The Journey of Life is not about looking for answers,

it’s about finding them

I started spontaneously experiencing what is known as co-creation or manifestation fifteen years ago, before I even knew there was a word for it. All I knew was that I would ask the Universe for something and I’d get it. To be honest, it was a bit spooky, because sometimes it wouldn’t even be an intentional ‘ask.’

Sometimes it would just be a thought, wow, I really love that popcorn bowl – and then suddenly I would end up with someone’s extra popcorn bowl (the particular one I wanted). When books about manifestation, now more appropriately termed co-creation, started coming out, I was relieved. Oh good, other people have been experiencing this too, that probably means I’m not delusional.  🙂

At this point on my spiritual path, though, I’m exploring a new-to-me art; the ‘Art of Finding.’

Think of all the time we spend in life looking for things – keys, wallets, jobs, our life purpose, etc. Now, imagine we didn’t have to do that. Imagine that we could just find what we were looking for when we wanted or needed it. Think of how much more we could do if we didn’t fill so much space with ‘looking’ for things. I can see that future, I’m growing into that place.

What is the Art of Finding and How does it work?

Well, just like with co-creation, ‘Finding’ starts with a need or desire. Such as “I need to find my keys.” In the normal course of life, in the way we have been trained to ‘look,’ we would start with a methodical list of questions; where did I last see them? Where did I last use them? Did anyone else around here see them? We rummage through our brain for memories of where they might be so we can rummage through our environment for the keys.

We might find the keys quickly, we might not.

How does this work via the ‘Art of Finding’? Well, first I ask, “Can you please help me find my keys?” or “I’d like to find my keys, please.” Although, at heart, I believe this activity is about connecting into the energy field that surrounds us all and obtaining information that way – I don’t want to rule out that I have actual, non-visible entities helping me (like spirit guides or guardian angels or however you want to interpret that).

Out of respect for that and a desire to avoid the hubris of thinking this is about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ can do, I always ask – and I always say ‘thank you’ when I ‘find’ something. Releasing some of the definition that surrounds the ‘I’ is the first key to finding, anyway.

Then I turn down my mind and I actually ‘turn down’ my visual receptivity (think of when your eyes go soft focus during meditation). I keep my eyes open, though, so I don’t bump into things! 🙂 I turn up my awareness of my energy body, especially around my legs and feet. I let my feet walk me wherever they want to go and when they seem to have found a stopping point, I raise the awareness of my energy body to the upper half of my body – this helps me know what to pick up that ‘whatever-I’m-looking-for’ might be under, for example.

I turn up my visual receptivity and start scanning, but my mind is still turned down. This is key because I don’t want my intellectual or logical brain to direct where I look. When I can do this successfully, I can find whatever I need in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to ‘look. ’ (This conclusion is based on ‘finding’ a number of things where I would only have thought to look maybe fourth, fifth, or later in the logical chain – if I even thought to look there at all!)

I’ve used this technique to find a many dozens of things, now, including my husband or family in places where we’ve separated – like the mall or grocery store :).

It sounds easy, and in a way it is tremendously easy because you don’t actually have to ‘do’ very much – or, at least, your brain doesn’t. On the other hand, however, it’s more difficult to keep your brain or your ‘thinking self’ out of the way then it seems – even if you are an experienced meditator. It turns out, the dividing line between our spirit / intuitive self and our ego / embodied self is not quite so clear cut.[1]

For example – if I’m ‘finding’ my keys and a memory bubbles up of the last place I saw the keys, I can’t ‘find.’ It doesn’t have to be a ‘thought,’ it could be an image of the keys somewhere or just a feeling of where they must be. The power of that influence is great enough (for me, at this point) that I’ve lost the thread of ‘finding’ so to speak – now I can only look.

Interestingly enough, previously I would have thought that these images or feelings of the keys’ location were flashes from my intuition. From practice, though, I’ve learned that these are almost always distractions. They are doubly damaging because not only are they usually wrong, 🙂 but they also make me doubt myself and the process of finding in general.

