Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” —Rumi
We’ve described the United States and other nations as polarized for so long now it seems this condition is normal. Government, societies, churches, schools, towns, families, even couples are divided into opposing sides who cannot tolerate the wrongdoing and wrong-thinking of others. Cautioning voices warn us that demonizing each other builds up contempt and a desire to have nothing to do with the perceived enemy. Lincoln warned Americans before the Civil War that a “house divided against itself cannot stand,” quoting Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. A country divided and polarized cannot stand, cannot survive.
Throughout the ages, shamans have worked for the survival of their people. Survival is what they do.
Whether advising for the hunt, treating illness, retrieving lost souls, escorting the dead, or managing weather, shamanic activities have always focused on helping the community survive. So if a country cannot survive divided in halves, or more accurately, fractured into numerous factions, it is our job to help heal the ruptures, to turn our nations toward wholeness. And how do we do that? What shamanic skills are needed to restore national unity? It feels like an enormous task.
A Pathway to Change
It’s been said that to create change, it is necessary to be the change that we want to see manifested. So let’s start there and consider how we can be the change for wholeness, be the change that tempers polarized thinking and acting. In other words, our task is to first heal in ourselves the split that comes from dualistic, judgmental thinking.
Overcoming dualism is an intimidating challenge because our minds are structured to notice dualities, to perceive opposites and contraries, and to judge them in order to make necessary decisions. Furthermore, much of the physical world operates on dualistic structures and patterns of energy. So if dualism is built into our universe, and into our thinking, we need to accept it, work with it, and not allow it to become a destructive pattern in our minds and hearts.
Rumi, the thirteenth century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, can help us here. He wrote,
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
Rumi invites us to move into a place beyond ideas of right and wrong, and experience life without the tension created by judging what is good and what is bad. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Can we stop thinking? No. But some spiritual traditions, like Buddhism and Taoism, claim we can learn to not get caught up in or overwhelmed by specific thoughts or specific ways of thinking.
Rumi’s field is one of those places where we can rethink our thinking. It can be a place of neutrality, not a place that obliterates thought, but that creates an atmosphere of no-conflict between opposing sides, or to put it another way, a place where disagreeing sides do not oppose each other but interact with a shared sense of purpose. Rumi’s field is where we experience the fullness and wholeness of a world composed of cooperating differences. Night and day, summer and winter, heat and cold, land and water, the list could go on, for as Rumi says, the world is “full,” too full to talk about. Shamanism is a pathway to experience that fullness, and in their trances shamans often experience this state of wholeness for themselves.
Rumi’s field requires us to rethink our ideas about words and how words represent our ideas and beliefs. He tells us that when the soul lies down in “that grass,” it experiences a world of Oneness, a fullness that is so complete that words fail. We can’t assign words to aspects or parts of that wholeness, and in so doing label them as right or wrong, creating a possible destructive duality or a set of opposites with built-in conflict. In this wordless silence we can just be with All That Is. We might even glimpse the Tao that cannot be talked about or the God who cannot be named. Later we might say that it was an experience that’s “hard to put into words” because it was a vision of wholeness that is ineffable. We experience in our consciousness a world of unity.
Where Is This Field?
One might suggest that Rumi’s field is a poetic fantasy, that it doesn’t exist. But let’s consider the field to be truly a field of consciousness, an alternative consciousness that materializes when we enter it and shed thoughts and language that are tied to the world of conflict and polarization. Conflict and polarization are not the only reality in the universe. Shamanism clearly demonstrates that there is no one static vision of reality. There are multiple, maybe infinite, realities, just as there are infinite galaxies. Our thoughts—and the proper language to express those thoughts—can bring those realities into consciousness and from consciousness into being. In fact, from the shaman’s point of view, consciousness is being.
So Rumi’s field does exist as a state of consciousness where we focus on realities other than separation, and retreat from the realities of conflict that threaten national survival. We can journey into that field, and consciously leave behind the language of dualism and the labels that judgment creates. It can be a refuge whenever we need a break from the polarized conditions of society.
Journeys into the Field
Here are several ideas for journeys into the field and what to do there.
You might journey into the lower world and ask to be taken to a place that would function for you as Rumi’s field. Or you might journey to a field you know in ordinary reality and ask that the Spirit of Rumi’s field be there for you whenever you journey into it. If the field in ordinary reality is near you, you can go there physically as a power spot free from the divisiveness in society.
One journey intention might be to meet the part of you that is caught in a negative judgment about some current issue and the part of you that would like to be free of the stress this judgment creates. Ask to understand each part of yourself more deeply, such as “Why are these positions so important to me?” Or “Are these positions really that important at all?” Or “What would happen if I let go of my judgment?”
Another intention might be to ask to meet the Higher Self of someone you are in conflict with. Discuss the roots of the conflict, why it is important to each of you, and how it might be resolved. Have compassion for the other person and make a promise that you will be less combative in the future.
A third intention might be to lie in the grass and beseech the Spirit of the Field (or some other helping spirit) to perform an extraction of the elements within you (past experiences, memories, prejudices, injuries, abuses) that encourage dualistic thinking and judgments where they needn’t apply. Then ask that those judgments be replaced with the power or strength to be more open-minded when you are involved in some controversy or argument. Ask that your attitudes be guided “beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,” so that you can experience the world, the universe itself, as “too full to talk about.”
At some point in your journeys into the field, ask for one word, phrase, or image from the field to hold as a key or trigger to recall this field of consciousness whenever you need it in ordinary reality. Think of it as a gift that invites you into a state of non-judgment when trying to understand the rightness or wrongness of something.
Being Realistic in Ordinary Reality
The journey into Rumi’s field can become a regular shamanic practice to strengthen our sense that a polarized nation doesn’t have to be the norm. Certainly the need for truth, justice, fairness, decency, and respect for others will continue to confront us, for we don’t live in a perfect world, and when we see these values being disregarded or undermined, our instincts are to stand up for them, confront the abusers, and defend those being harmed. Situations we consider “wrongdoing” will inevitably re-emerge in our daily lives, and good citizenship requires we take a stand. But Rumi’s request, “I’ll meet you there,” is a call to confront wrongdoers from a state of consciousness, a state of commitment to the other, that rises above the animosity and contempt that divisiveness can create.
In time, slipping into that state of consciousness can be the default mode for believing that ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing do not have to dominate our hearts, and minds, and souls. As a shamanic resource, Rumi’s field can change how we think, and change what and who we are so that we shapeshift into the change we want to see in the nation. The more we understand and embody the mysteries of this field, the more we can help a nation survive.
About the Author
Tom Cowan is a shamanic practitioner specializing in Celtic visionary and healing techniques. He combines universal core shamanism with traditional European spirit lore to create spiritual practices that can heal and enrich one’s own life and the lives of others. He is an internationally respected teacher, author, lecturer, and tour leader. He has taught training programs in England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and Italy. Tom received a doctorate in history from St. Louis University. He has studied extensively with and taught for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
Tom is the author of Yearning For The Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul, Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit, Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, The Pocket Guide to Shamanism, The Book of Seance, The Way of the Saints: Prayers, Practices, and Meditations and Wending Your Way: A New Version of the Old English Rune Poem.
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