Archive for the ‘spiritual teachers’ Tag

Pillbug (Armadillidium vulgare)   2 comments

pillbugAlmost everyone, city-dweller or rural resident or lifelong suburbanite, has met them, and has a name for them. Also known as the roly-poly, woodlouse, or doodle bug, the pillbug is perhaps the most innocuous non-mammal children encounter. Certainly it’s safer than the family dog or cat. It doesn’t bite or carry disease, and is left without any defense other than “conglobation” — doing that “armadillo thing” that gives it the first half of its scientific name.

So I’m still repeating “armadillidium vulgare” (ar-mah-dil-LID-ee-um vool-GAH-ray) to myself every hour or so, just for the pure fun of the name, since yesterday morning when I did some research to learn more about the little creatures. Why? That’s less interesting to me right now than the pillbug itself, but I’ll explain the reason in a bit. (If you’re just skimming, in a hurry, and want to arrive at what you imagine is the “Druidic payoff” straightaway, go the final section of this post.)

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pillbug-curlA native European, the pillbug has spread to North America and the rest of the world, where it flourishes in damp and shady environments. If you’ve encountered them, you most likely did so when overturning a garden pot or stone or board in a woodpile. Pillbugs actually aren’t insects, but crustaceans, most closely related to crabs and crayfish. They breathe through gills, and unlike the vast majority of species with iron-based blood, pillbugs use copper — hemocyanin rather than hemoglobin, for the nerds among us — an ancient alternative oxygen-bearing respiration system, making them literal “blue-bloods”.

Pillbugs recycle body wastes, can absorb water at several locations along their body, and carry their young in a belly pouch called a marsupium — if that makes you think “marsupial”, like a kangaroo or possum, you’re not so far off track.

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Which brings me to “why the pillbug as a blogpost topic?”

Workshop 5 at the recent Gulf Coast Gathering in Mandeville, LA, focused on spirit and animal guides. Here’s Lorraine leading the workshop, her own cat guide prominent on the t-shirt she’s wearing:

lorraine-wkshp

photo courtesy Kezia Vandilo

As often happens during guided meditations and visualizations, I work on patience. Whether or not anything “comes through”, the practice itself has value. It builds energy and receptivity to things outside the “enchantment of the apparent world” as OBOD rituals put it. Lorraine asked us to travel with our guide to a clearing where we could encounter a new helper.

Nothing … nothing … nothing. My boar guide, happy to explore the Louisiana woods, kept away. Or at least I experienced no trace of him. Instead, inner mist, overcast gray, drowsiness … Then, almost at the end of the visualization: pillbug! I swallowed my laughter. My amused surprise at the unexpectedness of this particular animal guide disturbed its inner form not at all. I’m small, but like all things I have my dignity, I seemed to hear. Pay attention.

As I wrote here a little over a year ago,

When something like this grabs me, I start trying it out, trying it on for size. What does my spiritual path do with it? Does it stir me, even — or especially — if I resist it? (I’ve found that’s one good test for the value of my path, too.) Do I want its insight with me over the next meters and miles, minutes or months? Is there a place for it in my backpack or tool-kit? If so, what? If not, why not? … Why has it arrived on my doorstep at all? Has it come to me now, or in this particular form, because I’ve already rejected it at least once?! Will I at least remember to write it down in my journal, so when it knocks me upside the head again, sometime in the future, a review of what I write today will help the lesson sink deeper, enough that next time at least I’m able to act?

I’m a Druid so also I count the non-human world among my teachers. That doesn’t mean I have to stay in class, or stick with the same teacher. It means, if I need to, that I can learn and move on. It means — thank the gods! — I have many teachers. It may well mean, if I really need to learn something, that the classwork I don’t finish here may reappear somewhere else, in another class, on another arm of the spiral. But it also means I can call on teachers I adore and who support me to help me with teachers who challenge me, rub me the wrong way — teachers who don’t make it easy …

So what do I take away from this encounter, this new guide? Stay small and inconspicuous? Keep to the undersides of things? Protect my belly and curl my back against trouble?

Or maybe pay attention to things that may seem too small to deserve your notice. Disdain nothing that can teach you. (And what can’t teach me, after all? Only what I ignore …)  Stay flexible enough to adapt, to bend. Keep in touch with the earth. Know that my dignity and worth don’t depend on anyone else. My value in a supersize culture has nothing to do with quantity but with quality. And, always, listen.