I also struggle with finding when people (even my immediate family) are around because my self-consciousness gets in the way. Do I look silly? What if I can’t do it? Suddenly, I’m not finding anymore I’m performing – or at an even deeper level – I’m trying to prove that I can do it. All of that gets in the way of simply ‘doing’ it. When the stakes are high, especially the emotional or personal stakes, our abilities can be significantly impacted.

So what’s the difference between the Art of Finding and Co-Creation?

Since I started this post talking about Co-Creation, you might wonder what the difference is between the two. They’re certainly related. Both require active connection. Both involve putting what you want or need out into the Universe.

Co-creation is usually about influencing the future (specifically your future), moving energy in such a way to bring about what you need / desire, or building something new where there wasn’t something before. As a result, we can perceive co-creation as taking some amount of time to manifest in the physical plane.

Finding, on the other hand, happens in the ‘now.’ Finding is about gaining access to all the resources available to you at the moment, (including the ones you don’t logically know about, but you have energetic access to), and ‘finding’ what you need. When you turn the helm over to your energetic self (or –as I like to think of it – your whole self) you are not impeded by your own limiting beliefs about what you can and can’t know.

Here’s a particular instance that demonstrates this beautifully. My husband was helping to bathe our young daughter and asked me to get her bath crayons. I didn’t know where they were and decided to try to ‘find’ them. I half-closed my eyes, turned down my mind, and let my energy body take over. In this manner, I walked into our second bedroom and stood by the bed.

I opened my eyes fully… scanning the bed… I didn’t see them… doubt crept in… maybe I was doing something wrong. Then a memory bubbled up. Why on Earth would they be in the bedroom? I had last seen them on the bar, surely they were on the bar. Of course, now I can no longer ‘find’ because I can’t get the idea out of my head that they must be on the bar. I go over to the bar and start looking… sifting through papers, turning things over, etc.

My husband comes out to see what’s taking so long. “I can’t find them” I say, “the last time I saw them they were on the bar.” He immediately goes to the second bedroom, rifles through the blankets on the bed, and pulls out the crayons. “The baby and I were playing with them on the bed this morning after you left” he tells me.

I am shocked. I had been in the exact right place, even though I had no knowledge that my husband and the baby were playing with the crayons on the bed. My own self-doubt had gotten in the way and blocked me at the very last moment. It was then that I realized ‘finding’ encompassed much more than simply tapping into my own deep knowledge.[2]

Finding doesn’t just work for bath crayons and car keys, though, it can work for anything. Most importantly – Co-Creation and ‘Finding’ can go hand in hand.

One of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog was called ‘Ohm away from Home’ and was partly my lamentation that I could not find a good place to meditate in downtown Chicago close to my work. I had resorted to using conference rooms (not the most meditative of spaces) over my lunch hour. One could say I had begun co-creating – putting my desire out into the Universe for a place to meditate freely (ie, not subject to someone else’s program) a couple years ago.

A few weeks ago, I was again feeling this incredible longing for a space to meditate during the day. Suddenly the thought occurred to me to look for yoga studios in the area – maybe one of them offered meditation. I did a quick search of the internet and found a studio, Bottom Line Yoga, four blocks from my work that offered free meditation (free of cost and dogma 🙂 ) for a half hour at 1pm every day!

When I went to the studio, I asked the owner how long they had been open and it had only been about six months. I thanked her for offering a place to sit for meditation and told her that I had been wishing for something like this. “Well, it’s here for you, then!” she said.

This is the important time to remember the Trickster lesson of the Bait Thief… I know this studio is not here just for me or even offering meditation just for me (although interestingly I’m usually the only one there for meditation 🙂 ). However, it is also true that it is here for me. That is, in essence, how co-creation manifests in the physical plane.[3] I am one of the reasons why this studio exists, but certainly not the only or even one of the most important reasons.

More important for this post; although energetically I probably helped co-create this space, I also had to find it.

