Guest Post: Sitting with the Wolves by Wayne Carter

img_2852

July 2000: On my way to a Sundance in southern Alberta, I see a red building on my right. Something about the building grabs my attention so intensely that I U-turn on the highway. I must explore what is there. The place is a wolf haven, and I spend time petting wolves through a chain link fence.

July 2000: I am giving a new friend from Alberta a ride back to Seattle. I talk about the place and the wolves. Wolf Haven was closed when we got there.  I am disappointed.

April 2008: I am on spring break from college and meeting a friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week. One day it is snowing, and we decide to drive out to the country, to watch the snow, share our stories from the past year, and sit in silence staring at the mountains across the way. On our left, we both see a lone wolf, trotting across the snow covered field. As we continue to watch, the wolf stops and stares at us for what seems like 20 minutes. We sit in silence watching back..

April 2015: I am in Yellowstone National Park. Along with lots of snow from a fresh spring storm, I see wolves ‘being’ themselves in their environment. I watch, mouth open catching flies… Well if a fly could live in that temperature, I would have caught multiple. I am in awe of how natural the wolves seem.

June 2016:. I see a Facebook post from a friend and text her, saying  her radiance was showing in the picture and asking where the photo was taken. She responded with a location and shared a bit of the impact of her experience.

November 2016: I booked an hour at Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, the place my friend had named.

December 31, 2016: It was 5 degrees when I arrived in the mountains, snow and ice on the ground, a clear blue sky and the sun was just starting to make its way over the nearest of the eastern mountains. As I walked up, I did not see any wolves, but could hear them howling in the distance and then the echo of the howl on the hills around me. Somewhat surreal to my experience, my mind started thinking of safety, along with flashes of horror movies and bloody bodies laying in the woods while being torn to shreds by wild animals.

Luckily for me, the walk was a short distance and a nice person greeted me, taking me out of the next Stephen King thriller my mind was creating. Of course there was the paperwork; just in case I was attacked. There were ferrets and a rooster running around greeting people; the building was warm and full of wolf items.

I listened to the staff say to me: the wolves are not dogs, do not hug them, grab their face and kiss them, or rough-house with them; they will react as if you are their size and power and that could be dangerous.

img_2855

The first pack: Once I sat down on the ground, face level with the first pack, everything disappeared that did not need to be in my world at that moment. I was fully present to every breath, movement, posture, nudge, or growl from each wolf and each gesture had its meaning. I was not cold or concerned for my safety.

I have to be honest. One thing concerned me, and that was how they greet each other, and that greeting would also include me. The process is the equivalent of a human handshake; the wolves greet each other by sticking their tongues into each others mouths, and trying to touch the tonsils.

It took me three tries before I would let a partially wild animal get that close, i.e tongue in the mouth close. First try, the Alpha male comes over, sniffs my hand and arm, then goes for the tongue action. I keep my lips together and kiss him on the cheek like I would a friend.

The wolf walked off. Being the kind wolf that he is, and with some luck, he came back about 5 minutes later and tried it again. Still, I could only part my lips a tiny bit, and did not let his tongue in. I then notice the wolf seem to make a sigh and sit just far enough away from me that I could not physically connect with him. A few minutes went by, and the same wolf gave me another chance. No other wolves had come close to me.

Internally, I agreed to go for it. I told myself, how bad could it be… maybe just some small raw animal parts, a piece of stick or bone stuck to his tongue, and the possibility of having part of my face taken off by sharp and giant teeth.

Luckily for me, none of that happened. In fact, the wolf’s tongue was not slimy, not gross, no after taste, and he was very gentle so as not to bang teeth. I thought to myself, I have kissed a few women with worse tasting tongues. Somewhere in the faraway distance, I could hear one of the two staff giving instructions, although I somewhat failed to follow them and was guided by intuition.

(Click galleries to enlarge photos.)

When meeting the second pack, I was told not to get down to the level of the alpha male, as he is known for trying to top everyone.

