Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life is Like a Highway--and We're the Traffic


Playing the Game and Shamanic Death
December 22, 2010

I've always thought that human bodies were like the cars and trucks rolling down the road. The motorcycles and cars "think" that other trucks and motorcycles are the true beings of their world. If you are flying above the roads, that's what it looks like! They apparently sleep and wake, take in nutrition, expel waste, avoid pain (accidents), require maintenance, form societies following sets of rules, and occasionally make mistakes, injuring or destroying other vehicles or other objects in their environment. And they die.

But you and I are pretty certain that cars and trucks are not thinking beings. They follow rules and perform nearly all their actions because we are temporarily inside them, directing their actions. They undertake no action arising from volition or desire or revulsion. If a police cruiser roars past you at 100 miles per hour, it's because the officer wants to set aside the normal rules and follow different ones. If a dude in a pick-up spins circles in a parking lot for ten minutes, burning up half the lifetime of his tires, you don't remark how the truck was such an idiot. If your car breaks, you can still travel, but you have to find other options. When your trip is done, you leave your wheels behind and go about your real business. You leave behind the constraints of any rules of the road and live normally.

True You, the real You, are not the same as your body. Where your body is going, and why it's going there, is not the same thing at all as where True You are going or why True You are going there. No car ever drove to the bank to pay a bill or withdraw some cash—but people do. No truck ever fell in love; no motorcycle ever grieved—but people do.

In the same fashion we can re-apply the highway picture to our lives here on earth. True You, the real You, do not live here for the purpose of attending attend school and working for a living; your true goals are beyond ordinary comprehension, just as your car or motorcycle does not understand what human goals are. True You do not actually desire money, even though the person you are here on earth does want money. You, who you truly are, want the very best for yourself and others, even though the person you are "driving" on earth may viciously hate someone or even harm someone. You, who you really are, you love Life and are overjoyed at living, even if the person you temporarily inhabit feels like a walking disaster and wishes this life were over. True You are far more and far better and far greater than any of us can imagine, here on the highway of life.

Shamans drive while riding on the bumper. They make the rest of us scream, in terror—or perhaps in true amazement.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Regular Things Can Go "Wrong"--And Do!


Our lives here run on love, or else we would never grieve over losing a fellow-player, oh so young to exit the stage. Our lives here run on love, or else we would never lament old people who die helpless and alone. You and I do not merely eat; we do not merely stay alive. We do not come to this earth to sit in some loveless classroom; after all, school is an artifact of civilization, itself scarcely a few millennia of our immense history on earth.

But we always play. We act, sing, imagine, dream, build, laugh, grieve, and play. We invent rules, which we follow or bend or break. We play with love and with hope. Under normal circumstances we rejoice at life and grieve at death, because we love to play and we love our fellow players. In a few fearsome instances, too, we thrill at somebody's death and mourn another person continuing to live, because we have seen a life of actions utterly bereft of love. The Universe is shocking, amazing, wonderful, horrifying. All the emotions of play, whether sports, theater, music, building, travel, commerce, politics—we thrive on them, we build our lives on them.

The cycles of reincarnation and of life and death are not punishments. Disciples: "Lord, who sinned—this man, or his parents—so that he was born blind?" Jesus: "Neither!" Nor is this life with all its death about destruction or school lessons. It's about something else: focused attention. The Infinite is beyond all far beyond, that It can play at being limited—and that means the One become individuals, being "here" but not "there," starting and ending, birth and death. The One is so all-embracing it can imagine action and song in every possible form. Eternal Love encompasses all, so nothing is ever lost.

Back here on earth, we play ceaselessly, in a world bounded, limited, terminated. In fact we have invented all kinds of ways to magnify the amount and the intensity of play. We call them our communications media: newspapers, television and radio and movies, the Internet. But they are not for better information; they are for our play. Play seriously for a moment—you'll see they are of little use in helping us "learn lessons." When was the last time TV improved your character? How has the Web taught you to forgive everyone, to love without holding back? But look as what marvelous tools they are for play.