Allow me to clarify that ‘finding’ is not better that Co-creation by any means. Both are tools that belong in your toolbox of engagement with the Universe.[4] In fact, if I were to pick one I would favor co-creation because absolutely amazing things can happen through co-creation. However, there are times when we really just need something right now and for that ‘Finding’ is probably a better bet.

What are the Limitations of Finding?

The previous story raises an important limitation of finding. Because finding happens in the now, there are limitations. With Co-creation you can influence energy in such a way to create something new.  With ‘Finding,’ although there are probably many, many more options that we are presently or logically aware of, we are limited to what actually exists in the now. So, for example, when I was wishing for a space a couple years ago, there wasn’t one, so I had to settle for a conference room.[5]

Furthermore, there are some things that can get in the way of ‘Finding.’ I mentioned a few earlier; our own impressions of what can exist and where to find it; other people and our reaction to them. The biggest blockers, though, are our own filters and attachments.

I haven’t really mentioned the connection yet in this post, but it’s important to note that Trickster governs opportunity and chance as well as being the energetic influence to open a way forward (illuminate the way out of a trap) or close the path (lead you into a trap).

I feel comfortable saying that the ‘Art of Finding’ lands squarely in the Trickster’s jurisdiction. If you’ve read my post Trickster Makes this Road, you may remember that Trickster is also the agent by which visibility into our deep wounds returns to us. All of these elements work together in ‘Finding.’ In other words, our inability to ‘find’ in a particular situation is also an opportunity to explore what’s getting in our way.

Often we are surrounded by an abundance of opportunities we just don’t see. We don’t see them because we are so busy looking for something specific that our filters and prejudices rule out lots of options that are going to help us get where we ultimately want to go.

Here’s an example. I have a close friend who recently moved to a city where it is very impractical to have a car. She was struggling with what to do about the car. She wasn’t ready to sell it because she was unsure whether she wanted to stay in the location long term or not and it would cost her a lot more to buy a new car than just hang on to the one she had.

After some discussion it was clear she had many options available to her – at least a half dozen. Because she wanted something very specific, though, she concocted lots of flimsy reasons (some of them only based on emotional dislike) why only one particular option – the one with the most resistance – would do.

When we find ourselves in such a situation it’s always an invitation to closely examine our own fears, insecurities, and other deeply buried attachments.  If we can face those, we will almost always find a shining opportunity that helps us get exactly where we want to be.

I encourage you to play with the idea of ‘finding.’  If it’s obvious where something is, don’t waste time trying to ‘find’ it.  When you have some private time and space though, give it a try.  Don’t be discouraged if it’s hit or miss. The experience itself should give you lots of opportunities for self-observation.

My default operation these days is from a ‘turned-down’ mind and I still feel self-doubt as I develop my understanding of this skill.  There are many days when I can’t do it all, I can tell I’m simply not in the right frame of mind to ‘surrender’ my logic brain to my whole energetic self.  I’ll keep trying though – all skills develop with practice.

 

 

 

 

[1] This idea will fill out more in my next post (a preview of the book I hope to write, Echoes of the Soul)

[2] Prior to this event, I had thought maybe ‘finding’ just enabled us to access our own deep memories of where we had left things without our logical mind getting in the way – I now know that we have access to a much greater information than we realize to ‘find’ with.

[3] It should be noted that typically the ‘co’ in co-creation refers to co-creating with the Universe (or spirit guides, higher self, etc.) not necessarily with other people. However, here I am calling out that (I think) in many cases other people’s wishes and desires can certainly be a factor – it is a particular beauty of co-creation in the universe that solutions can appear that meet the needs, wishes, and desires of many people simultaneously! 🙂

[4] I’ll talk more about my experience of co-creation and how I believe it works, on an energetic level, in an upcoming post.

[5] To be honest there were a couple other places I tried meditating, but it just didn’t feel right or sustainable for a regular practice.

