Tag Archives: Rolling Thunder

A Day in a Life: Good Vibrations

Such a tangled mess our thoughts do make! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Such a tangled mess our thoughts do make!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

I decide to pursue an empty mind. Thoughts become the target. There are, I notice, different kinds of thoughts. One kind is worry. Worry tends to take over, spinning, attacking, and defeating even the most intentional of counterattacks. Another kind of thought comes suddenly. I notice a tiny bump on my little toe.

“Uh oh,” is my first thought. “What’s that bump?”

“Calm down,” another voice interjects, “check out the other little toe.” And so I do and I see that I have another similar bump on the other little toe.

“Oh, that’s funny,” I say to myself, “how easily I jump to a conclusion, how I immediately think something is wrong.” Just to prove that nothing is wrong, I check out both little bumps simultaneously, judging them to be exactly the same size and shape, nothing more than the structure of the bones of my toes. And then I laugh at myself for even this need to check as I let the whole thing go, but not before I take note of that other voice that spoke and told me to calm down.

“Don’t obsess!” I tell myself, “you just create a situation that doesn’t exist in reality, but you sure could create it in your mind. Empty the mind!”

And so, I’ve become aware of my thoughts. There are, however, thoughts, and then there are another kind of thoughts. The kind of thoughts that don’t belong in an empty mind are usually pretty recognizable, such as the ones described above, worry, fear, etc. I also notice how even seemingly good thoughts are not so good. They imply that something is wrong, that I need to insert positive thoughts when in reality all I need is to spend my energy on emptying my mind of all thoughts because they are all intrusive, inserted intentionally or coming as a result of issues or circumstances arising in life.

The other kind of thoughts that come are non-intrusive, like the voice that told me to calm down. These thoughts come from the higher mind, from the higher self, and they come in a different way. They come from the observer self who knows all, who is present with us while we live our lives and struggle with our thoughts, our obsessions, our desires, our truths, our fears and our memories.

Such thoughts have a completely different feel from the intrusive thoughts of worry and obsession. They speak to us very calmly, very soberly. Devoid of emotion and feeling, they deliver us messages that we know, deep down inside of us, are so right. The place where these thoughts come from, the higher self, is the place we want to connect with and be guided by more often. This is the place where we yearn to reside. We can consciously choose to listen only to this voice to deepen our connection with this higher self.

We learn to trust the thoughts of this higher self as we test it, letting it into our lives, asking it to help us. It tells us to be calm, to step back and wait a second, to not get all riled up, to not act out or lash out, but to simply pull our energy inward and maintain our equilibrium. Depending on our circumstances, how in-tune with this other producer of thoughts we are, we might hear this voice often or only rarely.

Our heart always recognizes the calming voice of the higher self... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Our heart always recognizes the calming voice of the higher self…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

As we work with it, we soon find that this higher self tells us everything we need to know. We get to a place where worry comes only occasionally, where obsession hardly at all. We may not have empty mind all the time, but it becomes easier to get there the more we train ourselves to recognize the types of thoughts we entertain. We quickly discern between welcome thoughts and unwelcome ones and get pretty good at getting rid of the unwanted ones.

Thoughts are entities. They are looking for a nice juicy unguarded mind to enter and feed off. They are looking for the unaware, the inattentive. They are looking to sneak in and plant themselves and get as much energy as possible. They circle around the universe, the same thoughts endlessly seeking sustenance. We can consciously decide whether or not we want them inside us. They are no better than a disease. An aware mind recognizes them and gets rid of them, refusing them immediately.

One day, author Doug Boyd was gathering herbs with Rolling Thunder and his son Spotted Eagle. Doug was assaulted by swarms of mosquitoes. Rolling Thunder and his son were not interfered with at all, but Doug suffered unrelenting attacks, being bitten and then itching like crazy. It wasn’t until evening that Rolling Thunder said to Doug, “Maintain your good feelings.”

