Professor Travis gifted us with a fascinating reading and a trip to Lacy Lacey-Keosauqua State Park to help us integrate our reading and set the stage for an interesting discussion. The previous night’s reading was the Ecology of Magic, an introduction to the book, The Spell of the Sensuous, by Adam Abram, in which he told stories of his experiences over the course of 1 year studying the relation between magic and medicine. He was utilizing a grant to travel to rural Asia to explore this relation first among the traditional sorcerers, or dunkuns, of the Indonesian archipelago, and later among the dzankris, the traditional shamans of Nepal. He traveled as an anthropologist or academic researcher but was actually a magician in his own right, having performed slight-of-hand street magic throughout part of his life.
There were so many potent key points from his Introduction that can only be replicated by pasting the entire Intro onto the blog…and I might do that. But the joy of this reading was in the magic of his stories. The openness and clarity of his perception allowed him to experience different aspects of the “NATURAL” world that he hadn’t seen before. It seemed as if, while interacting with the local medicine men, he entered into a new dimension of perceiving the forces of energy that interact with human communities; these energies were magical, mythical, ancestral, but real. He offered an unusual story about the role of the shaman in these traditional rural communities, perceiving them as “intermediaries” between and the environment, between humans and non-humans, serving as a negotiator and healer. In this story, the shaman’s “primary allegiance [is] to the earthly web of relations to which community is embedded.”
Immersing ourselves in “Nature” while still digesting the previous night’s reading was perfect. When we arrived and students took off into the wooded trail, I let them go ahead. I stayed back and stood still before moving, “standing like a tree” –a Thai Chi posture- for ten minutes before moving onto the walking path. Allowing the stillness so settle within began to align my perception with the diversity of sounds, energies of movement, and spectrum of light that would have been easily overlooked and outcompeted by the sounds in my head if I had walked into that space with the same state of mind that resounded from our (enjoyable) bus ride. As I sit outside to write this reflection I feel this presence in a different way, and the experience of Being in “Nature” when returning to campus on Saturday helped me empathize (just minimally) with the author’s experience of losing his clarity and aliveness in the sense of connection that he felt while he was in rural Asia.