Remember the rules I spoke about earlier, I broke them all. The first thing I did was grab the alpha wolf by the face and kiss him. Then, when he pushed against me, I gave him a big hug and kissed him again. I played with him like I would a regular dog. Sometime after the hug, I could hear the staff telling me, ‘apparently you guys know each other’ and not to worry about being topped.

We, the alpha male and I, rubbed, nudged, and pushed a bit back and forth. Later he allowed me to rub his belly and front legs. That is when I about pissed my pants. The alpha male started growling at me and showing his teeth. I yanked my hands away from him so fast. Even if it were a rattlesnake, I would not have been bitten.

The Wolf and Wildlife Center staff chuckled and informed me, the wolf was letting me know he liked what I was doing. Still shaken a bit, I informed them, that when someone growls and shows their teeth, I typically stop the behavior and move away. I was then encouraged to start rubbing him again in the same way, and he growled and snarled the entire time. Once I understood his communication style, I felt less nervous. Still, it took me a few minutes to relax. Wolves have big teeth and deep growls…. Just saying!

For my last 25 minutes, I had the option of seeing wolf puppies or another pack of adults. Of course I chose puppies. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to see puppies. When we arrived, I found out these were 80-90 pound sister and brother puppies who were eight months old!

The moment I sat down with them, I had two playful wolf puppies kissing me in their traditional way, then stealing my Seahawks hat; by the way, stealing my hat means means the wolves are Seahawks fans…(wink). They then stole my hair tie by gently pulling it out of my hair with their teeth. They tried to try to take anything that was loose on my clothing.

The staff started to get nervous that they might tear my coat, or ruin something. I wasn’t nervous, I was laughing and loving the playfulness of youth, the exploration of boundaries and their trust of me. Here are two kids wanting to play. I chose to wear what I wore, and be involved with them. How could I then get upset? I couldn’t.

Sadly it was time to leave, and my time with these wonderfully loving creatures would be over for now. Once I exited the area and returned to my truck, I started the motor, put the truck in gear and noticed something. I had no energy to leave, to drive, or to converse with others. My mind and body were silent. I had no want. There was no internal voice on either shoulder talking to me. My experience was “I am”.

Once I returned to the world of fast moving cars, Starbucks, and snowy Colorado mountain roads, I realized how similar my experience was to the many times I have received Amma’s darshan (hug).

 

cropped-senior-salon

Shared on Senior Salon and Lets Create a Fine Chain…

Seattle: A Sanctuary City

Seattle is a sanctuary city and proud of it. On this day that our new President signed an executive order blocking federal funds to sanctuary cities, I feel compelled to share the signs that I saw in my neighborhood when I came home from India last week. They speak for themselves.

img_0138

img_0140

img_0141

img_0144

img_0147

img_0148

img_0149

img_0150

img_0151

img_0152

img_0153

img_0154

img_0155

img_0156

img_0159

Daily Prompt: Ten (and in this case several more)

cropped-senior-salon Shared on Senior Salon

Fierce of Heart

While mystical experiences are not the basis of spiritual process and can even be a distraction, in my early years with Amma I believe they were a means for Spirit to get my attention and pull me in. They showed my normal logical mind that there were realms I knew nothing about and that I had to let go of my rigid way of seeing the world and learn to allow my life to unfold.

Last week, when I read Sreejit’s Dungeon Prompts: Only for the Fierce of Heart challenge, I thought of an event that occurred in 1994. Before I tell you that story let me say that I believe it takes courage and a fierce commitment to one’s spiritual journey to be willing to go places that take you out of the realm of normal experience, and also to be committed to doing “whatever it takes” along the way. Some of the processes that were happening to me in those days were public, and since I am very introverted, I believe my willingness to let them occur, with discrimination, exemplifies my fierce determination to do whatever it takes.

