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Six: Going on a Spirit Journey

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

What happens on a spirit journey? People fly away on birds’ wings, peacock clouds spread their shimmering tail feathers, a woman with stars in her hair guards the entrance to the world below, and humans turned into albatrosses alight on the waves of the ocean. These are some of the tales people tell when they come back. There are several postures that are specifically designed to take us either to the sky, to the middle world where humans live, to the lower world, or out to sea. Although brief sallies or “out-of-body experiences” also happen frequently during other postures, those described below have proved to be the ones needed for a prolonged trip.

The Lascaux Cave shaman’s posture. How we happened to try the posture, I told briefly in Chapter 2. Let me recapitulate briefly how it is done. You lie down comfortably on the slanted board (37-degree angle), your legs together, and letting your feet spread apart naturally. Somewhat bent at the elbow, your right arm is placed on the board a few inches away from your body in a leisurely fashion. As a result, your right hand rests on its outside edge, and your thumb is up. Although also resting on the board, your left arm is tensed by contrast, very straight, and your left hand is turned so that its back is turned toward your body, and your thumb is stretched stiffly down. You close your eyes, and you are ready to go.

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Thirteen: Life Everlasting

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

In the first of the postures treated in Chapter 12, there was a clear indication that life’s story did not end after the vestments of the body were surrendered at the entrance to the Realm of the Dead in the lower world. After arriving there, Bernie received a new form, that of the bear, full of power and joy. This metamorphosis is rather restricted, however. There is another posture, which allows this theme to be played out much more fully. For reasons to be explained further on, we have come to call it the Feathered Serpent posture. It is one of the few postures the origin of which can actually be traced back reliably to our ancient hunter roots.

Plate 58

According to traditions still encountered among hunter-gatherers and some horticulturalists to this day, it was the task of shamans to descend into a cave, the womb of the earth. There they created likenesses of the animals surrounding them, and by no means only of those that provided food. They then lifted the soul essences from the drawings and took them up into the world of the sun, thereby helping the Earth Mother in the task of increase, of propagation.

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Appendix: Some Practical Points

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

—If you would like to try any of the postures I have described, you will need rhythmic stimulation. With some practice, you can record a tape for yourself, using either a drum or a rattle. The beat should be even and rather fast. Mine is timed at 200–210 beats per minute, and one session should last about fifteen minutes.

—Familiarize yourself with the posture first, then do a breathing exercise. It consists of fifty light, normal, complete breaths, with inhaling, exhaling, and pause constituting one breath unit. At the conclusion of this exercise, assume the posture once more, close your eyes, and start listening to the beat of the instrument. After a while, you may no longer hear the soundtrack. Do not worry about it. Your nervous system registers it anyway, although out of awareness. If you try to get back to the sound, you may interrupt your vision.

—As soon as the soundtrack stops, and provided you are clinically healthy, you will return to ordinary consciousness. Once in a great while a person does not manage this transition well. For this reason, a beginner should always have a companion. If the companion notices that the trancer does not come to right away, the first thing to do is to call his/her name. Gently releasing the trancer’s posture is also a good strategy, and providing a glass of water will help, too. As the group leader, you will occasionally go into a light trance yourself. One of my participants told that as she was rattling, her Indian spirit friend appeared before her and rattled along with her.

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Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Two blacktop roads, broken by frost and mended with tar, running from nowhere to nowhere, cross at right angles in the rumpled farm country of northeastern Ohio. The neighborhood where they intersect is called Wayland—not a village, not even a hamlet, only a cluster of barns and silos and frame houses and a white steepled Methodist church. Just north of Wayland, the army fenced in thirty square miles of ground for their bomb factory, and just to the south the Corps of Engineers built their reservoir. I grew up behind those government fences in the shadows of bunkers, and on farms that have since vanished beneath those imprisoned waters. Family visits to church began carrying me to Wayland when I was five, romance was carrying me there still at seventeen, and in the years between I was drawn there often by duty or desire. Thus it happened that within shouting distance of the Wayland crossroads I met seven of the great mysteries.

Even as a boy, oblivious much of the time to all save my own sensations, I knew by the tingle in my spine when I had bumped into something utterly new. I groped for words to describe what I had felt, as I grope still. Since we give labels to all that puzzles us, as we name every blank space on the map, I could say that what I stumbled into in Wayland were the mysteries of death, life, beasts, food, mind, sex, and God. But these seven words are only tokens, worn coins that I shove onto the page, hoping to bribe you, coins I finger as reminders of those awful encounters.

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One: Beginner’s Mind: The Power and the Promise

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Yoga has less to do with what you can do with your body or
with being able to still your mind than it has to do with the
happiness that unfolds from realizing your full potential

Yogarupa Rod Stryker


More often than we can count, people have said to us, “I could never do yoga. I’m not flexible” (or “I’m too hyper”). That logic is like saying, “I can’t tend to my garden—it has too many weeds in it.” Or to use a work metaphor, “I can’t clean out my email inbox. It has too many messages in it.”

It’s understandable. The sheer amount of stuff we are asked to attend to in our daily lives can be overwhelming. But when people say they lack the physicality to put their bodies into yoga poses, they are not taking into account that it is the practice that develops flexibility, balance, and a quiet mind.

In any case, yoga on the mat is only one part of the practice—one-eighth, to be exact. To use one of Jamie’s favorite analogies, the physical practice (asana) doesn’t represent the spectrum of yoga any more than looking through a knothole in a fence and seeing a pitcher throw and catch a ball gives you a complete picture of a baseball game’s nine innings. Renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who received an honorary degree from the University of Calcutta, said, “Yoga practice would be ineffectual without the concepts on which yoga is based. It combines the bodily and the spiritual in an extraordinarily complete way.”

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