He meant, maintain his good feelings inside so that his energy outside would be calm and he would not give off smells, senses, and vibrations that normally attract mosquitoes. The mosquitos are like thoughts, entities that want what they want; in the case of the mosquito, as much blood as they can get. The way to get rid of the mosquitos, Doug learned, was to maintain calmness and good inner energy, to calm the mind, the body, the senses, so that the vibrations of the body would be calm as well.

As we change our vibrations we become unattractive to things like pesky mosquitos and meandering thoughts. By maintaining inner calmness and good feelings about ourselves, we learn that rogue thoughts have no use for us. We offer them nothing and so they leave us alone. In this lesson, we learn that we have the power to control what happens to us outside by how we maintain our inner state, and it works in reverse too.

We can gain control over everything. Sometimes it may feel appropriate to be upset and to react to something happening in the world outside of us. But if we step back from those feelings for a moment, empty ourselves of them, and get back to our good feelings about ourselves, we might find that they are actually not as important or appropriate as we first thought. We find we can let them go.

On another day, Doug Boyd was alone with Rolling Thunder’s son Spotted Eagle. Once again they were going out to gather herbs. They came upon a man in a remote area, standing next to his pickup truck, obviously angry about something. He yelled about all kinds of things, on the verge of a racist rant it almost seemed. Spotted Eagle quickly assessed the situation. He did not speak but simply got back into the car. Doug did the same and they calmly drove back out the way they had come. Spotted Eagle, a Medicine Man in training, knew it was not going to be worth an encounter.

Always on the quest for empty mind... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Always on the quest for empty mind…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We too must learn to trust that our higher self knows what is really important and where we should be spending our energy. More often than not anger or confrontation are not appropriate reactions. Our higher self will always guide us to a reaction in alignment with a greater calling, if we care to listen, and then it’s up to us to take the advice and see what happens.

Perhaps nothing is more important than maintaining our good feelings about ourselves, and our empty mind. If our good vibrations can have an effect on our thoughts, on our physical bodies, and even on how mosquitos react to us, imagine what else could happen if we all gained and maintained only good feelings about ourselves all the time. The world would surely be a changed place.

Keeping an empty mind and sending good vibrations,

Excerpted stories come from Doug Boyd’s book Rolling Thunder, 1974.

A Day in a Life: Where Is Our Soul?

What are we seeking that is not right where we already are?
What are we seeking that is not right where we already are?

The eminent American psychologist and Jungian analyst, James Hillman, once remarked that all countries have ancient roots and ancestral teachings that define the soul of all the people who inhabit that country. Though we Americans may search the world for our gurus, going to ancient lands in the East to find, connect, and reacquaint ourselves with our soul, he suggests, that our true soul lies right here, in the ancient practices and teachings of the Native American Indians. This land that is America holds within it everything we are searching for. Our soul is here, waiting for us to discover it.

As a child growing up, whenever I’d ask my mother what our ancestry was, she’d bluntly state: We’re American. I knew that I was part Swiss because I knew the story of my paternal grandmother, how she came to America from Switzerland as a child of seven with her mother, in search of her father who had deserted the family. He’d gone off to America to make his way, promising to send for the rest of them, which he never did. My great-grandmother set off to find him, taking my grandmother, her youngest child, with her. Though my grandmother tended to embellish her life story as time went on, the story of her early entry through Ellis Island and her uncle’s boarding house on East 22nd street in Manhattan, where she grew up and that her mother took over running, never changed.

It was not until I was much older that I learned that I also had English, Irish, and Welsh blood in me. Some of my ancestors had come to America even before the Mayflower arrived; their blood, sweat and tears are part of this land. My immediate family, however, had no rich cultural traditions, no ethnic attachments.

In the 1970s I lived in Sweden, having moved there when I fell in love and married my first husband. Upon that land I became Swedish, learned to speak like a native, embraced the culture and traditions, learned to eat herring, salmon, potatoes, sour cream and dill, learned what good bread and cheese was, learned to drink aquavit, and supped on tea and open-faced sandwiches every evening.

