spirit canoe drum beat
The Cloud People
  I don’t know about you, but my Labor Day weekend got off to a rocky start on Friday. I’d only been up for a few minutes, when I realized I was feeling terrified. It was all the usual things we can find ourselves scared about on a given day — money, work, love, relationships — that day, I was feeling it all! I called on my helping spirits for support the way I do every day, knowing that support can come in many forms, and I sent an S.O.S. out by text to a few friends at the Boulder Center for Conscious Community, where I have my practice. I got some encouraging suggestions back, and a few great ‘heart’ emojis, and the sense of connection began to break the spell. It did not prepare me for what happened next.

I looked out my west-facing living room window, and noticed a band of storm clouds gathering over the foothills. It’s a common enough sight in Colorado, brilliant blue sky, billowing white clouds with gray bellies full of rain, but suddenly something extraordinary happened. A feeling of exhilaration welled up inside me. It came from nowhere and broke through the knots of fear that had me in their grip. It felt amazing, and I caught myself scurrying to tamp those expanded feelings back down. “Not a good idea to feel that great, Robbie,” I heard my brain telling me. “Remember the world’s a sad and scary place!”

But in that moment, I made the choice I don’t always make, to give my brain a rest, let my heart open, and just feel good about feeling good. And that was when I knew that those weren’t “just” clouds, they were the Cloud People. They were living beings with spirits, just like me, and they were offering me the chance to connect, and to share in the same miraculous aliveness that sent them soaring over the mountains towards me. I remembered that until we open our hearts, we’re separate. We can forget one of the most essential principles of shamanism, that everything is alive and has a spirit that we can learn to connect with. I chose to let myself experience that connection, and let it heal me.

The previous weekend, I was in Winter Park, teaching the FSS workshop, Shamanism and the Spirits of Nature. It was a special weekend filled with experiences of watching the people who formed our small group, as they learned to connect with nature in shamanic ways. All weekend long, they interacted with the spirits of the trees and mountains, wild life and weather. On Saturday, they made the acquaintance of many different forms of life that inhabited the area where we were meeting. On Sunday they went out with the clouds and the wind, and stayed out until approaching lightning chased them back inside. The rain kept us in for the rest of the day, but nothing could separate us from the aliveness we felt, and the profound sense of oneness with each other and all living things.


To prepare for that weekend, I’d been journeying to meet the spirits of the mountains that surround the area like a great ring of gigantic sentinels, ancient and powerful. I wanted to ask their permission for us to do our work there, and for advice about what they might want to teach us. As I journeyed, I noticed that my shoulder, which occasionally flares up if I’ve been working at my desk too long, was so painful that I couldn't focus on my journey. There I was, in the presence of those ancient mountain beings, and I asked for healing so I could continue the journey. In an instant, the pain in my shoulder vanished, and before I could even say “Thank you,” I heard the spirits say, “Ask us this: ‘What is the nature of the power that is in this place?’”

As the journey continued, I saw myself standing in a high, rocky basin surrounded by tall peaks, as if I’d been summoned to a council of the great mountains. I learned that they had power to heal, and that they wanted it to be known. I learned in a new way that our health and well-being are supported by our connections with each other, and with the sprits of all living things. What I learned laid the groundwork for the experiences of the Spirits of Nature workshop, and for my healing encounter with the Cloud People in my own living room on Friday.

I shared this story with the group in Winter Park, and I want to share it with you now. The next time I find myself in the grip fear about the world, or about the circumstances of my life, I’m going to remember the lessons of the great mountains, and the Cloud People. I’ll reach out to a few trusted friends, I’ll open my heart and remember that I’m one with the spirits of all living things, and I’ll watch for the miracles! Will you join me?

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