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        Michael Reddy, Ph.D, CPC
           Healer  Trainer  Author   610 469 7588

Monday June 26, 2017
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Seeing Everyday Symbols--Home Altar Constellations Teach You

figurines1When I first learned to do family constellations, I was given a set of wooden figurines.  These were for tabletop setups.  They fell over a lot, because the bottoms had bumps on them, and they had no eyes--so you didn't know which way they were facing.

I give them eyes with a magic marker and sanded the bottoms.  I learned that some people just used round markers like checkers, and that there were better figurines you could buy.  For one-on-one constellations done on a floor, instead of a tabletop, I had footprints.

But What About Remote Constellations?

But I was doing a lot of remote coaching work (phone or Skype), and wanted to add constellations where needed.  figurines2This was all one-on-one, and my clients didn't have figurines or footprints.  For a while I was stumped.

At the time, I had been practicing and teaching shamanism already for 20 years.  I began to think of the constellations in terms of my shamanic training, of what my teachers called "your medicine."  That means your healing or magical abilities. 

Learning About "Object-Persons"

What's on your altar at home are not "medicine tools," or "medicine objects," they taught me. They hold a form of consciousness and are your living helpers.  The English language makes this hard, so try calling them "object persons."  Just like we talk of the "stone people," or the "plant people"--with some respect.

So, all sorts of little random "object persons" had collected themselves, and come and gone already in my apprenticeship and practice.  Mostly there was nothing special about them (a stone, a knife, a pine cone), except that they jumped out at me with special meanings.  Well, my clients' houses and yards were also full of random object persons. 

Was there some way I could just use them for the remote constellations?

Embracing the Wider Field With Home Altar Constellations

Cougar with Fire 3Recently someone asked me what it was like to be a shaman.  That question has been posed to me a lot over the years, so I came out with my normal answer.  Shamans are animists, I said.  We believe even the “inanimate” things around us are alive and have different levels and modes of interactive personal consciousness.

OK, said my friend, but what’s that like for you?  How do YOU experience it.  This popped me out of my habitual rut, and I had to think about it fresh.  Yeah…  What has it gotten to be like, 30 years down the pike?

How I Experience Shamanism

world is god energyWell, I said, my deeper beliefs about reality have grounded around this idea that the world I experience is itself the god-energy, the divinity.  It’s not dead lumps bumping in the night, or mindless rays cruising through a universe of empty space too vast to even imagine.  Those mechanical models are useful in certain ways, but they have ripped the living heart out of reality.

I know that when I look out of my senses, I’m seeing “god’s body,” so to speak.  It is everything.  I know that it’s always trying to communicate with me, to dance with me.  I know also that it cares, that it’s trying hard to love me, even though I’m slow to receive that love at times.

electrical interferenceInterference from the Modern World

Now, I was raised in the mechanical, “scientific” worldview—so I still have interference coming from that at times.  There are instances where I wish I was experiencing things from the “living reality is talking to me” perspective, but I’m not. 

There are corners and cracks in my awareness into which those now central beliefs have not yet penetrated.  And some of my earlier, not quite healed traumas hide out in those corners.

And yet there are also many times when that animistic experience is heightened, full on intense, and others where I look back and suddenly see the deeper dance that was going on earlier while I was somehow absent.  In rituals, especially facilitating family constellations, it’s always more present.

So give me, my friend said, an example.

How Smart is Your Group?

confused groupSometimes you just have to do things in groups.  Or plan, or decide things.  And you know what that can be like.  It can end up being dumber than if just one person did it. 

Even though, if you think about it, with the variety of experience in many groups—it should end up being smarter.  If the people really put their heads together.  But they don’t.  Can’t seem to.

And unless you are a total loner, you don’t escape this group doing thing.  Even just a couple is still a group.

crucial conversations bookSo How do Groups Work?

So I want to share with you some surprisingly accurate and useful stuff about how and why group doing goes astray, and how you help it be better.  It’s based on an excellent bestseller called Crucial Conversations. 

I’ll give you an overview here that you can put right to work.  But the book has a lot more detail, and I heartily recommend it.

When do Things Start to
Go Wrong in a Group?

First, we have this elegant definition of the kind of group doings that are the hardest ones.  The discussions, the planning, the carrying out are tough when conversations get crucial.  That means (1) stakes are high; (2) opinions vary; and (3) feelings are strong.  Think about it.  Remove any one of those, and it remains more manageable.

Difficult Conversations 240x300So if, for example, stakes are high and opinions vary, but we are not that emotional about it—well, we can at least talk clearly and work it out.  Stakes high, feelings strong, but opinions are shared—we are cool to go for it.  Stakes low—who cares?

What defines the level of collective intelligence achieved by any group? 

Do You Express a Family Soul?

mountain manWe’re down on collectives.  Here in English speaking North America, our awareness is skewed very strongly in the direction of individualism.  We are the explorers, the personal development pioneers, the immigrants who left stodgy ancestors and countries behind to strike out for freedom.

For a long time, that worked well for us.  Great countries, great accomplishments.  Now, however, in the US at least, fragmentation, factionalism, and isolation threaten to shake us apart.  It’s high time to remember something.  We are a mammalian species whose success always depended on deeply cooperative behavior.

The Social Empathy System--
It’s Hard-Wired in Us

mirror neuronsStarting with discovery of mirror neurons in the nineties, those cells that fire not just when we do something, but also every time we experience another person doing it—neurology has mapped a large, subconscious part of the human nervous system that supports and guides our cooperative, collective behaviors.

It kept us alive as a species before we ever developed language and thought.  It’s still active now.  And understanding it is the missing link in so many of our efforts to have better lives.  We think conscious rationalism is the whole story, when it isn’t.

Subconscious, Distributed
Collective Intelligence

Wow!  That’s an intimidating pile of big words!  Are you thinking maybe you’ll stop reading now?  Well, at least  look at this picture first—‘cause it’s dirt simple.  This is a functioning city, built by termite mound diagramAfrican termites.

It has ventilation, drainage, farms, and nurseries.  It fights wars, and adapts to changing conditions by moving and rebuilding.  So, I ask you—where’s the brain that does this?

It’s not in the queen.  In fact, every insect in the colony is, so to speak, a neuron in the brain.  So there it is—very simple.  It’s called a “distributed, collective intelligence.”  In human’s, that’s still there, active beneath our awareness.  It creates, among other things, what we in constellation work call the “family soul.” 

And that has major implications for our health and happiness.

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