In the melting snow at the very beginning of spring, my eye caught a bright reflection on the ground: chunks of broken glass along a wall. When I looked up, I saw that the outer window of the classroom above my garage had been shattered. The window was double-paned, and on the inner pane was a startlingly complete outline of a huge owl, spread-winged and tailed, made by either the dust or oil of its feathers on impact. There was no owl body to be found, so miraculously it appeared to have been spared.
A few days later, I noticed that the inner pane had chunks missing, and I assumed it too must have been cracked during the original impact. I went upstairs to find that several pieces had fallen onto the carpet inside the classroom. Impressive! The power of the owl had crashed through 2 layers of glass and opened up this inside space, where I regularly teach shamanic courses, to the great outdoors.
Owl has been a major spirit ally of mine for decades, and is the Being that first heralded my entry into shamanism by flying out from a distant woods one hot Oklahoma afternoon into a large cow pasture, and landing 20 feet in front of me on the dirt path I was walking at the time. This window crash was equally dramatic, and I knew I needed to attend to the message it was bringing.
I sat quietly in the classroom, taking my pulse as a drumbeat to carry me to the spirit realm. It didn’t take long for Owl to fly into my heart with its message: MAKE MORE ROOM FOR SPIRIT in my work. What had happened in the physical classroom was a clear metaphor. Although I thought that much of my work was already guided by spirit, Owl was asking that I not only talk about spirit and see spirit at work through the metaphoric glass panes – but that I also drop any unnecessary barriers to the direct experience of spirit and its ability to use me in service.
A friend of mine recently observed that in the initial phases of working with helping spirits, we often compartmentalize: now I am doing shamanic journeywork, now I am tending to my regular life, “Oh, I haven’t connected with my helping spirits for a while,” etc. But as we develop and deepen in our understanding of the shamanic path, we recognize that there is no separation: to live in our Truth means to experience the Divine within us and around us at all times — no separation. Owl wants to make this clear to us all!
A young woman I know is working on this issue in a particular way, and I think sums it up for many of us when she writes, “Back as a teenager, I couldn’t fully give into spiritual awakening, because there were too many other ways I felt I had to be. But it would come creeping back, reminding me that I was a daughter of the Night and that my path was different than what everyone around me told me it should be. I remember realizing at some point that I haven’t figured out how to balance these two worlds, this waking reality with the mystical Spirit world. I feel like I always short change one of them in my effort to remain human. And that’s just it: in this Spirit work, how do I let it show up every moment of my waking day? In this fragile human form, how will I worship today?”
Another friend is the cook at a local high school. There the pace is extremely hectic, and it would be easy for her to get distracted from the deeper purpose she feels about her work there. Yet she is able to bless and send to the Light the spirits of the hundreds of pounds of turkey and chicken and beef that pass through her hands each week as she gives thanks for the animals’ gift; able to say to each of the young students as she hands out a breakfast roll “You’re welcome!” straight from her heart; able to receive information from the spirit of the plants she prepares about how it wants to be put with other foods to create dishes that offer vitality and spiritual energy to the students. The response has been notable: students coming up to thank her, teaching staff starting to eat in the cafeteria more often, others on her cooking staff beginning to pray over the food as well; and a buzz and mystique about what’s going on in the dining service area!
So the possibilities for us to be in service are endless. And all these possibilities can feel overwhelming, as we begin to shift from a Western mindset to a relational way of experiencing and acting in the world. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s vital to start small: What if we could quiet ourselves for a few moments each day and listen to the urgings of our deeper Self, to bring more meaning and purpose to our life? What if we could greet the morning with a song and gratitude before we turn to the long list of daily duties, and listen to the shift and whispers of the Wind in response? What if we could walk in our personal world — off the back porch or at the grocery store or workplace — more aware of the non-human voices of the all the sentient Beings of this precious earthly domain, that are always in Conversation with us to support and guide us? What if we would speak back to them?
I know from Owl that my path is made of small steps, small choices each day (when I can remember!), until it begins to feel a more natural way of being in the world, and I learn over and over again that I am never alone.
Spirit will meet us half way, sometimes even more than half way, to help our lives become more Holy/whole. Sometimes the inner pain of feeling so disconnected from ourselves and our world pushes us to step onto our soul path more fully; sometimes it’s more a conscious choice. Either way — kicking and screaming or a joyful YES! — the spirits are committed to our soul’s growth, and will help us do that through wisdom and through woe.
Spirit wants us to not make unnecessary separations and distinctions about what is and is not holy, about when our life is in service and when it is not. (How can we know, anyway?) Everything is alive and connected with us, and our part in this sacred alliance is to break the glass panes and offer ourselves as a gift to Life!
I am walking the paths in this holy plain.
I am sleeping in its ditches.
My eyes are dividing the world in four pieces,
then in all the directions in between.
My ears are hearing music I think is not there
when I think the wind has gone elsewhere.
I am making notebooks of the grasses in the prairie.
I am making songs with the names of trees.
I am lying down on this holy ground to meet the intelligences in these rooms,
to know what cells say or how cells say –
now slither, now fly, now turn.
— Darrell Bourque, Plainsongs