The flow and the Year of Sweet Industry

by Keith Barber

On the rare occasions I remember a particular college classmate of mine, I find myself smiling. Sometimes I laugh. It’s the same kind of affectionate laugh that comes forth when I think of my 9-year-old nephew and some of the über-intelligent, amazing and amusing things he’s done in his short lifetime.

My classmate’s first name was William; his last name is a mystery. Most folks referred to him simply as “Wild Bill.” He earned the nickname by living his life on a very different wavelength than 99.9 percent of his fellow UNC students. Once upon a time, MTV came to the Chapel Hill campus searching for the next great video jockey or “VJ.”

Auditions were held in the main quad adjacent to South Building. Wild Bill’s audition was memorable and left the youthful MTV executives speechless. However, the small audience of students howled in delight. Wild Bill didn’t become the next great VJ, but his unorthodox approach to life won him a sizable group of fans, including me. Wild Bill exuded fearlessness at a time when fear was the cen tral obstacle in my life. Once, Wild Bill gave an interview on UNC student television. When asked if there was a method to his madness, Wild Bill undulated his arm in a wave like motion.

“It’s all about this,” Wild Bill said. “It’s all about the flow.”

Wild Bill’s words hit me right between the eyes. I knew what he said meant something greater, but the concept of ‘the flow’ was beyond my grasp. It wasn’t until many years later that

I began to understand what it means to consciously live within the flow. Author and mythology scholar Joseph Campbell often wrote about peak experiences. There are moments when all the planets seem to align perfectly. Everything in life happens effortlessly with positive results. You have an actual out-of-body experience as you become the “ultimate observer.”

A peak experience is when the three things that keep us from experiencing nirvana — fear, desire and duty — are completely extinguished.

For most of us, however, peak experiences are fleeting.

To hold on to that feeling of invincibility and release from the sorrows of the world, we have to consciously place ourselves inside the flow on a daily basis. How can this be accomplished?

On New Year’s Eve, at the urging of a very dear friend, I participated in a Native American smudging ceremony. My friend said the ceremony was about setting goals and intentions for 2011. I came to the medicine lodge, a private residence in Winston-Salem, with no preconceived notions. That proved highly beneficial.

After the ceremony, I did a bit of research and learned that a smudging ceremony is a healing ceremony where certain herbs are burned. At the entrance to the medicine lodge was a container of burning herbs. Before I entered the lodge, I was told to take the smoke and rub it or brush it over my body. That is the “smudging” part of the ceremony where the physical and spiritual aspects are cleansed of all negative thoughts, feelings and energy.

Upon entering the lodge, I noticed the altar at the center of the circle. Seventeen people composed the circle, including Robin, better known as “Flower Eagle.” After an hour of different exercises, including reflections on what I learned in 2010 and what I aspire to do in 2011, Flower Eagle handed each of us a long sheet of paper with the words, “2011: The Year of Sweet Industry with Honey Bee,” written at the top of the page.

Discovering our intuitive key word for 2011 was our next exercise. Flower Eagle instructed the members of the circle to inhale, then blow it out in a puff. The first word that popped in our head was our intuitive key word. I inhaled, blew it out in a puff and found my mind completely blank. Then suddenly, fire came to me. I wrote it into the correct space. I repeated my actions 12 times to come up with a key word for each month of the year. Inhale, blow out in a puff and light, energy, transform, vision, power, calm, rhythm, symbiosis, love, keeper, dream and quest came pouring out of me.

I loved this exercise. The brilliance of clearing my mind with each new breath and accepting inspiration without any input from my analytical mind was intoxicating. What an incredible power lying dormant within us all.

Then a deck of cards was spread out before us, and we were told to select our animal totem and sacred-path teaching for the year. My animal totem for 2011 is the otter and my sacred-path teaching is power place — earth connection — empowerment. Then we chose animal totems and sacred path teachings for each of the 12 months. I read up on the otter totem, which represents feminine energy. I expect to be in a very loving, nurturing space this year. Power place — earth connection refers to that one place on earth that draws us like a magnet. As I read up on power place, I had a vision of my trek to Utah 12 years ago. With the knowledge I would be returning to Utah in a few weeks, each word burned in my brain.

I didn’t want to forget a single detail.

Near the end of the ceremony, the members of the circle stretched out their bodies on the floor, their heads pointed toward the altar and entered the realm somewhere between our conscious, waking selves and the unconscious. I had a vision. It’s meaning is very personal to me. The power of dreams was at my fingertips and for more than a fleeting moment, I was inside the flow.