What can go wrong as you play? All sorts of things! This concert has no constraints; this game has no rules. We are in the Infinite, and Infinite outcomes can happen. The most common "mistake" is that we play this game so well that we forget the game we're playing, and we become focused on yet another diversion. We believe this life is all there is—we forget we are Infinite. This happens constantly, and our attention jumps from big games to smaller ones, from matches just lost to new competitions. A tiny sample: my computer alerts me to new email with a five-note fanfare that's identical to a melody of Richard Wagner. Suddenly I have an ear-worm, a tune that repeat endlessly in your head, and it interferes with the much "more important" text I was composing. Or I'll drop what I'm doing and look up Wagner on the Web.

Something's gone wrong with my behavior: Forgetting my universal, Infinite self, I've been in a game we call "writing," instead. And then in turn—forgetting my attention on writing—I'm mentally singing the Ride of the Valkyries, or maybe reading about opera. We play at earning money, then we play at spending it. Some folks play at loving, then get all wrapped up in the game of fighting with their lovers. Our life on this plane is a grand maze of games, volleys within matches within sets within tournaments, carburetor science within engine technology within automotive design within highway labyrinths. And we get lost.

The most obvious game-within-a-game is to play, er, to believe, that there's a rule book, and that our purpose here is to win. Or that there's a script to follow, so we can "get to heaven" if we obey it. We search constantly for the sheet music the whole time we're actively singing this life-opera. We try so hard to "win" (whatever that is—money, health, applause, a ripe old age, a page in the history books), even though it's glaringly obvious our game is temporary: everything and everybody's mortal! Indeed, our planet and our galaxy are mortal! The Universe does not jump into the game to follow rules or to win. The Infinite plays to play. Like kids as a summer swimming pool or actors doing improve or an out-of-control rock star, winning is irrelevant. Eventually everyone must exit. The concert ends; the pool closes. The apparent winners leave without their winnings, and the apparent losers exit no poorer than when they arrived.

Deathwalkers. A terrifying word. Hypnotic. Shocking. True. Shamans, the deathwalkers, know who's playing and why. Shamans constantly remember that we're all playing. Roman conquerors are said to have tipped their hats to ancient shamanic wisdom by having a slave whisper to them, MEMENTO MORI, "Remember you're dying," as they roared in triumphant parades to the applause of their fellow citizens. Some scholars remark on what a strange tradition that was! Not strange at all—if you were a general who won by massive slaughter, who knew killing and death deeply, face to face, in person. They played harder at winning than any professional actor or athlete today. Yet they knew: we all end up as deathwalkers. Shamans just volunteer for the job.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Serious Fun, This Shamanic Death!

This is just a picture, of course. Modern spiritual instructors paint a picture of children, in school, learning lessons—ugh!—to tell us what we're doing here. I have a better picture: happier, available (to schoolchildren and super-seniors alike), both sad and blissful, hard and easy. The picture is that WE ARE PLAYING here on earth, playing games, playing music, putting on plays, playing sports, and all normal human activity.

Listen to the tiny tots on a playground, fighting about what the rules should be! School is an imposition foisted on children by adults. Non-urban societies have no schools. But play and games and inventing rules charge out like racehorses from our very core, from times before we can even talk.

Fun? Yup. Serious? Oh, yes! Watch those preschoolers screaming about what is fair and who broke the rules! Childhood is no idyllic dream. Too many teachers fantasize about their early days. So don't. Instead, sit at a playground. Baby shamans, focusing their infinite attention on small things. Like adults playing chess, whistling a tune, betting on a hole of golf, toddlers know how big the world is but choose instead to play little toddler games. And not just aimless play, either, but Rules, and Fairness, and Roles! Shocking! Awesome! Terrible! Wondrous!

Some shamans cannot abide such restrictions for long. Dare I hint at my understanding about why so many children die? The Game metaphor makes serious sense to me, in ways that scholastic nonsense always seems to fail. Mexican shamans have been said to disappear forever, on the rare occasion. Elijah and Enoch were reported to have ascended to the Divine without dying—or returning. Shamanic journeys that just kept on going. Deathwalkers that never returned to the living.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quick Summary

Playing the Game and Shamanic Death

The Universe loves infinitely, knows infinitely, and so plays at being finite—becoming separated personalities (you, me, Fido, whales, elephants, planets, galaxies, and roses) and playing fun and scary games that we call life, this world, or reality. Near-death experiences are just previews of the real Monday-morning quarterbacking, and after leaving this life we feel the calm of a match well played, even if I played villain this time and you played hero!

