The Waters of the Ashram

r. nuñezStarred Page By r. nuñez, 21st Sep 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

This is another installment in a book about the author’s experience living and learning in a spiritually inclined community and his educational development as a shamanic priest.

I. Persona Incognito

“I change parts of the world for the sake of the beauty and the health of the environment; and I close my eyes to whatever effect these changes might have on mankind.” Master William (Aquilae Magnae)

I had not spoken with Master William since that first meeting, when he showed up at my door one evening, accompanied by the monastic Brother Alfred and the aspirant Mountain Lake. I had seen him many times, his lanky figure always on the go, or talking to someone, so often serious and focused, as if looking ahead and planning; and he had seen me too, recognized me and greeted me in passing.

The most curious thing I had observed about Master William, him being a monastic after all, was that he could be very comfortable in a suit and tie, complete with fashionable shoes, and he tended to conduct himself with a sort of military precision. To see him on the street, on one of those days, one might have thought he was a Fed or a Secret Service agent. But I only saw him dressed that way at the ashram on those brief passings, when he was going somewhere or had just arrived.

I learned over time that he was a resident priest at the ashram, but he handled much of the legal and business aspect of the order; and he was often called upon to engage with ‘outside contacts’. His easy-going, persuasive manner also marked him as a ‘recruiter’. Unlike the nomadic priests, Master William would leave the ashram often, but he would always come back with something.

He had been qualified to serve with the body*, but he had declined, saying simply that he did not feel ready; and he had agreed to serve as interim Temple Priest, only if the need should arise – but he saw himself as ‘too precariously balanced on the tightrope of the ego and too susceptible to corruption’ to assume any type of authority in a permanent way. Those who knew him agreed that he judged himself too harshly.

The ‘outside world’ took its toll on Master William, but as I would learn, he had his own effect on the outside world. In the name of art, he shaped hills and valleys in several deep-wilderness areas, he filled small lakes and large ponds, and he even opened up a number of little rivers and created some great waterfalls. And, as far as anyone knows, he had no human help in accomplishing these feats.

Only the members of the order, a very few at a time, have ever trekked into these little wonder-worlds. The journeys require planning and preparation and become significant venues of teaching and training and conditioning.

On one of these tours, when he happened to be present, he was heard to say, “Since they first stood erect, people have always reshaped parts of the world so as to serve their own needs; they seldom concern themselves with how these changes affect the rest of the world. People will push aside and even annihilate other people, never mind the animals, just to have access to what they need or want of the world.

“I change parts of the world for the sake of the beauty and the health of the environment; and I close my eyes to whatever effect these changes might have on mankind; there is no one nearby to be affected … and if there were, the effect would be a positive one. By the time anybody discovers these places, there will be no clue that they were man-made.”

To me, of course, this was all legend; as I saw some of these places, it was difficult to put into perspective that they were the works of one man … and not designs of the Spirit of Nature … at least, not directly.

That same person that I glimpsed at the ashram, looking like a Clark Kent flying off to save somebody, or moving furtively, as if looking for a place to change into his costume – that same monastic would go into the wilderness at times and turn into a hermetic and obsessed human for a month or two (meaning simply that he would become one with it) – and then, he would always return … and carry out his duties like a polished company man.

II. Stella Lacus

My first session with Master William appears to have come about by chance … but in that place, it is doubtful that anything ever happened by chance. I had been living at the ashram for over a year by then … learning, changing, becoming. We were all allowed to indulge in free, ‘unstructured moments', and it was the early evening of a Friday, in the latter part of what had been a burdening, hot summer.

There was a Sister Gata Alumbra, a newly designated aspirant who had transferred over from another ashram shortly after my arrival; and she and I had become good friends very quickly, for the obvious reason that she played a flute and I played a guitar. It became a frequent activity for us to share music, songs, and musical poetry, as well as ‘celebrations’, which might be comparable to little private masses or spiritual services.

All the aspirants were encouraged to do this as practice, because later as priests, we would be celebrating something every day. There were many places in the ashram to find quietude and connect in this way, sometimes attracting others to join in.

Tonight, we had planned on bringing some bread and juice, along with our instruments, over to the deck on the lake, and there, we would celebrate the stars. No one had ever said that the lake and its attributes were the work of Master William, but, on a later retrospective, everything about it had his signature.

There was the stream that fed it, which came up out of the ground at the fringe of the acreage. The lake drained into a marshy watershed that had once been only seasonal. It used to hold water when it rained, but much of it would seep and evaporate in the course of the seasons. Now, it flowed continuously, slowly and silently, and admitted many denizens year round. It was said that the water flowed around the perimeter of the property, with another stream that twisted through the middle, roughly forming a yin-yang. Could this really have been the work of nature?

Sister Gata met me by the Great Hall, and we proceeded readily down to the lake. The deck was about fifty yards away and the pier extended out about another fifty yards onto another deck or landing. The younger initiates loved sitting out there, learning to attract the fish empathically, feeding them and petting them.

