These days…

For some time now I have tried to post something to this blog every day. If on any particular day I felt no inspiration to hold forth (rant) on this or that topic of personal interest, I’d at least throw up a thoughtful quotation or a link to something of interest elsewhere on the web.

Now I’m going to change this rhythm somewhat. No, I’m not going to go “on sabbatical” like I did in the first quarter of 2007, when I realized that I was thinking about my blog more as a marketing tool than as an outlet for my own creativity. Thankfully, even though I’m always infected by the marketing bug (it’s viral, you see — you never totally get rid of it), that hasn’t been a problem so much of late.

What’s making me think I won’t be posting quite as often is simply competing interests for my time. Of immediate concern: Fran and I are planning a yard sale, probably at the end of June or maybe early July; and I need to spend more time on the Julian of Norwich book group over at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Moving forward, the big looming competitor to this blog, of course, is The Big Book of Christian Mysticism; I expect the next six months to be the most intensive, writing-wise. The good news, here, is that I hope to be posting bits and pieces of what I’m writing to the blog, for reader feedback as well as just for my own ability to see how the words look in print.

Also, in early November my shamanic-therapist-minister friend Phil Foster and I are hosting an interfaith contemplative weekend called Waters of the Soul, here in Atlanta (details will be posted to this blog soon). I hope some of the readers of this blog will prayerfully consider attending; it is our hope to gather people of different faith traditions for a weekend of communal silence and shared reflection.

So I’m not going to be posting once or twice a day. Maybe once or twice a week; maybe more, maybe less. So when a few days have gone by and you don’t hear from me, please don’t think I’ve gotten bored with the blog or that there’s anything wrong — on the contrary, all is well.

After the Book Festival (and Looking Forward to a New Contemplative Prayer Gathering)
Speaking of Silence (On Internet Radio)
Two Saturday events: in Atlanta and Richmond
Bruno Barnhart (1931-2015)
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • phil foster

    Must you continue to use that dreaded word “shaman?”

  • Carolyn

    Please give details of the interfaith weekend as soon as you get them, Carl. I’m very interested.

  • Carl McColman

    Phil – I sense that you are as uncomfortable being called “shaman” as I am being called “mystic.” I’ll try to come up with a better adjective (drummer?)…

    Carolyn – Dates are November 7-9; location will be the Trappist monastery in Conyers, GA; cost will be $175 which includes programming, room and board. Keep an eye on this blog, I’ll be posting more specific registration details as soon as we have them nailed down.

  • Beth

    Hi Phil–
    How about ‘healer’ or ‘walker-between-worlds-to-bring-healing-to-his-people’? Some of us don’t have any problems using the term shaman to refer to healers who access deep, tribal roots of healing to bring back to their community…Jesus was shaman as much as prophet. Oh, well–what I’m trying to say is: usually it’s one’s community who calls forth and names the shamans and healers from within it, not the healers themselves. If your community is calling you that, and you walk like a duck, etc.

    Thanks for letting us know that your rhythm is changing. I love netvibes because it tells me when there are new postings on the sites that with RSS feed, like this one.

    I’ll see you on the CCEL site soon.

    I will be seriously considering attending the retreat in November. Thanks for letting us know about it early.

    Know that we, your far-flung community, do and will hold you in prayer in the crucible of your writing pilgrimage.

  • phil foster

    Oh dear…

    Beth, thanks for your kind comments. First, the last indigenous spirituality teacher I had in my life (someone who was born into the tradition, had energetic and generational grounding for his work, who he was – was called after many decades of apprenticeship by the elders in a living traditional community) felt the word was inappropriately usurped in the modern world. Secondly, I have seen too many people who do a 2 year certification process (or some such), or spend a week in Peru, and start using the term, “hang out their shingle,” as it were. I may use traditional, indigenous spiritual technologies in augmentation to my spiritual tradition, but it doesn’t make me a shaman – any more than a few years (or even decades) of contemplative prayer might “make” me a mystic. Same is true for the word “healer.”

    You are correct about community discerning who is called, to what gifts they possess. This is covenant based. I don’t object to the term “shaman” on semantic grounds; I object to it on the basis of discernment and covenant. I am comfortable with being called “minister” (my “lineage” is Disciples of Christ) and psychotherapist (re: “soul nurse”). Those spiritual communities have validated my call.

    Carl likes to call me “shaman.” I love him, but I don’t believe he has any vested authority to label me as such; he just like to watch me articulate my position. Those who authentically carry the label are in apprenticeship for decades, literally living in the energetic and generational framework. Imho, most of the folks you encounter using that term are good business people. I have no grudge with anyone making a living, and I make no judgement; however,let the buyer beware. Frankly, many, if not most of the people using that term (again, imho) have good intentions and suspect motivations – they do not seem psychically sophisticated, mindful – usually around power (and ultimately, power over).

