Of the journeys I’ve posted on my website, this is perhaps the one that’s had the most lasting impact on how I approach life. The messages I received continue to gently push me into a ‘new way of being.’ And it all came from asking my guides this question: “Given all the strife and discord we see in the world today, how do we still act with compassion for common good?”
As I closed my eyes, I found myself sitting in a snow-covered field with a blizzard raging around me. I didn’t think about it at the time, but in the context of the rest of the journey, I’d say this was a metaphor for the strife and discord I’d asked about – both in the world, and in our reaction to it.
But I love snow. I’m weird that way. So, I sat there for a moment enjoying the weather. Until I sensed a presence off to my right. Looking up, I saw my spirit guide, the Magician, standing next to me, his stereotypical wizard’s cloak and hat whipping about in the wind. He motioned for me to follow him, so I stood and we started trudging through the knee-deep snow.
After a moment, I started to make out what looked like spots of firelight in the distance, and quickly realized they were windows in a wooden lodge. Out in the middle of the otherwise barren tundra. As we made our way towards the lodge, the Magician leaned over to me and said, “You’re in for a warm welcome here.”
As I swung the door open, warm air and the pleasant smell of a wood fire greeted us. Followed immediately by peals of laughter. Stepping in, I saw almost two-dozen people sitting and standing at various tables around a stone fireplace with a roaring fire. Men and women were laughing and joking while enjoying a drink or a meal, and a few were playing some sort of dice game at the foot of the fire.
Off to the left, a woman behind a bar saw us entering and hollered for us to hang our damp cloaks by the door, take a seat and that she’d be with us in just a moment.
Seeing a wooden table and two seats nearby, the Magician and I sat and got comfortable. And I do mean comfortable. Everything about this place radiated warmth. The fire, the rough wooden walls, the candle sconces shining light into every corner of the room. And especially the laughter of the people around us.
“They won’t even ask you your name,” the Magician said to me as he got settled in his chair. “It’s an ancient tradition, you know, not to ask who someone is or why they’re travelling until after they’ve been fed and offered lodging for the night.”
The Magician went on to say they offered this warmth and comfort to other people regardless of their beliefs, gender, ethnicity, and so forth, because they put more value on the things that made them alike than the things that made them different.
“That’s just common decency,” I replied.
The Magician looked amused, and retorted, “Yet, how often do people in your world offer that to each other? Hmmm?”
I, well… hey! I indignantly thought about all the examples of people around the world offering each other help and support in wars and disasters. So I said as much to the Magician.
Which is when the woman from the bar came over and placed two pints of ale in front of us. I reached into my pocket to find (or conjure up) some money, but she waved my hand away saying, “Don’t you worry about that, we’ll sort that out in the morning. I’ll be back with your meals in just a moment.”
After raising our mugs in a hearty-thunk of a toast, the Magician replied to me, “People often react well in a crisis. But that’s not all you asked about. Do they always do so well?”
Fair point. What prompted my question was as much the discord we’ve seen over things like vaccines and pandemic mandates, or the increasingly extreme differences between political parties. Let alone the systemic bias some people suffer from daily.
“Okay,” I said, “what would you recommend?”
Which is when two plates of sausages and mashed potato, with a wedge of cooked tomato, got placed in front of us. Did I mention I can taste and smell in my journeys? And oh boy did they smell good!
As the Magician started digging into his meal, he waved around the room with his fork. “You see these people, all carousing together like long-lost friends? Most of them have never met before. Some of them might be bitter enemies elsewhere. But here, in this refuge from the cold, they play games, tell stories, share a meal. The kinds of things that bring people together.”
It was a lovely scene, these people just sharing the simple things in life together. But it still seemed too simplistic to me.
“Okay, I love that idea,” I said around a mouthful of mashed potatoes (don’t judge my table manners, it totally fit the vibe of the place). “But there’s some pretty crazy stuff happening in our world. Are you saying not to stand up for our beliefs?”
“It depends how. Fighting causes the other side to fight back harder,” he replied.
And suddenly I found myself in the middle of a huge protest, people yelling and shouting as we marched down a street. I could have been a protest over any number of things. But what I felt… was this raw, aggressive energy directed outwards at everyone else. It wasn’t pleasant.
And just as suddenly I was back in the lodge, with the woman from the bar putting two decadent, whip cream covered desserts in front of us. You’ll just have to trust me, they tasted great.
“Remember, the only thing you control in your life is your actions. And your reactions,” the Magician said as he dug into the dessert, getting whip cream all over his beard. “You can’t control what others do. Each of you, in your world, needs to pursue what you think of as right, while letting go of the need to prove to others that you are right. Or worse, trying to prove that they’re wrong.”
He went on to explain that if we ever wanted to have mature debates about our beliefs with other people, we first needed to build the foundation of ‘common humanity’, as he put it. The simple trust and respect that I was watching play out in the lodge. Treating people as friends even when we disagree with them.
“One more thing you should consider,” he said, “is that sometimes the most powerful tool you have may be to say nothing.”
I’ll admit, I struggled with this one. There are beliefs and causes that I hold dear to my heart. To say nothing about them… well that would seem like giving up. Failing the cause. And all the people I want to help.
The Magician let me sit with that for a minute, digesting the thoughts. And the food.
And then he said, “It’s not about saving the world. It’s about learning to be a better person in the world.”
Huh. I’m not sure about you, but for me that perspective is a radical shift in thinking. One I’m going to have to sit with for a while. And yet, deep down something feels very right about it…
As I sat, the woman from the bar came and cleared away our plates. And the Magician pulled out a pipe and lit it, smoke drifting everywhere. I must have looked shocked at someone smoking indoors, because he just said, “Don’t worry, it’s herbal.”
And that’s it. Unlike some of my journeys, I didn’t come away with a definitive answer this time. That may be because it was a pretty big question. But it did offer some good food (pun intended 😉) for thought. I hope it generates some interesting reflections for you after reading it.
Until next time!
Eric, your shamanic guide, into the unknown.