And tonight, we could see one lone figure, appearing to be sitting in a lotus and meditating; it was twilight, and the person was fully covered with a traditional cowl.

There were cowls in every closet in every building in the ashram, to be used as needed; no one wore them all the time anymore, except the recondite monastics that distanced themselves from the main community. Yes, there are those who isolate themselves from those who are already isolated.

Sister Gata and I quietly shared second thoughts about our plans. It was unusual to see someone meditating at this time and in what was considered community space; it just wasn’t done. But here, somebody appeared to be doing just that. We considered that it might be an initiate or a newcomer, unaware of the customs, but then, such people were all accounted for and probably elsewhere learning something or other at that very moment.

We were going to move on to some other place, there was no shortage of places to hold communion; but then, we saw the person move, and our curiosity drew us over. The lake was almost motionless, with little tiny ripples stirring here and there, cautious and flitting.

As we approached, the person turned to face us; it was Master William. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “Fellow musicians, welcome.”

Sister Gata smiled broadly, “Good evening, Master William! Are you really a musician?”

“If you play something, I can slap my knees and make vocal sounds to accompany you.”

She giggled, he smiled; but there was something uncertain about his smile. And he looked at me, and I could see that he knew that I was sensing that uncertainty; and just like that, we had connected empathically.

“Would you join me and allow me to vent?” He looked at each of us individually.

I set my things down without saying anything, and Sister Gata did likewise. We sat in silence for a long moment, Master William in the middle, looking out over the lake … and we all reacted in unison when we saw the first star reflected in the water.

“I’d like to make a confession,” he said quietly.

III. Mutatio de Forma

Sister Gata and I looked at each other uneasily. I looked at him, but he was still looking out over the lake. “Are you sure you want to talk to us, Master?” I asked. “I’m not sure we’re qualified …”

“You are here now. Your presence qualifies you to be whom you are, whom you are needed to be.”

I was still trying to interpret that statement, when he said, “I hate people.” A moment passed. “I do business with them, you know. I have to live in that world, in order to monitor our proprietary interests and holdings and ensure their security – in order to continue serving as we do – it’s all for good, and I know that.”

He took a deep breath and sighed. “But I see what they do, and I hear what goes on ...

“Sometimes, it seems as if people are bent on killing off everything, including themselves … if not outright, then by depleting and destroying the Earth. When you leave this place and you behold that world out there, you cannot help but perceive the shadow of apathy and the veil of deception that seem to drape over everything … and everyone.”

There was another pause. “And so, I arrive at this sort of threshold, and I find myself immersed in a detestation of people.”

In the silence that followed, Sister Gata stood up and lit a couple of the cattail torches that were mounted on the posts. While she was doing that, Master William turned to me and said, “You don’t know what to say, do you?”

I cleared my throat, “Well, Master – I’m sure you realize that not all people are destructive … and those that are ... well, they still have some measure of worth in them.”

Sister Gata knelt beside us. “Master William, it’s alright that you allow yourself to feel hate, as you allow yourself to feel remorseful about it. There is a reason for everything, and this will all pass. You are part of the plan, and this makes you beloved.”

He gave her a prolonged look of appreciation, and then, he grinned widely. “Well said, brother and sister! I will always remember what you have taught me here tonight.

“But I am a humble priest, seeking absolution for the sin of hate.” He stood up. “And I cannot be absolved until I am cleansed.”

Having said this, Master William abruptly stepped out of the cowl and stood before us completely naked. “Would you like to be part of my cleansing?” he said, just before he turned and dove into the lake.

I was dumbfounded for a moment. Then I looked at Sister Gata and saw that she was quite stunned, her mouth and eyes completely agape, still staring into the space where he had just stood … and I couldn’t help but break into laughter. “Well” I said, “follow the master!” And I stood up and swiftly removed my sparse clothing and jumped in. As I was coming up for air, I experienced a very telling moment.

I knew Sister Gata would be coming … and I wanted to see her … nude … before she jumped in. But I turned away and waited until I heard the splash. She came up smiling, and when we made eye contact, we both laughed. The water was cold, but it was wonderful!

This was the first time I had ever been so close to a naked woman without becoming compelled to take advantage of the situation. It may not seem like much of anything, but for me, it was an important threshold, a landmark in the transformation of my life.

Now we looked for Master William and did not see him. We swam out a ways and separated, we called out to him, but we could not find him, and he did not respond.

When we got back on the deck, we found Brother Gabriel waiting for us; and he handed us each a towel. He listened patiently and serenely as we toweled off and dressed and babbled excitedly about Master William.

“He’s out there … and he’s gone!” I was saying. “Should we be getting help or something!?”

Brother Gabriel smiled, “Oh, Master William has to go and be one with the wilderness now. He’ll be fine.”

Sister Gata was as puzzled as I. “But where did he go?”

“No one knows. He just swims out there and then sets course. I’m not sure if he even knows where he is going.”