    Jesus was a shamanic figure – he walked between the worlds, healed, etc – but he was so much more than a shaman. To see the signs is not to see the Kingdom.

    Fortunately, Beth, much of the retreat in November is silence. You won’t have to listen to too many ramblings like these. Again, thanks for engaging in the discussion. Peace be with you.

  • Beth

    Hi Phil–
    Thanks for rambling on here–and you’ll find no disagreement from me—
    Ths shamans that I have had the privliege of reeceiving healing work from still consider themselves apprentices after more than 12 years of intense immersional/multi pilgrimages per year apprenticeship…so the rigors and perils of the path are very present to me.

    And yes, there are many who, maybe through ignorance, or through immersion in THIS culture of quick fixes and spiritual-skimming- call themselves by names that they know not what they are doing! It is difficult in our world to find the depth of connection to place and community that is pre-requisite.

    Jesus was much more than shaman–I was just putting the term inside a particular context–thanks for broadening it even more!

    Thank you for answering the call to be ‘soul-nurse’ I love that term, having spent 20 years in hospice work–the wonderful nurses in that field often are referred to as ‘midwifes to the dying’–so I have a natural affinity to your term.

    I’m glad I won’t have to listen to ramblings of any kind in November…sheesh, don’t we all go-on!!

    Thanks again–

  • Carl McColman

    In the interest of precision, I did not call Phil a “shaman” but a “shamanic… friend.” A subtle but I believe crucial difference. As a comparison, I am much less uncomfortable when people call me a “mystical writer” or whatever, than when they call me a “mystic.”

    When I watch Phil (who I consider one of my dearest friends) in action, I see someone who knows how to find the secret panels that lead to all sorts of interesting little crawlspaces between the worlds. As horribly as the notion of the shaman has been compromised in our day, I haven’t found a better word to use to describe that particular constellation of gifts. Then again, I’m a bit of a coyote, and am not above making a gifted friend squirm. :-)

    And of course, I squirm when someone calls me a mystic. I’m much more comfortable being called a “contemplative” because — at least in terms of acquired contemplation — it is a descriptor that refers to my practice without implying any sort of supernatural blessing. But in the analogy “mystic is to contemplative as shaman is to ______,” I don’t know how to fill in the blank. But whatever goes there, that’s a word that I suspect could be applied to people like Phil, who with integrity and heart have apprenticed themselves to indigenous healing traditions, and who because of their integrity and deep respect for honesty and tradition do not want to wear a word like “shaman” that has been sabotaged by the forces of the marketplace.

  • Suzi

    I’m a new reader of your blog, brought here by your comment on mine regarding “thin places.” I grew up within organized religion where activity was the standard for measuring the heart. As a result, I thought performing perfectly before God would win his approval and acceptance. What a surprise and relief it was to hear that I didn’t need to do or be anything. The truth was that Jesus did for me what I could never accomplish on my own and that truth released me to live a new way. So, In my late teens I became a follower of Christ, accepting his substitutionary death on the cross for me, repented of my sins and have stumbled behind Him ever since.

    Having our last child leave the nest has afforded me the opportunity to “pause to wonder” and to “probe the core of my heart.” It has been a beautiful and excruciating time. There have been moments when His presence has left me speechless. Then there are times when I am begging Him to show up.

    However, at the “thin” moments I can say with the Apostle Paul, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8,13)

    I am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    God’s richest blessing on you and your family.

  • phil foster

    “In the interest of precision, I did not call Phil a “shaman” but a “shamanic… friend.””

    My, but I got on my “no shaman” bandwagon quickly, eh? Nonetheless, thanks, Carl, for the opportunity to work on discernment and clarification. To paraphrase William Stafford,

    Awake people should be awake;
    The signals we give – yes, or no, or maybe -
    Should be clear.
    The darkness around us is deep.
    (From “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.”)

    Beth, I have never heard the term “midwife to the dying.” So beautiful. Thanks.


  • Carl McColman

    There are those in the Celtic lands who say the anamchara is a midwife to the dying.

  • Raven~

    A few days ago your FaceBook status read: ” Carl McColman thinks that “charismatic” is to “mystical” as “kataphatic” is to “apophatic.” I almost sent you a message to say that I – personally – think “shamanistic” is to “mystical” as “kataphatic” is to “apophatic.”

    Now I find “Contemplative is to mystic as _______ is to shaman.”

    I love it when the magic (synchronicities) works. (GRIN!)
    How about “practitioner” ?