirits who are hurling blowdarts and nasty modern pitchforks at me.
One of my great challenges in this lifetime is my weight. During the week when I started receiving these mystical missives from the Dreamtime, I happened to be binging on peanut M&Ms and popcorn. So I ask them: Tell me about food.
Food is too important for you, they say. (The “you” was both “you, Craig,” and “you people,” modern Westerners.)
We ate only when hungry, they continue, and often not then, because we were busy hunting. We ate with others, in community. We blessed the lives of our prey. Stay busy.
But when I wait until I’m hungry, or until it’s time to feed my family, I find that what is ready at hand is not good, not what my body says I should be eating.
So do your cooking and preparing as if you were a hunter. Go hunting at the supermarket, hunting as you store and prep it and chop it, hunting as you get things ready for the moment they’re required. Plan as much for your meals as we do for our hunting expedition. Use careful strategy, take time, hone your tools, make a plan, stalk your prey in silence, mindful, watchful. A clean, well-organized kitchen is an essential tool.
You’re so modern.
Hence the second tool.
Ancient and modern, like its composition.
Makes sense. So how do I start?
Inventory. Organization. Charts. Some careful thought to the calendar—knowing that some nights you really want simple, or leftovers, or even cooking out.
Then, silence on both sides
It is nearly a week before I continue my conversation with them. I apologize for not having come back sooner. Then I sit and wait, hearing nothing from them for many minutes. Dead silence.
Finally, impatiently, I say—I’m not hearing anything!
Another lengthy silence.
Then: Silence is important. There is much too much noise in your world. You need to learn to shut out that noise and not be afraid of silence. Silence is where you connect with the Otherworld. You can train your mind to slip into that silent place, but it does take training. For the first few meditative sessions, or the first few weeks or even (for some people) months of practice, the chatter in your head will be distracting, but those noises will die down, and then when you slip into meditative silence, it will be there, like a welcome room, ready and available to you at a moment’s notice, always prepared.
Think of the silence of the rainforest. It’s not at all silent, but it’s not chatter, not distraction, not unharmonious. It’s the rainforest’s own quiet noise. You’ll begin to hear the quiet noise of your heart, of your soul; you’ll begin to recognize its rhythms, its silent music. Go into that silent place and listen to the music.
That takes discipline, I say.
The root meaning of which is simply “to be a student.” It’s not something rigid or difficult. It’s easy to study something you find fascinating.
Oy vey, I say.
So I take the only logical course of action: I run away
It has taken some months to fully digest this. In the meantime…
- My mother, who has been very ill (at times gravely) has been making astonishing progress, due in no small measure to the healing work we’ve been doing each night.
- I’ve lost about 50 pounds so far, though it feels like just a drop in the bucket compared to the work that lies ahead.
- The local group of shamans and healers that has come together has grown and matured, and we meet regularly to drum and journey together.
- And I’m starting a new publishing business and writing a couple new books.
So it’s been an interesting time. Then again, isn’t that the famous Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times and come to the attention of powerful people!”
What I need now, however, is to go back into that silence with greater intentionality. I need to see it as my home, my refuge, not an obligation for which I begrudgingly try to carve out a little time. I need to stop running away from the Paleolithic.
I’m hoping to update the blog daily, or nearly daily. I’ve created a few General Info pages so far (you’ll see them in the menu on the right) that you might enjoy looking at, and a handful of links for you to explore.
So add your thoughts to mine. Join the discussion (come on in, the water’s fine!).
And thanks for stopping by. I am not worthy.