As I get ready to start a new academic year I thought that I would ask you to think about the center of your world. To the Pre-Colombian Incas Cuzco was the center of their world, the umbilical of the world. When I was a child my father was involved in highly technical research and we moved every year until I was in high school as has he chased equipment from one side of the country to the other. I remember feeling like there was no one place that I could call home and then one morning I woke up and realized that the Center of My World was where my family was and that it wasn’t place dependent, it was people dependent. I still fee that way. However, if you grew up in one place that one place may be the center of your world.
The One Tree, the World Tree is viewed by some as the center of the world.
Take a few minutes and go outside and slowly turn around. Take in the vista that surrounds you, the earth, the plants and animals, buildings, whatever you find there, and the sky. This is your local world and you are standing in the center of your world. This is the place where you act and where you matter.
My view of the Center of My World has changed a little over the years. It is no longer just where my family is, although they still fill my heart. I have adopted more the Lakota view of mitakue oyasin or “all my relations”. Our energies are all woven together and so we are related to everything in the universe. Taking that more shamanic view of the world and my place in it has changed my relationship with beings in my local world. Now my world doesn't just consist of my family, but every living thing that surrounds me.
I believe that the world around me is alive. Really alive. Obviously the plants and animals are alive and have spirit, but so is the stream, the earth, the rocks, the Blue Ridge Mountains that I hike every week, and the James River where I kayak. All of these are part of my local world. As a shamanic practitioner I feel responsible for the spirits that indwell all that is alive. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use the material resources around me. My bed frame, for example, is made of wood, as is my front door and I wear leather shoes. However, it does mean that when I use any part of nature I make the conscious decision to do so and only after considering the necessity; and I do it with deep respect and thanksgiving.
For example, yesterday I wanted/needed Cedar smoke for a ritual. I went into the forest across the street to an old Cedar tree, sat at its base and we had a little talk. I told the tree what I needed and why and asked permission to gather dead, broken branches from around the base of the tree. Feeling that I had permission, I collected only what I needed, left an offering of corn meal, and returned. [Aside: if you are as old as I am you might remember the old Smothers Brother’s routine with the song, I Talk to the Trees, and yes, I really do talk to the trees and they listen to me.]
May you find peace this day and always in your local world. May the spirits of your world uphold and support you, and may you find oneness with all the surrounds you. May your ancestors and mine guide and direct us, teach us what to do and what to say so that our world is a better place for all living things.
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice modern druidism and contemporary shamanism.