“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” 🙂 )

 “What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical?  The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt.  The symbolic figures encountered are in many instances identical…But there is an important difference. The difference –to put it sharply – is equivalent simply to that between a diver who can swim and one who cannot.  The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning.” – Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

“There is no such thing as pure experience, raw and undigested.  It is always mixed up with layers of interpretation.  The alleged immediate datum is psychologically mediated.” – Sarvapelli Radakrishnan, Religious Experience and its Affirmations

Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

My most recent meditation teacher emphasized the light side of spiritual development, referring to the work we did in class as “play.” I appreciate her perspective; if you are currently enthralled with the blissful aspects of meditation and spiritual development, by all means enjoy them!  After all, if the Path were fraught with danger at every turn what is the incentive to pursue it?  However, there is a balance to all things, and spiritual development is by no means exempt.  Powerful forces of both creation and destruction play a vital role in the universe.  When we begin connecting more deeply to our subconscious, our higher self, and the world around us, we find ourselves face-to-face with both of these influences.

Unfortunately, the field of spiritual development lacks much open-minded, scientific study and when the student encounters destructive influences, she must often navigate treacherous and murky waters alone.  For Ron Lafferty, a devout Mormon, a dogmatic belief that God was communicating directly to him ended in the brutal murder of his sister-in-law and niece[1].  The dark rivers of the self, once undammed, can flood, seep, and splatter across all aspects of our lives.  As another example, a Central American church which practiced ecstatic communion with the divine claimed to be possessed by the Holy Spirit.  Joyous celebrations initiated with innocent bliss grew more and more uninhibited.  When an ecclesiastical representative arrived to investigate the claim, he found the parishioners engaging in sexual activity on the altar and burning bibles in the church.  Disgusted, he pronounced the congregation to be, not under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but under the influence of the Devil and condemned the church to closure.  Although absolute moral judgment of the congregation’s actions is subject to debate, beyond doubt, for the ecstatic devotees, things had not gone according to plan.  Somewhere along the way they ran afoul of their ultimate goal and ended up in completely unfamiliar territory.  Reflecting on these examples, perhaps the closest I can come to describing the underlying danger with this work is to point, not to the participant’s actions, but to their steadfast conviction that they were acting on behalf of a higher power. Instead, they were constructing a delusional framework to allow physical outlet for their own subconscious desires.

Of course, the cases referenced above are extreme and high-profile examples of the shadow influence of the self; most students never need fear falling so far into delusion that they would carry out heinous acts of destruction and violence.  Yet, all students wading into their innermost depths have reason to be wary and attentive. Greater and more fearsome beasts lurk in our subconscious than can be found in any zoo.  Anger we thought we let go, desires long kept under tight control, fears we’ve repressed or “talked” ourselves out of, even past life influences our conscious mind is completely unaware of,  are down there waiting to come to light.  All energetic information obtained via connection is translated by the self into usable material.  In the acts of translation and interpretation hides the risk that our own subconscious mind silently adds its own spin, or worse, masquerades as guidance from the divine.

When the Going Gets Tough

Fortunately, we are not completely lacking in tools to help navigate these risks.  The most important first step is to take them seriously.  Recognize that no matter how skeptical you may have been starting out, when you delve into inner work you are likely to experience things beyond your ken.  The most dangerous thing you can do is let your ego or rational mind tell you “I’ve got this under control” or “I can stop myself before this gets too far.”  We are at our most vulnerable when we think we are at our least.

Once you’ve acknowledged the risk and are prepared to take some life-jacket type precautions, start by recognizing what you are connecting to – and what you are not.  When you open the channel of communication; it’s not always easy to discern where input is coming from.  Most inputs are likely to be coming from your own subconscious. There is absolutely no reason to believe you are on a special mission from God to cause harm to others.  Neither God nor the Universe needs help creating harm or misery for individuals or communities if that is warranted. Carefully evaluate both the direct and ripple effects of taking action on guidance received.  Does making this move satisfy your anger, fear, or desire?   If so, this is probably not the right direction.  Reflect on the quality of your meditation at this juncture – has it been held hostage by emotion and indecision about the current test or problem?  If the latter, try to create a space in your life to meditate in a focused, grounded way.  The aim of meditation is to bring about more clarity, not less.  If you are at all emotional about something, it’s not time to take action on it.  Put the problem to the side and allow your meditation to normalize; return to structured, guided meditation if needed.