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Images: pillbug; conglobating pillbug.

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“Those I Am With …”   Leave a comment

“are my greatest teachers.”

dalailama

Dalai Lama as sage

pema-chod

Pema Chodron as sage

Bear with me here. I’m doing some out-loud thinking again, to solidify it enough that I can see it and assess what’s rattling around in my head. The title quotation comes from a seminar I attended last fall. You may well have heard a version of this yourself. You’ll see I’m still mulling it over, trying to squeeze all the juice from it I can.

OK. Hmm. When something like this grabs me, I start trying it out, trying it on for size. What does my spiritual path do with it? Does it stir me, even — or especially — if I resist it? (I’ve found that’s one good test for the value of my path, too.) Do I want its insight with me over the next meters and miles, minutes — or months? Is there a place for it in my backpack or tool-kit? If so, what? If not, why not? Maybe it’s too much. Or it comes dragging cultural weight that obscures its value to me right now. Or …

If it sounds “off,” if it just doesn’t click with where I’m at, is there an equivalent truth that can reach me, has already reached in terms that work for me? Can I translate truths here, rather than just reject one because I don’t like the particular flavor or color or cut that it comes in? Why has it arrived on my doorstep at all? Has it come to me now, or in this particular form, because I’ve already rejected it at least once?! Will I at least remember to write it down in my journal, so when it knocks me upside the head again, sometime in the future, a review of what I write today will help the lesson sink deeper, enough that next time at least I’m able to act?

Most people can name at least a couple of publicly-acknowledged wise ones like the Dalai Lama or Pema Chödrön (I’m facing Buddhist here — insert your own favorite icon of sageness).

Boar is one of my teachers

Boar is one of my animal teachers

I’m a Druid so also I count the non-human world among my teachers.  That doesn’t mean I have to stay in class, or stick with the same teacher. It means, if I need to, that I can learn and move on. It means — thank the gods! — I have many teachers. It may well mean, if I really need to learn something, that the classwork I don’t finish here may reappear somewhere else, in another class, on another arm of the spiral. But it also means I can call on teachers I adore and who support me to help me with teachers who challenge me, rub me the wrong way — teachers who don’t make it easy, who can even just turn every class with them into a perfect, custom-made hell.

Sometimes it seems I specialize in hell. And if you’ve been around a while, you probably do too. The pesky habit that sabotages you again and again. The job or relationship that’s sunk its teeth into your jugular and just hangs there feeding happily. The spiritual cul-de-sac that’s all circle, no spiral growth, no way out or onward. The emotional desert that dries you crisp and crunchy as fried chicken or diner bacon and leaves your bleached bones as a warning for future travelers. (To paraphrase a Christian scripture too many Christians conveniently forget, though I make my bed in hell, the gods are there, too, with me*. No ending, only stations on the way.)

“Those I am with are my greatest teachers.” Sometimes I need to stay. Sometimes I need to walk (run!) away. How to know the difference is something I also have a teacher for. I just have to ask and do the work. If I do, nothing may happen for a while. But if I don’t, nothing keeps happening a whole lot longer.

A college teacher I deeply respected told me his greatest goal in life: “the avoidance of pain.” I gasped. I got depressed. I laughed. Not all at the same time. Not to his face or in his presence. But in varying sequences. Each response fits. But these three are a bad triad. They’re not enough. If all the growth is in the hassle and I’ve constantly avoided the hassle …

I get that his life may have had reserves of suffering I knew nothing about. I’m not judging, but his path wasn’t — no surprise — a good fit for mine. Now, some three decades later, I have something to say in response to him. He’s passed on to the Shining World to continue his own growth. But I’m checking in with him as an honored ancestor of spirit.

“Lessons are blessings with rocks attached.” (Same talk, a little later.)

steppingstoneHow many times have I dodged the rock — and missed the blessing? Can I dodge but be blessed too? Is the rock the blessing? My Druidry asks me, “How can you learn from the rock?” Rocks can be teachers too. Really?! says my inner imp. Let’s run with that …

Ah, and what can I offer the rock in return? Some stone wisdom coming up in the next post.

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*Psalm 139:8

IMAGES: Dalai Lama; Pema Chodron; wild boarstepping stone;

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