Much of our playing is dead serious, filled with grief and agony as we scramble to stay alive. Even more of it is enormously light-hearted: laughter, romance, song, travel, fantasies, meals, beauty. The Universe plays.

Since the Universe knows infinitely, there's nothing more to learn! Since the Universe loves infinitely, there's no fear of death, no fear of loss, no abandonment, no rejection. "It's all love." So shamans dance with Death, like directors who know the play, the audience, and the outside world, coaching their actors, who dive so deeply into their roles that they forget everything else. Shamans know Death not as an ending but as a boundary line you can cross—both ways, in fact.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ending the Play


I'm anti-doctrine. The doctrine says: Life is a school—learn your lessons! Ugh, such a downer! Then when you die, you'll return to Spirit where you'll find you already know everything. Huh? I'm not so sure, says my contrarian self. I'm here to play, to act, to sing, and I find it so riveting to play here that I (mostly) forget my Higher Self, Infinity, the Universe.

We play game after game, and games within games, we sing hymns or rounds or chants one after another, and we play our roles through every scene until the audience rises and applauds and the curtain falls. Intensely focused on our drama or music or sporting match, we find ourselves, here in ordinary life, hoping it will never end, and behaving the same way. Like a little child, I spend the whole day—I mean, my whole life on earth—playing and playing and playing, for good or ill, collecting praise or scoldings, making toddler-friends and toddler-enemies, until I'm so exhausted that I cry and scream, refusing to go to bed, howling and shrieking because I have to leave all the fun I've been having. No, I don't wanna die!! But life as part of the Universe is far, far greater than any single game.

Each drama we enact here ends—applause or no, full house or empty. Every concert finishes, even if we can manage an encore or two. The game may go on, but all the players eventually must leave. Maybe in the tryouts or maybe in the finals. Maybe your character never reappears after the first act, or perhaps you have top billing. Even the most dazzling soloist stands in front of the chorus for just that one stellar moment, but afterwards the concert goes on, absent the star. We are just playing, after all.

We have entered the game, and we will exit. And while we engage, the game's the thing—the ONLY thing. We perform so very well. We think we're working for points, or competing to outdo others, or to last longer than the others. We remain so entranced by the rules and the results, that we have momentarily forgotten facts of the matter: this is a game we play within the larger Universe, the Greater Life of which we form a part. We almost never shed our fanatical play, so that not many of us are ever ready for death.

Some people die too young. Perhaps they join the game intending not really to play but rather to assist other players. Perhaps they simply run in from the sidelines with some useful instructions from the coach. It could be they overacted their part and fell off the stage—the actor is unhurt but the character has vanished.

Some people, supposing the rules to be immutable and thinking all is lost, as they suffer in agony, or shame, or total loss of hope, think their only choice is to leave. They smash their game-piece while it is still on the board, or occasionally they sweep several chessmen onto the floor. A few people, hating their place in the standings or the effects of their fellow actors, drive their opponents off the board, whether swiftly and murderously, or slowly with abuse and torture.

Some just leave the field, stop singing, freeze in stage fright—while all the song and drama and sport of this world continue to swirl around them. Their eyes and ears are fixed on all the action, but they find they have to sit out the rest of the match.

The majority of us dance and perform and tally up points until something in us tires of this game. Until something in us quits. Perhaps it's time to go back and rejoin the Whole for a while. Perhaps we have become entranced by another song from elsewhere, another rearrangement of the rules, a different place to play.

Do we really need 70 or 80 years to learn some lessons? Has a 15-year-old who suddenly passed away somehow learned all the necessary instruction? We suppose a long life signals success or that the death of a child is tragedy beyond all remedy. But there is another perspective: the Universe is at play. And we are children of that Universe. We do not play for points. We play just because we want to play.