Another strategy (and it’s best to use multiple strategies) is to use the concept of ‘Data Points.’ Most of us have at least some familiarity with plotting points on a graph and drawing a connecting line.  The key is to avoid putting too much credence in any one data point or incidence of perceived guidance.  Let the data points accumulate and try to understand the larger pattern from them before letting your mind draw a particular conclusion.  Give yourself some time to mull over the signals and signs before taking any dramatic action. Remember that, with relationships, it can take only moments to destroy what took a lifetime to build.  Another helpful metaphor along these same lines is the “Tai Chi fist.”  When I first started Tai Chi, our instructor taught us to form the Tai Chi fist by imagining that we were holding a bird in our hand.  If we held the bird too loosely, it would fly away.  If we clenched our fist, we would crush it.  I often think about this metaphor when I become too attached to a particular outcome for a situation.  Although it may be impossible to completely let go of your hopes for a particular outcome, it can be helpful to remind yourself not to clench your “fist” too tightly around it.

When All Else Fails

When you find yourself really in a rut, it’s time to seek outside counsel – real outside counsel.  Avoid relying on only your tarot cards or your circle of friends for direction as these may be (unintentionally) influenced by your own hopes and desires.  I recommend seeking help from a Past Life Regressionist, a trusted Psychic (ie. as in someone you or your family can vouch for as an ethical individual), or a trusted resource outside your particular mystical tradition (if you belong to one) who understands the spiritual path.  There are mainstream psychologists out there who do past life or Jung-type work – it may be worth seeking out one of those if you feel you need help from someone with professional psychology or psychiatry training.  Outside counsel may be expensive, but it can be worth it when you need a point of view from someone who has no emotional investment in your situation.  I have sought help from Past Life Regressionists and trusted Psychics when in ruts and found their help invaluable in directing me back to my path (the very existence of this blog, in fact, is due to such counsel).  Don’t be afraid to ask specifically about your problem, even though it may be embarrassing – after all that’s why you’re there.  If they don’t have much to say about it – it could be a signal that the problem looms larger in your mind than it does on your spiritual path.

When all else fails, walk away from the path for awhile.  Immerse yourself in activities that keep you anchored in a safe and healthy reality.  Retreat to friends, family, and take a few months off.  Don’t ignore new data points – record them dispassionately in a journal, but return to your work only when you feel ready.  Avoid completely forsaking meditation at this point.  Rather, focus on short, guided meditations specifically grounding, breath, or metta-type meditations.   If you find your meditation or prayer devolving into mental anguish about the situation – stop immediately and do something else.

Actively walking the Spiritual Path is an amazing journey of transformation; a worthy and necessary cause for everyone.  It may seem like the above essay is intended to convince you that the spiritual experience is not ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ but nothing could be further from the truth.  All communication – even that with the self is real.  It will be necessary at times to deal with revelations about yourself that may be deeply disturbing; desires and secret wishes that you may want to project onto others or that you may want to believe are coming from ‘somewhere’ or ‘someone’ else.  Navigating these steps on the path is necessary for progress – but doing so “alone” can be quite a challenge. Understanding the risks, taking them seriously, and developing strategies for dealing with these types of concerns (if they arise), can ensure your journey is as smooth as possible.


[1] Krakauer, Jon Under the Banner of Heaven, Anchor c:2004 / Random House

 

“A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.  In dreams you will lose your heartaches – whatever you wish for you keep.  Hold tight to your dream and someday a rainbow will come shining through.  No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true” – Walt Disney’s Cinderella

This opening song in the Disney movie Cinderella illustrates two things.  One, inspiration can be found anywhere, even an animated, corporate cartoon and two, that even a child can be expected to understand the connection between the heart and achieving fulfillment.