I so completely embraced the culture that I felt more Swedish than I had ever felt American. When the Swedes would ask me what traditions we had back home, I’d feel lost, homeless, disconnected. I could think of nothing, no special foods or traditions, for none had ever been part of my life.

A memory from Sweden.
A memory from Sweden.

While I was also living there I met a guy who ran a record shop in Stockholm; he’d landed there as a Vietnam war deserter. He had the largest collection of Swedish traditional music in the city. He always bemoaned the fact that all the young people came in asking for American records when they had a rich musical heritage of their own; fantastic stuff that he blared out into the street, songs of love and loss, of sailing adventures and longing for home, for the cool air, the rocky shores and calm waters of the archipelagoes of Sweden. The musical riches are all at their feet, he’d say. I took this to heart and fell in love with many a Swedish troubadour, poets of song that sang to my own soul’s longing for a true home port.

Eventually, I left Sweden and the rich culture I had embedded myself in so thoroughly. I returned home, back to America, back to searching for my own home, my own sense of belonging. The funny thing is that my favorite books, books on Native American Traditions, had accompanied me to Sweden, the myths of the Indians, long before the white man ever set foot on the land that belonged to everyone and to no one. I read them while living there, searching for what I knew not, but I had always been drawn to their myths and teachings.

In one of those books, Rolling Thunder, the author Doug Boyd, back from his own sojourns to India, writes of sitting with Rolling Thunder, a medicine man and spiritual leader. It’s the early 1970s. “A lot of things are on this land that don’t belong here,” says Rolling Thunder. “They’re foreign objects like viruses or germs. … A lot of the things that are going to happen in the future will really be the earth’s attempt to throw off some of these sicknesses. This is really going to be like fever or like vomiting, what you might call physiological adjustment.”

“It’s very important for people to realize this. The earth is a living organism, the body of a higher individual who has a will and wants to be well, who is at times less healthy or more healthy, physically and mentally. People should treat their own bodies with respect. It’s the same thing with the earth. Too many people don’t know that when they harm the earth they harm themselves, nor do they realize that when they harm themselves they harm the earth. Some of these people interested in ecology want to protect the earth, and yet they will cram anything into their mouths just for tripping or for freaking out—even using some of our sacred agents. Some of these things I call helpers, and they are very good if they are taken very, very seriously, but they have to be used in the right way; otherwise they’ll be useless and harmful, and most people don’t know about these things. All these things have to be understood.”

“It’s not very easy for you people to understand these things because understanding is not knowing the kind of facts that your books and teachers talk about. I can tell you that understanding begins with love and respect. It begins with respect for the Great Spirit, and the Great Spirit is the life that is in all things—all the creatures and the plants and even the rocks and the minerals. All things—and I mean all things—have their own will and their own way and their own purpose; this is what is to be respected.”

“Such respect is not a feeling or an attitude only. It’s a way of life. Such respect means that we never stop realizing and never neglect to carry out our obligations to ourselves and our environment.”

As I reread those words of Rolling Thunder, so many years after my own sojourns to other lands, I realize that to access the wealth of knowledge of the ancients of our own country, of the Native American Indians, we must take full responsibility for living here. We must learn the first lesson of any novice, to love and respect the teacher, the earth we live upon. We must be mindful of and questioning of every action we take. Am I being respectful and loving toward this land I live upon, toward the earth, toward the Great Spirit—which is all life in all living things—and toward myself?

Am I a good, loving and respectful steward of this land? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Am I a good, loving and respectful steward of this land?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Whether we are of Native American ancestry or not, we live here now. Just as I became a Swede when I lived there, embracing it with love and respect, so is it our responsibility to treat all living things in our own country with love and respect, as we too wish to be treated. As we seek our path of heart, we must remember this.

Our soul is here. In everything we do, we must give back to the soul of the land we live upon. If we are to heal, we must also heal the land.

Respectfully, from our shared home port,

Excerpts from Rolling Thunder by Doug Boyd, pp. 51-2