Shamans know death, and so they understand about playing and players. They are seers and knowers. Shamans experience pre-game and post-game, tuning up instruments and later putting them away, locker room, dressing room, and all the wider Universe. Shamans walk both life and death. They always know more than you suppose. Indeed, they always know more than they themselves suppose.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Starting the Play

Playing the Game and Shamanic Death

July 25, 2010

You buy a new game, download a new application, replace your old cell phone, and you're so keen on it you just have to get going. How do I turn it on? Where's the charger? Where's the rule book? Whether on the playing field, at the gaming table, or on stage, the first moments are terrifying thrills of fumbling, mistakes, misunderstanding: dialing the wrong hemisphere, pushing to get a pawn queened a move before suffering checkmate, addressing fellow thespians by their personal names instead of as their characters.

In this game, we forget our real life as infinite beings and charge ahead with the new, restrictive environment and all its odd new rules. I'm so excited with my new phone, I just have to call my home number while I'm sitting in my own kitchen. Young actors address one another as Hamlet or Ophelia or Polonius over burgers and fries or as they commute on the city bus. The whole world fits inside the stadium at the World Cup, living and breathing the dreadful missed goal or the upset win that wrecks the hopes of former champions.

Oh, it is so EXCITING to play! Old toys are neglected. The sports heroes of yesteryear, with all their innovations, the records they set, the triumphs they achieved, fade before the game we are in, right-HERE-right-NOW. The bets so often made and lost never prevent us from putting down money again. It is so energizing‼

Games inside games, dramas within comedies within great tragedies! We live our plays and build our sports, one atop the next. Not just a round of golf, but side-bets per hole or per stroke. Not just a casino bet, but "doubling down" and "insurance" and borrowing money to wager some more. Our entire lives are enormous complexes of playing and gaming that we label as jobs, hobbies, families, rivalries, nationalities, religions--all far, far more intricate and involved than the schoolroom image explaining "Why we are here." School was never so entrancing! We are here because we love to play. We love to watch others playing, too, in stories, history, television and movies, news reports, sports events, ad infinitum. Yet, we are actually infinite beings, with infinite interests, whether those of infinity or those of this moment of play!

In the universe of eternity, amid the infinite beings of total knowledge, we are beings of wealth beyond all limits, of all knowledge about knowledge itself, of strength and power to move, accomplish, build, laugh, and love. It is wonderful. We do not need to go to school. There are no lessons to learn, if you already know. There is no power to acquire when you're already infinite.

But there is play. There are games to play. There are plays to perform. We love to imagine smaller worlds, like cell phones, and what it might be like to dial the person at the other end of the couch. We can converse perfectly on the couch; we love to play an imperfect conversation via technology. We are all players. So we repeatedly join in.

There are billions of us here on this planet. Actually, there are trillions of "us" if we correctly include ants, whales, dandelions, bacteria, and so many other variants of life. Or maybe countless quadrillions when we remember the gentle spirits that form and hold together each rock, raindrop, and molecule, all those being we brand as inanimate. Each spirit plays with us, as we play with them.

Little children, newly born, have entered the play afresh. Grown-ups often term their roll-call of friends and interests "imaginary," or "just" a flower, or "stupid" animals. Children often call their favorite adults by the wrong names (mine did!) or mistake the roles other children and adults have taken on. Some even insist they used to be Grandpa Fred or Great-Aunt Gertie. I can provide you with documentary evidence. Children, reincarnated.

Folks often like to ask Mensa members (the intelligence club), "If you're so smart, how come you're not rich?" I suspect that most of us, in fact, came into this play, the Planet Earth Drama, with memories of other stage productions and other rivalries, and many of us never quite catch on. You never got it that he was cheating on you. You never figured out what she really wanted. You never made enough money. Your health is wretched. Your parents destroyed you. You are dying all too young. We are stuck because we are playing by other rules.