However basic this idea seems on the surface, most children and many adults do not actively seek to achieve the wishes their hearts make.  Instead, they mentally file them away in a box labeled “impractical” and pull them out in melancholy moments to accentuate what their life is missing rather than spur them to take an active role in their own spiritual development.

You have an advantage over many if you have recognized that there must be something more to life, something beyond the day to day experience of “surviving” or “getting by” whatever your economic situation may be.

Joseph Campbell speaks most succinctly to this feeling by terming this stage of life’s journey as “The Call.”  The stirring in the heart, the feeling of restlessness and dissatisfaction with your life (however busy it may actually be) is actually a call from your heart to engage, to develop, to experience life in a deeper and more meaningful way.

The simplicity of this idea is deceptive.  Responding to “The Call” is not merely recognizing it and taking action by reading relevant books, engaging in activities such as yoga or Tai-Chi, or attending a meditation or self-help seminar.

Progressing beyond this preliminary stage and starting your own internal journey is actually the first few steps on a very long path.

At a high level, this stage is characterized by an opening of a dialogue between the conscious mind and the subconscious, between the self and the higher self, between one’s being and the universe.  It is all of these at the same time and the effort can only come from within.

The first step is hearing and recognizing this call to action, the second step is signaling a willingness to begin the journey, and the third step, the hardest step, is listening to, understanding, and acting on the response from the universe.  Only when one has taken all three steps has the spiritual journey really begun.

The Call

Even the first step, the initial ‘call’ from one’s inner being is, unfortunately, all too easy to ignore.  After all, our western, capitalist culture does not encourage finding fulfillment without entering into the market behavior of vending and consuming.

In response to our quest for deeper meaning, society and tradition push us into mainstream religions that often offer the comfort and celebration of community at the expense of individual spiritual development.

The looming church of whatever religion can sometimes make us feel that there is no room for a growth and exploration of individual belief; one must accept the mandated beliefs (or profess to) and keep deeply hidden any personal reservations or differences of opinion.

This is nothing new or unique to our particular place and time.  For centuries wars have been fought and people murdered as ‘heretics’ for the very act of believing something different from church doctrine; it still happens today in some places.

It is perhaps this violent history, however remote from our present experience, which has led many of us to feel extremely uncomfortable with discussions of our personal faith and, in the same vein, our personal spiritual development in public and sometimes even among close friends and family.  Discomfort such as this can only increase one’s feeling of ‘separation.’

Although seeking to develop further spiritually on an individual level will not necessarily resolve these conflicts and can actually increase one’s feeling of ‘apartness,’ there is some good news.

Walking your own spiritual path does not actually require you to commit to any particular religious belief or swear allegiance to any particular system; it can dovetail quite reasonably with whatever social religious practice you currently follow.

The challenge spiritual development presents instead is to thoroughly examine one’s own life and engagement with both the concrete and metaphysical world.  There should be no surprise if this causes the individual to both challenge old belief systems and develop new ones, but this will happen in its own time and through one’s own efforts rather than according to any prescribed dogma.

Additionally, seeking to develop and understand the self better can help the individual navigate his or her own life with more intent.  Although the feeling of “separation” from others may increase, often the feeling of communion with the self and the divine will intensify to such a degree that the absence of that feeling of “belongingness” from the community is no longer a cause of concern.

Seemingly in opposition with the conclusion just drawn, relationships with loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers are likely to improve as one proceeds on this inner and outer journey.

As you understand yourself better, you will gain new insight into your own behavior and attitudes towards others as well as understanding their interaction with you.  This will allow you to express, recognize, and respond to love and other emotions in your interpersonal relationships on a new and deeper level.

Each individual must internally weigh these and other concerns against perceived benefits, but the fundamental fact is that there is really no great risk in taking that first step; hearing the call and making some effort to heed it.

