The old man sat quietly alert on the rock outcropping near the top of the hill. The dry air, warmed by the late morning sunshine, stirred lazily around him, ruffling his white hair, and caressing his closed eyes. Behind him, at the foot of the hill, the tribe patiently continued daily tasks as if nothing were going on. They were awaiting the old man’s return. Before him spread the expanse of grassland. In the distance, a herd of bison nibbled on the sere grass, vainly searching for a few green blades. None of this caught the attention of the old man. His focus was inward, away from the arid, heat-permeated landscape surrounding him. The old man was sensing rain. Within his trance, he could see the dark clouds approach, feel the damp breeze on his skin, notice the slight drop in temperature, smell the droplets of a deluge, hear distant rumbling thunder. The rains were coming. He KNEW that, knowing in a way that belied the logic of drought surrounding him, of grass waiting like tinder to catch the first spark. The old man had been there since dawn, going ever deeper into his trance, sensing ever more strongly the coming of rain.
Towards sunset, the grazing bison looked up. The breeze had stilled for the moment; dark clouds began to form on the horizon. The bison stopped grazing. They began to circle, calves in the middle for shelter. The old man paid no attention. The dark clouds grew, and the wind began to pick up. Lightning split the sky, and thunder rumbled over the bison. Clouds obscured the setting sun as the storm increased its force, soaking the dried grass and the parched earth. The bison lifted their heads in welcome to the rain. Now the wind blew strong over the old man, who was still sitting quietly. A clap of thunder woke him from his trance. A deluge from the sky washed over him as he stood up and began the walk to the encampment. Dancing children approached him, frolicking in the rain. The old man entered among the people. “It rained,” he said.
The old man had been dreaming rain. He was the tribal shaman, trained from adolescence in the ability to enter the invisible realms the aborigines call “dreamtime”. From those spaces he would heal, divine, and call to the tribe what was needed. Rain was needed at the moment. He was an expert in these skills.
These skills are not, however, potentially limited to shamans. Each of us possesses the possibility of using our focus, our imaginations, our understanding and creative inner gifts to do, individually or collectively, what the shaman had done. We can create ceremony, sing what we wish to create, draw it, sculpt it, write it, or sit in focused meditation. We can even simply speak the truth we wish to see. We do not need to be trained shamans operating alone. Collectively, our smaller individual acts coalesce into a larger effect.
There are certainly many intertwined issues that face us in this moment. An election is over, but we cannot all sit back and relax and assume that the “old normal” will now return. The “old normal” is gone; what will ensue from the current chaos will be the result of what we collectively dream. We have work to do. What do we wish to see? For example, most of us wish to be free of the coronavirus. Do we wish to see everyone mandated in masks? Do we wish to see everyone required to receive experimental vaccines and tracked to make sure we do? Do we believe that governing from the top to “take care” of everyone, controlling them even as they are relieved of responsibility for addressing things themselves, will be desirable?
One priority is the well-being of our planet. The coronavirus is one virus. Even if it is manmade, as some say, more are in waiting from nature if we do not address the healing of the earth. It is interconnected. I believe we wish to see ourselves, generally, healthy, free to interact with each other, living in cooperation with nature on a healed earth, inhabiting a healed social order in which we can care for and trust one another. I believe we would like an economic order in which everyone can provide for him/herself and his/her family with the work of hands, heart, or mind. If these things are what we wish, we need to envision these things instead of trying to figure out what we need to require others to do and how we will make them do it. We need to cooperatively envision the result, not the means.
There is temptation to turn passive, believing that there is nothing we or anyone can do to affect the present or the outcome of things. Such a stance leads to being taken over as a source of energy for ways which are not ours. There is also temptation to believe that raising anger and marching in the streets, perhaps rioting, will change things in the direction we wish them to go. The fact is that if the negative challenges are met directly, head on, the result will be more of the same, perhaps dressed in different clothes. We must use the indirect way, the way of the old man who “saw” the rain and then it came. Each of us has a piece of the future to imagine. Each of us has a creative way of expressing that (and yes, even cleaning a house can be a creative expression, when it is done with the loving consciousness we envision). What is your thought? How do you wish the world to be? How can you dream that and express your dream? It takes us all.
We live in a world bounded by time. Humans have created this concept and been caught in its web. Time cannot run backwards. We cannot return to the time before COVID-19, or the time before 9/11, or the time our grandmothers tell stories about. We must live in and act in the present, with all its problems that surround us, and also with all the beauty that still exists if we pause and relax long enough to notice it. What our future will be depends on how we orient ourselves now.
May we awaken to the creative power we all embody, and to the focused, reverent application of that ability. May we all dream a world which includes a healed Earth restored to its beauty and harmony, and a social structure which recognizes the full humanity of all of us and supports just, compassionate, and reverent ways of interacting. We are the shamans. It is time we worked.