Yes, there are rules here. Some are basic, like, only 52 cards in a deck, or like, dice have exactly six sides. We call such rules Science and Math, and Death. There are also squishier rules, rules that vary by person, place, time, the corner of the playing field where we happen to be. Sometimes a king trumps a jack, but sometimes every face card equals 10, and a ball through the hoop counts as 2, sometimes 1, occasionally even 3.

Shamans fly. Shamans know Death and visit the dead. They violate those most basic rules we know as gravity, mortality, and the like. Shamans know that all rules are squishy, because it's only a game, after all. Just a stage show that momentarily seizes our attention. Shamans stretch their attention, move their consciousness other-where, merge consciousness with that of other beings. Indeed, shamans participate in even more play than most folks, while being certain of the intent to play that underlies it all. They join the game and leave it at will. That is how they are death-walkers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why We Are Here (The Meaning of Life)

Playing the Game and Shamanic Death

July 20, 2010

The doctrine says: Life is a school where we learn lessons. When we die, we return to Spirit where we realize we already knew everything. I always find myself wondering, "So, then, why did we need to learn any lessons?" I also find myself wondering, "What about all those tragic lives that seem beyond any learning of any lessons." I worry about the child soldiers dying in so many of today's civil wars, impoverished women volunteering to be suicide warriors, and on, and on.

So let's dump the doctrine. Skip the school, cancel classes, and take another look. Our world believes in doctrine, right thinking and right behavior, regular attendance, passing and failing. Spirit seems not to think like that, however. I sure don't know just HOW Spirit thinks, but it's unlikely to be so parochial, so constrained, so Islamic/Catholic/Marxist and focused on "rightness."

No one instructs in Shakespeare. No Shakespeare prayer so many times a day, no weekly Shakespeare services with mandatory attendance. No passing or failing, no winners in heaven or losers in hell. Better than doctrine. Shakespeare says: Life is a game we play, a drama we enact. "As You Like It," Act 2, Scene 7: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

To play a game, to perform on a stage, we deliberately forget our full selves and the nature of our true lives. We sink into the card deck, we shrink the universe to the curtains of the footboards. Only the rules of the game matter now—our bodies, our cultures, our planet. Our thoughts are fully occupied only by the unfolding of the play, whether game play, sports play, or dramatic play. We play.

Our most meaningful activity as mewling babes or whining schoolkids is PLAY. Schoolyards are filled with tiny adults setting up new rules to follow, arguing about the rules, or about who played according to these invented rules, and eventually learning the rules that have become a little more durable, like laws, adult society, and the like.

The shamans among us deliberately leave the game, the drama, and all that play that forgets the real universe, and leaving the stage or the game table go and consult with wiser spirits about fixing problems with, and getting better information about, the game and its nature. They talk to the playwright, the director, the stage hands, and they encourage them to do things during the drama. They talk to their buddies who can see the cards in their opponents' hands, the spirits standing over the shoulders of the other players—players who have forgotten the true nature of the game, in which anyone can, in fact, walk around the table and see every hand that's been dealt.

Sorry, John Edward, Sylvia Brown, and Dr. Chopra. Sorry, Lily Dale and Pope Supremus Ultimus. I left doctrine when I left religion. The universe is too complex, too shocking, too TOO, for all our nicey-nice pictures of fine children and proper young teachers. The universe indeed seems quite busy knocking all our pegs out from under us, each time in some unpredictable new way. We are not in control. The universe is. But we are playing along, hammering out new rules and ideas and roles: "They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." We have forgotten—perhaps intentionally—what the greater Universe is about, and we play the play.

And when we finish playing (or sometimes, when we give up on life and fling our cards on the floor and stomp off, or even sometimes, when some other player kills one of us, shoving us off the stage or sweeping our board clear of the checkers), we go back to the fundamental reality. We meet all our ancestors again, and our spirit guides, and even the true Higher Selves of those who bet against our cards, or acted the role of villain. We go off together to enjoy, to watch other beings at play, or simply to be.

The joy of shamanic practice is the chance to talk to the powers behind it all, the Genuine Grown-ups who remember the full reality of It All. Shamans shove back from the table, travel to the skies, and bring back benefits that astound the other players. Shamans are never "merely players." They are death-walkers.