“Is he that good a swimmer?” I said in wonder. The lake was just big enough that you couldn’t see the other side.

Brother Gabriel sat on one of the benches, “May I be included in your celebration?”

Sister Gata and I exchanged looks and smiled. “Of course, “ we both said simultaneously.

As we were settling ourselves down, Brother Gabriel said, “You know … he’s very fond of otters … and eagles … we think he changes out there somewhere … and then continues on his way.

Sister Gata was familiar with the subject of ‘shape-shifting’ or metamorphosis** only in an academic manner, so Brother Gabriel and I elaborated on the concept, during which time, we also broke the bread and shared the juice. As it had been for me, the idea for her was exciting and disturbing at the same time; I knew that she would be thinking about it often from now on.

And that brought me to raise the question. “As I understand it, brother, every time one shifts, one loses a segment of life. If Master William is doing this on a regular basis, is he just giving up his life?” I looked from one to the other … Sister Gata was still soaking in what she had just been told, and Brother Gabriel was looking straight into my eyes, with no expression. “I mean, that’s sort of like suicide, isn’t it … are we really allowed … ?”

“Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it?” he said. “For Sister Gata, that journey of contemplation begins tonight. But you, Brother Coyote, have had some time to dwell on it now. You will soon have to realize the answer to the question, ‘Is it worth it to lose a part of one’s life … if one can live it as an otter … or an eagle … or an elephant?’”

If it hadn’t been for Brother Gabriel, Sister Gata and I probably wouldn’t have celebrated anything that night; he even had to request a couple of songs for us to play. In closing, we each raised a personal token in the air before us.

“I celebrate change, the only constant.”
“I celebrate the stars, the campfires of the sky.”
“I celebrate the love of life, the perpetual stream.”
“The spirit in me acknowledges and worships the spirit in you.”

IV. Epilogus

It was almost exactly nine weeks later that Sister Gata and I were meeting by the Great Hall again, instruments in hand. We were thinking this might be our last session by the lake for a while; we’d been having days of cool damp weather. For our celebration this night, we had thought about hope and restoration.

As we started down the path to the deck, we heard a sound behind us and turned to face Brother Gabriel. “You might need these tonight,” he said. He was holding a towel and a bathrobe.

*The body is a group of 7 that resides in each of the ashrams and acts as a governing board.
** Metamorphosis or shape-shifting is perhaps one of the more perilous practices of the shamanic priest. Because of its very personal nature, no one ever witnesses the transformation, even one’s first. And it is said that everyone’s experience in the process is unique.
When I was learning the basics of hatha yoga, one of my teachers said to me, “If you can learn to go through your exercises in your mind, step by step, observing every detail as you remember or anticipate … bringing the physical experience into a mental experience … you can produce the expected results in the body … physical experience to mental, mental result to body.”
And it was in this manner that one learned to shape-shift. The concept was taught academically, then systematically … one learned every step, every detail, even the sensations one might expect, and the visual distortions …
It was somewhat like setting up a program in a computer, every detail and step is listed, and then when one has checked and double-checked, one hits the ‘enter’ or ‘execute’ button.
No one has ever been ever hurt in these exercises, because one doesn’t just go off and try it … one goes off and does it because one is ready.



The yellow flower (diente de león), with the caption 'be always humble', was photographed and enhanced by the author and is used as a signature image in the various installments of the book ‘The New Order of Shama’an’, parts of which are featured in the links below.
The Stella Lacus was photographed by the aspirant Mountain Lake shortly after he was given the name; he is no longer an aspirant and no longer bears the name.
Kooshdakhaa is of particular interest. The image comes from one of the volumes in the Biblioteca Secreta and is taken from Alaskan folklore. Kooshdakhaa are shape-shifting creatures noted in the stories of the Tlingit and the Tsimshian tribes-people of the Southeastern Alaska temperate rainforest. While there is much more of interest to these stories, the word loosely means ‘land otter man’, and they are capable of transforming into human form, otters, and potentially other forms; some are friendly and others not so much.
Birdman is a somewhat contemporary image from one of the newer volumes of the same library. There are renditions of this image on Tumblr and Pinterest as well as on Google but little information as to its origins.

related writings:

The New Order of Shama’an, Part 1, Prologue
The Way of Shama’an (Part 2)
The Recognition and Realization of the Intuitive Consciousness
A Walk in the Ashram

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Ashram, Change And Constancy, Metamorphosis, Monasticism, Mysticism, Shape-Shifting, Skinny Dipping, The New Order Of Shamaan, Wilderness Landscaping

Meet the author

author avatar r. nuñez
I am a shamanic priest. I like to write about spirituality, the macabre, and the occult. I write short stories, poetry, songs, and the occasional cynical article.

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author avatar r. nuñez
24th Sep 2017 (#)

As always, thank you, Peter ... and a special bow for the star. I don't know how you do it, but I am grateful.

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author avatar 男宝
26th Sep 2017 (#)


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