Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Angel Challenge


What is harder than commitment, harder than training, than striving, maybe even harder than service?

Angels, that's what.

My name is Dr. Jessamine Dana and I am the Director of the Woman and the Owl Project, where I research and teach women to develop their spiritual leadership, both personally and in their businesses. I also interview women spiritual leaders about what it has been like for them to choose to commit their lives to their spiritual callings.

About a month ago, I interviewed Stacie Codino, Founder of Spirit Awakenings and Angelic Shamanism. She is a sweet-faced woman in her early 40s who lives in a cavernous home in Pflugerville, TX with her husband and two dogs. She welcomed me at the door and brought me to her “healing room”, a small room stuffed with Angelic and Native American sacred bric-a-brac and comfortable chairs. Everything was clean but full. We took our seats opposite one another and we shared an interview.

I have to admit, I used to kind of look down my nose at the “Angel People”, those folks in the “alternative spirituality” community who have angelic experiences and purchase any number of angel-related products. This may have had something do my mistrust of how modern angel iconography looks: images of golden-haired men or babies with plush white wings and blue eyes,and the swirling starry clouds in pinks, purples, and cream that surround them. To be frank, angels seemed like the epitome of new age wish-fulfillment.

Maybe it was simply that the angels represented a modification of Christian thinking, a non-problematic way of saying, yes, you have agency/responsibility, but no, this doesn’t have to change your world. Everywhere I looked, there was Doreen Virtue smiling out at me from an angel-related product empire so vast and exhaustive, that she seems like the pope of the modern angel movement.

I stayed away from that end of the new age shop, I can tell you.

And yet, I found myself impressed with much of what Stacie shared. She has a unique vision for our spiritual future, and her detailed, almost gritty knowledge of shamanic work, enabled me to listen to her talk about the angels with a more open mind.

One of Stacie’s comments was that she asks people who are new to working with the angels to take what she calls, The Angel Challenge. This is 20 days of asking the angels to help you with everything and anything, from finding to keys, to giving a presentation, to simply asking for help, seen and unseen, at the beginning of your day. She says that the angels like to be thanked so they know that they are getting through to us, so make sure that you do that too.

What I find so intriguing, and what makes it so different from the training and messages explicit or implicit in many of the indigenous spiritual trainings I’ve been a part of, is that the angelic movement postulates a remarkably different relationship between ourselves and Divinity. It is one in which each of us are tremendously and tenderly precious to God, Great Spirit, and the Universe. Each of us, is so important that we have been given at least one guardian angel (Stacie teaches that we have at least two), who are assigned to us from the beginning of our lives. Furthermore, we can call upon the Archangels and assorted other angels to help, motivate, guide, protect, heal, teach, and smooth our way in life. Each of these angels would love nothing better than to be called upon for information and help.

I found this tough to accept.

However, as she spoke, I became intrigued. I was more than intrigued, I was fascinated. I was more than fascinated, I found that I longed for this position vis-a-vis the Divine and to experience the belief that I deserved – and am given Divine love and attention. In the indigenous or traditional ceremonial communities that I often work within, mercy and blessing come after long periods of open-ended striving, commitment, and actual physical and emotional pain. To work within these traditions is a privilege that the word “gratitude” doesn't even begin to address. It is to work within a mystery so big and deep that human preferences and needs are perhaps only there get us through the doorway to the Great Surrender. The less we want for ourselves, the better. In many of these traditions, human beings are considered small, so pitifully small. We are fragile, weak, kind of dumb beings in a world of creatures, spirits, and interests far more powerful and important than our own.

Among women spiritual leaders, this outlook is somewhat softer and more nurturing, but only to a certain extent, and that is good too. There is tremendous grace in sacrifice, commitment, service, and hard love. Even so, Stacie’s 20-day challenge broke my heart a little bit. I felt pretty silly asking Angels I didn’t quite believe in to help me with my life, work, health, family, spiritual path, and any other way that would be good, magical, and joyful, in ways both seen and unseen by me, but I did it. Each morning I’d ask, and each evening I’d say thank you.

I don't know how to admit this, but it seems to work. My husband and I went on vacation and didn’t quarrel once. We had the best “luck” finding hotel rooms and were even put up in a suite worth three times the price we paid for it — and on a Saturday night. Work has simply and easily flowed into my life. My cat even seems calmer! Needless to say, I’m still asking the angels.

All visible benefits aside, the main way in which it seems to do me good, is that it approaches and gently thaws, day by day, the belief I’ve carried in my heart for too long, long before my spiritual trainings or commitments with any tradition, that I’m not good enough to be loved by God.

This is the part of myself that cried and was never comforted. The part that is held under by a deluge of fear each day, the part that questions my work and my life. This is the part that saw and sees terrible things happing not only to others, but to myself, and wonders, where is my God? Maybe it is even the part of my ancestry that helped to assemble that behemoth of a thought form — the belief in a wrathful and judging God. That part is slowly thawing, and flowing, and beginning to dance with a mystery so sweet and tender, that I’m weeping as I write this. The whispered love.

So, after taking this Angel Challenge, I decided to take one of her workshops. I think that I did it mainly to put myself through a little bootcamp on surrendering to one of the hardest truths, that the universe does care about us, does want to help us, that we are given signs, supports, encouragements, guidance, protection, and help every day. Maybe we don’t always listen, maybe we choose another path, but even when we squander our gifts and fight our responsibilities, that some part of Divinity is there for us yet again. Divinity is waiting at the next junction or bend in the road, to care for us, to patch us up, and to face us in the direction of our heart’s desires and callings.

I’ll keep walking the Red Road. I’ll keep offering everything that is mine to Spirit, regardless of what it takes or how pleasurable it feels. That is my choice in my personal spirituality. But as a Woman of Spirit, a teacher, a healer, and a ceremonialist, I have learned what is strangely one of the hardest lessons and the most humbling: the belief that we are not worthy of Divine love is yet another method we’ve created to keep Spirit at arm’s length.

So today or tomorrow, give it a try. Perhaps you don't feel comfortable with Stacie's Angel Challenge, but maybe you could experiment with feeling Divine love. Even if you don't believe that the universe knows, loves, cares for, and wants to help you specifically, try pretending that you do.

What might happen if you pry open the door to those possibilities? What are you scared of, angels?

Dr. Jessamine Dana and the Woman and the Owl Project: Cultivating and Connecting Women Spiritual Leaders offers interviews with women spiritual leaders, as well as women's spiritual leadership classes and private study. Find us at www.womanandtheowl.com and on facebook at www.facebook.com/WomanandtheOwlProject. You can learn more about Stacie Codino and Spirit Awakenings at www.staciecodino.com.