At this point on the journey, your worldview is not likely to have changed so dramatically that any “damage” done cannot be undone.  Like the first flicker of eyelids in the morning; one might wake up, hop out of bed, and start the day or merely glance groggily at the clock and return to slumber.

Weeks or even days after reading an inspirational book or finding oneself moved by a conference or seminar or maybe even a particular worship service, we find ourselves slipping back into our old routines, our old concerns, focusing on the external and neglecting the internal.

In such a case, our eyes have only flickered.  In turn, this is why a more direct signal to the self and the universe is required to truly engage in the kind of meaningful dialogue that will start you on your journey.

If deep down you know this is only a spark to be quickly extinguished, the subconscious mind, too, will remain in slumber; hidden deep below the surface of your awareness.  Similarly, the higher self and the universe will be even more remote and difficult to access.

The Signal

When and if you decide you are ready to take more deliberate and intentional action, you are ready for the second step on the path.  This is a direct signal of intent to the subconscious mind, higher self, and universe that one is ready to begin their journey.

One should not expect that merely spending twenty minutes or even a week in daily meditation will result in a response. The timing from the first recognition and heeding of the call to the response from the universe will vary from person to person.

Ironically, like the seemingly “unfair” story of the prodigal son, a complete beginner may receive a response more clearly and quickly than a person who has dabbled in yoga, meditation, and exploratory reading for some time.  This may be because the more experienced spiritual student has signaled fickle interest often enough that it will take a sustained, deliberate effort to communicate commitment.

Another possibility is that the more awake and experienced student may have come to accept certain feelings and signals as second nature due to their own spiritual activities, and thus may be taking no particular notice of them now.

I recently experienced this in a meditation class.  Even though I have been walking my own spiritual path for the last fifteen years, when my meditation teacher recently asked me if I could feel my own energy body, I found myself shaking my head in a confused manner and answering, “I’m not sure.”

However, when she led our class through a meditation to feel our energy body and described the sort of techniques we should use to “feel” it, I recall thinking of course, I feel this all the time, I just didn’t think of it in those terms.  Students who have dabbled in spiritual development before need to be especially attentive to subtle signals they may be receiving.

However discouraging this “waiting” period may feel to your conscious mind, it is not without its own value.  The opportunity, here, is to begin to “clean out” one’s conscious (and sometimes borderline subconscious) mind and observe oneself from the outside looking in.

It is worth keeping in mind that the ultimate goal of this opening salvo is to communicate not only your desire to be more whole, but your commitment to pursue this endeavor with serious and determined intent.

As far as “sending” the signal itself, truthfully, the only way I have found this to really work is through meditation.  To be fair, meditation can take many forms; drumming, yoga, tai-chi, silent reflection, prayer, journaling, mindful living, etc.   However, the most striking results I have seen include at least some form of focused silent meditation either alone or in combination with other forms listed above.  The very act of sitting and clearing out the mind offers an opportunity to both observe the mind and communicate directly with it.

The signal must be clear, intentional, and serious.  By “clear” I mean uncluttered with fears or hidden motivations such as conforming to other’s perceptions or a desire to “confirm” one’s own skepticism.

Because of the inherent connotations, I cringe a little at using the word “serious” to describe communication with the subconscious mind, self, and universe.  Often this communication can be characterized by a jubilant feeling of “connection” and peace, an experience of exploring and engaging with your existence on a new and exciting level.

I would not deny this whimsical part of the spiritual journey by labeling communication “serious.”  Rather, I refer to the definition of serious that dictionary.com lists as, “being in earnest, sincere, not trifling” as well as “requiring thought, concentration, or application.”  Even when approaching meditation with joy and wonder, your communication should represent the aspects of seriousness listed above.

The clarity and intent of your signal can be made more concrete by journaling about what thoughts, images, and questions come out of dreams, meditation sessions, and simple mindful reflections.  Making the added commitment of putting pen to paper to record impressions and allow yourself to digest them can be a direct signal to your subconscious mind, higher self, and the universe that you are “listening.”

