Achieving a quiet mind during a practice that is formal can be taxing to the newly initiated sage, especially when we make the practice a “practice”, meaning the only time we are practicing is when we are in the temple, zendo or church. I encourage my students to “practice” all day long, using what they already have in front of them as their tools for awakening. You never know when that “aha” moment will happen and if you remain open for it to happen at anytime and anyplace, obviously you are increasing your odds dramatically for having a direct experience in the now. Here’s an example of an “aha” moment that happened for me with my flute as the catalyst.
One cold winter evening driving over the pass on Mingus Mountain in Arizona, near the town of Jerome, I had another mystical moment in time. What’s with me and mountains? Well I love high, remote places. There you can find peace, quiet and calm. It’s a respite from the chaos down below, up above the energy of commerce and the focus on busy, busy, me, me. That evening Tanya, myself and Tony, the dog, had driven over the mountain to Prescott Valley to the Mingus Music store. I had been playing the flute for about a year and I wanted to hear what it would sound like through an amplifier with a delay and reverb. My friend, Jesse, introduced me to this style of playing the flute. I just loved the way his flutes sounded through the amps and delay. Such a haunting and transcendent sound.
At the music store I met a friendly staff member who helped me hook up the mic and delay and amp. The first time I played a note I was immediately transported to a space of stillness and clarity. The more I played, the more I became completely transported, calmed and healed by the sounds I was hearing coming through the amps. That first experience of hearing that healing sound come through me was a pivotal point to me in my life’s journey. I go into more detail on this in the chapter “Using Sound As A Healing Tool”. When I came back to the car, I related how I had felt after playing the flute with the amp to Tanya and we talked about it on our long ride back to Jerome.
It was on the pass back over Mingus Mountain that I realized I had found another profound stillness practice, the healing power of sound. I learned by just letting go, I could allow the sounds to flow through me freely as a listener. Without thinking, I could just listen and be healed by the action of non-action, vis a vie being a conduit for the sound from Source.I had discovered the shamanic practice of becoming an instrument of compassion, healing and love. I’m not saying that I was a compassionate person at the time; I was far from it. I was still drinking, using drugs and being a selfish ass. I had just discovered that I could let go and let music come through me via the flute without the need to concentrate or create the sound by thinking about it. By stepping aside and allowing the sounds to just be, I could just be.
At one point on the drive back as I was talking about how amazing it felt to just let this music flow through me, I was suddenly compelled to pull my little BMW 2002 off the road under some Ponderosa pines. I told Tanya to wait in the car as I needed to play my flute for some reason. I walked off into the woods and was led to a small clearing where I could see the stars shining brightly in the night sky. I began to play the flute to the sky and I was suddenly overcome with intense gratitude and wonder. In that moment I was thanking the Source/Creator for the gift of healing and the gift of the ability to play the flute. In this thank offering prayer, I was connected to the Source of compassion, love and healing. This is where my healing from alcohol and drug abuse began. Shortly thereafter, I stopped using both drugs and alcohol and have been free from both since 1996.
I’m not taking credit here for the healing, I’m saying I was a willing receiver of the compassion and love of the universe in the form of sound and the willing transmitter of that energy. My introduction to shamanism came from a prayer I had practiced, mentioned by Frank Fool’s Crow in his book, “Wisdom and Power”. Fool’s Crow’s prayer was thus, after cleansing yourself with sage and making the tobacco offering to the six directions, ask The Creator, “Wakan Tanka”, to make you like a hollow bone, filling you full of His power, removing all of the obstacles inside your body, mind and soul so that you may receive His great power fully to bursting. Once you have been cleansed and are filled to the bursting with His power and love, see it flowing through you to all your relations. I practiced this prayer for many years and at once on the side of that road, I saw how the power came through me and the flute, suffising love and healing to all beings.
Of course using the word “shaman” can conjure up images, stereotypes and controversy as well and I would like to clarify that my personal experiences with the flute are in no way tied to any tribal affiliation, nor do I claim any tribal affiliation with any North American indian tribe or culture. What has come to me was purely from a direct teaching and a mystical transference that tapped into my innate wisdom. What I may word here in my book may not be an accurate portrayal of the usage of the block flute as per certain tribal teachings and beliefs. My apologies in advance if this offends anyone but what I offer here is, to me, an honored and cherished tool, a gift that was essential in my healing and transformation. Without the flute as my teacher, guide and medicine, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it out of the dark night of the soul.
I continue to use the flute as my medicine, healing and gift. My understanding of it is pure and without ego. I believe it is my gift to share to the world to help heal and alleviate the suffering of all beings. This I give freely and with reverence to the instrument. It is a powerful stillness practice to use it as a conduit for the sound of Source and all of us have this ability to tap into and share this type of energy. It’s our birthright so I want to encourage you to explore and experiment with drums, flutes, didgeridoos, guitar and voice so that you may find your instrument and a stillness practice that inspires not thinking and being the channel of sound. Please share your gifts. We are waiting
Imagine Source, Isness or original nature as the ocean and thoughts, feelings or emotions are like the waves that arise from that ocean.
