Dance of Raven and Eagle
To go in the dark with a light
To go in the dark with a light
is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight,
And find that the dark, too,
blooms and sings,
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
was founded on the vision of the Eagle. Flying high in the sky,
with excellent eyesight and powerful wings, this bird has been
seen as a symbol of strength, courage, independence, sovereignty,
freedom and immortality for centuries. "The Eagle's fierce
beauty and proud independence symbolizes the strength and freedom
of America," said J. F. Kennedy. It is easy to see how the
dominant culture of corporate power and political tyranny has
thrived in a country that holds the symbol of this bird in its
core values. Even those of us who consider ourselves more progressive
and alternative are easy prey for this symbolism. We focus on
the spirit, on evolution, getting over our "wounds"
and becoming more efficient. I find myself sitting in weekly board
meetings, where I squirm in my seat as a fellow board member shares
a long-winded discourse, wanting him to "hurry up and get
to the point." With the eye of the eagle, majority rules,
and lets get on with the game.
values of the quick, the efficient, the visionary and evolutionary,
are deeply enmeshed in our ways of thinking. In a recent Time
magazine article entitled "Visions 21: Our Work, Our World"
authors made grand predictions for the future of jobs in America.
They pointed to a world that would be largely automated, with
many of the personal jobs disappearing altogether. This view is
the continuation of Eagle dominance into the future. Pushing the
past aside, we dive headlong into our future. We remain obsessed
with the direction we are going, continually distracting ourselves
with doing, acting, creating, manifesting. If TIME magazine is
right, this future might look a bit bleak, like a tall tree with
huge branches and no roots. We can all agree that the role of
the eagle is fundamentally essential. At the same time, if we
pause long enough to take a look (or a listen) we recognize that
it is merely one half of the picture.
as we are moving at mock speed into the cyberspace world, are
we not simultaneously emitting a silent cry for intimacy? I know
for myself that when I call my long distance phone company and
get a real live person on the other end without having to travel
through a maze of voice-message connections, I breathe an audible
sigh of relief. And at the end of that sometimes painfully long
board meeting, when we sit, holding hands in silence, the love
that transmits between those hands is very palpable. When I drive
home after that, I invariably recognize that it's the love that
keeps me coming back, and my urge towards efficiency is quickly
place in us is the home of the Raven, the home of the soul.
Raven is also a bird surrounded by great mythology and symbolism.
Its jet-black color naturally associates it with night, the Void,
with mystery and the Earth. It is a bird that has been granted
great power in Native American myths: creating the manifest world,
teaching through trickery, and being a messenger of the Void.
In ancient Germanic cultures, the Raven was considered a symbol
of sacrifice, and was associated with thought and memory. In the
famous poem by E. A. Poe, the Raven, he calls this bird a prophet,
and speaks to it with a mixture of awe and dread.
honor the darkness of this bird's wing, we turn to our own hidden
interior, the parts of our own past marked with shadows of unhealed
wounds and unexpressed emotions. The Raven is the symbol of our
own Soul. This is the side of ourselves that, according to Thomas
Moore, is nostalgic, melancholy, lost in memories and dreams,
rooted in the past, resisting change and seeking stability. The
side of us that doesn't want to go to the meeting in the first
place and would rather stay home and rest. The Raven symbolizes
the home of our ancestors, our personal stories and body memories.
It is distinctly earthy, and feminine. If I sit there and watch
my fellow board members with the eye of the Raven, I realize the
importance of letting each express their views, until we come
to a place of completion, and consensus.
Im not proposing that we should sit at board meetings and discuss
how we feel about what we each just ate for lunch. Or, for that
matter, what is really at the root of the board member's long-winded
monologue. But, perhaps, if we look further into the nature of
our own human souls, we might find something more to balance the
we have been valuing the Eagle so strongly, what is it that has
been suppressed? What is the voice that is so insistent in coming
up, again and again, attempting to reveal itself to the light?
What is the message the Raven brings to us from our own inner
Void? In a dominant culture that values the Eagle, many of us
have been raised in ways that have pushed us to get over our attachments,
our fears and our feelings, and move on. Now we each go about
our business, consciously or unconsciously attempting to express
those suppressed voices. There he is, our friend and board member,
repeating himself over and over again. Is it not so simple to
see that the voice is seeking simple validation? An acknowledgement
of the feelings so long suppressed? Again, not to turn the meeting
into a therapy session, but I can recall several occasions when
I was caught in a heated expressive moment, and completely "disarmed"
by someone's simple words "I hear you." And I believe
that turning that same listening ear inward, turning the vision
of the eagle to the heart of the raven, can bring about our own
relief. Our dark, feeling, attached and earthy side can find immeasurable
relief by simply giving it attention. As much as our visionary
side is passionately creating, our soulful side is yearning for
stillness. Even this thought, can bring a wave of fear. Our fear
is, again, that therapeutic torture chamber. Where our entire
past lies revealed, naked on the floor, and we feel no better
for it. No, the realm of the raven is the void, devoid of words,
of images, of faces. The realm of the soul is the realm of the
body. And, as the venerable Vipassana meditation teacher S. N.
Goenka says, you don't have to know where the stains came from
in order to wash the laundry. The quiet attention is the container;
whatever arises, is simply observed. As we pause for stillness
in our busy days, the rest happens on its own. The raven begins
then, the eagle and raven come together. It is through the balancing
of these two metaphors that the glory of the human heart is revealed.
When we conduct our lives with the acute vision of the Eagle on
one wing, and the deep understanding and self-knowing of the Raven
on the other, we find ourselves flying in the body of a much bigger
bird. Balanced between the Spirit and the Soul, the masculine
and feminine, is the journey of the human heart. Here, we carry
our vision, express our views, and then pause to listen, to others,
to our relations, to the earth, to our own inner wisdom. Then
again, we express, we pause, and we create. When we hold the vision
of the eagle and the feeling of the raven with equal tenderness
in our hands, a new being springs forththe child of the
future. One that can walk the information highways of cyberspace,
yet remain rooted firmly with each foot planted on the ground,
looking each passerby warmly in the eye. The majestic tree with
deep, earth bound, succulent roots. Joyful, spiritual, rich, alive.
enough, both eagle and raven were considered scavengers of the
battlefield in Germanic lore, and were associated in pagan times
with the God of Battle and the Lord of the Slain. They are considered
twins in the Haidu legends, working together to bring balance
between humans, the natural and supernatural worlds. It is in
the realm of the dynamic dance between these two birds that we
humans play. And as we move into the future, each of us is given
this great gift, to honor the past, to envision the future, and
to be fully present in the present moment.
is a yoga teacher and rites of passage guide living in southern
oregon. She teaches workshops internationally including several
this summer at Breitenbush
Hot Springs. She has just recently completed production of
her first yoga video: Stand Strong: Easy Yoga for the Lower Back,
Hips and sacrum. for more info check out her website at http://www.rvi.net/~asha
or email her at ...
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