In a land far removed from our time and dominant materialist view, there lived a very old wizard — old enough to retire and gather a wizard’s pension. One day he was visited by a friend and colleague, who asked: “Do you still practice wizardry?” The old man answered: “I need to use wizardry just to get out of bed in the morning.” There is wisdom in that. Not all acts of power or magic are flamboyant. Sometimes spiritual energy just allows us to negotiate the day. The following poem illustrates for me what the old wizard may have been talking about:
There are horses in the light,
agents of transport gathering in my room.
They are a restless herd, wild
and impatient with the lackadaisical sun.
They have kicked up the dust of my dreams,
a hypnagogic mist merging with dawn.
There is a lustrous motion on the floor,
expressed to wrest me from this bed of nails.
They long for a rider to gallop into daylight.
The stallion is nudging my pillow
like loyal Bucephalus, steed arising.
How can I resist climbing into the saddle?
Tired aching body, you have only to hold on
and ride into the beginning of day.
The poem is an expression of a relatively recent personal experience — a powerful vision and energetic communion. It was a singular event, but on some days I am able to conjure the echoes of that vision.
I wish I woke that way every morning. But some mornings I have risen as an act of will, worn out from years of chronic pain, wondering where the horses are. “Have you seen the horses?” I might ask a roomful of spirits I cannot yet see. “I seem to have misplaced them.”
The boundaries surrounding our lives become thinner at night. You’d think that a good shamanic or energy practitioner would be on top of all the flows of energy and interactions with archetypes that happen when our eyes are closed, using power to balance the world on the head of a pin. But sometimes we are making deals with the unconscious that seem to borrow from our body’s physical line of credit. We may be trading pain for either ignorance or bliss. We may be offering our bodies for sacrifice in order to achieve harmony or stop the spread of disease — be it physical, spiritual, or psychological. We may be offering our bodies up as experimental mediums in order to further the knowledge of our collective species. We may be paying down a karmic debt. We may be using pain to redirect our lives. Sometimes, like a wounded healer, we are made empathic so that we can understand the pain of others. Rumi says: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” It may be that our place of wounding is a portal into depth.
Most of us have heard the phrase, “wrestling with a problem.” In Genesis in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestles with a problem. He is running for his life from an Uncle bent on killing him, and during the night he wrestles with an angel, persevering until dawn. For his victory, the angel injures Jacob, putting his thigh out of joint. Then the angel bestows a blessing, symbolized by giving Jacob a new name: Israel. There is mystery in this passage. Not only is Jacob’s problem solved, his forbearance multiplies into blessing. But he is also wounded in the process. The sacrifice we make to Life cannot be artificial or concocted. It must come out of a genuine purpose, our covenant with Life. Along side the possibility of being defeated by the angel is the possibility that our struggle may resonate with genuine purpose.
Most lives have pain or difficulty of one type or another in varying degrees of resolution. In contrast, the transcript of the hero’s journey often edits out pain as the story arcs to a successful conclusion. It makes better copy if a fortified hero, one who is made impervious by the journey, delivers the boon. But we do not always have control over the consequences of our journeys and the endeavors of our lives. Our job is to deepen our life and experience, deepen our opportunity to act as intermediary to the human condition with compassion. Our job is to strive to integrate the contents of our psyche without judgment, without evaluating the outcome solely in terms of our physical well-being. Our job is to make effort, and express our gratitude when Power provides both boon and lift.
Of course that’s not to say that Night necessarily involves struggle. There are nights we ride dear Pegasus, urging him to take us as far as the link between our traveling spirit and our bodies will allow. And, when we are able, it is often within our potential to summon a current of air to glide us over difficulties. Compassionate spirits want to assist us in attaining our purpose.
And what about that old wizard who apparently found it within himself to conjure daybreak? It is good practice to freely visualize the dawn, to see the circle of your days. If the visualization doesn’t flow freely, it may be worth investigation. Now, I have always held more affinity for night than morning. Even in the best of circumstances, I tended to be slow awakening. My preference was to lounge lazily with the awareness of creaturehood and the luxury of indolence. Pain does not allow that indulgence. And so I choose to recognize my circumstance as an opportunity for practice.
Lately I’ve taken to practicing loving-kindness and connecting with my spirit helpers as an act that will carry me out of bed. There may be pain, but there is also the light aspect of a smiling heart that accepts unconditionally the body that will help me to negotiate the day. There is growing support that guides my slowly waking moments. It’s like using wizardry to rise from my bed and walk.
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