Picture the birth of a wave in your mind’s eye. Can you see it rise up slowly from the sea, arching and curling its back like a whale? It breaches upwards toward the sky until its own weight brings it back toward its source, creating a curl that becomes a tube. The tube rolls and tumbles, gaining momentum and drive as it barrels along, spraying a salty mist into the air.
You can hear the thunderous roar of its path. Then suddenly it snaps its mouth shut, quickly spewing a fine, salty spray into the air as it crashes violently back into the azure depths. In its path it leaves little behind to prove it even existed in time and space, nothing but a bit of swirling foam and swirling eddies. It’s as if it never existed at all.
There are many types of waves, too many to mention here, each one quite different from the other, all of them one of a kind, and yet they all have one thing in common: Though they appear to break from their source and become independent, any casual observer can see that they always remain connected to their source. They are momentarily taking a different shape but they are still ocean. They are nothing but the source itself taking a different form. For an instant they become an expression of their master.
When we observe the waves, they appear to come and go, rise and fall and touch the shore, but they are always connected, never taking flight fully, only momentarily aloft, still attached firmly to their mother. Like the waves, we too seemingly break from our source when we attach to a thought, a concept or an idea. At times we may have thoughts, feelings, emotions and beliefs that we are separate from our source but this is only a thought and these thoughts are illusions created by habit and conditioning. We have created belief systems that we are lost and need to reconnect to our god. If we drop the urge to cling to the old ways of thinking, we can be free in this moment of all illusion, doubt and trepidation. These thoughts are not true and they have no power unless we give them power. They are only thoughts.
When thoughts arise that tell us we are separate from source, we can allow them to run their course, without clinging to them. If we let them pass, they will simply lose momentum. Putting attention on them, holding onto them, gives them energy and volition. Simply stop, become aware of the thoughts, notice the urge to cling to them, to put your attention on them, and just let them be. Like the waves, they will settle back into their natural state. If left alone, they will return to their source of nothingness. All thought arises from nothingness.
Everything arrives from nothingness. This is our source and like the waves, we are never separate from our source. The thoughts we may have about being detached and lost may momentarily distract us and if given enough focus, we can create the concept that we are not connected and need to reconnect to Source. These thoughts are false and if left alone, will die off, leaving only the truth in their wake. But one must inquire, one must ask questions. Where do these thoughts arise, what is the source of all thought and who am I?
Here’s an exercise one could try. Follow the arising thought back to its source. When a thought arises in the mind, try to assess where it came from. If you are diligent, the act of following the thought back to its source will bring you back to your source. When we follow a thought back to its source, it simply disappears into the vast open space from where it emerged. The no-thing.
What is that space, that nothingness? We are that space. We are the vast open field of all possibilities. That is our true nature. Space is empty yet full, full yet empty and we are that; full yet empty, empty yet full. Like the waves, our thoughts have only momentarily reached out from their source but in truth, they have not left it at all. This action of mind, to think, creates and manifests the grand illusion that we are separate and disconnected from our Source. We believe that we are lost and we don’t know the way back home. Now we have a mission; we must create or find a map back to our Source; then we will be happy, whole and complete. We search tirelessly to find this map back to the territory. We search the cosmos to find the one person, the teacher, who can lead us back home and we are deluded into believing that someone can help us find our way back to our own hearts.
This belief we carry, that we are separate and estranged from our Source, is an illusion created by grasping and clinging to thoughts and beliefs we have constructed in our life. What if we stopped believing we were lost? What if we saw, like the waves, we are still connected, still attached to our Source and there was never any need to find our way back because we were never lost and we had never left?
What if we started to believe there is no need to work hard at this and there is no need to create or find a map back to center? Can we see that we have arrived, we are home and we never left? All we need to do is leave thought alone and it will return to its source without any effort on our part. There is no method to being home. It’s in our nature to return to Source and its all in our mind. If we allow it, it will happen by osmosis. If we just leave thought alone, it will find its way back home all by itself, effortless, without any practice or trying at all. Just be. Just sit. Just be still and see that you never left. In the stillness you can see it. In the stillness you have arrived.
Right now we are a wave thinking it’s a cloud, far removed and separate from our Source. This is just a thought. Stop thinking this thought; just let it be. No need to let it go; just see it will return to its Source by its own volition. Let the wave fall back into the ocean.
Nothing to do
Nothing to be
Nothing to understand
Nothing to let go of
Your nature is always freedom
Return to the origin of thought itself
No need to understand
Throw away everything in name and form and jump into the unknown
Who are you when there is no past or future?
In that split second of not knowing, you are enlightened