Your Strong Heart Frees Old Ghosts

A friend recently asked to read this again, so I’m posting it here.

by TwoDD via deviantart

From November 30, 2010:

The other night I woke up to find a ghost hovering over me. It looked a little like No Face from the film Spirited Away—a white, oval mask with subtle features, soft painted designs fading in and out, a black hood and cloak. It loomed over me and I felt that it was the ghost of everything unmourned in my family, of long-gone relatives and events that still hang around and permeate day-to-day life even though I (and we) might not know it.

Many cultures believe that if one who’s passed away is not properly mourned then their soul won’t have enough oomph to make it out of this world and into the next. Instead, their ghost will begin to devour the life of those still living—which can cause depression, addiction, and a whole range of destructive feelings and behaviors.

In his book Long Life, Honey in the Heart, Martín Prechtel writes

…when a person was buried and not enough tears were shed and when truly felt grief was absent, the soul of the dead person could not make it to the next world and would be forced to turn back. Scared and invisible, it took up residence in the body of the tenderest and most familiar person it could find. To give themselves a feeling of physical substance, in desperation, the ghost would eat the life of that person. For this reason ghosts usually devoured their relatives, especially their grandchildren, jumping into their bodies and eating them from the inside out, consuming the little child’s spirit also.

…Alcoholism, substance addiction, most depression, homicide, suicide, untimely deaths, accidents, and the addiction to argument were caused by the endless hungers of such ghosts. This kind of ghost consumed soul after soul until a whole series of generations had been destroyed.

…The ghost problem, of course, is what makes the uninitiated world of modern times so scary.

I knew this had something to do with this ghost in front of me, and in my half-awake state began sending it a strong wave of love and compassion. Fear would simply have fed the ghost and drawn it closer; sending this love-beam, however, seemed to dissolve it and give it the momentum it needed to make its way to the next world. I don’t know whether this was truly what was going on or simply a symbolic personal experience; all I could do was interact with the situation as best as I could.

There were other, smaller ghosts near it, further back, and the more I sent these waves of firm love at them the more they retreated and went on their way as well. After a while, though, another apparition entered: this time it was an enormous ghost, big as the planet, grey, featureless, cancer-like, bloated with centuries and generations of unmourned death and destruction from across the whole world. The big boss.

image: bread and puppet
image: bread and puppet

I looked around and found myself to be part of a vast conglomeration of people, thousands and thousands of healers and shamans and beings, old and young, of every background and culture, gathered and lined up against this ghost. Each of us were dealing with it in our own ways: dancing, singing, praying, enacting complex or simple rituals or simply sitting, everyone’s method unique and strong. We were tiny in physical mass compared with the ghost, but together we formed an immense chorus of healing comprised of humble, creative, and utterly unique individuals.

And it was working. The impossibly huge and swollen ghost, the entity creating the pain and fear and despondency in our world, began to shrink and dissolve. Slowly, slowly it turned and began to move through the stars of night and towards the center of the galaxy, towards the black hole there where it would be graciously welcomed, devoured, and transformed into new life and light.

I fell back asleep after that, and woke up this morning feeling lighter, freer, and happier than I have in a long, long time.

Prechtel again, in the same book:

…in every nation of the world now, [there are] peoples who had their original relationship with their stories, music, ancestral histories, and customs destroyed or trivialized by the heavy tread of some other traumatized people whose ancestors’ souls are still waiting in the Underworld. All of these people need someone who will bargain with Death in the Underworld for the release of the Goddess, their cultural and individual identities, and their indigenous souls. It would take a lot of grief rituals and some very brave, unarmored, highly initiated poetic shamans to do that.

I would like to think that we are all now these brave, unarmored, initiated poetic shamans. We need not react in fear and aggression against the ghosts that seem to saturate our world; rather, let us feel the strength of our love more than ever, feel it as a wave sending these hungry spirits on their way and down their right roads. See the bloated ghosts of these past centuries dissolving now, turning, and moving toward the cosmic compost zone. It’s happening, and as it does, the indigenous soul of the world and of all of us comes free and alive again.

So be it. So it is.

maypole, new haven green, 2005

Quiet Growth

image: british library

This blog grows like a body—all the parts, the blood and bones and muscle and brain and organs, co-arising. Organic, alive.

The writing page is evolving. Themes: entrainment, interconnection, ecopsychology, reciprocity, the body, the planet.

Plugging In: Earth Becomes Us (Elephant Journal)

Dropping the Veils, Invoking Ganesha
 (Elephant Journal)

Here in Portland there’s been a blizzard and it’s quiet outside. Portland’s the perfect city to try an experiment: just for a day, stop all traffic. Cars, buses, trucks. To see what a difference it would make in the city’s sonic environment. I’m a big fan of reducing noise pollution; though our brains tend to block out background noise after a while, the constant clang and roar of traffic echoing through the city still affects us.

When it snows in a place like Portland, though, the city shuts down. The only cars that drive around are the ones with 4-wheel-drive and snow tires.

It’s so much quieter out there right now.

So good job, Portland. Let’s notice if we feel differently today, in the soft white quiet that’s suddenly settled in out there. Let’s breathe it in and walk in it, let the silence seep into our nervous systems, relax a little more. Let’s listen for the sounds that are there when the roar is gone.


Diving in

From a freewrite this morning, written in view of the freezing Columbia under a wide blue December sky:

I have become so full of experience that I must release it. In the alchemical crucible of ourselves, our bodies, we transmute our lives into new form. We digest, we express.

And where to begin? How to choose from the roiling sea of memory that swirls and churns in the gut, all color and texture and feeling? No matter how I second-guess, hesitate, dive headlong, give power or take or hold it, this river of life keeps rolling. Flowing. Wouldn’t it simply be better to let go into it? Isn’t this the aim of all my yoga training, music training, physical theatre, dance—to know the structure, the riverbanks, so as to release into the stream?

What is the structure of a life? There is the structure we are born with: bones, muscles, organs. There is the structure of family, of culture, of the land in which we’re raised—though these structures are more mutable, more subject to revision. We can choose to leave our families and find or create new ones but our bones are ours.

Through writing I wish to organize this sea of experience into some kind of body. To match like with like, to find what limb attaches to which joint, and what is the blood, and what is the flesh and lymph and fascia. What is the outside, what is the inside. Perhaps they are the same. Perhaps there is a pattern.

What was once visible, palpable, in-the-moment experience is now invisible, stored in the earth of my own body that walks and dances and sings and stretches and sits. Deep inside, it is changing, it organizes itself, it becomes new. I am gathering up my invisible insides in order to birth them again, birth these stories, birth myself. The old skin falls away as new life comes through, made from threads and waves and particles of the past, birthing itself, becoming its own body. Who knows what it will look like; who knows where it will go? It’s not up to me to say. Create, create, keep creating, says my grandfather. Release the dams from the river. Let it flow into the sea.



why did the brain incubate all those years
why not using its incalculable genius to make fire
my what size you are my hominid & of intellect, not strewn about
why are you at the root of my word lanthanien—to escape notice
why do you explore the periphery of latere—to lie hidden
inside a universe with a hidden dimension
one tries curling up inside of
what if & why

(Anne Waldman, from Manatee/Humanity)

(image: Scientific Illustration)


Hokusai Says


Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive –
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

by Roger Keyes



image: “Remembering Eternity,” Autumn Skye Morrison