After I met Amma in 1989, I experienced tremendous separation grief whenever she would leave. I am so thankful that Spirit led me to places where that empty hole inside of me could continue to fill when I was not in her physical presence.

One of those places was the Power House Church of God in Christ. The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a black Pentecostal denomination. I never thought I would go to a conservative Christian church again, but other than the fact that I was uncomfortable with many of their sermons, I loved it. The people were so loving towards me and their music filled me with joy.

At some point, my feet started spontaneously moving to the music while I was seated.  Many months later, I stood up and let the dance take over my entire body. Soon I  began “Dancing in the Spirit” along with other parishioners. My form of dancing often turned into whirling. That process not only removed the grief, it led to exhilarating joy.

In summer of 1994, when I attended Amma’s New York City programs, I decided to go a service at a COGIC church in Harlem. I had visited that same church the year before. At that time, I found it to be similar to Power House, but more restrained. Their music tended to be soulful rather than celebratory and I had not seen anyone dance.

This time, a friend decided to come with me. At the beginning of the service, the minister welcomed both of us and told us to have a good time. Like the previous year, there were no other white faces in the congregation.

During the time since my last visit, I had begun to experience the spontaneous dance almost every time I went to church. As I looked around this church, I saw the ushers were children. At Power House the ushers were adults. Part of their job was to protect the people who were dancing in the Spirit. I concluded that dancing was probably not a regular occurrence here and decided to restrain it should it occur.

I was not prepared, however, for the fact that all of my recent contact with Amma made that unconscious part of me much more accessible. The minute the music started, my body began to dance. While I probably could have shut it down, the energy was so strong I wasn’t sure about that. I decided to let it come. Later, my friend said people looked at her, concerned that I was okay. She just stood there helplessly indicating I was fine.

The energy became stronger than my body could keep up with, so I dropped into a position of prostration, i.e. bowing down with my forehead to floor. The energy inside of me began to calm down.

While I had no doubt that my dancing in that church was acceptable and that the congregation would probably enjoy telling the story of the day the white girl danced in their church for years, part of me was embarrassed. I was once told that the difference between shock and embarrassment is that shock drains life force energy whereas embarrassment may enhance it.  A person experiencing shock turns white and “death-like.” With embarrassment, the fear is joined by a bit of pleasure. Instead of turning white, the person experiencing embarrassment turns red from the increase in blood-flow. My experience at the Harlem church was definitely embarrassment not shock. I felt full of life!

At the end of the service, the minister, with a smile on his face, said, “We told her to have a good time, and she did!”  I have relished that memory for years.

As I was writing this post, “Hold My Mule” by Shirley Caesar came to mind. The recording starts with a story and turns into song.  I have used it in many workshops over the years and was delighted to find it on YouTube.  I think it is a good example of being fierce of heart so will use it to end my post!

Reflections on Fear

IMG_20150420_105439

Over the years I have learned many sayings and acronyms relating to fear. I have found them to be useful tools in my own life journey and have also used them with clients in my psychotherapy practice.  Here are the ones that come to mind at the moment:

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

Fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin.

We can see fear as:

      False Evidence Appearing Real

      Forget Everything And Run

or

     Feeling Excited And Ready

     Face Everything And Rise

 

Other important factors:

It is important to feel Fear when we are in danger. The emotion indicates that we need to take action. Fight or Flight might be necessary.

Most of our Fear however is Fear of the future. We often feel much more Fear of what might happen then we would feel if it did happen.

Fear may also mask another feeling. That usually happens because there were unacceptable and acceptable feelings in our families of origin. In my childhood home, feeling Fear was fine.  Feeling anger was not. Therefore, I learned to feel Fear at times when I was actually angry. Once I saw this pattern, I realized it was important that I ask myself if I was angry anytime I felt Fear.

There is so much I could say on this topic but instead I am going to end with the video that Sreejit used at the beginning of the Dungeon Prompt that inspired this post.  I find the video deeply moving.  It also demonstrates many of the aspects of fear I have addressed.