If you don’t feel comfortable with your writing, journaling does not specifically have to take the form of the written word.  Drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, song, music, or making collages by clipping relevant words, thoughts, and pictures from magazines or newspapers are perfectly acceptable ways to bring your meditative reflections into the corporeal world.  One of the fastest and easiest ways to journal is by using a personal voice recorder to tape your meditation sessions, dreams, and reflections.

Regardless of what medium you choose, always remember that the primary goal of this exercise is not to produce great art, but to signal to the universe that you are ready to engage; your goal is to actively pursue your life’s destiny.

The Response

If one has signaled clearly a genuine and sustained interest, the subconscious mind will open to the observer.  An opportunity will present itself, a door will appear, a signal will be sent in response; the universe will communicate, “I hear.”

At first, this is likely to be quite startling, and despite the inherent joy in such a moment, one is likely to be internally conflicted.  The student may question; is this a response?  Or have I been wishing so much for a response that I’ll convince myself anything out of the ordinary is a response?

Chances are that your first instinct is correct, but it is good to remember that communication from these meta-entities, rather than a singular shot in the dark, is often a series of encounters or experiences that taken independently seem like coincidence and only have meaning when considered together; a theme that either instantly rings so true you cannot doubt it or, if ignored, repeats itself and becomes more obvious and clear the more you meditate.

A response can come in many forms.  For one it may be a particularly relevant and meaningful dream or succession of them.  For another it may be the experience of overhearing a co-worker talking about a book they read that affected them deeply and then coming across that same book or author oneself in a seemingly random and independent way only to begin reading it and find just the answer or message one was seeking.

Some may find they feel a new spark of interest in an activity that blends spirit with physical movement like drumming, yoga, or Tai-Chi only to suddenly stumble upon an open workshop or see a flyer in a strange place advertising the very thing they were interested in.

Recently I received a call to action from the universe via the combination of a dream, a television show theme, and a church sermon all within the space of a week.

In the case where an individual is not yet very attuned to him or herself, a situation not altogether uncommon in complete beginners to meditation and spiritual development, he or she may actually not recognize a response or may completely misinterpret one.

In other cases, we may deliberately ignore a response or pretend we don’t hear it because we don’t like the message.  If many weeks go by without any seeming “response” or with a perceived response that seems confusing or in contrast with core ethical beliefs, it can be beneficial to seek direct counsel.

Ask an understanding and compassionate family member, friend, classmate, or teacher’s advice regarding your confusion and trouble.  If that does not help you bring clarity to the situation, there may be cause to seek more definite guidance from a psychic or through one’s own direct dialoguing process.

Most often, the struggle in the third step is not so much with hearing the response, but with understanding, accepting, and acting on it.  We may not feel ‘ready’ to take on the personal challenge our subconscious or higher self presents to us.

Challenges from one’s higher self and the universe will almost always be very personal and reach to the very heart and core of our being.  Perhaps the images presented to us while meditating are frightening because they remind us of our imperfections and weaknesses or they expose deep seated fears that are negatively impacting the way we live our lives.

Additionally, perhaps we feel we are being asked to do things we are not ready to do; open our hearts to people we are not ready to forgive, confess a transgression to someone who may not forgive us, or face parts of ourselves we are afraid of.

From a practical perspective, it is most important to have patience with yourself during this period.  It is not unlikely that progressing beyond this beginning stage may take from six months to a year depending on one’s level of dedication, quality of reflection, and timing of action in response to communication from the subconscious mind.

When faced with such deep internal fears, we do best to remember that all heroes throughout time have had to face great challenges.  In stories, as in life, these are often internal fears and conflicts made manifest in the external world either through our own projections or as messengers from the universe.

Rather than be discouraged, know that the practice of spiritual development is rewarding mostly because it is so challenging.  We are presented with opportunities to better understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in; to grow.